Jeffco School Board “Vindicated?” Far From It

Jefferson County school board protests.

Jefferson County school board protesters.

One of the major grievances against the right-wing Jefferson County school board majority driving the recall election now underway was an abortive proposal last fall by board member Julie Williams to set up a board-appointed “review” of recently revised AP U.S. History curriculum. Readers will recall the specific language of Williams’ proposal, which touched off huge student protests in Jefferson County:

Review criteria shall include the following: instructional materials should present the most current factual information accurately and objectively. Theories should be distinguished from fact. Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. [Pols emphasis] Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

After the protests against Williams’ proposal became literally international news, the Jeffco board quietly shelved the idea, announcing through their contracted public relations staff a few months later that the proposal was dead. Politically, it was a huge disaster for the board and their Republican backers in Jefferson County, dramatically raising the profile of the conflict over the school district’s new direction since conservative board candidates rode opposition to a failed tax increase measure to victory in 2013. Today, the attempt to “censor” Jeffco’s AP History curriculum is perhaps the best-known reason among the public justifying the recall–frequently cited by petition signers as their reason for doing so without any prompting.

Today, however, right-wing defenders of the Jeffco school board majority are claiming “vindication” of Williams after the College Board released another round of revisions to AP U.S. History framework intended to mollify conservative critics. From Newsweek’s latest issue:

The new framework significantly pares down last year’s framework, simplifying and condensing the course’s Thematic Learning Objectives from 50 to 19, according to an official at the College Board, the nonprofit organization that administers AP exams. In the process, a new section on the concept of “American exceptionalism” has been added. Some names that were omitted from last year’s framework, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, have been added—a key sticking point for critics of the prior document, who objected to Founding Fathers being omitted and negative aspects in American history being more emphasized, they claimed, than positive periods. Ben Carson, a GOP presidential candidate, said the curriculum was so anti-American that students who complete it would be “ready to sign up for ISIS.”

…In October, the College Board began accepting comment from teachers and the general public on the standards. In April, Trevor Packer, College Board’s head of AP, announced that revisions would be published in July based on the feedback.

Teachers Newsweek spoke with, who sat on a committee to draft the framework, stressed that the document was never meant to be a description of the totality of what an AP U.S. history teacher must teach, but rather a simplified outline that guides the course toward certain themes. [Pols emphasis] The impetus for the original revision, published last year, was to redirect the course away from rote memorization of facts and more toward “historical thinking skills,” according to Ted Dickson, a teacher at Providence Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina…

“The amount of press it got was entirely ridiculous because I don’t think they understood what it was meant to be. It was a framework that meant to let teachers understand the limits of what would be tested. You add examples, you teach it how you want to teach it, just make sure you teach these important concepts,” Hastings said. But critics saw it as excluding, among other things, favorite Founding Fathers and historical events that contribute to America’s legacy, such as its role in winning World War I and World War II. In the new framework, America’s military achievements are given a greater emphasis than in the last document.

Bottom line: the changes made by the College Board to the AP U.S. History curriculum are not anything like the sweeping and highly politicized review of history Williams sought last year. Making a few changes to specifically invoke certain names and events–the “rote memorization of facts” noted above–do not come close to Williams’ test of a history curriculum that “promotes patriotism, the free enterprise system, and respect for authority,” while avoiding “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”

Because Williams’ proposal did tremendous damage to the credibility of the Jefferson County school board’s conservative majority, it makes sense that they would loudly declare any concession on the matter as “vindication.” If anything, these small concessions only cast Williams’ over-the-top proposal for a sweeping and politically slanted review of U.S. History into harsher relief. If throwing empty bromides like “American exceptionalism” and the name Benjamin Franklin into the framework is really enough to placate Williams, her criticisms were baseless to begin with.

But the truth is, Williams wanted much more than that. And this small concession won’t save her from an outraged and tuned-in Jeffco electorate.

Aurora Theater Shooting Trial Moves to Phase 3

From the Aurora Sentinel:

After just a few hours of deliberation, jurors in the Aurora theater shooting trial unanimously decided that the trial of James Holmes will proceed to a third and final sentencing phase — where an ultimate decision on the death penalty will be made.

The jury’s quick deliberation and verdict found they did not deem the defense’s mitigation evidence to outweigh the four aggravating factors proven during the first phase of sentencing. Jurors deliberated for about an hour last week and 90 minutes this morning before reaching their verdict…

…The court now prepares to enter the third phase of sentencing, during which prosecutors are expected to call several of the victims’ relatives to testify.

What the Hell is Wrong with Mike Coffman?

Check out this bizarre video posted to Rep. Mike Coffman’s Facebook page on July 30 as a “tribute” to “National Whistleblower Appreciation Day.”

No, really, you need to watch this:

Look, nobody is going to confuse Coffman as one of the better orators of his generation, but this is incredibly weird even by his relatively-low standards.

When we first saw this video, our initial reaction was that it was a joke (though we’re not aware of Coffman ever having made a joke before). But the longer you watch Coffman ramble and stumble along, the more uncomfortable you become. Why can’t he keep his eyes open? Did somebody shoot him with a tranquilizer dart before he sat down in front of the camera? Did a staffer offer him a sketchy brownie? Is he drunk?

When you compare this video to other on-air appearances from Coffman — such as this CNN interview from late 2014 (below) — it’s obvious that something is off with the Aurora Congressman:

We’ve taken plenty of shots at Coffman over the years, but we sincerely hope that nothing is wrong with him physically.

Get More Smarter on Monday (Aug. 3)

Get More SmarterHappy “Civic Holiday” to our friends in Canada; don’t gorge yourselves on that big traditional Canadian meal. Let’s 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…

► Fox News has long scheduled the first major debate among Republican Presidential candidates for Thursday, Aug. 6, but they might get leapfrogged in the history books. From The Hill:

C-SPAN is partnering with a handful of regional newspapers in early-voting states for a nationally televised forum with the Republican presidential candidates just days before Fox News Channel’s first scheduled debate.

The network has invited all 17 of the GOP presidential hopefuls to the Aug. 3 Voters First Forum in New Hampshire.

Publishers at the New Hampshire Union Leader, The Post and Courier of South Carolina, and Iowa’s The Gazette say the forum was  prompted in part by Fox’s controversial decision to cap the number of candidates in its Aug. 6 debate at 10.

“Fox says only the ‘top’ 10 candidates, as judged solely by national polling, will be allowed on its stage,” the publishers said in a joint statement. “That may be understandable later, but the first votes are half a year away and there are a lot more than 10 viable candidates.”

Governor John Hickenlooper is promoting a change to TABOR — the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights — that would allow Colorado to retain funds from the “hospital provider fee” that would free up millions of dollars for much-needed infrastructure projects.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

 

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Ken Buck: Iran Wants To Nuke Julesburg, Colorado

A remarkable message from freshman Rep. Ken Buck posted to Youtube today, warning in the scariest terms he can muster against the proposed treaty between the “P5+1″ group of nations–China, France, Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States–and Islamic Republic of Iran to prevent the latter nation from obtaining nuclear weapons:

Julesburg, Colorado.

Julesburg, Colorado.

For those unfamiliar with rural Colorado geography, the town of Julesburg, population 1,225, is located in the northeast corner of the state near the Nebraska border about 185 miles from Denver. Julesburg’s chief claims to fame were a former Pony Express stop and serving as the seat of Sedgwick County (population 2,380), before becoming known since last year as the most convenient location for Nebraskans to buy weed.

Needless to say, we have trouble imagining Julesburg on a list of targets for an Iranian nuclear attack.

With that said, ginning up opposition to the Iran treaty appears to be a significant goal of Republican political strategists for the August recess just now getting underway. The most recent round of public opinion polls on the proposal suggest that weeks of shrill scare tactics like Rep. Buck’s above have significantly hurt support for the treaty with the voting public. These latest polls are a major departure from polling earlier this year, which showed Americans overwhelmingly in support of the same treaty.

Much like Obamacare, the “failed stimulus” that didn’t actually fail, and so many other objectively good things that Republicans have managed to demagogue into undeserved unpopularity, this erosion of support for the Iran treaty is the direct result of agenda-driven partisans placing political goals above the nation’s best interests. The sheer repetition of talking points gives them validity, to the point in this case where Americans appear willing to reject a treaty negotiated not just by President Obama, but a group of the most powerful nations in the world. Although Republicans want to lay this treaty solely at the feet of Obama, they’re really telling Americans to give the rest of the world the finger to placate one faction of Israeli politics.

And as Ken Buck demonstrates better than we ever could, it’s getting ridiculous.

Recalling Coffman’s proposal for English-only ballots, as the Voting Rights Act turns 50

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

coffmantrump3Over the weekend, I enjoyed reading Jim Rutenberg’s piece in the New York Times magazine on how conservatives have methodically dismantled the Voting Rights Act, which turns 50 on Thursday, culminating in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision gutting major provisions of the law.

Here at home, one conservative who’s thrown his congressional spear at the Voting Rights Act, widely credited for finally giving African-Americans actual factual access to the voting booth, is Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora.

Coffman, you recall, introduced legislation in 2011 repealing the law’s requirement that bilingual ballots be provided in areas with large numbers of voters don’t speak English very well.

In other words, Coffman wanted to leave the decision about whether to provide bilingual ballots to local authorities, and if you take the time to read Rutenberg’s article, you’ll see that, as much as we’d all like to believe otherwise, local politicians are apparently still trying to keep black Americans from voting. That’s why we need federal requirements for stuff like bilingual ballots–to make sure everyone can participate in democracy, such as it is.

But Coffman, who once suggested that immigrants “pull out a dictionary” if they’re having trouble understanding an English ballot, doesn’t see it that way.

Coffman: “Since proficiency in English is already a requirement for U.S. citizenship, forcing cash-strapped local governments to provide ballots in a language other than English makes no sense at all,” Coffman told the Denver Post in 2011.

Last year, Coffman doubled down on his support for English-only ballots, saying during a Univision debate that he still opposes the Voting Rights Act’s requirements for mailing Spanish-language ballots, because it’s expensive.

But Coffman said it in a more friendly way, “I would hope that every voter will be able to get the information that he needs in a language he can understand.”

Again, most of us have to share Coffman’s hope, but there’s also reality lurking out there, embodied in politicians who care more about self-preservation than democracy. And you can read about it in the New York Times.

Monday Open Thread

“The government should not be guided by Temporary Excitement, but by Sober Second Thought.”

–Martin Van Buren

Hickenlooper Steps Up To Sell TABOR “Baby Step”

UPDATE: Although the Denver Post story this weekend represents this proposal as a “revamp” or “fix” to the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, commenters note correctly that this is merely a proposed exemption of revenues from the 2009 hospital provider fee from TABOR. The proposal would prevent the fee from busting TABOR’s revenue caps, allowing the state to keep the money.

Not that TABOR’s zealous defenders will like it any better, of course.

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Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

As the Denver Post’s John Frank reports, Gov. John Hickenlooper is putting his money where his mouth his–or is it putting his mouth where he wants your money to be?–by proposing a small “tweak” to the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) that would allow the state to retain several hundred million dollars to fund needed projects:

On the first day of a new statewide tour, Gov. John Hickenlooper found an appropriate venue in this high mountain town for his push to revamp how the state spends money.

The Democrat stood on stage at the historic Tabor Opera House in Leadville and made a lengthy pitch for an overhaul to TABOR — the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Hickenlooper wants to exempt the hospital provider fee from state revenue collections under TABOR because it pushes Colorado over the constitutional cap, prompting taxpayer refunds next year even as the state struggles to adequately fund priority areas.

If the fee were removed from TABOR, Colorado’s revenues would fall under the cap and the state would have $200 million more to spend on road projects and classrooms, the governor said.

To be clear, this is not the “grand bargain” that would undo the fiscal chokehold of the combination of TABOR with other constitutional spending caps and mandates to let our elected officials do their jobs as prescribed by the same state (not to mention federal) constitution. The hospital provider fee was passed in 2009 under Gov. Bill Ritter in order to qualify for additional federal matching funds for Medicaid. The program has been very successful, but that success has come with the side effect of pushing the state beyond TABOR’s dreaded revenue caps.

Despite a backlog of funding priorities and money cover them, it’s necessary to hold a statewide vote to simply allow those funds to be retained and used by the state. For citizens who don’t understand TABOR, there’s a widespread assumption that our better economy means more revenue that the state can then use to pay for all the stuff we depend on every day–roads, schools, health care.

But in Colorado, that’s just not the way it works.

“I think giving people the real facts is half the battle,” he said after the first events. “To make sure they understand that … it’s going to crowd out, over the next few years, hundreds of millions of dollars from the things all these people want from their state government.”

We’ve heard some grumbling that Hickenlooper “squandering” an opportunity for a much more comprehensive solution for a smaller-scale proposal like this might make it harder down the road for such a “big fix” to pass muster. But we honestly think that the battle to unwind TABOR’s deviously complex restrictions on raising revenue in our state is a longer-term problem than Hickenlooper or anyone else can solve by 2016. The political backing doesn’t yet exist to make a wholesale repeal viable, and the projections of looming and persistent shortfalls in the future aren’t close enough yet to be real to voters. There is more work to be done educating the public, and more harm that needs to be seen with voters’ own eyes.

In the meantime, Gov. Hickenlooper is doing what he can. The arguments that he’s making for this small-scale proposal apply to the big questions as well–and either Hick or his successor will benefit from his touring of the state to tell this story when TABOR’s judgment day finally arrives.

Worse And Worse For “Dr. Chaps”

chapsdorty
Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt with Dwight David Dorty, a twice-convicted sex offender.

As the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Megan Schrader reports, GOP Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt, facing calls for his resignation once again after stating on his Youtube video program that it would be “better” for gay Boy Scout leaders “if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea,” has a rather ironic problem:

A few weeks before Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt found himself in hot water for saying Jesus said child molesters should be drowned, he interviewed a man on his show who has been convicted twice of sexual assault on a child and called him a “new friend.”

David Dorty, who is active in El Paso County politics and is with the American Conservatives of Color, appeared on Klingenschmittt’s video ministry Pray in Jesus’ Name (PIJN) News on July 16.

Dorty, as The Gazette reported in March, has twice been convicted of sexually assaulting a child, once by a person in a position of trust. [Pols emphasis]

You can watch Rep. Klingenschmitt’s interview here: the relevant portion begins about 17:55 in. Here’s what the Gazette reported about Dwight David Dorty back in March, after he was escorted out of the Colorado Republican Party’s annual meeting on orders from then-GOP chairman Ryan Call:

A twice-convicted sex offender from El Paso County caused a stir Saturday at the Colorado Republicans’ annual organization meeting by attending the event at Douglas County High School in support of the party’s new vice chairman Derrick Wilburn.

Ryan Call, who presided over the assembly as chair of the Colorado GOP, said he requested the sergeant of arms ask the individual to leave.

“I did not think it was appropriate to have him there, certainly on school grounds, or involved in connection with our meeting,” Call said.

According to the Gazette, Dorty was convicted twice of the crime of sexual assault on a child: once in 1986 and again in 1995. The second conviction added the aggravator of being a person in a position of trust over the child in question.

Kind of like a scoutmaster would be.

Now obviously, there are a number of takeaways from this latest revelation, and some might be mitigated by the time since Dorty’s conviction, and the contention by his supporters that he has been rehabilitated. We have no interest in further denigrating a person who has paid their debt to society to the crimes they’ve committed, though we certainly understand Ryan Call’s preference that a convicted sex offender not come on to the grounds of a public high school for an official Republican Party function.

As for “Dr. Chaps,” whose wishing of death on child molesters didn’t appear to make any exceptions for, you know, rehabilitation?

“I hope that Dr. Chaps has a good supply of millstones,” said Amy Runyon-Harms, executive director of Progress Now Colorado. [Pols emphasis]

Not much we can add to that, folks. The circle of utter hypocrisy appears closed.

Get More Smarter on Friday (July 31!)

Get More SmarterColorado Pols has a new (server) home — enjoy the room and stretch your legs. Let’s 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 U.S. Senate went down to the wire — today is the deadline — to come up with legislation to keep the Federal Highway Trust Fund from expiring. From the Ft. Collins Coloradoan:

A six-year highway bill passed by the Senate Thursday includes provisions that would aid the widening of Interstate 25 from Longmont to Fort Collins…

…The Senate also voted Thursday to keep the Highway Trust Fund running for another three months, preventing an abrupt halt to road and bridge construction at midnight Friday. Bennet and Gardner also voted for the temporary extension.

The House passed the three-month bill on Wednesday. President Barack Obama has promised to sign the legislation, which ensures that states continue to receive reimbursement from the federal government for highway and mass transit projects.

The six-year Senate highway bill will be used in negotiations with the House when Congress returns from its August recess. Some states have complained they can’t plan or break ground on major transportation projects because Congress keeps passing bills that fund such projects for only a few months at a time.

Perhaps Congress will come up with another strategy aside from “kick the can” when lawmakers return to Washington D.C. following the August recess.

Yeah, probably not.

Republican Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina has put together her leadership team in Colorado…as far as she knows, anyway. In making the announcement, Fiorina’s National Political Director referred to Colorado as “The Boulder State.”

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

 

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Gardner, Senate GOP Rush To Vote Against Planned Parenthood

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports:

Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the Republican whip, suggested Wednesday that the Senate will take a vote on defunding Planned Parenthood on Monday.

“We’ll find out Monday night,” the Texas Republican told reporters on whether or not Republicans would be able to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural hurdle.

Cornyn spoke with reporters after a press conference with a handful of Senate Republicans who pressed for legislation rolled out Tuesday that would cut off federal money for Planned Parenthood and redirect the funding to other women’s health groups…

Republicans have renewed their push to defund the agency in the wake of a string of controversial, hidden-camera videos. The third, released Tuesday, appeared to show a Planned Parenthood official in Colorado negotiating with someone posing as a buyer of fetal tissue.

In an interview earlier this week with 9NEWS, GOP Sen. Cory Gardner confirmed that he will vote to defund Planned Parenthood:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) will be voting for the Paul amendment.

“I’m disgusted and deeply saddened by the recent videos released documenting highly unethical and inhumane practices committed by Planned Parenthood officials and affiliates,” Gardner said.

One problem with this rush to vote to defund Planned Parenthood is the “investigations” underway into selectively edited undercover videos that have circulated in recent weeks are not complete–not that we expect political investigations by Planned Parenthood’s avowed congressional enemies to produce any outcome other than wholesale condemnation anyway. But to push forward with a vote to punish Planned Parenthood without even finishing their biased inquiries broadcasts that this response was a foregone conclusion from the beginning.

That should tell you something very important about this latest campaign against Planned Parenthood, which is hardly the first–looking back, we can recall other attempts to scandalize this organization, also in the lead-up to a general election year as we are now. Even though none of the videos released so far validate the accusation that Planned Parenthood is being illegally compensated for voluntary fetal tissue donations, they are already guilty in the eyes of social conservatives just for being Planned Parenthood. With that in mind, these videos are merely a pretext for actions that conservatives would gladly take, and have taken with or without pretext.

And that should tell you something important about Sen. Cory Gardner, who you’ll recall the pundits assured us last fall “would pose no threat to abortion rights.” Here is just the latest evidence of what a bald-faced lie that was–and it won’t be the last.

Trump sounds like Coffman on immigration, but (surprise) we don’t know the details

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Reflecting yesterday on Donald Trump’s recent pledge to deport, cattle-car style, each and every one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America–and then expedite the return of the “good ones”– the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent called on reporters to extract detailed plans from the herd of Republican presidential candidates regarding their positions on immigration.

Indeed, one hopes that the moderators of the upcoming GOP debate will see an opportunity in Trump’s cattle car musings: why not ask all the GOP candidates whether they agree with him? And if not, where dothey stand on the 11 million exactly? Remember, Mitt Romney’s big “self-deportation” moment came at a GOP primary debate…

The point is that eventually, we’ll need to hear from all the GOP candidates as to what they would do about the 11 million — beyond vaguely supporting legal status, but only after some future point at which we’ve attained a Platonic ideal of border security. Trump may have just made it more likely that this moment will come sooner, rather than later. One can hope, anyway.

It’s a good idea and has direct application here in Colorado, where Republicans, like Rep. Mike Coffman, continue to slide by journalists with vague and shifting statements about immigration.

Like Trump, Coffman has said he favors some sort of “legal status” for adult undocumented immigrants, but it’s not clear whether he’d boot out everyone first, and then allow the good apples to return–or if he’d skip the cattle-car phase and grant “legal status” to the immigrants here.

Either way, would he wait for seamless border security? And what’s good enough, when it comes to the border?

And then, assuming the border is sufficiently seamless, and whether he chooses the cattle-car or no cattle-car opition, does Coffman really want t0 create an underclass of millions of noncitizens in America, with no voice in government? Would we be looking at good old fashioned taxation without representation? What rights (voting?) and responsibilities (military service? taxes?) would be denied? Even Helen Krieble, a Colorado resident who first proposed the cattle-car option, advocates giving a political voice to undocumented immigrants through citizenship.

Details, details. I wouldn’t want to go there either, if I were Coffman–because he’d get bitten by both progressive and conservative sharks. But that’s not a problem for journalists who should be asking him the questions.

Behold, We Go To Prepare A Place For You

FRIDAY UPDATE 10:45AM: If you’re reading this, you’re on our brand-new dedicated server! Welcome and please don’t break anything.

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UPDATE 8:50PM: We’re back, thanks as always for your patience.

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Jesus-hugging-a-dinosaur

We’ll be taking our server down a bit later this evening to complete another major round of upgrades–maybe, just maybe, the definitive upgrade to our always-overtaxed server capacity that everyone has been looking for. Or, maybe it’s just the next step in the endless arms race against spammers and hackers, while keeping the site functional for the occasional actual reader (that’s you). Either way, it must be done, and we’ll do our best to make it as brief an outage as possible.

Look for updates via Twitter, and we’ll see you on the other side.