For Gov. Ritter, The Stakes Just Got Much Bigger

After last week’s gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, someone at the Republican Governors Association probably slapped their forehead and said, “Hey – Colorado’s a recent Red state with a vulnerable Dem Governor”.  And then promptly picked up the phone to have a little chat with Wadhams, McInnis and Penry (in approximately that order).

Because this is where Obama was nominated, and the close ties our state delegation has with the administration, I believe it really will turn into a referendum on Obama’s first 2 years in office.

I predict this race is going to get a disproportionate amount of national attention from both parties. Expect to see visits from Obama, and slashing attacks from the national GOP and 527s.

Game on!

Will the extra attention help Ritter's chances?

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Romanoff vs. Bennet: Who Do You Like?

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

The collective wisdom on this blog all agree:  there is little ideological difference between former Speaker Romanoff and Senator Bennet.  And as has been endlessly discussed here, why then would a thinking person vote for a challenger who, in all expectations, would have virtually the same voting record as the incumbent?

Let me pose another question to our Polsters:  When was the last time you voted for someone you didn’t like?

The similarities between the two are striking:  both are virtually the same age (43 and 44, respectively), graduated from Ivy League schools (including Yale), are extremely bright and ambitious, and really want to be Senator.

While the typical risks of scandal, fundraising problems, lack of organizational skills, incompetent staff, etc. often determine the fortunes of most campaigns, I believe the one overriding difference between the two that will play an important role in deciding the winner is their difference in personal style.

Bennet has political smarts of the type gained in executive boardrooms, where one-on-one closed door agreements and small group, high-powered discussions and unpublicized rivalries dominate.  

He has the patrician air befitting his upbringing and earned position in life, but which also makes him seem older than his actual age (not a criticism, just an observation).  He is a truly engaging and charming man in small settings.  My impression is that he has strong opinions, but doesn’t feel the need to share them just for the sake of taking a position.  He either learned, or by instinct, keeps his cards held closely to his chest.  If a question is unlikely to be posed, then he is loathe to volunteer an answer as it could limit his options later.

Romanoff has political smarts of the more traditional politician — broad contacts and personal relationships gained over many years of campaigning for various issues that he or his allies passionately believe in.  He is comfortable in large groups, speaking passionately in both large and small forums.  In one-on-one discussions, his easy smile, wit and personal charm quickly win him friends.  He seems younger than his actual age (not a criticism, just an observation).

He is quick to tell you what he believes in, and will listen to opposing opinions and try to find common ground.  

I believe the race will turn on who burns the most shoe leather and presses the most flesh (or as MAH does, knock on the most doors).   Save the TV ads for the general election.  It will be who has the most troops on the ground and can energize the voters to get to the polls.  That takes patience, determination and most of all force of personality.

This is a long primary campaign.  Who will lose their cool, their sense of humor or charm first?

Would you vote for them in the primary anyway?

Poll added (but probably not the question you were asking for — that poll will be taken next year)

Who is more likely to lose their cool?

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The Health Insurance CEOs Thank You for Your Sacrifice!

( – promoted by ClubTwitty)

To the thousands protesting attempts to inject competition into the for-profit health care insurance market, by parroting the words formulated by Fred Luntz, Republican Strategist:

“First,” he says, “you have to pretend to support it. Then use phrases like, “government takeover,” “delayed care is denied care,” “consequences of rationing,” “bureaucrats, not doctors prescribing medicine.”

The industry executives thank you.  Your willingness to sacrifice your and your family’s health and well-being, in order to insure the continuing lifestyle and rewards reaped annually by the insurance executives is deeply appreciated.

As former CIGNA VP Wendell Potter stated in both his congressional testimony, as well as on Bill Moyer’s Journal:

The industry has always tried to make Americans think that government-run systems are the worst thing that could possibly happen to them, that if you even consider that, you’re heading down on the slippery slope towards socialism. So they have used scare tactics for years and years and years, to keep that from happening. If there were a broader program like our Medicare program, it could potentially reduce the profits of these big companies. So that is their biggest concern.

The industry and its backers are using fear tactics, as they did in 1994, to tar a transparent and accountable, publicly accountable health care option as, quote, “government-run health care.” What we have today, Mr. Chairman, is Wall Street-run health care that has proven itself an untrustworthy partner to its customers, to the doctors and hospitals who deliver care and to the state and federal governments that attempt to regulate it.

…opponents of reform are those who are saying that we need to be careful about what we do here, because we don’t want the government to take away your choice of a health plan. It’s more likely that your employer and your insurer is going to switch you from a plan that you’re in now to one that you don’t want. You might be in the plan you like now.

But chances are, pretty soon, you’re going to be enrolled in one of these high deductible plans in which you’re going to find that much more of the cost is being shifted to you than you ever imagined.

BILL MOYERS: Why is public insurance, a public option, so fiercely opposed by the industry?

WENDELL POTTER: The industry doesn’t want to have any competitor. In fact, over the course of the last few years, has been shrinking the number of competitors through a lot of acquisitions and mergers. So first of all, they don’t want any more competition period. They certainly don’t want it from a government plan that might be operating more efficiently than they are, that they operate. The Medicare program that we have here is a government-run program that has administrative expenses that are like three percent or so.

Of course, one way that the insurance companies can increase efficiencies and profits are to eliminate the “Problem” accounts — you know, the ones that actually need medical help.  They are using information systems so:

…the company could determine more about which accounts were not profitable or marginally profitable. So with that new system, he was able, and the other executives to identify the accounts that they wanted to get rid of. And over the course of a very few years, they shed 8 million members.

BILL MOYERS: 8 million policy holders?

WENDELL POTTER: 8 million people, men, women, and children, yes.

Some of them were shed by intention. Some, I’m sure, probably walked because the– or left for whatever other reason, but they intentionally had this program to purge these accounts. Eight million fewer people were enrolled in Aetna’s plans. Many of them undoubtedly joined the ranks of the uninsured, because their employers had been purged.

If you haven’t lost your job, gotten seriously ill, or had your coverage at work severely cut back or even dropped completely, count yourself lucky (so far).

So why does the insurance industry need your support in defeating reform, particularly if it means having a public option?

…the public plan would do a lot to keep them honest, because it would have to offer a standard benefit plan. It would have to operate more efficiently, as does the Medicare program. It would be structured, I’m certain on a level playing field, so that it wouldn’t be unfair advantage to the private insurance companies. But because it could be administered more efficiently, then the private insurers, they would have to operate more efficiently. And that 20 cents in that medical loss ratio we talked about earlier might get narrower. And they don’t want that.

…Now would we?

Here are the links to Bill Moyers Journal and the transcript that I have quoted from above:

Wendell Potter on Profits Before Patients

Full Transcript

Everyone opposing reform should ask themselves:  Is it worth defeating reform over your dead body?

Is It Time To Declare Class Warfare?

With a popular President, Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress, and a large majority of voters supporting health care reform, why are we Democrats letting the tail wag the dog in this debate?

While the right-wing fringe wages a disinformation campaign to derail attempts to pass meaningful reform, why is it we merely seek polite compromise?

In a provocative New York Times article by FDR biographer Jean Edward Smith, the author offers Obama some advice:

Roosevelt was a divider, not a uniter, and he unabashedly waged class war. At the Democratic Convention in 1936, again speaking to a national radio audience, Roosevelt lambasted the “economic royalists” who had gained control of the nation’s wealth. To Congress he boasted of having “earned the hatred of entrenched greed.” In another speech he mocked “the gentlemen in well-warmed and well-stocked clubs” who criticized the government’s relief efforts.

FDR’s words could easily be describing Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, et al.  But, unlike the Depression years, we still do have a middle class.  So really the declaration of war I believe should be against the right-wing propagandists.

Citing another example:

Roosevelt relished the opposition of vested interests. He fashioned his governing majority by deliberately attacking those who favored the status quo. His opponents hated him – and he profited from their hatred. “Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today,” he told a national radio audience on the eve of the 1936 election. “They are unanimous in their hatred for me – and I welcome their hatred.”

And if Obama, the media and we all excoriate the ridiculous assertions as the deliberate disinformation that they are (“death panels”), then perhaps we truly could have a reasonable debate over legitimate questions of how to extend access to affordable health care, in a manner that is both fiscally responsible and fair.

Although I don’t think it is in Obama’s nature to actively seek conflict, perhaps in next week’s speech, he will take this opportunity to throw down the gauntlet to his opponents (and wavering Democrats).

Roosevelt sought consensus among his fellow Democrats, which is why he sometimes kowtowed to the Southern oligarchs who were the chairmen of Congressional committees. But his Republican opponents were relegated to the political equivalent of Siberia.

Perhaps this will be the future of the grandstanding hypocrites on the Right.

A Handy Guide to Clear Thinking

Regular posters to this site, regardless of political leanings, tend to do a pretty good job of offering opinions that are based on solid principles and fact-based research.  

But even the best posters will spin their opinions or make diversionary arguments to bolster their position (this is afterall, a political blog).  That’s part of the fun, anyway.

And then of course you get the occasional troll boasting both a fraudulent identity and intellect, polluting the blog with prefabricated talking points bearing little basis in truth or relevance to the thread under attack.

For the rest of us, I’d like to offer some tips on how you can sift through the arguments, opinions, and research to make your own decisions about what is worth believing, and what is basic crap.

I learned the fundamentals of critical thinking from my freshman English teacher, Dr. Roy Yates, in 1971.  It was an eye-opening experience for me.

First, determine if something is a fact, an opinion, a report of a fact or a report of an opinion. He didn’t say if there was a fifth element, and I haven’t found one yet.

Facts may be significant or insignificant. They can pile up in support of one opinion or another, gaining or losing significance.

Sometimes a big wind comes by and blows down your pile of facts and you’ll see another pile far over there, where you never thought to look.

When a pile gets sufficiently larger than another pile, you can start to have some confidence in a particular opinion. If it’s an important opinion, then the pile should be large and all other piles should be fairly small. No guarantees, and if the consequences (like in a civil suit) are important but no lives are at stake, then a preponderance of facts is sufficient to settle an issue. Mistakes still happen, but at least the process isn’t haphazard or capricious.

If (as in a criminal matter) the stakes are extremely high, then the number of facts in support of your opinion should positively extinguish any reasonable doubts raised by contra-facts. Maybe the contradictions aren’t really facts after all, or have some other reasonable explanation that is not germane to the central issue.

Reports of facts can get garbled. You have to consider the source’s reliability, credibility, etc.

Opinions need another level of analysis as well. Is the person knowledgeable, credible, usually exercise good judgment, etc.?  What is their agenda (there’s always an agenda)?

Reports of opinions should be treated the most carefully, as they can be twisted beyond recognition, accidentally or on purpose.

And of course, a healthy dose of skepticism will usually improve your batting average.

Is One Truth worth a Thousand Opinions?

As newspapers here in Colorado and around the nation slowly fade away, where will we turn to stay informed?

The problem is even tougher because the remaining traditional sources of “truth” are being consolidated into a handful of corporate media conglomerates.

Pew Research did a study last year:… indicating that only the web is expanding as a source of news and information.

But the web doesn’t differentiate between fact and fiction.  It’s very accessibility makes it both powerfully important, and equally dangerous to an uncritical or short attention spanned readership.  What to do?

The Denver Post’s Chuck Plunkett reported one possible solution about 18 months ago.…

It was both encouraging and frightening to me, so I wrote this letter which the Post decided to print.  I think it and the original article are worth a second look:

Opinions are like — well, you know – everybody has one.  Journalism, on the other hand, is hard work.  So reading your coverage of the YearlyKos’ blogger convention was both exciting and dismaying.  

Exciting, because engaging the community in covering significant local events with support from professional news organizations opens many doors.  It is the first step towards direct democracy.  

Dismaying, because of the ease with which some would dismiss objectively reporting facts for the chance to express their opinion in the guise of truth.

That the blogosphere is left-leaning probably is a natural response to the years of ridiculously slanted right-wing talk radio.  As sympathetic as I might be to the bloggers’ progressive views, I don’t want to get my news on yellow-tinted pages.

At least with household names on TV or in the papers, their biases are mostly understood.  If thousands of “neojournalists” with unknown axes to grind enter the fray, we should borrow a page from eBay and insist on cumulative ratings by readers for political tilt and objectivity.  

Paraphrasing an old Latin proverb:  If one person calls you a donkey, consider the source.  If five people call you a donkey, get a saddle.

Ritter’s Gift to Republicans

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Engineering has a principle called KISS — Keep It Simple Stupid.  I guess there is no corollary in the law or in Ritter’s experience.  Choose the most qualified, experienced, skilled and willing candidate who can run a campaign, serve the constituency well and keep getting elected.  Every opposition candidate’s nightmare.

Ritter had at least a half-dozen candidates that fit the bill.  

Ok, so Ritter’s contrary enough to reject the easy way to solidify Democratic party gains in Colorado.  What’s next?

The race for both the Governor’s office and this Senate seat in ’10 has already begun.  It’s going to be extraordinarily expensive and bloody, I believe. Unnecessarily so IMO — but, so be it.

Presuming Bennet is not a placeholder (or a bone tossed at the other senate hopefuls to keep them out of the Governor’s race), what can he do to win his first election?

It seems Bennet’s fate will be tied to Obama’s, not so much Ritter’s (the ‘pubs will try to do both anyway, particularly to whomever is the weaker politically).  So he should join himself to Obama’s hip by being seen bringing federal dollars to Colorado in the way of energy, transportation, educational infrastructure and defense projects (especially to the Western Slope or the ‘burbs) with full PR fanfare is paramount.

Appealing to independents by being on the forefront of fixing NCLB through common sense measurement standards, while maintaining accountability; working to improve accountability and efficiency in government, and modernizing our information systems for greater visibility and accountability (healthcare, education and open government budgeting).

Leave the bleeding heart liberal issues to the other candidates (even if some are near and dear to many of us, they’ll either get done or not depending on the economy and the labors of the other 57 (D) Senators).  Bennet doesn’t need to lead on those.

With his connections, and political insider experience, I suspect he’ll have plenty of people to draw upon to fill both his Senate staff as well as his campaign staff.  He’s plenty sharp to know what talent he’ll need to support the Herculean challenges he faces in the coming 24 months.

I think fundraising will be the least of Bennet’s problems.  Thank goodness for small favors!

I don’t know that 24 months (or about 2 weeks, depending on when you start counting) will be long enough for anyone, no matter how talented, to build the organization and track record to win re-election.  So the doors are wide open to not just every Republican, but to many highly qualified Democrats that smell blood in the water.

It’s probably too much to hope that Dick Wadhams will deliver another election to us on a silver platter.  We are about to find out just how “Blue” Colorado has become.