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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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.

Good news! Week of June 11- 17, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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. And that’s fine. Something I’m missing? Add it in the comments.

LGBT:

Massive Marches may move us, but the  biggest and gayest parade this year in Colorado will be Pridefest, this Sunday June 18. Civic Center Park will host the celebration all weekend. For your daily minimum requirement of fabulousness, go to Pridefest Denver. (Photo from 2016 Pridefest, Wikipedia Commons)

Pridefest Denver 2016 -from Wikipedia commons

LGBT hero: One of the Capitol Police agents wounded in the recent terrorist attack in DC was Crystal Griner, a married lesbian woman. Griner and her fellow officers, including David Bailey , rushed the shooter, taking him down and preventing a massacre.

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Good News! Week of June 3-June 10

(Get More…Gooder! – promoted by Colorado Pols)

This diary, which I hope to publish every Friday, will be all about small victories in the big battles: People doing the right thing for the right reasons. Stories of bravery, generosity, caring, and integrity. Where possible, I’ve connected this to Colorado politics and stories.

This is a selfish project for me – I need to see those small victories and uplifting stories just to keep going as an activist. Without them, it’s too easy to be overwhelmed by the flood of bad news and attacks on democracy and civil rights, and simply stop trying to keep politicians accountable.

There are many “good news” items I haven’t covered; more possible categories for good news are: Race, discrimination, justice, bizarre news, animals, marches, town halls, community organizing, “the resistance”. Where another organization such as ProgressNow Colorado reports on “How to fight back this week”, I’m not going to duplicate coverage. As always, add your own “good news” stories and commentary.

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Get More Smarter on Monday (May 1)

If someone left a bouquet of May Day flowers on your front door today, we want to hear about it. Seriously. 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…

► Congress has come to agreement on a budget proposal that will keep the federal government funded through September. As the Washington Post reports, President Trump got absolutely rolled on the negotiations:

Perhaps the best negotiators are not the people who tell everyone that they are the best negotiators.

A spending agreement was reached last night that will keep the government funded through the end of September. This will be the first significant bipartisan measure passed by Congress since Donald Trump took office.

The White House agreed to punt on a lot of the president’s top priorities until this fall to avert a shutdown on Friday and to clear the deck so that the House can pass a health-care bill…

…But Democrats are surprised by just how many concessions they extracted in the trillion-dollar deal, considering that Republicans have unified control of government.

 

► Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, are casting this week as the last real chance to approve a potential plan to repeal Obamacare. The White House is taking its usual blustery stance about having enough votes from Republicans to pass a bill out of the House, though the outlook is not so rosy when you ask Congressional leaders. It is unclear whether House Republicans have enough support from moderates to pass something along to the Senate, and there is little reason to believe that any potential legislation could move at all if it were to land in the Senate.

The main sticking point in the current healthcare negotiations revolves around pre-existing conditions. Trump maintains that any new Obamacare repeal “will be every bit as good on preexisting conditions as Obamacare.” But in order to gain the support of right-wing Republicans, such as the Freedom Caucus, Congressional Republicans are actually trying to gut protections for pre-existing conditions.

 

► By the end of the day today, there will be little evidence left of a weekend snowstorm in the Denver metro area. But it did snow — quite a bit, in fact — and the weather didn’t stop a huge crowd from turning out in Denver in support of efforts to combat Climate Change. Thousands of people showed up at Civic Center Park on Saturday to take part in a march and rally that was also happening simultaneously in more than 300 cities around the world.

 

► Republicans in the State Senate are crowing about a new budget proposal in an effort to pretend that they are actually interested in governing. From John Frank of the Denver Post:

Colorado’s top lawmakers are negotiating a far-reaching measure in the final days of the legislative session that is designed to save hospitals from major budget cuts, generate $1.8 billion for road repairs and lower the state’s spending cap.

Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, unveiled the details early Monday after days of closed-door negotiations with top Democratic lawmakers. But moments after he announced an agreement on the legislation, an aide passed him a note from Democrats that declared no deal.

We don’t doubt that many Democrats aren’t happy with this latest funding proposal, considering some of the nonsense included in Sonnenberg’s bill:

The latest negotiations include requiring the maximum federal co-pay for Medicaid, the government-funded health care program for people with low-income, as well as a cut to the business personal property tax for small business owners, up to $25,000. Other provisions would change how TABOR refunds are issued and funnel more money to rural schools.

Republican lawmakers continue to insist that there is plenty of money hidden away in government coffers that could pay for everything if they could just move some decimal points around here and there. Note also how Republicans would include a tax cut for businesses alongside a big new financial burden for low-income Coloradans.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Denver To Trump: Back Off Man, We Like Science


Denver Post reporting, but you were probably there from the look of it:

Thousands of scientists and science supporters joined the March For Science through downtown Denver Saturday in the city’s largest rally since the Women’s March in January.

In cities across the globe — as close as Boulder and as far away as Washington D.C. and a German scientific enclave in Antarctica — marchers showed support for evidence-based and science-based public policy, protested potential cuts to federally-funded research and expressed disappointment with the White House’s response to climate change…

Marchers were a mix of younger and older people who traveling from across Colorado, including Boulder, Durango and Bailey. Some were scientists and teachers while others were students and science enthusiasts.

The Colorado Independent’s Kelsey Ray:

President Donald Trump has been notably outspoken against climate change and environmental research. His budget blueprint, essentially a wish list for budget boosts and cuts, proposed slashing EPA funding by 30 percent and reducing funds for environmental research agencies like the National Oceanic and Environmental Administration.

In the lead-up to the march, numerous editorials questioned the premise of scientists acting as activists. Is there a place in science for activism? Should scientists speak about political issues? Perhaps fearful of backlash and further cuts, most government-funded research agencies have forbid their employees from talking about politics.

Many of those at the march, particularly the career scientists, had considered these questions. But they ultimately decided that recent political attacks on climate science were too worrisome not to show up.

We haven’t seen a reliable crowd estimate for yesterday’s march in Denver, but it was certainly in the tens of thousands, and as reported easily the biggest protest march since the Women’s March held a day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Much like the Women’s March, we’ve seen some attempts by Trump supporters to argue the march had no specific target, and that Trump supporters would have had as much reason to attend a March for Science as anybody else.

Against the backdrop of Trump’s huge proposed cuts to federal scientific research of all kinds, and especially research into climate change, this notion is preposterous–as much as claiming the Women’s March wasn’t a direct result of the fact that a man who bragged about sexual assault is now President of the United States. Here in Colorado, home to such a large number of critical federal scientific research facilities, we know very well what the threat is, and who is behind it.

And it looks like the whole rest of the world knows, too.

If DPS Isn’t Reform-y Enough For Betsy DeVos, What The Hell Is?

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Sarah Darville writes for Chalkbeat Colorado:

Earlier this month, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was praising Denver’s efforts to support school choice. Not today.

Speaking at the Brookings Institution Wednesday, she called out Denver as an example of a district that appears to be choice-friendly — but actually lacks sufficient options for families.

A new Brookings report gave the city the top score for school choice, citing the unified application process that allows families to consider charter and district-run schools at the same time.

But DeVos implied that without vouchers to pay for private schools (something Colorado’s state Supreme Court has twice ruled unconstitutional) and a sufficient supply of charter schools, Denver’s application process amounts to an optical illusion.

“The benefits of making choices accessible are canceled out when you don’t have a full menu of options,” she said, pointing to New Orleans as a better example of the choice ecosystem she’d like to see. “Choice without accessibility doesn’t matter. Just like accessibility without choices doesn’t matter. Neither scenario ultimately benefits students.”

As a reform-minded public school district responsible for a large and diverse urban population of students, Denver Public Schools has been on the front lines in the battle over “innovation” and school choice for a number of years. Battles over the district’s school choice programs and reform efforts in struggling DPS schools have made for bitter infighting between nominally allied liberal Democrats, and frequently sparked conflict between the school board and the district’s teachers.

With that said, there should be absolutely no daylight between the factions in Denver Public Schools when it comes to opposing private school vouchers, a question that has already been thoroughly explored by the Douglas County school district to the south of Denver. Colorado’s constitution explicitly prohibits public funding for religious schools, which has been repeatedly upheld by the state supreme court. The Brookings Institution’s report praising DPS for its accommodation of choice for parents shows that the district is doing everything it can be reasonably expected to do under state law.

And if that’s not good enough for Education Secretary Betsy “Amway U” DeVos, that only demonstrates how far she is from the mainstream–not Denver Public Schools.

So Long, Dan McMinimee

Soon to be ex-Jeffco Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

Denver7’s Blair Miller reports on another endnote in the long battle to wrest control of Jefferson County Public Schools back from a conservative majority elected in 2013 and ousted in an historic 2015 recall election–the departure of conservative superintendent Dan McMinimee:

Jeffco Public Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee is out of his job early, as the district announced Thursday he was stepping down immediately.

The district announced in December that his three-year contract would not be renewed, and he was set to be out of a job as of June 30.

But the district said Thursday that McMinimee and the school board agreed to McMinimee’s early ouster.

He will remain with the district through June 30, Jeffco Public Schools Communications Office Diana Wilson said, but will not have day-to-day operations responsibilities.

Wilson said McMinimee will “be available to the board in an advisory capacity and will assist as needed in the transition to a new superintendent.”

Dan McMinimee was hired by the conservative majority Jeffco school board in 2014, a pick that was fraught with controversy–McMinimee was formerly an assistant superintendent at arch-conservative Douglas County Schools, whose right-wing board and perceived anti-teacher bias resulted in an exodus of qualified teachers from the district.

As the battles between the new board and the district’s parents and teachers heated up, McMinimee drew fire for not intervening in the board alleged “bullying” of students who showed up to testify at board meetings, as well as his participation in intra-board intrigue on behalf of the majority.

After the recall election that sent the conservative board majority packing, McMinimee was the career equivalent of a dead man walking. Immediately after the recall election we predicted his swift departure, but the new board made the magnanimous (and fiscally prudent) decision to allow McMinimee to serve out his contract. We suppose it’s even hypothetically possible that he might have lived up to the expectations of the new board and had his contract renewed.

But it didn’t happen, and now McMinimee’s departure marks the final stages of a housecleaning three years in the making.

Betsy DeVos Confirmed As Gardner, Bennet Split Vote

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

New York Times:

The Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos on Tuesday as education secretary, approving the embattled nominee only with the help of a historic tiebreaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.

The 51-to-50 vote elevates Ms. DeVos — a wealthy donor from Michigan who has devoted much of her life to expanding educational choice through charter schools and vouchers, but has limited experience with the public school system — to be steward of the nation’s schools.

GOP Sen. Cory Gardner voted for Betsy DeVos, giving his final answer to protesters who have besieged his office and phone lines for weeks. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, on the other hand, joined the Democrats’ late-night protest against DeVos’ confirmation:

And now we’ll all have to await the judgment of history! Gardner has obviously made the calculation that supporting DeVos now will not be a political problem for him when he’s up for re-election in 2020. With that said, Gardner is now by the same yardstick he used against his Democratic opponent in 2014 the “deciding vote” for DeVos–which helps link Gardner’s fate to hers, and to the Trump administration as a whole.

Hope that works out.

Teachers Keep Up The Pressure On Cory Gardner

As CBS4 reports–the stretch of Skyline Park next to Sen. Cory Gardner’s downtown Denver offices in the Chase Bank building is turning into a semi-permanent protest zone, with another large protest yesterday of teachers and parents calling for the rejection of Donald Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos:

Hundreds of parents, teachers and other community members rallied outside the office of Sen. Cory Gardner.

Protesters were urging Gardner to vote against confirmation of Betsy DeVos, nominee for the U.S. education secretary…

“She felt very out of touch with what my day-to-day reality with students actually is,” said Heather C., a public school teacher in the Denver metro area.

She said that DeVos lacked the experience needed to run the country’s education and higher learning finance systems. For that reason, she was asking Gardner to help rescind DeVos’ nomination.

“And for him to realize that we are not paid protesters,” Heather C. continued. “And that simply because someone disagrees with his point of view does not mean they’re being bribed or that they have some other kind of agenda.” [Pols emphasis]

Gardner’s dismissal of the protesters showing up regularly at his offices as “paid operatives” very clearly appears to have backfired, both in terms of attracting negative press and growing the crowds of demonstrators in Skyline Park. The national attention Gardner received for his arrogance toward these protesters is a major misstep for a normally very disciplined politician, much better known for slickly talking his way around controversy than stepping in it.

And it helps explain why Gardner is becoming the local face for everything bad happening in Washington.

Get More Smarter on Friday (February 3)

Can we demand a recount in Punxsutawney? How do we know that the groundhog wasn’t paid off by “Big Winter” to keep it cold for another six weeks? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► That big wall between Mexico and the United States that President Trump has repeatedly promised is running into plenty of opposition from Congressional Republicans. As CNN reports:

A growing number of congressional Republicans are objecting to the cost and viability of a proposal that was a rallying cry for the billionaire businessman during his insurgent campaign. Interviews with more than a dozen GOP lawmakers across the ideological spectrum suggest Trump could have a difficult time getting funding for his plan approved by Congress.

Many bluntly told CNN they’d likely vote against any Trump plan that is not fully offset with spending cuts, while others questioned whether Trump’s vision would adequately resolve the problems at the border.

“If you’re going to spend that kind of money, you’re going to have to show me where you’re going to get that money,” said Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a key swing vote who has already broken with Trump over his nominee for secretary of education.

“I don’t see how you can get a bill like that through (Congress) without offsets,” she added. “I don’t see how that’s possible.”

At a projected cost of $12-15 billion, it’s not hard to see why so-called “fiscal conservatives” would be freaking out a little bit.

 

► Remember Bowling Green!?

Don’t remember Bowling Green? You’re not alone. But here’s what President Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway told Chris Matthews of MSNBC on Thursday:

“Two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized, and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. Most people didn’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”

Conway is correct that this didn’t get covered…primarily because it never happened. From the Washington Post:

In defending President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning refugees, immigrants and citizens from Iraq and six other Muslim-majority countries, Conway referred to something that didn’t happen — the “Bowling Green massacre.” (She also incorrectly said that Obama “banned” Iraqi refugees, which we have previously fact-checked as false.)

Conway was on her way to a Four-Pinocchio rating when, about an hour and a half after The Fact Checker sent her a query about her remarks, she tweeted that she meant to say “Bowling Green terrorists.”

Alternative facts.

 

One of the foremost charter school advocates in the United States says that Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos is absolutely not qualified for the position and is urging the Senate to reject her nomination. Despite a series of shaky performances during the confirmation process, DeVos is still moving forward in the process but will have to sweat out a full floor vote on Monday.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Get More Smarter on Thursday (February 2)

You dirty son of a groundhog! Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter after emerging from his palace this morning and seeing his shadow. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► There are growing concerns about President Trump’s mental and emotional fitness, and it’s becoming a problem in international relations. On Wednesday, President Trump hung up the phone during a conversation with the Australian Prime Minister. From the Washington Post:

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”

Also on Wednesday, Trump may or may not have threatened to send U.S. troops into Mexico.

Trump has a position on a topic, and everything else is wrong. If you are concerned about any of this, President Trump says, “Just don’t worry about it.

 

► President Trump’s over-the-top rhetoric may be fun for campaigns and television shows, but it may actually backfire in International diplomacy. From the Washington Post:

President Trump and Iran traded sharp statements Thursday, with Trump amplifying warnings over Tehran’s missile tests and a top adviser to Iran’s leader saying it was not the first time an “inexperienced person has threatened” his country.

The exchanges reflect the Trump administration’s toughening stance on Iran, but also point to wider changes in the White House as it advances a combative and iconoclastic ­foreign policy. The shifts appear to ­sideline traditional diplomacy and concentrate decision-making among a small group of aides who are quickly projecting their new “America first” approach to the world.

Just before the Senate confirmed Trump’s new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, on Wednesday, national security adviser ­Michael Flynn made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room to deliver a stern warning to Iran over its most recent ballistic missile test.

Trump bangs his fists, and Iran shrugs.

 

► It’s an icy day in Metro Denver, which is something Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos is growing quite accustomed to feeling. After a series of shaky performances during the confirmation process, DeVos may need a tie-breaking Senate vote from Vice President Mike Pence to make it into the Department of Education. As we noted in this space yesterday, DeVos has lost the support of two Republican Senators after demonstrating during the last few weeks that she has very little understanding of what her proposed job entails.

As the Colorado Statesman reports, a growing number of state lawmakers are also voicing their opposition to DeVos.

 

The fight is on over the Supreme Court now that Donald Trump’s nominee has been announced. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) wasted no time in sitting down for a meeting with Judge Neil Gorsuchwhich is more than Gardner would even consider for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

DeVos Confirmation Hangs By a Thread

Betsy DeVos.

The Hill reporting–bad news for charterizers, voucherfyers, and Amway:

GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski in back-to-back speeches on the Senate floor announced Wednesday that they would oppose Betsy DeVos’s nomination to be Education secretary.

They are the first two Republicans to break with Trump on any of his Cabinet picks, and the votes could make it difficult for DeVos to win confirmation.

If all of the Senate’s Democrats vote against DeVos, she would have 50 votes if the remaining Republicans backed her — with Vice President Mike Pence potentially breaking the tie. No Democrats have backed DeVos…

That includes Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who despite his reputation as a reform-friendly education policy guy has little use for Betsy DeVos’ brand of “reform.”

“There is nothing in the conversations I’ve had with this nominee, or in her experience in Michigan or Detroit, that gives me confidence that she can lead us in the direction we need, which is to ensure that every kid in America has access to high-quality education, whether or not they are born into wealth,” Bennet said. “That is why I will vote against this nomination.”

In remarks during the Senate committee’s vote on Devos, Bennet, a former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, discussed the inequalities in the American public education system.

“While we have these partisan squabbles in the Senate, there are millions of American kids who are attending schools that are foreclosing on their future from the start,” Bennet said. “There are millions of people teaching today in America who have a job that is much harder than anyone on this panel, who are not being adequately supported in their work.”

“I was a school superintendent of an urban school district,” he added. “The last thing I wanted was the federal government telling me what to do. But I believe we have a profound national interest to ensure that more than 9 out of 100 kids born into poverty in this country are able to obtain a college degree. We also have a profound national interest to attract the next 1.5 million teachers to teach, especially in our high poverty schools in our cities and rural communities.”

It should be noted that even former state Sen. Michael Johnston, who is well right of most Democrats on education policy, is vocally opposing DeVos as well:

Our children deserve someone who understands the complexity of the challenges we face and is committed to the transparency, accountability and high standards families deserve. Being divisive is no substitute for being diligent, and being partisan is no proxy for being prepared.

At this point, it looks as though DeVos might become Trump’s first Cabinet confirmation casualty–which would cheer public school supporters, but also leave uncertainty as to who might be nominated next for this important job. There’s an argument that if you have to put an unqualified candidate in an important position, maybe they should be so unqualified that the amount of damage they can do is self-limiting.

You’re right, that’s no way to run the government. Stay tuned.