Archive for October, 2011

A challenge for reporters covering redistricting 10 years from now?

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

In an Oct. 11 piece about the court case that will determine the shape of Colorado’s congressional districts, The Denver Post reported:

“The legal challenge pits a map from Democrats that drastically changes the current boundaries to create more competitive districts against a Republican map billed as ‘minimum disruption’ because it follows the status quo.”

I noticed in that paragraph The Post stated, as a point of fact, that the Democrats’ maps were “more competitive” and the GOP maps were “billed” as minimally disrupting the status quo.

Did this mean that  The Post had done an analysis and determined that the Dem districts were found to be more competitive than the previous ones? I asked Post reporter Lynn Bartels, who wrote the piece, and she responded via email:

What happened is the editor rightly sent the story back to me saying the top was a little dry and I didn’t set up the point counterpoint between Republicans and Democrats.

I quickly dashed off a new sentence and sent it in. It should have said that creates districts that Democrats maintain are more competitive …

You might think that a reporter should be able to tell us whether the Democrats’ proposed districts are more competitive than previous districts, even if reporters don’t want to say that any one district is objectively “competitive.” Post stories certainly did lay out the issues at play, but, still,  maybe that’s something to strive for when this story repeats itself 10 years from now.

More reporters would benefit from hearing waiters (and a six-foot “germ”) explain how sick restaurant workers spread illnesses to customers

Monday, October 17th, 2011

At a news conference last week that deserved to get more media attention, the Campaign for a Healthy Denver unveiled “Sick Rick,” the mascot for their effort to pass Initiative 300, which would guarantee paid sick days for all Denver workers.

At the same event, the campaign presented workers, identified as food service employees, who told stories about how they’ve been ill, gone to work, and possibly passed on disease to restaurant customers

Sick Rick is a walking, six-foot-tall “germ” designed to highlight the campaign’s view that if Initiative 300 isn’t passed, more restaurant workers will be forced to go to work when sick and spread illnesses to customers. Its motto reportedly is: “We don’t want boogers in our burgers (or phlegm with our fries.)”

Sick Rick

Sick Rick, a Walking Germ

“When you hand me a credit card to pay for your nonfat grande latte, I might be making you sick,” said Laura, who identified herself as a Starbucks employee and spoke at the news conference prior to the appearance of Sick Rick.

She told reporters that, for example, she contracted a severe cold around Christmas time last year but went to work anyway because she could not afford to stay home.

“Who knows if I infected my customers,” she said, explaining that if she passed up her shift, she’d have lost about $65, enough to pay her utility bill for a month or groceries for two weeks.

“This group has been pulling a lot of stunts to distract voters from the fact that the people of Denver who need jobs, city officials, and people who own small business have all said Denver can’t afford Initiative 300,” said George Merritt, spokesman for No on 300.

Contrary to the implication of Post story Oct. 3, NREL and green energy industries are, in fact, creating jobs

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

A Denver Post editorial today made connections between NREL and the Colorado economy that Post reporters and editors should pin up somewhere on the news side of the operation.

The editorial commented on General Electric’s announcement this week that it will be building a $300 million solar-panel manufacturing plant in Aurora, which will create 355 jobs right off the bat and could employ double that number.

Here’s part of what The Post had to say:

What makes it even sweeter is that the thin-film technology that will be used in the plant was developed in Golden, at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, an economic engine in its own right, and PrimeStar Solar, an Arvada-based company.

With these developments, the state continues to make a name for itself in the green energy business.

How does do you square this with the following hype found not in an opinion piece but the opening paragraph of an Oct. 3 Post news story:

In both a symbolic and real-world blow to green energy development and the jobs renewable industries are meant to create, the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden announced significant job cuts today.

Meant to create? The implication there is that green energy development isn’t really creating jobs. It’s just meant to.

That’s not true, especially when it comes to NREL, as this week’s announcement from GE makes clear.

NREL’s announcement of 100-150 layoffs is a setback in terms of the jobs the organization is maintaining itself and creating. The cause has less to do with the economics of green energy than with partisan politics in Washington. Ask Rep. Doug Lamborn, who briefly joined the GOP hit squad to zero out NREL funding.

But Republican attacks and anecdotes like Solyndra aside, data show that the the green energy economy is a solid jobs creator, especially in Colorado.

As a summary of a Headwaters Economics report cited today by The Post argues:

Using a conservative measurement of green jobs, the report—Clean Energy Leadership in the Rockies: Competitive Positioning in the Emerging Green Economy—found that employment in the green economy has grown significantly faster than total employment.  In New Mexico, for example, the number of overall jobs in 2007 was 13 percent greater than in 1995, compared to 62 percent growth in the green jobs sector.  Looking at the five-state region, from 1995 to 2007 total job growth was 19 percent, while job growth in the core green economy was 30 percent.  Nationwide, overall jobs grew by 10 percent, compared to green job growth of 18 percent from 1995 to 2007. Colorado’s green economy leads the region with the most clean energy-related jobs (in number and as a percent) as well as green business establishments. In 2007 the five states supported 3,567 green enterprises with 50 percent based in Colorado, 16 percent in Utah and in New Mexico, 11 percent in Montana, and 6 percent in Wyoming.

I can understand the temptation of The Post’s reporter Oct. 3 to inflate bad news about NREL job losses to create an interesting, but false, link to a narrative in the national press  about specific green energy investments not producing the number of jobs expected.

But, please, when it comes to NREL, stick to the facts.

Boyles’ coverage of OccupyDenver protest shines

Friday, October 14th, 2011

KHOW’s Peter Boyles apparently spent most of the evening in Civic Center Park last night to cover the dramatic chapter in the OccupyDenver/Wall-Street-Greed protest that was at first ignored by media large and small and then deluged with coverage.

But Boyles’ work stood out, as he took the protesters seriously from the get go, spent a lot of time with them and got to know them, and gave them a voice.

Print media, tweets, TV, blogs, all of the other media formats, didn’t really do justice to the personalities and motivations of the protesters. Boyles reminded me that a radio broadcast, with an intelligent host, can play a role in situations like this that other media formats, with their time constraints and ADD, just can’t.

Boyles is obviously a bizarre guy, whose broadcasts are often mindlessly destructive, but he’s doing a great job on this story.

Were Demonstrators “Camping” or “Protesting”? First Amendment issues need more attention

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Though not ignored by any stretch, the First-Amendment rights of the OccupyDener/Wall Street Greed protesters need to get more air time.

Since the tents appeared in Denver, I’d been wondering about the “protesters” I used to see as I rode my bike in front of the White House when I lived in DC 20 years ago. They got to stay there because their 24-hour protest, which included tent-like structures, was protected under the First Amendment.

The ACLU at one point brought their case all the way to the Supreme Court.

The question for them, and for our local protest camp, was, were they “camping,” and in violation of anti-camping laws, or “protesting” 24 hours a day, and protected by the First Amendment?

KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman aired a great interview with attorney David Lane on this topic yesterday.

Here’s part of what Lane told Caplis and Silverman:

Lane: What is the competing interest against [the protest], Dan? Does Denver have some compelling need to use that space? And if the answer is no, then yes, you’re allowed to stay there 24 hours a day, as long as you’re not stopping someone else from exercising a constitutional right. It may be an eye sore. It may be inconvenient, and you may not like to see tents there when you drive by, but really if Denver has no compelling reason not to allow it, then Denver just has to allow it…

If someone is violating the health laws by camping there, if you want to call it camping, then they get a ticket for violating a health law. If theres’s some public disorder occurring there, give them a ticket for public disorder. If there is no public disorder, if there’s no health violation, then Denver has to put up with it under the First Amendment. …

If there’s public urination going on, Dan, give them a ticket for public urination….

Let me ask you, have you ever been to the White House? Have you ever seen the protesters who are permanently ensconsed. I mean, they are always there. They never leave. They have signs that say, I’ve been here for 27 years, 10 months, and 242 days. Yes, you can protest. You can protest 24-7. The issue is, is it really camping or what is it?… They have designated areas. Maybe Denver should designate an area.

There are reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. But who are you bothering? Are you bothering the drug dealers who normally exist in Civic Center Park? Is that the problem, Dan? Are there really people who are using this park at midnight so we have to move these guys out?…

Caplis: What about the governor’s point that you have all these tents together…a fire could sweep through the camp.

Lane: You could come up with excuses like that. That’s just nonsense. You know that’s nonsense. It’s an excuse to get rid of them…

In order to stop free speech, the government has to have a compelling interest in stopping it. If it involves speech, and it’s not simply, gee I don’t have anywhere to go sleep, so I’m going to sleep in the park, then I think the government is going to be hard pressed to stop it. …

9News to correct Ciruli misstatement that strong GOP candidate would knockout Obama

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

An Oct. 9 story on 9News presented an intelligent overview of the importance of Colorado in the next presidential election.

The piece was set against the backdrop of real-life 5th graders on a playground, looking mystified.

They were no doubt there to catch the attention of the apolitical TV viewer.

For the political junkie, the kids also might have been the most interesting part, because they were, in fact, cute. And the information and interview with pollster/consultant Floyd Ciruli was actually really important for the mass audience, but pretty much standard stuff.

That is, until Ciruli delivered his closer:

“If the Republicans can come up with a strong candidate, then it’s [the presidential race] going to be an unbelievable knockout.”

It sounded like something a fifth grader might have said. So I listened again, to make sure he said it. He did.

Then I thought, which GOP candidate is going to hit Obama with an unbelievable knockout?

Romney? No. Cain? No. Perry? No. Bachmann? No. Gingrich? No. Huntsman? No. Any realistic Republican candidate? No.

These Republicans might deliver an unbelievable knockout to each other, but to Obama? Nothing would lead you to think so. Winning would be a trick for any of them, if you believe the polling.

So I emailed Ciruli and asked him.

He wrote back to me that he meant to say that a “strong Republican candidate will produce a knock down fight.”

I thanked Ciruli and asked Reporter/Anchor Matt Flener at 9News if his station corrects stuff like this.

I was happy to hear back from him that 9News will update Ciruli’s quote on the web story.

“Battle of Talk Show Hosts” illustrates why good guests and callers make talk radio so much more interesting

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Talk radio is, basically, an entertainment medium, and it was proven Wednesday night on the stage of, appropriately enough, the Comedy Works in conservative Greenwood Village, where Denver’s top talk-show hosts squared off in hyped “battle.”

You’d expect to get plenty of meaninglessness from a two-hour event featuring 10 yappers skilled at yapping plus not one but two moderators.

I mean, what were they thinking? How could a panel of 10 normal people converse intelligently in such a setting much less 10 talk-radio hosts?

And sure enough, it was pretty stupid—and enjoyable, to an extent.

The ten talk show hosts were brought up on the comedy stage five at a time.

The first group was: Rick Barber (KOA), Peter Boyles (KHOW), Jon Caldara (KOA), Craig Silverman (KHOW), and Brownie (KOA).

KOA’s Steffan Tubbs and April Zesbaugh presented them with a “lightening” round of questions to which they had 15 seconds to respond.

The in-depth segment gave the yappers 30 seconds for their answers.

Asked what talk radio show he listens to, Caldara said, “What kind of loser listens to talk radio?” (Barber and later David Sirota admitted to listening to no talk radio, and Rosen said he enjoys his own podcasts the most, which may explain his re-use of old newspaper columns.)

To the question, should marijuana be legalized, Caldara said, “Of course. It makes Craig Silverman’s voice bearable.”

Silverman replied that he was “distracted” by the light bouncing off Caldara’s bald head.

Things got testy when Caldara joked that Boyles wanted to hurt illegal immigrants.

“You’ve been funny all night, but that’s offensive,” Boyles shot back.

Round two featured five more white men: Dan Caplis (KHOW), Thom Hartmann (Syndicated nationally and my own favorite talk-show host), Tom Martino (KHOW), Mike Rosen (KOA), and David Sirota (AM 760).

This group was more interesting because they actually disagreed more often than not, as Sirota and Hartman are on the political left.

Asked who they favored for president, Caplis said Cain or Romney, Hartmann sort of said Obama, Martino said Cain, Rosen said Romney, and Sirota said he did not “give a shit.”

Mike Rosen thought the smartest thing Obama did as President was “pick Joe Biden as his vice President, which makes Obama look smarter.”

To the question, is Obama a socialist, Sirota said, “He and half the Democratic Party are corporate socialists.”

Similarly, Sirota is ready to administer drug tests to welfare recipients as soon as bankers are tested for drugs.

At one point, Michael Brown kneeled at the crotch of Silverman, as if he were bowing to him, after Silverman said he planned to register as a Republican to ensure that the GOP picks moderate prez candidate.

“That’s how Brownie got a job from Bush,” said Caldara, who unfortunately gets my vote as the winner of the battle. The 15-second format suited his shallow worldview and potty mouth, as he acknowledged after the event.

The lightening rounds kept coming:

In 15 seconds, if Obama’s Jobs Bill isn’t the answer, what is?

Fifteen more seconds for, how would you solve I70’s problems?

What has the Tea Party accomplished, if anything?

Does global warming exist?

Has the war on terror made us safer?

Do you want to build a wall on the southern border?

Is America in danger of losing the title of the most powerful nation in the world?

Sometimes, the guys got an extra two minutes to discuss this stuff, not just the 15 seconds.

Yes, it was ridiculous, but hey, it wasn’t American Idol. It was much better. You could be entertained and learn something, which is right in line with modern politics.

But in the end, the second annual battle of the talk-show hosts proved my mantra that the best talk-radio shows have plenty of guests (and callers) on the air to take the focus off the yapping hosts.

With no guests and no callers, it gets boring, like this event did. I may like talk radio, but no way will I be attending next year’s battle.

The Denver Post may be on the verge of taking new approach to opinion blogging

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

It’s been bugging me that The Denver Post’s Spot blog runs The Post’s editorial opinion without any other opinions to balance things out.

What about offering a little more diversity of views on the Spot? Or, better yet, scrub the opinion from the blog.

So I sent an email to Post Editorial Page editor Curtis Hubbard:

I notice that you occasionally place Denver Post editorials on the blog. And Alicia Caldwell posts there occasionally.

I don’t think this is fair because readers of the Spot get The Post’s opinion without getting the range of opinion they find on the commentary pages. So, for example, they hear your side on the paid-sick-days initiative but not other views. (Caldwell’s pieces are usually more informational than opinion.)

Even if you argue that The Post’s in-house editorial is centrist, you’d admit that it’s consistently anti-union and, for that matter, pro gay rights.

So I think you should throw Littwin’s and Carroll’s columns onto the blog, if you’re going to offer opinions there, so readers get a range of views.

Hubbard’s response makes you think we may be seeing a new opinion blog emanating from The Post soon:

We originally envisioned that The Spot would need both opinion and news content in order to thrive. Turns out, the politics team is more than capable of producing a popular blog with little help from the opinion side of the building.

Several of the posts you point out were done as part “beta testing” for opinion blogging, which I hope to have more to say on soon.

I’d love to see The Post take a serious shot at opinion blogging.  It’s track record (Gang of Four, Spot misfires) isn’t good, but it appeared that those past efforts were never loved and cared for.

I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming, if anything.

Still waiting to hear why Gessler thinks there’s “fraud” (fraud!!!!!!) in Denver elections

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

For about two weeks now, I’ve been calling Scott Gessler’s office most every day, trying to find out if he really believes there’s fraud in Denver elections.

It’s a pretty serious accusation, given that we like to think we live in a functioning Democracy and all.

Gessler made the fraud accusation once, for sure, on Oct. 2, when he claimed that “there’s a pretty high incidence of fraud in inactive-voters returned ballots” in Denver. And he may have said it last year, when as candidate he asserted there wasn’t “massive fraud” in the Denver elections office, but implied that there appeared to be a little bit of fraud happening.

You can’t assume your Secretary of State plays fast and loose with the “F” word, so if I were Gessler, I would have jumped at the chance to return my call, to make sure I had it right, even if I’m a lowly blogger.

And if I were a reporter at a legacy media outfit, I’d be chasing this story, as a public-interest matter.

In any case, it was good to see The Denver Post’s Sara Burnett tweet on Friday that the chief of Colorado’s elections office apparently disagrees with Gessler about fraud in Denver elections.

Here’s Burnett’s tweet:

sara_burnett: Head of SOS elections div says he’s not aware of any fraud regarding ballots mailed to inactive voters. #COpolitics

That’s a relief.

It’s also a relief that Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson denied Gessler’s fraud accusations categorically.

But you have to take it seriously when Colorado’s Secretary of State cries fraud and then won’t talk about it.

I know it’s been a really busy week for Gessler. In fact, it seems like every week is really busy for him.

 But still, I’m hoping his office returns my call. It’s not like I’m trying to find out if Gessler buys fancy dog food with his public-sector salary.

His accusation is disturbing. It was made in a public forum. It’s not too much to ask him to explain himself.

Coffman’s rational appeal to cut miltary spending

Friday, October 7th, 2011

I may disagree with Rep. Mike Coffman about some things, but he has a lot of guts to call for Pentagon cuts, like he’s been doing, especially since he represents a district near Colorado Springs.

It’s a truism that most politicians who represent communities anywhere near a military facility won’t suggest defense cuts, even if the cuts are unrelated to the military activities in their districts. It’s one for all and all for one, even if a tiny slice of the defense budget could change the world for millions and millions of people.

Pentagon spending now accounts for about half of the federal discretionary budget, which is the portion of the budget that’s the focus of most beltway debate.

Current Pentagon spending is $696 billion, with $118 billion going to the Iraq and Afghan wars (our closest “enemy” China, spends about $120 billion, Russia $70 billion, Iran $7 billion).

Contrast this, if you feel like getting really depressed, with federal spending on clean energy development ($4 billion), Head Start ($8 billion), humanitarian foreign aid ($27 billion), and k-12 education ($43 billion). The entire EPA budget is about $10 billion, give or take a few billion.

The lives of millions of starving kids could be saved by spending $10 billion a year on basic health needs. Amory Lovins had written that we could rid ourselves of our dependence on oil in 10 years with a $20 billion per year investment. About $10 billion more would cover poor kids in America who are eligible for Head Start but don’t get it. The list goes on.

Against this backdrop, even the briefest look at the federal budget shows that Pentagon spending, even without the Iran and Aftghan wars, is way out of control.

Up steps Coffman, with the Tea Party mostly looking the other way, and suggests cuts in overseas bases, reductions in the active-duty force, and other idea, some of which have serious value.

He points out:

In early 2004, Osama bin Laden said one of his goals was to “bleed America to the point of bankruptcy.” In some ways, our strategy of counterinsurgency has played into his hands. Our current doctrine is a high-cost nation-building strategy that has worn out our military.

Coffman might derive his inspiration on this issue from the fact that he served in Iraq.

And by the sound of it, you have to think he believes the war wasn’t worth it, and he wants to spend tax dollars differently so America is less likely to repeat the mistake.