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Outsider

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Well, what'd you expect? The Dems get control of the state Senate in a reapportionment year, thereby preventing the GOP from creating a safely Republican congressional seat, the decision is made by a judge, and Colorado gets an eminently competitive new district.

All well and good, I guess, unless you live in Colorado Springs and are not a black helicopterfearing, gay and lesbianshunning, George Bushworshipping, Ed Birchamreading, dyed-in-the-polyester right-wing Republican. That's because the redrawn 5th Congressional district, already overwhelmingly Republican, becomes even more so thanks to Judge Coughlin's new map. Good ol' Joel Hefley, our often-derided congressman, will pick up a bunch of mountain conservatives in Park County and give up a few moderates in Douglas County.

That's just another nail in the coffin as far as El Paso County liberals/moderates are concerned. For at least the next 20 or 30 years, the Pikes Peak region will be represented by a congressperson chosen by the few hundred far-right activists who control the GOP nominating process. And so what? After all, even though Hefley has been singled out by Washington pundits as one of the most obscure, and least effective of congressmen, we're doing just fine here -- jest a-growin' and a-prosperin'!

Maybe having effective representation in the Potomac swamps isn't that important. Maybe not. Interestingly, Judge Coughlin, in defending his decision not to split El Paso County between two districts, thereby creating a little more competitive balance, cited the necessity of having a single representative for the area because of its multiple military installations.

Now, since our local active-duty military folks are mostly registered elsewhere and rarely vote in local elections, the judge must have been referring to the economic importance of such installations to the region, in which case two congresspeople might be better than one.

Anyway, as long as the Bushies rule, we'll be just fine with an obedient right-winger in Washington, but once the worm turns, and the scorned Dems take over, we might find the federal spigot abruptly turned off -- base closings, anyone?

In other news, in case you hadn't noticed, daily newspapers are getting squeezed. There are lots of reasons: Younger people increasingly prefer competitive media, we're too busy to spend a leisurely half-hour with the paper, advertisers prefer more precisely targeted media, etc., etc.

As a result, newspaper owners are looking for new sources of revenue. One such source: obituaries. Not too many years ago, most local dailies, including our own, ran obituaries without charge. As Felicity Barringer noted in the January 14 issue of the New York Times, "Obituaries mark important moments in community life, and have been allocated space and resources accordingly."

Ms Barringer was not, of course, referring to the Times, where paid death notices have been the rule for a century, but to small-city pubs like The Gazette.

No longer. As of the beginning of this year, the daily paper no longer runs any free obituaries. Croak, and you get a one-sentence death notice, including time and place of any services. If your survivors want more, they have to write it themselves and pay for the space, like any other advertiser.

I guess it's part of becoming a big city -- death's a marketing opportunity for the G's ad reps. Nevertheless, removing obits from the news department and assigning them to advertising made me wonder how much of what passes for news we, and The Gazette, might be able to use to enhance our revenue streams.

We could certainly charge politicians, and political parties, on a per-mention basis. For example, we could bill the governor five bucks every time we refer to "Governor Owens," rather than simply calling him "the person who currently occupies the governor's office."

Companies could be similarly charged: 10 bucks every time we write the word "McDonald's" instead of "a leading purveyor of cholesterol-choking french fries." For a surcharge, we could add a flattering adjective or two -- as in "much-loved Congressman Joel Hefley." The possibilities are endless.

And finally, what should we call the moose? My suggestion: Romo, after former Governor Romer and Bronco linebacker Bill Romanowski.

Like Romer, the moose is always in the news and wanders all over the state. And like Romanowski, he's a young male with a mean streak.

Speaking of football, how 'bout those Patriots? Remind you of those feisty, overachieving Broncos in the late '80s? And I'll bet they do just as well against the Rams as we did against the 'Niners ... 55-10, as I recall.

I wonder if The Gazette will charge for that particular obituary.

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