When it comes to health disparities, it’s a tale of the teeth: Families of color and low-income kids and families are less likely to have access to dental care. This can lead to a lifetime of problems, including serious illness. Diabetes, heart disease and stroke are all associated with poor oral health.
The spirit of two Colorado mountaineers is a little closer to living on in the form of mountains, with this week’s House passage of H.R. 2768.
CD3 U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton and U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner are working to pass a bill through Congress that would name two peaks on the border of San Miguel and Dolores Counties after Charlie Fowler and Christine Boskoff. Both died in 2006 during an avalanche on Genyen Peak in Tibet.
“Charlie Fowler and Christine Boskoff were celebrated mountaineers, but they were also known for their tireless advocacy for human rights, dedication to philanthropy, and stewardship of the environment,” Tipton said in a statement. “Through the designation of these peaks, their legacy and life’s work will live on for generations to come.”
The two peaks, located in Uncompahgre National Forest, are just more than 13,000 feet and will be called “Fowler Peak” and “Boskoff Peak,” respectively.
The duo were longtime residents of San Miguel County, according to the bill. But they loved mountaineering and traveled the world for it. Each had summited the world’s tallest mountains, including Everest, Cho Oyu and Shishapangma.
Fowler was an author, guide and filmmaker, according to the bill. Boskoff was one of the country’s top female alpinists.
Both were also known as advocates. They supported rights of porters and Sherpas, women’s education, gender equality and global literacy.
“The two are remembered not only as internationally acclaimed climbers, but also as mentors to school students and troubled youth,” said San Miguel County Commissioner Joan May in a statement in May. “Naming these peaks for them would serve as a perpetual reminder of the couple’s contributions to climbing, youth, and protecting the outdoors.”
With the passage of the bill, all documents, maps and records will refer to the two peaks by their new names.
Remember the federally funded, and forever foundering, EAGLE-Net Alliance? That was the epic project, launched in 2010, that was supposed to bridge Colorado’s rural “digital divide” using some $100 million in seed money from the Obama administration’s economic “stimulus package.”
The premise was to bring high-speed internet to remote communities in the high country and on the Eastern Plains — while also of course creating jobs in the wake of the Great Recession. Maybe it was that mixed mission that doomed it from the start — kind of like the dessert topping that’s also a floor wax — and the state-and-federal government venture eventually crashed and burned. It was dogged all along by allegations of financial mismanagement; duplicating the service of private providers, and bypassing communities that actually could have used its help. Ultimately, its federal funding stream was halted. The entity was dissolved last June.
Now, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner is calling for transparency and accountability in the disposition of the former EAGLE-Net’s assets. That presumably includes the fiber-optic line and other infrastructure from the incomplete network EAGLE-Net was supposed to build.
In a press release today, Gardner’s office touts a letter from the Yuma Republican to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross “requesting that any transfer of EAGLE-Net Alliance’s former assets be delayed until a National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Administrator is confirmed.” The letter reads in part:
As NTIA considers how it will proceed with reallocating EAGLE-Net’s assets, the process should remain public and transparent. Since receiving its award of more than $100 million of taxpayer money in 2010, EAGLE-Net was plagued with issues surrounding transparency and appropriate use of those funds. NTIA has an opportunity to end that concerning history and to ensure the public has a full accounting of next steps for those taxpayer-funded assets. I look forward to such an open process once a new NTIA Administrator has taken office.
Gardner, who hails from just the kind of rural farm community that was supposed to benefit from EAGLE-Net’s efforts, was an early critic of the project while still in the U.S. House. For years, he called for greater scrutiny of its operations.
His letter was welcomed by private providers of rural broadband. They long had criticized EAGLE-Net for cherry-picking their markets and for laying cable alongside their own telecommunications lines, in which they had invested millions of dollars. Their trade group, the Colorado Telecommunications Association, issued a statement from Executive Vice President Pete Kirchhof:
“Colorado’s rural broadband providers thank Senator Gardner for his continued work to bring accountability to the now defunct EAGLE-Net Alliance. … Since its inception, our members have voiced their concerns about the lack of transparency and oversight at the quasi-governmental EAGLE-Net. This entity, which was funded with taxpayer stimulus money, spent nearly $100 million to build a broadband network to connect rural communities across our state. In several instances, they installed broadband where it wasn’t needed and ignored areas of Colorado that could have used its support. Now, with EAGLE-Net out of business, we need to find out who controls this taxpayer-funded network and how rural communities may be able to access it to improve their broadband. Hopefully, Senator Gardner’s efforts will help answer those questions.”
News values are used by reporters and editors to determine which events to cover and how much prominence to give them. They include things like impact, timeliness, proximity and the element of surprise. But in politics, there’s one news value that dominates: Conflict.
On Sept. 13, President Trump met with the minority leaders of their respective houses, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, over a meal of Chinese food. Reportedly, they agreed to a deal on DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which included more border security without building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. Though there were immediate disputes as to what was agreed to, the session offered some hope for a resolution to an immigration problem that has dogged the federal government for at least half a decade. More than 800,000 individuals are affected by a program started in the Obama administration in 2013 to protect mostly young illegal immigrants. DACA took form as it became clear that broader immigration reform was not possible.
Republican junior U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, that’s who. In fact, the first-termer from Yuma is the 12th-most-effective Republican in the entire Senate.
That’s according to the Center for Effective Lawmaking — and, no, that’s not some GOP front that gins up rave reviews for swing-state party members with an eye toward the next election. Indeed, 2nd Congressional District Democratic U.S. Rep. (and gubernatorial contender) Jared Polis of Boulder does almost as well by the center’s standards.
The center, co-directed by Craig Volden, professor of public policy and politics and associate dean for academic affairs at Batten, and Alan Wiseman, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt, utilizes a data-driven approach to study the causes and consequences of each Congress member’s ability to advance agenda items through the legislative process and into law.
In other words, it looks at how good a given lawmaker is at getting his or her bills through the twists and turns of the entrenched system on Capitol Hill. Without regard to party or political views, it uses a complex formula you’d expect of guys with Volden and Wiseman’s credentials (no doubt backed by a team of researchers). They employ, among other devices, mathematical symbols we ordinary folk vaguely associate with calculus though they could be ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics for all we know. Heavy stuff.
The rankings, by the way, are for the latest Congress for which a full set of stats is available, i.e., the one that concluded last year.
So, how does the rest of Colorado’s D.C. delegation stack up? Check it out:
The most meaningful numbers for most of us are in the column on the right — each lawmaker’s ranking relative to the rest of the members of his/her party in that chamber. Gardner is 12th out of the 54 Republican senators seated in the 114th Congress. Polis ranks 47th out of the 193 Democrats in the House at that time. Arithmetically, that puts Gardner in a slightly higher percentile than Polis.
Without delving too deeply into the numbers crunching by the researchers, it’s worth looking at the data in the middle column. That’s where the analysis assigns lawmakers a raw score for their “legislative effectiveness.” If the number in that column is between a half and one and a half the number in the next column over — that’s the “benchmark” for where members of the same party with similar tenure and duties are expected to be — then that member is deemed by the analysis to meet expectations. If the number is more than one and a half of the benchmark, the member is said to be above expectations. And if the number is less than half of the benchmark, the member falls below expectations.
OK, so we did delve a bit deeply into the numbers crunching, but the upshot is only two members of Colorado’s delegation — Gardner and Polis — are above expectations. Four meet expectations, and three — Democratic senior U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet as well as 5th Congressional District Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, of Colorado Springs, and 1st Congressional District Democratic U.S. Rep. Dianna DeGette, of Denver, are below expectations. Well below, it seems.
The analysis is neutral to ideology and party, and it offsets whether a lawmaker’s party is in the majority or minority because it assesses their work only against that of their fellow party members. So it moots the advantage typically enjoyed by majority party members in getting their work through the legislative pipeline.
Yet, there’s another kind of skew — one sure to be perceived on the political right — that the analysis can’t offset: a bias in favor of lawmakers who, well, make more laws. By definition, that’s how a senator or representative scores well by the reckoning of the Center for Effective Lawmaking. Which is why some on the right may be tempted to dismiss the ratings outright. After all, any conservative Mr./Ms. Smith who goes to Washington with the aim of drawing the line at government’s growth is more likely to vote no than to ask his/her peers to vote yes. By that measure, the less “effective” a lawmaker on the Center’s scale, the more commendably conservative the lawmaker is by the lights of some on the political right.
Could that conceivably make Cory Gardner a lib … a liber … naw, we can’t even say it. But might it at least suggest he’s not quite the unyielding conservative some might make him out to be?
And, by some stretch of alternative reasoning, could the unrelentingly liberal DeGette’s low effectiveness rating maker her — a conservative?
…So, now, the prominent Denver attorney and former Colorado solicitor general just has to win confirmation from the U.S. Senate. Republican junior U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner will have his back. Here’s Gardner’s statement, issued the same day as the White House announcement nominating Domenico for a slot on the U.S. District Court in Denver:
“Dan Domenico is an excellent choice to serve on Colorado’s U.S. District Court,”said Gardner. “Dan’s dedication to the rule of law and time as Colorado’s Solicitor General make him an extremely qualified candidate that will make Colorado proud. I look forward to supporting Dan throughout his confirmation process.”
And here’s more on Domenico from the White House announcement itself:
Dan Domenico currently serves as managing partner of Kittredge LLC. From 2006 to 2015, Mr. Domenico served as the Solicitor General of Colorado, where he oversaw major litigation for the State and represented governors from both political parties. During his time as Solicitor General, he argued in State and Federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court, and received the Supreme Court Best Brief Award from the National Association of Attorneys General. At the time of his appointment, he was the youngest state solicitor general in the country, and his nine years of service made him the longest serving solicitor general in Colorado history. He has also served as an adjunct professor of natural resources and advanced constitutional law at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law. Earlier in his career, Mr. Domenico was a law clerk to Judge Timothy M. Tymkovich of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and an associate at Hogan & Hartson LLP. A native of Boulder, he earned his B.A., magna cum laude, from Georgetown University and his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, where he was inducted into the Order of the Coif and served as an editor of the Virginia Law Review.
Now that Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner has been wielding the mic and fielding bruising questions from a roving rabble of activists at town hall-style meetings around the state, it seems the months-long drumbeat for him to meet with the masses is dying down. Enough so for him to take some time for a kind of constituent outreach that takes him back to his rural roots.
Gardner’s office announced Monday he had just wrapped up “day one of his annual Colorado Farm Tour” on Colorado’s eastern plains. The weeklong event will take him to farms, ranches and rural towns to help him determine — as he puts it in Monday’s press release — how “to best serve our farmers, ranchers, and small businesses involved in agriculture.”
The press statement sketched out the first day’s whirlwind itinerary:
Gardner started off the day in Kit Carson County at Eastern Colorado Seeds in Burlington. He then went to Cheyenne County to meet with some local farm bureau members before stopping at Nan’s in Cheyenne Wells for a lunch meeting with county officials and additional farmers from the community. Gardner’s next stop of the day was in Kiowa County at a Milo farm a few miles outside of Eads. Also included in the day was a separate stop away from the farm tour. Gardner visited Camp Amache, a Japanese Internment Camp that was near Granada during WWII and met with local high school students, as well as Granada city and Prowers County officials.
Arguably, as tiring as a town hall. What has he learned from the people he is meeting? He’s quoted in the statement:
“Two of the issues that seem to come up at every stop are government regulations and trade … I will continue to support efforts to eliminate burdensome and duplicative government regulations that hamper Colorado’s agriculture community, and I’m going to keep pushing back on the Administration regarding any changes in trade policies that limit Colorado farmers access to new export markets across the world.”
As we’ve noted before, Gardner has sought to temper the Trump administration’s populist penchant for protectionism. After all, free trade not only is an article of faith in the GOP; it’s also good for business down on the farm.
Overheard in line at a Denver supermarket: “Yeah, I’m seeing them all the time on the TV news — the ladies dressed like Little Red Riding Hood.”
They are indeed becoming a staple of Colorado news coverage — on TV, in print, online — though, of course, they’re not going for Little Red Riding Hood. They are depicting characters from the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which later was made into a movie, an opera and most recently, a critically acclaimed TV series on Hulu. One part futuristic dystopian drama, one part cautionary tale, the story involves a male-dominated theocracy that has overthrown the government and subjugated women.
And now, it has become the visual meme of the moment in American politics, as well, with women in the requisite red robes turning up at assorted events across Middle America to register their solemn, silent protest. It was only a matter of time, really, given what liberal critics of the Trump administration and the GOP Congress see as eery similarities between the Atwood storyline and the Republican right’s reputed war on women.
Which is why they were on hand in Colorado Springs last week to greet Vice President Mike Pence when he stopped by to visit the Springs-based, influential conservative ministry, Focus on the Family. And this week, the handmaids were back in Colorado’s second city protesting the pending GOP rewrite of Obamacare outside the Colorado Springs office of Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. Now that’s a gimmick with staying power.
It’s a maxim of politics: If a message seems to work, use it early and often.
But where did it all start? We rummaged around the Web and found a recent Boston Globe story that shed some light; it turns out the phenomenon’s origin was a promotional event rather than a political one:
“Please tell me they’re going to walk around inside the Capitol,” Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, joked on her Facebook page, where she posted a photo of the handmaids Hulu recruited for its guerrilla marketing effort. “It would be such a missed opportunity if they don’t. Related: Who wants to make a bunch of handmaid costumes for use this session?”
Thus, a movement was born.
The Globe recounts the movement’s first steps:
At first, the Texas activists rented costumes. Then, they began stitching — as others had months earlier, crafting pink “pussy hats” for the Women’s March on Washington. (Emily) Morgan — the executive director of Action Together New Hampshire, a political group that was formed after the November election — began networking with chapters from other states. Recently, she created a private Facebook page, called the Handmaid Coalition, to share patterns for stitching and strategies for protest with women across the country.
… In most states, women are using the costumes to protest individual bills on reproductive rights — creating a funhouse mirror image of what women’s lives might look like if their rights were stripped away.
If art imitates life, politics sometimes imitates art. Over and over again, as needed.