As if we needed another lesson in just how damningly accurate a certain expression is — the one about things "spreading like wildfire."
Boise's KTVB reports that Colorado Springs resident and Waldo Canyon Fire evacuee Krista McCann had been heading to her father's home in Oregon when she lost control of her Subaru on Interstate 84 in eastern Idaho. After salvaging whatever belongings she could from her burning car, McCann told KTVB she noticed the adjacent field was burning.
"I was pretty devastated," McCann reportedly said, rather understandably. The subsequent wildfire burnt 2,000 acres before being declared fully controlled last Wednesday.
You can take in KTVB's full story here.
With Rick Santorum out of the race, what other option do they have?
From the Christian Post:
An Internet evangelist who is advocating that Christians vote for Jesus as a write-in candidate says he has more than 200,000 people who have committed to do so. However, a political science expert believes the evangelist's demonizing rhetoric about both candidates is not Christ-like.
Bill Keller, who runs LivePrayer.com and offers a daily devotional read by more than 2.4 million subscribers, said Christians face a difficult dilemma this November.
Keller says his answer to the election is to have Christians write in the name of Jesus for president. He believes that this is "a real opportunity for Christians to take a stand for their faith, say no to Satan's two choices for President by voting for Jesus, and make a statement to the nation that the problems in this nation aren't political, they are spiritual, and the only answer is to turn back to Jesus and Biblical Truth."
I wonder if Sen. Kevin Grantham is scared of these extremists?
Here's Keller "debating" Oprah.
Written during the High Park Fire, the letter urged lawmakers to change a policy that kept wildland firefighters from accessing health insurance. Of course, shortly after that letter ran, those same uninsured firefighters were here in Colorado Springs, fighting the Waldo Canyon fire.
Thankfully, our heroes will be rewarded for the risks they've take on our behalf. The federal government plans to offer them health insurance.
Bennet, Udall Praise Decision to Provide Health Benefits to Firefighters
Many Federal Firefighters are Temporary Employees, Don’t Receive Benefits
Washington, DC — Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall today released the following statements praising the joint Office of Personnel Management, U.S. Forest Service, and Department of Interior announcement that temporary federal firefighters, many whom are fighting or have fought the recent wildfires in Colorado, will have access to the same health care benefits federal employees receive.
“This is excellent news. Federal firefighters may be temporary employees but they leave a permanent mark on the families whose lives and properties they save. All too often, their grueling, life threatening work requires many more hours than the relatively comfortable and safe jobs so many of us hold,” Bennet said. “It’s unacceptable that these heroic men and women did not have access to health care benefits. Its symptomatic of a Washington that has a focus so far removed from the rest of the country. In Colorado, we watched them willingly risk their lives to fight fires across the state, including against the two most destructive fires in Colorado’s history, both of which affected so many of our friends, family and neighbors. We all owe them a debt of gratitude, and health care benefits are the least they deserve.”
“I have been working to provide these heroic firefighters with access to health insurance benefits, and am glad to see the President has used his authority to expedite that work,” Udall said. “During this severe fire season, Coloradans have seen firsthand the great work our wildland firefighters do and the sacrifices they make to protect our homes and lives. It is only fitting that we do everything we can to support them.”
Many federal firefighters are considered temporary employees because they are only employed for part of the year. As temporary employees they were not previously eligible for benefits such as health care and retirement pensions.
# # #
Avast, ye scurvy lubber! International Talk like a Pirate day has just come over the horizon, and is but a handful o' fortnights away — Sept. 19, same as always.
Lucky for your sorry aft, the Pikes Peak Library District offers free subscriptions to the Mango language learning tool. Mango recently announced a special course in Pirate to polish your skills. All ye need is a district library card! The software is available at most PPLD branches, or even on your Android or iOS device. The Mango website has a mapping tool to find the Mango-powered library nearest your port-of-call.
Easiest of all, Mango is offering its courses in Pirate for free on its website (for a limited time). So you've got no excuse for not participating this September. Bully!
The campaign for Robert Blaha, the businessman who is challenging U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn in the upcoming Republican primary for the 5th Congressional District seat, is none too happy about a recent campaign ad.
From a message directed at Lamborn:
We are writing to urge you to take down the undignified and false attacks on Robert Blaha and his extensive business record. Of particular outrage to all of us is your attack on Integrity Bank and Trust, which your campaign commercial described as one of the “worst in the region”. The advertisement leveled against the bank shows mean-spiritedness and indifference to the challenges that businesses are facing in these difficult economic times.
A campaign ad that trades in undignified and false attacks? I'm speechless. I'm without words.
The Blaha campaign even started a petition, urging Lamborn to take down the ad. You can be among the other hundred-plus people to sign it, here.
According to the Denver Post, the ad features accusations that are not quite true. The Post dissects the two claims in Lamborn's ad: “Eight of his businesses ruled delinquent by Colorado for failure to file an annual business report 26 times,” and “The bank Blaha co-founded ranked among the worst in the region, fined by the FDIC.”
What the paper found?
"We are giving this campaign ad a 'leans deceptive' rating for its misuse of data and playing with semantics."
Read its analysis, here.
Today, my email features dueling press releases from the Republican primary candidates for the 5th Congressional District.
In the one corner, we have an email from Catherine Mortensen, the spokeswoman for Doug Lamborn and his campaign, that links to a clip of Blaha explaining why he hasn't voted in primaries for years.
That clip is from a segment Blaha did with Grassroots Radio, and you can see it, here.
And in the other corner, from the Blaha campaign, we have this ad that paints Lamborn as an aggressive bully, calling him "a career politician with a long history of spewing outrageous and untrue negative attacks against anyone who dares question him."
"The real scandal in Washington isn't what is illegal, it is what is legal."
That's the response from the campaign of Robert Blaha after finding out that its complaint over U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn's use of taxpayer-funded mail was dismissed.
Blaha, the businessman who is running a Republican primary against Lamborn in the 5th Congressional District, lodged the complaint last month over a mailer that, he claimed, had violated federal regulations.
Today, the Lamborn campaign sent out the word that the complaint had been tossed. Catherine Mortensen, spokeswoman for Lamborn, is taking this opportunity to stomp on Blaha: "As we said from the start, this was an unfounded allegation made by an individual who shows stunning ignorance of the most basic operations of Congress. It was an unfounded, mean-spirited attack. "
Blaha's spokeswoman, Ashlee Springer, responds:
We are not surprised that the congressional commission is protecting their own instead of enforcing the rules. Doug Lamborn campaigned on the public dime and didn't follow either the letter or the spirit of the rules. The real scandal in Washington isn't what is illegal, it is what is legal. Doug Lamborn plays the game well, and the franking commission and the good ole boys have got his back. But the voters won't.
In the decision letter, forwarded to the press by Mortensen, there is a rundown of Blaha's four allegations, as well as the findings — such as this explanation of the acceptable amount of times a mailer is allowed to use "personally phrased references":
The first allegation is that [Lamborn] exceeded the allowable number of personally phrased references by using the words "I", "my" or "me" in the constituent mailing. However, the Commission does not count possessive pronouns such as "my" as personally phrased references. Therefore, the number of references complies with Franking guidelines.
Blaha repeats criticisms that he made to the Indy during last month's Q&A, such as Lamborn's inability as a lead sponsor to usher legislation through Congress. He also promotes his own business savvy as a solution to Washington's ills.
From the site:
Robert Blaha, Republican candidate for Congress in Colorado’s 5th Congressional District, has released ads that will contrast his qualifications with those of his opponent, incumbent Doug Lamborn.
“As voters continue to learn more about the contrasts between me and my opponent, we will keep sharing facts they need to know about to make an informed decision at the ballot box,” said Blaha. “I have the experience it will take to revitalize the 5th Congressional District.”
“Since we are running a transparent, fact-based campaign, we will provide relevant data to the general public and the press in order to support our radio and TV ads,” continued Blaha. “I commit to this same transparency once I become the US Congressman from the 5th CD.”
With all respect to mindless sayings, sometimes the apple does fall far from the tree.
According to the organizers' website:
The Reason Rally is a movement-wide event sponsored by the country’s major secular organizations. The intent is to unify, energize, and embolden secular people nationwide, while dispelling the negative opinions held by so much of American society… and having a damn good time doing it!
Having the senior Phelps' son speak at a rally in support of the secular lifestyle and the LGBT community is certainly fascinating, but shouldn't be surprising. As the press release notes, "Nate Phelps severed ties with his family on his 18th birthday, and now calls his father's actions 'evil.'"
The whole release:
Washington, DC - Nate Phelps, son of Pastor Fred Phelps of the notorious anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, has agreed to speak at the March 24th Reason Rally in DC - even as his family's church plans to picket the event. Nate Phelps, an atheist and outspoken supporter of LGBT rights, is the latest addition to the event billed as a celebration of secular values. He joins a lineup featuring prominent nonreligious speakers and entertainers including Richard Dawkins, comedian Eddie Izzard, and the band Bad Religion.
The Westboro Baptist Church, famous for protesting at soldiers' funerals with signs reading "God Hates Fags" has announced they will attend the Reason Rally. Nate Phelps severed ties with his family on his 18th birthday, and now calls his father's actions "evil."
"Nate Phelps brings a powerful voice and story to the rally," said Reason Rally organizer David Silverman. "He shows us all that if you can come out as an atheist in that family, it's possible anywhere."
The Reason Rally, billed as the largest gathering of the secular movement in the nation's history, is a free event on the National Mall with the intent to "unify, energize, and embolden" nonreligious Americans to gain legislative and social equality.
More information about the rally can be found at ReasonRally.org.
Guess what? The veterans of World War I may finally get a commemorative coin and a proper national memorial to their sacrifice.
I know this, because the press release I received this morning told me so.
Really, if I hadn't gotten that e-mail I would have never guessed that America hadn't done all that stuff already. I mean, this is a world war we're talking about. Millions of Americans served. It seems crazy that our country never bothered to acknowledge that. America has a national memorial to Robert E. Lee, for crying out loud. A guy who fought against the United States.
Now, I guess this latest move is supposed to be good news — because America hasn't forgotten its history. But what is there for us to be proud of, really? The last American World War I veteran, Frank Buckles, died last year. And that means not a single vet from the "Great War" will be able to appreciate this honor.
Depressing, isn't it?
ANA encourages members to support efforts to create a World War I commemorative coin
The American Numismatic Association is asking members to support legislative efforts to create a commemorative dollar coin honoring World War I veterans.
The United States has memorialized the Civil War, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War on U.S. commemorative coins, but no coin honors World War I veterans. ANA Numismatic Educator Rod Gillis is working to correct that oversight.
“It was really surprising to me that World War I veterans were never honored with their own coin,” Gillis said. “This legislation will help give these veterans proper recognition.”
More than two years ago, Gillis launched the effort to create this commemorative. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) agreed to sponsor H.R. 4107, the “World War I American Veterans Centennial Commemorative Coin Act.”
Under the proposed law, the coin would be minted in 2017 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of America’s participation in World War I. The United States formally declared war against Germany and entered the conflict in Europe on April 6, 1917. More than
4 million U.S. men and women served in uniform during World War I, and more than 2 million American soldiers served overseas.
For every coin sold, a surcharge would go to the World War I Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C. This group was founded after Frank Buckles, the last surviving American World War I veteran, visited the District of Columbia War Memorial on the National Mall in March 2008.
Buckles observed that this memorial — dedicated in 1931 to the 499 District of Columbia residents who gave their lives in that war — sat neglected and in extreme disrepair. Noting that there is no national World War I memorial, he issued a call for the memorial’s restoration and re-dedication as a National and District of Columbia World War I Memorial.
“The new memorial will honor all World War I veterans and make Frank Buckles’ dream a reality,” said Gillis, who is currently working to secure a sponsor for the bill in the U.S. Senate.
Please contact your Congressional representative and voice your support. Contact information can be found at www.house.gov/representatives/.
If you have questions about this effort, please contact Gillis at 719-482-9845 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The American Numismatic Association is a congressionally chartered, nonprofit educational organization dedicated to encouraging people to study and collect money and related items. The ANA helps its 28,000 members and the public discover and explore the world of money through its vast array of education and outreach programs, as well as its museum, library, publications, conventions and seminars. For more information, call 719-632-2646 or go to www.money.org.
This has been a heck of an eventful day. Doug Bruce is going to the slammer. City Attorney Chris Melcher just let Council know that the only way they can force the mayor to spend money on a specific item is if it's considered a "major legislative budget determination" (whatever that means). And Budget Director Lisa Bigelow has been put on a 30-day adminstrative leave — with Chief of Staff Laura Neumann assuring this reporter that the move has nothing to do with the fact that Bigelow released an inflamatory e-mail revealing the mayor's apparent attempt to sidestep Council authority. Hmmm.
Why then, am I thinking about Whitney Houston?
In a way, it's inexplicable. I was never a huge Houston fan, though I always thought she had a fantastic voice. But since hearing of her death over the weekend, I find I haven't been able to stop thinking about her.
Today, while sitting in a City Council meeting, it occurred to me why my thoughts kept circling back to her. Back in the early 1990s, at the height of Houston's fame, I was in middle school in Denver. I walked to school from my home in a quiet neighborhood, but most of the kids at my school were bused in from the inner city.
They were tough kids — far tougher than I was used to, far tougher then most kids I see today. This was around the time of the Summer of Violence, a time in which 13-, 14- and 15-year-olds were routinely being given life sentences for brutal murders.
Even in my neighborhood, there was a shootout between rival gangs in a nearby park. Plenty of the kids I went to school with were in gangs. Most were minorities. Most were poor.
While I was bothered by the violent tide sweeping over my school, and the nation as a whole, I could also sense the desperation in my peers. There just wasn't much for them to look forward to. Not a lot of opportunities. Not a lot of hope.
The press portrayed the young gangbangers as monsters, but the truth was, these were just kids looking for guidance and love. And here's where Houston came in — the singer was reprieve for my classmates, especially the girls. It wasn't unusual for a young girl to start wailing out the notes to "I Will Always Love You" on the playground. Completely at random. Completely full of joy.
Houston represented something amazing at that time. A black woman who was powerful, but also vulnerable. A woman who realized her sexual powers, but didn't exploit them. A person whose talents had made her a movie star, and one of the biggest names in music.
Whitney Houston gave these girls a dream to chase after in an otherwise bleak world.
I was disappointed to see Houston waste away on drugs. It seemed like such a powerful irony that she would succumb to the very devils that my school pals admired her for rising above. When I heard that she had ruined her voice with the drug use, the dismay dug deeper. A God-given gift, tossed away.
Now, thinking of her lying lifeless in a bathtub at 48, I shudder. Not just for Houston, but for the dream that died with her. For the girls who tracked every twist of her acrobatic vocal cords with glee, with determination, and with a sense that perhaps all wonderful things are possible.
With Republicans in three states trudging to their nearest schools to hold straw votes this evening, we could be seeing do-or-die time for presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.
His poll numbers put him in a close race with Mitt Romney, who has the momentum after his wins in Florida and Nevada, yet Santorum's chances tonight are about as good as they are going to get. Some pollsters are even predicting a "Santorum surprise."
Santorum knows that he needs that something special to secure his appeal over Romney, That he needs to find that perfect argument to convince the yet-decided Republicans that he is their faithful servant. And this is what he came up with.
A political firestorm over abortion and birth control spread suddenly on Tuesday. A high-ranking official resigned from the Komen breast-cancer charity after its backtracking treaty with Planned Parenthood, and Republican presidential candidates blistered the Obama administration for a recent ruling on Catholic hospitals and contraception.
I stand with Americans - people of every faith or no faith at all - who still hold that there are truths which are self evident - and rights which are inalienable.
This is not the first time that elected officials have trounced on the fundamental right to religious freedom. In December 2005, Governor Mitt Romney required all Massachusetts hospitals, including Catholic ones, to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.
He said then that he believed “in his heart of hearts” that receiving these contraceptives - free of charge - trumped employees' religious consciences. Now, a few years later and running for president, his heart is strategically aligned with religious voters opposing this federal mandate.
Newt Gingrich took the cue, and took his swipe at Romney, too.
"There's been a lot of talk about the Obama administration's attack on the Catholic church," Gingrich told a packed house at Price Hill Chili Restaurant here. "Well the fact is, Gov. Romney insisted that Catholic hospitals give out abortion pills against their religious belief when he was governor."
Romney's defenders, however, want everyone to know that Santorum and Gingrich have gotten their facts wrong.
David French, a Romney supporter, provides some more detail over at the National Review:
The legislature passed legislation mandating that hospitals — including the state’s Catholic hospitals — administer [emergency contraception]. Governor Romney vetoed that legislation ...
Unfortunately, however, the legislature overrode his veto (by overwhelming margins). What followed was a dispute over the meaning of two seemingly conflicting state laws: a decades-old law exempting private hospitals from providing contraceptives and the newer law containing no such exemptions. Initially, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (which was charged with crafting regulations implementing the new EC law) took the position that the new law didn’t supersede the old and that Catholic hospitals could opt out. Two days later, the Romney administration reversed this view, stating the proper legal interpretation was that the new law did, in fact, apply to all hospitals in the state.
Also, for good measure, Romney totally opposes "Obamacare".
They are now using Obamacare to impose a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away.
On January 20, 2012, the Obama administration affirmed a rule that would force Roman Catholic hospitals, charities, and universities to purchase health insurance for their employees that includes coverage for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization, in violation of their religious principles. This is wrong.
It should be an interesting night.
MetroTrends of the Urban Institute has ranked American cities for racial equity for African Americans, and guess what, Colorado Springs is 11th out of 100 cities ranked.
Click on MetroTrends above for an interactive map.
The website describes the project like this:
The MetroTrends team has graded the nation’s 100 biggest metros on five indicators of metro-wide racial equity. The rankings reflect residential segregation and gaps between blacks and whites in neighborhood income, school test scores, adult employment rates, and homeownership. The best? Albuquerque, NM. The worst? Milwaukee, WI.
Colorado Springs was given an A overall. In specific areas, its ratings were A for residential segregation and school test score gap, and B for neighborhood income gap, employment gap and home ownership gap.
Here are the definitions of those categories as provided by Urban Institute:
Residential segregation: Dissimilarity index, reported by Brown University’s US2010 project, using 2010 Census data. The dissimilarity index ranges from 0 to 100, where 100 reflects complete separation between two groups.
Neighborhood Income Gap: Percent difference between the median income of the average non-Hispanic white’s neighborhood and that of the average black or Latino. Reported by Brown University’s US2010 project, using 2009 ACS data.
School Test Score Gap: Percent difference between the state test score ranking of the school attended by the average non-Hispanic white student and that of the school attended by the average black or Latino student. Reported by Brown University’s US2010 project, using 2009 ACS data.
Employment Gap: Percent difference between the share of working-age non-Hispanic whites who are employed and the corresponding share of blacks or Latinos, based on 2010 Census data.
Homeownership Gap: Percent difference between the share of non-Hispanic white households that are homeowners and the corresponding share of black or Latino households, based on 2010 Census data.
James Tucker, a 37-year resident of Colorado Springs and former local NAACP president, dismissed the results, saying, "The truth is, they're not telling the truth about African Americans in Colorado Springs. It's obvious they didn't communicate with the African Americans in the city."
He said Mayor Steve Bach has a "really white administration" and "is not connected with the African American community." Bach has named one person of color, Donna Nelson, to an administrative post so far.
Tucker, who's known for his outspoken criticism on racial issues, said the city has no laws to protect black citizens. "There's no where in this city you can turn to for help," he says. "There is no fairness in Colorado Springs when it comes to African Americans. The city of Colorado Springs has failed to invest our tax money in programs that would help prevent African American young men and women from going to prison. The whole report is a smokescreen."
This is probably not a thank you that the Mitt Romney campaign wants.
Families USA, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy organization that supported the passage of President Obama's health care reform, has taken the time and energy ostensibly to thank Romney for passing legislation similar to Obama's while governor of Massachusetts.
The lawmakers who crafted ObamaCare, or the Affordable Care Act, looked to RomneyCare, also known as the Massachusetts Health Reform Law, to guide their work.
Governor Romney isn’t too proud of this fact, and the other Republican presidential candidates have been quick to point out the similarities. We believe that Governor Romney shouldn’t be ashamed of passing health reform in Massachusetts or that Congress borrowed so much of his handiwork in creating the Affordable Care Act.
Massachusetts has the lowest rate of uninsurance in the country, individuals purchasing insurance in the non-group market have enjoyed significant premium savings, and a Health Disparities Council has been created to advance equity in health outcomes—to name just a few of the gains that have come out of RomneyCare.
I say ostensibly thank, because if nothing else this is just a brilliant piece of campaign material — for Obama. Families USA has to realize that comparing Romney's health care reform to Obama's does nothing to help presidential hopeful's conservative credibility.
This coming Tuesday, Colorado Republicans will be going to their caucuses to, among other things, participate in a straw poll on the presidential candidates. It will be interesting to see how Romney — who is quickly looking like the Republican favorite nationally — fares in our anti-ObamaCare county.
The study, which provides side-by-side similarities between the two pieces of legislation can be read here.
U.S. Sen.Michael Bennet has introduced an amendment today that would ban former members of Congress from going to work lobbying Congress.
As put in a press statement from the Colorado senator, the amendment would close the "revolving door of lobbyist influence."
While this does seem like a good step, it's just one step toward much-needed reform.
As the case of Republican presidential candidate, and former U.S. House Speaker, Newt Gingrich makes clear, there are plenty of ways to peddle influence in Washington without registering as a lobbyist, or even calling what you do "lobbying."
Under the federal lobbying law, Newt Gingrich can legitimately claim that he is not a lobbyist. That alone demonstrates how much the law needs to be changed.
As his rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney, regularly and correctly points out, Mr. Gingrich has made a great deal of money in Washington peddling his influence, while carefully staying about half-an-inch short of the legal definition of lobbyist. He is only one of thousands of people in Washington’s influence industry who skirt the common-sense definition of lobbying by taking advantage of the law’s loopholes.
From Bennet's press statement:
“Too often, the outsized influence of lobbyists in Washington drowns out the voices of regular Americans and prevents Congress from acting in the interest of the American people,” Bennet said. “By preventing members of Congress from lobbying when they leave Capitol Hill and preventing congressional staff from going back and forth through the revolving door, public officials can get about the business of helping the country.”
A study by the Center for Responsive Politics recently found that about a third of former members of the 111th Congress who are currently employed are employed at lobbying firms, and more than 12,500 registered federal lobbyists actively lobbied in Washington in 2011.
To solve for the problem of outsized lobbyist influence and to close the revolving door, Bennet and [Democratic Sen. Jon] Tester [of Minnesota] have proposed aggressive lobbying reform, which would:
• Place a lifetime ban on current members of Congress from becoming lobbyists;
• Ban congressional staff from lobbying their former boss for six years;
• Ban former committee staff from lobbying their former boss or any member who was then on the committee during their time on staff for six years;
• Ban lobbyists from joining congressional staffs or committee staffs that they lobbied for six years;
• Fully close the loophole that allows politicians to fly private charters but reimburse only at commercial first class rates, and require those politicians to disclose what lobbyists they are flying with;
• Create a more accessible website for public reporting of lobbying activities;
• Require substantial lobbying entities to report on the non-lobbyist employees they have who are former members of Congress or former senior congressional staff, and describing those employees’ job responsibilities;
• Ban cash contributions by lobbyists; and
• Increase the maximum penalty for violating federal lobbying laws.
The bill improves disclosure requirements and encourages greater information sharing between record keepers and law enforcement. Through increased transparency, not just by federal lobbyists, but also by firms and companies that may have former members of Congress who are skirting the lobbyist line, the public will be better informed, and the lobbying profession will be deterred from acting below board. Lobbyists who break the law will be more likely to be investigated and the bad actors can be punished more severely. It also provides the public greater with better information and takes an important step towards cleaning up the culture in Washington.
This is the latest in Bennet’s efforts to reform the system in Washington. He has previously pushed for a variety of changes in his Plan for Washington Reform.
Since coming to the Senate in 2007, Tester led the charge to raise the ethics standards for the U.S. Senate. He set an even higher standard for his personal office and will not allow former staffers-turned lobbyists to ever come back to lobby him or his staff.