Archive for the 'Blogs' Category

Media omission: Tancredo sees public education as government mind-control

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

ColoradoPols has called on gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo to address rumors that “GOP power-brokers” are pushing for him to be Superintendent of Jefferson County Schools.

Pols didn’t get into whether Tancredo, who’s currently leading the gubernatorial GOP primary field, would be a logical selection for the Tea-Party-controlled Jeffco School Board. No need to fall off your chair because yes, unfortunately, Tancredo’s views on education are thoroughly right-wing.

He’s not only a consistent supporter of diverting public-school funding to private schools through vouchers, but he also sees the public school system as a way for public officials to control the small minds of America’s children.

Tancredo: “Why we can’t at least give kids in those [poverty] circumstances, a key to that door – called a voucher. Tell me, why it is so important to keep them locked into a government school system. Well, we know why they want to. They want to determine how those kids view the world, as we just got done explaining.

Where’s the evidence that public-school education is about anything but freedom from indoctrination? Teachers wouldn’t tolerate it. They don’t want to indoctrinate their students. They want to teach them to understand how the world works and ask questions about it. American public education is about mind control?

Tancredo expressed these views on the Peter Boyles show April 1, with Chuck Bonniwell subbing for Boyles.

Jeffco teachers, supported by community members, are at an impasse with the Jeffco board, whose current leaders would certainly applaud Tancredo views, as stated here:

TANCREDO: That’s for sure! And what a great debate to have over the implementation of that. I just – I relish the opportunity to debate that issue with the governor, or with the CEA, the teachers union, and all the people that are opposed to such an idea. “What?” you know, they say. “What? Are you some sort of chauvinist–”

BONNIWELL: Racist pig.

TANCREDO: “– suggesting that America is actually a better place to be than anywhere else?” Yes! The answer to that is, “Yes!” And it’s empirically prove-able. This is not subjective. You have—you have – when – as I remember my old boss Bill Bennett used to say, “When you open the gates, all over the world, people only run one way, and that is a pretty good indicator that there is something better they’re going to. People don’t leave hearth, home, kith, or kin to go to something as good or worse. They only leave all of that for something better. We have it. We have to — We have to maintain it. Because if you do not teach children what is good about this country, instead of all of the stuff that they read constantly about, you know, how – about the negative things. And I don’t mean to whitewash this. I don’t mean that children should not be told about the problems we have had. But, you know what? In comparison to what we’ve accomplished, in comparison to what we have provided for so many millions, that — you know, those problems pale in comparison to the great things America has done, and the idea of a republic, and what those founders did, how they put it together. Yeah, I want to debate this, whether or not kids should be taught that, and taught to actually appreciate it. That’s the important part.

BONNIWELL: That would be – that would be a great debate with Hickenlooper, who is the head of the NGA [National Governors’ Association] – he’s head of the NGA this year, and I assume is a Common Core supporter. That would be a great – a great debate.

TANCREDO: It certainly would, and I intend to make it a very important part of our agenda and of our campaign. I mean, there—even – because, for one thing, it is a responsibility of the state. You know, so many things really aren’t, and yet the government gets involved. But, this one is. I mean, the Constitution talks about providing a free, thorough, and uniform system of education. And that doesn’t mean, however, you have to own the system. It doesn’t mean that you have to build the buildings, hire the teachers, and determine the curriculum. You know. And so, yes, you can provide choice. And here is another thing I want to debate. I want to debate whether or not Hickenlooper agrees that if you are a child who is from a family that is below the poverty line, or locked in[to] a school that is failing, that you should you be forced to stay there because you’re too poor to make any other choice. I want to just go ahead and debate that — why we can’t at least give kids in those circumstances, a key to that door – called a voucher. Tell me, why it is so important to keep them locked into a government school system. Well, we know why they want to. They want to determine how those kids view the world, as we just got done explaining.

Reporting by multiple outlets casts doubts on Gardner’s campaign-origin story

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Political campaigns love to develop a narrative and connect it to everything they say and do. But sometimes they overdo it, and the campaign narrative suddenly looks cramped.

Thanks to reporting by multiple media outlets, GOP senatorial candidate Cory Gardner’s all-consuming Obamacare narrative is already smelling overdone and forced. It’s not just because Obamacare appears to be working.

Take, for example, Gardner’s foundational story about deciding to enter the Senate race.

Gardner: I thought about reconsidering running for the U.S. Senate, but it really picked up last year when we received our healthcare cancellation notice.

If that’s true, and Gardner has said this numerous times, then Gardner’s thoughts about entering the race “really picked up” in August, six months before he told The Denver Post in February that he was launching his Senate campaign against Udall.

So Gardner left his Republican opponents floundering for six months, even though he had publicly announced June 28, three months earlier, that he would not run against Udall in part because he wanted to get out of the way of his opponents who were “making their decisions” about running.

More doubts about Gardner’s foundational Obamacare campaign-origin story surfaced when Politico reported that Gardner decided to enter the race after seeing the results of a poll conducted by Republicans in Washington DC.

That was January, about five months after Gardner got his letter outlining his options for coverage under Obamacare.

January was also the time period when Gardner stepped up his attacks on Udall, as if his campaign against Udall was suddenly in motion. Gardner sent a Jan. 9 letter from his congressional office to the Colorado Division of Insurance asking questions about it’s interactions with Udall’s office. In mid-January, Gardner asked his own congressional committee to investigate. Gardner’s a member of the Commerce committee. And Then the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which, according to Politico, conducted the poll convincing Gardner to run for Senate, sent a Jan. 17 letter to Udall, with more questions.

This timeline, casting serious doubts on Gardner’s story that his Obamacare letter pushed him into the race, was constructed with the record produced by journalists covering Gardner, day-to-day, month-to-month. It’s a small testament to why political reporting is important and how it creates a picture of a candidate for us to contrast with the messaging of his campaign.

Politico scoop: Gardner promised to help pay off Stephens’ campaign debt, if she’d exit

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

At least three people in Colorado have been dying to know how Rep. Cory Gardner managed to persuade Ken Buck and Rep. Amy Stephens to drop their Senate campaigns, allowing Gardner to jump in with a clear field (assuming you don’t count Owen Hill and Randy Baumgardner).

Politico’s Manu Raju deserves credit for scooping Colorado media today by posting some of the details on how Gardner maneuvered to get in, including the tidbit that Gardner promised to help pay off Stephens’ campaign debt.

In January, Gardner first had second thoughts about his previous decision not to run, according to Politico. This is inconsistent with his oft-repeated story about beginning to have second thoughts in August, when Gardner got a letter from his insurance company explaining his options for coverage under Obamacare.

In any case, in January, after he told Republicans in Washington DC of his renewed interest in the race, they ran a poll, the results of which prompted Gardner to jump in, if he could avoid a bitter primary, according to Politico.

Here’s what happened next:

He first approached his biggest roadblock: Buck. The Weld County district attorney had battled with the NRSC in 201o. But the two sides had smoothed things over during the past year, and Buck had a friendly relationship with Gardner.

At a meeting with Buck at a Cracker Barrel just north of Denver, Gardner dropped the bombshell: He was seriously thinking about jumping in the race, and he did not want to battle Buck in a bruising primary. For days after that meeting, Buck mulled his options before encouraging Gardner to take the plunge, nodding to the congressman’s stronger polling and fundraising numbers. Buck even entertained sitting out the midterm election season altogether if it would help Gardner in the primary.

Instead, Buck opted to run in a contested primary for Gardner’s House seat. He called up the congressman and asked for an endorsement for his House seat, something Buck said Gardner was “enthusiastic” in offering. The two denied any quid pro quo.

I read the last two paragraphs a couple times, including the denial of a quid pro quo, and it still looks like a quid pro quo, but you can decide for yourself.

But there’s no ambiguity in Politico’s story of how Stephens dropped out after Gardner offered to pay off her campaign debt.

The political horse-trading wasn’t over. Stephens, who was working aggressively to get volunteers to sign her petition in order to register for the primary ballot, was on her way to a women’s fundraiser in Denver when Gardner called and asked to meet with her right away. The two met that evening at a local restaurant. Gardner said he was considering jumping into the race, and asked her if she’d help clear the field. But she had campaign debt to pay off, which Gardner said he’d help settle. The next day, Stephens called up Gardner and told her she was out of the race.

Politico gets high marks for dropping into Colorado and figuring all this out. Nice work.

Reporter omits detail that Hispanic population in Coffman’s district is about 20%

Friday, June 21st, 2013

The National Journal’s Alex Roarty wrote Wednesday it was “surprising” that most House Republicans voted to reverse Obama’s order halting deportations of many undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. by their parents.

He pointed specifically to “House members like Reps. Mike Coffman of Colorado” whose district represents a “large Hispanic” constituency.

Roarty should have specified just how large Coffman’s Hispanic constituency is in his new district.

The Denver Post’s Kurtis Lee reported in 2011 that when Coffman’s district was re-drawn, the Hispanic population increased “from around 9 percent to about 20 percent.”

This gives you a more precise sense of the stakes involved as Coffman continues to take positions, long-held by the Congressman, that are considered hostile to Hispanics.

You’d expect the Hispanic voting population in Coffman’s district to be less, but still.

No justification for reporters to label Coffman a “moderate”

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

The jaw of anyone who’s followed the career of Rep. Mike Coffman dropped upon reading the National Journal’s characterization of Coffman yesterday as a “moderate who sometimes refers to himself as an independent.”

It’s true that Coffman refers to himself as a moderate. Most endangered politicians trying to appeal to independent voters do so.

But for a reporter to state as a fact that Coffman is a “moderate?” Where’s that come from?

Objectively, the word “moderate” does not come to mind if you look at the majority of Coffman’s record. He’s clearly way to the right on social as well as fiscal issues.

On the social side, Coffman does not hide the fact that he’s against all abortion, even in the case of rape and incest.  (Just last year, Personhood USA labeled Coffman a “statesman” for standing firm against abortion for any reason.) He voted in Congress to change the definition of rape, adding “forcible” as an clarifying adjective.

On fiscal issues, Coffman, who endorsed Gov. Rick Perry for President, has said the flat tax has “tremendous value.”

Coffman has called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme,” and has never retracted the statement.

On immigration, Coffman has expressed an open mind about immigration reform lately. But his record stands in opposition to his recent tone. Coffman introduced a bill mandating English-only ballots, even for areas with large numbers of Spanish-speaking voters who aren’t proficient in English. Coffman has long stood with (and endorsed) Rep. Tom Tancredo, who symbolizes American extremism toward undocumented immigrants and immigration reform.

Coffman has called the expansion of Medicare under Obamacare “very radical.”

Famously, Coffman said doesn’t know if Obama “was born in the United States of America,” but Coffman did know that Obama “in his heart, he’s not an American.” Coffman apologized, but Coffman thinks too big a deal was made of the Obama comment, and it was taken out of context.

If you look at the totality of Coffman’s record, you can say he’s taken an independent view on military spending. But that’s it.

There’s no justification for journalists to label him as a “moderate.”

Politico corrects its article stating that Coffman supports path to citizenship for undocumented adults

Monday, March 18th, 2013

On Friday, Politico corrected its January 26 article stating that Rep. Mike Coffman “came out in favor of establishing a pathway to citizenship for immigrants residing in the country illegally, and for their children.”

The corrected article now reads: “[Coffman] came out in favor of granting legal status to immigrants residing in the country illegally, and allowing their children to become citizens,” and Politico added the following correction to the end of its article:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that Coffman endorsed a path to citizenship for adult illegal immigrants. He supports granting them legal status but is unresolved on creating a path to citizenship.

As I explain in this blog post, Coffman has not come out for a path to citizenship for illegal-immigrant adults, only for their children.

The Los Angeles Times made the same mistake in a March 6 article and corrected it March 9.

EdNews should have reported Benson’s recent opposition to Metro’s reduced tuition rate for undocumented students

Friday, December 21st, 2012

In an article summarizing a hearing Tuesday before the State Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, EdNews Colorado reported CU President Bruce Benson’s latest thinking on state legislation that would create a reduced tuition rate for undocumented students in Colorado.

EDNews: [Benson] said formally supporting such legislation is up to the Board of Regents, and “the regents are kind of split on these things.” Benson added that charging undocumented students high tuition “just doesn’t make any sense” but added “I’m not going to tell you exactly how I feel.”

But Benson, who was the Republican nominee for governor in 1994, did tell the Denver Post in June exactly how he felt about Metropolitan State University’s decision earlier this year to reduce its tuition rate for undocumented students.

Benson told The Denver Post at the time:

“There’s a building down the street from me with a gold dome on top of it,” Benson said, referring to the state Capitol, not far from his downtown office. “And they took a vote that, in effect, decided the state policy….”

“Federally, we have policies where we demand that things are done when kids are in K (kindergarten) through 12, but then we say, ‘the heck with you’ when it comes to higher ed,” Benson said. “If we have a federal policy for K-12, then we need one for higher ed too.

“But having said that, I wouldn’t have done what Metro did. If the legislature didn’t pass anything, then that’s it.”

State legislators on the JBC grilled Metro officials Tuesday, as they’d done in the Spring, about its reduced tuition rate for undocumented students.

EdNews reported:

“The actions you took broke federal law and broke state law” [Rep. Cheri Gerou] said, adding that Metro had violated correct processes in taking its action.

“I actually respectfully disagree with ‘violating process,’” responded Metro President Steve Jordan, adding, “I disagree with Rep. Gerou’s interpretation of federal law…”

Gerou replied, “Thank you gentlemen. I don’t agree with you, but that doesn’t really matter.” Referring to the issue’s prospects in the 2013 legislative session, she said, “I think we’re going to do something about that. … We need to make sure these students are successful. I don’t want to set them up for failure.”

EdNews should have pointed out that Gerou, a Republican, struck a more conciliatory tone this week than she did in June, when she said Metro’s decision could affect the University’s future funding from the legislature. And she said in June that the tuition issue was more of a federal problem than a state one.

A group of 10 Republicans, including House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, subsequently sent a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper informing him that “several state legislators have already begun drafting legislation to overturn the Metro State action and reaffirm legislative authority over tuition classifications.”

The status of this draft legislation, as well as Gerou’s specific thoughts on ASSET should have been reported by EdNews.

Journalists’ “likes,” “friends,” “retweets,” etc. on social media don’t reflect favoritism or bias

Friday, December 7th, 2012

On his profile on his Facebook page, Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett writes:

Please note. As a journalist using social media, my following or friending or liking — and in some cases even retweeting or reposting — is not always meant as an endorsement.

This is a shorter version of a post Plunkett wrote shortly before the election on Facebook:

Friends. I’ve been asked about this a couple of times in recent days, as we are now fully in the final throes of the Election season. The question is whether as a journalist who covers politics it is correct for me to “like” the Obama page or the Romney page. (And I “like” them both.) The problem is that is how Facebook defines what you have to do to follow a page. That’s not — in most cases — how I would describe my interest. I might genuinely “like” a band, for example. But a politician? It’s not the same thing. I’d like to expand on what I have long indicated on my Facebook profile — which probably not everyone reads. For years now, since my earliest origins with Facebook, I have contained in my profile the disclaimer that as a journalist using social media I “friend” and “follow” and “subscribe” and “like” and “retweet” and etc. all manner of people, groups, media, politicians, movements, companies, nonprofits, etc. But my doing so is NOT meant as an endorsement. Rather, I do so in order to see their posts in order to watch for news and whatnot. Increasingly, politicians use social media in the place of the old-school press release or statement. To not follow risks missing something — not that I don’t miss things even when I follow, given what has become the enormous success of these kinds of sites. I hope this makes sense. Bottom line: I do not endorse any politician or political party and do not advocate for any of them either. I have much better things to do with my time.

To me, that’s common sense, but it’s good Plunkett spells it out for us.

You say, still, what if a guy like Plunkett “likes” or “friends” 100 right-wing groups and 25 lefty ones? What if he re-tweets Scott Gessler (as if Gessler doesn’t tweet his own horn often enough)? Does it mean he favors the right?

It means little or nothing. You don’t know what Plunkett is up to or where he’s getting information, unless you’re a mind reader, and mind readers are the worst kind of media critics–though they are a common kind.

Re-posting, retweeting, even “likes,” by other public figures, like politicians, invites questions, however.

The bottom line is, for journalists, if you think they lean one way or the other, evaluate their actual factual work. Is it fair? Is it accurate?

Will Colorado’s conservative media entities survive post-election?

Friday, November 30th, 2012

After the recent Republican setbacks, I’ve been wondering about the fate of those conservative groups that have been pushing out all that video and verbiage over the last year in Colorado.

So I visited their websites this morning to see what they’re up to, post-election.

It looks like business as usual at Complete Colorado, which is run by Independence Institute staffer Todd Shepherd. It tries to be Colorado’s version of the Drudge Report.

The Colorado News Agency is also a project of the libertarian Independence Institute. It appears to be in tact after the election, “covering Colorado’s State Capitol” and offering its articles to all takers.

The lights are apparently still on at Colorado Observer, which bills itself as providing information from a “fresh perspective,” which fair-minded observers would actually call conservative.

Colorado Peak Politics, the conservative blog, apparently rolls on.

Colorado Watchdog, which is a chapter of a national organization with financial ties to the right-wing Franklin Center, published Colorado-related material this week.

Media Trackers, which describes itself as “a conservative non-profit, non-partisan investigative watchdog dedicated to promoting accountability in the media and government across Colorado through cutting edge research and communications initiatives,” has posted nothing since Election Day. Prior to that, it posted short videos on a regular basis. No contact information is available on its website.

No sign of recent activity at Revealing Politics, whose short videos, mostly of political events and interviews, reflect a conservative “free-market paradigm.” Its focus is mostly Colorado but it also operates in other states. “Fearless Leader” Kelly Maher did not immediately return an email inquiry.

WhoSaidYouSaid is another conservative entity promoting videos shot at political events in Colorado and elsewhere. It’s still going, for now.

I’ll keep watching these and other conservative “messaging” groups in the state, along with conservative talk-radio shows, and report back on if they survive, as conservatives evaluate what worked and what didn’t this year.

Tracker who misrepresented himself is no longer working for RevealingPolitics, ND blog reports

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Last week I reported that the bio and name of Josh Hursa had been removed from the website of the conservative blog RevealingPolitics after Hursa was accused of misrepresenting himself while tracking North Dakota Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp.

Now NorthDecoder.com, the North Dakota blog that broke the story about Hursa’s misrepresentation, has reported that RevealingPolitics sent two new trackers to North Dakota to video Heitkamp.

The trackers, Caleb Bonham and Drew McCullough, allegedly told NorthDecoder.com that Hursa no longer works with them at RevealingPolitics. So it looks as if Hursa was fired, but we still don’t know for sure.

RevealingPolitic’s Kelly Maher declined again to comment on Hursa’s personnel matter yesterday, adding that she took issue with the NorthDecoder’s assertion that her organization’s funding comes from the Koch Brothers. Maher emailed me:

I’m saddened to read this recent piece as it continues a narrative that is patently untrue regarding our funding and structure. In terms of personel issues, I have to reiterate that we will not comment.

In terms of Drew and Caleb, the fact they were totally transparent, respectful and asked simple and straightforward questions yet Mrs. Heitkamp refused to answer makes it clear she is hoping to run with as little known about her actual stances on issues as possible. It’s sad for the people of that state of North Dakota that Heitkamp chooses not to embrace an attitude of transparency.

Maher is right that Bonham and McCullough are apparently exhibiting the kind of transparency you want in a tracker, unlike Hursa who apparently lied as he tried to gain access to Heitkamp’s inner circle.

When confronted by the NorthDecoder at a Heitkamp event, the trackers readily identified themselves.

The NorthDecoder’s Chad Nodland reported his encounter with Bonham and McCullough, whom he referred to as RevealingPolitic’s “junior varsity team,” on July 3:

On my way to take my 2 year old to the rest room, I encountered two young men sitting in the grass, sort of hiding behind a gazeebo near the picnic shelter. I stopped and visited with them. They told me they were trackers from Colorado. I asked if they worked with “Josh.” They both kind of chuckled and said, “No, Josh doesn’t work with us anymore.”

So it appears that Bonham and McCullough readily answered questions about who they were. If so, that’s the baseline level of ethical behavior you want from trackers.