Weekend Open Thread

"All the president is is a glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering, kissing and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway."

–Harry Truman

“Dr. Chaps” Says The Lord Will Heal You, So Quit Worrying

Raw Story's Eric Dolan with another preview of what awaits us on next year's Colorado House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee–Rep.-elect Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt, just weeks from taking office, gives us his prescription for health care reform:

“We ought to look to the Lord for our health care,” Klingenschmitt said during his PIJN News program [Thursday].

“He said, ‘If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you,’” he continued, quoting Exodus 15.

“Isn’t that inspiring? I personally prefer to look to almighty God as my healer and not to the government as a substitute god or substitute healer,” Klingenschmitt added, before praying. “Father in Heaven, we turn away from the idolatry that so many have in their hearts, that they think government is a better healer than Jesus. But, Jesus, we know you are the healer.”

Also, "Dr. Chaps" says it's time to repent for worshipping President Obama "as a god." But that's just a sidenote–think of how much money the state of Colorado is going to save by shutting down Medicaid and letting The Lord take care of people's health care! That's a health reform plan which, if you think about it, has worked very well throughout history–including the entire period of history before we had health care.

Once again: Chaps should be a joke. In any other context, he would be a joke. But he's not. He's actually been appointed to the Colorado House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee. Which means that before you laugh at Rep.-elect Chaps again, there will a be a period of time in which he will be no laughing matter.

Okay, you can still laugh a little.

Anybody Remember Geert Wilders?

Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

The Western Conservative Summit, hosted annually by Colorado Christian University, has become one of the biggest-draw events for Republican politicos, pundits, and their many fans. Three years ago, the WCS featured an address by Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders. Wilders became famous in Europe–some would use the world infamous–for his strident attacks against Muslim immigration into Europe and the religion of Islam in general. As the Colorado Statesman's Ernest Luning reported from the 2012 WCS:

Saturday afternoon’s topic, [Former Colorado Sen. John] Andrews said, would be “the existential threat to the United States of America posed by Islam.”

Pausing for a moment to let his words sink in, he continued. “I didn’t say ‘radical Islam,’ I didn’t say ‘extremism.’ After you hear from Frank Gaffney and our friend from across the Atlantic, Geert Wilders, you’ll know why I just say ‘the threat of Islam…’”

“Your country is facing a stealth jihad, an Islamic attempt to introduce Sharia law bit by bit by bit,” [Wilders] said.

In order to keep the United States from succumbing, Wilders said, politicians have to ignore what he promised would be derision from the liberal media and other quarters and firmly deliver strong medicine. First, he said, Americans have to stop putting up with “multiculturalism,” even as free-speech proponents cry foul. In addition, he said American courtrooms must bar Sharia law and “stop the immigration from Islamic countries.”

Most critically, he said, “We should forbid the construction of new mosques. There is enough Islam in the West already.”

Sen. Kevin Grantham (R).

Sen. Kevin Grantham (R).

Wilder's speech at the Western Conservative Summit attracted remarkably little press attention, but Wilder left Colorado with lots of new fans–like Republican Colorado state Sen. Kevin Grantham:

Regarding Wilders’ suggestion that Western governments ban construction of new mosques, Grantham said it was worth considering.

“You know, we’d have to hear more on that, because, as he said, mosques are not churches like we would think of churches,” Grantham said. [Pols emphasis] “They think of mosques more as a foothold into a society, as a foothold into a community, more in the cultural and in the nationalistic sense. Our churches — we don’t feel that way, they’re places of worship, and mosques are simply not that, and we need to take that into account when approving construction of those.”

Although it greatly upset local Muslim groups, we haven't seen much follow-up to this fairly astonishing quote from Sen. Grantham–which doesn't appear to comport with the First Amendment protections for religious practice we're pretty sure he would defend, at least if applied to Jesus. Who Muslims also revere (this hater stuff gets complicated). But as the UK Daily Mail reports, Grantham might get another chance soon, since his buddy Geert Wilders is back in the news:

Dutch far-right populist lawmaker Geert Wilders is be tried for inciting racial hatred after pledging in March to ensure there were 'fewer Moroccans' in the Netherlands, prosecutors said Thursday…

The case centres on comments Wilders made at a March 19 rally after local elections.
He asked his followers whether they wanted 'fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands?'

When the crowd shouted 'Fewer! Fewer!' a smiling Wilders answered: 'We're going to organise that.' [Pols emphasis]

In a later TV interview, he referred to 'Moroccan scum'.

We know what you're going to say–in America, it's legal to "incite racial hatred!" And that's true in most circumstances. After all, Wilders didn't say exactly how he plans to "organize" fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands. It could be something really nice as opposed to what you're imagining. Think cruise ships, not death marches. Right?

On second thought, let's go ahead and ask Sen. Grantham his opinion anyway.

Longtime Local Organizer To Help Run New “Un-ALEC”

state-innovation-exchange-300x194

The Washington Post reported this week on a new policy initiative from the progressive left, focused on developing and sharing "model" legislation at the state level on a variety of topics. This new multi-state project is meant to counter the influence of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has wielded tremendous influence in state legislatures including Colorado's for many years:

More than 200 state legislators, Democratic consultants, liberal donors and interest group activists gathered for the first national meeting of the State Innovation Exchange, a coalition designed to counter the impact of state-focused groups on the right, including the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council.

The SiX session at the Omni Shoreham hotel included an address by Gara LaMarche, chairman of the Democracy Alliance, a group of wealthy liberal donors who have turned to state activism as an important new area for political investment.

"There is a hunger and a need for an organization like this," said SiX executive director Nick Rathod, an Obama campaign and White House veteran…

Rathod, who most recently worked at the liberal Center for American Progress, has been informally studying the success that ALEC has had in developing model bills for state legislatures: The 42-year-old nonprofit has long linked state legislators with corporate and interest group lobbyists to discuss and draft legislation behind closed doors.

Sean Hinga.

Sean Hinga.

Yesterday it was announced that a longtime local political organizer Sean Hinga of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) will serve as political director for the new State Innovation Exchange:

Hinga, who spent 12 years at one of the country’s largest unions, the American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees (AFSCME), brings a wealth of campaigning and policy experience to the organization. Sean was also responsible for helping build and support the progressive infrastructure in Colorado, which many across the country hold up as a model for progressive power building at the state level. 
 
“We’re delighted that Sean will be bringing to SiX his expertise in state infrastructure building and legislative engagement,” SiX’s Executive Director, Nick Rathod, said today. “The organizing work Sean has done in Colorado to help advance a progressive agenda and out-organize and out-maneuver those who have stood in the way of popular, progressive reform for too long will be invaluable to the organization. That’s a battle Sean’s been fighting his whole career and we intend to draw upon that experience as we begin the hard work to build progressive power in states across the country.”

ALEC has faced major challenges in the last few years as controversial right-wing model legislation and the organization's out-of-the-mainstream views on climate change have resulted in a bleed-out of corporate partners. Despite this, ALEC remains a major source of boilerplate bill language for Republican legislators in Colorado and elsewhere–and after this year's elections, which punished Democrats especially hard at the state legislature level in many states, 2015 is liable to be a banner year for ALEC with or without Google's money.

Well folks, now there's a Justice League and a Legion of Doom.

Friday Open Thread

"The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made."

–Groucho Marx

Discuss: Cyberwar, North Korea, Sony’s “Interview” Fiasco

(Hackers suck – promoted by Colorado Pols)

"The Interview" was not a great movie. It appears to have been a fantasy ammosexual buddy movie, aimed at those panting, sweaty hordes who know what real he-man American foreign policy should be if that wuss Obama were not in charge.  By Golly, North Korea would be sorry they went in the wrong mom's basement, futhermucker.

That said, the swift withdrawal of the movie from scheduled Christmas theatre showings, in the total and complete capitulation of Sony pictures to the hacking of its servers, sets a chilling precedent for free speech.

Why did Sony make the movie in the first place? How would we react if a rival nuclear power attempted a holiday film about assassinating our President?  Domestic white hate groups fantasize about this constantly, but usually not on widely distributed video. I have to think that a foreign, say, Bollywood, blockbuster on this topic would not be kindly received.

What were they thinking? Did Sony get what they deserved? Should we mourn that we will not see "The Interview" while Kim Jong Un is in charge? Did they do the right thing in cancelling all showings?

Here's a link to Ari Melber and Lawrence O'Donnell's discussion on MSNBC if you need background.

Most of youtube is also chilled – Hardly a trailer to be seen. ..all are now "private". Over-reaction much? I haven't seen mass freakout like this since 9/11.

Discuss.

 

 

Nebraska, Oklahoma Sue To Kill Colorado Marijuana Legalization

Not for export.

Not for export.

What a buzzkill, as the Colorado Independent's John Tomasic reports:

The attorneys general for Nebraska and Oklahoma are suing neighboring Colorado for legalizing pot. Initial reports have suggested the two states were acting in response to the costs they have incurred as a result of legalization, presumably for policing the border for pot traffickers of the new era…

That said, outgoing Republican Colorado Attorney General John Suthers is having none of it:

In a release, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers says the action seems more aimed at forcing the hand of federal authorities than it is at challenging the will of the voters of Colorado.

“Because neighboring states have expressed concern about Colorado-grown marijuana coming into their states, we are not entirely surprised by this action,” he said. “However, it appears the plaintiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado. We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court.” [Pols emphasis]

Tomasic notes that other conservative states bordering Colorado, like Kansas, Wyoming, and Utah, did not join this lawsuit–which raises questions about whether it's is based on a legitimate question, or amounts to pointless grandstanding by a couple of ambitious red-state attorneys general. It's worth noting also that AG Suthers has himself been no fan of marijuana legalization in Colorado: so when he says this lawsuit is "without merit," we're inclined to believe him.

We would add something about how nobody from Colorado wants to visit these crappy flatland states anyway, but that would just be gratuitous. Everyone knows that already.

Associated Press Expands State Government Reporting

Good news here in Colorado and around the country: The Associated Press is beefing up its state government reporting. From "The Definitive Source," the AP news blog:

Building on The Associated Press’ unmatched presence in all 50 U.S. statehouses, we are adding to our competitive advantage by creating a team of state government specialists.

As announced today to the AP staff, the specialists will collaborate with statehouse reporters, as well as on their own projects and stories focused on government accountability and strong explanatory reporting. Their over-arching goal will be “to show how state government is impacting the lives of people across the country,” said Brian Carovillano, managing editor for U.S. news.

Here's how Carovillano explains what this means in terms of how state government is covered by the AP:

Let’s say there’s a trend emerging from several statehouses that our folks on the ground identify. The state government team will work with reporters in those states — and with the data team, if necessary — to bring depth and a national perspective to that issue and show how it’s playing out across the country.

They’ll be a resource to our statehouse reporters looking for help broadening the scope of their reporting, and a projects team that will partner with folks in the states to pursue bigger and more ambitious enterprise on the business of state government. And the focus really needs to be on how that impacts peoples’ lives. We don’t cover state government for the state government; we cover it for all the people of the state. The message here is that state government coverage is essential to AP and its members, and we are doubling down on that commitment, which should benefit the entire cooperative. [Pols emphasis]

This is good news all around, but particularly in states such as Colorado where the number of reporters covering the state legislature alone has dwindled to just a handful of people in the last 5 years. As we've seen in the aftermath of the demise of the Rocky Mountain News, there are fewer and fewer reporters able to focus on state government stories that really do affect a majority of Coloradans — whether they realize it or not. Robust reporting is crucial to maintaining good government and keeping a watchful eye on our elected and appointed officials.

Expert Analysis: What Happened in Colorado in 2014?

The good folks at Hilltop Public Solutions, one of the leading Democratic-aligned political consultant firms in Colorado with offices across the nation, have put together a fascinating presentation analyzing the results of the 2014 elections in Colorado. We had the opportunity to view their presentation this week, and obtained permission to use their slides and data in a post. We doubt we can explain in a blog post as well as Craig Hughes and team can tell the story, but we'll try to give readers a sense of their conclusions. This is largely a data-driven explanation, but to be clear, it does come primarily from the perspective of Democrats.

Hilltop-Public-Solutions-2014-Election-Results-Analysis-2

This slide dispels one of the major misconceptions about the 2014 elections. The fact is, Democrats turned out the votes they believed were necessary to win in Colorado, and did so in greater numbers than they had in the last midterm election in 2010. What Democrats didn't count on was a national political climate that Colorado has slowly caught up with in the years since President Barack Obama's election. In 2010, Democrat Michael Bennet won substantially more right-leaning independents and even Republican votes than Mark Udall did in 2014. Combine that with the sudden erosion of support for Democrats in formerly reliable blue areas of the state–Pueblo and Adams County–and you can account for much of the difference between Bennet's narrow win and Udall's narrow defeat.

Hilltop-Public-Solutions-2014-Election-Results-Analysis-3 Hilltop-Public-Solutions-2014-Election-Results-Analysis-4 Hilltop-Public-Solutions-2014-Election-Results-Analysis-5 Hilltop-Public-Solutions-2014-Election-Results-Analysis-7

What you can see in these slides is analysis of the "surge" vote in 2014 midterms–voters who did not vote in the last 2010 midterms elections but did this year. As you can see, Democrats performed well among these lower-propensity voters, and it wasn't really what you'd call a "Republican wave" at all. But it wasn't enough to overcome the large Republican base in Colorado, which was much more unified behind Cory Gardner than the GOP was united behind Ken Buck in 2010.

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For 2015 Colorado Must Resolve to Protect the Sage Grouse

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The State Department of Natural Resources, people that care about the Greater sage grouse, and those that care about whether the bird is listed under the Endangered Species Act (including those that prefer it isn’t) need to all get together quickly.  Delay is not our friend.  Colorado needs to resolve to act now to protect the Greater sage grouse.

Some claim that a listing by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service would be heavy-handed yet cheer that Congress pulled a ham-handed move of its own, telling the US Fish and Wildlife Service scientists they cannot spend  money to consider the plight of this magnificent species.  Not only is the sage grouse caught between–but so are those that want to see meaningful action to protect the bird.  And action is what is needed.

Because the clock is ticking, not only quite literally for the sage grouse—which has seen its population plummet as its habitat has disappeared over the last few decades—but  also on the federal government’s decision to list the bird or not under the ESA. That’s because the agency that enforces that law is under a court order to make a decision by September 2015, which is just about the time the Continuing Resolution  and  spending bill (the so-called CRomnibus) expires and with it Congress’ defunding gimmick.  As Senator Bennet (D-CO) noted in a release:

“Colorado communities continue to make a strong, science-based case that local conservation efforts are working, can continue to get better and these birds don’t need protection under the Endangered Species Act. However, thanks to this rider, Colorado communities will now be plagued with uncertainty through at least next September. Despite this ill-advised Congressional involvement, Colorado communities and the agencies will continue to work on their collaborative and locally-based conservation approaches to protect the birds and avoid future listings. They should ignore the confusing signals being sent by politicians in Washington and continue to focus on their impressive work on the ground to come together to work for a long term solution,”

In fact the Secretary of the Interior and the Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service within that department both say a listing can still be avoided.  The catch is the eleven states where the Greater sage grouse occurs, including Colorado, have to get plans in place that provide real protection for this species.  But time is wasting. So rather than passing midnight partisan riders or filing a lawsuit after the fact, a better move might be to avoid the situation in the first place, in this case by putting a strong and protective habitat management plan in place for the Greater sage grouse.  As Sally Jewell, the U.S. Secretary of Interior, put it (from PoliticoPro, a subscription service):

“It’s disappointing that some members of Congress are more interested in political posturing than finding solutions to conserve the sagebrush landscape and the Western way of life,” Jewell added. “Rather than helping the communities they profess to benefit, these members will only create uncertainty, encourage conflict and undermine the unprecedented progress that is happening throughout the West.”

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Thursday Open Thread

"Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power."

–George Bernard Shaw

Mike Coffman. Down With Torture.

Rep. Mike Coffman.

Rep. Mike Coffman.

In the aftermath of the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's summary report on "enhanced" interrogation methods employed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, we took note of the fact that Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, a retired Marine officer who has served in Iraq, had issued no statement either way on whether these actions were permissible.

That is, until yesterday:

As a retired military officer with combat experience, Rep. Coffman's opinion is of particular note. One of the reasons why the United States (and most other nations) obey the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of warfare is the hope that doing so will result in better reciprocal treatment for our own soldiers and citizens who are captured by our enemies. The New York Times wrote in October about the torture of journalist James Foley by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) prior to his execution:

At one point, their jailers arrived with a collection of orange jumpsuits.

In a video, they lined up the French hostages in their brightly colored uniforms, mimicking those worn by prisoners at the United States’ facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

They also began waterboarding a select few, just as C.I.A. interrogators had treated Muslim prisoners at so-called black sites during the George W. Bush administration, former hostages and witnesses said…

Within this subset, the person who suffered the cruelest treatment, the former hostages said, was Mr. Foley. In addition to receiving prolonged beatings, he underwent mock executions and was repeatedly waterboarded.

Waterboarding torture.

Waterboarding torture.

The "KSM" Mike Coffman referred to in his Tweet about is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged high-level Al Qaeda operative who was routinely waterboarded and subjected to other harsh measures after his capture in 2003. Coffman's citing of "KSM" is clearly meant to legitimize the interrogation methods he was subjected to–which works until you remember that the CIA tortured many more people than KSM.

There is a veteran Republican who understands the destructive cause and effect of engaging in torture–Sen. John McCain, who was himself subjected to torture as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese:

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Owen Hill Has a Different Story for You (and Cory Gardner)

Rewriting History with Owen Hill

In 2014, Owen Hill won the U.S. Senate race but then decided to let Cory Gardner have it instead.

We were recently forwarded an email that State Sen. Owen Hill sent to supporters this week, and we must admit to being impressed; when it comes to self-promotional nonsense messaging that ignores history, Hill is a true talent.

Hill spends most of his email discussing Republican victories in the 2014 election, though he adds unnecessarily, "The election results were not what I set out to achieve personally…" You may recall that Hill was a candidate for the U.S. Senate before Republican Rep. Cory Gardner kicked his ball over the fence and told him to go home. Here's how Hill prefers that you remember the events of March 2014:

When I stepped out of the Senate race in March, I was vocal about the importance of working together as a Republican team. Representative Cory Gardner was the right person for the Senate race this year, and Colorado is better for it.

Hill was most definitely not excited to see Gardner enter the race for Senate last spring, telling reporters that he was "pressured" to drop out of the race. As the Colorado Springs Gazette reported in March:

Hill said Gardner came to him weeks ago and pressured him to drop out of the race. '

'It's party leadership trying to decide who gets to run," Hill said…

"This is the exact same corruption and back-room deals that have caused the Republican party to lose elections year after year," Hill said. [Pols emphasis]

Even after Gardner had entered the race for Senate, the national Tea Party Express made it clear that they were still backing Hill. While Gardner probably would have had little trouble dispatching Hill in a Republican Primary, a contested GOP Primary would have significantly complicated Gardner's backtracking on issues such as Personhood. Gardner's surprise flip-flop on support for Personhood occurred just a few weeks after he announced his bid for the Senate…but more tellingly, just a few days after Hill finally backed out of the race.

If Gardner had to face a June Primary against Hill (or anyone else, for that matter), he probably could never have dropped his support for Personhood; it may not have cost Gardner the GOP nomination for Senate, but it certainly would have made it considerably more difficult to maintain the backing of that portion of the Republican base that keeps abortion issues first and foremost in their minds. Even a small erosion of support from that base could have been enough for Democratic Sen. Mark Udall to hold his seat.

Now that Gardner has been elected to the U.S. Senate, Hill has to be careful to un-burn any bridges while still promoting himself as a potential rising star in the Republican Party. Hence this paragraph:

While I am excited for Senator-elect Gardner's political future, I am also encouraged to continue to play a key role in Colorado politics as the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. I am excited to be working in a realm that has such tangible effects on our children's futures. Here is one article published about me that was encouraging.

We left the link in place in the paragraph above because it is a perfect example of everything that Hill is trying to accomplish in his own re-branding. Check out the date on the link — it's from a CBS4 story on March 20, 2014.

Gessler’s Anti-Mail Ballot Talking Points Grow Awfully Thin

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

Reid Wilson writes at the Washington Post today about the differing experiences of states that have switched to mail ballots. Two states, Washington state and Colorado, both have Republican Secretaries of State. In Washington, Secretary of State Kim Wyman says the switch to mail balloting has been highly successful. After the state allowed mail ballots in the 1990s, it emerged as by far the most popular–and cost effective–option.

But here in Colorado, outgoing Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler is duty bound to disparage mail ballots as he has since the legislation broadening their use passed in 2013–and no positive experience can shake him.

To Gessler, whose state only began conducting elections entirely by mail this year, the system creates the potential for what he calls a “single point of failure” — the U.S. Postal Service.

“The Postal Service is cutting back service for cost-cutting measures,” Gessler said. “You’re seeing some disenfranchisement of voters where the post office is just so slow.”

“I think more people are disenfranchised through all-mail ballots because of the post office than anything else in the country,” he said.

Richard Coolidge, a spokesman for Gessler’s office, said the secretary of state worked overtime to collect mail from the central processing facility in Denver to meet the Election Day deadline. They found 366 ballots that would have otherwise been thrown out for arriving too late.

We have no doubt that some number of voters disregarded the deadline to mail in ballots that was clearly indicated on every ballot as well as other election-related correspondence. Even factoring that inevitable issue, it's just silly to claim that the Postal Service is a "single point of failure" in Colorado elections. For one thing, a large percentage of "mail ballots" aren't mailed back to clerks at all, but dropped off at ballot collection boxes. Counties are apparently not required to track the percentage of ballots returned by postal mail as opposed to being dropped off directly but we've heard in Denver the percentage may be 70% or more deposited in drop boxes. Beyond that, there are other options available, like early voting and vote centers, that make this "single point of failure" business just plain silly.

But the best evidence that Gessler is off base with his ongoing complaints about mail ballots are the results of this year's elections. Neither mail balloting, nor other new election provisions Gessler complains about like same-day voter registration, prevented Republicans from having a pretty good election in Colorado in 2014. There is no evidence that Colorado's updated election laws resulted in anything other than better turnout in a midterm election that nationwide saw the worst turnout since the 1940s. Republicans won the U.S. Senate race, dominated the downticket statewide races except Bob Beauprez's gubernatorial defeat, and made Democrats work for legislative races all over the state. What about this experience speaks badly of Colorado's new election laws, which happen to have been passed by Democrats?

Democrats are bruised from this year's election results, but one thing we can all say for sure today is that Gessler's wild predictions of fraud and chaos as a result of House Bill 13-1303 were totally unfounded. Next year, when new Secretary of State Wayne Williams tries to claim otherwise, hopefully someone reminds him that he won his election in 2014 comfortably too.