Archive for the 'Purely Personal' Category

The thoughts that come with losing my child

Posted by on Jul 15 2015 | Purely Personal

It is horrific what ugliness and hate can spring forward from one’s mind. If we could be jailed for our thoughts, I should have a life sentence.

It was a short, sad, news item that came over the radio some 13 years ago. I remember it perfectly to this day. It delighted me then. It shames me now.

Along I-70 in the mountains a boulder came loose, fell from a cliff, and struck the passenger side of a pickup truck. The father driving the truck was uninjured. His young son was killed.

When I heard the news report my mind, on even a chemical level, released a one-word, satisfied response – “Good.” It gave me immense pleasure.

Out of nowhere, expecting nothing, simply living their lives, a figurative bolt of lightning reached down to make this innocent boy suffer and die, and torture his father for the rest of his wrecked life. It comforted me when nothing else did.

It wasn’t just that I didn’t want to be alone. It wasn’t just that I wanted others to experience losing their child. I wanted everyone to lose their child. Everyone. I hated that anyone else still had their children. I hated that others could watch their kids sleeping safe and warm. This falling boulder could be the start of making the world right again. And I grabbed on to that awful thought and celebrated it.

To the loved ones of that little boy who died on I-70, whoever you are, I beg forgiveness for my hateful feelings at the time.

A week earlier my daughter, Parker, died of a rare and cruel from of cancer. It was our own figurative lightning bolt. Our only child at the time died just days before her first birthday.

Her death sentence was delivered at the old, cramped and dingy Children’s Hospital, one of the most horrific sites on earth.

Up to that point in my life, those awful things that you hear about, those tragedies and illnesses, well, they happen to other people. After that point I realized WE are those other people. I came to realize we are all those people, and just don’t know it.

However, there are brave people who can stare right into that kind of ugliness, and unlike me not run away. They can experience a child suffering and give instead of take. I’m speaking of the courageous people who work at Children’s Hospital.

They choose to fight the ugliness, not let it grow, or as I did in my madness and grief, wish it on others.

And those people have saved me from losing another child. My son, Chance, has Down Syndrome and endured 13 operations at Children’s, including delicate open-heart surgery at only three weeks old to save his life. These procedures now take place in the sunny, airy and comforting new Children’s Hospital at the Anschutz Medical Campus.

And because of the strong people there, my son is thriving, loud, troublesome, naughty, and loving life. I am so grateful. Very tired, but grateful.

If the people of Children’s Hospital shut down, the way that I shut down after losing my little girl, my son would not be with me. If they for a moment had the weakness and felt the ill will I had, they’d give up on the children that need them most.

Their skill, dedication, care, and love compensate and overcome the anger, pain, and desolation I had. They humble me.

I still feel a need to connect my children with that poor little boy who lost his life on I-70 so many years ago. But I no longer do it in pain and anger and hate, buy with joy. Those very same mountain passes where he lost his life become alive this weekend with the purpose of saving more lives.

A few years back, Tracy Smith, our gifted graphic artist, rode the “Courage Classic,” a bike ride over the Colorado Rockies that raises money for Children’s Hospital. She named her team, “Team Parker,” after my little girl.

Please, please, for my lost daughter Parker, for my son with Downs, Chance, and in memory of that little boy, will you right now give to Children’s Hospital?

Last year “Team Parker” raised over $14,000 for Children’s Hospital. I am asking you to help Tracy and her team of Independence Institute employees and friends raise one dollar more this year.

Choose any Team Parker member and contribute right now. Please help me honor my children in this powerful way. Thank you.

Support Team Parker here.

Straight on,


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Colorado (you) Gives!

Posted by on Dec 09 2014 | Purely Personal

Today is Colorado Gives Day. Great charities in Colorado will be asking you to give because giving today gets leveraged by the Colorado Gives Foundation, and credit card fees are waived as well. This makes it a great day for end-of-year gifts in Colorado.

But the greatest gift you can give to our state is Liberty. From Freedom and Free Enterprise, all other gifts come.

And there is only one organization out of the 1,500 participating in Colorado Gives Day whose mission is to fight to free Coloradans from the overreach of government. In fact, many of the groups participating today actively work for the Left, working against Free Markets. The money they raise today gets matched proportionally by the million-dollar Colorado Gives Fund.

So investing in the Independence Institute today not only counters that, but it means your investment in Freedom goes even further. But you have to give today for that proportional match.

Please take a moment right now (yes, please stop what you are doing for just a minute right now) and help us fight for a freer Colorado.

Click here to donate!

Thank you so very much!

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Help Make This Person Cry

Posted by on Dec 03 2014 | Purely Personal

An incredible tradition has taken hold in Colorado-Colorado Gives Day, a day when gifts to the state’s charities get a boost. And while most of the charities funded by Colorado Gives Day do overwhelmingly spectacular work, I can’t help but notice how much of the Left’s political infrastructure benefits from it, too.

While perusing the charities on the Colorado Gives website, you’ll find a myriad of liberal causes in which to invest. Here are just a few: Colorado Center on Law and Policy, Common Cause, Ethics Watch, Colorado Fiscal Institute, League of Woman Voters, NARAL, Progress Now, Open Media, PFLAG, Rights for all People, 9 to 5 Colorado,  Chinook Fund, Citizens Project, Colorado Center on Law and Policy, Colorado Children’s Campaign, Colorado Immigration Rights Coalition, Colorado Progressive Coalition, Greater Education Colorado, New Era Colorado, Planned Parenthood, The Bell Policy Center, Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, and many more.

Out of the over 1,600 charities, there is only one organization whose mission is to reduce government bullying and overreach.

No surprise. It’s us.

The Independence Institute is the only free-market, limited government charity on the website. And next Tuesday, December 9 (Colorado Gives Day), is going to be more important than ever because of a new $1 million Incentive Fund. This fund, one of the largest giving-day incentive funds in the country, proportionally increases the value of every dollar donated. For example, if Independence receives 10% of the total donations made on Colorado Gives Day, we receive 10% of the $1 Million Incentive Fund.

As you can tell, the cards are stacked against us and in favor of the machinery of the Left. (Shocking, huh?) It’s up to you whether this extra funding goes towards the Left’s already well-funded grasp over Colorado or towards the only group in the bunch to fight for Liberty.

Last year, we raised over $12,000 on Colorado Gives Day. Next Tuesday, would you PLEASE go to and help us break that number?

Remember, with every dollar invested with us, a smug liberal cries. And isn’t that what charitable giving is really all about?

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Is a time machine newsworthy?

Posted by on Sep 15 2014 | Purely Personal, Transparency

Like it or not, the Denver Post is the newspaper of record for Colorado. Which in a political season means that to a lot of voters, if it’s not chronicled in the Post, in didn’t happen. That’s a big responsibility for a struggling paper.

And I get that the Post is a shadow of what it once was, for many reasons beyond the control of the good men and women who work there. But damn it, bias in story selection is very much under their control.

They found it newsworthy that Congressman Mike Coffman had a “senior moment” and couldn’t recall the word “contraception” during a debate. Fair enough. Yet when published the video of his opponent, Andrew Romanoff, leading a team of “dreamers” to deface private property with chalk (and then running away in his Prius when they got caught) it’s not newsworthy. Go figure.

Our governor’s memory issue is the latest non-newsworthy event. I guess since the Post months ago reported Hick’s “I never spoke with Michael Bloomberg” (“I did not have sex with that woman”) fib, there is no need to report when Hick doubles down with a brand new whopper.

In a debate over a week ago, Hickenlooper’s challenger asked him why he lied to the sheriffs of Colorado about talking to Bloomberg. Hick then admitted he DID talk to the billionaire who has poured millions into Colorado Leftist causes, BUT it was three weeks after he made the decision to sign the anti-gun bills.

Hick then put out the challenge to verify his three-week claim, “Look at the phone records. It’s all public record.” Well the Post won’t look at the public record. The Guv talked with Bloomberg on March 2 when the gun bills hadn’t even been brought to the senate floor. He signed the bills on March 20. Three weeks after that would be mid-April.

The only way this timeline works is if John Hickenlooper has a time machine. And maybe I’m wrong here, but I think a governor owning a time machine is newsworthy!

Let me put it in Denver Bronco terms: If a referee calls a player for holding, should that ref throw the flag again if he holds again? Not if the referee were the Denver Post. Even if the player insists “go ahead, check the instant replay!” The Post wouldn’t.

We’ve come to expect that politicians behave badly and make things up. But foolishly I still expect the newspaper of record to report when it happens.

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My Big News

Posted by on Sep 08 2014 | Petition Rights, Purely Personal, Transparency

Big News:

My 15-year-old Toyota Camry just broke 200,000 miles! You’d think all the mileage, rust, and cracks in the windshield would be a turn-off to the women I try to date. Well, I can say the ladies love my car as much as they did when I first bought it. Sadly.

Oh, and other important stuff that’s going on:

The single most important task of an elected school board is negotiating the collective bargaining agreements with employee unions. Not only do the agreements cover about 85% of a district’s budget, they also determine how our children will be taught, how our teachers will be treated, and how taxpayers’ money will be spent. Unfortunately, school boards across the state hold this key process in closed-door back rooms, even though sunshine is crucial for democracy to work.

Our Proposition 104 on this fall’s ballot changes that. It does just one tiny, little thing. It says that school board work must be done in public, like other government work under the state’s open meetings law.

Who in the world could be against opening the doors to the smoky back room? Well, you know, those who are in that room – unions and school districts.

The teachers union challenged our ballot initiative as it was going through the process (all the way to the Supreme Court) and lost. But not to worry, they haven’t given up. They fear sunshine that much. Their likely next step is to take legal action to try to pull Prop 104 off the ballot. Their lawyer, skilled at costly nuisance lawsuits, will soon challenge the validity of the signatures we got to get Prop 104 on the ballot.

In the end they’ll lose that challenge, and they know it. But it will cost us large amounts of legal fees, time and energy. It’s a brilliant tactic, you’ve got to admit.

We are readying for the legal fight, but I need your help. Could you invest in our work to get sunshine on school boards and fight off the legal attacks by giving us $100 today?

You should also check out the campaign’s website and their Facebook page. The opposition group is called Local Schools, Local Choice. When they get a website, check them out too.

Free Speech:

We also go on the legal offense here at Independence. Partnering with our friends at the Center for Competitive Politics, we have just filed two lawsuits asserting that state and federal campaign finance disclosure laws are unconstitutional under the First Amendment. To learn more, go here.

We are asking the courts for permission to run two ads – one asking Democratic Colorado U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet to support a federal sentencing reform bill, and one asking citizens to urge Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to initiate an audit of the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange. Yes, we live in an age where we need to go to court to enjoy our First Amendment rights.

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Why I Hate Children’s Hospital and You Should Love It

Posted by on Jul 15 2014 | Purely Personal

Like most parents, I sometimes lay awake at night worrying about my children. Unlike most parents, I worry about how to care for my 10-year-old son with Down syndrome, since he’ll never grow to be a fully independent adult. His mental and physical limitations prevent him.

And many nights, I lay awake thinking of my daughter, Parker. She’d be 13 years old now, and it’s been over 12 years since I’ve seen her. She died just days before her first birthday. An incurable and vicious cancer ate threw her little body. The site of the old Children’s Hospital building, dingy, cramped and uncomfortable, is where we got her death sentence.

With perfect clarity I remember asking Parker, while she was strapped down by wires and punctured by tubes to her head and torso, “Why do you have to die?” She looked at me and with her tiny hand tapped her head where a tumor was growing out of control.

I never really understood what being powerless was until then.

I like to think of myself as a brave guy, more than happy to take on powerful politicians, governments, and Leftists in ballot boxes, courtrooms, and the court of opinion. But when it comes to facing the suffering and death of my sweet little girl, I am still a coward. I haven’t even the strength to visit her at her gravesite. I, I just can’t, even now, all these years later. People give me flowers to decorate her grave. I graciously thank them for remembering her. When they’re gone, I throw away their flowers rather than face that brutal tombstone. That’s how brave I am.

For months after Parker’s death I fought off a maudlin desire to go to her grave to dig and dig until I reached her, just so I could hold her again. In the madness of the time it made all the sense in the world.

I also had deep thoughts of suicide, and not for the reason most think. It wasn’t because I wanted to end my pain, though I certainly did. There was a more important reason – to care for my daughter. I didn’t know if my daughter’s spirit lived on after her death, but if she did live on then she was without her Daddy. This thought destroyed me. My duty was to be beside her, no matter what. And I couldn’t do that from this side of reality.

It might be difficult to understand this, but I wanted to kill myself to be a good parent. And why not, I had no other children tying me to this world.

Then all that changed. In perhaps the most optimistic decision in my life, we tried for another child. A little girl, Piper, came to save my life. She filled me with purpose again.

She deserved a little brother or sister; so in no time at all one was on its way.

Then the horror hit all over again. The ultrasounds showed something was very wrong with our little unborn boy: a sizable hole in his heart, likely completely deaf, and a myriad of ugly prognoses, Down syndrome being the most charitable.

And here’s an odd thing to say: my son Chance was lucky. He only had Down syndrome.

So, back I went, to the most horrific place on earth – Children’s Hospital, the place I could only associate with terror. To save his life at three weeks old, Chance had open-heart surgery. Since then, this little 10-year-old man has had 12 surgeries, all at Children’s. He is the brave one.

I’ve come to see Children’s in a different light over the last decade. The hospital moved from its torture chamber-like location in the old part of Denver to a bright, cheery, and friendly new home in the Anschutz Medical Center in Aurora. And through my son I have experienced what Children’s has always really been: a child’s greatest hope for a good life.

The courageous people at Children’s couldn’t stop Parker’s suffering. No one could. But they cared for her with tenderness, humanity, and dignity. And because of Children’s Hospital her little brother is still alive, saving me from the horror of losing another child.

Children’s Hospital connects the daughter I lost with the son I hope not to lose. I love and hate this place. I need this place.

I’m asking you to invest in this place before someone you love is in the same need.

Folks at Independence, spurred on by our graphic artist Tracy Smith, celebrate Parker’s memory and Chance’s, well, chance for life by raising money in the Courage Classic. Every year “Team Parker” cycles through the Colorado Rockies raising money to give other children the hope for a good life.

Last year we raised $14,000 to help little people at Children’s. Would you please help us raise just one penny more this year? Don’t give because of what I went through. Give so little ones like Parker can be comforted as she was, and little ones like Chance get a shot at life. You can donate through our official Team Parker page here.

Please do it right now.

Thank you for remembering Parker and helping Chance.

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April Fools’

Posted by on Apr 01 2014 | Purely Personal

I thought you might get a kick out of our April Fools’ joke press release we sent out today. Since the Left claims every organization that promotes Liberty (including us) is funded by the evil Koch brothers, we thought we should make their dream come true. At least one AP reporter ran with the story on twitter, then had to retract it.









April 1, 2014

Contact: Mary MacFarlane, 303-279-6536 ext. 102,

Independence Institute announces partnership with Koch Brothers

Today the Independence Institute, Colorado’s premiere think tank, is pleased to announce an exciting new chapter in its nearly 30 year history as Charles and David Koch commit to a sizable investment in Colorado.

Jon Caldara, president of Independence, announced, “After months of negotiation with the Koch brothers we have reached an agreement on ownership of the Independence Institute which preserves the integrity and effectiveness of this great free market organization. This arrangement ensures our future and our impact in Colorado.”

Under the terms of the agreement the Koch brothers have invested an undisclosed amount of funding into the Institute, in exchange they will receive 51% ownership of the organization. This will provide Independence with the resources necessary to continue operations and serving the cause of freedom in Colorado.

Caldara said that the change in ownership will not have a sizable change in the operations or the direction of the Institute saying, “We are thrilled about keeping the name “Independence” in the new iteration of our organization.”

Caldara declared that the newly titled “Koch Institute at Independence” pays tribute to our proud history but also points to our new and properly funded future.

The Independence Institute is a non-partisan, non-profit public policy research organization based in Denver.


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You’ll Like This Story

Posted by on Jan 30 2014 | Politics, Purely Personal

In a good story or movie, something happens which then makes something else happen. Luke Skywalker buys a droid. The droid has a message. Luke brings the droid to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Obi-Wan makes a deal with Han Solo for transport to another planet…

If Luke didn’t buy that damn droid in the first place, there’d be no Star Wars, and George Lucas would be working at Olive Garden today.

This idea that something causes another something, which causes yet another, well, it works in our world of politics, too. Here’s an example:

Our investigative reporter, Todd Shepherd, walks into my office asking for money. This is a pretty common occurrence (usually due to his gambling habit), but this time he wants it for an open records request. While Colorado has open records laws, it can cost quite a bit to make public records actually public. Anyway, Todd’s in my office paddling on about his great idea, and it’s only going to cost us around $400. After wearing me down like a teen-aged girl asking her daddy to borrow the car, I finally give in.

Days later, he breaks the story that U.S. Senator Mark Udall’s staff was pressuring state employees to change the official number of Coloradans who got insurance cancellation notices thanks to Obamacare. Accuracy is rarely good in an election year. Not only does this story become front page news in Colorado, but it also makes national news and highlights Udall’s key role in passing Obamacare.

Now, when Chris Christie’s folks were caught intimidating state workers, he fired them and apologized. Senator Udall, by contrast, doubled down and stood by his staff. So the story continues. Pressure built for an ethics investigation. So a “neutral and objective” Ethics Panel was convened and quickly determined that Udall’s staff did nothing inappropriate. Story ends? Nope.

Other media outlets made their own records request of the “neutral” Ethics Panel only to find there were no records. The head of the state regulatory agency wouldn’t release any of the panel’s records, saying there were none. So that causes everyone– from the Denver Post, to legislators, to candidates for governor– to demand an investigation into the investigation. But they still wouldn’t even release the names of those who made up the “neutral and objective” Ethics Panel.

But all that causes the agency head to leak the names to just one news source. And that causes all of the other news sources, like the Post, to cry foul. So that causes the state to release the names of the “neutral and objective” panel officially. And we find out the panel was made up of that same head state regulator, who is a Hickenlooper appointee, her deputy, and her legislative liaison, the former chief of staff for the state Senate Democrats.

So now we know what “neutral and objective” is. And the story will continue.

Imagine. All that wouldn’t have happened if Todd Shepherd didn’t walk into my office to sell me his simple idea for an open records request.

Remember, your support made this happen. To fund future projects like this, donate here.

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My Love/Hate of Children’s Hospital

Posted by on Jul 09 2013 | Purely Personal

I have a love/hate relationship with Children’s Hospital.

I have told you about the magic that Children’s Hospital works keeping kids like my son Chance, who deals with Down Syndrome, alive. Thanks to Children’s, the heart surgery he had at three weeks old saved his life. In the nine years that followed Children’s performed another 10–yes, Ten–surgeries on him. And Lord, I couldn’t tell you how many times he’s been there to take tests, bravely give blood samples, having wires tying him down, and getting poked and prodded by people who somehow make it a game for him.

Children’s is, and will be for years, critical to keeping Chance Caldara alive and thriving. I am forever in debt to the dedicated people who invested in Children’s Hospital before my need for the place. And I need them to continue their magic.

But I also despise Children’s Hospital. It was the scene of the most horrific event of my life: watching my little girl suffer in confusion and pain.

Parker was our only child when a ravenous cancer ripped through her tender little body. The CAT scan taken in a Boulder hospital showed a lemon-sized tumor in her tiny little head. Before we could even digest that thought, they strapped her to a gurney, unnecessarily immobilizing her for a horror-filled ambulance ride to Children’s. She was screaming in fright all the way down, and we couldn’t even hold her. But the real ugliness started when we got to the worst place on Earth: the old Children’s Hospital in Denver.

Cramped and uncomfortable in that dilapidated old building, we tried to comfort Parker through the MRI, which showed the cancer had metastasized into her spine. The next day we kissed her before they put her under for the surgery to take a biopsy and install a drainage tube deep into her brain. It was in that God-forsaken waiting room, crowded with strangers, where the surgeon came out to tell us the cancer was incurable. Later, in a hellish recovery room, I walked in to see my little girl lying there with tubes coming in and out of her, and covered by tangles of wires and cords. It made it nearly impossible to even hold her as she cried. We were assigned to a dark, small room, shared with another sick child and her family, without anywhere for us to sleep except on the floor. It was that hideous place where days later the doctors pulled off the wires, removed the drainage tube from her skull, all so we could take her home to die.

She died only days from her first birthday.

I would have given anything to have blown up that awful building in Denver. But it was the wisdom and generosity of donors big and small that did something much better. They created the new, state-of-the-art Children’s Hospital in Aurora and continued to staff with it the most talented and courageous people.

You can see: I love everything about Children’s, it gives my son hope. I hate everything about Children’s, they couldn’t do the completely impossible and save my daughter.

In a weird way, taking my son to Children’s keeps me connected to the daughter I miss. There is some poetry there. It’s odd to say, but comforts me.

My late daughter and my disabled son will never meet in this world. But one of the most beautiful ways to connect these two beautiful children came from a friend and coworker here at Independence. A few years back, Tracy Smith, our gifted graphic artist, rode the “Courage Classic,” a bike ride over the Colorado Rockies to raise money for Children’s Hospital. She named her team, “Team Parker,” after my little girl.

Tracy honored and remembered my lost daughter at the same time raising money for Children’s Hospital so that kids like my son have a fighting chance for a healthy life. Now that is poetry.

Last year “Team Parker” raised over $12,000.00 for Children’s Hospital. I am asking you to help Tracy and her team of Independence Institute employees and friends raise one dollar more this year.

I never could have imagined my children would become so dependent on the Children’s Hospital. And I know it’s not a pleasant thought, but children you love may someday become dependent on it too when you least expect it.

Please, for Parker’s memory, for Chance’s life, would you please invest in this incredible hospital right now? Go to to sponsor Tracy or another team member at

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First, Grieve for the Children

Posted by on Dec 18 2012 | Purely Personal, Right to carry, Second Amendment

As you may know, I lost my daughter Parker, my only child at the time, to cancer just days before her first birthday. I cannot express the pure terror of that experience. The reality of shopping for a coffin and choosing a burial plot for your only child is a horror that is thankfully rare in modern America.

It is with this personal experience I have a special sensitivity to what the families in Newtown, Connecticut, are now suffering. I lost my child to illness, and at least had the opportunity to try to comfort her and tell her how much I love her. The families of Newtown had no such luxury, no such last goodbye.

For the last decade, I have had an internal battle trying to understand why God or nature would cause my little girl to suffer so. But for these families, that internal struggle will be greatly expanded. How does a parent even begin to comprehend why another human would steal away their child in such a way?

With a dead child and a son now living with Down syndrome I have lived through experiences I despise. Even so, I cannot begin to imagine the hurt and raw fear that these people are now forced to endure. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

I have learned something of grief, and the long, slow process it takes. Fortunately, there were many dear friends, family, and professionals to help me steer my way through it. Grief may be delayed somewhat, but it never can be avoided. And it is a bitch.

In the immediate madness after my daughter’s death I had little hope, and thoughts of drastic actions filled my mind. A counselor with special expertise in grieving was quite stern with me. Under no circumstances was I to make any major changes in my life for at least a year. Simply, there was no way I, or anyone in my situation, could see reality clearly enough and calmly enough to weigh important decisions.

I wasn’t to kill myself, quit my job, move away, squander my savings, start doing drugs, or anything for at least a year. And I so desperately wanted to do all those things at different times. She insisted I wasn’t to allow the pain and madness drive a decision that would be hard or impossible to undo if it was wrong.

Grieve first, then make decisions — not the other way around.

This advice not to make decisions during such pain is echoing through by body today as strongly as it did when I wanted to take all those insane actions myself. If I had gone down even one of those paths, it would have been a massive mistake. I see that now. My counselor was right. I can’t thank her enough.

I fear that we, collectively, are not wise enough to take this advice today. And we so need to. In the immediate pain and madness of this crime, the desire to do something, something big, something different, is nearly overwhelming, uncontrollable. I know what this feels like all too well. It feels like it makes all the sense in the world to ban certain firearms, throw restrictions on the law-abiding, disarm civilians, turn ourselves against the Bill of Rights, just as my desires made perfect sense to me during my time of pain.

But given my experience, I worry where we will find ourselves years from now if we allow grief and the madness of pain to take us down a path from which we can’t return. Let us grieve. Let us walk through the pain and hurt and fear. Clear thinking will return, in time. Then let us talk clearly and calmly about the serious decisions that might change us forever.

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