Will Hickenlooper’s fracking commission be clairvoyant?

Will Hickenlooper’s fracking commission be clairvoyant?

“Crystals amplify the consciousness.” – Shirley MacLaine

If you can channel other people and turn their thoughts into your own actions, you are “clairvoyant” as defined by the Wikipedia. And that’s exactly what the members of Governor John Hickenlooper’s fracking commission will need to be. Let me explain:

    1. In 2012/13/14, six cities in Colorado’s Congressional District 2 (CD2) vote on ballot initiatives to ban or place a moratoria on fracking. Five pass (Fort Collins, Longmont, Boulder, Lafayette, and Broomfield), and one loses (Loveland). In all, these cities represent a strong majority of people living in CD2 (about 450,000 out of 700,000).

    2. In early 2014, Congressmember Jared Polis who represents CD2 elegantly pushes forward two statewide ballot initiatives to address his constituents’ concerns that basically would help codify these votes into state law (he says “on behalf of my constituents” repeatedly, explaining why he pushes the ballot initiatives forward). Polis’s ballot initiatives get enough signatures and are set to go for the Fall 2014 statewide election.

    3. In August at the last minute, Polis cuts a deal with Governor Hickenlooper to allow the Governor to appoint a “Blue Ribbon Fracking Commission” to address this issue instead of moving forward with the ballot initiatives.

groundswell OK so at this point, maybe fair enough.  Rather than a super expensive election fight that might win or lose (and a deluge of annoying TV and radio ads), we have a Blue Ribbon Commission to address the issue in the short term. You’d think that the Governor would appoint members to the Commission who, indeed, represented Congressmember Polis’s activist-constituents. Right? Because that’s the only reason we got here in the first place.

Not so much.

Instead, Governor Hickenlooper appoints nineteen people who he calls the “right people” who can “get to yes.” After reviewing the names and histories of these people, none of them – absolutely zero – were involved in the local elections to ban or place moratoria on fracking in 2012/13/14 local elections in CD2.

I applied for the Commission, and I did not get appointed. I was very involved in the local elections in 2013 and 2014. You might just say it’s just sour milk that I’m speaking out, but I see it differently.

Hickenlooper had a chance to appoint people who could address the issue and “defuse” the problem – those people include about sixty or so activists who pushed the issue forward in the local elections in CD2. If I were Hickenlooper, I would have appointed one person who was an activist in the elections from each of the six cities. That way I got my bases (political ass) covered and I can say, as Governor, that about one-third of this nineteen-member Commission represents the people who are upset and activated, and then whatever the Commission comes up with will likely address and defuse the problem so that the people of Colorado can rest assured that its government is working for them instead of against them.

I know several of the people appointed, and I would call some of them friends (I don’t know what they would call me). They are fine people, upstanding, whip smart, politically and environmentally engaged, and I don’t have any bones against them at all, except that they don’t appear to represent me or my views on fracking or the views of the activist-constituents in CD2 who spent thousands of hours of their lives pushing the issue forward in the first place.

Unless they’re clairvoyant.

Here’s what I wrote to the Governor in my application to the Commission:

“I believe that climate change is real, is caused by burning fossil fuels, and is on the brink of causing cataclysmic impacts to our society. Therefore, the planet, the U.S., and Colorado must switch to a clean-energy economy as soon as possible which includes banning fracking in the state of Colorado. In addition, I would argue that fracking must be banned because it causes unallowable impacts to Colorado’s air, water, public health, and property values.”

What will the Commission come up with? Time will tell. I hope they bring crystals to the meetings.

[ Photo by Bryan Ledgard. ]

Suspicions of Marshall-Neville link unlikely to be eased by Neville denial

The Colorado Independent has been investigating the circumstances that led to Nathaniel Marshall, a person with ties to white supremacism, to enter the race for Colorado HD-23.  As an early result of that investigation, the Independent’s John Tomasic reported yesterday that signs had emerged indicating that Tim Neville – a person with significant ties to Rocky Mountain Gun Owner’s Association – recruited Marshall to run for HD-23. The signs relied on by Tomasic’s article consisted of the following:

1) Rick Enstrom, a prominent candy business executive and onetime Republican House candidate, claiming that Marshall told him he was recruited by Neville at the Jefferson County Assembly.

2) Dudley Brown, RMGO’s executive director, admitting that per RMGO political director Joe Neville, Tim Neville spoke with Marshall at “an event.”

In response to Tomasic’s article, Tim Neville last night put forth the following statement on Facebook (accessible here):

“Regarding the leftist hit piece published today posing as a news story in the Colorado Independent: I spoke with its author John Tomasik [sic] and told him I had no connection with Mr. Marshall’s campaign — not as an endorser or financial donor or supporter. I suggested Mr. Tomasic retract his story because it’s false. Then he asked me if I ever met Mr. Marshall and I had to explain to him that I meet hundreds of people each week on the campaign trail. Then he hung up on me.  Shocked?  No, but I’m very disappointed that a Republican like Rick Enstrom would spread such a story without even a phone call to me.  I believe he knows my number, since his campaign had no problem finding me when I helped him as a volunteer to walk his precincts in 2012. These types of attacks only embolden me to fight even harder for you. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all your calls and emails of support tonight.Iron sharpens iron. Together I look forward to taking back Senate District 16 this November and winning a Republican majority. Game on!”

Tomasic’s response: “There’s nothing false in the story. I was happy to speak to Tim Neville. I did not hang up on him. In fact, I hoped to extend the conversation. I hope it’s clear to readers that the main point of the story is to report on the tension at the heart of state Republican politics — stretched between the RMGO wing and the establishment wing. It’s that tension — an ongoing contest for control — that would either lead Marshall to believe he was recruited to run for office by Tim Neville or to motivate him to suggest he was recruited by Tim Neville. It’s also that tension that would lead Republicans of all stripes to suspect that Neville may well have recruited Marshall to run for office. That is the story.”

While Tim Neville may wish that his mere claim that a story is false is sufficient to demonstrate that a story is in fact false, that is not the case.  Here, there is evidence to indicate that Neville – and through him potentially RMGO – recruited White Supremacist Nathaniel Marshall to run for HD-23.  The first two pieces of evidence are the Enstrom and Brown Statements.  In addition to those statements, last night Nathaniel Marshall revealed that he had been invited to an RMGO fundraiser as a candidate and that now they were throwing him “under the bus“.

Moreover, recruiting Nathaniel Marshall would fit within a perceived pattern of RMGO supporting candidates who repeat its party line but who are poorly vetted – the chief example being former pornographic novel writer Jaxine Bubis.

There’s no way to know at this point whether Marshall was telling the truth when he spoke to Enstrom about Neville “recruiting” him or whether he was merely mistaken or exaggerating or outright lying for effect.

But there is an additional factor: Nathaniel Marshall is admittedly not a “media savvy” person, but there are signs he may have been well-coached for his TV Interview with Mark Meredith of Fox 31 last night.  First off, he was able to open the recorded portion of the interview with a polished “I just think it is just a good idea for me to step aside and … I’ll just be a voter” statement.  Afterward, while implicitly admitting to being the Stormfront.com poster “NateTheWatcher”, Marshall claimed in the interview that the basis of him joining Stormfront was largely opposition toward “Islam and Sharia law”, which is popular in certain respected conservative circles.  He also claimed not to be a Nazi or a racist, but did admit to “attending” an Aryan “meetup” in Jefferson County last year.  That said, he claimed the “meetup” was not what he expected because there were only “8 or 9 people” who showed up so he “almost left”.  Of course, the interview was a sugar coating.

Marshall was involved in Stormfront for far more than to just protest Islam.  He openly supported “the Klan“, attacked homosexuals, and had issues with Jews, Hispanics and African Americans because of his worries about the “white genocide“.  He even used Stormfront to attempt to distribute his more than 50 copies of Hitler’s Mein Kampf.  Even Marshall’s issues with Islam went beyond mere opposition to sharia law.  Additionally, Marshall didn’t just attend an Aryan “meetup” – he soughtto ….organizethem and set up his own group called Aryan Storm.  Yet, in spite of all of these issues he somehow had the foresight to give a very good media interview under the circumstances.  While that could be attributed to luck — it may also be that he had some astute coaching.  And lone wolves who post on Stormfront are not the sort of people who just randomly get good coaching.

For these reasons, although there is not yet evidence of a smoking gun RMGO endorsement or other involvement in encouraging Marshall to run, there is a lot of smoke. If RMGO wants to put this to rest, a good first step would be to (a) clarify the event that Dudley Brown was speaking about when he stated that Tim Neville had spoken with Marshall before; (b) clarify Neville’s current and past role in RMGO’s vetting process; (c) clarify its vetting process in general; and (d) specifically reveal if Nathaniel Marshall has attended any events, which events, and whether he has received any RMGO or RMGO-allied money or promises of money from fundraisers, employment, consulting services or anything similar in the past year.  What will not put these suspicions to rest is a bare protest by Tim Neville that this is “false.” Because, while there may not be enough yet to conclude that he or RMGO had involvement with Marshall, there is enough to be suspicious that they were the ones pulling the strings.


Will bills to expand rural broadband gut consumer protections?

T here’s a huge transition happening in our homes and offices that most Coloradans aren’t aware of.

That transition comes in the form of an Ethernet attachment instead of a phone cord for those of us who still use landlines.

Our phones are slowly being replaced by Internet-protocol technology in what’s known as the IP Transition. As telecommunications technology relies increasingly on the web, it’s becoming even more important for Coloradans to have high-speed Internet access. We pay bills online. We communicate with our doctors, teachers and elected officials via the Internet. We inform ourselves civically on the web. And now we’re even watching TV on computers.

Colorado’s legislature is set to consider fundamental reform to state telecommunications policy – changes that could risk undoing decades of hard-won regulations guaranteeing access to telephone landlines at rates people can afford.

A package of IP Transition bills had its first hearing in committee Tuesday, and they all passed that first hurdle. The stated goals of these measures are to increase Internet access and update laws enacted 20 years ago. But, there is more to the story. If passed into law, the bills would cut consumer protections for telephone service and guarantee a virtually unregulated market for companies providing VoIP (voice over IP) and other Internet services in the state. In return for this giveaway, companies claim they’re more likely to invest resources to expand Internet access where it’s currently not available.

We all agree that increasing access to high speed Internet means progress. But the cost of these proposals is too great, and the chance that telecommunications companies will deliver on their promises is too slim.

The plan is to move funds from the state subsidy that guarantees telephone service in rural areas – where it’s not profitable for telephone companies — to subsidize the build-out of broadband infrastructure in areas of Colorado without internet access. Bill sponsors argue that the subsidy for landline telephones is no longer needed. They say regulation shouldn’t be required because there’s sufficient competition as well as alternate options for voice service in many of these rural areas. By deregulating basic telephone service, their argument goes, funds can be used instead to advance Internet deployment into remote areas of Colorado currently without Internet access. This sounds reasonable. But if these changes are passed, what happens to Coloradans who currently rely on landlines for their telephone service?

The answer is that they may lose their phone service altogether.

The law currently requires that every Coloradan has access to landline telephone service. If no phone company chooses to offer service in a specific area, one company is assigned by law to provide it, and the state subsidy offsets its costs. One of the bills currently proposed would phase out this requirement over the next several years, except in the most remote of areas. This could leave many rural Coloradans without affordable access to basic telephone service, because the telephone companies wouldn’t have to maintain the landlines anymore, and prices would no longer be controlled. This isn’t a what-if scenario. We know that phone companies don’t want to maintain landlines. They want to focus on IP services instead. We’re excited about IP too, but we’re moving too fast.

Supporters of the bills will tell you that consumers would still have options if telephone service wasn’t available. But for some folks in remote parts of the state, those options would include wireless phone service or VoIP (voice over Internet-protocol), not landlines. Cell phones and VoIP are not only more expensive, but don’t yet have full capability to support the 911 emergency services that allow an operator to identify what address you’re calling from, discern what your telephone number is, or guarantee that the call will be routed to the appropriate local police, fire department or hospital. Wireless and VoIP also don’t yet have the ability to support personal medical alert systems that have been built on traditional landline telephone technology. There is no doubt that medical alert systems will be updated as technology evolves, and progress is being made to improve 911 service for VoIP customers. But in the meantime, Coloradans who choose to use VoIP or those forced to use VoIP for lack of affordable alternatives could lose the guarantee they’ve had with telephone landlines that their calls for help will go through.

If the proposed telecom bills pass, the first noticeable change — even for those of us who live in areas unlikely to face a loss of telephone service – would be on our monthly phone bills. Of the 20 states that had deregulated their telephone service as of 2009, 17 saw rate increases ranging from 8 percent to 100 percent, according to a report by Demos, a public interest organization. The California State Senate found rates in that state had increased by several hundred percent after deregulating.

The broadband bills have a certain appeal. Telecom companies aim to shift from antiquated telephone infrastructure to modern broadband access in exchange for fewer consumer protections that they say have kept them from investing in upgrades. But this trade-off is unlikely to yield the results we want. States like California that have passed similar telephone deregulation haven’t seen an increase in competition, but in fact further market dominance by the largest companies. There is little evidence to suggest that deregulation would result in widespread build-out of new broadband services. There are no such requirements written into the bills. There are only suggestions from industry spokespeople that a more relaxed regulatory environment would increase the likelihood that they would find the resources to invest in broadband services in unserved areas.

CenturyLink is Colorado’s largest telephone provider. The telecom giant does business in 38 states and, based on its record and promotional materials, is more focused on improving and expanding services for urban residential and corporate customers than building broadband in rural areas.

Basic fairness requires that broadband is provided throughout Colorado so that everyone from the eastern plains to the western slope has equal access. We can achieve that without relinquishing regulation and putting consumers at risk of higher phone prices, lower quality service, or even complete loss of their landlines. We shouldn’t gut core consumer protections with hollow hopes that telecommunications companies will make good on their word to expand broadband while maintaining quality service.

There are other changes we can make that would be more likely to increase broadband access in unserved areas. For example, we could repeal the 2005 state law that decreased competition in the broadband market by making it very difficult for local governments to step in and provide broadband to their own communities. The result of that law has been to limit the pool of potential broadband network builders. If our goal is universal broadband, we should be allowing local governments to offer broadband services. Federal Communications Commission Chair Tom Wheeler stated recently that repealing such laws is a key way to increase local broadband competition, and increase access.

We can all agree that investment in broadband infrastructure is critically important to Colorado’s economy and quality of life. Unfortunately, the current proposals won’t deliver what Coloradans’ need or deserve. The package of bills under consideration — developed to increase the profits of service providers instead of meeting the needs of consumers — is bad for Colorado. The General Assembly should reject these bills and create a universal broadband vision for Colorado that serves not just the telecommunications companies, but the constituents and consumers they represent. 


[Photo by Orin Zebest]

C’mon already! The Brady Amendment is just personhood

What do you get when you combine the claim of protecting women, a vague ballot initiative concerning “unborn human beings,” and an email with the subject line, “Praise God! 139,650 Signatures Submitted In CO”? You get a run-up to an even-year election in Colorado!

This week, “personhood” returned to Colorado with a vengeance, when pro-personhood groups turned in almost 140,000 signatures to get a vaguely worded, deceptive initiative on the 2014 ballot. If this all sounds familiar to you, it’s because this has happened EVERY EVEN YEAR since 2008, and every year it’s been on the ballot it has lost with over 70 percent of voters rejecting it. Because, GUESS WHAT? Coloradans don’t want “personhood” to be the law here. We don’t want an egg to be considered a person at the moment of fertilization; we don’t want to force women who become pregnant as a result of violent acts rape or incest to have to give birth; and we don’t want birth control pills and emergency contraception to be illegal. The concept that women can be trusted to make their own health care decisions is apparently still a radical idea to a small percentage of Coloradans, who make us show up to vote every other year to remind them that their outlook on women’s health is far out of the mainstream.

Similar to other years this initiative has been proposed, the 2014 iteration of “personhood” sounds a little different than those that came before it. Proponents are using the tragic case of Heather Surovik losing her pregnancy because of a drunk driver to tell a story that passing “personhood” in 2014 is about protecting women, and not the fourth attempt to insert politicians into women’s personal medical decisions in Colorado.

But the proposed 2014 initiative is the exact same as its predecessors in a few ways:

1. The wording is intentionally vague as to confuse voters AND ensure that the amendment will have to be interpreted broadly enough to define a person from the moment an egg is fertilized

2. Proponents are claiming the initiative is about protecting women, but their materials rarely refer to women, and instead talk about how all embryos are people at moment of fertilization. (My personal favorite is this Colorado Right to Life fact sheet explaining the 2014 amendment, which says using the term “fertilized egg” is the same as using a racial slur from the Vietnam era that starts with ‘g’ and claims incest exists because abortion is legal.)

3. The problem the proposed initiative claims to fix isn’t a problem at all. In past years, “personhood” backers wanted to solve the problem of women having access to legal abortion, birth control, and in-vitro fertilization procedures (which some of us wouldn’t call a problem, but whatever). This year, they say they are only putting it on the ballot again so that horrible and tragic crimes like the one that caused Heather Surovik to lose her pregnancy can be prosecuted. The asterisk they leave out is that House Bill 1154, sponsored by Mike Foote, was passed and signed into law this year. The specific intent of this bill was to close the loophole in the criminal statutes that meant someone who acted negligently and caused a woman to lose pregnancy could not be charged with any crime on top of the illegal action itself. I know it seems boring and makes your eyes glaze over when anyone starts talking about criminal code, but both parties in the Colorado state legislature realized the loophole in the law needed to be FIXED and so 1154 passed with bipartisan support, meaning that tragic crimes like the one that caused Heather to lose her pregnancy at 8 months can be prosecuted. This is a good thing, and I think most Coloradans would agree when I say House Bill 1154 is a necessary bill that needed to pass.

The real reason pro-personhood forces are running this ballot initiative –again– is because they do not believe House Bill 1154 went far enough in making personhood the law in Colorado. They think that Representative Mike Foote’s bill, which fixed a real problem that existed in Colorado law, giving prosecutors more tools to get justice for pregnant women, is not acceptable because it didn’t define a person from the moment an egg is fertilized. Forget the fact voters have said, overwhelmingly, that they think personhood goes too far; the strategy of these folks is to throw everything at the wall to see if they can get anything to stick.

If the real goal of this initiative is to make sure women like Heather Surovik get justice for the horrible crime they were a victim of, the initiative would be worded in a way that talked about the criminal code, or crimes at all, or maybe even women who are victims of those crimes. Instead, this initiative paints the issue with such a wide brush, it has to be intended to go further than just cases like Heather’s. They want to pass the most far-reaching law concerning women’s medical decisions and health care in the country, and they want to do it here in Colorado under the promise that they just really, really, want to protect women.

I don’t think Coloradans are going to fall for it. It’s not like we haven’t seen it before.
Laura ‘Pinky’ Reinsch writes for the Colorado Independent’s blog, “The 99%.”  She is currently the Political and Organizing Director at NARAL Pro- Choice Colorado,  working on reproductive health, rights and justice issues.  She was born and raised in Colorado Springs,  got her nickname and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and has been organizing around issues of economic,  social and reproductive justice organizing for a little over ten years, she thinks.  Her favorite color is pink and some of her other favorite things include drinking Moscow mules,  anything related to Harry Potter, rooting for the Broncos  and animated gifs. You can reach Laura at pinky.reinsch@gmail.com or on Twitter: @pinklaura

Failing newspapers provide another reason not to read them

What better way to welcome this weekend’s “White House Correspondents Dinner” than with a big lawsuit pitting the Washington Post against the Bush Administration?

Speaking for the paper in an online forum, congressional reporter Paul Kane said the Post won’t call waterboarding people and slamming them into walls torture because it fears a lawsuit for libel — because the paper is in no shape to weather the costs. (more…)