Conversations in the Dark

“It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.”

— Leonard Cohen

God is just the explanation that people concoct for those random moments when the pain of life eases. That’s what I was told one dark night as I was going through a rough patch and heard a raspy voice in my ear taunting me.

“If there’s a God in heaven, then why all the pain, lies and destruction on Earth?” asked the voice.

“But there’s also a lot of beauty and joy,” I replied. I’ve seen it.”

“Oh? Like what?”

“I’ve seen the beauty in children laughing. I’ve seen the joy of a new mother. I’ve seen that life is not all pain.”

“Ha! I’ll leave to your imagination the details about what I sometimes do to mothers and children. But have you ever seen and heard a pack of wolves separate a fawn from a doe and then attack and start to eat the fawn before it’s even dead, while the doe watches helplessly?”

“Multiply that a million times and apply it to your human world. It’s evil and it’s me.”

He was on a roll. “Have you noticed how humans identify their tribe not by what they love, but by what they hate? I make hate, and hate makes the world go around. It doesn’t matter to a group that they’re all Republicans or Democrats, or all Phi Delta Thetas or all Bronco fans. What matters is that they all hate the Democrats or Republicans, or hate the Sigma Tau Gammas or hate the Kansas City Chiefs. It doesn’t matter that.”

I interrupted. “But there’s good in humanity, too. You can’t deny it.”

“There’s good, you say? Ha! Next, you’ll be telling me there’s truth and beauty. OK, I’ll stipulate that there’s good, too, whatever that is. But in the end, I always win. And it will hurt.”

“Oh, maybe not. Some people die in their sleep.”

“Don’t fool yourself. Just because they’re found dead in the morning doesn’t mean they’ve died in their sleep. Do you think a heart attack or stroke doesn’t hurt just because it happens at night? I wake them before I take them. Because I want them to feel both the pain and the fear.”

“I own this world,” he lied, “and I made it hard because I like to see you suffer. You won’t get out alive. You won’t get out painlessly. And you won’t get out unafraid.”

“Go to hell. I’m not afraid of you,” I exaggerated. “There’s another way.”

“Shut up!” he barked. “l was cheated that time!”

The voice quickly regained the cloying slyness with which it began our conversation. Lawyer-like, he demanded, “Now answer my question: If there’s a God, then why’s there so much pain on Earth?”

I’ve heard that question before, and I have an answer: “Because this isn’t heaven. It’s Earth.”

“OK, that’s a nice pat answer,” the voice replied. “Now I have a follow-up question: Why? Why is this Earth and not heaven?”

The voice had the momentum in our debate and went in for the kill. “God is just the explanation from dolts like you for the random moments when their pain eases. But their pain will be back — I’ll be back.”

I was on the defensive now. I replied softly, really to myself, “I don’t know why Earth isn’t Heaven. I don’t know why you can spread pain, lies and hatred. I don’t know why you can destroy good people. I don’t know why you exist. There’s lots that I don’t know.”

I paused for what seemed like an eternity.

“Maybe we need to see the bad in order to comprehend the good. Maybe God doesn’t control everything. Maybe the struggle for the universe is ongoing. I can’t comprehend God or how he works. I can’t imagine what he’s up against. But I believe in him.”

I looked up. “And I believe that in the end he will save those who want saving. He will beat you. And he’ll save us whether we’ve earned it or not. He’s a saving God, not a transactional God. Unlike you, God doesn’t make deals.”

“Ha!” The voice always laughed not out of amusement, but out of mockery. “What kind of God is this? Is he only partially omnipotent but wholly inscrutable? Better to make a deal with me than to take your chances with this fickle God of yours that goes missing right when you need him.”

Gloating, the voice stared at me.

Then there was thunder and lightning in the distance. It stormed ever closer, louder and brighter.

“I gotta go,” he hissed urgently. “But I’ll be back.”

Then it rained and rained as the dawn broke. Hallelujah.

(Published Mar. 10, 2019 in the Aspen Times at


Dems Shooting Themselves in the Foot with Electoral College Compact

Dems are still smarting from losing the 2016 presidential election by losing the Electoral College.

So they have an idea. Apart from the dubious constitutionality of their idea, it’s a bad one which can only help the GOP.

First some background. The Constitution says the president is elected by the Electoral College. The College comprises 538 voters who are allocated as follows: Each state gets two, corresponding to its two senators, plus a number equal to its number of House representatives, plus the District of Columbia gets three.

The effect is that the College voters are spread among the states and D.C. roughly in proportion to population. And so you might think that the College voting would be proportional to the popular vote. Continue reading

I’ll give you free stuff if you’ll vote for me, and abort you if you don’t

The former CEO of Starbucks has a marketing knack for virtue-signaling feel-goodery. He’s the one who turned Starbucks restrooms for customers into shoot-up stalls for vagrants.

Now this life-long Dem is running for president. But he’s running as an independent because today’s Dems think he’s too conservative.

In Dem circles these days, here’s what a candidate must offer to avoid that lethal label of “too conservative.” If I run, I intend to offer it. For free of course.

Free participation trophies. Limiting participation trophies to only those who participate is hurtful to the others. I’ll give participation trophies whether you participate or not.

Free Medicare. A couple of presidents ago, Continue reading

Let’s reinvent taxpayer-subsidized housing

Aspen real estate is expensive. It got so bad some years ago that many workers had to commute about 25 minutes over a scenic highway from a cool little mountain town downvalley where housing is cheaper. Comfortable buses with free wifi are available at heated bus stops every 15 minutes, but commuters always seem to like their cars better.

Many of those commuters were employees of local, big business such as Aspen Skiing Co. which found that their employees wouldn’t work as cheaply as they’d like them to if they had to suffer that 25-minute commute. Other commuters were power-laden city elites.

So, they asked, what can be done about the fact that the place where they chose to work and would like to live is expensive?

This being the People’s Republic of Aspen, and the persons complaining being the persons who run the show, the first, second and third solutions were all … make the taxpayers pay. And so they did. Continue reading

Are we all Chavista’s now?

We are all Keynesians now.” ­— attributed to President Richard Nixon

In the depths of the Great Depression, economist John Maynard Keynes theorized that the government could control business cycles through monetary and fiscal policies.

Keynes was right to some extent. Lower taxes, higher government spending and lower interest rates stimulate the economy, at least for a while. Even Nixon came to believe in it.

The phrase “We are all Keynesians” caught on. Economics is the dismal science after all.

A Newsweek cover story in 2009 took the catchphrase a step further in proclaiming on its cover that “We are all socialists now” as they celebrated President Barack Obama’s promise to fundamentally transform America.

Maybe Newsweek didn’t really think socialism would save the world, but just hoped it would save Newsweek. Within a few years after that story, Newsweek was dead as a print magazine and was sold for one dollar. Which was worth less than seven cents in the 1930’s money used by Keynes. Continue reading

Ringing in the New Year and wringing out the old

This is the time of year when we ring in the new year, wring out the old, and mop up the drippings with a newspaper column. Here goes.

Aspen Skiing Co. announced this year that it is reining in dogs, since lately the whole town has been raining in dogs. Dogs don’t heed warnings from skiers like “On your left.” Maybe they heed snowboarders better, who just shout “Dude! Outta my way!”

And dogs do doo-doo on the slopes just like bears do doo-doo in the woods. I’d rather fall on a rock or on bear doo-doo than on doo-doo done by a dog.

The overgroomed inhabitants of the Aspen Labradoodle Sanctuary, otherwise known as the Red Mountain neighborhood, are barking and woofing about this crackdown. But their dogs couldn’t care less.

In local politics, the former mayor et cetera of Aspen who spent decades on government payrolls emerged this year from taxpayer-subsidized housing that he got for dimes on the dollar in search of another government job, something like Punxsutawney Phil emerging periodically from his rent-free hole in search of his shadow. This is after a few years underground where he monetized political connections with his “consulting” (his word) business.

Back when he was mayor, his counter “argument” to one of my political columns was to tell me in a social media post: “Aspen. It’s not for everyone. Maybe you should move on.”

I wasn’t persuaded.

This is his second try for elected office after vacating the mayor’s office. In his first try, he suffered a trouncing by a newcomer by nearly a 2-to-1 margin. In this second try, he suffered another trouncing by another newcomer by another nearly a 2-to-1 margin.

His persuasion skills evidently work no better with the citizens of Aspen than they worked with me. They think by nearly a 2-to-1 margin that Aspen is not for everyone and maybe he should move on.

The longtime assistant city manager already has. With persuasion skills rivaling those of the former mayor, he asked rival bureaucrats in the county to rubberstamp his proposals by calling them “motherf—ing extortionists.”

Now he’s out of a job. The conflict reminded me of the Iran-Iraq war about which Henry Kissinger lamented: “It’s a pity both sides can’t lose.”

In national politics, someone has spent nearly two years and about 100 gazillion taxpayer dollars chasing a president for being mostly a Republican with totally bad orange hair.

The portion of the evidence that hasn’t been destroyed by this indefatigable Javert shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the president is guilty on both counts as shown by his appointment of sex criminals to the Supreme Court who are known members of the notorious criminal gang called “Republican white males.”

It’s true that the sex crimes were only alleged, not proven, and happened a third of a century ago if they happened at all, and most of the allegations were withdrawn when the accusers were put under oath. But the evidence that the appointees were Republican white males is compelling.

Expect the Democrats to vote for impeachment.

You ask, what about the non-crime that the investigator was paid to investigate — the non-crime of “collusion” with the Russians?

Well, the evidence shows that this president has never colluded. Period.

He has never colluded with the Russians to steal an election, has never colluded with our allies to run the free world, has never colluded with his chief of staff to manage the White House, has never colluded with his secretary of defense on military strategy and has never colluded with his hair stylist for a normal haircut.

This guy is simply too frowsy to be capable of collusion in any way, shape or form. If he and another person were trapped together in a wet paper bag, they couldn’t collude their way out.

He’s the anti-colluder. Jeremiah Johnson did more colluding alone in the wilderness.

He even failed to collude with his lawyer to pay hush money to enterprising women out of campaign funds — or out of taxpayer dollars, as congressmen routinely do. The lawyer was indicted for instead paying the women out of personal funds.

If you can figure out how that’s a crime, then you too can be a very special counsel.

Despite the president’s inability to collude with others, give him credit for tossing some dirty bathwater — and sometimes some babies along with it — into the dustbin of history, to use the phrase favored by Leon Trotsky and other Democrats.

Such as American apology tours, black unemployment, ISIS (remember them?), good manners (remember those?), much of illegal immigration, trade agreements that screw American workers, the ban on saying “Merry Christmas,” a little of our mass-incarceration of racial minorities, perpetual war in Syria, good manners, trade agreements that help American consumers, economic lethargy, grammar, all but approximately two of the genders, good manners, a capital of Israel that is not her ancestral home and good manners.

And the Clintons.

As for the new year and the slow motion (I hope) stock market crash, I’ll pass along investment advice from Will Rogers (and if you know who that is, then you’ll soon be with him):

“Don’t gamble. Take all your savings and buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don’t go up, don’t buy it.”

And trade in the labradoodle for some of that taxpayer-subsidized housing.

(Published Dec. 30, 2018 in the Aspen Times at

Psychosexual Dysfunction and Pickup Trucks

“I love my truck, she’s right outside

I ain’t got much love, but I sure got a ride”

— Glen Campbell

Driving along the street the other day, I coasted toward a red stoplight half a block away. A pickup truck loomed large in my rearview mirror.

It closed to within a millimeter of my back bumper. I couldn’t see the driver in my mirror because he was about 11 feet off the ground. I saw only the grill of his Ford F350.

Or it might have been a Chevy Monstrosity or a Toyota Enormity or a Nissan Malignancy. It could have been a Dodge Rammer because I think I saw horns on that shiny grill, but those might have been the real thing and not a logo.

He swerved wildly to the other lane, gunned past me, honked his horn and flipped his bird. He swung back into my lane in front of me and accelerated right up to the stop light, where he screeched to a halt.

In due course, I eased up behind him at the stoplight. But I have to admit, he had me beat by 17 feet. Given the size of his vehicle, it could have been 23 feet.

What makes a person want a pickup truck? Continue reading