At Least He’s Not Your Dad

A Colorado Springs man was arrested Monday after deliberately striking a bicyclist with his Dodge van, police said.

Timothy Hombs was driving his Dodge Caravan around 2:15 p.m. near Palmer Park Boulevard and Wooten Road when he spotted an “unknown party” riding on what he thought his son’s stolen bike,” according to the Colorado Springs Police Department crime blotter.

Hombs “intentionally” struck the bicyclist with his van to stop it, got out of his vehicle and approached the person he believed to be a bike thief.

The bike, however, wasn’t his son’s, the blotter said.

H/T: ohwilleke.

No word yet if Hombs is related to Doug Bruce.

I Don’t Belong to Any Organized Political Party — I’m a Democrat!

Yesterday morning, the Obama for America Let’s Get It Done Health Insurance Reform Now Bus Tour Stop (OFALGIDHIRNBTS) was scheduled for the Tivoli Commons at Auraria Campus. Then, with little notice, at about 6:00 last night, the location changed to North High School.

And now this morning in the Denver Post, we find that it was “nearly canceled” at Auraria but apparently it’s not.

A pro-health care reform rally scheduled for today on the Auraria campus was nearly canceled because a student group could not afford security for the event.

About 800 people have RSVP’d for the 5 p.m. rally at the Tivoli Commons put on by local student groups and the national Organizing for America.

Campus spokesman Blaine Nickeson said the issues were about “administration and security.”

“The group that had originally planned to sponsor pulled it when they found out how much security was going to cost,” he said. “The national organizing group has agreed to pay for the security.”

Would the real OFALGIDHIRNBTS please raise your hand?

Denver Post: Public option is critical to reform

The Denver Post editorial board came down hard today on the side of the public option, and blamed the loss of it on the futile attempt at bipartisanship.

It is possible, as President Obama said during last week’s visit to Grand Junction, to revise the nation’s health care system without having a public insurance option.

But without strong competition for the health insurance giants that dominate the landscape, it just won’t be complete reform.

The Obama administration and congressional Democrats need to push forward with their plan to pass a public option as part of a comprehensive health care overhaul when they return to Washington next month. We don’t see how it works without one.

It is the best way to slow escalating health care costs and expand access to quality care. The country, ultimately, will lose if the public option vanishes because of Democratic efforts to make health care reform a bipartisan effort.

Seven of nine members of Colorado’s congressional delegation support a public option. Colorado’s governor supports a public option. The same Denver Post that endorsed Bush and printed a front-page editorial against the labor movement supports the public option.

I don’t care what the Senate has to do, they just need to get it done. Buy off Ben Nelson and Friends with some pork if you have to. Just get it done.

Why bring a machine gun to a political rally?

I reported last week that the Colorado AR-15 shooters were planning on showing up in Grand Junction. As far as I know they did, but nobody took a picture of them.

Not so in Arizona.

A man is shown legally carrying a rifle at a protest against President Obama on Monday in Phoenix, Arizona.

A man toting an assault rifle was among a dozen protesters carrying weapons while demonstrating outside President Obama’s speech to veterans on Monday, but no laws were broken. It was the second instance in recent days in which weapons have been seen near presidential events.

Video from the protest in Phoenix, Arizona, shows the man standing with other protesters, with the rifle slung over his right shoulder.

Phoenix police said authorities monitored about a dozen people carrying weapons while peacefully demonstrating.

“It was a group interested in exercising the right to bear arms,” police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill said.

Arizona law has nothing in the books regulating assault rifles, and only requires permits for carrying concealed weapons. So despite the man’s proximity to the president, there were no charges or arrests to be made. Hill said officers explained the law to some people who were upset about the presence of weapons at the protest.

So here’s the question: Why?

There is no question that they were within their rights, but was it wise? Why was the purpose of bringing an 800 round-per-minute machine gun to a Presidential healthcare rally other than to either be menacing or shoot somebody–maybe even the President? Is it not at least possible that the public will be so shocked as to demand a new round of gun control laws?

Moreover, why the double standard? Why is a bunch of guys in purple SEIU shirts handing out “pre-printed signs” “thugs” who are “intimidating”, but a bunch of guys with machine guns and pistols wearing the same message pre-printed  on their clothes that executed terrorist Timothy McVeigh wore when he committed mass murder isn’t?

Teabaggers to Descend on Grand Junction

UPDATE: With CNBC egging them on (to say nothing of FOX) at other events around the country, I’m sure they’re feeling pretty emboldened.

And how about that Denver Post providing free, unlimited tea party promotion for Polster and Dick Armey FreedomWorks blogger Ross Kaminsky?

I’m on several of the teabagger lists and forums, and it’s clear that they are organizing to turn out at President Obama’s town hall forum on health care this Saturday.

On a site for 9/12er assault rifle aficionados (I will not give them or any other right-wing site link juice, Use Google.), the clarion call is to bring the “violent and agressive” [sic] tactics to the President’s town hall that attendees have previously brought to Congressional town meetings. Another poster asked, “What about concealed carry..”

According to the Douglas County GOP, Jack Abramoff’s “grassroots lobbying” firm Americans for Prosperity is conducting a “Hands Off my Healthcare” rally at which “it is vitally important that Colorado Republicans make every effort to have a strong presence.”

According to NBC11, “speakers will include Senator Josh Penry, Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz and others. Two other groups attending the rally include Tea Party Activists and 9/12ers from the Front Range. Wearing solid red, white and blue members of those two groups plan to meet on the corner of 12th and North. [emphasis added]”

The Jeffco Ron Paul people inform us that “the 912 Project and Tea Party groups are joining with AFP for this rally on Sat.”

Alex Jones (radio host and Ron Paul acolyte) is encouraging people to partake in the free guns being given away by the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute.

What are YOU doing?

Colorado Dems Taking on the Crazies with Strength and Style

Last night I was on Diana DeGette’s telephone town hall on health care, and something very striking happened. Of all the questions which were all screeened, the Congresswoman chose to take questions almost exclusively from opponents of the plan– going out of district at times for opportunities to issue smackdowns in professional, cheerful, knowledgeable, and crystal-clear terms.

For example, one healthcare question from a person in Castle Rock pivoted all over the place from abortion to immigration. Since the abortion part had already been asked and answered, she chose to address the immigration part by matter-of-factly stating that we definitely have a problem with undocumented workers and insecure borders and huge backlogs in the legal system, but this is not an immigration bill. The message was basically ‘nice try at changing the subject.’

And today we see Governor Ritter basically doing the same thing:

While one woman from Eagle became a bit shrill in her peppering of the governor, at one point saying she didn’t care about his agenda, Ritter calmly responded by saying he would address those in the audience who did care. He said it was unwise to let one issue like immigration color the debate on issues as vital as health care reform and economic recovery, especially when the state has an obligation to all of its residents. [emphasis added]

And that’s what we’re seeing across the country. If you actually listen to the words the angry mob uses, they are basically using the health insurance reform bill as a coat rack on which to hang their standard grievances about immigration, “big government,” President Obama’s birth certificate, abortion, gay rights, guns, “judicial activism,” “states rights,” hate crimes, and every other right-wing pet issue.

The more our Democrats follow suit, the more these people’s schtick will be apparent to those in the media who still choose to report the crazies as people who have legitimate healthcare policy disagreements when quotes like “keep your government off my Medicare” don’t seem to make these people obvious enough.

Senator Udall Stands Ground on Gun Vote

For better or for worse.

I felt the question was not whether to be counted as “pro-gun” or “anti-gun,” but to look beyond labels and examine the real, and not theoretical, impacts of the proposed legislation – particularly on Colorado and our citizens.

Since states have different laws governing concealed firearms, The Denver Post suggested that the amendment I supported would wipe away Colorado’s law by forcing us to recognize other states’ laws. It was alleged that this legislation would open the door to illegal activity and create unsafe conditions for our citizens.

These are not trivial concerns, and I considered them carefully.

My final judgment was influenced by our experience in Colorado. We have a law, passed in 2003, that allows Colorado to recognize out-of-state permits from other states that recognize Colorado’s law and only requires permit holders to be at least 21 years old. That’s it. There are no additional restrictions. [emphasis added]

That’s not really the point the editorial was making, and it’s a bit of a strawman argument to suggest that it was.

If law-abiding residents of one of the 27 states that are part of Colorado’s reciprocity agreement travel here, they can use their permits legally, just as Coloradans with permits can travel freely with concealed weapons in theirs. That’s not the case in states such as New York, where it’s very difficult to even get a concealed-carry permit. Kopel argues that Thune was taking aim at those heavily restrictive states.

The argument, Kopel says, is those restrictive states are endangering the lives of law-abiding people who carry weapons for self-protection. But Thune didn’t address that disparity. Instead, the senator attempted to force states to accept a least-common-denominator set of regulations regarding concealed weapons.

Our senators need to rethink their support of these policies. [emphasis added]

As a federal legislator, Senator Udall’s votes affect every state, not just Colorado. While his priority should be to make sure Colorado gets a fair shake from Federal laws and regulations, he also needs to be cognizant of their effects on the other 49 states. It is because of Senators taking similarly parochial views on every piece of legislation that we haven’t seen progress on health care, global warming, and other issues of national importance that have potentially uncomfortable effects on different states and regions of the country while having a net positive effect on the whole.

Senator Udall’s position is that his vote was essentially a net neutral in its effects on Colorado because it already has reciprocity with most other states. That argument works in the other direction as well. The fact that the amendment failed means about as much or as little for Colorado as it would have had it passed.

Hope You Don’t Live in Federal Heights

FEDERAL HEIGHTS – A man claims a police officer broke his arm, left the scene without getting him help and then returned after the man called 911 – only to deny seeing him earlier.

“This officer must be totally callous or trying to cover it up,” said Dennis Discua’s attorney, Antonio Lucero. “I can’t understand why he would attack somebody in this way, realize he did something wrong and then run from it.”

Federal Heights Police Officer Mark Magness, 45, who has been with the department one year, is now under a joint criminal and internal affairs investigation.

The taped evidence contradicts the officer’s claim.

In the incident report filed by Magness, the officer wrote, “I asked the reporting party what happened and he stated, ‘You done this to me.’ I gave a code 4 for medical attention and notified my shift supervisor. My shift supervisor arrived on scene and I had no further contact with the individual.”

There is no mention in the report about Magness’ first encounter with Discua in the field.

However, in the 911 tape recording, the officer talks about seeing Discua earlier in the night.

Magness: “4-15, this would be the male I was just in contact with.”

Dispatcher: “Copy 011.”

Magness: “Code 4. His arm was already broke.”

This is just another of a series of recent reports from across the country of outrageous violence by police. If these allegations turn out to be true, will District Attorney Don Quick prosecute the cop?

Udall Gaining His Stride?

While yesterday’s gun vote was disappointing, I would be remiss not to note something I had meant to write up last week.

On Senator Udall’s YouTube page is some video of a floor speech he apparently made on the Defense Authorization Act to which this gun vote was attached.

In Part II, there are some nuggets that remind me why I worked so hard to get him elected last year:

At about 2:20, a strong statement on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:

Other policies need change because they are antiquated and no longer reflect the reality of our society. The failed policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a good example of this. But the fact that it will be difficult to repeal doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Since the implementation of this policy in 1993, the armed forces have discharged over 12,000 brave and qualified combat troops, code-breakers, medical and intelligence specialists, and skilled translators simply for being gay. This includes nearly 300 discharged since President Obama took office this year.

Mr. President, this is 2009. I believe this discriminatory policy undermines the strength of our military and the fairness of our great nation. We are also engaged in two wars. It is counterproductive to discharge qualified service members who have critical skills to winning these wars – even as the military has to spend millions of scarce dollars to replace them. We need to bring the unjustness of this policy to the forefront now, and I plan to work with my colleagues and with the Administration to see that we accomplish in a timely manner the full repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

And at 3:55, he smacked some fellow members of the Senate Armed Services Committee for porking up the bill with F-22 aircraft that could only be justified by members of what John McCain called the “military-industrial-congressional complex.”

But there are also provisions in this bill that shouldn’t be included, such as additional spending on the F-22. I voted in Committee against an amendment to add $1.75 billion to the bill to purchase additional F-22 aircraft that the military does not want, does not need, and says we cannot afford. The F-22 is a valuable and capable aircraft – and we will have this capability for many years to come. The question is whether we need more than 187 aircraft to meet the nation’s requirements, and there is bipartisan agreement that we do not. Presidents Obama and Bush, two secretaries of defense, three chairmen of the joint chiefs, and current members of the joint chiefs agree that 187 aircraft are sufficient.

This is why I actively worked to get him elected. He is not a firebrand but an introvert. He’s a brainiac who is intellectually curious and he is grounded by his fundamental sense of fairness. What a contrast from Wayne Allard (aka “Dullard”) or Bob “I never witnessed any forced abortions” Schaffer.

I haven’t been completely thrilled with his low profile since he moved to the Senate, but I attribute it to culture shock. The Senate is not the House. But watching over the last few weeks it does seem that he’s getting acclimated, and that’s a good thing.

Stupid Senate Tricks — Concealed Carry Edition

POLS UPDATE: We got a kick out of this press release from Udall’s office. Who wrote the first line, Steve Harvey? “Since 2003, Colorado has had a relatively relaxed reciprocity statute recognizing the conceal-carry permits of 27 other states.” Uh, what?

Update: Both Colorado Senators voted for the amendment which, thankfully, was defeated by Senators with better judgment.

Original post follows:

GJ Sentinel:

Both Colorado senators are undecided about a vote today on a measure that would allow holders of concealed-carry permits to travel with their firearms across state lines.

Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, are reviewing the measure proposed by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., according to their Washington, D.C., offices.

Both Colorado senators voted earlier this year to allow holders of concealed-carry permits to carry their weapons in national parks and monuments, as did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Make no mistake, this red-meat eating, gun-toting, concealed carry permit holding wabbit is no gun control nut. In fact, I’d be an NRA member if they weren’t so overtly partisan.

But this amendment stinks to high heaven.

We live in a Constitutional Republic. From the original 1876 Colorado Constitution, Article II Section 13:

The right of no person to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall be called in question; but nothing herein contained shall be construed to justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons.

On the frontier in 1876 when everybody had a gun and wasn’t afraid to use it, our state’s founders saw fit to specifically reserve the right to regulate concealed carry. The Thune amendment would make Alabama’s law (where you don’t even have to have eyesight to get a permit) apply in Colorado, where we have minimal, but slightly more sensible requirements.

Our Senators should vote it down.

Amendment 54 Dead(ish)

The Denver Business Journal reporting:

Denver District Judge Catherine Lemon issued a preliminary injunction late Friday suspending enforcement of Amendment 54, the so-called Clean Government Initiative.

The amendment, passed by voters last November, prohibits most election campaign contributions by individuals and organizations doing business with the government under sole-source contracts.

But in a 32-page ruling, Lemon said the amendment may well be unconstitutional and that its opponents had met the burden of proof for the granting of a preliminary injunction.

The dearly-departed Rocky characterized it as “the gag amendment.” The Colorado Independent noted the so-called “clean government amendment” wasn’t so clean.

Colorado Independent resident wonk John Tomasic dives into the ruling:

Denver District Judge Catherine Lemon delivered her written preliminary injunction of Amendment 54 this afternoon. The judge decided in favor of plaintiff’s at a hearing June 23 to enjoin, or suspend, the law made by the amendment, which came as the result of a controversial ballot initiative that supporters said was aimed at limiting or preventing pay-to-play corruption in Colorado.

The Judge ruled, however, that the aims were too muddled to pass as law. She said that the sloppy language of the amendment placed too high a burden on people it sought to govern. She also described the way the amendment targeted unions as “curious and problematic.”

Your Thoughts?

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Not Political, but Very Colorado

Tried to embed this video on the open thread but it wouldn’t go:

Freakish. It’s also currently on the front page of cnn.com, but their embed code uses JavaScript which makes it entirely useless for most community sites like this one that are rightly concerned about cross-site scripting attacks.

We Still Have a Higher Education System

Thank the stimulus, says the GAO.

Education has awarded Colorado $509 million, or about 67 percent of the state’s total State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) allocation of $760 million. Colorado had obligated a total of almost $176 million of the funds as of June 30, 2009. Colorado is using these funds primarily to support its higher education system; without the funds, according to state officials, budget cuts could have resulted in the closure of some institutions and increased tuition at others. Local education officials we spoke with stated that their districts do not yet have specific plans for the funds, but anticipate using them to retain teachers and reduce the potential for layoffs.

According to the GAO, Colorado schools have been provided about $80 million in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act funding, about half of the eventual total. 29 of the planned 92 road projects have been awarded for a total of $244 million so far. 82 percent of the slated $241 million in Medicaid funds has already been spent to prop up the state budget, preventing cuts in Medicaid services when they are needed the most…but the fact that only 18% of the funds remains is very concerning.

Needless to say, state lawmakers have to be looking at that burn rate with no small amount of horror as they meet this week to consider their limited options.

New Law Wednesday

It’s July 1st, and you know what that means.

New laws take effect making it legal to collect rainwater, implementing the hard-fought FASTER bill that raises vehicle registration fees to pay for roads, and Governor Bill Ritter’s bill that will raise hospital fees to pump more money into Medicaid, thereby scoring more federal matching funds.

But most interesting to me is the Designated Beneficiary law, which will allow same-sex couples (among others) to inexpensively establish a legal arrangement ensuring one partner will receive the other’s belongings when they die, make medical decisions in the case he or she is incapacitated, and inherit workers compensation death benefits should a partner die on the job.

Today State Sen. Pat Steadman and State Rep. Mark Ferrandino are holding a press event highlighting the new law (received by e-mail):

MEDIA ADVISORY:

For press conference today

Couples and Supporters of Designated Beneficiaries Gather to File Agreements and Celebrate New Law

For Immediate Release

July 1, 2009

Contact:

Heather Draper

Communications and Marketing Manager

GLBT Community Center of Colorado

303.733.7433, x 101

303.847.7152 (cell)

What: News conference and celebration of new Designated Beneficiaries Law

When: Today (July 1), 9 a.m. reception, 10 a.m. news conference

Where: Atrium of the Wellington E. Webb Building, 14th Street and Colfax

Who: Speakers Debra “Liz” Gettings and Patricia Vivien Yarrow, a couple who will talk about how the new law will help ensure their wishes are carried out; Stephanie O’Malley, Denver County Clerk and Recorder; Lucia Guzman, executive director of the Denver Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations; and Sen. Pat Steadman, who helped guide the bill through the legislative process.

Also in attendance will be: Rep. Mark Ferrandino, sponsor of the Designated Beneficiaries bill, representatives from some of the more than 30 organizations that supported the legislation; and couples who are filing their Designated Beneficiary Agreements immediately following the event.  

Why: Designated Beneficiary Agreements provide a new tool for estate planning, giving Coloradans access to a low-cost and convenient method for making plans for end-of-life decisions, inheritance, and other protections related to health care and medical emergencies.

At Least He’s Not Your Missing Governor, Part II

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Republican Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina disappeared last Thursday, failing to tell his wife, his Lt. Guv, or his staff where he was going–missing father’s day with his four children, leaving them wondering if he was dead or alive.

Well it seems he has turned up:

Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer says the governor called his chief of staff Tuesday morning. His last known contact with staff was five days earlier.

Sawyer says the governor was taken aback by the interest his trip to the Appalachian Trail has garnered. Sawyer says the governor decided that with all the attention he’d return to his office Wednesday.

Governor Ritter, rightly or wrongly, has received a lot of criticism lately for being MIA during the legislative session. But at least Colorado leaders know where they can find him in case of emergency.

In Which I Agree With the NRA

(ThillyWabbit is our newest front-page guest editor. Say hello! – promoted by Colorado Pols)

In between coverage of the train crash in DC and the death of Ed McMahon, the talking heads on my television this morning are hyperventilating over a GAO report showing that most people on the “terrorist watch list” who attempt to buy guns are allowed to do so.

From February 2004 to February 2009, 963 background checks using the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System “resulted in valid matches with terrorist watch list records; of these matches, approximately 90 percent were allowed to proceed because the checks revealed no prohibiting information,” the GAO report says. About 10 percent were denied.

I know we usually only write about local stories, but Colorado has become the battleground on the issue of gun control since the Columbine killers bought their weapons through a straw purchase at the Tanner Gun Show.

I am a pro-gun liberal. If I weren’t so busy right now, I might have been getting drunk with Joe the Plumber, celebrating the “over 180 years” of American history by drinking liberally and shooting guns while smoking. But I rarely can say I agree with the NRA, because they are usually so extreme, and always extremely partisan.

In this case, however, they are exactly right.

“The integrity of the terror watch list is poor, as it mistakenly contains the names of many men and women, including some high-profile Americans, who have not violated the law,” said a statement by Chris W. Cox, the NRA chief lobbyist. “In fact, a March 2009 report by the inspector general of the Department of Justice concluded that many people whose names were mistakenly placed on the list remain there even after their cases have been vetted and closed.”

The GAO notes that being on a terrorist watch list does not mean that someone is involved in any terrorist activity.

Last month, the Justice Department reported that the FBI had kept thousands of names on its watch list based on outdated information and should have removed them.

It wasn’t until last year that I stopped being “randomly selected” for “enhanced screening” on every single flight I took. For the uninitiated, this involves everything from hand searches at the ticket counter, the security checkpoint, and the gate to strip searches and interrogations. I missed many flights as a result of having a name that SOUNDEX matched a name on the terrorist watch list.

The GAO report shows that my Second Amendment rights have been well-protected. My Fourth Amendment rights, on the other hand…

Should people on the "Terrorist Watch List" be able to buy guns?

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Oh Rocky We Miss You

(As do we – promoted by Colorado Pols)

In 2004, Darth Cheney revealed to the dearly departed Rocky Mountain News that Guantánamo detainees revealed that there was a Saddam-Al Qaida link on 9/11. That knowledge went into the bit bucket until the always impressive Jonathan Landay of McClatchy Newspapers dug it up again.

Take it away, Jonathan:

Cheney’s 2004 comments to the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News were largely overlooked at the time. However, they appear to substantiate recent reports that interrogators at Guantanamo and other prison camps were ordered to find evidence of alleged cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein – despite CIA reports that there were only sporadic, insignificant contacts between the militant Islamic group and the secular Iraqi dictatorship.

The head of the Criminal Investigation Task Force at Guantanamo from 2002-2005 confirmed to McClatchy that in late 2002 and early 2003, intelligence officials were tasked to find, among other things, Iraq-al Qaida ties, which were a central pillar of the Bush administration’s case for its March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

If the Rocky were still around, I have to think that @RMN_ME would have been on this story like @newtgingrich on @EFCANOW. But what does Denver have now?

@denverpostindc, that’s who.

Do you miss the Rocky as much as I do?

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Where is Mark Udall on EFCA?

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

The question has inexplicably been bandied about on various blogs lately. All you have to do is search the Congressional Record for the details.

In short, Udall thinks EFCA as drafted has much room for improvement.

Follow me after the jump to read the gory details…

He thinks too much focus has been placed on the secret ballot/card check provision by both sides, and that both sides should be willing to move a little from their heels-dug-in positions.

On labor’s side, he thinks they should favor the secret ballot election, and to skip an election they should have some burden of proof on a case-by-case basis that majority signup would be more equitable to the workforce than a secret ballot election controlled by management. Labor can easily meet that burden of proof in most cases with all the history they have amassed with various troublesome employers since Taft-Hartley in 1948. This should not be a problem, yet they refuse to budge.

And while EFCA does some good stuff, he pointed out that it also doesn’t go far enough. The reason labor doesn’t like business’s ability to mandate a secret ballot election is that business gets to control the timing of said election and drag it out ad infinitum while they punish, bribe, fire, or otherwise coerce people into voting no. EFCA won’t fix that even if the union gets 100% of the workers to sign cards.

As Colorado Pols noted, it’s unlikely in this state that EFCA would eliminate even a single secret ballot election because it will be easy for employers to find 30% to petition for an election. So what then? The same broken process that drags on forever and fizzles out, which EFCA does very little to fix.

On business’s side, they need to stop lying about the process. They get “card check” to decertify a union. Why shouldn’t unions be held to the same standard in the process of certifying? It boggles the mind that they are concerned about “workplace democracy.” The bottom line is they don’t want to give up any power or money. If they want to declare that outright and try to defend it, more power to them. But they need to stop bamboozling the public with this Defenders of Democracy crap.

Not all businesses, however, are engaging in the lie fest. From Kaiser to AT&T, many businesses both massive and powerful (who could easily crush unions under the current law) adhere to the original principles of the NLRA and allow workers to organize however they want to.

My advice for Mark Udall:

Keep on keeping it real. You are the master of seeing both sides and, when necessary, seeing through both sides. Unions are good for business. A strong, well-paid workforce–not tax cuts for Wall Street–will fuel our economic recovery. EFCA is needed, but imperfect legislation. So perfect it.

Sign on to EFCA on the proviso that the Senate allow an up-or-down vote on a specific set of amendments that you propose. Don’t be afraid to point out when anyone–labor or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce–is either being dishonest or isn’t looking any farther than the hood ornament.

Now that we’re out from under the thumb of Bush, we have the opportunity to be bold, yet wonkish and comprehensive in that trademark Udall way. You’ve done it on energy. You’ve done it on wilderness areas. So do it again, even if it pisses off Tom Donohue. Bob Schaffer was an annoying little gnat in 2008 by comparison. The US Chamber was a grizzly bear with teeth and claws, yet you beat them decisively.

And if you make EFCA better for labor than it would be as drafted I am sure they can be coaxed aboard, despite their saber-rattling. It’s all about card check for them because they’re still reeling from Reagan, let alone the Bushes and Gingrich. Make them see beyond it.

But whatever you do, get out there quickly and make it known. The only people profiting from the uncertainty are the TV stations who are running the ads from both sides. And tell Bennet to do the same. Y’all are in the majority now. Lead by example.

Udall’s 2007 floor statement:

Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Madam Chairman, when I agreed to cosponsor this important legislation two years ago I made clear in a floor statement that I had serious reservations about weakening the secret ballot in union organizing elections. I believe American workers ought to make decisions about organizing unions in a way that is free from intimidation by labor or employers.

  It is because the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has largely failed in their responsibilities to protect the rights of American workers to organize that we even have to consider this legislation.

  Despite my reservations, therefore, I am persuaded that we ought to pass this imperfect bill so that the Senate may take up reforms in the labor-business relationship that will protect the rights of workers to organize, and at the same time preserve balance, fairness and objectivity in the way the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) conducts elections.

  Before I get to the merits of this legislation, however, I want to register my disappointment that more amendments were not allowed for our consideration. The majority may not be well served by an open process that allows for deeper debate and the consideration of amendments, but our country would be better served. And on legislation with such far-reaching consequences for the balance between business and labor, I believe we are ill-served by not debating and considering more amendments.

  There are other improvements to this bill that we should have considered, and that I hope will be considered in the Senate. For example, I hope the Senate will consider amendments that address decertification procedures and deadlines for the NLRB to reach decisions. And I am hopeful the Senate will consider carefully whether this legislation should apply equally to small businesses. Perhaps the Senate will also consider the wisdom of a sunset provision for this legislation so that we can revisit it later–in order to determine whether it will have the desired effect for workers and for our economy.

  As I said in 2004, I am reluctant to endorse changes in current law that could be seen as preventing workers to make decisions in private about union representation.

  I agree with those who say a secret ballot process is preferable in most cases, and think that the burden of proof is on those who say that an alternative should be used.

  However, I have been and remain disturbed by reports of employers using heavy handed techniques to discourage workers from organizing in the first place and intimidating and even illegally firing workers who decide to join.

  But there is a real possibility that the NLRB won’t do that–which is the primary reason I support this bill.

  I am disturbed–I think we should all be disturbed–by the serious questions that have been raised about whether the NLRB is doing its job. And I am worried that recent NLRB decisions tilt too far toward allowing employers to intimidate union organizers.

  For example, the NLRB has decided that as workers are considering whether to form a union, an employer may explicitly “inform” them that workers in two other facilities lost their jobs after they decided to organize.

  I understand that in the case in question the regional NLRB director ruled this “clearly implied” the union was responsible for the firings and insinuated the same would happen to others who chose a union. In other words, the NLRB official closest to the case saw this as an example of an illegal threat of retaliation.

  But in a 2-1 party line vote–with two appointees by the current Administration in the majority–the NLRB overruled the regional director’s decision and claimed the memo “did not exceed the bounds of permissible campaign statements.”

  I think that decision shows just how far the playing field has been tilted away from a fair balance between employers and employees who want to bargain collectively.

  And the purpose of this legislation is to move back toward a fairer balance.

  Consider what the law says about ending–not establishing, but ending–union representation. Under the National Labor Relations Act, if 50% or more of the employees in a bargaining unit sign a petition that they no longer want to be represented by their union, the employer can withdraw recognition without an election.

  And if just 30% of the employees in a bargaining unit sign a Decertification Petition, the NLRB will conduct a secret ballot election on the question of ending union representation. Not a majority–just 30%.

  In other words, the current law makes it harder for workers to get a union than to get rid of one–and, as I just said, current policies of the NLRB add to the burden of people who want to have a union. I don’t think that’s balanced. Why should it be harder for workers to get a union into their workplace than it is for them to get the union out?

  This bill would not completely change that. But it would say that just as signatures of a majority of workers can end union representation, a majority of signatures could start it. And I think that is reasonable and equitable.

  Also, the bill would correct some of the problems with the current NLRB by changing parts of the law under which it operates.

  Current law says the NLRB must go into federal court and ask for an injunction against a union if the NLRB thinks there is reasonable cause to believe that the union has violated the law’s prohibition of secondary boycotts. Under the bill the NLRB would have to take the same action to enforce the law that protects workers against pressure to reject a union as it does to enforce the law’s limits on what a union can do to put pressure on employers. I think that is fair.

  And the bill also increases the amount a worker could collect if he or she has been unlawfully discharged or discriminated against during an organizing campaign or first contract drive and by providing for civil fines of up to $20,000 per violation against employers found to have willfully or repeatedly violated the law. Again, I think these are improvements over the current law.

  Finally, I think some of the attacks on this bill have been exaggerated. For example, some have said it is intended to deprive workers of their right to an election. But under current law, elections are not always required–if a majority of workers sign cards saying they want to have a union, their employer can agree, and then the union is established without any election. So what the bill does is to deprive employers of the option of insisting on an election any time a majority of the workers have signaled that they want a union.

  Madam Chairman, this bill is not perfect, and in some ways I think it might have been better to take a different approach to the problem, with even greater emphasis on changing the law governing the operations of the NLRB rather than the card-check process. But I think it can, and should be improved before final passage by the Congress, and should go forward to the Senate for further and, hopefully more deliberate, consideration.

Shills: Can you turn off the talking points and have an honest discussion?

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Penry’s Shame

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

If there were ever a time in the Republican Party for a Sister Souljah moment, this is it.

With Schultheis and Renfroe serving as the local public face of the party and Rush Limbaugh as the national head of the Republican state, the party has gone completely off the rails. Once known for his death grip on the message, Dick Wadhams seems to have been forcibly retired in all but title as the puppets of industry and the religious right have moved front-and-center.

There’s not much Penry can do about Limbaugh, but he is the guy who theoretically controls the message of his party within the State Senate. But instead of showing leadership, he put out a milquetoast response about disagreeing with Schultheis on HIV testing but defending Schultheis’s self-annointed position as the spokesperson for Senate Republicans.

Penry is no leader. He should go back to Grand Junction in shame. Saner voices within the Republican Party (they actually do exist) need to stage a coup. Extremists are going to get elected and re-elected. That is just a fact. But they should never be allowed to control the message, because extremism really displeases the 1/3 of Coloradans who are independent, not to mention moderate Republicans and Democrats. Even the extremists know that.

Penry should resign. And if he doesn’t, his caucus should make that happen for him before it’s too late.

Quick! Lock your doors and hide! Gay terrorists are out to get you!

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Shaking in their boots in the wake of a national poll showing overwhelming support for legal recognition for same-sex couples, followed by an even more overwhelming poll showing Coloradans’ support for legal recognition, and in the face of hundreds of peaceful protests nationwide against the passage of California’s Proposition 8, the mainstream of the religious right is going absolutely insane.

Said Pat Boone of the protests, “Have you not seen the awful similarity between what happened in Mumbai and what’s happening right now in our cities?”

Then today, we see that Seamus Hasson, of the mainstream conservative Beckett Fund, said, “well, whether it’s an organized movement like Al Qaeda or whether it’s the Al Qaeda-like, um, inspired acts of terrorism elsewhere, people are right to be concerned” in response to the anti-Prop 8 protests.

Here’s a bit of advice for our friends in the  conservative movement: Barack Obama, Mark Udall, and candidates across the nation were subject to attack after attack comparing them to terrorists and despots. They all won by huge margins. Perhaps putting Ellen DeGeneres and Harvey Fierstein on the same level as Osama bin Laden is not the best strategy?

UPDATE:

And now Rabbi Nachum Shifren weighs in saying the protesters are just like Nazis, even going so far as to modify the famous Martin Niemöller poem to add a part about homosexuals that never existed.

In Defense of Sarah Palin

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

It should now be clear to everyone across the political spectrum that Sarah Palin was a disastrous pick for the VP slot. Most of us saw that before the election, which is why Palin went quickly from having superstar status to being a serious drag on the McCain ticket. But the evidence coming out in the days after the election of her profligacy, lack of basic knowledge about things like NAFTA and Africa that a C-student in American Government would know, and reports of her serious attitude problems, it should be utterly clear to even hyper-Republican partisans that Palin was the worst possible choice.

But here’s the problem: all of this evidence now coming to light is coming from hyper-Republican partisans. In fact, it’s coming from the same partisans who picked her in the first place, in a bizarre attempt to cover their own backsides. These are smart people; they should understand that in a circular firing squad, the backside is not the side they should be worried about.

It’s not Sarah Palin’s fault that John McCain picked a “Wasilla hillbilly looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast.” If you don’t want a Wasilla hillbilly, you don’t hire one to be the VP candidate. Sarah Palin is who she is. She didn’t become who she is over the last nine weeks.

Choosing the Vice President is the single most undemocratic step in our electoral process. The VP candidate is not vetted by the voters in any kind of primary campaign. It’s a step that should be completed with care and precision, and it wasn’t.

Sarah Palin was John McCain’s choice. John McCain should rein the people who would trash talk her as the reason he lost. She may be, but they picked her. She may be a corrupt moron, but she was their corrupt moron. Pulling a slash-and-burn on her now serves no purpose. It’s not going to save anybody’s reputation. They should be looking at themselves, not at her, for answers about their colossal failure.

Sarah Palin: Pork Queen, Alaska’s Joe Stengel

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a “per diem” allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.

Her defense seems to be that she’s not quite as corrupt as Frank Murkowski because the hundreds of thousands of dollars she bilked taxpayers for was for commercial airfare rather than a state-owned jet.

For the uninitiated, Republican minority leader Joe Stengel was drummed out of the state legislature for his per diem abuses that seem minor by comparison.

Meanwhile, John McCain and Sarah Palin have lied at least 23 times since Friday about her supposed opposition to the “bridge to nowhere.”

Good news from Florida

Looks like Anita “Fruite Pie” Bryant’s dreams of a Florida comeback may again be shattered.

Gov. Charlie Crist continues to ride high job approval ratings, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University, but the luck’s not as good for the ballot amendment he supports — the measure to ban gay marriages.

Florida voters are satisfied with the governor’s performance, with 61 percent saying they have a favorable view of Crist, compared to 25 percent who say he’s doing a poor job. But he isn’t on the ballot this year and the proposal on the November ballot to enshrine in the state Constitution a definition that marriage is between a man and a woman falls short of the 60 percent approval threshold.

Voters support Amendment 2 by 55-41 percent, with Republicans favoring it 76-21 percent while Democrats oppose it 51-45 percent.

It seems Florida has a more reasonable process for constitutional amendments, requiring a 60% threshold rather than the 50%+1 vote threshold we have in Colorado. In addition, their signature requirements are more in line with those proposed by Referendum O, and clearly that was no impediment for getting this particular “grass-roots” initiative on the ballot.

For those who don’t get the “fruit pie” reference, or for those who just want to enjoy the memory…

Do you think Referendum O will pass?

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Tancredo: Pay no attention to the log in my eye

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Irrelevant lame duck Tom Tancredo (R-Not Mexico) put out a press release today that is either pathetic in its hypocrisy or brilliant in its irony.

Tancredo concluded, “Our economy is running on fumes and Congressional Democrats are on vacation.”

This is rich coming from the only member of the Colorado delegation who skipped the vote on adjournment.

But I’m just getting started.

Tancredo also missed the following votes on energy reform measures (and dozens and dozens of other votes):

6/26/08 Vote 469: H R 6251: Responsible Federal Oil and Gas Lease Act

6/26/08 Vote 468: H R 6377: Energy Markets Emergency Act of 2008

6/26/08 Vote 467: H R 6052: Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act

6/26/08 Vote 466: H R 6052: Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Ac

6/26/08 Vote 465: H R 6052

5/8/08 Vote 305: H R 2419: Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act

5/8/08 Vote 304: H R 2419: Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act

So considering that Tom Tancredo couldn’t be bothered to show up for work for most of 2008, not even to vote on energy bills which would have increased “our ability to access American energy,” provided “the state [with] badly needed revenue,” and guaranteed “the creation of hundreds of new family-wage jobs in Colorado.”

So is Tom Tancredo

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