The Outsider 

Remember "High Tech, High Touch," that hokey little slogan first popularized by a pair of New Age snake oil peddlers from Telluride?

They meant, I guess, that ours would be an era of empowerment, of intimacy and of virtual villages floating happily through cyberspace. Like most futurists, they didn't quite understand the future; i.e. our present world of a million or so porn sites, plus AOL (buy this right now, or you'll never see your e-mail again!), plus tens of millions of sites packed with misinformation, disinformation and weird rants.

High Tech, High Drek. Did you read about the garbage dump in Manila that collapsed, killing hundreds of people who made a living as scavengers? That's a good metaphor -- think the Internet and journalists.

There's so much out there, so much going on, so many stories zipping by your eyes, like the impossibly fast stock price crawl on CNBC, that it makes your head spin. Like poor folks combing through the dump, many reporters and journalists mine other media for useful stuff. So as your designated dumpster diver, here are a few pass-alongs.

According to Stuart Steers's article in Denver's July 6-12 Westword, the Public Utilities Commission did a fine job of rolling over and playing dead for the benefit of US West/Qwest.

Nine of the states within US West's service area, including Colorado, have PUCs with statutory authority over regulated monopolies, and the power to impose conditions upon a merger such as that between US West and Qwest.

Eight of the state commissions took the opportunity to extract a pound or two of flesh from US West, well remembering that company's history of poor service, not to mention arrogant and unresponsive behavior toward consumers and regulators alike.

Minnesota, led by Gov. Jesse himself, extracted concessions worth hundreds of millions from the newly created company, including DSL lines to rural locations throughout the state.

And what did we get? We got nothing. Led by Owens appointee Raymond Gifford, a rigidly conservative lawyer who just happens to be Congressman Tom Tancredo's stepson (surprise, surprise!), our PUC decided, by a 2-1 vote, that true conservativism means millions for monopolists, and no relief for the ratepayers.

Nice little present for US West's stockholders and executives, especially former CEO Sol Trujillo, who walked away with a package worth $100 million or so. Not bad pay for a guy whose company could never quite make the phones work.

Here's another one. Anticipating last week's opening of the Fine Art Center's monumental exhibit about the Utes, the daily put together a moderately interesting special section. One little box caught my eye: the Ute name for Pikes Peak -- Tava, meaning sun.

Once, many years ago, I was privileged to hold in my hands several projectile points from the Clovis/Folsom culture. These extraordinary weapons, which were created and used by hunters who lived along the Front Range 100 centuries ago, are as deadly and beautiful as, say, the finest Kentucky rifle.

The mammoths and dire wolves that inhabited the plains with the Clovis people are long gone; but the Utes may be their descendants. So it's not unreasonable to suppose that our mountain, the mountain that defines Colorado Springs, was known as Tava for 10,000 years.

Now it's Pikes Peak, named after a geographically illiterate soldier who failed ludicrously in an attempt to climb the mountain, wandered into Spanish territory, and got thrown in jail for trespassing.

A modest suggestion: let's reclaim our true history, and give the mountain her name back. Think about it: the Tava or Bust Rodeo, the Tava Region, the Tava Highway, the Tava Area Council of Governments -- we'd get used to it.

Finally, took a trip to Santa Fe last week, and picked up the local alternative newspaper, as well as the daily. The daily was just beginning a series of articles about the Rio Grande river. Read a few paragraphs, and the message was clear: New Mexico depends upon its water, and there isn't enough.

The weekly didn't have to run an article; a full-page ad from the Santa Fe municipal government, announcing draconian measures to conserve/ration water, and substantial penalties for offenders, made the same point. And up in Denver, the Post ran an article about Aurora's desperate water grabs on the Western Slope.

And if you hadn't noticed, it's been hot and dry, not just here but throughout the country -- you can check that out on The Weather Channel. Makes you wonder; after all, the dire wolves and mammoths didn't disappear from the earth because Clovis hunters killed 'em all. The climate changed, and they couldn't adapt.

So don't worry too much about developers, or Confluence Park, or Betty Beedy, or the additional phone line that you still can't get.

Walking shadows, soon they'll join the mammoths sleeping below Tava's eastern slopes. Betty excepted; she'll survive. Climate change might take out the dire wolves, but not our Betty!


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