Nov 4, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 149

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.


Topics: The Spring Valley High School video and multiple intersections of rights violations (race, gender, age); Colorado’s proposed single-payer health care system; Guatemala update. People: Bill, Kelley, Maria. Produced: November 1st, 2015.

Episode 149 (49 min):
AFD 149

Discussion Points:

– How can we better protect young Black girls – along with all young people – from institutional violence and abuse?
– Could Colorado kick off a cascade of state action on single-payer health system experiments?
– A quick update on Guatemala’s recent election

Related Links

Vibe: “Everything You Should Know About The Spring Valley High School Assault”
AFD: “Protecting children and students by empowering them”
Previously, De Ana’s essay on the McKinney TX incident and misogynoir
AFD: “Could single-payer be coming to Colorado?”
– Other links Kelley cited: Vermont, Pennsylvania, New York
AFD: “The total vacuousness of Guatemala’s election”


RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video game blog of our announcer, Justin.

Could single-payer be coming to Colorado?


Pending verification of signatures, this proposal will be on the Colorado ballot in November 2016!

“Colorado Pushes for Universal Health Care That’s Governed by the People” – Yes Magazine:

ColoradoCare proposes a single-payer model that covers every Colorado resident. A tax on income and employers would replace insurance premiums, but the revenue wouldn’t be subject to the whims of legislators; instead, it would go directly to a fund overseen by trustees whom the recipients choose. In this respect, it would be a cooperative-like system accountable to everyone in the state, independent from the rest of the government and enshrined in the constitution.

State Sen. Irene Aguilar (MD) explains the genesis of the proposal:

“In 2007, Colorado had something called the 208 Blue Ribbon Commission for Healthcare Reform. The four plans it considered included a single-payer health care plan, and the commissioners created subgroups to consider how the plans would impact certain populations. Since my daughter was disabled, I applied to be on the vulnerable populations task force. We learned that if we adopted the single-payer plan we could have everyone covered and decrease spending by $1.6 billion a year.”

They didn’t pick it and — after various twists and turns — she ended up running for office to find a way to pass it. Now it’s a ballot initiative effort.

More mechanics and projections of the program:

“You collect the funds through a premium tax—a 6.6 percent employer tax across the board and a 3.3 percent individual tax. If you’re self-employed, it’s the whole 10 percent, but because it’s tax deductible it ends up being less than that. The funds are collected through our taxes, but they’re transferred into a separate authority that is run by its own elected board of directors.”
“We had a fiscal analysis done by Gerald Friedman, an economist at UMass, Amherst. He anticipated that with the Affordable Care Act, health care would be about 19.4 percent of the gross state product, and if we were to switch to this model, it would be closer to 15 percent. By Obamacare standards, the level of care would be the very top—Platinum Plus—covering 90 percent of your total health costs. We added in no copay for primary care and low copayments that the primary-care provider can waive if necessary to prevent longer-term costs. We also had it priced for everyone in state, regardless of documentation status, under the knowledge that we would not be turning people away for emergency care, so it made more sense to have up-front preventative care available for all the people who lived in the state. Vermont’s single-payer policy imploded because it was way too expensive for them. It’s a small state. But we have the numbers.”


In retrospect, Ken Buck (and Cory Gardner) held the key to it all

Back in February, I wrote a lengthy post seriously questioning an article in The Atlantic that suggested Colorado was the harbinger of the year to come for Democrats, as failed and notably abrasive 2010 Republican nominee Ken Buck agreed to drop out of the Senate race there in favor of Congressman Cory Gardner, the more moderate and affable establishment pick. That article basically asserted that this proved that Republicans had gotten their act together on the Senate side after major flubs cost them Senate control in 2010 and 2012.

Tonight, Ken Buck is a Congressman-elect in Gardner’s old seat (the only part I predicted correctly) and Cory Gardner is a Senator-elect, having defeated Sen. Udall in a race that I wasn’t even seriously putting on the map until this summer. It looks like Republicans will end up winning more than they need (possibly quite a bit more — it’s been a bad night) to capture the Senate, but they’ve definitely crossed the line at this point. And Gardner was a major factor in that, both dismantling what could have been an easy hold for Democrats with somebody like Buck running again and ensuring that Republicans had extra paths to victory while Democrats had extra states to defend. Gardner becoming the clear favorite in the last month basically made it obvious that Democrats were going to lose at least seven seats for sure (the fallback magic number to flip control even if Republicans choked in Kansas), almost certainly one or two more, and quite possibly more beyond that. In the end, when all is said and done (after Alaska comes in and after Louisiana’s runoff, if they don’t beat expectations at this point), Democrats are about to have lost 9 Senate seats and won none.

Even with recruits like Scott Brown proving to be duds (New Hampshire) or “offbeat” Joni Ernst beating expectations (Iowa), getting people like Ken Buck to step aside in Colorado and nominating non-fringe candidates via primary in places like North Carolina are a big reason why Republicans had a pretty easy time winning the Senate tonight. And they also very nearly won a surprise bonus seat in Virginia by nominating Ed Gillespie, a moderate Beltway Republican with extensive fundraising capabilities, to challenge Sen. Mark Warner even when it looked for much of the year like Warner might be re-elected by double digits (and not the 0.5% margin he’s currently on track to win). That’s definitely not what I was expecting in February when I wrote (in the same post) “…Virginia Republicans getting behind Ed Gillespie won’t prove much of anything since the Democrats will still win handily there.”

Which is not to say any of these winners are genuinely moderate. But they certainly talk the talk convincingly enough to not giftwrap unforced errors to embattled Democrats all over the place for a third cycle in a row.

This was always a tough year for Senate Dems with a very strong GOP advantage built in from early on in 2014, but it was not clear it would be a lock as things developed. In the end, though, Ken Buck and Cory Gardner making a smooth switcheroo in Colorado back in February was one of the major tipping points after all for Senate control. I sure didn’t see that coming. Maybe in 2015 I’ll stick to picking out minor global news stories before they become huge headlines, because I did pretty well on that front this year.


Fun fact: Colo. constitution puts nuke tests to a vote

In theory, nuclear weapons cannot be tested in the state of Colorado without an affirmative vote by the public in a referendum, according to Article 26 of the State Constitution:

ARTICLE XXVI Nuclear Detonations

Section 1. Nuclear detonations prohibited – exceptions. No nuclear explosive device may be detonated or placed in the ground for the purpose of detonation in this state except in accordance with this article.

Section 2. Election required. Before the emplacement of any nuclear explosive device in the ground in this state, the detonation of that device shall first have been approved by the voters through enactment of an initiated or referred measure authorizing that detonation, such measure having been ordered, proposed, submitted to the voters, and approved as provided in section 1 of article V of this constitution.

Section 3. Certification of indemnification required. Before the detonation or emplacement for the purpose of detonation of any nuclear explosive device, a competent state official or agency designated by the governor shall first have certified that sufficient and secure financial resources exist in the form of applicable insurance, self-insurance, indemnity bonds, indemnification agreements, or otherwise, without utilizing state funds, to compensate in full all parties that might foreseeably suffer damage to person or property from ground motion, ionizing radiation, other pollution, or other hazard attributable to such detonation. Damage is attributable to such detonation without regard to negligence and without regard to any concurrent or intervening cause.

Section 4. Article self-executing. This article shall be in all respects self-executing; but, the general assembly may by law provide for its more effective enforcement and may by law also impose additional restrictions or conditions upon the emplacement or detonation of any nuclear explosive device.

Section 5. Severability. If any provision of this article, or its application in any particular case, is held invalid, the remainder of the article and its application in all other cases shall remain unimpaired.

Anti-test sentiment has run high in Nevada and the nearby Mountain West states in the fallout air path (e.g. Utah and Colorado), ever since the heavy testing in the 1950s in the desert outside Las Vegas.

As an example: In September 2008, Utah’s lone Democratic member of Congress, Rep. Jim Matheson, boldly declared out of nowhere — given ongoing (admittedly voluntary) ban on all U.S. testing since 1992, not to mention the growth of metropolitan Las Vegas over 50 years — that he had “become very concerned about recent Congressional actions that may lead to the resumption of nuclear weapons testing at the Nevada Test Site.” He was convinced, at least for campaign purposes, that test resumption in Nevada was imminent and that his re-election was necessary to stop it from spreading radiation across Utah.

So back to Colorado. Would the State Constitutional ban on in-state nuclear testing actually hold up if it came to it (not that there’s a whole lot of likelihood of such a test being conducted, let alone in Utah)? I suspect not. A nuclear test would fall under the purview of the United States military and the commander-in-chief. The U.S. Constitution puts military decisions squarely in the hands of the Federal executive branch apart from official Declarations of War. And it probably violates the so-called “Supremacy Clause”:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any state to the Contrary notwithstanding.

Which is interesting because it makes another potential spot in the Colorado State Constitution that is unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution.

Still, as Mountain West Supremacy Clause crises go, this is no Bundy Ranch standoff. Plus, one imagines it would be so unpopular for the Feds to override the state’s ban without a referendum that they would simply choose another test location rather than have a court showdown over the Supremacy Clause.

Above: 1953 Operation Upshot-Knothole, Grable Test – Nevada Test Site.

Tom Tancredo is baaaaaaack, y’all

flag-of-coloradoThe New York Times has published a comprehensive State-of-The-Race report on former 5-term Congressman and 2008 presidential also-ran Tom Tancredo’s latest explosive bid for office, this time as a Republican candidate for Governor of Colorado, ahead of the primary tomorrow. [Update: Tancredo finished second.]

Tancredo last campaigned as the American Constitution Party nominee for the same office four years ago. The ACP is notable mostly as an openly theocratic, right-wing party, with close ties to George Wallace’s segregationist movement.

So far, this latest race can (as is always true with him) best be summarized as Tommy T on the mic dropping racist hot 16s once a minute. But don’t call him racist because he’ll sue your “ass from here to Omaha” (an actual quote from him in the article). [Side note: Can public figures sue average people for making assertions about them?]

Let’s wind back to his amazingly insightful, I mean wildly racist, 2006 comment about one of our country’s fine metropolises of lesser Anglo-ness.

“Look at what has happened to Miami. It has become a Third World country. You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You would never know you’re in the United States of America. You would certainly say you’re in a Third World country…”

So as you can see, he’s not a racist. He just never says anything but racist stuff and has only racist policies.

Fifteen years after he built a national reputation as an inflammatory foe of illegal immigration, Tom Tancredo, 68, is still campaigning, without apology, as Tom Tancredo. […] He says President Obama should be impeached, but notes that “you can’t criticize him because he’s black and if you do, you’re a racist.”

As with the 2010 cycle, Republicans are split very hard in the state right now between “We need more conservative candidates” and “Our candidates are unelectable loons.”

And Tommy T is King of Loon Lake. As the oft-embattled and semi-immortal former state Republican Party chair Dick Wadhams said of Tancredo to the Times: “He has said so many inflammatory things — the list is unbelievable.”

But in a hilarious turn of events, an organization literally calling itself “Republicans Who Want to Win” has been running ads saying that primary voters shouldn’t choose Tancredo because he’s unelectable. Whom should the voters choose instead to be more electable?

The Colorado-based group is supporting Bob Beauprez, a former congressman who lost his 2006 bid for governor by double digits.


In the GOP primary polling earlier this year and late last year, Tancredo was the top candidate but Bob Beauprez was giving him a run for his money. So we’ll see how this turns out tomorrow night. I’m hoping for a Tancredo nominee. He’s got virtually no chance of beating the reasonably popular and inoffensive Democratic incumbent governor, but he could blow up the chances of a lot of other Republicans on the ballot, for Senate especially, as well as for Congress. (Or at least add to the problems, if the nearly as horrid Ken Buck also ends up on the ballot for the U.S. House after dropping his 2014 Senate bid and losing a 2010 Senate bid spectacularly.)

And if Tancredo doesn’t win the primary? Something something we the people.

Ending solitary confinement

The previous Colorado chief of Corrections was shot and killed in his own home by a former inmate who had spent years confined in solitary confinement (a punishment which is pretty well known at this point to make most people very mentally unstable), after the latter man was released from prison straight out of solitary when his sentence ended.

The victim, ironically, had expressed concern about the state’s excessive use of such treatment (and in particular the habit of releasing people directly without transition like that) and had cut the number of solitary inmates in half before his death.

To me it has long seemed that solitary confinement is probably one of the most heinous practices in the American prison system, and one that should probably be banned at least for general use under the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment.” It must be particularly traumatic and damaging for inmates who are serving less than a life sentence and are eventually supposed to be released back into ordinary society.

The new executive director of Corrections, Rick Raemisch, is so opposed to the practice that he is using the job to campaign against it. As he said, “Everything you know about treating human beings, that’s not the way to do it.”

Raemisch even spent 20 hours in solitary himself in January to protest the practice. It’s part of his broader agenda to shake up the state’s correctional system so it might actually rehabilitate people rather than worsening the problem.

All of it calls to mind a biting satirical article from The Onion not long ago, headlined: “15 Years In Environment Of Constant Fear Somehow Fails To Rehabilitate Prisoner.”

Are state tax caps unconstitutional?

flag-of-coloradoIn a push-back against the tyranny of conservative tax caps that prevent some state and local tax increases except by referendum, activists and some legislators in Colorado are trying to persuade the courts to hear a case that says these restrictions are Federally unconstitutional.

Why? Because of the U.S. Constitution’s slightly vague requirement that state governments be “republican” in nature (i.e. ruled by representatives instead of the people directly) and that the Federal government must ensure compliance:

Article 4. Section 4. The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government…

This clause has generally only come up as a formality when Congress has to admit a new state to the union. In the past, the Federal courts have refused to hear cases on this issue of what is or isn’t a “republican” form of government in the states, since most of the disputes are openly political fights between rival state camps rather than legitimate constitutional cases.

But they seem to have taken an interest over the extreme case where Colorado legislators have been legally powerless to raise any taxes whatsoever without the consent of a popular referendum, for over two decades.

Unlike California where many — but not all — taxes end up going to ballot, or other states where legislators can only raise taxes by a certain fixed percentage every year without a ballot question, Colorado’s constitution completely removes that power from its legislature — and even the local governments — and hands it over to the voters.

…no unit of government, from the legislature to local boards, can raise taxes or approve a new tax without a vote of the people. In addition, if existing taxes bring in revenue greater than “inflation plus the percentage change in state population” for the year previous, that “surplus” must be refunded to the taxpayers. In short, TABOR froze state government in its existing shape as of 1992, and left the legislature to flounder helplessly.

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