Archive for August, 2012

Respected reporter to leave Denver Post for job with AP

Monday, August 20th, 2012

One of Colorado’s best up-and-coming reporters is leaving The Denver Post to cover politics in Illinois for the Associated Press, according to an AP report today:

Sara Burnett, an award-winning political reporter who has covered presidential campaigns and congressional elections in the battleground state of Colorado, has been hired to cover Illinois politics for The Associated Press.

The appointment was announced Monday by Central Regional Editor David Scott and Illinois News Editor Hugh Dellios. She will join a team of reporters, including Springfield, Ill., Correspondent Christopher Wills, in the coverage of state government and politics in Illinois.

Burnett, who worked at the Rocky when it closed, was a smart and hard-working reporter who earned the respect of fellow journalists.

She’ll be missed by everyone, across the political spectrum, who cares about quality journalism in Colorado.


If a guest says Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, radio hosts should invite some debate

Monday, August 20th, 2012

If I were a conservative talk-radio host, I’d love it if my guest called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme.”

The topic would keep your geriatric audience awake, plus it gives you a chance to say “Ponzi” a bunch of times.

So why do talk-radio hosts love to sit there in silent acquiescence as their guests say that Social Security is nothing but a disaster?

That happened last year, when we heard Rep. Mike Coffman say on KNUS’ Kelley and Company that Social Security is “obviously” a “Ponzi scheme.”

And again, on Grassroots Radio Colorado Wed. Colorado Sen. Kent Lambert said Social Security “really is a Ponzi scheme.”

Lambert: “I’d like to tell you what I like about PERA. It’s not Social Security. Social Security really is a Ponzi scheme. You’re taking from one employee or one worker and just giving it over to somebody else. In PERA at least we’re making some investments and having some growth to that retirement system.”

If I were at the controls at KLZ AM 560, I’d be thinking, how beautiful is this?

Here’s a leader of the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, whose members presumably know a lot about budgets, saying that Social Security is a criminal enterprise.

That should make for good talk radio. A good debate.

I thought Social Security was one of the U.S. government’s greatest achievements. It’s been tweaked slightly over its 76 years of providing a lifeline to seniors, and it’s on solid ground for 25 more years. With minor changes, it will last indefinitely.

So what’s up with the Ponzi-scheme attack line? It doesn’t fit.

It’s shallow thinking at its shallowest. As such, it could make for a good debate.

Any chance we can hear what Lambert’s logic is, next time he’s on Grassroots Radio Colorado?

How will Ryan and Romney reconcile their different approaches to enact personhood?

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

You might think it would take a miracle to find a serious presidential ticket that supports personhood laws, which would ban some forms of birth control, as well as all abortion, even after rape or incest.

That doesn’t sound like a super popular position for a presidential candidate to have, now that we are exactly 62 years beyond the year 1950.

But, it turns out, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are both apparently for personhood.

Paul Ryan obviously supports it, since he co-sponsored federal personhood legislation just last year. His bill grants “all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges” to fertilized eggs (or “zygotes”). It also grants authority to the states to pass personhood.

Romney is also apparently a supporter of personhood, but he has said he’s against a federal personhood law, like the one Ryan co-sponsored.

Instead, Romney favors personhood efforts at the state level. Presumably this would include Colorado’s personhood initiative, but he hasn’t been asked about it.

Romney has flipped around a bit on the issue, but as recently as October, Romney told Fox News’ Mike Huckabee that he “absolutely” would have signed an amendment to the Massachusetts constitution codifying his belief that life begins when a sperm enters egg.

Later, Romney’s spokespeople reinforced this, telling Politico’s Ben Smith that Romney supports “efforts to ensure recognition that life begins at conception” and that “these matters should be left up to states to decide.”

Ryan would almost undoubtedly support efforts to enact personhood at the state level, given his history on the issue, and given that the federal legislation he co-sponsored paves the way for it.

So how will Romney and Ryan work out their differences on personhood?

Will Romney bend a little bit and accept the federal approach to personhood, as well as the state path?

Or will Ryan adopt Romney’s position, give up his efforts to pass personhood at the federal level, and focus on the states, like Colorado?

That’s something reporters should seek clarification on, as the campaign moves forward.

(Note: For a more detailed explanation of state versus federal personhood, please read this previous blog post of mine. For a list of other co-sponsors of federal personhood bills, click here.)

Denver Post reporter inspires respect for journalism by correcting Coffman spokesperson’s assertion that Dems cut Medicare

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Despite the onslaught of lies coming at them, some journalists push on, trying to set the record straight.

Take, for example, Kurtis Lee, writing in Wednesday’s Denver Post.

Lee paraphrased Coffman spokesman Owen Loftus as saying Democrats voted for “a perceived $500 billion in cuts to Medicare” as part of Obamacare.

Lee didn’t just let Loftus’ explosive salvo fly out the window. Instead, like the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Roper did a while back, he set the record straight.

Lee added the following paragraph after Loftus’ accusation:

In a Washington Post fact check of similar claims, the health care law tries to identify ways to save money, and so the $500 billion figure comes from the difference over 10 years between anticipated Medicare spending (what is known as “the baseline”) and the changes the law makes to reduce spending.

In other words, the $500 billion reduction in spending was achieved through saving money, not cutting the program. (And, incidentally, Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget adopted the same Medicare savings.)

Here’s more information from the Washington Post article that Lee cites:

The savings actually are wrung from health-care providers, not Medicare beneficiaries. These spending reductions presumably would be a good thing, since virtually everyone agrees that Medicare spending is out of control. In the House Republican budget, lawmakers repealed the Obama health care law but retained all but $10 billion of the nearly $500 billion in Medicare savings, suggesting the actual policies enacted to achieve these spending reductions were not that objectionable to GOP lawmakers.

Numerous other nonpartisan fact checkers have arrived at the same conclusion.

This hasn’t stopped the Romney campaign from leveling essentially the same Medicare attack in an ad airing today, and it’s depressing as shit to see factual discourse trashed to such an extreme degree.

But don’t you love journalism when a reporter, like Lee, stands up for the truth?

Reporters shouldn’t just say Ryan believes that life begins at conception, but also that he’s against some birth control and abortion, even in the case of rape and incest

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

The Denver Post today ran an Associated Press story today describing Romney running mate Paul Ryan’s position on “abortion” this way:

The Catholic congressman is staunchly against abortion rights and backed by several anti-abortion groups. He co-sponsored the Sanctity of Human Life Act and the Right to Life Act, which both say life begins at the moment of fertilization. Despite his voting record, he’s given little indication, especailly in recent years, that he want to go to the ramparts on the issue.

Many people don’t understand the ramifications of passing a bill saying that life begins at the “moment of fertilization.”

It’s fair enough for a reporter to write that Ryan wants to protect “life” at this early stage. But to adequately inform people about this complex issue, reporters should add that giving legal rights to fertilized eggs (zygotes), would, among other things, include a ban on abortion, even in the case of rape and incest. It would also mean a ban on common forms of birth control.



Which CO politician will be Ryan’s role model on personhood? Buck? Coffman? Coors? Gardner? or Lamborn?

Monday, August 13th, 2012

Colorado has a lot of experience with politicians endorsing personhood, then trying to slide away from it when the eyes of everyday people turn toward them.

It’s time for reporters to draw on this experience in questioning Rep. Paul Ryan, when the opportunity presents itself.

Will Ryan, who supported personhood legislation in Congress, stand by his position?

It won’t work for Ryan to say, like Rep. Mike Coffman and Rep. Cory Gardner did last week, that it’s a just measly state issue that’s not relevant to him as federal candidate , because Ryan endorsed it at the federal level.

(Actually, that excuse doesn’t work for Coffman and Gardner, since they supported it when they ran for federal office previously, according to Colorado Right to Life.)

It won’t work for Ryan to say, like congressional candidate Joe Coors did last week, that the voters have twice voted the ballot measure down, and so Ryan is going to respect their decision, because Ryan was pushing federal legislation on the issue despite voter hostility and long odds against him.

(Actually, that logic doesn’t excuse Coors from telling voters why he supported personhood?)

Will it work Ryan to un-endorse personhood, like Colorado Senate Ken Buck did in 2010, because he doesn’t understand that personhood would ban common forms of birth control.

I mean, Ryan was a co-sponsor of the personhood bill!

Can you imagine a guy like Ryan offering the excuse that he’s a budget maven not a birth-control maven?

Or will Ryan follow the lead of Rep. Doug Lamborn, who’s separated himself from his GOP personhood allies in Colorado by saying through a spokesperson that he’s still a “supporter” of personhood.

You might guess that Ryan’s model would be Lamborn, since Lamborn co-sponsored the same federal personhood “Sanctity of Human Life” bill that Ryan did.

In any case, at some point, whether it’s tomorrow, if Ryan takes questions from reporters, or at some future debate or press conference, some reporter has to ask Ryan, “You’re a co-sponsor of a bill making personhood federal law.”

“Why are you so strongly against choice, that you want to ban common forms of birth control, as personhood laws would do?

Why do you feel so strongly about abortion, that you want to ban it, even for a girl who’s raped by her father?”

Personhood coverage should include key fact that the measure would ban common forms of birth control

Friday, August 10th, 2012

<b>Update:</b> In an article published today, the Colorado Statesman’s Peter Marcus reports that this year’s personhood  initiative has been clarified to state that only  “methods of birth control and assisted reproduction that kill a fetus” could be affected. This still means that the forms of birth control, like IUDs and some forms of the Pill, that could kill a fetus would be banned. So, despite the clarification, nothing has changed birth-control wise about personhood since 2010.


If you know the name “Ken Buck” you undoubtedly know that the personhood amendment would, among other things, ban common forms of birth control.

Buck claimed not to know this when he endorsed personhood, so he un-endorsed it during the 2010 campaign. As the Denver Post reported at the time:

Buck said Saturday through his campaign spokesman that he will now vote against the [personhood] measure. In an earlier interview, he said he did not understand until recently that passage of the amendment would likely outlaw some common contraceptive methods, like the IUD or birth control pills that can reduce the chances of implantation for a fertilized egg.

“This isn’t how I looked at the personhood amendment,” Buck said. “I’m not in favor of banning common forms of birth control.”

Ever since, it’s been an established fact that a personhood law would ban common forms of birth control.

Yet, in this week’s coverage of personhood, only The Denver Post and the Durango Herald reported the critical fact that the personhood measure would ban common forms of birth control.

The Denver Post’s Electa Daper wrote Aug. 9 that “some forms of birth control” would “effectively” be banned under personhood. The Post story stated:

On Monday sponsors of the ballot initiative, which would amend the state constitution to effectively ban all abortions and some forms of birth control, turned in petitions with 112,121signatures to Colorado’s secretary of state. [BigMedia emphasis]

The Durango Herald reporter Joe Hanel described personhood this way in an Aug. 8 about state ballot initiatives:

This year is the third time around for the Personhood initiative, which seeks an amendment to the state constitution to declare that embryos from the moment of conception have the same legal rights as any person. The amendment could lead to bans on abortion, common forms of birth control and fertility treatments. [BigMedia emphasis]

Unfortunately, other coverage of personhood, including stories on 9News, CBS4, didn’t mention birth control at all.

That’s a big omission, because, among personhood’s many and varied impacts, outlawing some common forms of birth control could be its most significant, at least from your everyday person’s perspective (O\r every week’s person’s perspective or twice weekly person’s perspective, depending on who you are).

I’m not saying other basic facts about the amendment, that it would ban abortion and define life as beginning at the zygote (fertilized egg) stage, are of lesser importance. They’re also basic descriptors that should be worked into all personhood coverage.

But to be fair, reporting on the personhood amendment should at least include all three facts. It would 1) ban on abortion, 2) ban on common forms of birth control, 3) define life as beginning at conception.

There proposed amendment would do much more than that, of course, like ban abortion in the case of rape and incest. And the ramifications of giving legal rights to zygotes are mind-bogling.

And these many and varied components of personhood should be explored with current endorsers and opponents alike, as well as previous supporters, like candidates Joe Coors and Mike Coffman.

But ongoing reporting of the measure shouldn’t leave out the birth-control aspect.

Radio host Caplis confirms that Coffman asked for on-air clarification that Coffman opposes abortion in the case of rape and incest

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

UPDATE: Coffman told The Denver Post late yesterday that, because he’s running for federal office, he would not endorse personhood or any state ballot measure this year. He also said he’s against all abortions, except when necessary to save the life of the mother, so presumbably that would include opposition to abortion even in the case of rape and incest. Also, by Coffman’s definition of abortion, he’d oppose some common forms of birth control. Coffman did not say why he supported personhood while he was running for federal office in 2008 and 2010.
If you dig deep on the Colorado Right to Life website, you find a letter from Mike Coffman to Dan Caplis, host of KHOW’s now-defunct Caplis & Silverman show. Part of the letter reads:

Dan, I would deeply appreciate it if, during your show, you could state that I wanted to make sure that my position was clear, unequivocally, that I oppose abortion in all cases of rape and incest. I believe that all life is equally sacred irregardless of how it came into being.

I’ve listened to a lot of talk radio, and you don’t hear about guests asking for clarifications very often. Amplification they’ll ask for, but clarification, not so much.

So you have to wonder if this letter from Coffman is real. And did Caplis actually clarify Coffman’s position on air?

Coffman’s letter to Caplis has no date, but Colorado Right to Life’s website states that Coffman made his original rape-and-incest comments on the Caplis & Silverman show during the week of Oct. 14, 2009.

The Caplis-&-Silverman show’s archives don’t go back that far, unfortunately, but one person popped into my mind who ought to remember the incident: Dan Caplis!

“I had forgotten all about that until I saw your note,” Caplis wrote in response to my email about Coffman. “That’s a long time ago, but I do have a vague recollection of that happening, and of reporting Mike’s clarification on air. Mike has always been such a champion of the pro-life cause that I think the issue was quickly resolved.”

Caplis’ confirmation of Coffman’s abortion stance will be useful as the debate about the personhood amendment heats up.

Colorado’s proposed personhood amendment would outlaw all abortions, including those performed after rape or incest.

Personhood supporters make no attempt to hide this. Their belief, reflected in Coffman’s letter above, is that a zygote (fertilized egg) conceived after a rape should not be punished (aborted) for the crime (rape) committed by the father.

Coffman endorsed Colorado’s personhood amendments in both 2008 and again 2010, according to the Colorado Right to Life blog.

But Coffman has yet to tell personhood organizers, who submitted signatures Tues. to place their measure on the ballot, if he’ll back their amendment this year.

You’d think, given Coffman’s unwavering opposition to all abortion and his deep ties to the anti-abortion movement, that he’d endorse personhood again.

If he backpedals, like Ken Buck before him, and Joe Coors yesterday, reporters would obviously want to know why.

But they’ll also want to know what components of the personhood amendment Coffman still stands by, like his view, duly clarified by Dan Caplis on his former radio show, that abortion should banned even for a women who’s been raped by her father.

Politics should be a key part of coverage of personhood amendment

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Obviously, the key news from today’s personhood press conference was that personhood supporters turned in 112,121 signatures to Colorado’s Secretary of State, hoping to get their measure on the November ballot.

But the political ramifications of the personhood amendment should continue to be a key part of the coverage. The amendment, which would ban all abortions and some common forms of birth control, is clearly of interest to women, in particular, and women are a key voters in Colorado elections.

Personhood supporters have yet to hear from Rep. Mike Coffman and Rep. Cory Gardner about whether they will endorse their amendment this year, as they did in 2010, Personhood USA legal analyst Gualberto Garcia Jones told reporters today.

Garcia Jones said they’d welcome their support again, as they would any candidate, Democrat or Republican.

“To me, they’d be shooting themseves in the foot, if they backtracked,” said Colorado Right to Life Vice President Leslie Hanks. “It would be their loss.”

Coffman was listed as a personhood supporter in 2010. Coffman also supported Personhood in 2008, and, on one occasion, Coffman wrote Dan Caplis, of KHOW’s defunct Caplis and Silverman Show, a letter, specifically clarifying that Coffman, like all personhood supporters, does not support abortion, even in the case of rape and incest.

Likewise, Cory Gardner is praised on the Colorado Right to Life website for his support of personhood in 2010, and earlier this year, Kristi Brown, who initiated the personhood movement in Colorado, said that Rep. Cory Gardner was “one of our main supporters” in 2008.

“Kids are taught that life is cheap,” Hanks told me, referring to legalized abortion. “So we shouldn’t be shocked when we have massacres happening.”

She said collecting signatures is intended to counter this and is a “labor of love.”

“Coloradans trust and respect women,” said Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Director Vicki Cowart in a news release. “‘Personhood’ measures do not respect women and their families. Today, Planned Parenthood gears up for a third campaign. We’re hopeful that the third verse will be the same as the first and second.”

Personhood USA spokesman Keith Mason talks to reporters at a news conference Monday

Internet podcaster “Mad Jen” stays calm in interview with Colorado State Senate candidate

Monday, August 6th, 2012

If you’ve ever listened to “Mad Jen’s” internet radio podcast, you know she doesn’t interview many political candidates or politicians. Among other things, she’s too mad.

“I put my faith in ‘We the People,’ not so much in elected officials,” she emailed me recently when I asked why. “My favorite elected officials are long dead and were mostly from Virginia.”

So it was a bit of a surprise recently to find Colorado Senate District 28 candidate John Lyons on Mad Jen’s show.

Given Mad Jen’s archive of anger toward most political candidates, it was kind of funny that Lyons, right off the bat, had no answer to Mad Jen’s first question, about whether there is “ever a time” when “abortion should be allowed.” Lyons offered pieces of his thoughts to Mad Jen, but he never put them together to form an opinion.

In cases of rape and incest, he told Mad Jen, “I struggle with this issue.”

“I would hope a woman would choose to bring the child to term,” he said, “but I don’t know.”

In the end, he had no answer.

“And so, I wrestle with this, in what instances does abortion, you know, make sense?” Lyons told Mad Jenn. “You understand what I’m saying? And I struggle with that, and I haven’t quite got it.”

Mad Jen definitely understood what Lyons was saying, but she elected not to try to help him do any soul-searching on her radio show.

“It’s not my place to help you along with that,” she said, as if she were scolding a neighborhood kid who lost his baseball mitt, as my own son did yesterday.

“It’s just my place to get your views,” she told Lyons. “But I do encourage you to sit down with some of your supporters and talk this through. Because I think if you sit down and have a good, long conversation with some of them, the issue would become a lot more clear to you and it would be easier for you to stand out and talk pretty solidly about it.”

In an email, I asked Mad Jen, who said she interviewed Lyons at the suggestion of a friend who works for him, if she’d followed up with Lyons, to find out if he’d chatted with pro-life supporters as she suggested.

“I have not checked back with him,” she emailed me. “I would be interested to find out if he’s continued to search for and refine his personal stance on abortion.”

“It’s nearly impossible to tell who real conservatives are until they make it into office and start working,” she wrote. “The [Lyons] interview was for the sake of my audience, and I will leave it for them to decide whether or not he’s a true conservative.”

Mad Jen’s email was signed “WarHawk,” and I asked her if this was her real name. Would she tell me her real name for my article?

“I’m just a regular person,” she answered. “Mother, Wife, daughter, sister who wishes to leave our great nation to my children in better shape than it was when I received it.”

Why does she go by Mad Jen?

“My brand is ‘MADASHECC,” she wrote. “Therefore, I’m ‘Mad Jen.’ But MADASHECC started because I was mad as heck at what’s happening in our nation, and I felt I had to do something about it, so…I started MADASHECC. (Moms’ and Dads’ Associated Society Helping to Educate Conservative Constitutionalists)”

“I don’t necessarily operate as a news source. My goal is education and brining something educational to the discussion,” she wrote. “Often times, what I talk about on the show, I was interested in learning about myself, so I researched the topic and published my findings into a show. I never claim to be the authority on the various subjects that I speak about, though I make great attempts to learn as much as I can, and have everything I talk about be as factual as I can determine it to be.”

Mad Jen promotes her views on her podcast, which airs live on the internet on Saturdays, and social media. Her website contains an extensive archive of her internet podcasts.