Archive for July, 2017

Former state representative will consider removing fake news from her Facebook page

Friday, July 21st, 2017

marsha looper posts fake news about muslim rape 7-17Former state Rep. Marsha Looper (R-Calhan) shared a fake news item on her Facebook page recently, with flat-out falsehoods and exaggerations about a rape that did not occur, as alleged, in Idaho

The Idaho Statesman reported:

The incident touched off months of turmoil in Twin Falls after the story was spun into a fake news account that exaggerated or flat-out falsified many of the details, including that a knife was present, the attack was perpetrated by a Syrian gang of adult men, that a rape had occurred and that the attack was celebrated by the perpetrators’ families as city officials orchestrated a cover-up.

Snopes also determined the item to be “mostly false.

See Looper’s post, from “SilenceIsConsent.net,” above.

Looper, who left office in 2012, told me today that she’d review the fact checks of the item and, if she agrees, remove it from her Facebook page.

Gardner: “If you repeal it now, with nothing in its place, what happens if you don’t find that replacement?”

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

With U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky’s announcement that he’s dumped his bill to replace Obamacare and, instead, will push legislation to repeal the health care law without replacing it for up to two years, a comment by U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) sounds a ton more significant today than it did July 6 when Gardner uttered it on KNUS 710-AM’s Dan Caplis Show.

CAPLIS: And last question: as you know, Ben Sasse and some others have been talking about, now, “repeal and replace later, separately.” Where do you come down on that?

GARDNER: Look, I think that if you repeal it now, with nothing in its place, what happens if you don’t find that replacement? What happens if you don’t reach that agreement? And I think that we ought to move forward with an idea now, and put a solution forward to the American people. Look, this is something that Republicans and Democrats ought to find common ground with, because if Democrats refuse to find a solution to a failing Obamacare, shame on them!

CAPLIS: Right.

GARDNER: And that’s what we have to realize, is, the status quo isn’t good enough. And the alternative is a single-payer healthcare system. And look what happened in England, right now, with that child. The parents no longer have the ability to help — excuse me, no longer have the ability to determine their child’s state, because it’s in the hands of the government.

Gardner has yet to talk to journalists about the implosion of the senate healthcare legislation, so, for now, this looks like the only comment reporters have to go on from our senator, who’s a Republican leader in the U.S. Senate and who helped draft McConnell’s bill.

Listen to Gardner on KNUS-710-AM July 6:

Seven state lawmakers sign the Fake News Pledge

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Scott Nov. 6 Wikileaks fake newsThe Fake News Pledge has now been signed by seven state lawmakers, all Democrats: State Representatives Mike Foote of Lafayette, Susan Lontine of Denver, Michael Merrifield of Colorado Springs, and Michael Weissman of Aurora as well as State Sen. Irene Aguilar of Denver, State Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman of Denver, and State Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City.

The Pledge is a promise not to spread fake news on Facebook. It defines fake news as a story “deemed false or inaccurate by Snopes, Politifact, Factcheck.org, or by a respected news outlet.” It also must be “packaged to look somehow like news.” Everyone who supports factual discourse, Dem or Republican, should support it.

Westword’s Michael Roberts’ post on this topic today shows why the Pledge isn’t an empty gesture: Colorado state lawmakers and candidates spread obvious fake news on their Facebook pages. Look at the Westword piece, take a step back for a moment, and you realize realize how unbelievably crazy it is for elected officials and candidates to post this kind of stuff.

As far as I know, this is the only tangible step by state lawmakers nationally to fight fake news.

So the signers deserve our thanks for having the guts to try to do something.

And please note those who wouldn’t sign: Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) and Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton). Neville told me that “each individual has to be the arbiter of fake news. Lundberg said the term fake news “smacks of a new censorship.”

Overall, I’ve found six Colorado state legislators who posted fake news on their Facebook pages (See here and here). Two removed it (State Rep. Polly Lawrence and former State Rep. Kit Roupe). Two told me they would not remove it (former State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt and State Sen. Tim Neville). Neville posted this: “Earth Is Nearly in Its 21st Year Without Global Warming.” And two lawmakers did not respond to my request that it be deleted (State Rep. Ray Scott, and former State Sen. Laura Woods).

After launching the Pledge, I was accused of being a “fake reporter” by former State Sen. Greg Brophy. And other conservatives attacked me, as if my being progressive somehow undermines the pledge. I am progressive, and I’m paid by progressives. I don’t hide it. But I’m committed to being factual in my writing–and we all can expect the same from our state lawmakers of any political stripe. So I’m hoping more of them sign the Pledge.

Questions for Gardner about the U.S. Senate’s health care bill

Monday, July 10th, 2017

Here’s my list of key questions for Gardner. Please add yours in the comment section.

  • What’s the highest number of people in Colorado who’d be projected to lose health insurance under the senate bill—and you’d still vote for it?
  • You’re not yet accepting the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) estimate that 22 million people would lose health insurance under the senate bill. If not the CBO, who will you trust to analyze the bill?
  • Your opponents accuse you of sabotaging Obamacare. Here’s one example they point to. Back in 2013, you and U.S. Sen Marco Rubio of Florida opposed “bailouts” of insurance companies as part of Obamacare. They were referred to as risk corridors. Is it fair to say that withholding those payments destabilized the marketplace? And now, experts say, Republican are proposing insurance-company bailouts for the same reason, to stabilize the marketplace. Are you okay with voting for the bailouts in the current bill?
  • You’ve said an Obamacare replacement should lower premiums. The nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation says that, under the current bill, premiums would rise faster than under Obamacare. Would you vote for a senate bill if the Kaiser Foundation found that under the senate bill, premiums would rise faster than under Obamacare.
  • Please talk about your roll in drafting the bill. People don’t understand how you were a drafter of the bill, especially the Medicaid part, but never saw drafts of it.
  • You’ve said that if the senate doesn’t pass a bill, the only alternative to Obamacare is a single-payer system. Why do you think this?
  • The nonpartisan Colorado Health Institute estimates that Colorado would lose at least $14 billion in federal Medicaid funds during the first 10 years after passage of the senate bill. How would you cut Colorado’s Medicaid program in future years as federal funds decrease and lawmakers will have to reduce services?
  • Should Colorado pick up the tab for lost Medicaid funding, or should the next governor and state legislature push people off the rolls or cut services?
  • Along these lines, if the senate bill passes, would you support a tax increase in Colorado, so that the state could afford to cover children, seniors, and people with disabilities?
  • Federal law mandates that hospitals accept sick people in emergency rooms. So are you okay with pushing people off Medicaid and, in effect, forcing hospitals to pick up the tab for emergency room by, at least, some of them?
  • You’ve said you want to make Medicaid sustainable. Are you saying you want to cut Medicaid to make it sustainable? If not, how else would you achieve your goal of making it sustainable?
  • You will not reveal if you’d vote for the senate legislation as drafted. But do you support the framework of the bill, which is to take health insurance away from Medicaid recipients and give a tax cut to wealthy Americans?
  • Your opponents are concerned that Republicans want to all insurance companies to sell so-called “junk” plans, which require lots of out-of-pocket payments. If the senate bill lowers premiums for some people, but raises out-of-pocket costs for most everybody, does that mean that insurance is less expensive or more expensive?
  • Will you vote for the senate bill if there are no hearings and regular order, as you’ve promised?
  • Rural hospitals depend on Medicaid funding. Are you willing to assure rural Coloradans that no rural hospital will close, if the the senate bill became law?
  • Will you hold a town hall meeting on health care, and if not, why not?

Unlike Koch gathering, Western Conservative Summit won’t try to muzzle journalists

Friday, July 7th, 2017

If you’re a progressive, you can criticize the ultra-conservative Centennial Institute for a lot of things, like being homophobic, Islamophobic, and more, but being scared of a open debate is one thing the organization is not.

Centennial Institute founder, John Andrews, began the tradition of inviting questions and discussion, and the current director, Jeff Hunt, is carrying it on.

For example, he’s enlisted a longtime Denver reporter Joey Bunch, now leading the political news site ColoradoPolitics, to ask questions of gubernatorial candidates at the July 21-23 Western Conservative Summit, billed as the “largest gathering of conservatives outside of Washington, D.C.

And Hunt has put no restrictions on his questions.

Contrast that with approach taken by the conservative billionaires, Charles and David Koch, when they held a big shindig in Colorado Springs last month of Republican politicians and donors associated with the Kochs’ Seminar Network.

As they’ve done in the past, the Kochs set ground rules for reporters, whom they invited to cover the event. One rule prohibited journalists from reporting on who was there, unless they were part of a formal program or the attendee gave permission to a reporter, according to Bunch. In other words, the presence of a person was off the record, unless permission was given or they were on the program.

Bunch said no thanks.

“A reporter’s most valuable asset is his independence,” Bunch told me via email. “It’s a tall order to tell a reporter he can’t report what he sees for the price of admission. I was very appreciative of the invitation, don’t get me wrong, and I knew I was risking losing some stories, maybe big stories, but it didn’t feel right at the gut level, so I asked and my editors backed me up. I was proud of that. A lot of editors would have said, ‘No. we want the scoops.'”

Judging from the reaction to similar, if not identical, restrictions imposed by the Kochs at other gatherings, journalists differ on whether the benefits of attending such events, even with the restrictions, outweighs the downsides.

I’d rather have a partially muzzled reporter in the room with the Kochs than none, but journalists who attend such events should inform us that restrictions were placed on their reporting, as outlets such as USA Today and the Washington Post have done in the past.

But I couldn’t find any reference to media restrictions in the coverage of last month’s Colorado Springs Koch event, including in reporting by the Associated Press, Denver Post, NBC News, Politico, and others.

Emails to the Associated Press, Denver Post, and Politico were not immediately returned. I’ll update this post if I they respond.

In any case, I wouldn’t expect the Centennial Institute to try to do this, especially at a gathering of 4,000 people, of course, but at any forum.  Hunt says there are not restrictions on journalists. They even let Samantha Bee loose at last year’s Summit.

And Hunt’s choice of a journalist to interview gubernatorial candidates at its upcoming Summit is along the same lines of openness to honest debate.

At the Summit, each Colorado gubernatorial candidate will be allowed a five-minute speech, and Bunch will ask ten minutes of questions to the group. Attendees will have the opportunity to vote on their favorite candidate, just as they did among vice presidential hopefuls last year, choosing former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The results will be announced later.

Among the Republican candidates, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler and businessmen Victor Mitchell and Doug Robinson accepted invitations to attend so far. The only Democrat to respond is U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who’s declined.

Why did Hunt pick Bunch to do the interview segment of the program?

“We’re doing the gubernatorial race,” replied Hunt. “Let’s get someone who really knows Colorado politics.  I’ve done a number of interviews with Joey, and he’s fair, and he knows Colorado really well. And he’s real entertaining. So let’s put him up there.”

But Hunt wouldn’t put just any journalist on the stage.

He said that some outlets like CNN, New York Times, and Washington Post “seem hell bent trying to delegitimize the President instead of reporting the news.”

That’s why he’s glad Trump is fighting reporters.

“Donald Trump is teaching conservatives again how fight against the media,” Hunt said, whose Centennial Institute is associated with Colorado Christian University. “Frankly, we need to learn how to fight those types of aggressive attacks against us.”

Hunt doesn’t accuse all journalists as being unfair. He said the Denver weekly Westword is one of the “fairest newspapers” he’s dealt with so far in Colorado. He also likes 9News anchor Kyle Clark, Denver Post Editor of the Editorial Pages Chuck Plunkett, and others.

Conservatives should give journalists (mainstream, left, or right) a chance and not initially look at media outlets as if they are “out to get me,” Hunt said.

As the media world implodes, that’s also good advice for progressives or anyone.