Colorado Amendments Y & Z: Looking for the other shoe

Friday, October 19, 2018

Colorado Amendments Y & Z are entitled "Congressional Redistricting" and "Legislative Redistricting," respectively. The purpose of these Amendments are basically the same, and so it most of the language, so I'm going to lump them together for the purposes of this edition of "Follow the Money."

These are Amendments to the Colorado Constitution, and according to the Secretary of State's office, both were unanimously referred to the voters by the state legislature.

The gist of both Amendments is to prevent gerrymandering in Colorado, and provide a more bipartisan process for redistricting after the census.

The following groups are in favor of the measure:
These groups have raised $4M to support the measure.

The following groups are opposed to the measure:
This group has not reported any moneys raised or spent, and (in my opinion) also seem a little fringe.

Note: "Follow the Money" values collected from the Colorado Secretary of State's TRACER system.  This system contains public disclosures for campaign finance in Colorado.

What happens today is that once the census data arrives from federal government, the state legislature attempts to put a legislative map together, drawing district lines for representation in the State House. If If they can't agree, or if someone's not satisfied, then a legal challenge is issued, and the court ends up drawing the lines. The legal challenge has occurred the last four times a census has been conducted. Both sides accuse the other of gerrymandering (and both are correct).

In the case of the Federal Congressional Districts, today an 11 member Colorado Reapportionment Commission is formed after the census. These individuals are appointed by the three branches of state government, with as many as six people from a single political party. Once they draw the maps and they hold public hearings, then send the map to the Colorado Supreme Court for approval.

The new system would involve replacing both of these processes with 2 new commissions. The Commissions would have 12 members, 4 from the state's largest political party, 4 from the state's second largest political party, and 4 people who are unaffiliated. (For your information, the "unaffiliated" are the largest group of registered voters in Colorado, including yours truly.) The appointment process is supposed to be bi-partisan, is somewhat convoluted, and relies in part on random chance.

Once the Commissions are formed, they put together new maps, hold public hearings, and then vote. The new maps must pass by a super-majority of 8 "yes" votes, with at least 2 unaffiliated commissioners voting yes. Then it goes to the Colorado Supreme Court for approval.

As near as I can tell, pretty much everyone endorses this legislation, on both sides of the aisle. The politicians want the Courts out of the redistricting business. Neither side trusts the other and sees risks in the current system, so want a more bipartisan effort.

I'm of two minds on this issue. On the one hand, I look at the legislation, and I say "Hurrah! Transparency in government!" On the other, I wonder why there's so much bipartisan support for this. Is the fix already in? What's the catch? My public servants have taught me to suspect skullduggery and shenanigans at all times, so I have trouble believing their sincerity. Imagine that.

Check this one over carefully, fellow voters. It's complicated, and requires some study to fully understand the proposed new process.

Colorado Proposition 112 - What fresh hell is this?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The most contentious legislative contest for the 2018 midterms here in Colorado is Proposition 112, entitled "Increased Setback Requirement for Oil and Natural Gas Development."

As is our custom here at Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men, let's Follow The Money.

This is a proposition, which in Colorado means it was placed on the ballot though petition. A minimum number of signatories are required in order for the Secretary of State to place it on the ballot.

Based on the Colorado Secretary of State website, the following groups are in favor of this measure:
  • Colorado Rising for Health and Safety
  • Earthworks Action Fund Issue Committee
These groups have raised approximately $882K to support the measure.

Those opposed to the measure are:
  • Protecting Colorado's Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence (Protect Colorado)
  • State Ballot Issue Committee
  • Fix Our Damn Roads
  • Spirit of Colorado
  • Americans for Prosperity - Colorado Issue Committee (AFP-CO IC)
These groups have raised over $33M to oppose the measure.

Based on my research, most of the contributions for the "opposed" side of the house come directly from the energy business. Understandable - if this measure passes, the real estate available for oil and gas extraction will diminish significantly. This translates to less money for these companies (including the Koch Brothers and their lick-spittle PAC, AFP), Noble Energy, Ralsa Energy, and more, plus the small businesses that support these large companies).

The main contributors on the "in favor" side of the house come from granola crunching hippies, and by "granola crunching hippies," I mean "people who don't think water should be flammable."  Theirs is a grass roots initiative.

Most of the politicians who have taken a position on this measure are against it. Again, understandable, since no one wants to be the guy who's on the wrong side of the energy industry when it's time for reelection.

As with most political contests, the fear mongering, exaggeration, and downright liar, liar, pants on fire rhetoric is everywhere. Those opposed claim it will have serious and long-term economic repercussions. Those in favor say these claims are grossly exaggerated, and that fracking and other extraction technologies cause serious short and long-term health problems. I'm not going to recap the research here because I have a job, so you'll need to read the claims on your own to determine the actual facts. But here are some things to consider when forming your own opinion:
I've decided how to vote in this particular case based on my own research, analysis and values. Please...do the same.

Follow the Money

Monday, October 15, 2018

Many years ago, when I was just starting my journey of lifelong learning, I took a political science course from the local college.

My professor for this course was something of a cynic, and after all these years, I've remembered one thing she told us in that class: In a representative democracy, the only way to determine the winners and losers in a political contest is to follow the money.

So over the years, my practice has become to find out who the major donors are for each candidate, each amendment, each local law. Once that research is complete, then I have to ask the question: Of these donors, whose interests most closely align with my own? Whose interests most closely align with the good of the people, and the good of the union?

The reason for the first question should be obvious - it's important to know and understand how candidates and legislature will affect your daily and long-term interests. This question is usually easily answered, because it's centered entirely on a narcissistic view of the world. Legislation that costs me money is bad. Candidates who don't care about my well-being are bad. Plus there's the whole "company you keep" truism *cough*Trump Supporters*cough*.

The second question is more difficult, and I would argue, more important. MUCH more important, because it speaks to the long-term health and well-being of our nation. It speaks to the moral necessities each individual holds dear. It speaks to our maturity, both as individuals and as a nation, that we would take the larger picture into account when making our choices.

The clearest example of this that affects me directly is health care. I've never been without healthcare. My kids have never been without health care. I've been incredibly fortunate that my employers have always offered affordable choices in this area, and I've been able to take advantage of this good fortune to the benefit of me and my family.

But not everyone is so lucky. In 2017, 29.3 million people were uninsured. The ACA brought my premiums up, and further expansion of benefits (such as Medicare for all) will likely cost me additional monies, either in the form of premiums, or taxes, or both. But I feel I have a personal responsibility to help ensure everyone in our country has access to basic medical care. Will it benefit me personally? No. Does that matter to me? No. I believe it's the right thing to do, so I do it. Others feel differently, or have valid concerns about sustainability, or object for other reasons. We all have an obligation to vote our conscience, and that's where that second question comes in.

I'm perfectly aware that many people never get past the first question. You can even make an argument that our current political shit-show is a direct result of this pattern of voting by the Baby Boomers. But I think we should all make an effort to do better in this regard.

So I'm going to follow the money on the current Colorado Amendments, and I may post some of my findings in this space. Not the "Lower Age Requirements for Members of the State Legislature from 25 to 21," because that kind of thing is really a matter of opinion based (largely) on the voter's age and experience. But the contentious stuff that is inundating my life every day through mailers, commercials, unsolicited opinions, and yard signs.

And once I've done my homework, it'll be time to vote my conscience. And I hope everyone else who is eligible to vote does the same.

The Men in my Life

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

I have some wonderful, progressive men in my life. They care deeply about the women in their lives, and are aghast at the treatment sexual assault survivors have to endure when they try to do the right thing. They speak loudly, and publicly, about the need to believe survivors when they muster the courage to tell, and they have fury in their hearts for the entitled, amoral shits who would perpetrate such a crime. 

And yet. 

This story in the Washington Post reminded me that even the most sensitive of men, even the most progressive, the most supportive, still don't fully understand the scope of the problem that is sexual assault. 

The author of this piece points out that stories of harassment and assault have been pouring into her inbox daily, and many of the writers will not tell their fathers about their experiences. They have many reasons for this choice, but most boil down to an attempt to protect their fathers' feelings from the horror that was perpetrated on their child. These survivors are afraid. They're afraid their parent won't see them the same way. They're afraid their parent will subconsciously blame their kids for their suffering. They're afraid it will break their parent's heart. And they're afraid their parent will take some action that will land them in prison, or worse. 

When I was assigned at a Naval Training Station, I acted as a sexual assault victim advocate in a program that was the precursor to the DOD's SAPR Office. When a sailor on our base was sexually assaulted, a member of my team would be called out to act as a support system for that person. It was almost a given that the victim was without family in the area, and let's face it - dealing with such an event is hard even for the emotionally mature, let alone an 18 year old away from home for the first time who was attacked by someone they thought was their shipmate. These young adults needed help, and our team tried to provide it. 

And each of the individuals I advocated for, with only one exception, had one thing in common: They refused to tell their family about their experience. Their reasons were myriad, and not mine to share, but suffice it to say that the WashPo author gives a pretty good representative sample. 

Men with whom I would associate would never disbelieve a sexual assault survivor because they chose not to report the crime in a timely manner. They would advocate for these survivors, and do everything in their power to ensure the perpetrator was held accountable. Their hearts would break for the survivors, and I believe they have the emotional fortitude to manage this emotional burden. 

And yet, I wonder how many of them truly understand that in their own circles, among the women they know personally or professionally, those who are casual friends or acquaintances, one in six of those women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. They understand the statistic, to be sure - but have they looked at their circles and wondered, "Who among my friends and family have been through this horror?" I know I do, often, usually when I'm contemplating (again) what behavior will keep me safest in an unknown situation. 

I guarantee you, men - you know people who have been sexually assaulted. They won't tell you, for a variety of reasons, but it's true. The survivors are all around you, and you really have no idea who they are. Because, through no fault of your own, you have the luxury of not having to think about it.

Worse - so much worse - than I thought

Friday, September 21, 2018

Yesterday I finished Fear: Trump in the White House, by Bob Woodward.

I expected a high quality project, because, Bob Woodward. The man is a giant in journalism, and while he has his critics, very few journalists have as much access as him, and are as scrupulous about ensuring his material is factual.

I'm not going to summarize the book's findings, as they've been all over the media since the book's release, but these are my personal take-aways:
  • 45 is dumber than I thought, and that's saying something. Who this book characterized is someone who is apparently incapable of critical thought or analysis. Complex issues confuse him profoundly, to the point where he ends up just shaking off all those pesky details and facts and goes with his feelings. And since his feelings are driven entirely by self-absorption and egomania, expressed in terms of rabid nationalism, the resulting decisions lack good judgement, to say the least. 
  • 45 is far less rational than I thought. It was apparent during the campaign that he was egomaniacal in the extreme, but this dude brought the United States to the brink of a nuclear exchange basically because someone pwned him on Twitter. Are you fucking kidding me? It's like having Dr. Strangelove in the White House.
  • 45 has no desire (or apparently, ability) to learn. He came into the White House as the least qualified Presidential candidate in history, and guess what? He still is, 22 months into the job. He's had qualified advisors in the West Wing, but when they try to educate him on how the economy works, or how national security works, or how those things are tied together, or basically any topic vital for an effective President to know, his response was (I shit you not), "I don't want to hear that." Lalalalala I can't hear you...
  • 45 has reached the pinnacle of the Dunning-Kruger effect. And the worst part is that his ego will not permit him to even consider the idea that he doesn't know what he doesn't know. 
  • Certain members of 45's staff and advisors have tried to rein him in. They've tried every trick in the book to keep 45 from tanking the economy, engaging the U.S. in another preemptive war, and personally breaking the law whenever it suits his personal agenda. In fact, these efforts have reached the point where staff's behavior is skirting coup d'état territory. This is not okay. I mean, this is REALLY not okay. I want 45's ego-driven decision making checked as much as the next bleeding-heart liberal, but I am devoted to the Constitution and the rule of law by virtue of my service and my values. Even though the man is a fucking disaster, and the country will likely take decades to recover from his fuckery, he is still the legal, duly elected President. Having unelected staff make policy decisions in direct contradiction to his wishes paves the way for a shadow government to control future presidents in the same fashion. NOT OKAY.
  • The reason 45 won't be interviewed by Special Prosecutor Mueller is because his attorney refused to allow it. And the reason isn't because the attorney thought 45 had something heinous to hide. It's because, as the attorney notes, "He's a fucking liar."*
This book did not reveal anything that hadn't crossed my mind in the last 22 months. It just revealed how much worse things are in the White House than I thought. It made me wish even harder that the Democrats take the House and/or the Senate this year as a way to limit his power. It made me hope beyond hope that the RNC chooses a candidate to challenge 45 for the Republican nomination for President in 2020. And it scared the shit out of me because I can also imagine this shit-show becoming America's new normal. And that last part also makes me profoundly sad.

*This was not a revelation to anyone who reads anything more complex and factual than the Drudge Report. The public record clearly shows 45 lies as a matter of course, rather than using dishonesty as a way to hide his misdeeds. He's just a pathological liar - lying is his default reaction.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Eighth Annual Maureen "AJ" Ramey Memorial Summer Reading Program is over, and the winners have been selected via a Random Number Generator.

The total number of entries reached 235 this year, which means me and the Smart Man will be donating $500 to the Douglas County Library Foundation. This will allow us to continue to have the naming rights to the Parker Library "Maureen 'AJ' Ramey Memorial Garden."

The winners this year are Stacey, who read Shadow Ops: Breach Zone, by Myke Cole, and The Mechanicky Gal, who read In the Shadow of Lakecrest, by Elizabeth Blackwell. 

Congratulations winners! Your prizes are in the (e)mail!

Last Chance to Log Books for the Summer Reading Program

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

I'm a big slacker and forgot to close comments on the Summer Reading Program yesterday morning. So I'll take pity and leave them open until tomorrow morning for your last minute entries.

Get your books entered TODAY for a chance to WIN!