“The government may not compel someone to “create speech she does not believe,” the Supreme Court ruled this morning. In a 6–3 opinion authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Court sided with a graphic designer, Lorie Smith, who wanted to expand into the wedding-website business without being forced by Colorado law to create products celebrating same-sex marriages.
Back in 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit found that the planned websites would each constitute “an original, customized creation,” designed by Smith “using text, graphics, and in some cases videos” with a goal of celebrating the couple’s “unique love story.” As such, it said they “qualify as ‘pure speech’ protected by the First Amendment.” The lower court admitted that Smith was willing to provide her services to anyone, regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation, so long as the substance of the project did not contradict her values. It also recognized that “Colorado’s ‘very purpose’ in seeking to apply its law to Ms. Smith” was to stamp out dissenting ideas about marriage. Despite all of that, incredibly, the 10th Circuit held that the state government was within its authority to compel her to create such websites against her will.”
“The ruling in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis is neither as narrow nor as broad as it (theoretically) could have been. The Court didn’t do away with public accommodations, or businesses prohibited from discriminating against customers on the basis of characteristics such as skin color or national origin. It did note that “no public accommodations law is immune from the demands of the Constitution” and that “public accommodations statutes can sweep too broadly when deployed to compel speech.” (The Colorado law was guilty in this instance.)
The high court also didn’t establish a right for any and every business owner to decline to provide services for same-sex weddings—only those whose services involve expressive activity. Whether a particular service (say, cake baking) is expressive will have to be litigated case by case.
But the majority did decide Smith’s case by appealing to free-expression precedents rather than religious-liberty ones. In other words, the justices didn’t say that the faith-based nature of Smith’s beliefs about marriage entitled her to an exemption. Presumably, a secular person with moral or factual objections to expressing a particular message would receive all the same protections as a Christian or Muslim objecting on religious grounds. As it should be.”
“California, Arizona, and Nevada agreed to conserve at least 3 million acre-feet of water from the river over the next few years, or an average of about 1 million acre-feet per year. (An acre-foot fills one acre of land with one foot of water and is what two to three households use each year.)”
“These cuts are enormous, and they will certainly help safeguard the river and all that it sustains. Yet they’re only about half of what federal regulators had originally called for. An unusually wet winter in the West brought relief to the river’s ailing reservoirs, allowing states to get away with a much less ambitious offer.
Ultimately, however, this deal is not nearly enough to save the river, experts say. Steeper cuts are likely on the horizon.”
“More than 100 years ago, the US government encouraged Americans to populate rural areas like this, build infrastructure, and farm more land, according to Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University. That’s when engineers started building canals to take water from the Colorado River. At the time, the US policy was “to try to get every acre of land under the plow,” Porter said.
These canals turned the desert into a produce powerhouse. When farmland in Iowa or Nebraska is frozen and blanketed in a thick layer of snow, it’s 70 degrees and sunny in the Imperial Valley and Yuma. As soon as there was enough water in the mix, the conditions were ideal for growing crops year-round.
oday, the Imperial Valley, Coachella Valley, and Yuma together use close to 4 million acre-feet of water per year. That’s an enormous amount, equal to roughly a third of the entire flow of the river. (An acre-foot fills one acre of land with one foot of water and is roughly what two average houses use each year.)”
“In determining the share each basin would get, water officials ignored inconvenient science and massively overestimated the river’s average flow. Western water users each got a piece of the river, but — together with water later allocated to Mexico through a treaty — those pieces turned out to be more than what it can offer in a typical year. (The 1922 decision also failed to spell out what shares would be given to the 30 or so tribal nations in the basin.)”
“water officials didn’t factor in the possibility of a changing climate. Decades of recent warming have been drying out the West, causing less water to flow into the river.”
“Conserving water obviously sounds like a great idea. The problem is that farmers in these regions are already highly efficient. Water-saving technologies are also pricey, and farmers I spoke to are concerned that any future payments won’t be enough to cover them.”
“I’ve spent the last few weeks searching for a good solution to the crisis, an end to this story. No source I found could offer one. Any effort to restore the river will mean some people (or animals) get less water, barring several more winters like this one. And there’s no way around that, no secret technology to grow food without water. “It’s just such a complicated, ugly problem,” Schwabe said.
It’s an unsatisfying conclusion. Then again, maybe that’s what climate change creates: ugly problems where everybody loses. The best thing we can do, perhaps, is to sober up to this reality — that climate change will reshape economies and human lives — and use that knowledge to prepare.
Scientists have known for decades that the Colorado River is over-allocated and that warming is drying out the basin. Yet water regulators have failed to act in a meaningful way to rebuild Lake Powell and Lake Mead, Schwabe said. They should have started overhauling the Law of the River years ago, he said, instead of always being in “crisis mode.”
“The longer you wait to act, the more drastic your action has to be,” Schwabe said. “If we had started making these cutbacks in the ’80s and ’90s, in incremental steps, we probably wouldn’t be talking about this today. The situation is dire because we failed to act previously.””
“At issue is whether it’s fair to use century-old rules, created during an era of relative abundance, to ration water from the rapidly shriveling river now that the West is on the precipice of climate disaster. With California and its six neighbors locked in a dispute over two competing approaches to divvying up the cuts in water deliveries, whatever the administration decides will almost certainly end up in court.”
“The current feud centers on California, a longtime Democratic stronghold, and Arizona, a newfound swing state that has proven crucial to the party’s control of the White House and Senate.
The 1,450-mile long Colorado River made much of the West inhabitable, and now supplies water to 40 million Americans from Wyoming to the border with Mexico, as well as an enormously productive agricultural industry. But climate change has shriveled its flows by 20 percent over the past two decades, and for each additional degree of warming, scientists predict the river will shrink another 9 percent.
Water levels at the system’s two main reservoirs are falling so fast, the Interior Department has said that water users must cut consumption by as much as a third of the river’s flows or risk a collapse that could cripple their ability to deliver water out of those dams. That would also cut off hydropower production that is crucial to the stability of the Western grid.
The states broadly agree that the vast majority of those immediate cuts must be made by the Lower Basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada, whose decades of overuse have accelerated the crisis. But the fight is over whether California, which holds strong legal rights to the lion’s share of the Lower Basin’s water, should have to share in those reductions.”
“Colorado set a new precedent for drug policy reform in November, when its voters approved a ballot initiative that decriminalizes a wide range of conduct related to consuming five natural psychedelics.
Proposition 122 also authorizes state-licensed “healing centers” where adults 21 or older can obtain and use psychedelics. It represents the broadest loosening of legal restrictions on psychedelics the United States has ever seen.”
“While Colorado was once considered a solid swing state, Polis’ continued success as governor, as well as the state’s other electoral outcomes, have entrenched the state’s Democratic leanings. However, Polis’ popularity shows that Democrats can receive solid victories without relying on the increasing technocratic impulses of the party as a whole. While other Democrats—and increasingly Republicans as well—turn to government to solve problems, Polis has found success by wanting to reduce government power.”
“While other Democratic governors were enacting strict COVID-19 regulations, Polis lifted mask mandates. While other Democrats scoffed at school choice, Polis, the founded of two charter schools, praised polices that increase educational choice. While other Democrats called for wealth taxes, Polis called on an end to Colorado’s income tax.
“I respect freedom,” Polis told Reason in July 2022. “It’s great because you’re free to be the way you want. That’s the way it should be.”
While the Democratic party—not to mention American politics as a whole—is trending towards embracing government control, Jared Polis offers a rare story of a politician that wants to reduce state power. His success offers evidence that an alternative approach, one where Democrats embrace rather than attack personal liberty, can be a wildly successful strategy.”
“the Colorado River is drying up.
The river’s flow is down by about 20 percent, compared to the 1900s, and the two largest reservoirs it feeds are less than a third full. The water in Lake Mead, the nation’s biggest reservoir, has dropped more than 150 feet in the last two decades, leaving little water for the more than 40 million people who depend on the river.
Part of the reason why the Colorado River is shrinking is the dwindling amount of snow and rain. The West is in its 23rd year of drought, which research suggests could be the driest period in the last 1,200 years, made worse by climate change.
Then there is the sheer number of cities and farms that are sucking down water. About three-quarters of all water that humans consume from the Colorado River goes toward irrigating farms, which, among other things, supply nearly all of the nation’s winter veggies.
But a key reason why the Colorado River is running out of water has more to do with math than anything — bad math.
One hundred years ago, government officials divvied up water in the Colorado River among the seven states that rely on it including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The agreement, known as the Colorado River Compact, was based on one critically important number: the total amount of water that the Colorado River can supply yearly.
Ignoring the best science of the time, officials claimed the river could provide about 20 million acre-feet per year”
“Following months of increasingly contentious head-butting, officials in the mountain town of Vail, Colorado, are moving to seize a property from a local ski resort to prevent it from constructing new housing for its employees.
The property in question is a 5-acre site abutting a frontage road in the eastern part of the 5,600-person ski town. After nearly five years of rezonings, planning, permitting, and litigation, ski resort operator Vail Resorts is ready to move ahead with the $17 million Booth Heights project that would create 165 beds for its work force.”
“Standing in their way is the town of Vail itself, which filed a petition in Eagle County District Court on Friday to invoke its eminent domain powers to seize the Booth Heights site and hold it as open space”
“Throughout the process, Vail Resorts has maintained that its project would not harm the area’s bighorn sheep. Plack tells Reason the company has committed to paying $100,000 for habitat restoration and would install barriers around its property to prevent residents and pets from interfering with the sheep.
An environmental impact report prepared for the project concluded that it would not harm the area’s sheep. Vail Resorts notes in a lawsuit challenging the emergency ordinance stopping construction of its project that the town has approved several large homes within the bighorn sheep’s range.”
“Colorado voters this week passed the broadest reform of psychedelic drug policy ever approved in the United States. With 88 percent of ballots counted as of Wednesday night, 51 percent of voters had said yes to Proposition 122, which decriminalizes noncommercial activities related to the use of “natural medicine” by adults 21 or older. That term covers five psychedelics found in plants or fungi, some or all of which will eventually be available at state-licensed “healing centers.””
“The initiative defines “natural medicine” to include psilocybin, psilocyn (another psychoactive component of “magic mushrooms”), dimethyltryptamine (DMT, the active ingredient in ayahuasca), ibogaine (a psychedelic derived from the root bark of the iboga tree), and mescaline (the active ingredient in peyote). The covered activities include “growing, cultivating, or processing plants or fungi capable of producing natural medicine for personal use.” The initiative also eliminates civil and criminal penalties for possessing, storing, using, transporting, or obtaining the listed psychedelics or distributing them to adults 21 or older “without remuneration.””
“The initiative notes that “natural medicines have been used safely for millennia by cultures for healing.” It adds that “an extensive and growing body of research” supports “the efficacy of natural medicines combined with psychotherapy as treatment for depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, end-of-life distress, and other conditions.” But like Oregon’s initiative, Proposition 122 does not require that clients of psychedelic centers have any particular medical or psychiatric diagnosis.”