Weekend Open Thread

“To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”

–Theodore Roosevelt

Oh, The Inanity!

There are a lot of big issues in the news this week. This is not one of them.

Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute for Manufactured Angst is hopping mad about a new movie in theaters this weekend. According to the Director of the Centennial Institute, Jeff Hunt, the timeless story of a woman falling in love with a water buffalo is being ruined — RUINED! — because one of the minor characters might be a homosexual.

Ernest Luning has the story for the Colorado Statesman:

Colorado’s Centennial Institute is spearheading a campaign urging Christians to boycott Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” because the film purportedly includes an onscreen “exclusively gay moment” and its openly gay director has demonstrated a “hostile approach to the Bible.”

“What was frustrating about this film was we clearly saw there was an attempt to drive an agenda, and an agenda that was offensive to people who embrace and support traditional family values,” Jeff Hunt, director of the Lakewood-based Centennial Institute, Colorado Christian University’s think tank, told The Colorado Statesman…

…The movie — a faithful live-action remake of the animated 1991 Disney classic — has set tongues wagging at reports the character LeFou, the main villain’s sidekick, portrayed by actor Josh Gad, is gay and has a “gay moment” on screen.

According to the online culture magazine Vulture, the “gay moment” occurs when LeFou dances for “two seconds at the most” with a villainous henchman amid a flurry of celebration at the end of the movie. Other reviewers say there might be a few winks and sidelong glances, but some also insist that reports the movie features Disney’s first openly gay character are a stretch at best.

“If this was a film about a woman falling in love with an animal, I’m sure we would have something to say about that.”

You might be more familiar with the Centennial Institute at CCU because of the annual gathering it hosts in Denver each summer called the Western Conservative Summit (WCS). Last July, Donald Trump’s speech at the WCS marked his first visit to Colorado as the likely Republican nominee for President.

The Centennial Institute was founded in 2009 and run by former State Senator John Andrews until he retired last year. Over the years the Institute has grown increasingly militant in its public statements and fundraising pitches, employing fantastical phrases like “the secularist Left” and railing against “radical, anti-God liberals” of the world. We briefly considered ignoring this story altogether, rather than giving them any more publicity, but this protest is so ridiculous that it deserves all of the sunlight and associated mockery that comes with it. Plus, Luning’s story contains perhaps the best quote we’ve read this year:

[Hunt] also brushed aside a joke that’s been making the rounds — what’s the big deal about a gay character when the heroine is falling in love with a water buffalo?  — since the controversy over the movie’s “gay moment” emerged.

“He’s a man first,” Hunt said with a chuckle, pointing out that a spell has turned a prince into the Beast and that Beauty’s love turns him back into a man.

“If this was a film about a woman falling in love with an animal, I’m sure we would have something to say about that,” he added.

Beauty and the Beast is in theaters everywhere this weekend. Go see it twice.

Bipartisan Resolve To Defend Marijuana Proves Sessions’ Folly

Molon labe.

As Brian Heuberger reported for the Colorado Statesman this week, there may be Republicans in Colorado willing to publicly support parts of the new administration’s agenda–but on the subject of Colorado’s legal marijuana industry, which is under direct threat from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, there is no daylight between Colorado Republicans and Democrats:

With U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions hinting that the Trump administration might intensify the enforcement of federal marijuana laws, Colorado leaders from both sides of the aisle have come to the defense of the state’s legal marijuana industry in an uncommon show of solidarity in what many consider to be divisive political times of unmatched proportion.

High-level Colorado politicians like Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper have both publicly defended what has become a lucrative recreational marijuana industry for the state. And many other state officials have joined them in contending that Colorado has a constitutional right to legalize marijuana and that the regulations established by the state have been statistically proven to have been effective so far.

Supporters are quick to emphasize the positive economic impact the industry has had in Colorado and the likely downward economic spiral that would occur should that now-bustling industry be tampered with by the federal government.

Likewise, both Rep. Mike Coffman and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman are promising to fight any move by Sessions to clamp down on marijuana in Colorado:

Rep. Mike Coffman is suggesting he might use the power of the purse to protect Colorado’s legal marijuana industry…

If Sessions does take action Coffman said he’d “have to fight the Attorney General on this.” He suggested he’d do so through congress’ power to appropriate money for the administration’s budget.

Colorado’s Republican attorney general, Cynthia Coffman—a legalization opponent who says she would defend state law against Sessions—speculated, “It sounds like there is room for states to have legalization … But what it seems to portend is the federal government will be at the borders to stop marijuana from crossing state lines.”

The reason why you have all of these public officials in both parties standing shoulder-to-shoulder on marijuana, despite the fact that most of them opposed legalization to begin with, is that the experience of legalized marijuana in Colorado has rendered the issue moot here. Public support has grown, not declined, since Colorado led the way into a legalization trend that has now grown to numerous states–including all-important California, the most populous state in the nation.

In short, on this issue, our local Republicans and Democrats are responding to the clear wishes of their constituents. They know that to join Sessions on a crusade against legal pot would be politically disastrous for Colorado Republicans at this point. And the fact is, if Sessions does decide to shut down Colorado’s billion-dollar legal marijuana industry and in the other legalized states, Republicans could pay dearly at the polls in the next election all over the country including Colorado–regardless of what local Republicans do to oppose it.

So be at least a bit reassured, stoners. For the moment, both parties have got your back.

House Plans to Vote on Trumpcare on Thursday

(Image via Whiskey Politics)

Multiple media outlets are reporting that House Republicans are going to attempt to vote on Trumpcare at the end of next week. From CNN:

Republican leaders plan a vote Thursday to repeal and replace much of Obamacare, optimistic that President Donald Trump can help them close the deal, multiple House Republican sources tell CNN.

Leaders continue to work toward the 216 votes needed to back the health care bill led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, and believe with some of the changes they are making they are securing additional support.

Friday morning, members of the Republican Study Committee — who have expressed serious doubts about the House’s health care bill — emerged from a meeting at the White House supportive…

…The timeline is still fluid and subject to change, but Republican members are being told that the current House bill is on track and being reworked to include the option for states to impose work requirements for able-bodied adults who are on Medicaid, something the RSC has been lobbying for. The RSC also was told, according to a GOP aide, that states were given the option to receive block grant funding rather than per capita funding.

Given all of the negative press that the GOP Healthcare bill has received — both nationally and here in Colorado — it’s hard to believe that Republicans really think they can come up with enough votes in the House to pass the legislation.

On the other hand…perhaps House Republicans are just hoping to kick this turd over to the Senate and force the upper chamber to decide on the fate of Trumpcare.

Coffman once said it was “very radical” to give health insurance to millions of people who now have it under Obamacare

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) is making conflicting statements on whether he wants to continue to give health insurance to the 400,000 Coloradans, including 14,000 in his district, who got health insurance under Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid.

This raises the familiar question with Coffman, Where does he really stand?

If he decides to phase out the Medicaid expansion, as proposed in the GOP legislation to repeal Obamacare, Coffman would be taking a position that in line with his stance on the expansion when it was first proposed in the Affordable Care Act.

Discussing the Obamacare legislation in 2009, before it became law, Coffman called the proposed medicaid expansion “very radical.”

Coffman: “Although when you look underneath the surface, there are some very radical elements to this bill such as the expansion of Medicaid, a government run healthcare program.”

Coffman’s thinking in 2009 is in line with the Republican Obamacare replacement bill, which would phase out the expansion of Medicaid and which would eventually throw a total of 600,000 Coloradans off the insurance rolls, and is up for a U.S. House vote Thursday.

Coffman said Saturday that he’d vote for the GOP bill “in its current form.” A spokesman subsequently told 9News that Coffman was still reviewing the bill. Then Coffman told a constituents on a telephone call that he supported the GOP health bill but was concerned about the impact on Medicaid expansion.

In a March 7 radio interview, Coffman explained in more detail why he thinks the GOP healthcare bill “does a good job in terms of Medicaid expansion.” Coffman likes how the bill reforms the “entire Medicaid system” and sends it “down to the states.”

Coffman:  Okay.  So what it essentially does, is it takes those who would prospectively be eligible for the Medicaid expansion, going forward, as we phase it out, and it offers them the ability — nobody’s forced in this — to have what’s called an advanceable, refundable tax credit.  And it essentially is  — will pay for, uh, pretty – most of their premium costs.  And will push that population into the individual insurance market.  And so, I get that it is controversial, but is in fact a replacement, of sorts, for the Medicaid expansion…

Coffman:  I — well, you know, I think the bill, in my view, does a good job in terms of Medicaid expansion, from my perspective, you know, but we have to reform the entire Medicaid system, and so we can debate that on the mar–.  You know, is it a block grant, at the end of the day?  Is it some sort of capitated amount per enrollee?  But I think, at the end of the day, we’ve got to stop managing this program out of Washington DC.  We’ve got to devolve it down to the states.

Does Coffman still believe this, in light of conflicting statements in the past 10 days?

Given his position in 2009 when he was up front about his position against Obamacare, plus the fact that the majority of Coffman’s statements, including all the comments that came from his mouth as opposed to a spokesperson’s, point to his support of the GOP bill,  you’d be on solid ground in concluding that, yes, Coffman is ready to take health insurance away from Coloradans who got it under Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

White House Apologizes to Brits for “Wiretapping” Claims

UPDATE: Or not…

—–

We wrote yesterday about the completely absurd press briefing at the White House, in which Press Secretary Sean Spicer ignored all facts to the contrary in order to defend President Trump’s ridiculous claims that he was “wiretapped” by President Obama. Over at “The Fix,” they’re calling this a “new low” for the Trump administration, and we’re certainly not going to argue now that the White House has succeeded in pissing off our closest ally.

Give it a rest, will ya?

As CNN reports:

The White House has apologized to the British government after alleging that a UK intelligence agency spied on President Donald Trump at the behest of former President Barack Obama.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster spoke with his British counterpart on Thursday about press secretary Sean Spicer’s comment from the White House podium about a Fox News report that said British intelligence helped wiretap Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign, a White House official said Friday…

…Earlier Friday, a spokesman for May said senior UK officials had protested to the Trump administration after the claims were repeated by Spicer.

“We’ve made clear to the US administration that these claims are ridiculous and should be ignored. We’ve received assurances that these allegations won’t be repeated,” May’s spokesman said. [Pols emphasis]

We wish we could enthusiastically endorse the idea that “these allegations won’t be repeated,” but we are still talking about the Trump administration here.

Friday Open Thread

“One is never so dangerous when one has no shame, than when one has grown too old to blush.”

–Marquis de Sade

This is Completely Absurd

White House press briefing today

As the Washington Post reports:

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that President Trump “stands by” his allegation that former president Barack Obama ordered wiretapping surveillance of Trump Tower last fall, despite statements from the leaders of congressional investigations that no evidence had been found to support the claim.

In a remarkably combative exchange with reporters at his daily news briefing, Spicer was asked whether Trump still believes Obama ordered the alleged surveillance effort.

“He stands by it,” Spicer said, going on to assail journalists for the way they have reported on the controversy.

Earlier Thursday, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said their investigation into the matter so far has turned up no evidence that the U.S. government had conducted surveillance on Trump Tower in New York, either before or after the election on Nov. 8. [Pols emphasis]

You really should head over to CNN to watch the full exchange between reporter Jim Acosta and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Here’s a sample:

Jim Acosta: You have the Senate and House Intelligence Committees…leaders from both parties on both of those panels saying that they don’t see any evidence of any wiretapping. So how can the President go on and continue to…

Sean Spicer: …It’s interesting how you jump to all of these conclusions about what they have and don’t have. And you seem to know all of the answers. But at the end of the day, there was clearly a ton of reporting…there was a vast amount of reporting about what was going on in the 2016 election. There’s no question that there were surveillance techniques used throughout this. I think that as a variety of outlets reporting on this activity have concluded.

Nevermind what the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have to say on the matter — there are stories on the Internet that prove President Trump’s “wiretapping” claims.

Ugh.

Make America Great (Except for Science, Arts, and Poor People)

President Trump unveiled his federal budget plans today, and HOLYCRAPWHATAREYOUTHINKING? As the Washington Post reports:

President Trump on Thursday will unveil a budget plan that calls for a sharp increase in military spending and stark cuts across much of the rest of the government including the elimination of dozens of long-standing federal programs that assist the poor, fund scientific research and aid America’s allies abroad.

Trump’s first budget proposal, which he named “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” would increase defense spending by $54 billion and then offset that by stripping money from more than 18 other agencies. Some would be hit particularly hard, with reductions of more than 20 percent at the Agriculture, Labor and State departments and of more than 30 percent at the Environmental Protection Agency.

It would also propose eliminating future federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Within EPA alone, 50 programs and 3,200 positions would be eliminated.

The cuts could represent the widest swath of reductions in federal programs since the drawdown after World War II, probably leading to a sizable cutback in the federal non-military workforce, something White House officials said was one of their goals.

“President Trump’s proposed budget will have devastating consequences for our country and for Colorado. I will do my best to fight against the cuts affecting hardworking families, federal employees, businesses and research organizations.”

— Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County)

Trump probably doesn’t have the support in Congress to enact this budget proposal, which includes dramatic cuts to popular programs that nobody in their right mind would stand behind. Indeed many Congressional Republicans reacted with swift opposition. Again, from the Washington Post:

Congressional Republicans also protested cuts that might hurt their districts and states. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who had been White House budget director under President George W. Bush,  issued a statement “strongly opposing” Trump’s proposed elimination of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Portman vowed to “fight to preserve” the program, which he said had been “an invaluable resource” to Ohio by generating more than $80 billion in benefits in health, tourism and recreation. [Pols emphasis]

Yeah. Good luck finding a lot of Members of Congress who are willing to look the other way while popular local initiatives get whacked. The attack ads for someone like Sen. Portman virtually write themselves (here’s an outline of the specific programs that would be all but eliminated under Trump’s proposal). In fact, congress may be protecting Trump from himself by opposing this plan; as Politico explains, the result of Trump’s budget proposal would be a devastating blow to a good number of Trump voters:

But while Trump’s first stab at budget politics has some eye-popping cuts, if passed it would also hurt many of the voters who supported him as a result of its slashing of after-school programs, job training and disease-fighting research — a line item that both Republicans and Democrats tend to support.

Unless the Department of Defense is ready with an advanced new weapon that can blow up cancer and keep kids from getting in trouble after school, Trump’s $54 billion in extra defense spending isn’t going to mean squat for most Americans.

Trumpcare: A Bloodbath For Colorado

Denver7’s Blair Miller reporting on a new study from the Colorado Health Institute on the effects in our state of passage of the House GOP’s Obamacare repeal/”replace” plan–and much like the Congressional Budget Office’s forecast of disaster for millions of Americans, it’s looking really bad for Colorado:

Colorado would lose $340 million in federal funding in 2020 when Medicaid provisions in the GOP-sponsored American Health Care Act run out, and the state stands to lose $14 billion in federal funds by 2030, according to analysis on the proposal released Thursday by the Colorado Health Institute.

The report says the state will have to choose between cutting up to 600,000 Coloradans from Medicaid by 2030 or making cuts to the state budget the nonpartisan CHI says would be “historic.” [Pols emphasis]

CHI’s analysis shows that once Medicaid provisions, including Colorado’s expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, are cut, that the state would start losing about $200 million in federal funding each year starting in FY 2020.

By 2030, federal funding through Medicaid to Colorado would be $2.26 billion less in that fiscal year alone than the state would have received under an unchanged ACA, according to the CHI analysis. The losses would amount to approximately $6 billion total over 10 years just from the AHCA change to a per-capita allotment system.

Like we said, these numbers quantify the local breakout of pain already forecast by the Congressional Budget Office. It should be noted that reduction of eligible Medicaid recipients is a goal of many state legislative Republicans, even as federal Republicans express concern about it. Likewise the principal defense from Democrats for the Medicaid expansion, other than the obvious public health and economic benefits of a healthier population, is that the expansion has been largely paid for with federal funds.

Whether you consider throwing hundreds of thousands of Coloradans off the health coverage rolls to be a disaster or an objective, the number who would be affected is becoming clear.

And it’s a lot of your fellow Coloradans.

Sentinel publisher still preparing to sue lawmaker over “fake news” allegation

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Ray Scott (R).

The publisher of the Grand Junction Sentinel insisted last night that he’s getting his “ducks in a row” in preparation to sue State Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) for labeling the Sentinel “fake news.”

“Have you attempted to patch things up with Sen. Scott?” 9News anchor Kyle Clark asked Jay Seaton, publisher of the Grand Junction Sentinel Wednesday, prior to the streaming of a panel discussion on media issues streamed on Facebook. “You’re going to be covering him for years to come. There’s nothing to be gained by media outlets fighting with public officials like this.”

“The only valuable currency in the court system is truth, and so I would like to see how a court actually handles this kind of false allegation,” responded Seaton, insisting that he’s preparing to file a lawsuit against Scott for his claim that the Sentinel is “fake news.”

The panel, titled Getting to Truth in the Age of Alternative Facts, was held to mark “Sunshine Week,” which promotes openness in government. The event was organized by the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, and it was hosted by 9News.

(more…)

Trumpcare: Coffman’s Credibility Collapses

UPDATE: Nick Riccardi of the AP, Tweeting Mike Coffman’s tele-town hall yesterday:

File under “clear as mud.”

—–

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman reports–remember five days ago when Rep. Mike Coffman committed to supporting the GOP’s American Healthcare Act “in its current form?” Staking out his position right before the Congressional Budget Office released its damning estimate of 24 million more people without insurance than under the Affordable Care Act?

Yeah, forget all that:

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) says he’s taking more time to review the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“Rep. Coffman is reviewing the [Congressional Budget Office] analysis to see what areas of the American Healthcare Act need adjustments before a final bill is enacted,” spokesman Daniel Bucheli wrote in an email to 9NEWS. “But he is encouraged that the bill leaves in place the consumer protections, such as preexisting conditions and allowing dependents to remain on their parents’ plans until age 26, and he believes the AHCA will face major changes before it’s signed into law.”

That’s different from what Coffman said March 11 on The Craig Silverman Show…

“In its current form, right now I would vote for it,” Coffman said. “I’m obviously concerned about it being changed, and what changes may happen. And I certainly do have some changes to it that I’m pushing, but if I had vote today on the form that’s there, I would support it.”

And don’t forget Coffman’s famous photo from March 7, in which he claimed to be “closely reading” the bill “to make sure it is in the best interest of CD-6 residents.”

So, on March 7, Coffman claimed he read the bill. On March 11, he said he would vote for it “in its current form.” And then yesterday, just hours before holding a tele-town hall, he backpedaled to “still reviewing.” We’re awaiting reports from yesterday’s call to update with any further contradictions/”evolutions” in Coffman’s position.

But folks, this is ridiculous. The only thing that changed between when Coffman claimed to have “read the bill” and said he would vote for it and today is the CBO’s report and the overwhelming public rejection of the bill. Coffman put himself out on this limb with no help, and his original statement that he would vote for the bill “in its current form” was not equivocal.

In short, Mike Coffman is all over the map, displaying the opposite of leadership on this central issue at a time when his constituents can least afford it. The situation reveals Coffman’s great weakness as a hard-right congressman representing a closely-divided swing district–weaker now more than ever with Republicans in full control, pushing an agenda that Coffman embraces at his peril.

And it’s only going to get worse.

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