A look back at the Aughts

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Pamela White

The first decade of the new millennium started on a humorous note, as millions of Americans hunkered down with caches of bottled water and canned food to ride out the anticipated chaos of Y2K. The stroke of midnight passed, and the world went on as it was. There’d been no need to party like it was 1999, unless you just wanted to party.

There’s a superstition in my family that the way you enter a new year shapes that entire year. Back in 1999, so many Americans were afraid that a Y2K catastrophe would strike that by New Year’s Eve, many local supermarkets were sold out of bottled water. If anything defines “the Aughts” it is catastrophe — or, perhaps more aptly, the fear of catastrophe.

Y2K turned out to be nothing but media-fueled hysteria. But true disaster lay not far around the corner.

On the second Tuesday in September, Boulder County residents arrived at work to learn that two planes had collided with the Twin Towers in New York. In disbelief, we watched the towers collapse, knowing that thousands of our fellow Americans had just died.

The events of Sept. 11,
2001 still cast a shadow of fear over our country and are arguably the
defining moment of the decade. From there, the nation descended into
war. We remain at war, with far-reaching consequences that we can’t yet
fathom.

This week,
Boulder Weekly staff looks back at events that shaped the past decade.
More than a time to reminisce, the new year and new decade give all of
us a chance to reconsider what we’re doing and to resolve to do better
from now on, both as individuals and as a nation. Here’s hoping that
the Teens will see a nationwide shift away from fear, and the anger
that inevitably comes with it, to compassion and compassionate action.

In the meantime, enjoy this look back — and Happy New Year!

Pamela White, editor, Boulder Weekly

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2000: Election/Selection 2000

Scrambled election reviewed

Nov. 16, 2001

Anyone who went to bed early on Tuesday, Nov. 6, awoke to the unusual news that the presidential race was still undecided. Thus began more than a month of waiting, recounts and debates about hanging chads. Then on Dec. 12, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a per curiam decision that Florida’s method for recounting ballots violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The ruling gave the state of Florida, and the presidency, to George W. Bush.

In his autobiography My Life, President Bill Clinton wrote, “If Gore had been ahead in the vote count and Bush behind, there’s not a doubt in my mind that the same Supreme Court would have voted 9 to 0 to [re]count the vote, and I would have supported the decision. … Bush v. Gore will go down in history as one of the worst decisions the Supreme Court ever made, along with the Dred Scott case.”

Boulder Weekly had its own take on the election and the wrangling that would follow. In “Election 2000: It may get uglier,” Editor Wayne Laugesen explored the impending legal battle resulting from the controversial election and examined the fears of many that the upcoming mayhem would result in bribes and violence.

Media critic Norman Solomon took the television networks to task for their half-assed coverage of the debacle in “TV networks compound the voting crisis.” Solomon discussed how competitiveness and the priority of profits over accuracy fed the fiasco.

But this issue of the paper is best remembered in the newsroom for the art on its cover. If folded correctly, the cover headline changed from the wordy, “No shortcuts to liberty. We must never forget. Scrambled election reviewed,” to the succinct, “No liberty. We get screwed.” Better yet, the image of the Liberty Bell transformed into a large dildo. Yes, a dildo.

Art Director Sue France, who designed the cover, was inspired to create the folding cover by her favorite magazine, Mad Magazine.

Whether you agree that the Supreme Court screwed us all or not, there can be little doubt that this court decision has had consequences that we are feeling still.

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2001: 9/11

Hatred kills thousands. Who is to blame?

Sept. 13, 2001

Boulder Weekly staff arrived at work on Sept. 11 to the shocking news that two hijacked planes had collided with the Pentagon and the World Trade Center towers. While the nation and the world reeled in shock, Publisher Stewart Sallo called an editorial meeting to brainstorm how the paper should cover the story. For him, it boiled down to one critical question: Why is America so hated that people would do something like this?

Pamela White, who attended the meeting as a freelancer, took up the challenge of seeking answers to that question. She spent the next 24 hours interviewing experts about the United States and its interactions with the other nations and cultures of the world.

David Barsamian, host of the nationally broadcast program Alternative Radio, told her that risk to American lives comes as a result of rage generated by U.S. foreign policy. But he went on to say the United States also aggressively exports its own culture through Burger Kings, Starbucks and Hollywood films to places where such things are unwelcome and offensive.

Ira Chernus, a CU professor of religious studies, said U.S. policies designed to protect American citizens often extend far beyond U.S. borders, with the result that America is seen as trying to “organize the world.”

Joel Edelstein specifically tapped U.S. policy regarding the Middle East as a source of hatred toward the United States, while activist Scott Silber pointed to economic policies that enrich U.S. corporations at the expense of the poor in other nations.

The article that grew out of those interviews was titled, “Why are we so hated?” It received a flood of letters from around the world, some of them accusing the paper of bashing the United States, the other half praising the paper for addressing the horror of 9/11 in a meaningful way.

“Looking back, I take a lot of pride in how the paper approached 9/11,” White says. “The first thing you want to think about in the wake of a tragedy is how to prevent it from happening again — if you can. When our government takes an action, that action sets other things in motion. That’s not to say that the United States deserved to be attacked or that the attacks are America’s fault. The terrorists are to blame. But Americans who are concerned about our position in the global community can’t continue to be ignorant about foreign policy or to assume that we have the last word when it comes to the politics of other nations or regions of the world.”

In the weeks that followed Sept. 11, the United States had the sympathy of the world. But that was not to last, as hardliners in the Bush administration saw the attacks as an opportunity to launch a neo-conservative political agenda.

“I see the months after Sept. 11 as a wasted opportunity for the United States to take the high road,” White says. “Unfortunately,
fear prevailed over reason and compassion, polarizing American society
and sharpening the edges between the United States and other nations.”

In
the coming weeks, as the nation mourned, the paper turned to the topic
of healing in “Love and kindness in troubled times: finding peace
through conflict resolution,” before moving on to an issue that would
dominate much of the rest of the decade: the Bush administration’s War
on Terror and its consequences.

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2002: The War on Terror

Silence on Terrorism: Free Speech? Not in my backyard

Jan. 3, 2002

The
impact of 9/11 was still fresh in everyone’s mind as 2001 ended and a
new year began. The military effort dubbed Operation Enduring Freedom
was already under way in Afghanistan. But Taliban in Kandahar and
Jalalabad weren’t the Bush administration’s only targets.

For
Boulder Weekly, 2002 began with the cover story, “Silence on
Terrorism,” which reported disturbing incidents from across the country
where those who opposed the Bush administration’s tactics or the use of
military force were bullied by right-wing pundits, university
presidents and conservative groups into silence and accused of
everything from lack of patriotism to sympathizing with terrorists.

Bush
had already proclaimed, “You are either with us or against us,” setting
the stage for conflict rather than thoughtful public dialogue.

Then
it became clear that 9/11 was being used as a pretext to delve into the
activity of U.S. citizen activists. As Boulder Weekly reported on March
28, associating with an environmental group left Americans vulnerable
to intelligence gathering on the part of law enforcement. With the
expanded powers granted by the USA PATRIOT Act, federal agencies and
law enforcement were suspected of surveilling not just people with ties
to al Qaeda or the Taliban, but also progressive activists and even
peace groups.

On
the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the paper took
a look at the sobering change in American society itself. David Kopel,
a Boulder author and attorney, examined the government’s use of Facial
Recognition Technology and its use in general surveillance in public
places, such as sports stadiums and public streets. Did it not disturb
the average American that their faceprint might be included in a
law-enforcement database without their knowledge?

Wayne Laugesen looked at the new alliance between liberal Jews and conservative Christians.

In
“Freedom for safety,” Nick Gillespie reported that Americans seemed
only too eager to trade civil liberties for an illusion of safety, with
few questioning the provisions of the PATRIOT Act or moves toward
national ID cards.

“By
nightfall [of Sept. 11, 2001], it seemed, we had changed from a nation
that placed a uniquely high value on privacy and freedom to one that
embraced security and safety as first principles,” he wrote.

The
year closed with a Dec. 19 article on the arrest of eight Boulder peace
activists who’d staged a sit-in at the office of Sen. Wayne Allard to
demonstrate their opposition to any military action in Iraq. The
article, written by Joel Warner, a freelancer who later joined the
editorial staff, offered an overview of the peace movement that
compared it with the peace movement of the Vietnam war era, finding it
just as strong and well organized — and perhaps a bit wiser.

But could the peace movement prevail in an atmosphere of fear?

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2003: The Iraq war

How Boulder County responded to the first week of conflict

March 27, 2003

In
early 2003, the message coming from the mainstream media was clear:
Most Americans support launching a pre-emptive war against Saddam
Hussein. The White House took it a step further, claiming that there
was very little opposition to the war.

Boulder
Weekly set out to measure the veracity of those statements, which
seemed more like pro-war PR than fact. After months of watching the
Bush administration manipulate the American people with propaganda
about WMDs, yellowcake uranium and Iraq’s ties to al Qaeda — there were
none at the time — we were suspicious.

The
paper had opposed the war from the moment the Bush and crew hinted that
it was on the horizon, but in the weeks leading up to the invasion, the
paper made a concerted effort to keep the topic in the public eye.
Editor Pamela White wrote a column, titled “Baghdad tonight,” about the
innocent Iraqis — men, women and children — who were alive at that
moment but would die if the United States and its “coalition” allies
attacked.

“It was
an appeal to compassion,” White says. “The rhetoric surrounding the
proposed war focused on Saddam and terrorists. It ignored the fact that
we would be killing a lot of the human beings we claimed to be
liberating.”

In
the days immediately preceding the invasion, which began on March 20,
Boulder Weekly staff and freelancers attended dozens of protests,
speeches, meetings and public forums in an effort to record the
reaction of Boulder County residents to the war against Iraq. The
information was put together in the form of a timeline that juxtaposed
the local response to the war with the unfolding of international and
national events.

While
most papers covered a single anti-war event, Boulder Weekly reported on
almost every war-related event that occurred during that seven-day
period. The coverage served as proof that the attack on Iraq was
undertaken against the wishes of many educated, wellintentioned
Americans.

The
article also described the emotional conflict so many Boulder County
felt when they saw their president and their nation embark upon a
morally unjustifiable course of action — one that has cost more than
4,000 American lives, together with unknown hundreds of thousands of
Iraqi lives. The outcome of the conflict there is still uncertain, and
U.S. troops continue to die.

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2004: Gay rights

We’re talking about a marriage revolution

May 20, 2004

These
days, an image of two men engaged in a passionate kiss might not turn
many heads, but just five years ago, it was considered highly
controversial. Same-sex couples had begun to gather serious steam in
their fight for equal marriage rights. Only four years earlier, Vermont
had established legal same-sex unions that gave gay and lesbian couples
many of the same rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples. And two months
earlier, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that denying gay and
lesbian couples full and equal rights to marry was unconstitutional.
City officials in San Francisco and county officials in Sandoval
County, N.M., began issuing marriage licenses for gay couples.

The
battle lines were drawn. Boulder Weekly stepped into the fray,
interviewing some of the 28 local couples who converged on the County
Clerk’s office to demand marriage licenses, only to be denied on the
basis of state law, which prohibits same-sex marriage. The article, “A
perfect union,” gave their personal and poignant reasons for wanting to
marry and outlined some of the rights they’re denied as couples because
they can’t.

That
edition of the paper featured one of the couples — two Boulder men —
locked in a heated kiss. It rankled some readers, but others praised
it, saying that gay and lesbian couples ought to feel as comfortable
holding hands and kissing in public as heterosexual couples do.

Little
did anyone know at the time that the cultural divide over GLBTQ rights
and attempts by gay-rights activists to address the issue of gay
marriage on the ballot would energize conservative, religious voters,
helping Bush to win a second term in the Oval Office. One of the most
provocative issues of the Aughts, gay marriage is still fiercely
debated with no resolution on the horizon.

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2005: Ward Churchill

In an in-depth interview, Ward Churchill speaks on his writing, the media and the solution to terrorism

Feb. 10, 2005

It
started when a group of conservative students from Hamilton College in
New York, hoping to block University of Colorado Professor Ward
Churchill’s scheduled talk at their school, protested an essay
Churchill had written on Sept. 11, 2001. In the essay, titled “Some
People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens,” Churchill, an
American Indian activist and scholar, framed the terrorists’ attacks as
inevitable, the natural result of years of oppressive U.S. policies,
which he outlined at length. He also compared the stockbrokers, lawyers
and government employees who died in the attacks to Nazi “technocrat”
Adolf Eichmann for their role in supporting U.S. actions abroad.

The
students’ protest caught the attention of rightwing pundits, who
pounced on Churchill and his controversial essay with rabid ferocity.
The result was a national furor that finally diverted attention away
from the football scandal of the year before. For weeks, the corporate
media fanned the flames of rage, even questioning Churchill’s
ethnicity. Paula Zahn interviewed Churchill — but barely let him speak.
MSNBC, Fox and MTV carried the story. Denver talk radio couldn’t get
enough of the topic, one radio host declaring Churchill’s essay
treasonous and suggesting that Churchill be executed.

Media
attention prompted reactions from members of Congress, who contacted
Gov. Bill Owens, demanding a response. Owens, in turn, condemned
Churchill’s writings and called for university officials to fire him —
something he later tried to deny. The Colorado General Assembly then
picked up the issue and passed a resolution renouncing Churchill’s
point of view, and the CU Board of Regents held a special meeting and
apologized to the nation for the essay. Then they authorized a
committee to investigate his scholarship to see whether he could be
fired. The situation eventually prompted the resignation of former CU
President Betsy Hoffman.

In
the midst of the controversy and before CU fired him, Boulder Weekly
met with Churchill at his home and interviewed him about his essay, the
role the media played in vilifying him and the best ways for the United
States to respond to terrorism. Rather than paraphrasing the interview,
the paper printed it in Q-and-A format so that his answers to our
questions would be untainted by interpretation.

The
story was immediately picked up nationwide by alternative newsweeklies
and eventually made its way into a journalism textbook. But the
controversy surrounding Churchill continued to grow.

Faculty
investigators eventually alleged that Churchill had committed acts of
academic misconduct, including plagiarism and fabrication. But of all
the faculty who served on the three committees that reviewed the case,
the majority recommended a sanction other than dismissal. Ignoring that
determination, former CU President Hank Brown and the regents decided
to fire him.

He
sued the university, claiming the firing was retaliation for his essay,
his free speech. A jury found in favor of Churchill last spring, and
awarded him $1. But a judge reversed that finding, ruling that the
regents enjoy governmental immunity in such cases.

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2006: The toll on U.S. soldiers

U.S. soldiers use hip-hop to document their war experiences

May 11, 2006

After
three years, the war in Iraq was taking its toll, not only on the U.S.
economy, but also on the men and women serving in our military. Boulder
Weekly explored the war’s impact from a variety of perspectives,
starting on March 3, with a compilation of sobering statistics, graphs
and facts titled, “Iraq three years later: the war in numbers.”

Then
on May 11, Vince Darcangelo, a former arts and entertainment editor,
reported on how some soldiers were turning to hip hop was a way to
channel the horror and grief of their war experiences. Tracks like
“Some Make It, Some Don’t” — found on Voices From the Frontline, a
24-track collection of music performed by U.S. soldiers who had or were
currently serving in Iraq — expressed the pain soldiers felt at the
death they witnessed all too frequently.

“One
convoy I was on … a soldier passed away, and I didn’t know how to
deal with it. I came back, and I met my man [Deacon]. He told me, ‘Why
don’t we go cypher.’ I was like, ‘Not tonight man.’ We ended up going
out there, and we did it a cappella. … We ended up, both of us, with
a face full of tears just because every emotion you could possibly
have, that was the only way to extinguish that pain that you felt,”
Sgt. Christopher Tomlinson, aka Prophet, told the paper.

In
our June 2 issue, we looked at the plight of lesbian women in the Army
in “A woman’s place.” Two weeks later, on June 16, we visited a special
training site in Colorado where U.S. soldiers were being trained to
deal with conflict in urban Iraq.

Then
on Dec. 15, freelancer Terje Langeland took us inside the
ever-expanding U.S. role in Iraq in his cover story “Misson Creep: The
U.S. military’s growing involvement in domestic affairs in Iraq.”

Though
Bush had proclaimed “Mission Accomplished” three years past, it was
clear that U.S. soldiers were bound long-term to a conflict that was
far from over.

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2007: Climate change efforts

It’s been 10 years since the Kyoto Accord was struck. Why has so little been accomplished?

Dec. 20, 2007

At Boulder Weekly, this was the year of writing about climate change and environmental efforts. Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth had
just come out the year before, and cover stories included “Green gear:
The outdoor industry works toward a new environmental ethic” on May 10
and “The global warming debate:

For three weeks, EcoArts and other Boulder nonprofits hope to spark dialogue about the impact of climate change,” on Sept. 6.

And
at the end of the year, Boulder Weekly finished 2007 with two more
cover stories devoted to climate change and those trying to stop it.

In
“Getting warmer,” Bill McKibben opened with a question. “The Kyoto
Accord began the race to halt global warming. On its 10th anniversary,
why are we barely past the starting gate?” Those 10 years were the
warmest on record, and in those 10 years we learned that we had
underestimated the speed and size of that warming. Despite the passage
of local and state laws targeting carbon emissions, there was deafening
silence from the nation’s capital, McKibben wrote.

But
there was some good news. He cited technological advances such as
hybrid cars, the popularity of Gore’s movie and the rise of
environmental activist groups.

He
concluded with the cold, hard truth: “Chemistry and physics don’t
bargain. They don’t compromise. They don’t meet us halfway. We’ll do it
or we won’t. And 10 years from now, we’ll know which path we chose.”

In
“Behold the power of science” on Dec. 27, which was about Boulder
Weekly’s first-ever Person of the Year, Pamela White interviewed
Boulder atmosheric scientist Susan Solomon, who was chosen to co-chair
Working Group 1 of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC), which shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Gore that year. She is
also credited with discovering the cause of the ozone hole, an
achievement that earned her the National Medal of Science, the United
States’ highest scientific honor. In the interview, Solomon described
the findings of the IPCC, the scientific research process and her role
as a leading woman in science.

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2008: Obama elected president

We are better than we know

Nov. 6, 2008

In
the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false
about hope.” This quote from Barack Obama graced the front cover of
Boulder Weekly on Nov. 6, two days after he was elected president.

Our
coverage of the historic election included an editorial by Editor
Pamela White and a question-andanswer piece with presidential history
expert William E. Leuchtenburg, a professor at the University of North
Carolina in Chapel Hill. Leuchtenburg was asked to compare and contrast
Obama with former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, including the
situations they faced when taking office.

In
her article, White reflected on the results of a survey only two years
earlier in which the majority of respondents said they didn’t think it
was likely that the U.S. would elect an African-American as president.

“After
all,” she wrote, “it’s only been 143 years since the 13th Amendment was
ratified, finally outlawing slavery, and only 90 years have passed
since President Woodrow Wilson conceded to pressure and made a public
statement against lynching. Not racism, but lynching.

The
struggles of Rosa Parks, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and
civil-rights marchers are relatively recent events, having occurred in
the lifetimes of many who cast votes on Nov. 4.

“With
that as our history, it was hard to imagine two years ago that
Americans would flood polling places to elect an African-American man
as president, especially when that man had a weird name like ‘Barack
Hussein Obama.’ And yet, last night Barack Hussein Obama was chosen by
the American people to be our 44th president.”

White described how her college-aged son canvassed black neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, and later that night witnessed
firsthand the impact of the outcome. “On Election Night, when Obama was
declared the victor, Ben watched an elderly African-American couple hug
and kiss and cry and got choked up himself, imagining how long they
must have waited for this moment. Then the couple surprised him,
turning to him and drawing him — a white boy from Boulder — into their
embrace.”

She
concluded with the following: “After disappointing the world by seeming
to support Bush’s failed policies, America took a step on Nov. 4 toward
redeeming itself and living up to its promise as a nation, a promise
that has always given people around the world something to believe in.
When we fail, we let not only ourselves down, but everyone who
cherishes the ideals of freedom and government by and for the people.
On Nov. 4, we surprised ourselves and the rest of the world, reminding
ourselves and everyone else just how powerful and amazing the American
people can be.”

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2009: Medical marijuana

How federal restrictions created Colorado’s medical marijuana industry

Aug. 13, 2009

This past year, a new growth industry sprouted up in the state, especially in Boulder.

While
Colorado voters approved Amendment 20 back in 2000, it wasn’t until
this year that medical marijuana dispensaries began spreading like,
well, weeds.

In
his Aug. 13 cover story, David Accomazzo outlined the events that led
to the free-for-all. For years, the Colorado Department of Public
Health and Environment had enforced an informal patient limit on
caregivers, prohibiting caregivers from having more than five patients
at a time. That changed in July 2007, when Sensible Colorado
successfully sued the state and convinced Denver District Judge Larry
Naves to grant an injunction temporarily removing the patient limit
from caregivers. And at a state Board of Health meeting last July,
after hours of testimony in front of a crowd of hundreds, the board
made those changes permanent.

Without
a limit on the number of patients they can serve, caregivers (and by
extension, dispensaries) were given infinite room to grow.

Marijuana
distribution and possession is still prohibited under federal law, but
dispensaries got what amounts to another green light this year from the
administration of President Barack Obama, who directed federal agents
to refrain from pursuing marijuana cases in states that have medical
marijuana laws, effectively letting those states make their own rules.

The
thing is, there is quite a bit of confusion about what Colorado’s rules
are. In “Growing confusion” on Nov. 12, Accomazzo and Jefferson Dodge
explored various interpretations of what defines the relationship that
caregivers should have with their patients. An Oct. 29 Colorado Court
of Appeals ruling defined a caregiver’s “significant responsibility for
managing the well-being of a patient” as going beyond simply providing
marijuana to patients, prompting some dispensaries to begin offering
other services, from housekeeping to lawn-mowing. In early November,
the Board of Health held an emergency hearing to rescind its more
permissive definition of “significant responsibility,” but that meeting
and that action were successfully challenged in the courts, effectively
restoring the more permissive definition and leaving people to wonder
whether they should follow that guidance or the ruling issued by the
Court of Appeals.

The
pot, er, plot is bound to thicken this spring as lawmakers try to pass
a bill making sense of the situation — and possibly enacting more
stringent regulations on dispensaries.