“Snow Globe” Climate March Draws Thousands

As the Denver Post’s Hayley Sanchez reports, a little April snow can’t get Colorado down:

Dressed in snow boots and ski clothes, demonstrators chanted “Hey hey, ho ho, climate change has got to go,” and “This what democracy looks like.” The messages on some signs dripped in the wet snow but others’ stayed legible and said, “The U.S. must deal with climate change,” and “I’m with her” with arrows pointing to a picture of the Earth…

Denver’s march was just one of 300 sister marches planned across the world and in cities like Los Angeles, Dallas, and Washington, D.C., where more than 100,000 protested in near-record heat. People also used the demonstration to protest President Trump’s environmental policies on his 100th day in office.

“Where do I even start?” said Kate Paradis, a resident of Boulder, thinking about how concerned she was about Trump’s new policies and holding a giant banner with her husband, David Paradis, that read, “We stand with Standing Rock.”

“These giant corporations and the fossil fuel industry, the GOP and politicians, they’re all working together,” she said. “Trump was right when he said (Washington, D.C.) was corrupt, but he’s not helping us get out of the swamp. I feel climate change is urgent and if we don’t take action now, we’re doomed.”

Several thousand demonstrators arrived in Civic Center Park yesterday morning despite about six inches of snow on the ground. Locals are of course well aware that it routinely snows in April in Colorado, even after one of the mildest winters anyone can remember as we had on the Front Range this year. Nonetheless, climate science deniers coast to coast used the supposed irony of a “climate march in the snow” to distract from, among other things, the hundred thousand or so who marched in sweltering 90-degree heat in Washington yesterday.

This is where we remind everyone again that the weather on any given day does not tell you enough about the climate, or climate change, to crack wise–especially a day of weather in Colorado. It can snow in April in Colorado and climate change is a reality. There is nothing mutually exclusive about it.

Also, turning out in bad weather is a sport for Coloradans. Ask any Broncos fan.

“Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” Church on the Colorado House Floor

You Friday moment of Zen, supplied by GOP Rep. Lori Saine–during debate today in the Colorado House over a resolution honoring former Sen. Bill Armstrong, former president of Colorado Christian University.

It gets a little rambly, but Rep. Saine shifts gears from praising for Sen. Armstrong into a quasi-sermon about how Colorado is “ground zero in the battle for the next generation”–and how Christians in the General Assembly are more than “conquerors in Christ.”

SAINE: As more and more of our brothers and sisters are being led into slavery in this ever-mounting spiritual warfare, we need abolitionists more than ever. From all parties, from all corners. Do not forget who you really are. Lead them all to the one whom Bill loves. This country needs a third Great Awakening, and if it starts here, begins now in this place, this will be the most important work we will have ever done together in this chamber.

And from there, Rep. Saine led the faithful in the Colorado House in a rousing chant of “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” rounding out this minute or so of revival.

…Or the deity of your choice, Rep. Saine forgot to say! That’s the law of the land.

Now, we’re not entirely sure what Rep. Saine meant by all of that, but we assume the stuff about “abolitionism” was not intended in the sense we understand from American history. Also, the Colorado House of Representatives is not really the right venue for a “Third Great Awakening,” however important that might be to Rep. Saine personally. There’s this small matter of the separation of church and state.

Of course, the legislature doesn’t do business on Sundays, so we suppose they could hold church then? Otherwise, we believe the legislature has more than enough to do between now and adjournment–and they should save the proselytizing for when lawmakers are off the clock.

Sessions Backing Off Marijuana Crackdown?

Molon labe.

That seems to be what the Denver Post’s Alicia Wallace writing at The Cannabist thinks based on comments from Gov. John Hickenlooper, who met this week with Attorney General Jeff “Reefer Madness” Sessions:

Following a face-to-face meeting with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said he doesn’t think a federal crackdown is imminent for his state or others that have legalized cannabis…

Sessions was receptive to keeping the lines of communication open, Hickenlooper said, adding that a policy position appears to be in the works.

“He’s obviously reviewing the Cole (Memo),” Hickenlooper said. “(They’re working on) a version of that that makes sense for this administration. We’ll have to see how far they go.”

Hickenlooper described Sessions as “direct,” “straight-forward” and “honest.” And while the attorney general “couldn’t have been more emphatic” about legalization being a bad idea, he also understood that Colorado’s marijuana regulations came to be because of the will of the voters.

As such, Hickenlooper said, he doesn’t believe Sessions will come down on legal marijuana states from an enforcement standpoint.

Sessions’ rhetoric against legalized marijuana since his appointment as Attorney General, not to mention for many years before as a U.S. Senator, left Colorado’s billion-dollar marijuana industry very nervous about the future. It’s interesting that Hickenlooper came away from this meeting with a different impression of how Sessions intends to proceed, but we think it will take more words–or at least more time–before the industry is comfortable. And even if Sessions allows the status quo to continue, many issues like banking for marijuana businesses remain unresolved.

Until we definitively get the word that DEA stormtroopers will not be raiding dispensaries and cuffing stoners, we would advise continued caution. It’s possible that President Donald Trump has decided to restrain Sessions on this issue, or will decide to do that–but until you see it in writing, don’t count on it.

Ken Buck Flees 9NEWS Camera Crew in Washington

Rep. Ken Buck (R).

Rep. Ken Buck has struggled recently to explain a major contradiction in his statements about the American Health Care Act, a.k.a. “Trumpcare”–in the immediate aftermath of the bill’s failure in late March, Buck had told 9NEWS reporters that he was not “sold” on the bill, but then changed his story to claim he had always supported the bill in an op-ed. After that op-ed was Tweeted out by none other than President Donald Trump himself, 9NEWS tried to circle back with Rep. Buck to get an explanation.

And as readers know, Rep. Buck cancelled on 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark at the last minute.

Well, last night 9NEWS aired their followup to the story. Reporter Brandon Rittiman went to Washington to get a straight answer out of Buck, and…well, he wasn’tcompletely successful:

When Congressman Ken Buck cancels an interview set up 10 days in advance, giving us just a few hours notice, and then won’t commit to another time, we go ‘Buck hunting.’

Political Reporter Brandon Rittiman met up with the Fourth Congressional District Representative on Wednesday outside of his office in the Longworth House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

That interview lasted less than two minutes, included a ride in an elevator and ended with Buck walking away…

“What you said was that the president tweeted something that made me change my opinion, and you know all along that I had told people within a few hours after I had talked to you, that I as going to vote yes on it,” said Buck. “The president’s tweet had nothing to do with my position.”

Actually, that’s not true.

The American Health Care Act was pulled from the House floor before receiving a vote late last month.

Immediately after the bill was pulled, Buck told 9NEWS he remained undecided.

In the end, Rittiman wasn’t able to get an answer explaining Buck’s clear contradiction, but Buck’s weird misdirection about Trump’s Tweet bought him a few extra seconds to get past Capitol security–where Rittiman couldn’t follow. Buck didn’t change his story in response to Trump’s Tweet, he changed it before the Tweet in the op-ed Trump later posted–but obviously that doesn’t make it any less of a contradiction.

Buck certainly didn’t come out of this looking like a statesman, and his flip-flop is a metaphor for the struggle of his entire party to keep their dead-horse promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act: something the American people no longer want, and for which Republicans can no longer claim to have a better alternative.

And for a guy who says he wants to “drain the swamp,” Buck sure knows how to hide in one.

Yes, THAT Tony Sanchez

Tony Sanchez is like the Winter Olympics of Colorado politics: He re-appears every four years to a lukewarm reception, and most everything he does is fairly confusing. This snapshot from Sanchez’s Twitter feed tells you everything you need to know about his return to Colorado politics:

Tony Sanchez last appeared on Twitter in Oct. 2014

Colorado political observers will recall that Sanchez emerged out of nowhere (also called “California”) when he announced in 2014 that he would seek the Republican nomination for State Senate in SD-22 (Lakewood). Sanchez was a recent arrival in Colorado, but he somehow convinced conservative groups such as Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) to back him in a GOP Primary against the more moderate and better-known Mario Nicolais.

Sanchez pulled off a surprise victory over Nicolais in a bitter primary fight that caused much consternation among Republicans; Democratic incumbent Andy Kerr went on to defeat Sanchez in the General Election for a seat that Republicans thought they had a decent chance of winning. Kerr was a probably a better candidate than either Nicolais or Sanchez, but the general opinion at the time was that Republicans might have had a shot at capturing SD-22 with a less-extreme candidate who actually had some sort of personal history in the area.

Kerr will exhaust his term limits in the state Senate in 2018 (he’s running for Congress in CD-7), and Sanchez is back to take another shot at the legislature. It is not clear yet who will be the Democratic candidate for SD-22, but the presence of Sanchez won’t exactly be a deterrent for anyone considering the possibility.

Firestone House Explosion Adds Urgency To Setbacks Debate

Denver7 reporting from the aftermath of a massive explosion last week in Firestone that completely destroyed a new home, killing two people and severely injuring two others–an explosion that occurred less than 200 feet from a 20-year-old oil well owned by Anadarko Petroleum:

A Houston-based company announced just over a week after a fatal home explosion in Firestone, Colorado that it would shutter production from 3,000 vertical oil wells in the area.

“Words cannot express how saddened we are that this occurred in a community where many of our employees, their families, and friends live and work,” Anadarko Petroleum Corporation Chairman, President and CEO Al Walker said. “We share the community’s gratitude for the courageous response of neighbors and nearby construction crews who quickly came to the aid of the family, as well as the first responders and others who made sure surrounding homes were kept safe.”

Anadarko confirmed the company operates 3,000 units of an older-model vertical well. One such unit, drilled by a previous operator in 1993, is just 200 feet from the site where a home that recently exploded was recently built.

The bodies of two community members were pulled from the rubble days after the April 17 explosion. Two others continue to recover in a hospital.

Anadarko’s acquisition of wells originally drilling by much smaller operators makes them responsible for defects in the drilling process they didn’t commit. It’s critical to keep in mind that the cause of the explosion in Firestone has not been conclusively determined–but the size and power of the blast would seem to rule out residential gas lines. That a new home was built less than 200 feet from an existing oil well is just another example of the problems the rapidly urbanizing Front Range faces dealing with both new and a legacy of oil and gas drilling.

And as the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Peter Marcus reports, the timing of this disaster is notable given debate that took place this year in the state legislature:

 

“We should take a cautious approach until we know for sure,” said Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, who sponsored legislation this year that would have required oil and gas operations to be located at least 1,000 feet from schools and other high occupancy buildings.

The legislation died on a Republican party-line vote…

“This whole situation is tragic. My heart aches for the family that lost loved ones and had others injured in the explosion and fire,” said Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, who also sponsored the failed setback bill in the legislature this year.

“Although the cause of the explosion is under investigation, in response Anadarko shut down a gas well only 170 feet from the blown-up home, along with 3,000 area wells. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation needs to get to the bottom of this. And the Colorado General Assembly needs to take action on the results to protect Coloradans.”

As Marcus correctly notes, a bill to increase setbacks between schools and drilling sites died in the Colorado General Assembly this year on a party-line vote. Citizen initiatives to increase setbacks and give local communities greater control over drilling within their boundaries have been stymied in recent years by intense opposition from the oil and gas industry and bipartisan political cover. The passage of Amendment 71 last year makes it much more difficult to use the initiative process going forward.

Overall the oil and gas industry has done a remarkable job suppressing opposition in Colorado, creating a political climate in which no one has the power to move anything unfavorable to the industry. Since Colorado voters weighed in by passing a landmark renewable energy standard in 2004, there’s been much less to celebrate. Small-scale agreements on emissions rules have come largely as a result of federal pressure on the state for noncompliance with air quality standards. And as we all know, federal oversight is no longer something Colorado can depend on. All told it’s a great position for the drillers to be in.

Except, you know, when houses start blowing up. Too much of that, and the politics can change awfully fast.

Senator Gardner Searches for Meaning in White House Field Trip

Colorado Senator Michael Bennet (far right) boards a bus for a field trip to the White House on Wednesday. Most forgot to pack their lunches.

The U.S. Senate took a field trip to the White House on Wednesday for a “policy briefing” on North Korea that was really just a poorly-disguised photo op for President Trump to convince Americans — on the eve of his first 100 days in office — that he really does do Presidential stuff from time to time. As CNN reports:

It was quite the spectacle.

Nearly every member of the world’s greatest deliberative body piling onto buses to take the mile-long ride to the White House on Wednesday afternoon was the definition of a made-for-TV moment…

…Ostensibly the reason for the trip was a classified briefing on the growing threat posed by North Korea and its quest for nuclear weapons. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led the briefing. (The quartet later briefed House members — on Capitol Hill.)…

…Trump, of course, is far from the only president (or politician) to stage a photo op. It happens all the time. But rarely do you see US senators used as the scenery the way they were on Wednesday.

As with most field trips, it appears that Wednesday’s “Day at the White House” was not much of a learning experience:

“We learned nothing you couldn’t read in the newspaper,” Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley told CNN’s Erin Burnett Wednesday night. “It felt more like a dog-and-pony show to me than anything else,” Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I guess it has something to do with this 100 days in office.”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) displays his “serious North Korea face.”

Meanwhile, Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) put on his “Trump Toady” outfit in an effort to spin Wednesday’s spectacle into something more than just political theater (President Trump himself spent just a few minutes at the big meeting). From Peter Roper of the Pueblo Chieftain:

“I came out of the classified briefing with a pragmatic but sober realization that we face a significant threat from North Korea but we are changing course and are going to put more pressure on that regime,” the Republican senator said.

Gardner chairs a Senate subcommittee on East Asia and has become an often-quoted authority on North Korea. [Pols emphasis]

Go back and read those two sentences one more time. Gardner is an “often-quoted authority on North Korea” who chairs a Senate subcommittee on East Asia, but he would like you to believe that Wednesday’s meeting at the White House brought him to the “sober realization” that North Korea is a problem. Denver7 has a separate story citing fellow Senators Marco Rubio and Jeff Flake talking up Gardner as the Senate’s “go-to person” on North Korea.

If Gardner is truly an authority on North Korea, then Wednesday’s meeting at the White House was complete nonsense and a waste of the Senate’s time. Or…Gardner doesn’t really know much about North Korea and needed yesterday’s field trip to learn about the dangers of Kim Jong Un. It’s one or the other here.

BREAKING: Beauprez Group Guilty of Violating Campaign Law

THURSDAY UPDATE: Prescient from the Denver Post’s Megan Schrader earlier this month–and keep in mind that Schrader is a former Colorado Springs Gazette employee:

Caught in the middle — and asked to testify — are two former employees of [Beauprez’s] nonprofit: Dede Laugesen, the wife of Colorado Springs Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen, and newly hired Gazette political blogger Dan Njegomir.

In an interesting display of questionable ethics, both the Gazette editorial board and Njegomir wrote negative pieces about Arnold in the months leading up to the administrative law court case last week. Neither disclosed their connection to an entity Arnold was suing. At least not until a separate media outlet disclosed that the nonprofit paid Njegomir for his services. And even then, using the word “disclosure” in this context hardly fits. Instead, Njegomir wrote an odd blog post about the fact he had been subpoenaed by Arnold in the case and blamed Arnold of engaging in “plain-old payback.”

Njegomir has the plausible (and somewhat tongue-in-cheek) defense here that he couldn’t have known Arnold had filed suit against someone who had once hired him as an investigative reporter — after all Arnold is involved in that many lawsuits. But still, it looks really bad.

—–

We wrote last summer about an unusual red-on-red fight pitting Colorado Republican kingpin Bob Beauprez against a slate of Republican candidates and incumbent lawmakers. The intent appears to have been to “purge” the Colorado General Assembly of Republicans Beauprez considered too off message, and was partially successful–the group spent against losing Republican incumbents like Janak Joshi and Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt, but was less successful against other incumbents like Rep. Lori Saine.

One thing Beauprez’s Pioneer Action campaign against fellow Republicans did do smashingly well was infuriate allies of the Republicans targeted. In due course, longtime Republican gadfly Matt Arnold filed suit against Pioneer Action alleging that its activities were incompatible with the organization’s tax status.

And here’s where it gets interesting. Another Republican political operative, former Colorado Senate staffer Dan Njegomir now employed by Phil Anschutz’s Colorado Springs Gazette, wrote a series of articles at the Gazette’s political blog slamming Matt Arnold. And as the rival Colorado Springs Independent reported last month, Njegomir had thousands of reasons:

Dan Njegomir has earned his bread and butter via his political firm, NewsSpeak Media LLC.

This outfit has worked for various political causes, including opposing oil and gas regulations in 2014…NewsSpeak was paid $20,000 for that. More recently, NewsSpeak was paid more than $20,000 by Colorado Pioneer Action, a politically active organization run by former gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, according to Matt Arnold, who runs Campaign Integrity Watchdog website. [Pols emphasis]

The Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reported earlier this month about the testy exchange between Njegomir and Arnold in court:

Njegomir said he produced content about the lawmakers that Colorado Pioneer Action posted online. He stressed that he was hired to look into their conduct as sitting public officials — not as candidates for office — and hold them accountable. He said he was hired to “cover them as journalists would.” For instance, he looked into a charity Klingenschmitt ran, he said, that “we thought over time seemed to raise ethical questions.”

Njegomir said he also worked with an entity called Colorado Government Watch, a group run by a Colorado Springs-area political consultant named Dede Laugesen. Asked if he was paid by that group, Njegomir said he did not know.

…Arnold repeatedly asked Njegomir if Klingenschmitt and Joshi were “candidates.” “Knock it off with the candidate stuff,” Njegomir responded, his voice rising, “because part of my stock and trade [was] not getting involved in politics with that project, and you’re not going to box me into it.”

Political gadfly Matt Arnold.

So we’re clear, folks, the odds that Dan Njegomir was not aware that Janak Joshi and Gordon Klingenschmitt were candidates at the time they were targeted by Pioneer Action are somewhere in the neighborhood of 0%. In fact, it’s patently ridiculous. If Njegomir, a longtime Colorado Republican political operative, really did not know that Joshi and Klingenschmitt were running again, he should never work in Colorado politics again–let alone write for a major newspaper’s political blog.

And that’s at least part of the reason why, as Arnold triumphantly reports today on his blog:

Putting an exclamation point on months of pre-trial proceedings and days of hearing evidence and witness testimony, the case against “Both-Ways Bob” Beauprez’ political action committee (by another name) ‘Colorado Pioneer Action’ (CPA) resulted in a Final Agency Decision (FAD) released today finding the organization guilty of multiple violations of state law.

CIW’s Complaint alleging Colorado Pioneer Action’s failure to register with the Secretary of State as a “political committee” violates state law requiring federal entities (CPA is registered as a 501c4 “social welfare organization” enjoying tax-exempt status) acting to “support or oppose” candidates for elective office to register and disclose campaign activity in Colorado was found to be meritorious, and the group has been ordered to register as a “political committee”, file reports disclosing the organization’s finances (including the identity of CPA contributors) and pay penalties in the amount of $17,735 (a 90% reduction from the amount allowed by statute, which would have totaled $177,350).

The Administrative Law Judge found the explanations of Bob Beauprez that CPA’s activities were not intended to support or oppose candidates “not persuasive” – noting that Beauprez “admitted that CPA and its contributors found certain candidates acceptable and others not” – in finding that CPA’s “major purpose” was indisputably focused on influencing elections. [Pols emphasis]

In other words, Pioneer Action was found guilty of exactly what Arnold accused them of, and exactly what Njegomir denied on the witness stand. It’s an enormous credibility hit to Dan Njegomir and Bob Beauprez, and a major vindication for Colorado’s premiere political gadfly.

And this ruling might not be the end of the story. An ugly ulterior motivate for Njegomir’s columns attacking Arnold has been exposed here. That Njegomir was paid $20,000 by Beauprez’s group should have prompted Njegomir to hand off “coverage” of the Arnold case to somebody else. The eye-popping conflict of interest in Njegomir being paid by Pioneer Action, followed by relentless attacks on Arnold in Njegomir’s official capacity at the Gazette, raises fundamental questions about that paper’s journalistic ethics.

Arnold got more than he bargained for when he turned over this particular rock. Stay tuned for more fallout.

Thursday Open Thread

“With power comes the abuse of power. And where there are bosses, there are crazy bosses. It’s nothing new.”

–Judd Rose

Mike Coffman Clear as Mud on “Trumpcare 2.0”

With a new Affordable Care Act repeal proposal making the rounds in Washington, D.C., all eyes in Colorado are on Rep. Mike Coffman–who made what is universally regarded as a major unforced error by announcing his support for the original “Trumpcare” bill just before it was killed by GOP leadership for lack of support.

A brief press roundup today makes it clear that Rep. Coffman intends to be more careful this time. Morning Consult:

The ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus on Wednesday announced its support for the Republican health care bill as long as it includes an amendment from moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.)…

The amendment would allow states to waive certain consumer protections within the ACA, such as essential health benefits and when insurance companies can charge certain consumers more for premiums.

Moderate Republicans worry these changes could hurt people with pre-existing health conditions. They have been hesitant to support the proposal from MacArthur, despite his position as a co-chair of the Tuesday Group, which comprises roughly 50 centrist Republicans…

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), for one, said the MacArthur amendment had prompted him to change his “Yes” vote on the measure to “undecided,” due to concerns about the bill’s impact on Americans with pre-existing health conditions. [Pols emphasis]

Talking Points Memo:

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) (pictured) said he was previously yes on the bill but now considers himself undecided with the new changes.

“With the prior bill, I supported that publicly before it went down. This is a different twist and I have got to re-examine it,” he said.

The Hill:

One centrist Republican, Rep. Mike Coffman (Colo.), supported the earlier bill but now says he is undecided, underscoring the fluidity.

“I made it very clear … to my constituents that I’m going to protect pre-existing conditions, and so this is a fairly complicated proposal, so I’ve really got to review it,” Coffman said.

After taking heavy fire over his support for the original “Trumpcare” proposal since its failure, then compounding his problems by weakly claiming after the fact that he wasn’t a “hard yes” on the bill, it appears Coffman has rediscovered vagueness as the best way to handle the issue of health care reform. It’s worth noting that a noncommittal approach heavy on platitudes has served Coffman pretty well on issues like immigration–which made his willingness to take a definable stand on health care a bit of a surprise.

As of now, for Coffman’s constituents, it’s back to the guessing game.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 26)

Get ready for the rain. Or perhaps snow. Or maybe just 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…

► Congressional Republicans, at the urging of President Trump, are attempting to revive efforts to repeal-and-maybe-replace Obamacare…or at least hoping to pretend that they are sorta trying to repeal the health care law. From the Washington Post:

An influential group of House conservatives threw its support behind a new Republican plan to revise the Affordable Care Act, shifting the political pressure to GOP moderates to determine the effort’s fate.

The House Freedom Caucus, which thwarted Republicans’ first attempt to overhaul the health-care system under President Trump, announced its support for an amendment from Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) allowing states to opt out of certain rules under Obamacare.

“The MacArthur amendment will grant states the ability to repeal cost driving aspects of Obamacare left in place under the original [Republican plan],” the Freedom Caucus said Wednesday in an unattributed statement.

“While the revised version still does not fully repeal Obamacare, we are prepared to support it to keep our promise to the American people to lower healthcare costs,” the statement said.

The decision came as three conservative advocacy groups — the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and Heritage Action for America — declared their support for the plan, even as they also admitted it does not fully repeal Obamacare. [Pols emphasis]

We’ve reached the point in the healthcare debate where Republicans are signing onto a deal to “repeal Obamacare” that doesn’t actually repeal Obamacare — though they still don’t appear to have enough GOP support to approve legislation.

 

► Meanwhile, as Sarah Kliff reports for Vox, Congressional Republicans are considering protecting Obamacare access for themselves even if they somehow repeal part of the law:

House Republicans appear to have included a provision that exempts members of Congress and their staff from their latest health care plan.

The new Republican amendment, introduced Tuesday night, would allow states to waive out of Obamacare’s ban on preexisting conditions. This means that insurers could once again, under certain circumstances, charge sick people higher premiums than healthy people.

Republican legislators liked this policy well enough to offer it in a new amendment. They do not, however, seem to like it enough to have it apply to themselves and their staff. A spokesperson for Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), who authored this amendment, confirmed this was the case: Members of Congress and their staff would get the guarantee of keeping these Obamacare regulations. Health law expert Tim Jost flagged this particular issue to me.

 

► President Trump is rolling out his tax cuts for billionaires plan tax reform proposal with a one-page document that doesn’t bother to include any specific policy information. Details, shmetails.

 

► State legislative efforts to find funding for transportation and infrastructure upgrades have been officially dashed thanks to three Republicans in the Senate Finance Committee. Elsewhere, legislators are entering the final few weeks of the 2017 session with a number of high-profile items on their to-do lists.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Sen. Tim Neville Abuses Armenian Genocide To Grind Gun Axe


Earlier today in the Colorado Senate, Sen. Tim Neville (R-MGO) spoke in support of SJR17-042, a resolution honoring victims of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Turkish government during World War I. But simply honoring the victims of genocide wasn’t enough for Sen. Neville, who turned the discussion into an argument against “gun control.” As the story went from Neville, the Turks confiscated the guns of the Armenian population, which left them “defenseless” when the Turks started rounding Armenians up and forcing them on death marches through the Syrian desert.

A little Googling will reveal the story that Turkish gun control laws “left Armenians defenseless” in the face of genocide is an article of faith among American gun rights supporters. Similar arguments are made about the Nazis’ supposed gun control campaign before the Holocaust–a campaign Politifact says never happened. The truth is, there is little evidence to support the idea that small arms would have made any difference with regard to either the Armenian or Jewish genocides of the 20th century.

This is a photograph of Armenian partisans defending themselves from Turkish forces in 1915.

Note the guns.

In reality, Armenians were confronted with overwhelmingly superior military force, against which small arms afforded little more than token resistance. Armenians had no means of resisting Turkish forces employing artillery and other heavy weapons against them. The myth of small-arms resistance against a modern military force simply breaks down in the face of this reality. In response to the regular suggestion from pro-gun politicians and pundits that could could have saved the Jews from the Nazis, the Anti-Defamation League is unequivocal:

The Anti-Defamation League “has always strenuously objected to the use of Nazi analogies to advance any kind of political debate, including the gun control debate,” said Deborah Lauter, the group’s civil rights director. “We believe it’s historically inaccurate and incredibly insensitive, particularly to Holocaust survivors and their families.”

Beyond that, she said, it’s just a false comparison.

“In no way could armed people have stopped the totalitarian power of the Nazi state,” she said, noting that some European Jews had access to a small number of firearms. “There could be symbolic resistance, as we saw in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but it would not have stopped the Nazis.”

Look, we understand that these kinds of historical myths are very seductive to Americans looking to apply them to contemporary political questions. That’s because when it comes to human tragedy on the scale of 20th century genocides, most Americans don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. We apply these events from world history to our political debates without proper context, or even a rational basis.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to transport Sen. Neville back to eastern Turkey in 1915–so he can see for himself how ridiculous these militiaman fantasies really are.