Archive for April, 2009

Randal on Cal

Posted by on Apr 29 2009 | Government Largess, Transportation

You’ve read my take on Cal Marsella leaving RTD for the private sector, now read Director of the Center for the American Dream Randal O’Toole’s take on the situation.


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Wednesday Wrap-Up

Posted by on Apr 29 2009 | Capitol Crazies, Government Largess, Health Care, PPC, Transparency

What the heck’s been going on here at the Independence Institute you ask? Well, I’m here to tell you.

    ***Speaking of podcasts, Amy Oliver and I sat down to discuss one of those bad ideas that just won’t die. Of course I’m speaking of House Bill 1299, “national popular vote.” Otherwise known as, making Colorado irrelevant in national elections for the end of time.
    ***I am growing convinced my 4-year-old son is the reincarnation of John Belushi from Animal House. I am particularly thinking about the food-fight scene. I’m not saying I am a bad parent. I am just saying my wife keeps social services on speed dial. I am also convinced that Chuck E. Cheese is the kiddie version of Vegas.
    ***While I’m disclosing personal details, I’d like to share this great YouTube video I’ve been obsessing over recently. It features the greatest bass player to ever live killing a sick bass solo (Ox cam included)!
    ***COST informed me that special district transparency passed out of House appropriations, 12-1. The lone no vote? Don Marostica… surprise surprise. We are inching ever closer to much needed special district transparency.

That’s it for now. Check back next week for a new list of things I deem cool, or if you prefer, sweet.


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Cal Marsella leaves RTD and the Fastracks Fiasco

Posted by on Apr 28 2009 | Government Largess, Transportation, Uncategorized

By leaving RTD, Cal Marsella now becomes the deadbeat-dad of the bastard child called Fastracks.

I hired Cal Marsella to his post at RTD, and NOW he leaves AFTER he creates the Fastracks fiasco?  Now that’s timing.  Apparently the third of a million dollars salary at RTD wasn’t enough to make ends meet.  Who could blame him?

Two thoughts come to mind after hearing that Cal was leaving RTD.  The first one is that he saved competitive contracting at RTD.  And for that he should be heartily commended.  Cal was my choice for GM while I was on the RTD Board back in 1995.  In fact, I am rather proud of my political skills needed to get the board who didn’t want him, to eventually hire him.  The staff at that time had almost destroyed the practice of contracting with private firms for fixed-route bus service.  The mandate that 20% of RTD bus service be contracted came down from the state legislature (thanks to then state rep Bill Owens, Senator Terry Considine, and Governor Roy Romer who signed it).  RTD fought it every inch of the way, to the point that they would compare the in-house service costs without including the cost of the actual buses, compared to the private firms’ cost including their cost to buy buses. (Amazingly the contracted private costs were still lower!)  Cal set the policy straight and, lo and behold, we found that the contract bus service was 40% cheaper than the in-house service.  RTD now contracts roughly 50% of its fixed-route bus service, better serving taxpayers and riders.

But that’s not why I am sorry to see Cal move on and finally make a living wage in the private sector.  It was Cal more than any other individual who is responsible for selling a naive public on the corporate-welfare scam that is the Fastracks project.  And it is Cal Marsella who should stay at RTD and oversee the financial devastation to which he gave birth.

As amazing as it is to me, not everyone follows the dysfunction that is the Regional Transportation District.  So many forget that in 1997 Cal engineered the first go-around to raise RTD taxes 67%.  Back then it was called “Guide the Ride.”  It was my first real anti-tax campaign, and we taxpayers won.  Not discouraged, Cal put the same basic plan back on the ballot in 2004, but this time with five times the campaign budget and a Kumbaya choir of mayors and newspapers.  The Independence Institute did what we always do – stand up for those who don’t have special interest money to do their talking.  Our own Randal O’Toole said in his study of Fastracks in 2004 that it was going to be over budget and under revenue.  But Cal convinced voters otherwise.  And now instead of staying and dealing with the consequences of lying to the public, he cuts and runs.

His successor will have the luxury of saying, “you can’t hold me responsible, I wasn’t in charge when it happened.”  This is just what Cal Marsella says when asked about the RTD tax election back in the 1970′s when we were promised over a hundred miles of fixed guide-way transit that never materialized.

Meet the new boss.  Same as the old boss.

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Introducing… Independence Investigates

Posted by on Apr 24 2009 | Government Largess,, Media

“But you’re a think tank! What do you need an investigative journalist for?” I seem to hear that question a lot, but the answer is simple: if not Independence, then who? Investigative journalism is falling by the wayside with the collapse of newspapers and other newsmedia. Unfortunately, this giant investigative hole leaves government with a lot less accountability, and a lot less people snooping around, digging, and asking tough questions. This is where our investigative journalist Todd Shepherd and Independence Investigates steps in. You may remember Todd from his days as Newsradio 850 KOA’s morning reporter. Now he’s with us digging for government waste and malfeasance. And believe me, there’s a lot to be had out there. You can hear all about Todd’s role in keeping government in check in this podcast. We recently sat down and discussed a few of his stories and the overall importance of investigative journalism.

For example, did you know that the Department of Homeland Security lost two forklifts, along with $7.1 million worth of stuff? TWO forklifts!  I’m not kidding.  And what about those “green” solar panels toured by President Obama at the Denver Museaum? How did the museum buy them, and just how efficient are they?  You will be surprised.

Head on over to Independence Investigates and check out the stories Todd has uncovered.  Some of that stuff is really unbelievable.

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Friday’s Funny

Posted by on Apr 24 2009 | Friday's Funny, Government Largess

This great ‘toon is a visual representation of my earlier blog post on Republican atonement:

© 2008, Benjamin Hummel. To see more cartoons like this go to

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Wednesday Wrap-Up

Posted by on Apr 22 2009 | Government Largess, Health Care, PPC

Until yesterday’s epic blog post on Republican atonement, I had been fairly quiet here on the Cauldron, and for that, I apologize.  But you’ve got to understand.  My life is a whirlwind of paparazzi, adoring fans, autograph sessions, and women sitting in the trees around my house “trying to get a good look.”  After the enormously successful Tea Party last Wednesday, I feel like things are starting to finally settle down, and with that will come more of my witty musings here on the Cauldron.  To kick all of this off, I’ve decided to create a weekly wrap-up post on things I deem important.  Expect everything from Supreme Court rulings to discussion of the ridiculous ending of the latest episode of 24. (that Jack Bauer is quite the problem solver isn’t he?)

Anyway, without further adieu, here are some great things we’ve been doing at Independence recently:

    ***By now I’m sure you’ve heard about “National Popular Vote,” aka House Bill 1299. If you believe Colorado should remain relevant in elections, you ought to think twice about 1299, and read Amy Oliver’s latest op-ed, aptly titled If National Popular Vote Wins, We Lose. (Side note: Check out our cartoonist Ben Hummel’s take on 1299 here.
    ***Vince Carroll’s op-ed in yesterday’s Denver Post discussed the enormous salaries those in the upper echelons of higher ed receive. Which is fine when times are great and everyone’s riding the gravy train, but what about during the tough times… like now for instance? Vince cited our own Jessica Corry to support his arguments, as Jessica’s done quite a bit of research on the subject – including this response to CU’s Bruce Benson.
    ***Senior fellow in Human Rights, Habtamu Dugo, was recently honored with this great article on his work with translating Google and its search capabilities into his native language – Afaan Oromoo. Now other Ethiopians can enjoy the fruits of Google. Great job Habtamu!
    ***The absurdly titled “Health Care Affordability Act” (think: card check’s ridiculous title “Employee Free Choice Act”) has been signed into law by Governor Ritter. This secret sick tax was fought by Health Care Policy Center director Linda Gorman on all fronts. Even going as far as writing a scathing, fact filled comment on this ridiculous Denver Post op-ed in favor of the secret sick tax. Scroll down to the comments, you’ll see Linda’s immaculate retort.
    ***The legislature has been discussing sentencing reform, but Governor Ritter is unwilling to do anything about it until he “gets more information.” Well, that’s good to hear, because Justice Policy Center director Mike Krause is a walking encyclopedia of sentencing reform information. Read his stance on sentencing reform here in this op-ed.
    ***Finally, in addition to washing my car, massaging my feet, and getting my lunch, interns do some interesting stuff every now and again. Take this for example. The Fiscal Policy Center’s intern Luke Jackson did some incredible work for center director Penn Pfiffner titled, “How Much of the Federal Debt Do You Owe?” All I have to say about that is… yikes.

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Tea Parties Were Protesting Republicans Too

Posted by on Apr 21 2009 | Capitol Crazies, Events, Government Largess, PPC

So now that every Obama apologist has used the Tea Party protests to educate the masses about slang terms for oral sex, I think it is time to share a thought about the incredible event last week.  (Interesting though how liberals hate when conservative blowhards like Rush Limbaugh use a play on words to belittle their opponents, fema-nazis for example, but “tea bagging” to insult taxpayers is just dandy.)

I have been involved in plenty of political street theater over the years and I feel completely comfortable saying that last Wednesday was the largest, most effective anti-tax and spend rally I have ever seen.  It was an honor to speak at the rally.

The only awkward crowd response I got was when I reminded my anti-tax brethren that Republicans started us down this track to Obama spending-mania.  Here’s what I said:

This is not a partisan protest. Let us not forget that it was a different political party, with their own out-of-control debt spending, that teed up the ball for the current regime to swing away toward socialism. If Republicans wish to regain their mantle as the guardians of limited government, they first have to atone for their betrayal.

I see Republicans licking their chops at their prospects in 2010, as if it is going to be a replay of the Republican Revolution of 1994.  That isn’t going to happen until Republicans first get their own house in order.  Let’s get some history straight, 1994 had less to do with the Contract with America and more to do with Clinton’s so-called assault weapons ban.  I doubt we will see a large anti-gun bill pass in the next year because of that.  Even Pelosi isn’t foolish enough to make such a mistake, at least not until after the 2010 election.

But the larger issue is the one of trust.  Republicans, now in the minority in DC and here in Colorado, can squawk all they like about getting spending under control and vote against all the spending bills they are faced with.  They might even believe their own press releases about how anti-spending they are.  We have to remember, because the voters sure as hell will, that when Republicans had their chance to lead, they proved that they were just politicians after all.  The growth of the federal government was larger under Bush than it was under LBJ.  In Colorado we saw Amendment 23, the FasTracks tax, the “growth” dividend, and of course Referendum C.

My advice for Republicans on all levels – atone.  No, not just some throw-away lines in stump speeches about how Republicans went to DC to drain the swamp and instead found it to be a hot tub. I’m talking real atonement. Man up. Take responsibility. And make a sincere apology for turning your backs on our core values. Republicans didn’t disappoint us when they were in office, they betrayed us.

In recovery alcoholics must list their wrongs and make amends.  The Republicans’ recovery can be no different.

Republican leaders, both here and in DC, would be wise to go through the painful and humiliating task of DOCUMENTING their errors over the last decade: the spending, the earmarks, the fights they were too cowardly to take on the likes of Amendment 23 and McCain-Feingold, the big-government causes that too many went along with like outlawing incandescent light bulbs and company bailouts.  Republicans must be able to point to a list, an accounting, and say “we will never do that again.”  We all need to know what “that” is.  And Republicans will better be able to recognize “that” when it comes their way again.

I am not suggesting that the party must wear a hair-shirt for the next decade.  I am however suggesting that coming clean about the party’s mistakes and betrayals of principle is the fastest and surest way to get voters to believe they are the answer to the current socialist leaning machine.

Republicans, you can lead again, but you gotta be forgiven first. Republicans, we can forgive you, but you gotta ask.

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Gov Ritter’s “New Energy Economy.” Can We Afford It?

Posted by on Apr 21 2009 | Environment, Events, Government Largess, PPC

The Independence Institute invites you
to join us for a panel event to discuss:
Governor Ritter’s New Energy Economy…
Can Colorado Afford It?

Panelists include:

Patty Limerick, Faculty Director and Chair of the Board, Center of the American West at the University of Colorado
John Harpole, President, Mercator Energy
Don Garretson, Economist
Don Shattuck, AQCS Program Manager,
Zachry Engineering Corp.

Thursday, April 30, 2009
5:00 PM Reception                 5:30 PM Program

The University Club
1673 Sherman Street
Denver, Colorado 80203

Admission $10.00
Legislators & Media Complimentary Admission
(Amendment 41 restrictions apply)
Hors d’oeuvres                        Cash bar

RSVP to 303-279-6536

or by April 24, 2009

or click here!

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The Secret Sick Tax

Posted by on Apr 16 2009 | Health Care, Idiot Box (TV Show)

The recently passed “Health Care Affordability Act” is anything but. How will this tax on hospital patients, which forbids transparency and dramatically expands Medicaid, affect Coloradans? Colorado State Senator Greg Brophy and Director of the Health Care Policy Center at Independence Institute Linda Gorman join me to discuss the secret sick tax. We invited supporters of the bill – sponsors from both the senate and the house, Colorado Citizens for Coverage and Denver Health to join in the debate; but they declined. Tune in to Independent Thinking this Friday night at 8:30 p.m. on KBDI channel 12; repeated the following Tuesday evening at 5 p.m.

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Come Party With Me on Wednesday!

Posted by on Apr 13 2009 | Events, Friday's Funny, PPC

Slapstick Politics has a good overview of what all is going down for the Tea Party this Wednesday the 15th at the Capitol.  I will be there speaking, so that should be incentive enough for you to come check it out.  (but if that’s not enough, Gunny Bob, Tom Lucero, Mike Kopp, Josh Penry, and Ken Buck among others will be there speaking). Festivities start at 11am, so I’m afraid you’ll have to come up with an excuse to leave work for a couple hours.  Lunch would be a good start.

Our much talented cartoonist, Ben Hummel, just came up with a great promo ‘toon for the Tea Party.  Thanks Ben!

© 2008, Benjamin Hummel. To see more cartoons like this go to

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