Clueless Climate Alliance Clamor Continues

We wrote earlier this week about Republican gubernatorial candidates who reacted with over-the-top anger to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s decision to join the U.S. Climate Alliance–a group of states committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Accords despite President Donald Trump’s unilateral pullout of the United States.

Since then, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg has joined the pile-on in his own colloquial way:

We don’t know who Mark Train is, but we assume he doesn’t drive an electric car! Bah-dum-tish!

Ribbing aside, this is another chance to remind readers that we’ve never understood the intensity of the clamor against renewable energy from groups like the Independence Institute and their Republican message surrogates. The scientific consensus regarding human-caused climate change is really only challenged by a small subset of non-mainstream voices, who are almost always are revealed under scrutiny to be funded by interests with a financial motive to deny the overwhelming consensus.

This description sums up the Independence Institute pretty well.

What we’re trying to say here is that the only people who rage against renewable energy this much are paid to–or in the case of politicians like Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, supported politically by those who are. If you don’t have a financial interest in the fight against clean energy, there’s just no reason to badmouth it. Not even as price-sensitive consumers, since the cost of power from renewable sources has been dropping, steadily eroding that once-decisive factor. Consumers understand the benefit of using clean energy over fossil fuels, and are excited about new technologies to make them practical.

In all cases, whether it’s the GOP’s candidates for governor or the fossil fuel industry’s paid surrogates, these are extremely weak arguments, that the next generation will find laughable as they routinely set out for the West Coast in their electric cars and power their homes with renewable generation. Unless you’re already primed for these anti-renewable energy arguments by immersion in the Fox News/talk radio infobubble, in which case you’re the choir the Independence Institute is wasting time preaching to, it simply doesn’t work. It sounds stale, strained, and above all contrived.

Like the real Mark Twain once said, “do not tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish.”

Before Annual ALEC Conference, New Report Exposes Secretive Group’s Political Influence in Colorado

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Just days before the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) annual meeting in Denver, Colorado Common Cause and the Common Cause Education Fund released a new report uncovering the recent influence of the secretive special interest lobbying group in the Colorado legislature. ALEC is a national secretive lobbying group that is holding its annual meeting in Denver from July 19th-21st. ALEC is known for bringing state lawmakers and corporate lobbyists together in secret to draft and approve “model” bills on different issues, often benefiting its corporate donors’ bottom line.

The report reveals the members of the Colorado legislature that have ties to ALEC and which recent Colorado state bills can be traced back to the organization. Additionally, the report highlights ALEC’s corporate members and uncovers money given to the organization from both the Coors family and Koch brothers. The report also documents how ALEC abuses its public charity status with the IRS, effectively making its corporate donors eligible for a tax deduction for its funding of ALEC.

“ALEC’s secretive corporate lobbying flies in the face of how democracy is supposed to work,” said Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause. “Voters may not know who ALEC is, but they have been very influential in Colorado. Coloradans need to know who is really behind some of the bills introduced in our legislature and what ALEC’s corporate funders are getting in return.”

“This report should be eye-opening and alarming for any Coloradan who believes in transparent and accountable government,” Nunez added. “ALEC and its corporate funders can’t be allowed to peddle their influence in secret anymore, and taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing ALEC’s lobbying.”

The release of the new report comes a week before ALEC holds its annual meeting in Denver, where legislators and lobbyists will meet behind closed doors to plan a national strategy to push ALEC’s agenda on workers’ rights, environmental protection, healthcare, tax and budget issues, and telecommunications policy. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO), and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman are among the conference’s announced speakers.

To kick off a week of counter programming and unveil the new report, Colorado Common Cause will hold a teach-in on ALEC’s influence and agenda on July 15th at the First Baptist Church of Denver featuring expert panelists from Colorado Ethics Watch, Mi Familia Vota, FRESC, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, Colorado Fiscal Institute, Conservation Colorado, and more. Additional information about the event can be found here.

To view the “ALEC in Colorado” report, click here.

Get More Smarter on Monday (July 10)

Can we just declare July “Fried Chicken Month?” One day just isn’t enough. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock…President Trump’s Russia problem is only growing larger by the day. The New York Times dropped a bombshell on the story over the weekend with news that Donald Trump, Jr. and other leaders of Trump’s campaign met with a Russian lawyer after being promised “dirt” on Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. As a follow-up story in the New York Times explains:

President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.

The meeting was also attended by the president’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, as well as by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner recently disclosed the meeting, though not its content, in confidential government documents described to The New York Times…

…The meeting — at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, two weeks after Donald J. Trumpclinched the Republican nomination — points to the central question in federal investigations of the Kremlin’s meddling in the presidential election: whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. The accounts of the meeting represent the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help.

While President Trump has been dogged by revelations of undisclosed meetings between his associates and the Russians, the episode at Trump Tower is the first such confirmed private meeting involving his inner circle during the campaign — as well as the first one known to have included his eldest son.

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) is calling for Donald Trump Jr. to speak with the Senate Intelligence Committee about the reported meeting.

 

► You can set aside the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” analogy for the moment, because as The Atlantic reports, “If there was no collusion, it wasn’t for lack of trying.” Trump Jr. initially claimed that the point of the alleged meeting was to discuss issues of adoption under the Magnitsky Act…but that was only the initial explanation:

Trump Jr. then changed his story, claiming he’d been promised only information relevant to the campaign, by an intermediary he met at the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, owned by his father and hosted in Moscow. (The Washington Post later identified him as Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who said he was working on behalf of an unnamed Russian client.) Trump Jr. brought his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to the meeting. He said that attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya offered him damaging information about Hillary Clinton, but that when it became clear she did not have the goods, he ended the meeting…

…In other words, Trump Jr. admitted (while acknowledging a prior lie) that he was open to receiving damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian lawyer; he was just frustrated that she didn’t seem to have it. If there was no collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump inner circle, it was not because top Trump aides were against it.

Trump Jr.’s admission here is remarkable. Donald Trump’s tendency to speak unwisely remains one of his greatest weaknesses—his threat to release apparently fictive tapes resulted in a special-counsel investigation that has rocked his still-young presidency—and his children are a chip off the old block. (Eric Trump has admitted, contra claims of separation, that he continues to talk business with his father.)

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has always tried to present himself as a “moderate” or “centrist” Republican, but as the Denver Post writes, the Trumpcare debate has shown Gardner’s true colors — and they are all red. From Mark Matthews:

Though the bill’s final language remains in flux, there is little doubt in Colorado political circles about where Gardner will stand at the end of the day — despite Gardner not taking a public position on the first Senate version when it was released in late June.

“In the end Colorado conservatives know that Cory Gardner is going to vote to repeal Obamacare and when there is a final bill Cory Gardner is going to be there,” said Guy Short, a political consultant and longtime Colorado delegate to the Republican National Convention.

ICYMI, Gardner spoke to a small group of constituents in a phone call on Thursday. Gardner’s answers to several pointed healthcare questions were astonishingly awful.

As for healthcare legislation, Congressional Republicans are back at work this week after the July 4th recess, and there are plenty of signs that Trumpcare is in trouble on Capitol Hill. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said over the weekend that the healthcare legislation is “probably going to be dead.”

 

► Don’t miss the newest episode of The Get More Smarter Show, featuring an interview with state Rep. Alec Garnett (D-Denver).

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Good news! July 1-7, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This diary is about small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine, and categories often overlap.

Attorneys General across the country (including Colorado’s Coffman)  are claiming that they will check Big Pharma’s pushing of opiods, “clear the swamp”, ensure fair voting, and protect transgender people. AGs be aware – people will check to see that you follow through on your promises.

Voting rights roundup

flag with I voted

Image by debaird on flikr

Fourth of July, Fireworks, and the Franchise – what could be more patriotic? Voting seems to be on everyone’s minds right now.

Alabama seeks to inform felons of restored voting rights in jail

Kentucky also ordered the voting rights of 284 felons to be restored.

Kris Kobach, Vice-Chair of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity,  requested that all 50 states send him their voter information by July 14 so that the Commission can create a national voter registry to prevent what he claims is rampant voter fraud.

Unfortunately, rather than creating a process to make it easier for voters to register and vote, the Commission’s goal appears to be to selectively disenfranchise voters. The good news is that 45 states now have refused to provide part or all of the information requested. President Trump is not pleased, and has let us know this in his usual way.

Alison Lundergan Grimes, KY Secretary of State said that there is  “not enough bourbon in Kentucky” to make  Trump’s request seem sensible.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann suggested that, “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from…”

Floridians are also petitioning to restore voting rights to felons.

Colorado’s Secretary of State Wayne Williams is trying to have it both ways  –  comply with Trump’s request, while still protecting the privacy of Colorado voters by supplying only publicly available information. Many voters are choosing to keep their data confidential by filing a form and paying $5 at the Secretary of State’s Office.

Voters seldom commit fraud in Colorado – but when they do, they are usually Republicans.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (July 6)

Today is National Fried Chicken Day; this is a pretty good Colorado-related marketing stunt. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► President Trump is continuing his nationalist and anti-media rhetoric in Europe this week ahead of the Group of 20 Summit of world leaders in Hamburg, Germany. The New York Times sums up Trump’s talk in Warsaw, Poland with a single paragraph:

At a news conference with President Andrzej Duda of Poland earlier in the day, Mr. Trump broke with his own intelligence agencies by saying he was not convinced that Russia was solely behind the hacking in the 2016 presidential election; he repeated a warning to North Korea after its missile test; and he once again denounced what he called “fake news.”

Poland’s first lady is taking over the Internet thanks to her handshake snub of Trump.

 

► How low can the polls go? The only thing with more downward momentum than Trumpcare is the public opinion of Republicans involved with the healthcare debacle. Here in Colorado, Sen. Cory Gardner’s (R-Yuma) approval ratings have sunk to 27%, largely because voters really don’t like the healthcare proposals championed by Congressional Republicans. Gardner’s numbers have been plummeting in recent months, which is no surprise when you consider that only 50% of Republican voters in Colorado approve of the Senate’s approach to healthcare legislation.

Of course, Gardner’s approval ratings are also going to keep falling the longer he remains hidden away from his constituents.

 

► Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams is taking a lot of heat over his decision to comply with requests from the Trump administration to turn over election-related data from Colorado. It doesn’t help Williams’ cause when you consider that 41 other states have refused the request from the Trump administration, citing a refusal to play along with Trump’s unfounded claims of massive election fraud. A good number of these denials are coming from solid red states. The Denver Post breaks down the particulars of this controversy and what it means for Colorado voters.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Monday (July 3)

You can still get burned if you wear a hat in the sun. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is back in Colorado this week not holding town hall meetings as Congress takes its annual July 4th holiday recess. Colorado’s cherubic junior Senator has risen quickly in the political world over the last decade by smiling broadly and throwing bombs at Democrats, but his strategy of climbing the partisan ladder at the expense of his home state has turned even once-loyal supporters like the Denver Post against him.

Late last week, the Post published two separate editorials critical of Gardner’s performance. In the first editorial, which appeared in Saturday’s print edition, the Post wrote that it was “ashamed” of Gardner after his office sought to have protestors with disabilities arrested. On Sunday, the Post then published another strongly-worded editorial calling on Gardner to show some actual leadership in the Senate healthcare discussions:

Here in Colorado, the spectacle has placed Sen. Cory Gardner in a most damning spotlight. It’s time for him to exercise his leadership within the party — Gardner runs the National Republican Senatorial Committee — and join the growing bipartisan rejection of the McConnell effort.

Gardner’s silence on what he’d like to see changed in the bill is deafening in a state where a shockingly high percent of voters support a more liberal approach to health care.

Our first-term Republican senator needs to think long and hard about who he represents and what he stands for.

He needs to spend his break telling constituents how he’d like to fix health care and why he’s the right man for the job in D.C. Because now there is clear reason for doubt. While he’s shown himself too skilled at dodging town hall meetings of constituents of late, Gardner can’t escape the public record. Gardner was one of the select members of a working group meant to inform McConnell’s bill…

Nothing about the path he is on will be easy, but if Gardner wants to prove his mettle as a leader, this is his chance.

He ought to take it. [Pols emphasis]

The entire editorial is worth reading (they both are, frankly).

Elsewhere, Politico points out just how big of a problem Trumpcare has become for Gardner.

 

► Senate Republicans remain perplexed by President Trump’s ever-changing strategy (and we use the word “strategy” very lightly here) regarding GOP efforts to repeal Obamacare. As the Washington Post reports:

When congressional Republicans zig, President Trump zags. When they follow suit and zag, he zigs. Nowhere is this clearer than when it comes to overhauling the Affordable Care Act.

Trump jerked the GOP-led Congress around on a puppet string last week when he abruptly tweeted that the Senate should suspend its uphill climb to pass a health-care bill and instead just vote to repeal the ACA without a replacement already lined up.

But that two-step strategy of first repeal, then replace is precisely what the president had convinced Republican leaders not to do earlier this year. 

“I feel that repeal and replace have to be together, for very simply, I think that the Democrats should want to fix Obamacare,” Trump said in a Jan. 10 interview with the New York Times. “They cannot live with it, and they have to go together.”

At a news conference the next day, Trump promised an Obamacare replacement “simultaneously.” “We will be filing a plan,” the president said. “It will essentially be simultaneously.”

Perhaps Trump meant to say that he would be “simultaneously” promoting competing narratives on healthcare.

 

► One Colorado woman profiled by NBC News shows how the healthcare battle over Medicaid spending is deeply personal:

Kelly Stahlman’s twin sons were born 12 weeks prematurely in 1992, and soon after, both were diagnosed with cerebral palsy and other severe health issues that required around-the-clock care.

After two years of constant care with the help of neighbors, friends and au pairs, Stahlman and her husband, Bruce, found themselves nearly broke — both financially and mentally, she told NBC News.

She says their search for assistance to help with the medical bills yielded nothing and even included advice to seek a divorce and give her twins up to foster care so they could receive adequate help.

Both sons required care that private insurance wouldn’t cover at a cost the middle-class family couldn’t afford as the bills reached hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

“We weren’t poor enough” to get financial assistance, she said, “not in the right county. No matter where I went or what I did we couldn’t access anything.”

 

Maine and New Jersey have joined Illinois on the list of states facing massive cutbacks because of decimated state budgets. The causes of these state budget woes are too many to list here, but it’s no coincidence that all three states are led by Republican governors.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Good News! June 23-30, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This diary is about small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine.

This week, it’s all about healthcare and the resistance to the BCRA Wealthcare bill.  We’ve come too far to give up now. Keep our eyes on the prize:  A public healthcare system like every other industrialized country has.

Healthcare, the ACA, and the Senate Wealthcare bill

The Senate Democrats fought hard to keep the BCRA, aka Trump’s Wealthcare bill, from being voted on without hearings or public input. It was good to see some Senate backbone on display.

Hawaii’s Maisie Hirono led  filibustering on the Senate floor.

Our own Senator Bennet spoke at length,  outlining what’s at stake in this health care bill.

But – we don’t know what Cory Gardner really thinks about the Senate healthcare bill he supposedly helped to draft. Right now, he looks to be in the “Yes on BCRA” camp, because he pretends that insurance costs will go down with the Senate bill.  However, Cowardly Cory will not give his constituents the courtesy of in-person meetings or town halls to discuss his position. Even when said constituents try really, really hard.

To keep the heat on, keep contacting

Senator Bennet: Contact Us

Senator Gardner: Contact Cory*

More good news about healthcare in Colorado: we get to keep all of our insurance brokers next year, said Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar. No Colorado counties will be without an insurance provider, according to the Summit Daily News.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (June 30)

Happy 150th birthday, hosers. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► A group of protestors with disabilities who were staging a sit-in at the Denver office of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) chanted on Thursday that they “would rather go to jail than die without Medicaid.” The response from Gardner’s office: Why not both?

As Denver7 reports:

A group of advocates, many of whom who are disabled, were removed and arrested by Denver police after more 48 hours of protest at U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s office. The advocates took up residency to demand the Republican senator from Colorado vote against the Senate health care bill…

…a spokesman for the Denver Police Department said the department acted on a signed complaint from a representative from Gardner’s office. A total of ten protesters were arrested and now face a primary charge of trespassing.

The protest at Gardner’s office has become a national story. Hundreds of thousands of people have viewed the Facebook Live video from the arrests:

 

► If you’ve checked your email at all in the past 36 hours, you are probably aware that tonight is a big fundraising deadline. Candidates for state and federal offices have until 11:59 pm to collect donations that will be included on their Q2 finance report. Some candidates may release fundraising numbers for Q2 in the coming days, but full reports will not be available to the public until mid-July.

 

► If you thought that Republicans couldn’t muck up healthcare policy any worse than they have already, we have some bad news for you. As the Washington Post reports:

As health-care legislation continues to stall, President Trump pitched a new idea in a tweet Friday morning, suggesting that the Senate could repeal the Affordable Care Act now and deal with replacing it later.

“If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!” the president tweeted from his personal account.

Doing so could leave in the lurch more than 20 million Americans who now have private health plans or Medicaid coverage under the ACA and would lose that insurance with no guarantee of any alternative. And the tweet seems to contradict Trump’s earlier promises that he would provide “insurance for everybody” and that he would repeal and replace Obamacare as soon as he took office.

If at first (and second, and third, etc.) you don’t succeed…bring out the dynamite.

 

► Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams rolled over quickly after a request to release massive amounts of voter data from President Trump’s so-called “Election Integrity Commission.” As Denver7 reports:

The vice chair of President Donald Trump’s controversial Election Integrity Commission wants the full name, address, date of birth, affiliated political party, last four Social Security number digits and voting history since 2006 of every voter not only in Colorado, but in the entire U.S., and wants that information to be made available to the public…

…the ACLU of Colorado balked at Williams’ adherence to the request, saying it was part of a voter suppression effort by the government.

“President Trump’s baseless claim that millions of illegal voters participated in the 2016 election has been summarily debunked. Yet the federal government is pushing forward on a massive voter suppression effort based on myths and outright lies about voter fraud,” said ACLU of Colorado Public Policy Director Denise Maes. “Colorado’s Secretary of State should not willingly participate in a politically-motivated federal campaign to intimidate voters and suppress the vote.”

The commission Kobach is the vice chair of was created earlier this year after Trump made his false claim that several million people voted illegally in last year’s election.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (June 29)

Which country will Sen. Cory Gardner visit next week so that he doesn’t have to show his face in Colorado? It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► If you’re looking for other reasons for why the GOP healthcare bill is in so much trouble, you won’t be lacking for ideas. Greg Sargent of the Washington Post singles out an interesting moment on Capitol Hill when Republican Senators first learned of the devastating CBO score on their proposed legislation…and were curiously surprised that the news was so bleak:

If GOP Senators expected the Senate bill to achieve “greater distance” from the House bill, then they were either not reckoning with the fundamental underlying realities of what GOP health reform is trying to accomplish, or they were hoping for some magical formula to materialize that would obscure those realities from view. Here is the basic math: If you are going to cut Obamacare’s taxes on rich people by hundreds of billions of dollars, you are going to have to roll back an enormous chunk of the law’s massive coverage expansion…

…Yet the Post report indicates that Republican Senators were surprised to learn that the CBO concluded that their bill would indeed carry out this trade-off. And they responded by dividing into two camps — one that would attack the purveyor of dispassionate, empirical analysis that had confirmed this to be the case; and one that thought this was futile, because the argument could not be won [Pols emphasis], once voters back home learned how many people would lose coverage under their bill. But why did they expect any other outcome in the first place?

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is firmly entrenched in the first camp listed above; Gardner is desperately trying to brush off the CBO score as unimportant.

 

► A separate story in the Washington Post offers a simpler explanation for the GOP’s healthcare woes:

White House officials and Trump loyalists saw a president diving in to patch up strife and save legislation that had been curbed in the Senate. Some seasoned senators, however, saw a president unable to grasp policy details or the obstacles ahead, and talked with each other after the gathering about what they saw as a bizarre scene. That Republican disconnect has been a constant ever since the Senate health bill was unveiled…

…Instead of moving happily toward passage of the party’s rallying cry, Republicans are frozen and unsure of the political cost of passing the Senate bill — especially with swing voters who in many states have come to rely on aspects of Obamacare and its expansion of Medicaid.

As Politico reports, Senate Republican leaders are still trying to salvage their healthcare bill by offering billions of dollars in sweeteners to address the opioid crisis. Critics of such proposals include Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, who has said that a few billion dollars for short-term opioid treatment is a “drop in the bucket” compared the the massive financial losses that would be inflicted by decimating Medicaid budgets.

Here in Colorado, Republicans are having plenty of trouble trying to figure out how to explain why the GOP healthcare legislation is not terrible. Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) either doesn’t understand the healthcare bills — or he is flat-out lying to his constituents — when he says that nobody who qualifies for Medicaid will lose that coverage. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) keeps peddling nonsense talking points about rising costs under Obamacare — while failing to mention the fact that insurance rates would rise significantly more under the Republican healthcare proposals.

 

► As the New York Times explains, we finally have a bit more clarification on how President Trump’s Muslim travel ban will be implemented:

Stepsiblings and half-siblings are allowed, but not nieces or nephews. Sons- and daughters-in-law are in, but brothers- and sisters-in-law are not. Parents, including in-laws, are considered “close family,” but grandparents are not.

The State Department issued new guidelines Wednesday night to American embassies and consulates on applying a limited travel ban against foreign visitors from six predominantly Muslim countries. Enforcement of the guidelines will begin at 8 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (June 28)

Few things have become as strange as the daily White House press briefing.  It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Republicans are scrambling to figure out their next steps after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell abruptly announced on Tuesday that the Senate healthcare bill (“The Better Care Reconciliation Act”) would not be rushed to a vote before Congress takes its July 4th holiday recess at the end of the week.

As the Washington Post explains, Republicans are having trouble finding a reason to push forward with a terrible healthcare bill:

Amid a revolt against the Senate health-care bill, supporters have seized upon something of a last-ditch argument: Whatever you think of this bill, they say, you owe it to your voters. Republicans have been promising for years to repeal and replace Obamacare, the argument goes, and not passing this bill will mean they will have broken their promise.

There is one big problem with that strategy: The GOP base doesn’t seem to see it that way.

Not only aren’t Republican voters particularly keen on this bill, but polls suggest they wouldn’t even blame their Republican members of Congress for failing to close the deal.

A new poll (Marist/NPR) shows that 55% of Americans disapprove of the Senate healthcare plan, with only 17% in favor of the bill. The polling trend lines have shown consistent downward movement.

As Politico reports, the Senate healthcare bill is not dead…yet…while the editorial board of the New York Times says the GOP’s “healthcare hoax” has been exposed.

 

► Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has been in Washington D.C. alongside a bipartisan group of Governors in opposition to the Senate healthcare bill. Hickenlooper and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, held a news conference on Tuesday that was highly critical of GOP healthcare efforts that would include devastating cuts to Medicaid. Hickenlooper specifically called out Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) in his remarks.

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is pushing back against Republican claims that Democrats are refusing to work with the GOP on healthcare legislation. Bennet took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to hammer this point home.

 

► A group of protestors with disabilities have been camping out at the Denver office of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) since late Tuesday in an effort to persuade Gardner to oppose the Republican Senate healthcare bill. Gardner has been bullish on the Senate bill despite Monday’s awful score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which estimated the legislation would cut health coverage for at least 22 million Americans.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Monday (June 26)

If you’re looking to hire some interns for the summer, please don’t do this. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Today is another big day in the healthcare policy debate. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected to announce the results of its examination of the Republican Senate healthcare bill, also known as “The Better Care Reconciliation Act.” The Washington Post offers a good primer on what to look for in the CBO announcement.

The CBO score is expected to show, once again, that Republicans are dealing with a math problem — and not a messaging problem — when it comes to healthcare discussions. The looming report is one of many reasons why many Senate Republicans think the healthcare bill won’t be able to advance much further before next week’s July 4th recess.

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) spent the weekend at a conservative retreat in Colorado Springs hosted by the infamous Koch Brothers. The big message out of the weekend discussions at the Broadmoor Resort and Hotel centered around concerns from major right-wing donors that the Senate healthcare legislation doesn’t kill enough Americans isn’t more aggressive about eradicating Medicaid. Predictably, Gardner did not find time to talk to a reporter from the Denver Post about the Senate healthcare bill.

 

President Trump’s Muslim travel ban earned its first non-loss from the Judicial Branch. As the New York Times explains:

The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would decide whether President Trump’s revised travel ban was lawful, setting the stage for a major decision on the scope of presidential power.

Mr. Trump’s revised executive order, issued in March, limited travel from six mostly Muslim countries for 90 days and suspended the nation’s refugee program for 120 days. The time was needed, the order said, to address gaps in the government’s screening and vetting procedures.

Two federal appeals courts have blocked critical parts of the order.

The administration had asked that the lower court ruling be stayed while the case moved forward. The court granted part of that request in its unsigned opinion.

This is indeed as confusing as it soundsPresident Trump, meanwhile, is declaring victory.

 

► Elsewhere in Supreme Court news, the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a gay wedding will finally be heard this fall. From the Denver Post:

The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday that it would review the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because of his beliefs — a legal fight with high stakes for both religious activists and civil-rights advocates.

For months, the high court has vacillated on whether it would hear the appeal of Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, whose refusal of service to Charlie Craig and David Mullins was rejected by the Colorado Court of Appeals and the state’s Civil Rights Commission.

There’s been one significant change to the Supreme Court, however, since the case first landed on its steps — the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch, a native Coloradan who became its ninth member this spring after his nomination by President Donald Trump.

Gorsuch!

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Good News! June 16-23, 2017

(Because Lord knows we can use some – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This was a hard week to write “Good News” for. Still, there was some.

Small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate…that’s what this diary is about. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine.

This week, it’s all about the heat, voters, immigrant rights, cannabis, and beer. Farmer’s markets. Buying local. No sports news, because the only sports I halfway understand are basketball and baseball. Anything else, I’m the one looking at you to see when to stand up and cheer.

Environmental / energy

It’s freaking hot in Colorado, especially on the western slope , down south, and in Denver, but the head of the EPA won’t say if climate change is a hoax, although his boss says it is.

Good news: It’s not as hot as Phoenix’s 119 degrees . Even AZ Sen. McCain thinks this global warming thing is the real deal.   Plastic mailboxes are melting in Arizona – it’s that hot.  (Photo from reddit, via Buzzfeed)

 

MacGregor Ranch is piloting a program to work closely with the NRCS to cut underbrush and mitigate wildfire risk, since it is so freaking hot in Colorado. Drought and wildfires are the two main hazards Colorado experiences from climate change. Here’s the video from the pilot project.

Virgin Mobile and several other big retailers are planning to conserve energy by running their trucking fleets more efficiently.

Coal India, the world’s largest coal mining company, will shut down 37 of its mines that are no longer economically viable. The lost energy will be replaced mainly with solar.

Clean energy jobs remain the fastest-growing employment sector in Colorado  – with 62,000 added last year.  65% of those jobs are in energy efficiency.   This all helps Colorado to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation at 2.3%.    Rates for youth under 24 were at 6%, and for Hispanics at 5%, still lower than most other states.

There’s still some good fishing around Colorado. Get’em while there’s still water enough to fish in.

And you can drive to your fishing spot on roads you won’t have to pay an extra tax on, per the Colorado Business Coalition. Amendment 267 passed, funding $3 Billion for road repair and maintenance; however, $10 billion was needed. Where will that come from?

The “Dog Days” are  approaching. If you see poor Puddles panting in a hot car, you can break in to save the pet – but not legally,  in Colorado, until August.

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Don’t Go Away Mad, Eric Nelson, Just Go Away

Eric Nelson impersonating a U.S. Air Force major in an undated photo.

The Aurora Sentinel’s Ramsey Scott updates us on the…well, not exactly sad, more like pathetic story of Aurora Public Schools board member Eric Nelson–who was exposed last year as a serial fabricator of virtually all the details of his background, from fake degrees to appearing in a fake U.S. Air Force major’s uniform:

Publicly discredited APS board member Eric Nelson is pondering another run for school board and said this week he never lied about or embellished his resume — an issue that resulted in his censure by his fellow board members last year and calls for his resignation among school and Democratic Party officials.

A 2016 investigation commissioned by Aurora Public Schools and Superintendent Rico Munn last year revealed Nelson’s resume was full of inaccurate claims. The report found Nelson fabricated all four educational degrees he claimed on his biography. He represented himself as a decorated officer in the Air Force, but the inquiry revealed he was only an enlistee for several weeks. The APS investigation and stories by The Aurora Sentinel and other Denver media also revealed that Nelson misrepresented his involvement with various businesses and organizations.

One year after the scandal, Nelson remains on the board, attends community events as a school board member and is pondering running for re-election. He has since changed his resume credentials, still maintaining a hefty list of academic honors.

According to the Sentinel, Nelson’s updated academic history consists of “degrees” from non-accredited theological colleges–including one that gives out “Life Experience Degrees” to anyone who can pony up $100. That’s a small step up from the crude Photoshopped fakeries Nelson tried to pass off on reporters and his colleagues on the Aurora school board last year, but needless to say it’s hard to call Nelson any kind of educational role model. Nelson’s fake history came to light last year after he filed to run as a Democrat in House District 42. Following those revelations Nelson lost that primary, but can’t be removed from the APS board without a vote–and nobody has seen fit to invest the money in a recall campaign.

The fact that Nelson remains on the Aurora school board after being found to be such a complete fraud brings discredit on that institution. But as we all learned in Jefferson County in 2015, even school board recalls are an incredibly expensive and fraught process. In this case, the judgment seems to have been that Nelson simply wasn’t worth the effort.

If Nelson does run for re-election, and we think he may just be bullheaded enough to try, hopefully the community will end this embarrassment once and for all.

Beware Koch Brothers Bearing Gifts

Americans For Prosperity-Colorado, the well-funded conservative message group tied to the Koch Brothers empire of political advocacy organizations, is launching a campaign that’s fairly unusual at first glance–praising Democrats for a bill passed this year on charter school funding:

Americans for Prosperity Colorado launched a “Thank you” ad campaign, acknowledging state legislators from both sides of the aisle in standing up for taxpayers and equal funding for schools. State director, Jesse Mallory, asserts, “As a nonpartisan organization, we are pleased to work across the aisle to promote freedom for all Coloradans. Today we would like to recognize and thank a number of state legislators for their courage to stand up for taxpayers and promote equalized funding for all public schools.”

Legislators being thanked for co-sponsoring legislation to equalize funding for charter schools include: Senator Angela Williams, Representative Brittany Pettersen, Senator Own Hill and Representative Lang Sias. Senator Tim Neville, Senator Jack Tate, Senator Beth Martinez-Humenik, Senator Chris Holbert and Representative Patrick Neville are being thanked for standing up for taxpayers.

The legislation in question, House Bill 17-1375, was the result of a compromise principally brokered between House Speaker Crisanta Duran and Republican Senate leadership–a compromise that included the death of another bill to “equalize” charter school funding sponsored by Republicans in that chamber. It’s important to note that the Colorado Education Association, which opposed the Republican bill, was neutral on HB17-1375–and it passed with broad bipartisan support.

Obviously charter school funding remains a divisive point among Democrats, and there’s plenty of disagreement over this bill even after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed it into law. It’s perfectly reasonable for it to be a subject of debate in the upcoming CD-7 primary between Jefferson County public school teacher Sen. Andy Kerr and Rep. Brittany Pettersen. Sen. Kerr is the former chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has solid support from parent and teacher groups in the district, and opposed HB17-1375. Pettersen, as readers will recall, was one of the principal organizers of the landmark 2015 recall campaign against the right-wing majority on the Jefferson County school board. Given the lingering hard feelings over the 2015 recall, it’s a safe bet that AFP is not looking to benefit Pettersen by “thanking” her for this bill. Democratic primary voters in CD-7 know AFP very well, and may well figure out the reverse psychology at work without any help.

With that said, we have no interest in shielding any candidate from legitimate criticism in the course of what’s expected to be a hard-fought but (hopefully) amicable primary. CD-7 Democrats have a choice between several great contenders to succeed Rep. Ed Perlmutter, and here’s an issue we expect will be vigorously debated.

Whoever they choose, Democratic voters are best off making the choice without the Koch Brothers living rent-free in their heads.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (June 20)

We know that there are probably a number of days this year that have already seemed like they would never end; today really is the longest day of the year. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

It’s deja vu all over again.

Senate Republicans don’t yet have an actual healthcare bill, let alone a score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and a majority of GOP Senators reportedly still have no idea what might be included in any potential legislation…but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is moving ahead with plans for a potential floor vote by the end of next week. The Washington Post elaborates on the details:

…the secrecy adopted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is explicitly designed to shield the Senate GOP health-care bill from as much debate and public scrutiny as possible. The text of the bill will be available for all of one week before it is likely to be voted upon, after having been drafted in such secrecy that even Republican senators complained that they were being kept in the dark. There have not been, and apparently will not be, any hearings before the vote.

What’s more, lawmakers and the public may have only two or three days to absorb the details and significance of the CBO’s conclusions. Given that this will be the most rich and detailed empirical analysis available of the bill’s likely impact on tens of millions of people and one-sixth of the U.S. economy, you’d think this document would be deserving of extensive consideration in all its complexity.

But this rolling scandal doesn’t end there. This compressed schedule is not only designed to limit debate on the bill. As the Journal reports, the vote is being rushed for the express purpose of getting it done before the July 4 recess, because the failure to do so “could open Republican lawmakers up to pressure from constituents,” some of whom might be “concerned about losing their health coverage.” Thus, the schedule is also explicitly designed to shield lawmakers from public exposure and questioning about the immense human toll the measure they are considering could have — before they vote on it.

A new CBS News poll finds that the public broadly wants a more open process. Americans say, 73 percent to 25 percent, that Senate Republicans should discuss their plans publicly rather than privately. More than three-quarters of independents agree.

Vox.com has more analysis on how the Senate can potentially succeed with their secret plan…as well as several scenarios under which it will fail miserably.

The satirical news site The Onion also hits the nail on the head:

Headline from “The Onion” today.

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is among the original 13 Republicans appointed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to craft a Senate version of Trumpcare, but Gardner clearly doesn’t want to talk about any of this. The big question for Gardner relates to whether he will ultimately support legislation that could gut Medicaid coverage for hundreds of thousands of Coloradans. You can call potential Medicaid cuts whatever you want — a “glide path to stability” is a favorite explanation of Gardner’s — but large-scale Medicaid cuts are not going to go over well with the 1.4 million Coloradans who rely on it for healthcare.

And as we said yesterday in this space, it’s also a fair question to ask whether or not Gardner even understands whatever secret legislation the Senate is crafting.

Elsewhere, Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-Denver) outlined many of the problems with the proposed GOP healthcare bill in a press conference on Monday. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is also becoming increasingly outspoken about Republican plans for Trumpcare; Hick says the process taking place is “kind of crazy.”

 

► It is fitting that one of the longest special elections in recent memory will be decided on the longest day of the year. The New York Times has an extensive preview of Election Day in Georgia’s sixth congressional district.

 

 

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