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Coyne: Kowtowing to the left won’t save ‘woke’ corporations

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Nelson: The disingenuous politics of ‘Tax the Rich’

If you watch television advertising for any length of time, it immediately becomes clear that corporations aren’t just selling cars, phones and food — they’re also selling a woke vision of America, one that is profoundly at odds with the majority of the country.

American corporations are increasingly operating under the false impression that to survive in the marketplace, they must kowtow to the woke mob. Market researchers and PR executives, most of whom are ensconced in major city hubs and progressive strongholds, encourage this behavior, reflecting their own biases.

As a result, we’ve seen an explosion in so-called “corporate social responsibility,” environmental, social and governance investing, corporate support for controversial social causes and even partisan politics. The title of one CNN article summed it up best: “Like it or not, ‘woke’ Corporate America is here to stay.”

Unfortunately for PR departments, that is not, in fact, what most American consumers want.

Just look at how such strategies have backfired for corporations from Nike to the MLB. A Morning Consult poll found Nike’s woke Colin Kaepernick ad campaign in 2018 lost them favor with every key demographic, including Democrats, millennials, Gen Z and Black Americans. The brand’s overall favorability dropped a total of 34 points among consumers. Gillette’s controversial toxic masculinity ad in 2019 debuted on YouTube with a four-to-one-dislike-to-like ratio. And ratings for this year’s MLB All-Star Game, after it was moved from Atlanta, were the second-lowest in history.

Numbers don’t lie. It’s very clear that most American consumers oppose the vision of woke America being peddled by these corporations. As a business owner and staunch defender of traditional American values, I can say without hesitation that I don’t like it, either. But instead of complaining, I decided to respond in the most American way I know — by competing. After all, the way to fight a bad idea is with a good one.

Some companies like me, We the People Wine, unapologetically believe in American exceptionalism, free markets, free people, free speech and limited government. And we donate a portion of our profits to conservative causes. We believe Americans are hungry (and we hope thirsty) to do business with companies that proudly promote America’s founding principles.

Banking on this has already paid off. We recently launched our wine brand with a patriotic video featuring Ronald Reagan extolling the virtues that made America great. It immediately went viral, quickly racking up more than 15 million views and driving so much traffic to our homepage that it crashed.

So, to those who say the only way to successfully stay in business these days is to bend to woke ideology, I say think again. Our brand launch taught us that conservative and middle-Americans as much as anyone want to know their hard-earned money is going to a company that genuinely respects them and their values. A conservative influencer recently summed up the sentiment: “I’m going to buy a bottle of that wine because … I know that they support my values … I don’t care what you’re selling, I want to give you my business.”

Conservatives are, frankly, fed up with a deck increasingly stacked against them, with the mainstream media, big tech, Hollywood, universities, sports leagues, the federal government and even large corporations overwhelmingly supporting the left’s anti-American agenda.

And there’s a clear opportunity for companies to fill the void in the marketplace created by companies that have cast their lot with the left. After all, market research shows 52% of conservatives think brands should also take political action.

Giving in to the left-wing mob is a fool’s errand and the corporations that play this game are deluding themselves if they believe it buys them protection from the anti-business policies being pushed by the Democrats. As a Wall Street Journal story notes, “The Democratic Party has moved to the left of a 79-year-old socialist, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and a wave of like-minded younger progressives become louder and more influential, pushing higher corporate taxes and, in some cases, the breakup of big corporations.”

Far-left woke ideology is supported by only a small fraction of the country. And it’s not doing corporations any favors. It’s not increasing profits and, in many cases, has driven cohorts of conservative-leaning consumers away.

It is time for corporate America to wake up from its woke nightmare. It is much better to be true to who you are and what you do than to help advance a political agenda that is detrimental to the free-market economy that not only built America but also made possible your company’s very existence.


Ryan Coyne is the founder and CEO of We the People Wine. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

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Faces of the Front Range: Who’s that riding an old-timey bike in north Denver? It’s Paul Brekus, and he wants you to wave.

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Faces of the Front Range: Who’s that riding an old-timey bike in north Denver? It’s Paul Brekus, and he wants you to wave.

Paul Brekus is used to the gazes, the waves, the heads tilting in wonderment, eyes bulging out of people’s heads like in a cartoon, as he rides through the neighborhood on his strange, wonderful contraption.

“Look! Look at that!” a mother said to her daughter on one November day, grabbing the young girl’s attention on a nearby park bench.

“Man, that looks dangerous as (expletive),” a teen said aloud as Brekus cruised past.

A police officer gave a giant thumbs-up out his cruiser window. An older woman waved enthusiastically from a bus stop outside a senior living facility. Children and adults mouthed the same phrase: “What… is that thing?”

If you live in north Denver, you probably already know Brekus — or at least have smiled and waved as he biked merrily past you, perched atop his replica of an 1885 Victor penny-farthing bicycle. It’s from up there, high above traffic, pedestrians and the rest of humanity, that Brekus observes the world turn.

Daniel Brenner, Special to the Denver Post

Paul Brekus reaches into a leather satchel on his penny-farthing bike from 1885 during a ride in Denver on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021.

“There’s an old saying,” Brekus said on a warm November afternoon. “The world smiles when you’re on a penny-farthing.”

It’s hard not to grin when you see Brekus ease past on his vintage ride — the giant 60-inch front wheel leading the way, the 20-inch back wheel trailing obediently like a younger sibling following his older brother wherever he goes.

The 67-year-old retired IT professional first got into penny-farthings in 2000, “because I’m nuts,” he said with a smile. It was a match made in two-wheeled heaven for the antique enthusiast, who also collects phonographs and telegraph machines and runs a record-cutting business on the side.

These bikes were commonplace in the late 1800s, which explains why they’re called “standard” bikes (at least in Brekus’s world). That fancy road bike sitting in your garage? “That’s a ‘safety bike,’” Brekus said, adding that he doesn’t appreciate when people call penny-farthings “big-wheel bikes.”

The most common question he gets: “How do you get on (or off) that thing?”

The short answer: It’s a production in motion. Brekus first gets the penny-farthing moving slowly, since he’d fall off if he got on like a normal bike. He pushes the bicycle from behind, moving into a slow jog, before he lifts his foot onto a small step on the back of the bike, catapulting his 6-foot-2 frame onto the seat and into the pedals.

It takes about 15 minutes to learn and roughly an hour to get comfortable riding a penny-farthing, Brekus said. He’s a fan of the “emergency dismount,” which essentially means jumping off the back of the bike like it’s on fire.

Paul Brekus rides his old-school penny-farthing ...

Daniel Brenner, Special to The Denver Post

Paul Brekus rides his old-school penny-farthing bike as others gawk in Denver on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021.

“It’s falling with style!” he said, quoting the Buzz Lightyear phrase.

The penny-farthing isn’t for the faint of heart, however. Brekus has gotten into two crashes — including one 20 years ago on Interstate 80 that sent him to the hospital. His two front teeth paid the price, and he still sports a scar under his mustache.

Brekus, though, mostly cruises around town, disappointed if he doesn’t hit 100 miles by week’s end. The Berkeley resident loves the Clear Creek and Cherry Creek bike paths, and often does loops around Washington Park. He’s proud to say he’s gone up Lookout Mountain three times, though the descent made him think, “I’m gonna die.” Brekus once did 116 miles in a day, trekking to and from Palmer Lake.

The old-school bicycle is actually pretty comfortable once you’re up there — that is, “until you fall,” Brekus said with a grin. But it’s the smiles and reactions from people around him that give him the greatest joy.

“You have to check your ego often,” Brekus said. “They’re excited by the bike, not you.”

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Fewer Colorado hospitals hit with Medicare penalties over patients coming back too soon

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Fewer Colorado hospitals hit with Medicare penalties over patients coming back too soon

Colorado hospitals were less likely to be hit by Medicare penalties for having too many patients boomerang back than were all U.S. facilities, though close to one in three will still get less money from the federal government next year.

The penalties, which have been levied for eight years, deduct a certain percentage from the payments a hospital receives from Medicare if their patients are more likely than average to need hospital care again quickly.

In 2022, 31 of the state’s 94 hospitals, or about 62% of Colorado’s facilities that are eligible for a penalty, will take one. Nationwide, about 80% will, said Akin Demehin, director of policy at the American Hospital Association.

Hospitals are exempt if they are critical access facilities, meaning the only hospital serving a rural area; serve a specialized population, such as children or people receiving psychiatric treatment; or treated fewer than 25 people for certain illnesses.

A few factors influence why more hospitals in some states would be penalized, Demehin said. Some hospitals attract patients with more-complex needs, and some are in areas where patients don’t have easy access to primary-care doctors for follow-up appointments, pharmacies to refill their medications or grocery stores to buy healthy foods, he said.

“Readmissions certainly have to do with the care you get in the hospital, but they also have to do with the resources in the community,” he said.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services calculate the expected number of readmissions for a hospital, attempting to control for how sick patients may be. They then determine how large the gap is between the expected readmissions and the number of people actually returning in 30 days. Hospitals are then compared to others that serve a similar percentage of people who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid — a particularly complicated group, because the vast majority are over 65 and have serious health problems. Those with bigger gaps, compared to their peer group, are penalized.

The higher a hospital’s readmissions are, compared to their group, the higher the penalty on their payments from Medicare, with a maximum deduction of 3%. None of the Colorado hospitals will take the maximum hit, and the median penalty in the state is 0.18% — meaning half will lose more in 2022, and half less.

The idea behind the penalties is to push hospitals to do more to stop patients from coming back with avoidable complications. That could mean having someone assigned to help set follow-up appointments, or talking about resources if they can’t afford medications or healthy food to manage their chronic conditions. Of course, not all rehospitalizations are avoidable, and it would be dangerous to tell patients to just not come back if they develop complications.

The penalties are based on how many patients unexpectedly returned in 30 days after being treated for a heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a knee or hip replacement, or coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Planned readmissions (such as having a heart attack patient come back for surgery after they’ve recovered at home for a few days) don’t count against the hospital.

Readmission penalties are extremely common. Only three Colorado hospitals that aren’t exempt haven’t been dinged at some point: Mercy Regional Medical Center in Durango, Community Hospital in Grand Junction and OrthoColorado Hospital in Lakewood.

The number of hospitals penalized has increased over the years as CMS expanded its program from three conditions to seven. That meant more facilities were eligible based on at least one measure.

Colorado hospital readmission penalties

  • 2015: 57% of eligible hospitals penalized; median penalty 0.1%
  • 2016: 55% penalized; median 0.185%
  • 2017: 58% penalized; median 0.11%
  • 2018: 60% penalized; median 0.12%
  • 2019: 76% penalized; median 0.105%
  • 2020: 62% penalized; median 0.15%
  • 2021: 74% penalized; median 0.13%
  • 2022: 62% penalized; median 0.18%

Source: Kaiser Health News data

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Environmental, trade groups: Xcel Energy’s plan raises concerns about costs, emissions

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Environmental, trade groups: Xcel Energy’s plan raises concerns about costs, emissions

Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest electric utility, announced the day before Thanksgiving that it had reached a partial agreement on some of the key points in a new electric resource plan. However, environmental and trade organizations are questioning whether the utility can deliver the cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions as promised and are concerned about the financial impacts on customers.

The electric resource plan, submitted every four years to regulators, projects the amount of electricity the utility will need and the sources it will use. A 2019 law requires utilities’ plans to map out a path to meeting the goals of cutting carbon dioxide emissions associated with the power it sells by 80% from 2005 levels by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

Alice Jackson, Xcel Energy-Colorado president, said the partial agreement with several parties involved in the negotiations on the plan will allow the utility to exceed the goals.

“It is achieving a roughly 87% carbon reduction and doing so in an affordable and a reliable way for all of our customers,” Jackson said.

Xcel Energy pledged in 2018 to provide carbon-free electricity across the eight states it serves by 2050.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission will open a hearing Wednesday on the partial agreement. A key part of the proposal is the speeded-up closure of the Comanche 3 coal-fired unit in Pueblo.

Xcel Energy originally proposed closing the plant, long beset by chronic equipment and operations problems, in 2040. The tentative agreement moves the retirement date to Dec. 31, 2034. The plant’s output would be ratcheted down starting in 2025.

The Sierra Club wants to see Comanche 3 closed sooner in light of its ongoing troubles and concerns about reducing climate-changing emissions. The plant functioned for just a few days in 2020 because of mechanical problems, according to a PUC report.

“The Comanche 3 coal plant is Colorado’s single largest source of climate pollution and Xcel’s most unreliable power plant,” Ren-Caspar Smith, Sierra Club’s Fossil Free Front Range organizer, said in a statement. “The Comanche 3 coal power plant has been plagued with outages and cost overruns, and it’s unacceptable to force customers to keep paying for it until 2035.”

Several speakers in a Dec. 2 public hearing on Xcel Energy’s plan echoed those concerns. Katherine Goff, a Northglenn City Council member, said the progress Xcel Energy has made on moving to renewable energy is notable.

“However, when you consider the scope of the problem we are facing, it’s not enough. The effects of climate change are ever-present throughout Colorado,” Goff said.

The city of Northglenn has started to buy electric vehicles as part of its environmental sustainability plan, Goff said. “If our town of less than 40,000 people works to power more with electricity, but that electricity is created by burning fossil fuels, it continues to add to the problem.”

The proposed settlement includes several elements that would improve Xcel Energy’s plan, Gwen Farnsworth, a senior policy adviser for the environmental group Western Resource Advocates, said in an interview. One of those is the company’s plan to provide assistance to Comanche 3 employees and the community.

Xcel Energy said it will make payments to Pueblo County to make up property tax revenue lost because of Comanche 3’s early closing.

However, Farnsworth said Western Resource Advocates is concerned the settlement doesn’t provide enough certainty on emissions reductions. Another worry is that it could commit Xcel Energy to long-term investments in fossil-fuel operations, including natural gas plants, when Colorado is striving to meet its climate-change goals.

Parties in the negotiations that agreed to the settlement include the Colorado Energy Office; the PUC staff; the Colorado Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate; trade unions; Boulder, Denver and Pueblo city governments; the Pueblo County commissioners and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

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