Millennials are Wimps

My grandfather died suddenly in the depths of the Great Depression when his son — my father — was 5 years old.

It was the second time my grandmother had been widowed. Later, in the eighth grade, my father quit school to go to work to help support her. At 17, he joined the army and eventually earned a GED.

My mother’s father also died in the Great Depression, when she was 4. She completed high school while her mother — my other grandmother — worked in a gun factory.

My parents eventually worked their way into the middle class and helped their four children earn nine college degrees.

My father was, and my mother is, extraordinary by our standards, but they were not unusual for their generation. They survived the Great Depression, saved the world from the Nazis and won the Cold War. They raised large families and still produced the greatest prosperity in history. In their spare time, they put a man on the moon.

They were rightly dubbed the “greatest generation.” Their hard childhoods made them rugged adults. They were grown-ups, sometimes even before they grew up.

My own generation — the “baby boomers” — were the beginning of the end. We did produce the best popular music, before or since, but not much else. We did manage one first: we were the first Americans (unless you count the Confederacy) to lose a war.

But if my generation was the beginning of the end, the current generation — the “millennials” — are the end of the end. Here are some depressing facts (these facts are necessarily generalizations; there are, of course, exceptions):

One recent study shows that millennial men are less strong physically than their fathers were at the same age. My personal observation would go further: Millennial men are less strong than their fathers are at their fathers’ current age.

The work ethic of millennials is legendary, and I don’t mean that in a good way. Their unemployment rate runs double the national average.

Those who do work seek “balance” between their work and what they call their “life.” Taught from a young age that they are special and raised in relative luxury, they don’t expect to work hard for their money. Bosses who think otherwise are quickly deemed “demanding” or “unreasonable.” Soon, such bosses are “former.”

This so-called “life” against which millennials carefully balance their shrunken “work” doesn’t involve activities like raising a family. In fact, they don’t even get married. The average age of millennial marriages is now pushing 30, and an unprecedented 25 percent will never marry. This absence of a spouse makes them less happy, less financially secure, less productive and less reproductive.

Millennials are slow to even establish their own homes. A recent Pew Research study shows that the most common living arrangement for 18 to 34-year-olds is to live with their parents. Life in mom’s basement is even more common for young men than for young women.

If this sacrosanct “life” that millennials favor over work is not spent in raising a family, then how exactly is it spent?

Turns out, “life” is their word for amusement. They spend a lot of time playing video games. Forty-seven years after the “greatest generation” put a man on the moon, the millennials go there only in video games.

And they buy things for themselves. Their unwillingness to postpone gratification until they’ve earned it has saddled them with heavy debts. After graduating from safe-space colleges with six-figure student loans incurred for easy but unmarketable degrees, they run up large credit card balances at high interest rates.

Their easy childhoods makes them eternal children. Think of “pajama boy” from the Obama 2012 re-election campaign, marveling at the wonders of something-for-nothing health care in the form of Obamacare (before it went bust) in his plaid onesie pajamas as he sips hot chocolate. I’m guessing his onesie had a flap in the back.

The bottom line is that millennials are not exactly the greatest. They’re cute and cuddly, but they’re high-maintenance and fragile. They’re like mongrel kittens — too burdensome to care for and too cute to drown. And you can’t even give them away.

This generation that was taught to value personal happiness over personal achievement has failed at both. Maybe someday they’ll recognize that the way to the former goes through the latter.

I hope that recognition comes soon, for their sake and ours.

(Published Oct. 16, 2016 in the Aspen Times at

Potheads and Potty-mouths in Paradise

My recent column titled “Potheads in Paradise” (Commentary, Sept. 18, The Aspen Times) described my experience in a pot shop in pot-legal Colorado. (It wasn’t one of the dozen here in Aspen, I’m glad to report.) If you want to read about it again, it’s at

That column generated a lot of, let’s say, rebuttals. Fairness requires that I pass these rebuttals on to my readers.

By way of background, my first column explained that the pot store I visited assaulted my senses — my nose with a weedy smell, my ears with pervasive and inexplicable shouting and my eyes with long and unkempt beards, tattoos, piercings and dirty t-shirts.

These Jethro get-ups were apparently some kind of uniform of non-conformity. The funniest part were the baseball caps worn backward in that manner that weirdly reduces the IQ of the wearer.

Now let’s get to those rebuttals left in the form of comments online, in social media and through correspondence. I haven’t corrected them for spelling or grammar but have edited some of the unsavory language with asterisks. After each of the quoted comments, I’ve offered my response.

Commenter: “When do you want to meet douche bag?”

The Aspen Beat: I don’t think I want to meet you.

Commenter: “I want to pull my plant out of the ground and beat you’re a** with it you dripping douche. I wont flip the ballcap around-I’ll just flip your head around instead.” Continue reading

Potheads in Paradise

“And everybody’s high–ighhh–ighhhhh!!!” — John Denver, “Rocky Mountain High.”

When state legislators decided a few years ago that Colorado needed a state song, they chose “Rocky Mountain High.” When they later decided Colorado needed a state weed, they chose weed.

Yes, pot is now legal in Colorado. Even here in Aspen we’re infested with nearly a dozen seedy pot stores. I’ve wondered, is getting high on pot better than getting high on mountains?

To answer that question, I recently slipped into a Colorado pot shop. I imagined I was cool.

All hell broke loose. I thought maybe I’d walked in on a robbery. But no, it was just reefer madness. Continue reading

We need a weak president, and we’ll get one

The conventional wisdom is we have two weak presidential candidates, and that’s bad for America.

The conventional wisdom is wrong.

Yes, the candidates are weak. The one who wrote a book called “The Art of the Deal” is anything but artful and doesn’t know how to deal. The other is a money-grubbing, coattail-riding, establishment-kowtowing liar.

But that’s not necessarily bad for America. One of these weak candidates will become a weak president. It sounds odd, but that’s exactly what the country needs.

Bear with me. Continue reading

Public Radio’s Incomplete Story on Aspen’sTaxpayer-Subsidized Housing

Taxpayer-subsidized Colorado Public Radio likes taxpayer subsidies. I know from personal experience that they even like Aspen’s taxpayer-subsidized housing program, where residents making as much as $186,000 receive million-dollar houses for dimes on the dollar.

Here’s the background. One of Colorado Public Radio’s reporters contacted me a few weeks ago, saying he’d seen my columns on the problem-plagued program. He wanted to talk more and asked to have a telephone conversation. I agreed, and we did.

In our short conversation, I mentioned some of the problems. He said he planned to visit Aspen to investigate a story and would like to meet with me to talk more. Again I agreed, and we left it that he would call me when he arrived. He never did.

His story was broadcast on Colorado Public Radio last week, is reproduced on its website and was circulated on social media. The gist of his story is that the taxpayer-subsidized housing program is a success but needs more taxpayer money for more houses for more young people because the existing residents are aging and never move out. (Why would they?) The article concluded that the program will become a taxpayer-subsidized retirement home unless the taxpayers cough up even more money.

That’s all true. But the CPR piece failed to mention many other problems that I touched on in my conversation with the reporter and would have detailed in our follow-up conversation. Continue reading

Panhandling in Paradise


I tried a new job here in Aspen.  I was a panhandler.

I made a cardboard sign saying “SURVIVED CANCER BUT LOST MY JOB,” which happens to be true (albeit a little misleading) and put on an old pair of jeans and a work shirt.

Then I moseyed over to the police station.  The police had no money for me, but did have advice.  They advised me Continue reading

Why Can’t We Be More Like Switzerland?

I came across a big runaway lawnmower as I recently walked along a country road in Switzerland. Or so I thought.

On further inspection, I saw a distant worker with a joystick controlling it remotely. Safely away from passing traffic, he used this remote-controlled lawnmower to neatly mow down weeds on the shoulder of the road. As I gazed slack-jawed at this contrivance, he must have thought, “Oh, another backward American.”

Switzerland is famous for its banking and pharmaceutical industries, but it’s also a technology center. It’s especially well-regarded for its machinery. The machine-tool industry of the northeastern United States Continue reading