High Noon: An Anschutz Rocky, torture, vouchers

Mike Littwin: We’re minutes away from High Noon, Part Deux, the big showdown debate featuring notables from across the political spectrum, or, as I like to think of it, me, Mike Littwin, vs. the world. We’ve got Jon Caldara, who says he needs no introduction, so we won’t. Dan Haley, my former boss when he was editor of the Denver Post editorial pages. Now he works on the dark side for EIS Solutions. Jessica Peck is a lawyer, commentator and my A1C buddy (if you know what that is, you know just how cool it is to have one.) John Tomasic, of Colorado Indy fame, will moderate, because somebody has to.

We were going to start with torture and Mark Udall and, of course, rectal rehydration because while that may not be much fun to undergo – it is, after all, torture as only the CIA could think up – it is fun to write. But we have to start with Phil Anschutz and the new Rocky Mountain News. To the shock of all — the Denver Business Journal got the scoop — Anschutz has a prototype up, he owns the name and URL and he’s threatening to start a real paper newspaper, bringing back a 7-day-a-week version of the Rocky. For Rocky alumni, that’s a dream. But I keep thinking two things. One, it can’t be real. Two, it is Phil Anschutz, who was supposed to be bidding for the Denver Post. Something is happening, but what could it be?

Dan Haley: Here are a few things I thought would make a comeback before the Rocky Mountain News: Polio, bell bottoms, the Edsel, the Barbara Mandrell Show, the McDLT, Michael Jackson, pet rocks and the Oakland Raiders. … Actually, might this just be Anschutz making his play for The Post?

If he can’t get The Post at the price he wants, what if he starts a competitor that begins to bleed The Post and eventually brings down the price? After all, wouldn’t it be easier to just buy a newspaper that’s already up and running, with a staff, state-of-the-art printing presses than create one from scratch?

What does he want? Can he make money starting a new newspaper? The Rocky is no longer here because it didn’t make enough money for Scripps. And The Post is for sale for a reason, too. Or does Anschutz just want a voice in politically important Colorado? Maybe starting a small, scrappy online pub with a big, insert-stuffed Sunday paper is the way to go.

Littwin: Anschutz might be bringing the Raiders to L.A. or maybe to play at Cherry Creek High School. But here’s the strange part to me: Does Phil Anschutz — who is, after all, Phil Anschutz – have to come up with an elaborate ruse like this to make Digital First see his way? He could just crush them with half an Anschutz toe. No one would possibly start a second paper in this town. I think we saw how that worked out. And yet. And yet.

Jon Caldara: But sadly, along with the great state-of-the-art printing presses come with a cast of old-school liberal reporters. If Phil starts a new newspaper he could create a paper to compete with the Post in real reporting.

Comics? Will there be more comics? All that¹s really important.

Littwin: Dan, here’s the part you’ll appreciate. Old Rocky types and Old Post types are now fighting it out on Facebook as to which paper was better. Having worked at both — and having seen Greg Moore concede how often the Rocky clobbered the Post — I think I can answer: the Rocky, which also just happens to be the paper that didn’t lay me off.

Caldara: Remember it was the Rocky that was winning the newspaper, now newsletter, battle. If Scripps didn’t try to shed its newspapers like a prom dress The Rocky would be the one paper here.

Bring back the Rocky!

Comics. Did I mention comics.

Haley: Comics. Obits. Broncos, Broncos, Broncos. And Dear Abby (or whoever replaced her.) The first four ingredients to a great newspaper. I think it would be good for Colorado to have more journalists at work in this state. I think the Rocky made the Post a better newspaper and vice versa, but I don’t think the economics work. They didn’t in the past. Why would they now?

Caldara: Dans says the economics don’t work. Dan, If Anschutz wants the economics to work. It will.

I could draw Peanuts – The Next Generation. Woodstock would be blind but could see via some high tech visor

Haley: This is like arguing whether the 1958 Giants were better than the 1989 49ers. There’s never a clear winner. Each paper had its moments in that great newspaper war. The Rocky had a great personality, and I enjoyed reading it. But it did run a photo of a guy exposing himself on the cover in 2002. Remember that?? But The Post has a line of Pulitzers backing up its product too and has made a huge impact on Colorado for decades.

Haley: Agreed. Also, give Marcy a greater role in your strip. She was undervalued and underused in the original Peanuts. Also Franklin.

Caldara: Marcy and Peppermint Patty could finally get married and adopt Sally’s fatherless child.

Haley: I miss hanging out with Caldara. We once had lunch at City Grille, and he told a completely inappropriate Catholic priest joke. We stood up to leave and there were two Catholic priests sitting next to us. He may not remember that … but He does.

Caldara: I DON’T REMEMBER THAT. You made it up, just like the time you told me about these two priests and a nun in a hot tub…

Littwin: Or the time a rabbi, a priest and Caldara walked into a bar. The rabbi and the priest walked out.

John Tomasic: All right. Funny! Entertaining! Now onto news not about the news business — the not funny or entertaining business of torture. Our outgoing Senator gave a speech on the floor of the chamber today saying the torture report was all true and more than that that the CIA continues to lie about the interrogation programs and that the president has to give up the soft response and hold people accountable. What say you?

Jessica Peck : Profiles In Courage: the unearthed version.

Littwin: A couple of questions (most of which I answered in my column today at www.coloradoindependent.com/littwin). Do you think the torture is torture – or are you in the Dick Cheney camp? Do you think this stuff should have been revealed or should the CIA be allowed to keep its secrets?

Peck: Hell yes. The CIA needs to tell us.

Caldara: I say it was a pleasure to hear Udall speak for nearly an hour without mentioning lady parts. We should un-elect him more often.

Peck: I’m just tired of Caldara claiming he fathered my children.

Caldara: Then submit to the damn paternity tests Jessica!

Haley: Who to believe? The Democrats, who released their own report? Or Barack Obama’s own CIA director, who said yesterday that the enhanced interrogation techniques provided valuable intelligence about al Qaeda?

Littwin: But seriously … where are you guys on torture and its release? Own up. I will do nothing more than a little enhanced interrogation if you get the answer wrong.

Haley: Not to go all Bill Clinton on you but I suppose it depends on your definition of torture. Rectal feedings? I’m opposed.

Caldara: The beautiful thing about liberals who lose their job in government is that they can finally speak the truth. Udall called out the president for a coverup. He NEVER would have done that if he won re-election.

Littwin: Dan, does that mean you’re in favor of using torture in these circumstances. I think there are two issues. One, does torture work? Two, should you use it even if it does work?

Peck: Am I correct that I am the only person who has been detained in the Middle East by foreign captors? Mind you it was the Kuwait City airport on an overseas journalism gig. But it was scary. They didn’t chop my head off. KuwAitis still like us. Kind of. But war is still war. I don’t see any of this as new. We need to be intellectually honest. It’s like with animal cruelty. Humane murder of animals for human consumption? Please. Like the dead pig cares. Human beings deserve human rights. But while we may not think it’s fair to behead people, are we better for blowing their heads off?


Haley: I understand that history tells us that torture isn’t the best way to get information from someone. They often say whatever they think needs to be said to end the torture. But I also know this is a dangerous world we live in, and if we’re going to limit boots on the ground, as we are, we need to be damn sure we’re doing our best to get good information from bad guys.

Peck: Holding people at Gitmo for a decade without charges. That’s just bad all the way around.

Littwin: Jon, you’re right. But let’s go to an alternate universe. Let’s say these hearings were held six weeks ago. Who would be senator now? Would it be Udall, whom The American Conservative called a defender of American civil liberties or would it be Cory Gardner, who is soon going to release his over the counter torture program? It’s an interesting question — both about Udall’s lady-parts campaign and about whether Colorado elected the right guy.

Peck: I’m with Dan. We have to define torture.

Caldara: I survived Catholic grade school, so let let me tell you torture works, and works well. Does it unlock information that help us fight terror? Only a fool would say it doesn’t. For me the question is do terrorist deserve law process and protection or is this war.

When I see Obama killing an american by drone I worry.

Peck: As an aside, is torture waking up to front page pot headlines every day for the next 700 days straight? … Torture is Mark Udall’s uterus campaign.

Littwin:I think the rectal rehydration counts. I think stripping a guy and making him lie on the bare concrete until he freezes to death counts. I think making a guy stand on broken feet counts. I think waterboarding counts and waterboarding a guy 185 times really counts (if you can still count after the first two or three.) I think we know what torture is. That’s why we do it in secret camps.

Haley: I think Littwin and the left often forget that most Americans don’t care if Gitmo closes or not. In fact, a lot of ’em would prefer to have these locked up forever. Two-thirds of Americans this past June — 2014! — said keep it open. We re-elected the guy who said he’d close and didn’t. And still hasn’t. Walk the street today and ask if anyone cares if KSM got waterboarded. You might be surprised at what they tell you.

Littwin:I like a torture joke as much as the next guy. But if you read the report, you won’t find yourself laughing

Caldara: Let’s chat presidential coverup, as Udall says. Will the journalists now charge the White House gates a la Watergate? Will the DC press corp ever treat Obama with the same treatment they gave the last war-on-terror president? Or will they continue to act like they all work for the Denver Post?

Haley: I agree, Mike. Much of that went much farther than it should have, and they acknowledged that … while also acknowledging they gained key information.

Littwin:Dan, you’re right that most people don’t care whether we torture anyone or not. I’m pretty sure, however, I don’t want to put anyone’s civil liberties – even terrorist guys – up to a vote. Don’t think you would either.

Peck: I CARE. I’m not on the left. America stopped caring because the media got bored. Americans don’t know what to think. When they are torn they say to stick with the status quo. On every issue. Here the 2/3 figure is not an endorsement. It’s a concession that no one has presented a viable alternative (with or without the Gitmo beach views of McDonald’s drive thru, yes it’s true those exist there on the Cuban torture base).

Tomasic: As Mr Moderator I feel a responsibility to say: It’s kind of crazy that we’re talking about poll testing Gitmo and speculating about the definition of torture. Gitmo is illegal here there and everywhere and the definition of torture is well established. There’s a treaty signed in geneva, right?

Caldara: I think most Americans are fine with torture if there is proof that it has saved American lives. The “Cover up”, if opened, could show us that.

Aren’t there Colorado issues to talk about or is this a Fox News segment

Littwin:Let me see if I get your point, Jon. This torture stuff all happened under Bush-Cheney. The report comes out six years after Bush-Cheney are (thankfully) gone. What is the treatment of which you speak?

Peck: Wait. Are we talking about the Denver jail already? All of those are HORRID abuses but are they more horrid or damaging or awful than WAR. Now, Dan Haley, please define that.

If it were up to me, would I want to be beheaded by ISIS or sent to live out my life in Gitmo hell and die as a weathered old woman? I guess it depends on how I got to either destination. Whether I was innocent. Whether I had information that could save millions of lives. These things matter in the analysis.

Littwin: Jon, Colorado issue coming your way.

Tomasic: OK… Let’s move to Colorado: The high court here is weighing the DougCo school vouchers programs. That means religious schools. Is the program good bad or evil? And what will the court decide?

Caldara: I speak of a current president covering up, or so says Udall. Obama orders drone strikes. Obama broke he promise to close Gitmo in 1 year. Oh so W-ish don’t you think?

Littwin: I like the good v. evil. It’s appropriate since nearly all the students taking DougCo vouchers are planning to go to religious schools.

Caldara: Colorado courts tend to be unfriendly to real school choice. But since they ruled against the 2003? voucher program because of local control, it will be interesting to see how they argue against this VERY local control.

It’s a big day for families fighting to get better educations for their kids.

Haley: I think it’s great news for DougCo. The Bender Court didn’t want to review this case, thus putting it off for three years. It’s a good sign they’re reviewing it now. Other states have similar voucher programs and courts there have recognized the distinction in the state funding the school versus the state funding the parents, who choose the school.

Peck: Full disclosure: my kids go to an amazing private school I objectively can’t afford.

If this school accepted vouchers, I’d be torn. I fight to keep my kids in private schools so that they can be free of the abuses and vulgarities of public schools. I represent too many young kids who are thrown into the criminal justice system because of our schools. Drowned in. Torturous vat of mandatory BS testing. A land where parents have no say and the federal government idiots reign.

So no to vouchers. Because (while my family’s school is not religious) I don’t want the God of Government to interfere with the God of other people and their schools. Because once you invite government into my school and s–tshow will ensue. Sorry Jon.

Littwin: For some of us who don’t belong to a majority religion, it’s very problematic to be funding, directly or otherwise, religious schools. Some of those religions once preached some very dangerous things about my religion. This kind of thing happens now in places about Islam. This seems to me to be a pretty basic constitutional issue.

Caldara: I know one of those kids. He has autism. They have tried several different government schools without success. The family and DougCo schools worked together to place him in a great school that specialized in autism. What a win for this kid, that is until the union sued and got the injunction on the program. After that the family moved out of DougCo.

Love how the left puts kids first.

Peck: I represent the “kid with autism” or dozens of “him” over the years. The best thing is often private-public partnerships. Not to sound patronizing here but Jon knows a bit more about this than he is letting on. His family has lived the special education disaster. There are good intentions and good people. The problem is this: once you accept government money, your school instantly accepts all of the weight of government ineptitude. Private sources need to step and fund private options for these kids. My kids attend private school only because rich people I don’t know help me write the check each month.

Not because the government writes that check.

There is no perfect system.

Haley: This fight, unfortunately, could go back to the Blaine Amendment, which is in the Colorado constitution and says money can’t go to religious schools. The Blaine Amendment harks back to an ugly time in Colorado history when Catholic bigotry ran amuck. And, that bigotry was also directed at recent immigrants (Italians, Irish) who happened to be Catholic. Mike, you don’t want to hang your opposition to this on that, do you??

Littwin:Jon, the kid with autism should be sent to a special school. We, as a community, should make sure that all kids get the best school possible. That’s what people like me believe in. Giving a kid $4,000 and telling him to do the best he can is not what people like me stand for.

Peck: Very good points. As a pro-choice advocate, I want everyone to have the same options as my kids. But I just fear that our schools will suffer the fate of universities. DU, for instance is a private university. But due to 1964 CRA and countless lawsuits later, DU has so little power to act as a private institution. And it’s all because over half of its students get “vouchers” known as federal student loans.

If you are going to dance with the devil prepared to get burned. I’m going hard core libertarian on this one.

Caldara: Really Mike. You’re going to deny kids a better education by comparing it to Islam?

I’m AMAZED how many hard core leftists send their kids to private schools. It would be funny if we weren’t destroying kids’ lives to keep a government monopoly.

Haley: Full disclosure: My kids go to a traditional school, and we love it. But I also think Colorado parents deserve to have a choice where they send their kids, and competition will make schools better. Look at the charters in Denver. Remember how hard it was to get charter schools approved in Colorado? And everyone worried some crackpot religious nut would open a charter in a strip mall and suck up all the money?? And while there have been some bad charters, some of the best schools in the state are charters and many of my liberal friends in Denver proudly send their kids there — with no clue that Bill Owens and other Rs fought for that law. More choice is good. Competition is good.

Littwin: Of course the Blaine Amendment is bigotry run amuck. I don’t want anything to do with it. It actually makes my point, though. I don’t want to fund any schools that deal in religious bigotry or any other kind. Do you want the government determining which schools make the cut and which schools don’t?

Caldara:You are right Mike. $4000 is way too low. Between operations and capitol DPS spends around $18,000 per kid per year. Let’s give that.

Catholic schools cost around $4000. As a survivor of a Catholic who grew up to not be a Catholic, I am so grateful my parents yanked me up of the government school and brought me somewhere that taught me to read.

Littwin:I’m for choice. I’m for competition. I’m for better schools. I’m not for paying for religious schools, and not just crackpot religious schools.

Haley: The reason Colorado’s constitution says no money to religious is the Blaine Amendment. You can’t avoid it, or the reason it’s there. I don’t want to fund schools that teach my kids that fracking is bad either, but too late, I pay taxes that go to those schools.

Haley: What choice do you support in education, Mike?

Tomasic: OK. Nice job all: Newspapers, torture, vouchers, bigotry, kids! What a great, fast ride. Thanks all. Now back to your desks or to lunch with priests. Cheers!

Caldara:Then Littwin support the Blaine amendment.

Why do liberals fear parents choosing for their kid. Do you want the government to choose your kid’s doctors as well? Oh wait. You do. Forgot about that

LittwinI’ve got nothing against charter schools. My opinions have changed slightly there. Some of them are especially innovative. I’m against vouchers. I’m against phony arguments against public schools (not accusing any of you of same), but you know what they are. There’s plenty to change in public schools. Let’s do it realistically, and with stuff that works.

Caldara: Parent with money and choice works. Poor people don’t need governmental control. They need money Parents shouldn’t have to submit to the collective in teaching their kids. Choice shouldn’t be only for the rich or for well-connected liberals.

Haley: Unfortunately, there’s a pretty big blocker in the way when it comes to changing public schools. Which is one of the reasons why charters are sometimes so successful. …. Not to belabor the point…

Caldara: Why Mike? I’m paying for your crack-pot, agenda-filled, reduce-reuse-recycle government schools. So I should be forced to pay for your values to be taught.

Littwin: Hey, you guys were great, really great. I had great fun… When you’re in town, Jon, we’ll get a rabbi and a priest and go into a bar.

Haley: Good fun! Hope it worked for you guys, Mike. You guys are the crackpots. Geez.

Caldara: So we’re done here? Free to go?

Tomasic: Free to go! High quality banter. Very much appreciated. Cheers.


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litwin hnMike Littwin has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow. A rapier wit.


jon caldara Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, Colorado’s free-market think tank in Denver. He is a radio and TV host and one of the state’s favorite provocateurs.


peck hnJessica Peck is a libertarian Republican lawyer-mom-comedian best known as the founder and sacred leader of Jessicaterrianism, the world-watched global phenomenon changing the way people think about politics.


dan haley Dan Haley is vice president of communications at EIS Solutions, a Colorado public relations firm and was Editorial Page Editor at the Denver Post, after being an editorial writer, assistant city editor and news reporter.


jt1 John Tomasic is managing editor at The Colorado Independent. He has been a writer, editor, reporter, webguy, ghost in the machine for all kinds of journalism publications in the era of the Great News-Media Transition.

The Colorado Independent is a statewide online news source operating in a time when spin is plentiful, but factual, fair and unflinching news in the public interest is all too rare. Our award-winning team of veteran investigative and explanatory reporters and news columnists aims to amplify the voices of Coloradans whose stories are unheard, shine light on the relationships between people, power and policy, and hold public officials to account. We strive to report the news with context, social conscience, and soul, and to give Coloradans the insight they need to promote conversation, understanding and progress in this square, swing state we call home.


  1. Well, coming as I do from the era of the Great Depression – when I stood on a street corner on South Broadway, selling the old pink-sheet Denver Post for 3 cents, after buying it for 2 cents, and later working for both papers in Advertising Dispatch during my teen years and college vacations – my own response is, simply, the REAL NEWSPAPER LOST. And the 3 Ring Circus garbage wrapper merely goes on as a daily full page Chiroquactic advertising throwaway.

    But then again, I also had the experience of the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph approach to such things as Civil Rights, et.al. to live with as well. So, a full page Chiroquactic advertising throwaway does have moments – however few they may be – of publishing REALITY and NEWS, at least once in a while.

    Torture is ILLEGAL. Period. Full Stop. End. And, as anyone who has read Henry C. Lea’s HISTORY OF THE INQUISITION IN THE MIDDLE AGES, knows full well, it VERY RARELY, if ever, produces anything worthwhile. And under such as the Bush-Cheney claque, NEVER!

    Colorado’s prohibition against paying money to ANYTHING “religious” – whether called “schools” or whatever – should be STRICTLY ENFORCED, AT ALL TIMES EVERYWHERE! The 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution DOES NOT establish a Theocracy of superstitious ignorance and arrogantly stubborn stupidity – i.e., “religion” – as the means of PUBLIC EDUCATION. Again, Period. Full Stop. End.

    As to the rest of the Right-wingnut, reactionary, regressive, and racist eluviation . . . well, it was amusing . . . a bit, anyway. Just about what one might expect, considering the participants in the “debate”.

    Thanks, Mike Littwin. A good laugh does brighten up the day.

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