September 19, 20171min1220

The U.S. House of Representatives’ bill governing self-driving vehicles has a hole in it big enough to drive an autopilot Mack truck through. The Senate has to close it when it tackles its parallel legislation later this month. The fully autonomous vehicle market is estimated to hit $87 billion by 2030, which could ignite another tech boom to fuel the U.S. and Silicon Valley economies for decades — but not if people are afraid to use the machines for fear of losing their privacy. That’s what’s at risk in the federal legislation.

September 12, 20171min510

The sight of 12 Cleveland Browns football players kneeling in a prayer circle during the national anthem before an exhibition game last month did not sit well with many in the national television audience.

Some veterans took it as an insult. Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill, a Vietnam War veteran and longtime Browns fan, said he is done cheering for Cleveland: “I will NEVER attend a sporting event where the draft-dodging millionaire athletes disrespect the veterans who earned them the right to be on that field,” Justice O’Neill said on Facebook.

The heated emotions are understandable. But the players have the right to engage in protest. Justice O’Neill should understand that better than anyone. It is disappointing when a jurist criticizes the exercise of a fundamental American right.

Read more at The Boulder Daily Camera

September 12, 20171min520

Other questions on the Nov. 7 ballot will doubtless produce more heat, but no local issue may be more important than the proposal to extend the term limit for the Boulder County sheriff from four to five terms.

That’s because being sheriff of Boulder County requires an unusual and complex skill set. In a jurisdiction that tends to elect county commissioners devoted to environmental causes, the sheriff stands on the front line of some of our most pressing social problems — public safety, obviously, but also homelessness, mental illness and the growing risk of emergencies from wildfires and floods.

With 37 years in local law enforcement, half with the city of Boulder and half with the county, Sheriff Joe Pelle is uniquely suited to this difficult job. More remarkable, he loves it. But if the ballot measure to extend the office’s term limit fails, Pelle will be forced to leave the post next year, when his fourth four-year term expires.

Read more at The Boulder Daily Camera.

August 31, 20171min390

Unlike most of the nation, the San Francisco Bay Area’s biggest problem right now is not from right-wing provocateurs, it’s from anarchist hoodlums.

Most people here recognize how despicable and dangerous the ultra-right-wing, white supremacist, neo-Nazi movement is. We deplore President Trump’s false equivalency that those who protest the bigotry are equally culpable.

As we saw in San Francisco and Berkeley, most here who demonstrate against this country’s ugly underbelly can do so peacefully — and effectively.

Unfortunately, as we also saw, there’s a small subset of opponents with a penchant for violence that plays right into the hands of the nationalist extremists.

Read more at the Boulder Daily Camera

August 30, 20171min140

Depending on which Founding Father or long-ago Supreme Court justice you cite, the president of the United States has pardon power to provide mercy in case of an overly harsh criminal code; to provide justice to the wrongfully convicted; and to help the country heal after particularly brutal periods of unrest. Nowhere will you find it is supposed to be used to undermine the law and codify the mistreatment of a group of people based on their ethnicity.

Because it is nearly unquestioned, maybe no other presidential power reveals and relies upon the character of the person in White House as much. That’s why Donald Trump’s pardon of former sheriff Joe Arpaio is so disturbing and damaging.

Trump is far from the first president to issue a questionable pardon. Andrew Johnson pardoned every Confederate soldier.

Read more at The Boulder Daily Camera

August 21, 20172min270

Democrats and Independents have been asking for months, to little or no effect, when traditional Republicans would stand up to the chaos presidency of Donald Trump. As Washington Post columnist Fareed Zakaria points out elsewhere in these pages, traditional elites have not exactly been a profile in courage.

But last week, Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, emerged from the shadows to make a stark demand — that Trump apologize to the nation for his divisive remarks following a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va. Of all the outrageous, counter-productive things Trump has said and done as a candidate and as president, his remarks suggesting a moral equivalence between white supremacists and counter-protesters may finally represent a tipping point among Republicans. Well, at least a few of them.

More integrity has been demonstrated outside political circles than within them. The heads of every branch of the armed forces pushed back on Trump’s remarks with public statements emphasizing their rejection of racial and religious bigotry. Chief executives of businesses who made up two Trump advisory councils decided to disband those councils after Trump publicly attacked Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, an African-American, following Frazier’s resignation from one of the councils.

Read more at The Boulder Daily Camera.

August 13, 20172min410

RethinkX, a San Francisco think tank, released a report in May that should cause transportation officials all over the country, including Boulder and Boulder County, to re-examine assumptions and biases that could lead them to make major investments in transport modes and ideas that are about to become obsolete.

The report, titled “Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030: The Disruption of Transportation and the Collapse of the Internal-Combustion Vehicle and Oil Industries,” argues that transportation-as-a-service (TaaS) will disrupt current modes much more quickly than traditional analysts have forecast. The report posits that the confluence of technological leaps forward in artificial intelligence and electric vehicles will produce a mass migration to self-driving electric cars by 2030. In the main, it contends, these cars will be owned not by individuals but by fleet operators. Individuals will buy subscriptions in much the way they buy wireless communication plans today.

Economics will drive the mass migration, the report’s authors argue. “Using TaaS, the average American family will save more than $5,600 per year in transportation costs, equivalent to a wage raise of 10 percent,” they write. “This will keep an additional $1 trillion per year in Americans’ pockets by 2030, potentially generating the largest infusion of consumer spending in history.”

Read more at The Boulder Daily Camera.

July 30, 20172min360

John McCain is the toast of sane America this weekend, and rightfully so. Without McCain’s thumbs down on the U.S. Senate floor early Friday morning, a piece of legislation Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham called “a fraud” just hours earlier could have become law.

It is important to note that this is not a partisan analysis. To a person, Republican members of the Senate said the bill that failed 51-49 was not intended to become law. It was intended to force a House-Senate conference committee that was supposed to come up with a bill a majority of Republicans could support, even though neither chamber had been able to accomplish that goal independently.

The result, as Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut pointed out on the floor just prior to the vote, could have been House Republicans throwing up their hands and simply approving the Senate’s “skinny bill” — it was eight pages long — so they could claim to have kept seven years’ worth of promises to their base to repeal Obamacare. McCain’s vote very possibly prevented President Trump from signing into law a measure even its authors did not believe should be enacted, a measure that would have added 16 million Americans to the ranks of the uninsured and increased premiums on public exchanges by 20 percent a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Read more at The Boulder Daily Camera.

July 22, 20172min170

Social Security is the oldest and most popular federal income support program, and after more than 80 years, it might seem as permanent as the pyramids. But the pharaohs did better long-range engineering than the architects of the New Deal did. A 2015 Gallup Poll found that 64 percent of millennials don’t think the program will be able to pay benefits when they retire. The other 36 percent may not have been paying attention. The doubts are similar among those in the 30-to-49 age range.

The fearful ones have good reason to be concerned. Right now, the program provides retirement and survivors’ benefits to some 50 million people. Every year since 2010, Social Security revenues, excluding interest earned, have been lower than payouts, and things promise to get worse. Last week, the system’s board of trustees reported that it is still on track to insolvency.

In the past year, the program’s unfunded liabilities have grown from $11.4 trillion to $12.5 trillion. Given current trends, the Social Security retirement fund is expected to run out of money in 2034, a mere 17 years from now. The very modest good news is that’s the same year it was expected to run out in last year’s report. We’re moving, but the cliff we’re headed for is not.

Read more at the Boulder Daily Camera

July 19, 20171min220

When local media report on the law enforcement activities in their communities, the underlying question, even if it is unstated, is whether those communities are safe.

By shining a light on the work of police, sheriff’s deputies and state patrol troopers, local publications like this one offer a glimpse into activities that perpetrators wish would go unreported — making it easier for them to find their next victims, whether it’s a crime against a person or involving property.

This past week, another component to help give insight on community safety was released to the public: the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s “2016 Crime in Colorado.”

Read more at The Boulder Daily Camera.