March 20, 20154min301
Dear Editor, Senator Bennet must not have researched the science and the experts behind the science rejecting the KXL pipeline. The following scratches the surface: In an open letter written to both President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry and signed by over 100 top scientists and economists, they claim, “the potential annual emissions of […]

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March 17, 20154min247

Dear Editor,

Ignoring the First Amendment and its associated “Freedom of the Press,” one has to ask just what folks in the Sen. Michael Bennet campaign were thinking Sunday when they demanded members of the Fourth Estate leave a widely publicized campaign finance party kickoff.

The event drew a couple hundred guests to Mile High Station, including U.S. Reps. Diana Degette and Ed Perlmutter, former Sen. Ken Salazar, Gov. John Hickenlooper, Denver DA candidate and CU Regent Michael Carrigan and a number of state legislators — in itself enough to raise the Open Meetings Sunshine Law. Perhaps the change to Daylight Saving Time earlier in the day may have had some people a bit dazed and confused, because re-electing a sitting US Senator is certainly public business.

Anybody can be a reporter these days. I noted just from my own social media feeds that there were plenty of photos and accounts of the event. Including everyone mentioned above, photos also included Carrigan’s Denver DA opponent, Rep. Beth McCann, state Sens. Morgan Carrol and Lucia Guzman, House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran and many others. But “the press” had to leave? The press couldn’t take pictures? C’mon people. That’s absurd.

Outside was a small group seeking to get members in my party to develop a stronger spine and “Stand Up Against Climate Change.” Bennet’s vote to override the Keystone XL Pipeline veto is just the latest flashpoint for a Democratic Party with elected officials who too often side with the wrong side of the state Democratic Party Platform. I know. I am a member of that committee.

And while I understand the challenge that Sen. Bennet conveyed to Democrat county chairs last weekend prior to the JJ fundraiser dinner about trying to win reelection in a state roughly equally divided between Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated voters — one can’t play the middle and win. I appreciated his willingness to discuss challenging issues at that meeting.

Suggesting that a couple hundred people gather together at a “public” event and then trying to cloak it in secrecy is just plain silly.

As a former newspaper editor with a Journalism degree from CU Boulder, I was taught that without a totally free press, our country is nothing. And while I know CU has since eliminated the J-School and reinvented it, turning it into a more glitzy offering, the core issue — freedom of the press — is still alive.

When my party is wrong, I will try and right it, and tossing the press out of a public meeting isn’t a good way to start a new campaign.
Dennis Obduskey
Chair, Park County Democratic Party
Co-Chair, Progressive Democrats of Colorado
Bailey, CO

March 17, 20154min233

Dear Editor,

How do you attract 100 Republicans to a Thornton funeral home early on a Saturday morning to hear a political debate between two middle-aged white guys? After all, GOP Chairman candidates Ryan Call and Steve House had already debated in many metro venues and over the airwaves in the last month to articulate the differences in their perspectives.

So, how do you get local party wonks to one more debate? The North Suburban Republican Forum found the answer. Every announcement of the debate carried strong prohibitions against audio and video recordings, despite spirited protests on Facebook from distant citizens eager to hear the proceedings. Many correctly assumed that all the public officials who were invited, and the multiple public bodies that were likely represented, would likely trigger an “open meeting” anyway. Why prohibit recordings? The candidates don’t object to being on the record. But the organizers were adamant. The meeting was to be closed, private, and secret. Was it a great marketing ploy to fill the room with those of us who wanted “inside information,” or an iron-fisted act of control?

Arriving a few minutes late to an overflowing room of Republicans, I pulled out my laptop to take notes and was immediately sternly informed that no “electronic note taking” was allowed. The reporter from The Colorado Statesman apparently failed to get the message as he was typing furiously on his laptop. I kept typing my notes as well, thanking the authority figure for the warning. However, as the directive of “no electronic note taking” was whispered around the room, giggling defiant attendees picked up their cell phones and starting posting the debate quotes from House and Call on Facebook. Now the organizers had a packed house of paying attendees and a long distance audience on Facebook via “electronic note-taking.”

My laptop, pockets, or purse must have looked suspicious because partway through the proceedings, the organizer came to my seat and threatened that if he learned that I was secretly recording the private proceedings, I would be removed from the meeting! That triggered more humorous Facebook postings, attracting even a larger online audience.

After the debate, which predictably offered no revealing or surprising information, I got several calls from other attendees offering me their surreptitiously recorded audio from the meeting, in the event that I had actually obeyed the “no recording” directives. Only then did it occur to me that this “super secret” meeting policy either backfired on the organizers or was a brilliant marketing plan to draw more interest and following than any other debate of the campaign!

In today’s age of ubiquitous electronic recording, any public figure who believes that he or she can maintain a large “no-recordings” secret meeting needs merely to ask Mitt Romney or Governor Hickenlooper how that has worked out in the past. And I won’t be showing up again to a funeral home early on a Saturday morning expecting to learn insider Republican Party secrets!

Marilyn Marks

March 16, 20157min391
POLITICAL PARTIES • American Constitution Party • Colorado Democrats • Colorado Green Party • Colorado Republicans • Libertarian Party of Colorado CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION • Senator Michael Bennet (D) • Senator Cory Gardner (R) • Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D) • Congressman Jared Polis (D) • Congressman Scott […]

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March 13, 20155min358

As Speaker Hullinghorst outlined in her opening address, growing Colorado’s middle class is the top priority of Colorado General Assembly Democrats. Part of our commitment to the middle class means making sure that Colorado’s women, who make up half the state’s workforce, are earning what they deserve so they can do what middle class workers do: provide for their families, send their kids to college and save for the future.

But hundreds of thousands of Colorado women and their families are seeing their economic security weakened as pay inequality grows in Colorado.

We can’t pretend the problem doesn’t exist.

Official statistics released in January by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the pay of Colorado women compared to men in the same jobs has actually fallen by 2 cents, to 78 cents for every dollar made by men. These figures are based on full time employees in comparable positions, which refutes the theory that the pay gap exists because women are working fewer hours or at less strenuous jobs. Women in Colorado are not being paid equally for their hard work, and the Pay Equity Commission is one step toward addressing this issue.

Despite the fact that Colorado is one of the top states in the nation in terms of recovering from the Great Recession, the pay of Colorado women lags behind the 82 cent national average. Black and Latina women are even further from parity, earning 68 and 53 cents, respectively, on the dollar earned by men doing the same work.

So the problem is actually getting worse, and the need to address it has never been clearer.

Pay inequality is a continuing threat to the economic security of Colorado women. It is a continuing threat to their middle-class hopes and dreams, and those of their families.

Yet Senate Republicans voted in January to eliminate the Pay Equity Commission — the only forum in Colorado where businesses, employees and leaders in the community have been coming together to identify the problems of pay inequality and work toward women finally achieving equal pay for equal work. This despite DORA’s recommendation to continue the commission, concluding, “Given that the PEC was provided no resources to conduct its work, its accomplishments are somewhat remarkable.”

Therefore, I introduced HB15-1133 to allow the Colorado Pay Equity Commission to continue to serve the people of our state, and the bill will strengthen it by allowing it to have a paid staffer for the first time. The bill has the support of Gov. John Hickenlooper and women’s rights and civil rights groups across the state, including the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, the Colorado Women’s Bar Association, the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce, 9 to 5 and many more.

Killing the Pay Equity Commission is a step backward for Colorado women. It is important that we have a forum dedicated to strengthening Colorado’s economy by helping women earn equal pay for equal work.

HB15-1133 passed the House this week with bipartisan support. I encourage the senate to take advantage of this second opportunity to stand up for Colorado women. A yes vote is a vote in favor of a stronger Colorado economy for everyone, more economic security for families and a growing middle class.

State Rep. Jessie Danielson represents House District 24 in northern Jefferson County.


March 13, 20156min464

The Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee last month voted to terminate the Colorado Pay Equity Commission, which was established in 2010 but needs an affirmative vote of confidence by the general assembly to avoid statutory “sunset” termination on July 1. Here’s why we think this dysfunctional, unnecessary, do-nothing board should be allowed to disband when its term expires this summer.

Testimony at the Senate hearing revealed a four-year history of ineptitude and failure. The commission failed to meet statutory requirements for annual reports; met many times without a quorum; has made no legislative recommendations and has no web page or serious outreach
effort. Moreover, it consistently showed hostility toward the views of small business representatives on the commission.

So embarrassing were these revelations that two committee Democrats effectively put the commission on probation, by proposing just a two year extension, after which it would come back before the legislature for another performance review. But just a week after that embarrassing hearing, Democrats on the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee tried resuscitating the corpse, by putting forth a bill (HB15-1133) aimed at indefinitely extending the PEC’s life without addressing or correcting any of its failures.

Committee Democrats also proposed giving the commission one new staff person, who would be funded by outside gifts or grants – showing that even they seem reluctant to gamble public funds on this failed experiment. The bill would also empower the governor to appoint all 11 members, without any oversight or participation by Republicans or Democrats in the General Assembly, a change that would make the commission less accountable and more partisan.

Unfortunately, no conceivable corrective action can address the underlying problem, which is that the commission’s existence is based on false assumptions and myths about the “gender pay gap.”

Independent research consistently discredits the so-called “gender pay gap.” The most professional and comprehensive study ever made of the pay differences between men and women in the workforce was conducted under contract with the U.S. Department of Labor in January 2009. The study examined dozens of academic and government studies and applied new statistical tools to identify and measure all the variables involved in wage differentials. The report concludes that:

“There are observable differences in the attributes of men and women that account for most of the wage gap. Statistical analysis that includes those variables has produced results that collectively account for between 65.1 and 76.4 percent of a raw gender wage gap of 20.4 percent, and thereby leave an adjusted gender wage gap that is between 4.8 and 7.1 percent.”

What an individual earns is subject to many variables. Occupation, education, capital development, work experience, number of hours worked, negotiation skills, career interruptions, motherhood, industry, health insurance, retirement and other fringe benefits — are important factors in an employee’s compensation package.

Of course, a wage gap of 4.8% or 7.1% is not as dramatic or scandalous as an alleged 20% gap, so the commission consistently ignored such findings.

Other independent studies confirm that the 20% gap is a myth. In 2012 the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America published a report concluding that sex discrimination plays a very minor role, if any, in those disparities. And the 2011 White House report, “Women in America,” revealed that on average, women work only 89% as many hours weekly as men, as confirmed by U.S. Census Bureau data.

That’s just some of the research rebutting the myth that there are huge gender pay disparities in the U.S. workforce, and that those disparities are mainly due to sex discrimination. Of course, anti-business advocacy groups will continue to cite and publish misleading reports, comparing apples to kumquats, to keep the myth of systemic gender bias alive. But does Colorado really need a permanent commission perpetuating such myths as well?

It was reported recently that during the period Hillary Clinton was in the U.S, Senate, she paid her female staff 72 cents for every dollar paid to her male staff. Does that convict Clinton of gender discrimination? Of course not. Such numbers are meaningless and we ought to stop using them.

Sadly, from its inception back in 2007 as an ad hoc body created by the Ritter administration, the Pay Equity Commission has never been dedicated to nonpartisan research and educational outreach. Instead, it has been devoted to anti-business propaganda.

The Colorado general assembly will do all Coloradans a big favor if it lets the Colorado Pay Equity Commission ride off into the sunset.

Patti Kurgan is a former member of the Pay Equity Commission and CEO of AstroLogistics. Senator Vicki Marble is a small business owner and represents SD 23 in Broomfield, Larimer and Weld Counties.

March 6, 20158min256

Starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie,
DB Wong, Gerald McRaney, Adrian Martinez; directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

With Focus, we get to see the planning, tricks and strategies of the con. It’s like pulling back the curtain, angling the mirrors, or opening the box or cage to show the audience how the trick was accomplished. For some, that can be a let down — one may not want to witness how the sausage is made.

But here’s the real trick: This isn’t the first time we have seen this. All heist, big con movies let you in on the planning and execution. The fun is not only in being deceived and awestruck at the trick, but also in seeing the elaborate lengths that the con artists (and no doubt there’s a good reason to call them artists) go to anticipate every contingency, every counter-move, every technical obstacle and human response to pull off the seemingly impossible.

Even though we have seen it all before, most are still suckers for a good heist film — to watch how they do it, to be fooled by the misdirection, get taken in by the double and triple crosses, and to look for the wires and pulleys that make it all happen all while holding our breath as the clock ticks down or whether the “mark” will put it all together in time to thwart the ridiculously byzantine plot. And to ultimately care about the bad-guys, the villainous thieves as they look suave and elegant striving to achieve that last big score to retire and live along a beach in paradise.

It’s all a game. But ever since The Sting, one thing we know to be risky and foolhardy for the con artist is to develop feelings for a target — to become emotionally invested in the human beings involved in the scam and stop seeing them as inanimate playthings to manipulate and maneuver. Caring is precarious.

[Pulling back the curtain…]

The same goes for critiquing a film. The trick is to provide enough description of the plot, characters and other aspects without giving away the whole film — or at least essential twists and critical points that potential filmgoers would rather not know in advance. There’s also the slight-of-hand in not being too gushy and praiseworthy, or too harsh and cynical, so as to avoid misleading readers or creating false expectations, which could result in losing trust. It also helps not to get too invested in the film to maintain a healthy objective distance. And, the fun can be in pulling back all the obtuse, hifalutin cinematic prose of a review to discern what a critic really thought of the film.

Will Smith and Margot Robbie in Focus.

For instance, when I said that, regarding Focus, “we have seen it all before,” does that mean that this film is a tired retread of countless other heist films? Or does it intimate that there are so many heist films because audiences are suckers for heist films? Have I insulted readers or am I really trying to misdirect you by piquing your curiosity and challenging you to prove me wrong — to catalogue all the ways that Focus is different from all other heist films?

When I brought up The Sting, did that bring back fond memories of a classic film giving you the desire to see Focus to rekindle those warm, enjoyable feelings? Or did it suggest that this film is a pale comparison of that classically iconic con narrative? Or did it have you scratching your head wondering whether that film even stood for the proposition that getting emotionally involved in the people populating the con game is treacherous?

Did this review have you thinking of the Ocean’s Eleven/ franchise (or The Italian Job, Entrapment, To Catch a Thief, The Thomas Crown Affair, etc.) with its opulent locations, filthy rich blowhards being fleeced, and suave actors strutting their stuff? Or did it have you fantasizing about such luxuriously escapist fare? Or did it produce a tired sigh because it uses the standard, lazy cinematic criticism technique of easy, crass comparison?

When I mentioned that the film has the requisite “double and triple crosses,” was that too much of a “tell” giving away too much in that now, if you go see the film, you will be subconsciously (or consciously) looking for betrayals and duplicity among the characters? Or was I trying to suggest that this film possesses the stock elements that make these sorts of films that much more entertaining and surprising?

And since I mentioned the “last big score,” did that have you instantly knowing how everything is likely to proceed? Or did this strengthen your desire to see, yet again, how a group of grifters can get away with big-time graft? Or did you picture the lead actors (Will Smith and Margot Robbie) bickering and fooling everyone until the very last minute about their true intentions with each other and their gang of cohorts — especially as there are huge sums of cash involved?

Or did this review even provide enough insight and observation to help in deciding to see this film? Maybe it does and you just don’t realize it. Surprise! That’s the trick!

Doug Young is the longtime film critic for The Colorado Statesman, and his focus is on keeping you guessing, or is it?

March 6, 20159min361
Ten Years Ago this week in The Colorado Statesman … Senate Minority Leader Mark Hillman opined that “loudmouth” CU Boulder professor Ward Churchill ought to lose his taxpayer-funded pulpit. Hillman mocked that the “lanky white kid of distinctly European ancestry” had transformed himself into a “longhaired Indian wannabe” in his quest to line his pocket […]

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