Friday Open Thread

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

–Bertrand Russell

Gazette rejects reasonable response to its inaccurate editorial trashing Planned Parenthood

(Citizen Kane would be proud – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Michael Merrifield.

Sen. Michael Merrifield.

In an op-ed in the Colorado Springs Independent yesterday, Colorado State Sen. Michael Merrifield writes:

On Sunday, Aug. 9, the Colorado Springs Gazette published an editorial that contained many of the same falsehoods about Planned Parenthood that are being spread by the extremists who made the hoax video.

I submitted a column to correct the record about the work Planned Parenthood does for Coloradans and nationally. The Gazette refused to run it — a disservice to its readers and the community I represent. I’m glad the Colorado Springs Independent has higher standards for public discussion.

It’s true that the Gazette’s editorial was full of misinformation at best, lies at worst. The Gazette didn’t even come close to informing us that no evidence exists showing that Planned Parenthood has broken any laws.

Instead, the newspaper quotes directly from undercover videos that are so altered that they have no use as evidence against Planned Parenthood.

The newspaper musters up the audacity to state Planned Parenthood has an “apparent practice of selling the organs of aborted babies.” Even if you accept what you see in the full videos, there’s no evidence that Planned Parenthood does anything other than offer fetal-tissue for research purposes for the cost of processing. That’s legal.

Next, the Gazette claims there’s an “overwhelming and growing body of evidence” that “abortion providers solicit the sale of human organs.” There is no such body of evidence much less a growing one. There’s no proof that the tissue is provided by donors on anything but a voluntary basis.

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What’s Next for George Brauchler?

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

The Aurora Theater Shooting trial finally came to a close on Wednesday when Judge Carlos Samour Jr. sentenced convicted killer James Holmes to 12 consecutive life sentences, and another 3,318 years in prison for good measure. Following the sentencing, Samour put an exclamation point on the trial when he said, “Get the defendant out of my courtroom, please.”

Privately, at least, life should essentially return to normal for Judge Samour and the countless others who have invested much of the last few years on this case. But for Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, who is being courted by Republicans to run for U.S. Senate in 2016, he may just be exchanging one spotlight for another.

In an interview with the Colorado Independent, Brauchler acknowledged that he feels the pressure to make a decision on his political future by Labor Day – less than two weeks away. Now that the sentencing is complete, it’s a good time to look at the political ramifications of the Aurora Theater Shooting Trial for Brauchler — and by extension, Colorado Republicans in general.

We decided to do this Rickey Henderson-style by having a Q&A conversation with ourselves, so let’s get to it after the jump… (more…)

Ed Perlmutter Backs Iran Nuclear Weapons Agreement

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D).

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D).

A press release from Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s office a short while ago announced his support for the agreement between the P5+1 group of leading nations and the Islamic Republic of Iran, to prevent that country’s development of nuclear weapons:

“I support the Iran Agreement (Agreement) negotiated by the United States, Germany, China, United Kingdom, France, Russia, the European Union and Iran. The U.S. and its international partners have committed to a diplomatic solution that I believe reduces and limits Iran’s ability to develop or manufacture nuclear weapons and is in America’s best interests. This Agreement should also reduce nuclear tensions in the Middle East and will make our friend and ally, Israel, safer and less prone to nuclear conflict with Iran.”

“I have reached these conclusions after reading and re-reading the Agreement and its attachments, reviewing numerous articles pro and con, attending classified and unclassified briefings, discussing the Agreement with its proponents and opponents, and listening to military and diplomatic experts, friends, family and constituents.”

“This Agreement has far reaching and historical impacts for our foreign policy and for our international security. The Agreement is a nuclear non-proliferation agreement limiting Iran’s capacity to build nuclear bombs. It is not – nor is it intended to be – a peace agreement which resolves or eliminates all threats.”

“So, despite the diplomatic progress made toward reducing Iran’s nuclear capabilities under the Agreement, further steps must be taken to deter and discourage Iran from fulfilling its threats and to assist Israel in defending its national security.”

In Rep. Perlmutter’s statement, he outlines a range of additional steps he wants to see taken, including additional military support and cooperation with Israel, support for Israel in the United Nations, and continued congressional oversight of the agreement’s implementation. Rep. Perlmutter, a reliable supporter of Israel with ties to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), was undecided on the Iran deal for some time and was heavily lobbied by both sides of the agreement during the August recess.

Perlmutter’s support for the deal is therefore a very significant development, and puts any attempt to override President Barack Obama’s veto of the GOP-controlled Congress’ fully-anticipated disapproval of the deal that much farther out of reach.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (Aug. 27)

Get More Smarter

Remember when two deadly shootings in one day would have been shocking? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The first two states to legalize marijuana — Colorado and Washington — are doing a pretty good job of implementing regulations and other requirements for the legal sale of weed. From the Huffington Post:

Now more than a year after sales first began in Colorado and Washington, perhaps the most profound shift of all is the normalcy in which marijuana policy, and the revenue it generates, is seen by state government.

J. Skyler McKinley, deputy director of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s (D) Office of Marijuana Coordination, said that Colorado officials look at marijuana the same way they look at any other commodity market in Colorado — just another place where the state gets some revenue, but doesn’t stake its whole budget on it.

“This was a lot less vexing than we once thought it would be,” McKinley said, repeating what his boss said about regulating the drug earlier this year. “It turns out government can be pretty good at this.”

► Officials in Silverton and San Juan County have asked for federal assistance in cleaning up polluted mining sites, but they want to make sure that you understand they might not want federal help. Or something. From the Durango Herald:

In a letter from Silverton Mayor Christine Tookey and San Juan County Commissioner Ernie Kuhlman, the officials state that while Superfund status should be on the table, they have not “foreclosed any options.” The federal listing offers additional resources to clean up blighted areas that could be toxic to humans.

Silverton and San Juan County have been fighting accusations that the town and county are partially responsible for the Gold King Mine disaster because they resisted Superfund status. Some in the community feared that a federal listing would be a black eye and endanger tourism…

…A recent joint resolution from the town and county stated that they would work to petition Congress for federal disaster dollars. Reports suggested that the move was a reversal, or a paradigm shift. But county and town officials say otherwise, arguing that the reports were filled with “misinformation.” [Pols emphasis]

To summarize, Silverton and San Juan County officials want to make it clear that they haven’t “committed” to doing anything specific to deal with toxic mines in the aftermath of the Gold King minewater spill. It’s good to know that local officials are still paralyzed by indecision.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Rep. Klingenschmitt: “Different Demons” Possess Gays, Pedophiles


Our friends at Right Wing Watch posted about Republican Colorado Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt’s latest Youtube sermon, in which he responds to criticism over his suggestion a few weeks ago that it would be “better” if gay Boy Scout leaders were “drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Here’s what Chaps really meant by that, folks:

[I]nsisting that he never called for gay scoutmasters to be drowned in the sea, Klingenschmitt brought on his close friend Janet Porter of Faith 2 Action to defend him from the “lies” and to pray against the attacks on him.

As Klingenschmitt explained, he never claimed that all gay men are child molesters … and that is because gay men and child molesters are clearly possessed by different demons.

“There are clearly two different demons at play here,” he said. [Pols emphasis] “There is, of course, a demon of homosexuality in those who openly parade their sodomy in the streets. But then there’s a different demon of child molesting that is inside some of these reported molesters … I’m not saying that all of the homosexuals are child molesters, I never claimed that. But I’ll tell you in this case, all the child molesters in the Boy Scouts are homosexual. And how can I tell that? Very simple, it’s logical, there were no girls in the tents. Those are men molesting boys and their attraction to other men, or even other boys, is a different demon and we’re calling that out.”

Got that? Not all gays are child molesters, but all the child molesters in the Boy Scouts are–wait for it–probably gay! Because it’s the Boy Scouts! That brilliant deductive reasoning obviously makes Rep. Klingenschmitt’s comments about child molesting Scoutmasters being drowned no big deal. Because, you see, it’s only the demon possessed gay folks–they’re all possessed, of course, but stay with him–who have the specific demon that causes child molestation who should be drowned. The rest of you demon-possessed sodomites, well, presumably Rep. Klingenschmitt praying for you as opposed to wishing death on you. At least until the next episode of Pray in Jesus’ Name.

There, aren’t you glad he cleared that up? No doubt House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso is greatly relieved.

GOP activists demand answers to financial questions plaguing state party

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

houseforgopchairRepublican activists blasted GOP State Chair Steve House today for failing to provide basic information about the party’s finances.

In a letter to House, Nick Lundberg, Dick Childress, Ken Clark, and Randy Corporon raised questions about numerous instances when Steve House referred to financial problems plaguing the state party, including one instance when he called the financial situation so “dire” that it should be concealed from party donors.

The letter stated, in part:

We are concerned about the fairness and accuracy of financial disclosures in state and federal campaign finance reports and the “quarterly financial statements” based on statements you have made about the party’s financial reporting…

The reputation of the Colorado Republican Party is at stake, and confidence of members, donors, and candidates will continue to erode unless the party is complying with financial disclosure requirements.

House dismissed these concerns on KNUS 710-AM today:

“I don’t think the party is on the same page, but you have to go through a process,” House told host Steve Kelley (at 38:30 hour one Aug. 26). “…Yeah, it was a little bit painful for a couple of months, but at the same time I thought it was very very enabling,”

Asked how fundraising was going by host Krista Kafer, House said (at 43 min 45 seconds here), “It’s been going great!” He added that every state party in the country “that’s not 100 percent red” has some debt right now.

“We are very comfortable with where we are,” House said. “The first thee months were records. The next two months, we beat our budget by 25 or 30 percent.

“I’m very happy with where it’s going and where the donors are in supporting us.”

Colorado GOP Tries To Keep Planned Parenthood Rage Alive

komen-planned-parenthood4-19NEWS’ Kyle Clark reported last night that, although she no doubt really wanted to, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has announced that there will be no investigation by the state of Colorado into the fetal tissue donation policies of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains:

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman says state law requires the investigation be conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, or CDPHE, which told 9NEWS Tuesday that it has no plans to investigate Planned Parenthood.

Coffman said Wednesday in a written statement that she views CDPHE’s decision as the “final response” to calls for investigation.

Abortion opponents had hoped Coffman, a pro-life Republican, would join other attorneys general who have launched independent investigations into Planned Parenthood.

Coffman’s decision not to investigate Planned Parenthood is noteworthy also because Colorado is one of only a few states where Planned Parenthood acknowledged having a fetal tissue donation program.

As Clark reiterates in last night’s story, consensual donations of fetal tissue are legal both under Colorado and federal law. It’s illegal to sell fetal tissue, but not illegal for clinics to receive a nominal fee to cover expenses for the storage and transport of the tissue. Colorado State University and other research organizations that was acquired such tissue have used to to perform lifesaving medical research on a variety of human diseases–research that has been vitally important to public health and relatively uncontroversial, until anti-abortion activists began posting heavily edited undercover videos earlier this year.

Rep. Dan Nordberg (R).

Rep. Dan Nordberg (R).

But as resident GOP-slanted “reporter” Valerie Richardson at the Colorado Statesman writes, local Republicans are not giving up on the chance to vilify Planned Parenthood a little while longer:

Thirty Colorado Republican legislators called Wednesday for a state investigation into Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and whether it is involved in “the sale and transfer of fetal body parts.”

“A civilized society cannot allow unethical and illegal medical practices such as the harvesting of aborted human organs and babies for monetary gain. I would hope that even proponents of abortion would agree to that much,” said state Rep. Dan Nordberg, R-Colorado Springs, in a press release…

“Planned Parenthood is not above the law,” Nordberg said. “The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has a duty to enforce state statutes and I expect them to do their job, regardless of any congressional investigation.”

The letter, signed by 22 state House members and eight state senators, calls on Wolk to investigate possible violations of state law and “take necessary legal action to end such practices.”

Given the political makeup of Congress, the “inquiries” underway against Planned Parenthood today by Republican-controlled congressional committees are likely to employ the most sensationalist language possible to describe fetal tissue donation for medical research. But at least with regard to the “evidence” released so far by anti-abortion activists, there’s nothing that points to any actual violation of the law–and it’s hard to see any legitimate inquiry determining that there was. In general, the recent undercover video releases against Planned Parenthood have succeeded only in firing up the existing anti-choice base, not in fomenting any broader opposition to the organization or its work.

And barring anything unexpected, that will be the story of this request by a majority of Colorado GOP legislators to “investigate” Planned Parenthood–a few more protests, a press conference next January, and legislation that pays no more attention to the relevant facts than today’s press release. Legislation that will die in the Democratic-controlled House, of course, but not before Republicans use it to motivate their base.

But as we’ve said about the national push to demonize Planned Parenthood using these discredited videos and the same anti-abortion “torture porn” they’ve been circulating for years, this stuff motivates the Democratic base too. The proof can be seen every time an abortion ban ballot measure goes down to overwhelming defeat in Colorado, and with the notable exception of “Con Man Cory” Gardner in 2014, usually taking Republican politicians down with it.

What will this all look like by November of 2016 to general election voters? We’re pretty sure Dan Nordberg hasn’t even given that a moment’s consideration. And that should make smart Republicans very nervous.

Jeffco Recall: No Challenge, Replacements Emerge, Battle Looms

Embattled Jeffco school board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Embattled Jeffco school board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Circling back with events in Jefferson County following the validation last week of more the double the number of signatures required to place a recall of the right-wing majority members of the Jefferson County school board on this November’s ballot–as the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reports, conservative board members are asking supporters not to challenge the petition results:

Should a challenge occur, because of timing, the recall would go into an expensive special election. The school district will have to bear the costs of the recall election, whether it takes place in conjunction with the November 3 general election or as a special election. The cost to the district would be about $10,000 if the recall election happens on November 3, according to Jeffco United for Action. If it goes to a special election, the costs skyrocket to about $500,000.

Newkirk told The Colorado Independent he does not plan to challenge the signatures or petitions, despite saying they are filled with “erroneous, misleading, and outright deceptive language.”

…Williams earned special ire from recall supporters for proposing a change to the district’s Advanced Placement history curriculum last year. Williams suggested the curriculum should promote citizenship, patriotism and the benefits of the free enterprise system and discourage civil disorder. The proposal led to student and teacher walkouts district-wide, and it was later watered down.

She told The Independent Friday she also does not plan to challenge the signatures or petitions. “My plan is to focus on what is most important, the students of Jeffco,” and to continue the good work of the board, she said via email.

Witt said he has asked his supporters to not challenge the petitions, and he doesn’t plan to, either.

We speculated last week that it might in fact be better for the board members being recalled to have the election go forward with the regular November ballot as opposed to a separate election. We say “might” because we’ve heard credible opinions on both sides of this question–but we assume that before Julie Williams, John Newkirk, and Ken Witt decided against challenging the signatures, their handlers closely studied the matter. The hard numbers for ballot returns in the two different scenarios are much more important strategically than the message value of pinning responsibility for the added expense of a separate recall election on whichever side forced one, so this was an important consideration.

With that said, it was always the objective for recall organizers to hold the vote on the same day as the regular November election, so they’re obviously fine with no challenges.

Jeffco school board candidates Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon, and Ron MItchell.

Jeffco school board candidates Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon, and Ron MItchell.

Meanwhile, a press release late last week announced the slate of candidates running to replace Witt, Newkirk, and Williams in the event of a successful recall:

Three candidates are announcing their intentions to run as successor candidates for the three Jeffco School Board members facing recall this fall. In District 1, Brad Rupert is running for the seat currently held by Julie Williams. In District 2, Susan Harmon is running for the seat currently held by John Newkirk. In District 5, Ron Mitchell is running for the seat currently held by Ken Witt.

Williams, Newkirk, and Witt – collectively referred to as “WNW” – were elected in November 2013, making up the majority of the five-member board. Their initial steps of hiring their own board lawyer, pushing out the nationally-recognized superintendent, and making decisions behind closed doors drew ire from community members. The board attracted international attention in the fall of 2014 when they proposed a new committee to review and censor AP US History curriculum. In early July, a recall effort was launched by three Jeffco parents. On Tuesday, the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder declared that a sufficient number of valid signatures had been submitted and that a recall would be taking place on a date to be set after the expiration of a protest period.

The three successor candidates – Rupert, Harmon, and Mitchell – were recruited by a group of parent leaders seeking to build a non-partisan team with diverse backgrounds who would be committed to working together to repair the damage done by WNW. All three have or had kids in Jeffco Public Schools. It is likely that additional successor candidates will emerge from left and right, but these three are hoping to earn the support of Jeffco voters who are less interested in politics and more interested in having a board who will listen, work together, and stay focused on expanding educational opportunities for Jeffco kids.

These three candidates join Amanda Stevens and Ali Lasell, running to replace the two progressive minority members of the school board who opted not to run again. The best case scenario for recall organizers is a clean sweep of the entire Jeffco school board, which would be a victory with profound implications for the larger debate over public education policy in America.

Jefferson County students went back to school last week, and parents are on campus for open house and other events where activists on both sides are hoping to attract support. Jeffco Schools public relations, which now is reportedly managed by highly paid GOP-leaning PR consultant group Novitas Communications, is using official district communications like the “Chalk Talk” newsletter to promote a positive message that not coincidentally makes the actions of the board majority look good.

Unfortunately, the latest “Chalk Talk” newsletter was so poorly written that teachers and parents have spent the last few days cracking jokes about it:

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (Aug. 26)

Get More Smarter

Another day, another violent shooting; when will our elected officials do something? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

Colorado Republicans have decided not to select a candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2016. As the Denver Post first reported on Tuesday, a Republican Executive Committee has voted to skip the “preference poll” part of the 2016 caucus in order to make sure that delegates are not bound to support a weak candidate for President; we’re calling it “The Santorum Rule.”

► The town of Silverton is asking for federal assistance in cleaning up polluted mining sites after decades of fighting against EPA cleanup efforts. As the Denver Post reports:

The decision is a paradigm shift for the small town of about 650 year-round residents in the wake of a 3 million-gallon  wastewater spill Aug. 5 at the Gold King Mine in the mountains to the north.

Many in Silverton for years have sought to quash worries about the effects of its digging heritage, but now, after pressure brought on by the EPA-caused disaster, they are shifting their tone.

“I think it’s showing that we’re well-aware that we have a responsibility as a headwater county and as a county with leaking mines,” county commissioner Peter McKay said Tuesday.

Colorado Pols continues to cover the aftermath of the Gold King minewater spill.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Wednesday Open Thread

“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?”

–Kurt Vonnegut

Colorado Republicans Choose Irrelevance for 2016

Rick Santorum.

Colorado Republicans have enacted “The Santorum Rule” for 2016.

Colorado Republicans have decided not to formally select a candidate for President in 2016 so that they can (theoretically) play a bigger role in selecting a candidate for President in 2016.

Confused? You should be. Colorado is currently the only state in the country where Republicans are essentially taking a pass on participating in the early nomination process, in large part because there are too many bad Republican candidates for President. As John Frank reports for the Denver Post:

Colorado will not pick a Republican candidate for president in its 2016 caucus after party leaders approved a little-noticed shift that is likely to diminish the swing state’s clout in the most open nomination contest in the modern era.

The GOP executive committee voted Friday to cancel the traditional presidential preference poll at the caucus after the national party changed its rules to require a state’s delegates to support the candidate that wins.

What in the name of Ronald Reagan’s ghost is going on in Colorado? There is some actual logic behind Friday’s decision — though not necessarily good logic:

State Republican Party Chairman Steve House said the party’s 24-member-executive committee made a unanimous decision — six members were absent — to skip the preference poll. He said the move would give Colorado delegates the freedom to support any candidate eligible at the Cleveland convention in July. Republican National Committee officials said the change complies with strict party rules.

“If we do a binding presidential preference poll, we would then pledge our delegates … and the candidates we bind them to may not be in the race by the time we get to the convention,” House said in an interview Tuesday. [Pols emphasis]

You might call this “The Santorum Rule,” the result of a strange 2012 cycle whereby former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum somehow ended up with the support of the Colorado delegation not long before his entire campaign cratered. The solution to this problem, according to House and other Republicans, is to skip the “preference poll” part of the GOP caucus so that Republicans don’t feel compelled to support a campaign that no longer exists by the time the Republican National Convention convenes in late July.

In other words, Colorado Republicans don’t want to be forced to select — and continue to support — a bad candidate in a field of bad candidates. There is some disagreement about whether or not this will cause Republican candidates to largely avoid Colorado through 2016; you could argue that Republicans will actually work harder in Colorado in order to make sure that they hold on to delegates who could change their mind at any time.

The upside, if you can call it that, is that Colorado Republicans could wield a lot of power if the 2016 GOP nomination comes down to a brokered deal at the National Convention. Of course, we haven’t seen a brokered convention in this country in more than 60 years, and the likelihood that it will happen in 2016 is about as probable as Donald Trump growing a new head of hair.

The Colorado Republican Party has had an odd year in 2015. They elected Steve House as their new State Party Chair in March, despite a fairly successful 2014 election cycle under Ryan Callthree months later a group of GOP leaders, including Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, tried to blackmail House into resigning from the job (and as it turns out, efforts to oust House probably began on the very day he was first elected). Republicans continue to insist that incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is beatable, yet they can’t find anybody to actually run against him in 2016. Oh, and don’t forget…this?

When viewed with the proper amount of perspective, perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that GOP leaders decided against participating in the 2016 Republican Presidential Primary…

…On second thought: Nope, it’s still really, really weird.

Colorado Republicans cancel 2016 presidential caucus vote

Move makes Colorado only state to date to opt out of early nomination process

Colorado will not pick a Republican candidate for president in its 2016 caucus after party leaders approved a little-noticed shift that is likely to diminish the swing state’s clout in the most open nomination contest in the modern era.

The GOP executive committee voted Friday to cancel the traditional presidential preference poll at the caucus after the national party changed its rules to require a state’s delegates to support the candidate that wins.

The move makes Colorado the only state so far to forfeit a role in the early nomination process, according to experts, but other states are still considering what to do.

“It takes Colorado completely off the map” in the nomination process, said Ryan Call, a former state GOP chairman.

More at http://www.denverpost.com/politics/ci_28700919/

Wonder why… Are they 1) broke? 2) Afraid of Trump or 3) or still infighting in the Colorado Republican Party to care about their own caucus?