John Tomasic Hi Everyone and Happy High Noon. It’s opening day of the state legislature but news events from Paris are taking up a lot of mind space just now. We’re joined by longtime journalist and wit Dan Haley, Ms. Libertarian Jessica Peck and Mr. Springs Libertarian Elliot Fladen. Colorado Independent Columnist Mike Littwin is here, too, as always. Welcome all.
Mike Littwin: Yes, obviously the plan was to begin with the beginning of the state legislature, always a festive and/or depressing day, depending on your view of what the legislature may or may not do this year regarding TABOR refunds, fracking, policing, highways, condos, weed, abortion (you think the Senate will offer up something?). But we have to begin with the horrifying news from Paris, where 12 were killed in a terror attack on Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper, presumably by Islamic terrorists.
The Times puts it this way: “Among the dead were four prominent cartoonists who have repeatedly lampooned Islamic terrorists and the Prophet Muhammad, leading to speculation that the attack on the newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, was the work of Islamic militants acting alone or in concert with extremist groups.”
This is Amy Davidson’s lede in the New Yorker, which notes the above cartoon, which ran after a 2011 firebombing of Charlie Hebdo’s offices.
In 2011, just six days after the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine under threat for having run cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, was gutted by a firebomb, the staff put out a new issue with a cover drawing of a bearded, presumably Muslim man kissing a cartoonist. The caption was “L’amour: Plus fort que la haine,” which translates to “Love: Stronger than hate.” The cartoon was a properly irreverent combination—an affirmation of the most universal truth, a commitment to the magazine’s own very particular identity. To be brave, one needn’t ever be saccharine. The magazine and its artists, editors, and staff believed in all of that and lived those values, in a way that few of us are ever asked to. At midday this Wednesday, ten of them were killed, along with two Paris policemen who rushed to their aid when what were reportedly two or three hooded men, armed with AK-47s—some of the details are not yet clear—went into the office, in Paris’s Eleventh Arrondissement, and started firing, apparently at anyone they could find. In addition to the dead, twenty people were injured, according to French police statements. There is a video in which the gunmen can be heard shouting “Allahu Akbar”—God is great. This was, as President François Hollande said after rushing to the scene, “undoubtedly an act of terrorism.” And, though the exact identity of the shooters will need to be determined, in these first hours there are strong signs that it is an act of Islamist terrorism.
From the New Yorker: “This was an attack on a publication and a neighborhood, on a country and its press, and on any journalist, in any city.”
Dan, you were the editor of the editorial pages of the Denver Post and you presumably faced this issue more or less all the time. What should we take from this.
Tomasic: Here’s the cartoon:
Elliot Fladen: This is my drawing of Mohammad smiling: “:-)”
Dan Haley: First, how is it possible The Times is still “speculating” that the attack was the work of Islamic militants? We have to stop being so afraid to call this what it is.
Fladen: In all seriousness, one of the major battles between the West and the Middle East at the moment appears to be concerning the acceptance of blasphemy. While I think it is a fundamental aspect of our society that we be able to criticize religions, that isn’t a sentiment that is shared everywhere. In fact, in many places blasphemy is illegal and resolutions condemning it tend to pop up now and again at the UN. I think we should all be able to agree that standing behind the right to blaspheme is essential for our society.
Haley: As editorial page editor of The Post, and a Catholic, there were several times that cartoonist Mike Keefe drew something anti-Catholic or anti-Christian that made me uncomfortable. But I would never dream of spiking it. That’s one of the points of an editorial page – and of cartoons – and of a free press. To make people uncomfortable. To make people think. An attack on the free press and on any newspaper, satirical or otherwise, is an attack on free people and freethinking everywhere.
Littwin: Yes, obviously the plan was to begin with the beginning of the state legislature, always a festive and/or depressing day, depending on your view of what the legislature may or may not do this year regarding TABOR refunds, fracking, policing, highways, condos, weed, abortion (you think the Senate will offer up something?). But we have to begin with the horrifying news from Paris, where 12 were killed in a terror attack on Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper, presumably by Islamic terrorists.
Dan, I agree we have to be afraid not to call something what it is. But that goes right to the point. Twelve people are dead for doing that. So, as an ex-editor, what is your point of view? What would you be doing on the Post editorial page today? What did you when the Danish cartoons were printed?
Haley: These were courageous people who died because of cartoons. Earlier today I saw an interview with one of the editors who said he’d rather die standing than die hiding like a rat. Or something to that effect. We can’t keep silent. We can’t be afraid to speak out. To write. To draw. To offer opinions. And we must protect the rights to people to do that – no matter how ridiculous or inflammatory their statements might be.
Jessica Peck: What a sick sick world. I think the man on the street in the western world would be stunned to know that in progressive muslim communities (Cairo, for instance) men kiss and hold hands. Obviously this is an extremist battle but I think we should all be shocked and angered to the core as to the gravity of this latest attack.
Littwin: Elliot, you’re right about this being on the front lines and differences in societies. Obviously media are censored in different ways in different countries, for political reasons, for religious reasons and otherwise. When you’re a journalist and the First Amendment is in your DNA, you know automatically what is the right thing to do. But now four cartoonists, who knew they were in dangers, whose offices had been blown up before, kept on drawing. I love the cartoon that came after the firebombing with the big wet kiss between terrorist and cartoonist. I saw one today in which the editor had been beheaded and was still finding a way to stick his tongue out at the beheader.
Haley: I wasn’t ed page editor when that cartoon controversy erupted in 2006 but if I recall, the Rocky ran the controversial cartoons but the Post did not. There are times when a cartoon may be “too much” for your newspaper, for the readership. It’s over the top. But that’s a decision made by professionals in a newsroom trying to educate and inform and keep a business running. Not a decision made by terrorists.
Peck: America can be a messed up place full of civil rights headlines and alleged defeats. But I think we can all agree that trashing each other without threat of violence is at the core of our shared ethos. Or as Jon Caldara would say, “Call me whatever you want. Just keep calling me.” In all seriousness, there is such a beautiful confidence to that. As activists and writers and rabble rousers, we should be confident enough to go to bat with our haters. A metaphorical bat. Without real bullets. Or 19th Century swords.
Littwin: So, here’s an easy question. Does this change anything?
Fladen: You know, people often say that “freedom isn’t free”. I’ll make a minor contention: journalists who draw Mohammad (pbuh) defend our freedom in a similar, if not greater, fashion as soldiers that fight off in Afghanistan.
Peck: That is bad ass.
Littwin: Metaphorical bats are great. Unless you’re actually playing baseball. Reads like a cartoon. Keefe, are you out there?
Peck: Elliot, you are correct if you are talking about yesterday maybe. But soldiers still live the threat of death far more often than journalists. Having had some rounds with terrorists myself back in the day as a commentator and reporter. Before I sold out to lawyering.
Love it. What a sad, sad day for freedom loving.
Haley: It should outrage free people everywhere and it should shock – again – our world leaders into some kind of action. But what? And how involved does the US get? Look at Saudi Arabia. Big changes are coming there in their leadership and the US doesn’t seem to have any posture.
Fladen: My point isn’t facing the threat of death Jessica. If that is all it took to defend freedom then the guy who got “eaten alive” on History Channel would be a defender of freedom. Your risk has to ADVANCE freedom in some significant fashion. A person who draws Mohammad (pbuh) not to insult him but to defend religious liberty takes massive personal risks in defense of our basic rights.
Fladen: My bad – Discovery, not History Channel. Tough to tell them apart these days.
Haley: Mike, will this change how journalists view the ongoing “war on terrorism?”
Littwin: Different jobs. I don’t think you’d necessarily want me out there on the front lines. As a fighter, I’d be something along the lines of Fielding Mellish. But the cartoonist’s job – and the columnist’s job — is to provoke. Let’s give all the credit to those who were brave enough to do their jobs so well.
Haley: Had to Google Fielding Mellish. And I’d have to agree with you, Mike.
Littwin: Will it change the idea that fighting a war in Iraq wasn’t the best way to fight against terrorism? I don’t know any journalists who are pro-terrorism. There are lots of issues here. Are all Muslims terrorists? (Obviously not.) Most? (Obviously not.) Grouping people by race or ethnicity is a problem that people like me think is a major problem. These are radical groups that have spread and dropping bombs on someone, anywhere, won’t stop people from killing cartoonists in Paris. The war on terror will be a long, long one.
Peck: Non-state actors are the single greatest threat to the 21st Century. I don’t know about dropping bombs on Iraq, but we are fortunate in the sense that the assholes of Paris are good for western PR. Yes, I said it. You homophobic Islamoefferfascist pricks. In honor of those will never utter such words again. RIP.
Fladen: So, here is a question for the field: is cheap gas good or bad for Colorado? I know this: it was good for my road trip over Christmas to Dallas.
Tomasic: Yes. It’s always a sad question to ask but: Shall we move on from Paris?
Littwin: Elliot, boldly changing the question. Before we get to gas, let’s move on to the legislature. Today was opening day, the day on which everyone at the lege loves each other. The kids are there, so the parents must behave. There are always a lot of feel-good stories — father and son being sworn in in different chambers (dynasties everywhere). What are the big issues that you care about in this session. As I said, we’ll see a lot of the big ones – fracking, TABOR, weed, highways, schools, etc. Let it begin.
Peck: #BillCadmanRocks. I love to watch liberal after liberal unable to resist the pull of his shockingly libertarian brand of Colorado Springs conservative politics. That’s my happy spot of the day.
Fladen: I think one of the big issues out there is the tension between property rights and local control, especially in the context of fracking.
Haley: Don’t be fooled by all the talk of partisanship. As you know, these guys will pass dozens and dozens of bills, even though the lege is spilt. They work together all of the time.
I think the TABOR issue will be very interesting to watch. I think they’ll refund money this year – didn’t Hick say he supported that at the end of the campaign. And it will be hard to make a Ref C like push to undo TABOR, I think. Back then, it was the “ratchet effect” that got many Rs on board with the five year TABOR timeout. The ratchet went away forever.
Littwin: Dan, you’re a pro-split-legislature guy, right? Yes, they’ll still pass tons of bills. But we won’t get far on the big stuff – fracking and TABOR – I’m guessing.
Peck: Here’s the problem. Why can’t we unite to cut all the dumb bills that are introduced. Five bills for each legislator? Artificially excessive in some cases but not enough at the hands of others.
400 NEW LAWS A YEAR. Ridiculously excessive.
My advice to newbie lawmakers: If you have a good idea, confirm it’s actually a good idea before you introduce it. It may be a really dumb idea and you just don’t know it. I’m happy to let you know.
Haley: Yea, I’m generally in favor of split government. I think it forces the parties to come to the middle, where many Coloradans and Americans are, politically. And I also think maybe we shouldn’t get too far on TABOR and fracking, if we’re talking about getting rid of both of them. That’s extreme.
Littwin: Hick was, well, Hick. He said he was pro-refund. And then he said we didn’t have enough money to fund the government. So, he feels strongly both ways? I think we could fix TABOR. What most people care about is voting whether or not (usually not, at least statewide) to raise taxes. For better or worse, that will never go away. But the problems of dueling amendments and when refunds go into place are things that could be fixed.
Haley: Yea, run all bills by Jessica first. I’m on board with that. What if they limited each lawmaker to one bill. Are there really 500 things (and you know they allow them to go over give each) that need fixing in Colorado?
Littwin: On TABOR and Gordian Knot, I meant those things could be fixed if anyone could even explain them.
Fladen: On fracking, I do wonder how the decrease in the price of oil will affect desire for legislative change. Does it reduce the desire for local control due to less wells going forward? Does it increase the desire for local control as there will be less profits flowing to homeowners who are able to get a cut either through owning their mineral rights or some other mechanism? It should be interesting to watch.
Haley: People also voted for the refunds. We can’t pretend we know what they voted for. Rather than another timeout – which means you basically never get a refund and the law is a gutted joke – I’d rather they run a citizen initiative to get rid of the whole thing. I’m not saying I’d vote for it. Just seems more honest.
Littwin: I have no problem with 5 bills. Some people have 5 good ideas. Many people have none. But we elected ’em, God help us.
Jessica, what do you see happening weed-wise?
Peck: I may regret saying this when I announce my presidential bid later this week but . . . . . . regardless of whether we “need” the money or returning the money is “the right thing to do” the fact remains that the fight over the refunds–legislative or otherwise–is not worth the cost of the Xcel bill and legislative per diems to devote more time to this. Give it to public defenders and police brutality settlements. Religious education in public schools. Whatever. Just stop the moralizing debate over what amounts to a very small pot of cash.
Let’s be practical people!
Haley: One nice thing about not working at the Denver Post, I never uttered the words Gordian Knot or ratchet effect for nearly four years … until today.
Littwin: Dan, that’s two votes.
Fladen: As much as Jessica would be a benevolent monarch, I don’t like monarchy so I will dissent.
Littwin: Getting back to fracking. I wonder how the oil companies see this now. Assuming oil prices won’t stay low, but … I’ve read stuff that OPEC countries are letting the price fall to impact fracking. And, of course, it’s not a local issue, but this has some impact on the Keystone pipeline, too. At what price does the fracking boom implode?
Peck: I’ve lived the “fee” versus “tax” battle my entire career. Everyone should give me their refunds so we can sue over way more important stuff like eminent domain and foreclosure fraud. Just saying. I get the whole worthy battle over fighting to the death over tea in a bay but I’m also pragmatic. We have grossly underfunded parts of our state government and grossly overfunded. Let’s get serious about priority based budgeting instead of this obnoxious across-the-board uniform for all agencies/ineffective funding budgeting model that we can’t seem to shake.
Littwin: I’m going to assume that even though the oil prices have dropped dramatically — along with my 401 (k) — that the debate will lag the price drop by maybe two years, by which time we’ll probably have $120 oil.
Fladen: I am no fracking expert, but I had always thought that oil needs to be around $75 a barrel or so for Colorado Fracking to profitable. I could be completely wrong on this.
Peck: Blame it on Putin. But seriously? I’m not a genius here but oil is a sticky business.
Haley: Doing my best Eric Sondermann impression from Colorado Inside Out, full disclosure, I do some consulting for oil and gas interests … But obviously cheap gas is good for consumers. And it’s the result of more competition, thanks to more domestic drilling and fracking and horizontal drilling. Our push toward energy independence has forced the Saudis and others back on their heels and I think they’re trying to see how long the price can go before Americans holler “uncle.”
Fladen: So if your 401(k) is lagging Mike, maybe now you should invest in fracking companies? Buy low, sell high?
Littwin: The number varies with the technology presumably. But prices vary, too.
Haley: IHS recently said about 80 percent of the “tight oil” in the US – oil that needs to be fracked – can be developed with prices as low as $50 a barrel.
Littwin: Following Dan and Sondermann, I’ll do my full disclosure. I don’t know what the hell is in my 401 (k), and like most good citizens, I never look.
Fladen: I wonder if Colorado “tight oil” tends to be part of the 20% or is largely represented in the 80%.
Littwin: Well, then I’m for $50. I wouldn’t want the oil companies to suffer.
Is the “tight oil” Gordian? Or ratcheted?
Haley: I don’t know. I do know more than 90 percent of the wells here are fracked. I just checked that HIS figure and it did say as low as $50. But I also found this, for what it’s worth: IHS estimates the growth in U.S. tight oil production will slow next year to 700,000 barrels a day, down from million a day in 2014. (That estimate is based on a $77 a barrel. If oil goes to $60 next year that 700,000 projection will be cut in half to 350,000.)
Haley: You say that sarcastically, I realize, but oil and gas has been a real bright spot in Colorado’s economy the past few years.
Ha! I think it’s ratcheted out west and Gordian on the more elite east coast.
Littwin: Speaking of frackers, how does Hick handle this session? He’s being talked about nationally again (I don’t get that at all, but it’s out there.) He said his chances of running are 1 in 20,000. I’d put that way too high. But I’m pretty sure he’s learned his lesson on trying to do anything that any voter might object to.
Haley: So you’re saying he will be even less decisive? That’ll be great.
Littwin: No, I think he’ll be decisively down the middle. Will the Republican Senate help him out by going right?
Fladen: Of course the GOP Senate will seek to govern in a conservative fashion. The question isn’t that, rather it is whether it will seek to govern conservatively in a manner that is popular or in a manner that is alienating.
Peck: Hick: yawn. Who is talking about him nationally?! Spill the details!
Haley: You heard it here first: Watch the presidential aspirations of Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. When he was mayor of Baltimore, he was one of the people that Hickenlooper went to to learn about governing, political problem-solving, etc. They have very similar styles, beliefs and if he runs and wins the nomination, Hick will be his veep choice. Write it down. 1/7/15.
Littwin: And one last question. The National Journal tabbed Cory Gardner and Ken Buck as two of the fie new guys (Gardner new in the Senate) to watch. What are you guys watching for? I’m watching to see if Gardner can pull off being the pragmatic conservative that he wants to be seen as.
Haley: The Republican will help him out by killing dumb bills.
Littwin: Two white-guy, big-city mayors. Perfect.
Fladen: I think Cory is viewed as a guy who hasn’t hit his ceiling yet as a US Senator. Ken Buck though was a guy who failed for US Senate twice and then settled for a district that probably is more GOP than Utah. Not sure why Buck would be considered on short list for greatness to come.
Peck: I look forward to seeing whether we’ll have any ballot initiatives (citizen-run) as a way to fight for more citizen-centered legislation this session. Take the residency restrictions (totally unconstitutional) on pot. Or the outdated methods for enforcement/calculation for child support in this state.
Haley: Buck’s pro-Boehner vote yesterday was interesting. I think Gardner can be that guy, and I think, and its rules and posture, allows him to be that guy more easily. The House has a different feel and vibe than the Senate. I think he’ll be less Ted Cruz and more … quick, give me a name…
Fladen: More Doug Lamborn?
Question: who is more likely to stick foot in mouth during next session? Lamborn or Buck?
Haley: Yea, not the name I was looking for.
Littwin: There’s the problem. There is no name. He can be his own model. The hard part, I think, is being that guy and keeping the base happy. It will be difficult, but he was able to do the tough things (like repeatedly, but politely, refusing to answer key questions) in the campaign.
Haley: Agreed. He will be fun to watch. And I loved that bit with Biden yesterday. Awesome.
Fladen: Being able to deftly avoid answering key questions is an essential skill these days that we expect out of our politicians. So maybe I am being too hard on Buck after all.
Littwin: The answer is Buck. Because Buck loves to talk. He’ll be more in the middle of things than Lamborn, whom we hardly ever notice except when he’s being primaried.
Fladen: Did you see that Lamborn has a bill out there that makes government contractors who boycott Israel lose their ability to contract?
Littwin: Ha. I think we’re out of time (although there is no actual time, I believe, on the ‘Net). Thanks for a great discussion everyone. Until next week.
Haley: So much for the argument that government shouldn’t pick winners and losers.
So, really, to sum it up: We all agree that terrorists are bad; fracking is great; TABOR refunds should be doled out like edibles at a dispensary; and that Cory Gardner is a comer. At least that’s what I heard. Good talk everyone.
Fladen: Maybe the government can pass a law that if you are part of OWS/Tea Party you lose your ability to contract with them. Seems very limited government to me.
Tomasic: Tuning back in here at the end to say: Compelling! Entertaining! Informative! Thanks all. Until next time….
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Jessica 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 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.
Elliot Fladen is a former Department of Justice trial attorney and a 2005 graduate of Stanford Law School. He specializes in commercial litigation, government transparency, and construction litigation. Besides testifying on major state ethics legislation before the Colorado State House, stories regarding his work have appeared in the Denver Post, the Colorado Springs Gazette, The Colorado Independent, the Colorado Observer, and the Colorado Statesman. He is also an occasional guest columnist and/or contributor to the Colorado Springs Gazette and The Colorado Independent.
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.