Get More Smarter on Friday (May 25)

It’s going to be a scorcher this Memorial Day Weekend — don’t forgot your sunscreen. 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 heading out for a road trip this Memorial Day Weekend, make sure to bring along some extra cash for rising gas prices. The average price of gasoline is creeping toward the $3.00 per gallon mark — an increase of 31% in the last year and the highest average mark since 2014. As Politico explains, rising gas prices are happening at a bad time for Republicans:

President Donald Trump is hoping a wave of tax-cut-fueled economic euphoria will boost his approval ratings and his party’s political fortunes this fall. A sharp spike in gas prices could slam the brakes on all of that…

…The increased cost of fuel is already wiping out a big chunk of the benefit Americans received from the GOP tax cuts. And things could get worse as summer approaches following the administration’s standoff with Iran and a move by oil-producing nations to tighten supplies.

The result: The economic and political benefits Trump and the GOP hoped to reap from cutting tax rates could be swamped by higher pump prices that Americans face every time they hit the road.

“If you look at the benefits of what households are getting from lower rates, roughly one-third of that is wiped out if these higher gas prices are sustained,” said Ellen Zentner, chief U.S. economist at Morgan Stanley. “And when we drive down the street, every block we see glaring signs about how much gas costs that day and it’s all over the media. The tax cuts were a one-off. It’s a one-time level shift in your paycheck that you are not reminded of every day.”

The rise in gas prices has a greater effect on lower-income Americans, particularly those from the Southern U.S. and the blue-collar voting base that supporter Donald Trump in 2016.

 

 The editorial board of the New York Times takes another broad look at the Trump administration:

So, for the fourth time in a year, we’ve compiled a list of Mr. Trump’s more egregious transgressions. These items don’t represent disputes about policy, over which reasonable people may disagree. They simply serve to catalog what Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and all the other Trump-supporting Republicans in Congress and across America, through their silence, have now blessed as behavior befitting a president of the United States.

We find this guide a helpful way to avoid growing numb to what is so abnormal about this presidency, and to remind ourselves that a day may yet come when dignity and decency will matter again, even, perhaps, to Mr. McConnell and his fellow hypocrites.

Check out the entire bullet-point list from the Times, but make sure you have the antacid within reach.

 

Chris Cillizza of CNN examines the (faceless) government conspiracy being peddled by President Trump:

Over the last 72 hours, the President of the United States has leaned into a conspiracy theory that goes like this: During the 2016 presidential race, President Barack Obama — via the FBI — placed a “spy” within Trump’s campaign for purely political reasons.

Trump made that charge plain in a tweet Friday morning:

“Can anyone even imagine having Spies placed in a competing campaign, by the people and party in absolute power, for the sole purpose of political advantage and gain? And to think that the party in question, even with the expenditure of far more money, LOST!”…

…But the fact that this is what Trump does shouldn’t distract us from the allegations here: Donald Trump is saying his predecessor as president used the leading law enforcement entity in the country to spy on him because Obama/the “deep state” didn’t want someone as unconventional as Trump to be president.

To be clear: There is zero public evidence that Trump’s claims are anywhere close to the truth.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Brandon Marshall Tells Trump Where He Can Cram It

Brandon Marshall.

Denver7 reports, President Donald Trump’s latest slam on National Football League players–which occurred even after the NFL announced a new highly controversial policy regarding the national anthem at games intended to mollify Trump–is too much for Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall:

The NFL decided that players and league personnel on the sideline must stand for the anthem, while permitting those uncomfortable with this rule to remain in the locker room. President Donald Trump, who galvanized NFL players last September when he called for owners to “fire” those who disrespect the anthem, applauded the league’s new policy. Trump suggested players who protest “shouldn’t be in the country.”

Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall called Trump’s comments “disgusting.”

“I say disgusting because of our First Amendment rights. We have freedom of speech, freedom to protest. So if somebody protests something, now we get someone kicked out of the country? That’s not how things should work in my opinion,” Marshall said. “We are supposed to have a conversation about things, talk about things, work things through. Everybody is not going to agree. Everybody is not going to have the same opinion. Just because somebody has an issue with something going on in this country they should pack up and leave? That’s absurd.” [Pols emphasis]

Marshall and All-Pro cornerback Chris Harris admitted they understood why the league adopted the policy, with Marshall explaining, “I don’t like it, but they are trying to protect the shield.” However, both believe the players should have been consulted before revisions were made…

The NFL’s new policy requiring players to either stand respectfully for the national anthem or stay in the locker room until the anthem is over comes as a direct response to Trump’s wild demagoguery on the issue, which is asserted to have in turn caused conservative football fans to slacken their attendance and viewership of NFL games. The players, for their part, deny that their protest is meant to be unpatriotic–merely calling attention to a critical issue leveraging the camera time they are given.

So, you have all of that. Then, despite the fact that the NFL has essentially surrendered to Trump on the issue over the free speech rights of its players, Trump still can’t leave well enough alone. The President keeps going, ridiculously suggesting that NFL players, American citizens, be kicked out of the country if they don’t stand for the national anthem.

Is there anyone out there willing to defend this? We just don’t see how you can.

Friday Open Thread

“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”

–H. G. Wells

Trump Cancels North Korea Summit

UPDATE: As the Associated Press reports, Sen. Cory Gardner apparently has some odd details on the cancellation of the summit with North Korea:

Donald Trump’s letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was dictated by the president to his national security adviser, John Bolton.

That’s according to Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who met with Bolton at the White House on Thursday, hours after Trump announced he was withdrawing from a planned summit with Kim next month.

Gardner told The Associated press that Bolton described the letter as a “wake-up” to Kim, who had shown a change in attitude after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The senator cited the North Koreans’ refusal to return phone calls to the administration and turning down high-level talks with South Korea.

He said North Korea had shown a “lack of seriousness” in negotiating on denuclearization.

Trump dictated the letter to National Security Adviser John Bolton? Like, Bolton had to sit there and type it out himself? What?

—–

Nope

So much for that Nobel Peace Prize. As the Washington Post reports:

President Trump on Thursday canceled a summit next month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, citing “tremendous anger and open hostility” from the rogue nation in a letter explaining his abrupt decision.

“I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote to Kim in a letter the White House released Thursday morning.

The summit — which had the potential to be a major diplomatic victory for Trump — had been planned for June 12 in Singapore.

Speaking later at the White House, Trump sounded a bellicose note, relaying that the U.S. military is “ready if necessary” to take action against North Korea if it engages in a “foolish or reckless act” and that South Korea and Japan are willing to shoulder the costs….

…After an emergency meeting at midnight with his top aides, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he was “very perplexed and sorry” that the summit had been canceled.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) said today that he supports President Trump’s decision to back out of the North Korea summit, which is not particularly surprising given Gardner’s tendency to follow Trump around like a puppy on virtually every major issue. Gardner is Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, but he has largely aligned himself with Trump when it comes to North Korea.

Walker Stapleton Just Makes Stuff Up (MMJ Edition)

Walker Stapleton.

Ed Sealover at the Denver Business Journal released an overall fawning profile of GOP gubernatorial frontrunner Walker Stapleton earlier today. Given Stapleton’s solidifying reputation for making stuff up on the campaign trail, any such profile is likely to contain an item or two in need of correction, whether or not the reporter catches it–and the latest example wasn’t hard to find:

One significant policy change Stapleton would seek would be a crackdown on the roughly 150,000 state residents who still carry medical-marijuana cards, which allows them tax-free purchasing of the drug, the ability to grow their own plants and the ability to consume the weed at age 18. Moving all but medically necessary card holders into purchasing legalized retail marijuana would increase state tax revenues on the drug by two to three times and ensure that they couldn’t distribute home-grown cannabis to friends, creating a new stream of revenue for transportation and other needs, he said.

Which sounds good except, as medical marijuana advocates quickly pointed out:

That’s right, folks! The state of Colorado has never had 150,000 medical marijuana cardholders, and since the passage of Amendment 64 legalizing recreational marijuana in 2012, the number of patients on the state’s medical marijuana registry has steadily declined. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s latest report on Medical Marijuana Registry Program, in April of 2018 there were a total of 88,946 Coloradans with an active medical marijuana card.

For those of you lacking a handy calculator, that’s 59.3% of Stapleton’s claim.

Obviously this has a big negative impact on the utility of Stapleton’s proposed “crackdown” on the medical marijuana registry, since the amount of revenue that could be extracted from medical marijuana patients who were “cracked down on” is directly proportional to the total number of such individuals. Because there have never once been the number of people with medical marijuana “red cards” that Stapleton asserted “still carry” them, we really have no idea how to reconcile this discrepancy.

Unless we already did, in the title of this post.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 24)

Today is the last day of school for many of Colorado’s largest school districts. 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 abruptly called off a planned summit with North Korea. As the New York Times reports:

President Trump, citing a flurry of hostile statements from North Korea, pulled out of a highly anticipated summit meeting with Kim Jong-un on Thursday, telling the North Korean leader “this missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.”

But Mr. Trump said later that the meeting with Mr. Kim, which had been scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, could still happen, even as he renewed threats of military action against the North and vowed to continue a campaign of economic pressure against Mr. Kim’s regime.

The mixed messages deepened the uncertainty around a diplomatic encounter that had an air of unreality from the time in March when Mr. Trump spontaneously accepted Mr. Kim’s invitation to meet.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is among the Republicans who are dutifully trying to pretend that this was not Trump’s decision:

Diplomacy by shouting does not appear to be working.

 

Oil and gas giant Anadarko finally came to terms on a settlement over a home explosion in Firestone last April that killed two people and seriously wounded two others. Anadarko Petroleum Corporation has been facing new charges from former employees that it repeatedly neglected to act on safety concerns related to drilling operations throughout Colorado.

 

► Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is under fire for questionable remarks about immigration enforcement through local schools. From the Washington Post:

Civil rights groups slammed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for saying Tuesday that schools can decide whether to report undocumented students to immigration enforcement officials, saying her statements conflict with the law and could raise fears among immigrant students.

DeVos’s answers came during testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who was at one time undocumented, pressed the secretary for her positions on immigration enforcement…

…The Supreme Court made clear in Plyler v. Doe that public schools have a constitutional obligation to provide schooling for children, regardless of immigration status. That means schools also cannot enforce measures that would deter undocumented children from registering. They cannot ask about immigration status. And according to the American Civil Liberties Union, they cannot report students or their families to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Half-Baked Recall of La Plata County Commish Finally Fails

La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt.

As the Durango Herald reports, an attempt mounted by fringe-right usual suspects in La Plata County to recall county commissioner Gwen Lachelt over wild allegations that boiled down to mundane partisan disagreements has, after a process that seemingly gave recall organizers every chance in the world to collect enough signatures, failed at long last to qualify for the ballot:

A recall effort against La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt failed to collect enough valid signatures to trigger a recall election, the county clerk and recorder announced Wednesday…

On May 2, recall supporters submitted an amended petition with 8,654 signature lines for verification by the Clerk and Recorder’s Office. Parker determined that 1,185 of the signature lines were invalid.

“As a result, the petition appears to be insufficient by 36 signature lines and Parker will not set a recall election,” the county wrote in a news release.

Parker said there is no procedure to appeal of her count within her office, and if recall supporters wanted to challenge her count of valid signatures they would have to file a lawsuit in court.

After the La Plata County clerk determined that the recall campaign was thousands of signatures short of their goal, organizers were given an additional two weeks to collect enough signatures to make the ballot. The second batch turned in left only a small margin for error, and there’s nothing to suggest the clerk’s office erred in their count. The recall campaign saw some early interest and support from Denver conservative consultants and activist groups, but after the first round of signatures came up distantly short the more serious players begged off.

The attempted recall of Lachelt, a term-limited commissioner whose work with conservation groups and support for revised land-use codes sent the local far right into a full-blown UN conspiracy theory freakout, is the second knee-jerk recall attempt in La Plata County to fizzle out without reaching the ballot–the first being the failed attempt to recall then-Rep. Mike McLachlan at the height of the 2013 gun control backlash.

Maybe it’s time to try a different strategy, like winning regular elections.

How Ray Scott Beats The High Cost of Denver Living

Sen. Ray Scott (R).

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports–Sen. Ray Scott of Grand Junction, who regularly appears in the political scandal sheets over such matters as his fraught business dealings and squabbles with local media, is in trouble once again for apparently double-billing both the state and his re-election campaign for a sizable reimbursement of transportation expenses:

Sen. Ray Scott billed state taxpayers for more than $1,000 in Uber rides during this year’s legislative session — expenses he also claimed on his campaign finance account.

While the Grand Junction Republican later corrected his campaign account for all of those Denver Uber trips, he did so only after The Daily Sentinel questioned him about the discrepancies in the two filings…

Even though Scott had a vehicle at the Capitol when he was in Denver during the 120-day session, Scott used Uber 47 times at a cost of $1,801. He said all of those trips were for campaign purposes.

But 17 of them also were listed in his state travel expense reports during the four-month session. He was reimbursed by the state for those trips, all to Denver International Airport, for a total of $1,037, according to Scott’s travel reimbursement expense reports obtained by the Sentinel through a Colorado Open Records Act request. Those reimbursements were on top of money the state paid him in travel costs, including $11,811 worth of plane flights to and from Grand Junction.

First of all, this is a revealing window into the kind of fringe benefits lawmakers receive, especially those representing outlying areas of the state. Many constituents would be surprised to discover that lawmakers can bill the state for thousands of dollars worth of air travel during the legislative session, in addition to the per diem benefits lawmakers receive to compensate for working in Denver for part of the year. Is a $35,000 a year part-time state lawmaker worth flying back and forth to Grand Junction all the time like we fly members of Congress back and forth to Washington? Maybe–but you have to know it’s happening to even ask the question.

But obviously, that’s not the real problem in this case. Double-billing the taxpayers and one’s own re-election campaign might seem like a victimless crime, but if you’re one of Sen. Scott’s campaign donors you’re unlikely to think so! Of course, billing the state for campaign-related travel expenses isn’t cool either. At the end of the day, the law allows for these line-items to be corrected without penalty once challenged–but it’s worth noting again that without the Sentinel’s scrutiny, nobody would in all likelihood be the wiser.

Which we expect would have been just fine with Ray Scott.

The Get More Smarter Show: May 23, 2018

Today on the Get More Smarter Show: our in-depth interviews with 2018 candidates continue! Host Jason Bane sits down with Rep. Joseph Salazar, Democratic candidate for Colorado attorney general, to talk about Joe’s background, the attorney general’s race, and life in the state legislature.

Catch up on past episodes of the Get More Smarter Show here! And thanks for watching.

Haters Provoke Outpouring of Love in Broomfield

A happy ending to the unsavory story we noted a couple of days ago, as Jennifer Rios of the Boulder Daily Camera reports:

When Broomfield residents learned that Broomfield High School was a possible target of hate speech and protest, more than 600 counter-protesters showed up.

A “Community Hug” was created in response to a rumored visit from Westboro Baptist Church members, who said they would be in Broomfield at 2:30 p.m. They never arrived — a common tactic of the small family band based in Topeka, Kansas, that advocates hate against public schools, LGBTQ individuals, and the U.S. military.

Broomfield police showed up at 11 a.m.; community members began arriving at 12:30 p.m., but those who sparked the event never showed up.

Local residents linked arms to surround the campus of Broomfield High School, creating a physical barrier against a protest that failed to materialize. It’s quite possible that the pre-event lampooning of the anti-everything protesters from Westboro Baptist Church in the media, in which they learned the protest had been scheduled for the wrong day, caused them to abort. Or maybe they just didn’t have the gas money to drive to Boulder from Topeka.

Either way, in the end there was absolutely nothing to see in Broomfield–except hundreds of local residents who turned out just to make everybody knows this miserable traveling band of inbred misanthropes in no way represents the people who live here.

And if that’s the the effect they have, we invite Westboro Baptist to threaten and then not show up anytime.

Federal Judge Orders Trump To Stop Blocking Citizens

President Donald Trump.

The Hill reports on a win for transparency on social media that could have repercussions for politicos at all levels–a federal judge has declared that President Donald Trump cannot legally block critics on the Twitter social media platform:

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, said President Trump’s Twitter account is a public forum and blocking people who reply to his tweets with differing opinions constitutes viewpoint discrimination, which violates the First Amendment.

The court’s ruling is a major win for the Knight Foundation, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of seven people who were blocked from the @realDonaldTrump account because of opinions they expressed in reply tweets.

Buchwald, who was appointed by former President Clinton, rejected Trump’s argument that the First Amendment does not apply in this case and that the president’s personal First Amendment interests supersede those of the plaintiffs.

The court found that the act of blocking a critic on Twitter simply for disagreeing could be harmful to First Amendment rights of the critic, since they are unable to respond to items posted by the President. Merely muting a user, while accomplishing the same goal of not forcing Donald Trump to personally lay eyes on criticism, preserves the ability of the “offending” user to respond in the same thread.

We would expect that most politicians who are active on the platform have some number of users who they have blocked–and some among those for reasons that wouldn’t reasonably rise above a viewpoint disagreement. If this precedent were to hold true for all public officials, it would mean a lot of Twitter blocks, by a lot of politicians, are unconstitutional.

And, well, that would be a big deal.

Little Love For Owen Hill In Poll That’s Great For Lamborn

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

Ernest Luning at the former Colorado Statesman reports:

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn holds a 10-point lead over Darryl Glenn in the crowded 5th Congressional District’s Republican primary race just two weeks before mail ballots go out, according to a new survey released Wednesday by GOP polling firm Magellan Strategies.

Lamborn, seeking his seventh term, tops the field of five Republicans, with 37 percent of likely primary voters picking the incumbent if the election in the Colorado Springs-focused district were held today. Glenn, an El Paso County commissioner who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2016, follows with 27 percent, and state Sen. Owen Hill comes in third with 10 percent support.

Tyler Stevens, a former mayor of Green Mountain Falls, and Bill Rhea, a former Texas state judge, bring up the rear at 3 percent and 2 percent, respectively.

With two relatively well-known GOP primary challengers this year in the form of El Paso County commish and 2016 U.S. Senate nominee Darryl Glenn alongside state Sen. Owen Hill, this poll reflects what’s setting up once again as a best-case scenario for incumbent Rep. Doug Lamborn. Lamborn’s undistinguished record in Congress leads to discontent just about every election from CD-5’s conservative Republican base, but the challengers never seem to quite have it together.

This year looks to be no different. Lamborn’s 10-point lead over Glenn, who is turn in a surprising 17 points ahead of Owen Hill, means that once again the opposition to Lamborn is fatally split between multiple primary challengers. Because most voters in this overwhelmingly Republican congressional district would write-in Donald Duck before voting for any Democratic candidate, the net result is another two years of rubber-stamp mediocrity in a district that would support far more inspiring Republican representation.

We don’t mind admitting we’re a little surprised by Sen. Hill’s weakness in this race, since those who know him from his service in the state senate would consider him to be the more formidable challenger to Lamborn. That’s credit you have to give to Glenn, just like we did in 2016 when he won the GOP Senate primary–even if it doesn’t change the end result.

Better luck in 2020 is all we can wish to Colorado’s foremost conservative stronghold.

Wednesday Open Thread

“Science has not yet taught us if madness is or is not the sublimity of the intelligence.”

–Edgar Allan Poe