Get More Smarter on Wednesday (September 13)

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

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is introducing a “Medicare for All” healthcare plan today with significant support from well-known Senate Democrats. As the Washington Post reports:

Sanders’s bill, the Medicare for All Act of 2017, has no chance of passage in a Republican-run Congress. But after months of behind-the-scenes meetings and a public pressure campaign, the bill is already backed by most of the senators seen as likely 2020 Democratic candidates — if not by most senators facing tough reelection battles in 2018.

The bill would revolutionize America’s health-care system, replacing it with a public system that would be paid for by higher taxes. Everything from emergency surgery to prescription drugs, from mental health to eye care, would be covered, with no co-payments. Americans younger than 18 would immediately obtain “universal Medicare cards,” while Americans not currently eligible for Medicare would be phased into the program over four years. Employer-provided health care would be replaced, with the employers paying higher taxes but no longer on the hook for insurance.

Private insurers would remain, with fewer customers, to pay for elective treatments such as cosmetic surgery — a system similar to that in Australia, which President Trump has praised for having a “much better” insurance regimen than the United States.

Republicans will immediately point to projections showing big tax increases under such a plan, but Americans might actually end up saving money in this scenario because of the reduction or elimination of copays, premiums, and deductibles.

On Tuesday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cary Kennedy announced her support for a “Medicaid for All” proposal in Colorado.

 

► Jefferson County Republicans are mad as hell (at Republicans) and they’re not above issuing toothless threats to prove it! As Ernest Luning writes for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

The Jefferson County Republican Party is demanding Congress immediately repeal the Affordable Care Act or, if it can’t, to elect new congressional leadership.

A strongly worded resolution adopted unanimously by the county party’s executive committee Monday night maintains that the failure of congressional Republicans to overturn the sweeping health care legislation known as Obamacare “has caused great consternation and angst among registered Republicans in Jefferson County” and put GOP candidates “in great election peril.”

The county party is giving Congress until Nov. 1 to “repeal the abominable legislation,” but if Republicans “fail to meet our demand … and continue in their deceit of the voters,” the Jefferson County GOP want different Republicans in charge of the House and Senate…

…“[I]t is imperative that we differentiate ourselves from the National GOP,” the county party wrote on Facebook Tuesday. “Otherwise, our local and state candidates will be painted with the same brush as the GOP in Washington. Those in Washington are not doing what they promised, and we intend to hold their feet to the fire.”

The irony is strong with this one. By unanimously demanding that Congress immediately repeal Obamacare, the Jefferson County Republican Party has painted every one of its 2018 candidates into a tight little corner.

 

► Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is in Colorado today touring schools, and will finish her visit with a visit to the Air Force Academy this afternoon.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (September 12)

For those of you who fell asleep before Monday’s late game was over, the Denver Broncos are now 1-0 on the season. 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…

► Things were very good economically for the American middle class in 2016 (thanks, Donald Obama!) As the Washington Post reports:

America’s middle class had its highest-earning year ever in 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday…

…America’s poverty rate fell to 12.7 percent, the lowest since 2007, the year before the financial crisis hit. The percent of Americans without health insurance for the entire year also dropped in 2016 to just 8.8 percent, largely thanks to expanding coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Economists hailed the news as evidence the recovery is finally taking hold after years of frustration for the middle class, which watched the stock market soar while the average American’s income barely budged.

 

► Don’t stop us if you’ve heard this before (because you have): Congressional Republicans are eager to get to work on tax reform issues, but they’re a bit perplexed by the absence of anything resembling a specific proposal. As Politico reports:

“This time around there is no room for error. This has got to be a home run,” Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) said, recalling the GOP’s Obamacare fiasco. “I would hope everyone wants to know what’s in it before you vote on it. That’s the old [Nancy] Pelosi joke on health care, it turned into a colossal joke. ‘You’ll find out what’s in it after we pass it.’”

A member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, speaking on condition of anonymity to speak freely said, “It is frustrating and concerning that we don’t have the details and yet we’re going to be asked in 60 days to vote on something,”

The member suggested that congressional and administration leaders negotiating a plan are holding back information either to avoid leaks or because they haven’t found enough common ground yet to share anything. [Pols emphasis]

Or…and we’re just spitballing here…perhaps not having a plan really is the plan. After all, you can’t oppose something that doesn’t exist.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

► Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler is seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2018. Brauchler should also be seeking some advice on how to talk about water policy in Colorado. HINT: Don’t say that you are surprised that water is a big issue here.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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You’re Not Helping, “Frackholes”

Boulder County commissioner Elise Jones.

As the Longmont Times-Call’s John Fryar reports, oh Lordy:

Anti-fracking activists wrote a news release about a demonstration they staged Sunday outside a Marine Street residence in Boulder that they thought was the home where Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones lives.

Jones does not live there, though, and said on Monday that while she’s one of the owners of the property on the 700 block of Marine Street, she hasn’t lived there for several years.

In a news release, an organization identifying itself as Boulder County Protectors said about 50 community members had marched “on a home of politically compromised Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones asking her to resign.”

Quad facepalm.

It may not be common knowledge outside their Boulder County stomping grounds, but it’s a fact–as we have gently alluded to on more than one occasion–that the coalition of activists and groups opposed to the expansion of oil and gas drilling into residential neighborhoods runs the gamut from legitimate and thoughtful engagement to…fairly unreasonable. For anyone who wants to see this debate advanced in the direction of greater protections for homes, schools, and businesses from the heavy industrial process of “fracking” for oil and gas, there’s considerable peril in being de-legitimized by less well-adjusted, more strident folks nominally on the same side.

And that’s how we arrive at a group of “fracktivists” in full costume protesting what they thought was the home of Elise Jones, former executive director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition now a Boulder County commish–even calling for her resignation:

Jones said on Monday that while “we all object to fracking” — the process of injecting a mixture of sand, chemicals and water to free up underground oil and gas deposits — she objected to anti-fracking demonstrations that trespass onto private properties.

Cliff Willmeng, of East Boulder County United, one of the groups with members at the Sunday demonstration, acknowledged on Monday afternoon that they’d thought Jones lived at the address in the 700 block of Marine Street but discovered after gathering there that she does not…

Anti-fracking groups have criticized Jones and her fellow county commissioners for not adopting a “Climate Bill of Rights” or advancing such a measure to county voters’ ballots.

Folks, this is ridiculous. Even if you are 100% of the opinion that “fracking” should be banned in Colorado, calling for the resignation of public officials who are much closer to your view than the opposing view is an absurd waste of valuable time and resources. Boulder County, along with city governments along the northern Front Range threatened by oil and gas drilling, has led the struggle against the state government for better protections. Setbacks in the courts and the plain wording for state law as it exists today have constrained the ability of elected officials to respond on this issue to the liking of activists, but for the activists to attack people who in every rational sense are their allies on the larger issue is…

Yes, still ridiculous. And it does not help them advance their cause. On the contrary, it gives pro-drilling opponents ammunition with which to discredit the “fractivists,” and dissuades reasonable people who care about the issue from joining their coalition. It may be satisfying to lash out indiscriminately at everyone in power when something doesn’t go your way, but from a long-term credibility perspective it is the worst possible way to respond.

And all that is true before you mess up the location of the protest.

Brauchler Surprised that “Water is a Huge Issue” in Colorado

So, tell me more about this…water.

Many of the 17 dozen candidates for Governor in Colorado descended on the annual “Club 20 Fall Conference” in Grand Junction over the weekend. Candidates from the Front Range may not be exposed to all of the issues that are critical to Colorado’s Western Slope, but Republican gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler was a bit too candid in his comments. As the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports:

As the current district attorney for the 18th Judicial District in the Denver metropolitan area, the Republican knows much about public safety issues, from the courts to law enforcement.

But being governor necessitates more than just a rudimentary understanding of other issues, something he’s learned while campaigning on the Western Slope in the crowded race for the GOP nomination for governor.

“The one issue that I did not anticipate, but appreciate more than any of the other (issues), is water,” Brauchler said Friday shortly after meeting with the Grand Junction Economic Partnership about business issues. “On the Front Range, the water issue is when I turn on my tap, is it there? Getting around the state as much as I have over the past five months, water is a huge issue.” Brauchler said his lack of understanding about water issues prompted him to meet with numerous water experts, including those with the Colorado River District. [Pols emphasis]

His main takeaway, which is still under development, is more storage and more conservation.

Whhaaatttt???

It’s hard to overstate the weirdness of Brauchler’s comments here. Water policy has been among the most important issues in Colorado since…well, since before Colorado became Colorado. We have a Statewide Water Plan in Colorado, for crying out loud. Water policy in Colorado is extremely complicated, as this briefing document from the State of Colorado outlines, so candidates can be forgiven for not knowing all of the details. But not knowing that water is a big issue in general is a flabbergasting acknowledgment from a serious gubernatorial candidate.

This bizarre admission is a terrible look for Brauchler — and no doubt something that will haunt him in the months to come. It is an inexcusable mistake that Brauchler was not better-briefed before he grabbed the microphone in Grand Junction.

If you’re not familiar with Colorado water issues, you probably shouldn’t show up at a “Club 20” event. For that matter, if you’re not familiar with water issues, you probably shouldn’t be running for governor of Colorado.

Get More Smarter on Monday (September 11)

The Denver Broncos open their season late tonight; it may be Sept. 12 before the game finally concludes. 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…

► Officials are still assessing damage from Hurricane Irma, which hit South Florida on Sunday before moving up the western coast of Florida toward the Tampa Bay area. The storm left more than 6 million people without power across Florida, but the worst-case scenarios envisioned by weather forecasters last week seem largely to have been avoided.

 

► The Chair of the Colorado Republican Party is backing up comments made on the official Twitter accounts of the state party that were critical of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Citing articles critical of the SPLC “from across the political spectrum” and a letter written this week by prominent conservatives that calls the SPLC a “discredited, left-wing political activist organization that seeks to silence its political opponents with a ‘hate group’ label of its own invention,” State GOP Chair Jeff Hays told Colorado Politics he has no intention of apologizing.

“The notion that the Colorado Republican Party should apologize for joining this broad chorus of critics is ridiculous,” Hays said in a statement. “Our tweet was correct to suggest the SPLC is an unreliable source of information, and stories that cite it uncritically ought not to be trusted.”

If you are unfamiliar with the SPLC, you should know that they are one of the leading groups in the United States keeping track of “hate groups,” white supremacy, and other extremist organizations.

 

Steve Bannon, the former top strategist for President Trump who was resigned-fired last month, had plenty to say in an interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday. As CNN reports, Bannon pulled no punches in assessing Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey:

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon believes President Donald Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey was one of the worst mistakes in “modern political history.”

In a “60 Minutes” interview that was posted online Sunday night, Bannon was asked whether he considered Comey’s dismissal — which ignited a political firestorm and directly led to the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including potential ties to Trump’s campaign — the biggest mistake in political history.

Bannon responded, “That would be probably — that probably would be too bombastic even for me, but maybe modern political history.”

Bannon is now back at Breitbart News, and it sounds like he is ready for an all-out war with the Republican Party.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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GOP Lawmakers Troll Well-Plugging Plan, Because Of Course

Sen. Ray Scott (R).

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb reports–a few weeks ago, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced measures intended to prevent the recurrence of an explosion inside a home in Firestone that killed two people and leveled the structure, an explosion later determined to be caused by methane gas seeping into the home’s foundations from an improperly abandoned well nearby. Flowlines from that well allowed the gas into the home, calling attention to a major statewide problem of abandoned oil and gas development infrastructure. Hickenlooper’s announced fixes have been debated as a potentially too-small response to a problem that will only get worse as the urbanizing Front Range expands into current and formerly drilled areas.

But as the Sentinel reports, a pair of energy biz-friendly GOP lawmakers is pushing back even against Hickenlooper’s small-scale proposed fixes:

State Sen. Ray Scott and state Rep. Bob Rankin are asking Colorado’s top oil and gas regulator to justify why more funds are needed to pay for plugging abandoned wells.

The two made the request in a letter written Wednesday to Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

They wrote it after Gov. John Hickenlooper made several recommendations for new laws or regulations in response to the April home explosion in Firestone that killed two men and was linked to gas flowing from an abandoned flowline from a nearby well. One recommendation was the creation of a nonprofit fund to plug and abandon orphan wells and provide refunds for in-home methane monitors. Orphan wells are ones for which no owner or operator can be found, or the owner or operator is unwilling or unable to plug and properly abandon it.

“We are writing to request your assistance regarding the size and scope of the abandoned well situation in Colorado,” Scott and Rankin said in their letter to Lepore. They pointed to what they called Hickenlooper’s suggestion that “the abandoned well problem is so vast in scope that new taxes and fees are necessary to stand up a new organization to address the problem.”

Even Matt Lepore, Gov. Hickenlooper’s rather infamously pro-industry director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, says that the amount of money oil companies are required to bond for plugging old wells is inadequate, having last been increased almost a decade ago and to a level still not enough to cover the need.

But apparently even Hickenlooper’s limited actions in response to the Firestone explosion are too much for Republicans in the legislature! Politically, questioning these baby steps as potential “overreach” following such a high-profile disaster is incredibly tone-deaf–if not for the Western Slope “gaspatch Republicans” in this story, then certainly for Republicans who have to answer to worried suburban homeowners along the Front Range.

At some point, public safety has to come before private profit. Doesn’t it?

Get More Smarter on Friday (September 8)

In these times of escalating partisan rancor, it’s nice to know that we can all come together in a shared dislike of Tom Brady. 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 this morning gave final approval to a $15 billion disaster relief package in the wake of Hurricane Harvey…just as Hurricane Irma prepares to throttle Florida. President Trump is apparently quite excited that his show of “bipartisanship” this week has attracted so much positive media coverage. As NBC News reports:

Trump expressed that he was thrilled with the positive news coverage the debt limit deal had received, a senior Democratic aide told NBC News.

“The people of the United States want to see a coming together, at least to an extent. We’re different parties, we have different thoughts, different feelings, different ideas. But I think you’re coming to see a much stronger coming together,” Trump told reporters at the White House Thursday.

Earlier in the day he said he looks forward to working with both Republicans and Democrats.

You’re a good wittle President, aren’t you? Yes, you are! 

 

► Anyway, back to the hurricane news…As the New York Times reports, nearly the entire state of Florida is in danger from one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded:

One of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded crescendoed over the Caribbean on Thursday, crumpling islands better known as beach paradises into half-habitable emergency zones and sideswiping Puerto Rico before churning north. It is expected to hit the Florida Keys and South Florida by Saturday night…

…Gov. Rick Scott of Florida urged extreme caution in the face of a powerful storm that could quickly change course. “Every Florida family must prepare to evacuate regardless of the coast you live on,” he said.

Hurricane Irma is the size of France — like, the entire country. Miami could take a near-direct hit by Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, a third potentially major hurricane, Jose, is right on the heels of Irma. And a major 8.1 magnitude earthquake was recorded off the southern coast of Mexico.

 

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) has already dropped his plans to push a discharge petition for a House vote on DACA. As The Hill reports:

Coffman said he made an agreement with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to hold off on gathering support for his discharge petition for the bill, which would extend protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for three years.

Coffman filed the discharge petition on Tuesday, which would need 218 signatures to trigger a House floor vote. Discharge petitions are typically used by the House minority party to bring attention to legislation ignored by the majority-party leadership — but are rarely successful.

For a member of the House majority like Coffman to file a discharge petition was an exceedingly rare move.

If you were cynical about Coffman’s newfound commitment to DACA, well, go ahead and say, “I told you so.”

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman — Mike Coffman’s former spouse — doesn’t want any part of the controversy surrounding President Trump’s decision to end the DACA program for children of undocumented immigrants. Elsewhere, a group of 11 Democratic Governors are urging Congress to take swift action to assist DREAMERS.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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…and You’re No Wendell Berry

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

“Invest in the Millennium”

The opening stanza of Wendell Berry’s poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer’s Liberation Front” is a good place to start this blog:

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

Reading Greg Walcher’s column is part of my weekly ritual.

Greg Walcher, who many are familiar with as former head of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (under Governor Owens), a one-time Congressional candidate, and long-time leader of the extractive-industry and Western Slope lobby group: Club 20, writes a weekly column in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Reading it is part of my Friday ritual.

Walcher’s column is widely panned as light on facts, heavy on conjecture, and harsh on any who think public health, other life on the planet, and environmental sustainability are more critical than padding private portfolios.

This week he writes about the heavy thumb of Washington holding back rural Coloradans who only want to cut things down, dig things up, and frack their way to freedom. To make his point, he quotes author, poet, farmer, and philosopher Wendell Berry, who–of course–never really meant what Mr. Walcher seems to want him to. Perhaps it seemed like a handy quote as his deadline loomed–would anyone even know better?

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Get More Smarter on Friday (August 25)

Keep your fingers crossed and your thoughts and prayers on south Texas this weekend.  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…

► Hurricane Harvey is on track to make a devastating landfall in south Texas sometime this evening — the most powerful hurricane to hit the United States since Wilma in 2005. Meteorologists are already predicting rainfall totals that will be measured in feet rather than inches. As the Washington Post reports, Hurricane Harvey will be another big test for President Trump:

Storms like this can define presidencies. George W. Bush’s presidency never recovered after Hurricane Katrina 12 summers ago. George H.W. Bush’s 1992 reelection hopes were hurt by his botched response to Hurricane Andrew because it cemented the narrative that he was detached from domestic problems and unconcerned about acting swiftly to help regular people back home…

Major damage will also draw public attention to severe budget cuts Trump has proposed.

Trump has pushed for a 6% cut for the National Weather Service and a 16% slash to the budget of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The latest estimates on the power of Hurricane Harvey are sounding pretty dire. From CNN:

The outer bands of Hurricane Harvey have begun swiping the Texas coast as 35 inches of rain and “catastrophic” storm-surge flooding is predicted following landfall late Friday or early Saturday, the National Hurricane Center said.

The combination of heavy rain, “life-threatening” storm surges, flooding and strong winds could leave wide swaths of South Texas “uninhabitable for weeks or months,” the National Weather Service in Houston said. Such daunting language hasn’t been seen by CNN’s experts since Hurricane Katrina, which left more than 1,800 people dead in 2005.

 

► Could Governor John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) run for Vice President in 2020 on a “unity ticket” with Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) as the lead dog?

[sigh]

No. But it is fun to say “Kasichlooper.”

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Hick Announces Firestone Explosion Response Today

UPDATE #2: Denver Post, can’t call this a good lede for Gov. John Hickenlooper:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is asking oil and gas operators to pony up money to plug the 700 to 800 “orphan wells” in the state, but is shying from taking stances on more contentious policies, such as how close new homes can be built to existing wells.

The governor also won’t force the energy industry to allow state officials to compile a publicly available map of all oil and gas pipelines. Instead, he said he wanted to enhance the 811 call program to ensure homeowners can use their telephones to access pipeline information for site-specific areas. Hickenlooper said industry officials were concerned a comprehensive statewide map could lead to people illegally tapping pipelines to siphon off gas. [Pols emphasis]

Siphoning off gas? We’re pretty sure there’s already a law against theft…

—–

UPDATE: As the Greeley Tribune’s Sharon Dunn reports:

“What happened in Firestone … we’ve never seen before,” HIckenlooper said, in response to a question on whether proposed changes could ensure such an explosion would never happen again. “We’re spending millions of dollars to do everything we can to make sure it never happens again. This is about as close to never as you’re going to get.”

In response to the explosion, the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission ordered companies to locate, inspect and repair any damaged flowlines in the state. Some companies went a step beyond and abandoned certain flowline practices that led to the explosion and shut off older wells.

But since, there’s been concern on what happens next on a statewide level.

Hickenlooper, in a press conference at the Capitol in Denver, proposed seven changes to existing practice, some which will require simple rulemaking, and others that would require legislation.

As we suspected, the changes requested are relatively small-scale, including more inspections of the kind of flowlines responsible for the Firestone explosion, and more money for what appears to be a woefully inadequate fund to plug abandoned wells.

Which means this debate is very far from over.

—–

The remains of a home in Firestone following April’s explosion.

KDVR reporting, stand by for news later this morning:

Gov. John Hickenlooper is announcing the state’s response to a review of oil and gas operations on Tuesday.

The review was called in response to the deadly home explosion in Firestone last April.

Mark Joseph Martinez, 42 of Firestone, and Joseph William Irwin III, 42 of Frederick, were killed in the explosion on Twilight Avenue. Erin Martinez was pinned under the collapsed roof and was critically injured.

Investigators said the explosion was caused by unrefined, odorless natural gas from a 1-inch pipeline that was severed.

We don’t know what Gov. John Hickenlooper’s response will consist of, most likely a range of incremental measures to ensure oil and gas companies better manage their far-flung and in some cases disused and decaying drilling infrastructure–which is now coming into conflict with new development along the urbanizing Front Range with tragic results.

We’ll update with news from Hickenlooper’s press conference later today and responses from all sides. Whatever Hickenlooper announces today, we expect the issue to remain a major point of debate in Colorado’s 2018 gubernatorial and state-race elections.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (August 8)

Worried that people don’t like you? Your approval ratings can’t be worse than those of Cory Gardner. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► President Trump is a model of consistency when it comes to low approval ratings. As CNN explains:

Six months into his presidency, Donald Trump’s overall approval rating stands at its lowest point in CNN polling, while three-quarters of Americans say they can’t trust most of what they hear from the White House.

Overall, 38% say they approve of Trump’s handling of the presidency, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, with 56% saying they disapprove. Just one other newly-elected president has held an approval rating below 50% at this point in his presidency since modern polling began: Bill Clinton, whose approval rating stood at 44% at this point in 1993.

Enthusiasm breaks against Trump by a 2-to-1 margin. Nearly half in the new poll say they strongly disapprove of Trump’s handling of the job (47%), while just a quarter say they feel strongly positive about Trump’s performance (24%).

Trump has been President for 200 days already? Covfefe!

 

► Here in Colorado, new poll results show that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) remains less popular than President Trump. Gardner’s approval/disapproval split is 24/56, compared to 40/53 for Trump.

Back in March, Gardner’s approval ratings were at a miserable 39%. At the rate he’s going, Gardner’s approval ratings will be in the single digits by Christmas.

 

► An in-depth Climate Change study compiled by a slew of federal agencies tells a story that President Trump may not want to hear. From the New York Times:

The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration.

The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited…

…The report was completed this year and is a special science section of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years. The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the draft report, and the authors are awaiting permission from the Trump administration to release it.

One government scientist who worked on the report, Katharine Hayhoe, a professor of political science at Texas Tech University, called the conclusions among “the most comprehensive climate science reports” to be published. Another scientist involved in the process, who spoke to The New York Times on the condition of anonymity, said he and others were concerned that it would be suppressed.

Each one of 13 federal agencies — including the EPA — is supposed to “approve” the report for distribution by August 18. Scientists are worried that the Trump administration will dismiss this report entirely.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Rep. Ken Buck – Still lying, but nicely

Representative Buck is a good communicator. His conversational skills were on display in his Sterling Town Hall on July 29, 2017.  He does not always tell the truth, and his point of view is limited to what one would expect from one of the ten most conservative members of the House of Representatives, and proud member of the ultra-right wing Freedom Caucus.  I’ve listed Buck’s lies and lies by omission below.

Buck handles these town halls well – he doesn’t get flustered when confronted, and  stayed in control with a crowd that was at least 50% Democratic and progressive. The impromptu town hall in Longmont got a little rowdier, but Buck still kept his cool.  I’d call the overall tone of the Sterling meeting “polite but firm” , for all parties involved.

Over the course of the  one hour town hall meeting, Buck and his constituents discussed the budget process, the health care bills past, present, and future, education, water law, Bitcoin and “crypto-currency”, renewable energy, constitutional convention, the VA hospital, and civility in politics. I’ve highlighted some of the places in which Representative Buck strayed from the truth.

  • At 22:59, during a renewable energy discussion , Buck said that he’s against mandates, not renewable energy, even though Colorado now gets 24% of its electricity from wind and solar, and wind turbine jobs are the fastest growing job category in the country. . He was unable to justify his statement that renewable energy is hurting Coloradans and costing them money.
  • At 30:00 Buck says he’s against unfunded mandates in education, but doesn’t commit to fund them.
  • At 39:00, Buck lies about how much ACA coverage cost in 2014. (ACA = $1800, wife’s plan =$108 – but not mentioning that the  Federal Government subsidizes all congressmembers health at 90%, so his remaining 10% cost would have been $180/mo). If you recall, Cory Gardner  tried to scam voters with this same BS, and was never able to show any proof that his ACA payment was more expensive than his private plan.
  • At 40:00 Rep. Buck says he wants to drive down costs of premiums & deductibles, but neglects to mention that the House AHCA bill would have driven those way up for consumers.
  • At 49:45 , he says we should encourage people to be healthier and drive down health care costs that way (but the bill he supported would have eliminated ACA’s preventative medicine coverage).
  • Buck told a LIE again at 51:13 when he said that the GOP congress “never attempted to repeal and replace” Obamacare. The GOP Congress voted over 50 times to “repeal the ACA, and Buck personally voted 3X since he was elected in 2014 to repeal the ACA.
  • Again, at 53: 00 when Buck is asked what can be done about the lack of civility in DC, he blames the media for publicizing sensational stories, not a Republican administration which refuses to work across the aisle, nor a President who models terrible and uncivil behavior.
  • At 53:30, Buck is asked about his book Drain the Swamp, and  if it is true that he wants to change the Constitution. He replies that he would like to have a Constitutional Convention, but only to get a balanced budget and term limits. Whew. It’s not like there are any Koch brothers or nuts out there who want a Con-con just to repeal the last two centuries of progress.

Ken Buck apparently also has access to the Trump White House connection to Breitbart public relations  services. Buck’s humorous “Cut the Debt” video

features Trey Gowdy, Mia Love, Ted Cruz, and other Congress members, and promotes his point of view that cutting the national debt is an urgent priority. It was a front page Breitbart story on 3/15/2017.

Ken Buck is still one of the most conservative members of Congress. People running against him need to confront him on policy and votes. He’s not stupid or undisciplined – he’s not going to curse anyone out or get into a sex or money scandal. He’ll be a formidable foe not least because he is so “nice” and “personable”. Candidates running against him need to be prepared to confront him on votes, policies, and facts, stay polite and respectful, but call his lies out when necessary.

Representative Buck has other town hall meetings scheduled. See his website for updates.

Clueless Climate Alliance Clamor Continues

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

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

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

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

This description sums up the Independence Institute pretty well.

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

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

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

WOTD: Electric Utility Death Spiral

WOTD: Electric Utility Death Spiral

Partial Grid Defection: Produce 80-90% of your own electricity using your solar panel and backup batteries. Stay connected to the grid only for 24/7 reliability. This becomes cost effective by 2020.

Full Grid Defection: Produce 80-90% of your own electricity, and add diesel generator for emergency use. This becomes cost effective by 2030.

From Vox.com: Batteries are going to make rooftop solar invulnerable.

Utilities don’t make money selling electricity, they make money on their infrastructure. Customers pay a flat rate to cover both electricity and infrastructure.

WHEN A CUSTOMER INSTALLS SOLAR PANELS, IT HURTS THE UTILITY IN TWO WAYS. 

One, it reduces demand for utility power. Utilities generally don’t want lower demand. To justify building stuff, they need to be able to project higher demand.

Two, the more solar customers reduce their utility bills by generating their own power, the more utilities have to charge other, non-solar customers more, to cover their costs-plus-returns. This pisses the other customers off. And it incentivizes them to install solar themselves!

Cheap batteries neuter utility attacks on rooftop solar

Rooftop solar can be staved off temporarily with fees and rate tweaks, but as batteries get cheaper, those strategies will stop working. More and customers are going to generate, store, and manage more and more of their own power.

“In a low-cost storage environment,” McKinsey writes, the rate structures utilities are monkeying around with “are unlikely to be effective at mitigating load losses.” In other words, customers are still going to keep generating more of their own power.

That’s because batteries allow customers to circumvent utilities’ two primary tools for slowing the spread of solar.

If I look at my own situation, rooftop solar may be socially conscious  but it isn’t really economical unless my electrical needs were to increase (electric car?)
 

  • For one, the City of Fort Collins runs the electric utility and our prices are 20% or so less than the average in Colorado. 
  • For two, For about $10/month added to my bill, I can purchase solar electricity directly from the City Utility
  • For three, my electric use is already a quarter of average. I don’t have a TV or microwave, nor electric heaters or air conditioner. My whole-house fan runs on low & I have a new, energy-star refrigerator. Those are probably my biggest consumers of electricity.

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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