A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:
The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, Jan. 13, on simplifying federal firearms background checks:
In the wake of the Connecticut massacre, gun control dialogue has reached a fevered pitch. Vice President Joe Biden's task force made recommendations to President Obama this week.
Gov. John Hickenlooper told The Gazette's editorial board of his support for universal background checks on all gun sales. It's hard to object to this reasonable goal.
Both sides of the gun debate should agree on the need to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and the insane.
The difficulty, as usual, lies in the details. The federal National Instant Check System (NICS), operated by the FBI in Washington and administered locally by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, has prevented tens of thousands of bad and troubled individuals from obtaining firearms. That's can only be good. Objections mostly involve procedure, not intent.
Federal law requires NICS background checks for all firearms purchased through federally-licensed gun dealers in all 50 states. Additionally, in Colorado, sales at gun shows must also go through the NICS.
The major objections of some who oppose the system are: 1. The difficulty of obtaining a background check, which can only be done through a federally licensed dealer; and 2. Privacy.
The forms used for background checks logically ask questions about the applicant. Lying on the form is a federal felony offense.
The forms also ask for identification of the specific firearm involved in the transaction, including the make, model and serial number. That needlessly creates opposition.
Information given to CBI and the FBI in a federal background check is supposed to be destroyed within 24 hours if the sale is approved. Alas, the federal government has been caught illegally retaining such records for up to six months, ostensibly for "auditing" purposes. Critics, for better or worse, see a more nefarious objective: universal gun registration, which in their minds is unnecessary, violates their rights, and raises suspicions of eventual gun confiscations facilitated by a database of registration records.
Resolving this concern would make universal checks, which could keep guns from dangerous individuals, more acceptable to all and compliance would go up.
Any person in Colorado who wants to sell a gun to someone else should be able to call the state and give the name and birth date of the person trying to buy the gun. The seller would get a simple yes-no answer from the CBI as to whether the buyer is prohibited from buying the firearm. The seller could take it from there. Federal and state laws already forbid knowingly selling a firearm to a person who is legally disqualified from buying one. Other information, regarding the make and model of the weapon, has no bearing on the buyer's qualification.
The state-operated NICS system should be available by phone to any citizen, and not just federally licensed dealers, if we want to screen all gun sales. It must require no paperwork on the part of the seller. It need not ask for the seller's identity or information on the firearm. It must be truly instant, so that law-abiding citizens who want to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals can do so with minimal barriers.
No sane, law-abiding citizen wants to sell a gun to a felon. Yet, if we're going to screen all sales — including private transactions between neighbors, friends and gun-show attendees — all sellers need easy access to the system. Fixing that one simple problem, and creating a more user-friendly system, would make background checks more universal.
Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald, Jan. 14, why the Senate shouldn't draw out confirmation hearings for U.S. Cabinet nominees:
It's rare for a president's nominee for a Cabinet post to be denied confirmation. That's happened only three times in the 20th century.
So it's likely President Obama's choices for four posts — Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, John Kerry for Secretary of State, John Brennan for CIA and Jack Lew for Secretary of the Treasury — will be confirmed for Obama's second term.
But that doesn't mean it won't be ugly. Brennan and even Hagel, a Republican, are already taking heat from the GOP. That probably has more to do with ideology — the two are the antithesis of the neocon line of thinking on national defense and security — than their qualifications.
The Senate confirmation process is serious business and it should be conducted seriously. Yes, Brennan will need to make clear his previous roles in the CIA and comments about the effectiveness of "enhanced interrogation techniques." Hagel no doubt will be questioned about his positions on Iran and Israel.
But the bottom line is that Obama won the election, and presidents get to choose their closest advisers. Sen. John McCain, one of the most vocal critics of Brennan and Hagel, made that same point during George W. Bush's presidency. And let's not forget that Cabinet members carry out the policies of the president, not vice versa.
What would be most damaging to the process isn't the prospect of some senators using the hearings to score political points. That's fairly routine, if not helpful. Most damaging would be use of the filibuster to force a minimum of 60 votes to confirm a nominee. That would be a precedent that would further diminish the Senate's ability to do business.
Drawn-out, bruising confirmation fights also would run headlong into an array of issues the Senate — along with the House and the White House — will be dealing with in the near future, primarily the next fiscal cliff and the debt ceiling.
The Denver Post, Jan. 15, on University of Colorado's new scholars program:
We were pleased to see that University of Colorado regents plan to take time from their busy schedules — most of them have day jobs, you know — to reach out and call some of the state's top students who have applied to that school and urge them to enroll.
But as useful as such outreach might prove to be, we suspect that more of this state's best students may wind up on the CU-Boulder campus next fall mainly for another reason: because the school has enticed them with attractive scholarship packages.
On that score, CU-Boulder's new Esteemed Scholars Program may finally tip the balance in the university's favor and slow the brain drain to out-of-state institutions.
We think this is a good thing, although we wish the money could have been privately raised to avoid any suggestion that the scholarships come at the expense of students who don't receive aid.
Obviously some good students are always going to want to experience a different region of the country or to study, say, at one of the nation's truly elite schools. Yet Colorado has seen a greater share than necessary of top students leave the state because of another factor.
"We just haven't been competitive with other states that have been able to offer considerably better financial packages," says Ken McConnellogue, vice president for communications.
Enter the new scholarship program, which will benefit next year's freshman class and is a sign of the university's growing resolve to compete for the best.
"The university is sending a message that we value these students' academic accomplishments," admissions director Kevin MacLennan told us. And how.
Every Colorado student who applied to CU with a 4.0 GPA and a 33 ACT or a 1440 SAT will be getting (or has already received) an automatic offer of $20,000 in financial aid for the next four years ($5,000 a year) under the Esteemed Scholars Program. That's enough to offset steep tuition hikes of the past few years.
And that's not all: CU is offering $14,000 and $10,000, respectively, to a second and third tier of Colorado applicants — all excellent students, mind you — als0 based on GPA and test scores, under the same program.
In all, one-fifth to one-fourth of all Coloradans in next year's freshman class — or about 750 students — are likely to receive such scholarships.
"We set out a goal of having the most academically talented and diverse class we can enroll," MacLennan explained.
Given the way the Esteemed Scholars Program has been introduced, officials will also be able to compare the enrollment rate of talented students next fall with equivalent students from previous years to see whether it does indeed lure more students into remaining in-state.
Given the economy of the past four years, we'd be shocked if it doesn't.
The Chieftain, Jan. 13, on why two proposals for creation of a state single-payer health care system won't work:
There are two proposals floating around Colorado for the creation of a single-payer system for health care. And both have grievous pitfalls.
One proposal, by State Sen. Irene Aguilar, a Denver Democrat and practicing physician, would establish a statewide health cooperative that would be funded by premiums paid directly to the state or to a board of directors. The other proposal, championed by Health Care for All Colorado, would create a statewide single-payer plan as a TABOR enterprise, meaning Coloradans would not have to vote for the program.
Did anybody miss the fact that Chief Justice John Roberts declared Obamacare a system of taxation?
Why anyone wants to emulate single-payer health systems that have had such disastrous results is astonishing. A book published by the National Center for Public Policy Research outlines 100 cases around the world where socialized medicine has left, as the book's title suggests, "Shattered Lives."
In Britain, Pat Booy of Bristol lost her husband, Brian, 60, to a heart attack. He had been on the government-managed Bristol Royal Infirmary's waiting list for triple heart bypass surgery for 72 weeks. But Brian's turn never came. While waiting, he developed a chest infection, and two days later a massive heart attack killed him at home.
Colette Mills of North Yorkshire, England, was hit by a rigid National Health Service policy against buying your own drugs. A breast cancer patient, she decided to purchase Avastin to go with her NHS-provided Taxol, a combination considered a powerful anti-cancer cocktail.
But purchasing another drug put her in the category of a "private patient" who could be forced to pay for all of her treatment. Rules is rules.
Lindsay McCreith of Newmarket, Ontario, suffered a severe stroke in 2006. Doctors at the Southlake Regional Health Centre told him a CT scan showed he likely had a malignant brain tumor, but they would not be certain until an MRI diagnosis confirmed the tumor's severity. That meant a wait of four and a half months.
So he traveled to Buffalo, N.Y., where he got his MRI exam the following week. It showed the tumor was, indeed, malignant. Yet he would have to wait eight months for life-saving surgery in Canada.
So he opted for the surgery to be done in Buffalo. It cost $36,900 in U.S. currency, but his life was saved.
There are more horror stories from around the world.
A pregnant Japanese woman died after 18 hospitals rejected her. In St. Petersburg, Russia, patients line up overnight outside hospitals in the extreme cold waiting for a government-issued medical form — the first of many hurdles to getting taxpayer provided advanced medical treatment.
Then-Sweden Prime Minister Goran Perrson was forced to wait for more than a year for hip surgery because about 5,000 other Swedes were already on the waiting list for the same operation. New Zealander John White would have had to wait two years for a colonoscopy, but he sought private treatment that saved his life.
Why anyone would want to copy this litany of disastrous results is mind-boggling. The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.