Friday, March 29, 2019

Business Association Plan Scheme Stopped by Judge, People losing Insurance under Trump, Surprise Doctor Bills Investigated, and Medicaid Work Requirement Blocked!

There is so much health care news to cover. Here's what's important. Trump pushed forming complicated business associations so employers could take advantage of group buying power. Small government? don't think so.

Since Trump became president, Americans are losing health insurance, a big story almost no coverage. Steve Rattner covered sounded the alarm the other day:


Surprise Medical Bills...Finally, someone Noticed??? This has cost me plenty in the past, so we're finally dealing with this problem. NOTE: This would not be a problem under Medicare-for-all or any other universal health insurance program:

The biggest debate will be what policy solution they settle on to fix surprise bills. Most legislators agree that they want to help patients who end up seeing an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility (and get a surprise bill from that out-of-network provider as a result). Those I've spoken with agree: This is a billing dispute between an insurer and a doctor or hospital. Patients shouldn't be caught in the middle.


Association Health Plan Con Game: This is the first time I've heard a judge call out con-man Trump for trying to get around the law. NOTE: This again would not be a problem with Medicare-for-all

A federal judge has rejected Trump's attempt to expand association health plans in a 43-page ruling, DC District Judge John Bates said that the Department of Labor's rule oversteps the administration's authority:
1. The rule is clearly aimed at skirting compliance with Affordable Care Act coverage requirements, Bates said in the opinion. "The final rule is clearly an end-run around the ACA. Indeed, as the president directed, and the Secretary of Labor confirmed, the final rule was designed ... to avoid the most stringent requirements of the ACA."

2. Department of Labor deploys a "magic trick" in the way it defines employers and employees to make it fit within Employee Retirement Security Income Act (ERISA) requirements, (giving) owners with no employees ... "both hats," (both owner and employee) as it were. He said the definition borders on "absurdity." "DOL’s explanation is pure legerdemain," Bates ruled.

3. The expansion of association health plans, as critics argue, are plans that amount to "junk" coverage because they're not required to meet ACA coverage standards and lack consumer protections.

Medicaid Work Requirments Blocked, Designed to get People Jobs: This was a no brainer, yet it did have to go through the legal process. The fact that Kentucky created this program without any research, and then experimented on their citizens without ever tracking how the program affected recipients or on those that lost coverage should tell you a lot about Republicans. NOTE: This would not be a problem with Medicare-for-all or some other national universal plan:
In twin rulings, District Court Judge James E. Boasberg rejected for a second time Kentucky’s attempt to require recipients to work or volunteer as a condition of coverage and blocked a similar rule in Arkansas, which has resulted in more than 18,000 people there losing coverage since last summer ... it had not adequately considered whether it “would, in fact, help the state furnish medical assistance to its citizens, a central objective of Medicaid.”

The Trump administration had asserted that some people in Kentucky who lost Medicaid would gain commercial insurance coverage. But Judge Boasberg appeared skeptical, writing that federal officials “cited no research or evidence that this would happen.”

The Best and Worst: Stories and Videos that stunned the senses!

As usual, there's just to much to cover and so little time. As a result, here are a few short hits and relevant video clips that should not be missed.

Adam Schiff Shoots Back and Embarrasses Giggling Juvenile Republicans...a moment that summed up what I thought we were all supposed to investigating:

McConnell vs Reagan:
Just about everyone has seen this making the Twitter rounds. Finally the truth is revealed and the talking point blown up?:

How Republicans really feel about Voters...This moment should never be forgotten:

McConnell says bill that would make Election Day a federal holiday is a ‘power grab’ by Democrats
McConnell is refusing to even allow a vote on the House bill in the Senate and has denounced it as “half-baked socialism.”

Corporate and Wealthy Tax Cuts paid for by Cutting Special Olympics: Sure Trump is taking it all back now, but that doesn't erase what he and Betsy DeVos tried to do with no acceptable explanation. Wisconsin's own Rep. Mark Pocan pulled this curtain back...:

Meuller Report...scratch that, Barr Report was celebrated by Trump worshippers with this surreal piece of eye candy. You'll wretch, you'll cry:

The Trump Enemies List: You knew there was one, right, there had to be, and Trump alone couldn't keep track of the growing list of perceived enemies:
Sanders posted a March Madness-eque bracket attacking members of the press and Trump critics.

Character Assassination 101: Attack Early and a lot: AOC is already perceived by Trump supporters as dumb, just the opposite of reality...but who's surprised by that? The result? They won't even begin to listen to a word she says. Keep 'em stupid should be the GOP chant:

Vos working on new rules...

AOC/Democratic support of Green New Deal brings out worst, most juvenile response by Republicans!!!

The Democratic Party is finally emerging from their role as the battered partner in our two party relationship to leaders in a cleaner more energy efficient 21st century. Can it be that common sense, fiscally smart solutions, repeated over time, will start sinking in to even the most partisan conservative voter chanting AOC sucks at Trump rallies?

Green New Deal etc....: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has made her position very clear to Americans, while Republican attacks have only become more surreal (Sen. Mike Lee below). AOC also appealed to farmers and urban voters alike to join in, ask questions, and be a part of the solution:
"We talk about cost—we’re going to pay for this whether we pass a Green New Deal or not. Because as towns and cities go underwater, as wildfires ravage our communities, we’re going to pay. And we have to decide whether we’re going to pay to react, or pay to be proactive."

“This is not an elitist issue — this is a quality of life issue. You want to tell people that their desire for clean air and clean water is elitist? Tell that to the kids in the South Bronx, which are suffering from the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country ... Call them elitist. You’re telling them, that those kids are trying to get on a plane to Davos? People are dying! They are dying! And the response across the other side of the aisle is to introduce an amendment five minutes before a hearing in a markup? This is serious! This should not be a partisan issue.”

Republican Resistance-fighting against "fossil fuel discrimination"...not racial discrimination? Making one of the silliest cases ever, one guy is pushing that idea only because of his very close ties to Trump and his huge campaign contributions:
(Billionaire) Texan Andrew Beal, 66, is betting that he can turn back the inroads of alternative energy. He is arguing before federal regulators that California policies discriminate against generators powered by fossil fuels like natural gas and coal as the state promotes sources like solar and wind power.
Speaking of Trump, our international embarrassment, check out his amazingly stupid take on wind energy. I especially love it where his rambling includes "...where lots of problems come about." Huh?

The juvenile lunacy we're now seeing from Republicans has hit a new low. Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah has his own solution to climate change; having babies? Yes, because the next generation will bring about change and innovation their way, unlike the ridiculous change and innovation proposed by the adults of today? The following was a letter to the editor:    

Mike Lee, Republican Senator from Utah, gave one of the most embarrassing and juvenile speeches about climate change that I have ever witnessed. The Republican Party has no plan to deal with climate change other than just attack the people looking for solutions. This is the same strategy they employed in dealing with healthcare. My only advice to them is that they should be wary of another extinction event.

Creature from the Black Lagoon Environmental an Activist? Check out the person in the back, and it's reaction. It's one of the great visuals ever.
A pair of Greenpeace activists brought attention to President Trump's “swampy” nominee to replace Ryan Zinke as interior secretary:

Pro-Life Trumpian Republicans and their phony one issue anti-choice organizations will never explain away their support for fossil fuel pollution and the denial of life supporting health care for all Americans. The video should, but will never, change their Trump dependent minds:

Thursday, March 28, 2019

"We’re becoming satisfied with low-paying jobs" no matter how hard we work.

The wealthy have won and are taking everything for themselves. Remember, they can easily buy what most of us typically get in our public services.

Things didn't trickle down to us. We were warned about that the giant sucking sound of manufacturing jobs leaving the US, and how it would turn us into a service economy. 

And here we are, lower wages, lower expectations about our jobs. We have settle for less and gotten used to it. We now think this is normal:
WPR: Steven Deller, interim director of the Center for Community & Economic Development at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said Wisconsin jobs (are) shifting away from manufacturing. "It was possible to barely make it out of high school and land a job at a manufacturing firm making decent wages ... the jobs that we’re generating now are in the service sector and they simply don't pay those kind of wages."

"Part of the problem is we’re becoming satisfied with low-paying jobs. You go into some communities and the idea is $15-per-hour is a good paying job. $15-per-hour is barely above the poverty wage," Deller said. "We’ve kind of lowered our expectations in terms of what a good job is and that’s kind of reinforcing and feeding into this problem of the growing working poor."

Perfectly clear; Conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty just declared Wealthy Elites control Republicans and Government!!!

The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) is one shining example of the great Republican lie that the legislative branch, and not the judicial branch, should govern and pass laws reflecting the will of the people.

Republicans decided to push the constitutional envelope again, playing the odds that their power grab limiting the incoming Democratic governor's constitutional duties would be defended in the conservative State Supreme Court by...the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. See a pattern?

It's funny how "'advancing limited government" removes the public's ownership of their own government, and plops it right into the hands of...surprise, the wealthy and big business. "Limited government" is using eminent domain to turn public to private; roads, parks, air, minerals, energy, and civil rights, so they can extract greater profits and gain more power. 

WILL's Conservative Lobbyists-the Final Corruption of our Legal System: Adding to the public's dislike and skepticism of the their own government, WILL is providing that final nail in the coffin of this great experiment:
Cap Times: For the first time in WILL’s existence, four of its employees registered earlier this year with the state’s ethics commission to lobby in the state Capitol.
Just a Game: Love the "high-caliber attorneys" playing to win: 
“What we’re trying to do is have WILL be the leader in the conservative movement,” said WILL executive vice president CJ Szafir. “What we’re trying to do is put together a team, maybe like the Golden State Warriors of the conservative movement, which is filled with high-caliber attorneys, communicators and policy analysts that are going to fight for (our) principles.”
The Wealthy Own US: Can it get any more obvious?  
Why is this man teaching yet?
Conservative lawyer Rick Esenberg ... saw a need for an organized legal effort to defend conservative and libertarian causes. With the help of a $500,000 grant from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, WILL launched as a law firm with a staff of three. In its first year, its budget was about $275,000 ... The organization now includes research and advocacy arms and employs 18 attorneys, researchers, writers and other staff, plus two contracted advisers. Its revenues peaked in 2015, at $3 million, after receiving a $1 million grant from the Bradley Foundation to launch its Center for Competitive Federalism.
WILL admits, Wealthy Donors in Complete Control of Government by well paid Republicans. And yes, thanks to Trump's wealth tax cut, they own us nationally too. The following is very unsettling, which is why I posted this. This isn't a question anymore...
WILL ... plans to double size of the organization in the next five years.

“In order to do that, we need to reach out to high-wealth individuals, business executives and ideologically motivated people who share our beliefs and values, to talk about the program and what we’re trying to do,” said Jim Pugh, who joined WILL as vice president of development in January after more than two decades with the state’s largest business lobby, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. “You need to be strong by making sure that you’re well-funded, clearly understood, you clearly articulate your message and have strong leadership at the top. It’s about the people, the vision and the values.” 
Saving the best for last...CEO tours? Really?
WILL continues to benefit from the Bradley Foundation, the Walton Foundation and the Kern Family Foundation. WILL has started a “CEO Tour” of Wisconsin, and last week, the organization partnered with DonorsTrust to host a fundraiser in Naples, Florida.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Ego driven Walker Republicans lose on 2 attempts to reshape the State Constitution.

1. The Walker Authority Special Session Power Grab: In a competition between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Michigan's Gov. Rick Snyder who installed emergency managers that replaced all locally elected officials, Snyder won the "smart" award when he vetoed that states Republican legislative power grab over their incoming Democratic governor.

Walker lost hands down. That's how extreme and politically motivated career politician Scott Walker really is. It has now taken a Circuit Court Judge to call Walker's act of narcissism to keep his 8 year record in place unconstitutional.

One other thing. The state Constitution does not allow the legislature to call its own lame duck extraordinary session, and yet, Republicans insist they are the strict constructionist, defending the exact words of the Constitution. There defense? They've been doing it for years:
Dane County judge Richard Niess on Thursday issued a temporary injunction blocking a set of laws passed by Republican lawmakers late last year that stripped away some powers from Wisconsin's governor and attorney general ... the method by which the Legislature passed the bills — an extraordinary session — is unconstitutional, therefore rendering anything passed during the session invalid. "Failing to enjoin the illegal actions of the Legislature would result in substantial changes to Wisconsin government, the administration of federal benefits and programs, election administration and transportation projects — all pursuant to laws that do not exist," wrote Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess in his ruling.

Lawyers for the Republican lawmakers and argued that striking down the lame-duck laws would call into question the validity of any laws passed in a similar manner over the last 40 years.
 2. Walker violated the Separation of Powers! Yup, Power Corrupts: The Republican constitutional scholars who claim to know what the founding fathers intended, and whined for years how Obama exceeded his presidential powers, trashed any credibility they thought they had to argue their case permanently:
Rep. Robin Vos
Dane County Judge Frank Remington has ruled in favor of plaintiffs and against GOP lawmakers’ lame-duck legislative session for the second time in two weeks ... The lawsuit, which was heard in court on Monday, argued lawmakers violated the state constitution’s separation of powers guarantee by unfairly limiting the authority of the executive branch. Remington agreed on several counts, blocking some — but not all — of the laws passed during the lame-duck session. 

"Wisconsin’s constitution is like a keel on a great ship. It defines the structure of state government," Remington wrote in his decision. "In December, 2018 the Legislature and then Gov. Scott Walker upended the balance that this state has had for most all of its 171 years. The time has come to right this ship-of-state so Wisconsin can resume smooth sailing ahead."

Remington upheld lawmakers' ability to block Evers from changing require able-bodied, childless adults to work or pass drug tests in order to receive public benefits like food stamps and Medicaid, but threw out their authority to block his action regarding withdrawal from federal lawsuits.

Scott Walker, Projection, and Mental Health!

This week, we all did a coffee spit take over Scott Walker's mind blowing tweet that defied the reality of his last 8 years as governor. Is it a total lack of self-awareness or just an outright lie to nonchalantly revise history?

It's the most extreme case of projection I've seen from this guy, and here's why it matters:

The reaction was swift from startled critics who thought Walker was a the least aware of his one party dictatorial style of government. We're finding out his silence and use of spokespeople was just one way of covering up his disconnect from reality.

Let's look at the facts about how the "left" supposedly has divided communities while Walker and the majority Republicans watched helplessly on the sidelines. Would Walker deny such an achievement never seen in Wisconsin before...
The partisan gap over Walker in Wisconsin was the largest for any governor in any state where exit polls were conducted last month. And it was the biggest partisan divide in any race for governor or U.S. Senator in Wisconsin on record, based on exit polls dating back more than a quarter-century.

Over that time span “crossover” voting (Republicans voting for Democrats and vice versa) has all but disappeared.
Walker thought he could replace a dysfunctional reality with a right wing dream-verse based on theories that would simply make problems disappear. And like Trump, Walker's followers are on board that sinking ship:

Anyone else see such profound projection, ever? Here's something I think we can all agree on:
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi (said), "I think (Wisconsin Republicans) made a deliberate decision that their main goal, despite the stated goal of creating jobs, was to destroy their enemies.
And if you weren't convinced yet about Walker: 

...bills in several states would allow doctors to decide if an abortion was medically necessary later than is generally currently allowed.
Not quite the same as Walker's version, but...

Conservative Paranoia Exploited: Fear of the "other" is now a huge category. Here's what my Trumpian conservative friend in Milwaukee texted me the other day:
"I think you Democrats are hell-bent on destroying the Republican Party and the Constitution so keep it up. Yes, I think saving innocent babies lives is important ... protecting our country against illegal aliens and our tax dollar because without a border we don't have a country... I'm enforcing the Constitution and keeping the Second Amendment warming is the biggest fraud perpetrated on the world against the American people ... John, you're a lemming who walks in lockstep with the Democratic Utopia machine hate America, you hate the Constitution, you hate Israel."
...and yes, he's a friend. It's all about fear, about losing control, about change, about resentment:

1. Psychologists have found that conservatives are fundamentally more anxious than liberals, which may be why they typically desire stability, structure and clear answers even to complicated questions ... "helps to protect people against some of the natural difficulties of living ... if I can impose this order on it by my worldview, I can keep my anxiety to a manageable level.”

2. To maintain the coherence of their worldview, post-modern conservatives transform the foreign/cosmopolitan/wealthy “others” into a unified enemy the purpose of which is to infiltrate, steal from, disenfranchise, or terrorize “us” ... the logic of post-modern conservative positions is contradictory, yet itself a symptom rooted in something immune to logic ... post-modern conservatives are heroically fighting a war on all fronts. To their peril, rather than adapt their worldview to the changing world, they seek to politically reform the world so that it better resembles the worldview.

3. When people feel safe and secure, they become more liberal; when they feel threatened, they become more conservative ... psychologist Jaime Napier found that asking Republicans to imagine that they possessed superpowers and were impermeable to injury made them more liberal. 
Here's a tip to get even frightened conservatives on-board with climate change:
4. Conservatives also emphasize loyalty and authority, values helpful for maintaining a stable society. In an ingenious experiment, the psychologists reframed climate change not as a challenge to government and industry but as “a threat to the American way of life.” After reading a passage that couched environmental action as patriotic, study participants who displayed traits typical of conservatives were much more likely to sign petitions about preventing oil spills and protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Dean wrote this about Scott Walker back in March of 2012, believe it or not:
My focus here is on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who strikes some as a “double high” authoritarian; and the type of person which I described in my book as a conservative without conscience. 

There are many examples of Walker’s harsh and uncaring treatment of those whom he does not believe to be entitled to equality. 

Desirous Of Personal Power: As governor, Walker sought to remove civil service jobs, in order to make them political appointments, and thus subject to his control. He has increased his personal power over some fifteen state agencies ... Walker’s push to get Act 10 passed into law was done in about as authoritarian a fashion as you will ever see, outside of a dictatorship.
His lying is notorious. Politifacts Wisconsin finds Walker to be an accomplished falsifier. I watched a video of a Walker speech at the Goldwater Institute.  He’s slick; fast-talking, confident, and dishonest—I watched him distort facts with which I was familiar.  He spoke in mostly half-truths. About twenty-five percent of the population has, in varying degrees, (a) disposition to follow a double high authoritarian, many blindly or simply because it assuages their fears. 

Conservative Activist Supreme Court Gerrymandering decision will likely throw US into chaos.

We are now witnessing the kind of country Republicans have been pushing for in the last 40 years. Make no mistake, the following steps to demolish our representative democracy is on the Republicans. 

The U.S. Supreme Court is now stacked with conservative justices that will predictably vote in favor of their predetermined agenda.

Citizens United Chaos: Think about it, the activist conservative court got to see what happened after their decisions, and the chaos introduced by Citizens United alone. It was based on the 14th Amendment's all "citizens born" and "naturalized"...does that describe corporations? Or does that sound more like a living constitutional interpretation, the kind conservatives hate so much?
A recent study found 81 percent of surveyed individuals supported a constitutional 
amendment overturning the Court’s decision.

The dissent: "Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters."
The Second Amendment Chaos: Literalists/Strict Constructionism "refers to a particular legal philosophy of judicial interpretation that limits or restricts judicial interpretation." Where does the amendment specifically mention "guns?" It doesn't, but even if it did, conservative Justices again used a "living constitutional" interpretation saying the old muskets back then are equivalent to high velocity automatic or semi-automatic weapons today. That's strict constructionism? In fact, they rewrote the Second Amendment, as noted below. Now the Justices are getting to see the result of their activist ideological legislation from the bench:
The collective side thinks the amendment gives each state the right to maintain and train formal militia units that can provide protection against an oppressive federal government. They argue the "well-regulated militia" clause clearly means the right to bear arms should only be given to these organized groups ... the federal government cannot abolish state militias.

The individualists believe the amendment's militia clause was never meant to restrict each citizen's rights to bear arms. Those supporting an individual's right to own a gun argue that the Second Amendment should give all citizens, not just members of a militia, the right to own a gun. 

Cases heard before 1900 cemented the court's opinion that the Bill of Rights, and specifically the Second Amendment, does not prohibit states from setting their own rules on gun ownership.

In the District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 ... the Supreme Court ruled that despite state laws, individuals who were not part of a state militia did have the right to bear arms. As part of its ruling, the court wrote, "The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home."
The Justices must be proud of this one:
Gun deaths in the U.S. have reached a record high, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the research,39,773 people were fatally shot in 2017, a figure that has grown by more than 10,000 people since 1999.
The Voting Rights Act Debacle: Who knew that racism died 50 years ago, and that outdated laws like the Voting Rights Act were no longer needed. Well, after the conservative activist Supreme Court gutted the Act, they should have witnessed the sudden onslaught of voting restrictions nationwide in Republicans states allowing specific demographic targeting of voters. No concerns...again:
Chief Justice John Roberts voted in the majority in striking down elements of the Voting Rights Act in a 2013 case. Chief Justice Roberts wrote that ”our country has changed,” and that blanket federal protection wasn’t needed to stop discrimination.

8 of the 15 states, or 53 percent, passed or implemented voting restrictions since June 25, compared to 3 of 35 states that were not covered under Section 5—or less than 9 percent.
Gerrymandering's Slip into One Party Rule: I predict that allowing politicians to pick their voters instead of the other way around, is the next poison pill getting the conservative activist thumbs up. Once they rule that it's okay for elected politicians to protect their power and turf, the story of the U.S. will be taking an even uglier turn. They will again witness, without concern, the chaos their decision will have on the nation.
With Kennedy replaced on the bench by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, most experts agree new limits on gerrymandering are no more likely this time around. Legal experts suspect the Supreme Court will decide that political maps need to be resolved by state legislatures, not courts—opening up the possibility of more blatant gerrymandering for the foreseeable future.

Legal experts think it’s unlikely that SCOTUS will punt on the issue this time around. As Talking Points Memo notes, procedural shortcomings in previous cases have been addressed, the facts being presented are clear, and the court has packaged the two separate cases together to “hear all the possible perspectives on what a judicially reasonable standard for determining a partisan gerrymandering might be.”

"The case presents the most extreme, overt and brutal partisan gerrymander this court — or any other court — has ever seen," said Emmet Bondurant, the attorney for Common Cause, which sued to have the North Carolina map thrown out.

But Jason Torchinsky, an attorney with the National Republican Redistricting Trust, a GOP group, said the Supreme Court shouldn’t try to take politics out of the redistricting process, as long as legislators don’t draw complicated districts that split cities and counties or aren’t otherwise logical. “Is drawing for political success okay? As long as you’ve respected other districting principles, I think the answer is yes,” said Torchinsky. 

“If the court doesn’t step in here, then what you saw in North Carolina and what you saw in Maryland is the new normal. It becomes ‘Mad Max’ territory,” said Levitt. “It is abundantly clear that the legislators can’t police themselves.”

Friday, March 22, 2019

Trump threatens Universities with Big Government funding cuts to solve imagined Free Speech attacks on Conservatives.

Wisconsin Republicans created and then inserted themselves into the imaginary issue of liberal intimidation on our University of Wisconsin campuses. While there are rules already on the books (a phrase right wingers use often) to deal with free speech on campus, Republicans like the power of "big government" to threaten and expel anyone exercising free speech rights they don't agree with.  

Trump is now using the most powerful office in the country, the presidency, to cut funding to universities on a national level, by taking one small incident and using that to severely harm any college targeted by the right wing. In other words, colleges will take the blame for an individual's actions on their campuses.

I'm going to let the words of one enlightened Republican, believe it or not, Sen. Lamar Alexander, to sum up what Democrats and others see as an obvious problem:
Trump's order, titled “Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities,” (is) aimed at “professors and power structures” who try to keep young Americans “from challenging rigid, far-left ideology.”  

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN): “I agree that colleges should punish hecklers who veto free speech, and stop coddling students to protect them from disagreeable points of view. But I don’t want to see Congress or the President or the department of anything creating speech codes to define what you can say on campus. The U.S. Constitution guarantees free speech. Federal courts define and enforce it. The Department of Justice can weigh in. Conservatives don’t like it when judges try to write laws,* and conservatives should not like it when legislators and agencies try to rewrite the Constitution.”
*NOTE: Actually, conservatives do like it when judges write laws that side with them. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Idea's for a New Camp Randall sculpture?

Note: Here's a little background, and a picture of the current sculpture...
Nails’ Tales, the towering obelisk of footballs that has amused, irked and offended visitors to Camp Randall since it was installed in November 2005, could be going away.

As part of a plan to restore the outside of the landmark UW-Madison Field House and improve the plaza along its southwest side, the university is weighing whether to keep the 50 foot controversial sculpture ... “We don’t know what’s going to happen with the sculpture,” Gary Brown, director of campus planning and landscape architecture, said Monday. “It could stay. It could go. It could be relocated. We’re still talking about the whole thing.”

Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, 5th District, who represents the site and is a member of the committee, said. “I wouldn’t miss it. I do not know that anybody would. It continues to be the same conversation as when it was first placed there. It doesn’t seem to fit very well.”

Mayor Soglin then....

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Artificially Low Unemployment Benefits another Walker Scheme!!!

No wonder we have a hard time attracting labor into Wisconsin:
In 2014 Wisconsin increased the maximum rate for unemployment benefits — calculated as a percentage of what an employee earned before losing a job, up to as much as $370 a week. Evers wants to raise that maximum to $406 a week.

Evers administration officials said Wisconsin’s jobless benefit rate currently is less than most other states.
Here's why Gov. Evers wants the change:
The department “believes that individuals who lose work through no fault of their own shouldn’t have to worry about paying their bills,” spokesman Ben Jedd said.
 But wait, Republicans don't like this one bit. They intend to make people who lose their jobs feel uncomfortable? Yes:
Critics, meanwhile, fear the state could make it too enticing to claim jobless benefits.“We don’t want to make it too comfortable to remain unemployed,” said Scott Manley, senior vice president of the state’s business lobby, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.
You know, it's that old comfort level thing so many people have when they lose their job while still trying to feed themselves or their families and keep a roof over their heads. Lot of comfort there.

Again, Republicans are now openly saying the unemployed are lazy shiftless losers who have no value to society unless they're working, and Republicans need to "push people"..:
Rep. Mike Rohrkaste, R-Neenah, said increasing jobless benefits is unnecessary at a time when Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is just 3 percent. “We want people in the workforce now, particularly when jobs are plentiful. Let’s push people that can be working to be working.”
Walker/Republicans dipped their hands in Taxpayer Pockets to save Business Money: Check out the comment and the highlighted words below:
WMC's Manley, one of five management representatives on the state’s Unemployment Advisory Council said the council has helped keep Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance program stable and mostly uncontroversial, but Evers’ proposal threatens that balance.
That's funny, because under Scott Walker, Republicans came up with a scheme to deceptively moved taxpayer money around to keep unemployment benefit rates artificially low in Wisconsin for employers, it's called market manipulation. I blogged about this way back in Nov. 2015:

Scott Walker and the Republican legislature bailed out businesses in 2013, because they were on the hook for replenishing the unemployment fund.

From way back on July 11, 2013: Here’s what Walker put in place on our dime:
jsonline: Under changes to the state's unemployment insurance system adopted by the Legislature's budget committee Wednesday, taxpayers would spend $26 million over two years to prop up the unemployment fund, To avoid having employers face new assessments this year, the committee voted to use $26 million in general tax dollars to pay down interest on that loan.
Think that’s bad? Taxpayers will be used to scam the federal government. Republican will borrow our hard earned taxpayer dollars to shore up the unemployment fund so the fed won’t raise taxes on EMPLOYERS, the ones who actually fund the account.
Additionally, the committee proposal would allow the state Department of Administration to lend up to $50 million in taxpayer money to the unemployment insurance fund. That loan would help the state ensure that the unemployment fund has a positive balance in 2014, which in turn would keep the federal government from raising taxes on employers by $191 million in 2015.
But did taxpayers ever get the $50 million back? And then there's this Evers proposed change:
Eliminating a provision that makes people ineligible for benefits if fired for what the law defines as “substantial fault,” or failure to conform to a “reasonable” employer job policy. This standard has been the subject of recent court cases in which judges found it was improperly used to deny unemployment benefits to eligible applicants.
That was also part of the scheme mentioned above:
jsonline: Tighten the definition of workplace misconduct so that fewer people would qualify for benefits. Eliminate nine instances in which a worker can quit a job and still claim benefits.
But how about penalties for unintended unemployment application errors?
Bill targets unemployment fraud by prohibiting a person from receiving unemployment benefits for seven years if they have twice been found to have lied to the state to receive benefits passed the Republican Assembly 63-34.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Republicans are Bad at Capitalism!!!

I recently came across this tweet that strikes at the heart of what should be the debate:

Building on that list:

Bad at Capitalism #1-This is one reoccurring jaw dropper that is now normalized: Republican free market capitalism uses the government, the same government they hate want to get out of the way of business, to give out taxpayer funded state revenues to private businesses?

Bad at Capitalism #2-Republicans passed liability laws protecting business from capitalism's greed, corruption, bad products, and consumer lawsuits! They limited private sector attorney's fees too. Deregulation is really just new regulation against consumer interests and protections.

Bad at Capitalism #3-Wisconsin Republicans gave so much taxpayer money to Foxconn, they didn't have enough for Kimberly Clark's demand for cash.

Bad at Capitalism #4-Republicans against government interference actually praise and idolize "Art of the Deal" god Trump, even as he distorts markets by threatening private automakers, Harley Davidson, banned foreign tech companies, raised consumer taxes in the form of tariffs, gave us the biggest trade deficit in history, and gave business a huge tax cut forcing U.S. taxpayers to pay its bills by borrowing.

Bad at Capitalism #5-This is the BIG one!!! Republicans promoted a capitalism friendly deregulated Wall Street that crashed the global economy, the Great Recession, and wiped out hundreds of major retailers that employed tens of thousands of jobs.

Bad at Capitalism #6-The old switcheroo: Republicans realizing how bad at capitalism was to business without "socialist" protections, they turned capitalism's brutality loose onto the public...
Noam Chomsky: After the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior of Wall Street led to their collapse, it is a system which provided trillions in government aid to bail them out.” In other words, we now have socialism for the rich and free market capitalism for everyone else. This is a perverse inversion of the historical norm.
Bad at Capitalism #7-Republicans are now ignoring free market energy companies moving to clean energy:
Driven by investor pressure, growing public concern and mounting scientific urgency ... the fervor around the Green New Deal is accelerating this shift and accentuating Republicans’ isolation and their internal divisions ... Virtually all executives acknowledged climate change as a pressing issue and a few, including CEOs of major oil companies like BP and Equinor, implored the industry to do more and embrace big policy changes. (Some Republicans) likening the Green New Deal to genocide and responding to a question about climate change by explaining photosynthesis.
Bad at Capitalism #8-Republicans think their tax cuts will result in roaring free market business profits that will pay for lost government revenue and produce good paying jobs...

USA Today: The bottom line 2018 deficit number is significant because it occurred during good economic times, when the federal deficit typically falls rather than spikesAccording to the Monthly Treasury Statement for fiscal 2018, the year that just ended Sept. 30, the deficit was $779 billion — a $113 billion, 17 percent increase over the$666 billion deficit recorded last year.

This was the biggest one-year increase in the deficit since 2009, when the Great Recession wreaked havoc on federal finances. 

A simple analysis of what Treasury reported shows that virtually the entire deficit increase was because the tax cut enacted in December reduced revenues substantially.

And while Republicans push supposed capitalism and bash "socialist" areas of the state like Dane County and Madison, they should be thanking them for making the jobs numbers look really good;

The truth is Scott Walker did nothing but took credit for a recovering economy. And after looking at his mind numbing tweets, we can breath a little easier.

Capitalism and Millennials: "Malcolm Harris, an editor at the online magazine the New Inquiry, begins his book Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials," had this message:
What made millennials so burned out? Why are they having fewer kids? Why are they getting married later? Why are they obsessed with efficiency and technology?

And Harris' answer, in so many words, is the economy. Millennials, he argues, are bearing the brunt of the economic damage wrought by late-20th-century capitalism. All these insecurities — and the material conditions that produced them — have thrown millennials into a state of perpetual panic. If “generations are characterized by crises,” as Harris argues, then ours is the crisis of extreme capitalism.

I spoke to Harris about the case he lays out in the book, and why he thinks millennials will have to overthrow the system and rewrite the social contract if they want to meaningfully improves their lives — and the lives of future generations.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Republican right-wing funded "institutions" float fear and resentment with fabricated Medicaid Expansion report now being laughed at by experts.

Shocker? It looks like Scott Walker and the Republicans actually did expand Medicaid, but they just didn't take the federal money...the reality is just settling in:
JS-Guy Boulton: Former Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature already expanded the Medicaid program. They just didn’t take the federal money available to states to offset much of the cost.

Wisconsin is the only state in the country that expanded eligibility for its Medicaid program — the change made in 2014 ... That decision will have cost the state an estimated $1.1 billion in federal dollars through the current fiscal year, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
Just as outrageous, although many suspected this all along, Republicans made a decision after Evers election that they would collude with right-wing groups and "institutes" to spew out phony research just to muddy the waters and call into question any "liberal" Democratic policies coming out of the Evers administration.

It almost worked.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (backed with millions in grants from the Bradley Foundation (and) member of the State Policy Network, a web of right-wing “think tanks”) and UW economics professor Noah Williams (also funded by the Bradley Foundation) defended their phony study. They claimed "cost shifting" to everyone else's private insurance premium? It just wasn't possible. You can't make this stuff up:
There’s also a question about the study’s time frame. The study ended with data from 2014 — before any purported cost shift to private health plans could have occurred in most states. This means that any costs shifted to private insurers wouldn’t have appeared in the cost of health plans until 2016 at the earliest.

The expanded eligibility for Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act didn’t begin until Jan. 1, 2014. Insurers typically negotiate three- to five-year contracts with health systems and other providers ... the price increases would not have been set until the following year, 2015. Insurers and employers who self insure, in turn, set premiums for their health plans for the following year in September or October.
Remember when Walker thought the federal government would end up not paying the 90 percent of the cost of expanded Medicaid? What study informed in of that? The federal government never missed a payment before that. Walker had mistaken the yearly federal changes to the percentage on the fed side as reneging on their promise. Walker is not a smart man, as we're finding out from his now clueless tweets.

But wait, there's more proof the report was pretty damn phony; hospitals most affected financially disagreed with the conclusions:
But studies show that expanding eligibility for Medicaid significantly improved hospital operating profit margins, according to an issue brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which does health policy research.

Further, hospital associations have pushed to expand eligibility for Medicaid in states that didn’t — and they presumably wouldn’t take that position if they thought it would increase their costs and force them to raise prices.
Then there's this caveat...
Neither Flanders nor Williams contend the study is perfect. “There are invariably assumptions that have to be made in every econometric analysis,” Flanders said.
...which embolden Republicans to claim the study as factual proof. A study by the way, that will make the rounds in other conservative states now. They don't do this stuff for nothing:
The study’s conclusions didn’t evoke any skepticism by the legislators — Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin; Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville; Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield; and Sen. Dave Craig, R-Big Bend, — who held the news conference to tout them.
Here's what I've been saying since this "study" came out:
Robert Laszewski of Health Policy & Strategy Associates, a health care consultant and Wisconsin native who has been a sharp critic of flaws in the Affordable Care Act:
“Why are we even having this discussion? The data is there. The studies are there. The practical information is there. When are these people going to give up and finally admit that forcing Wisconsin taxpayers to pay something the federal government has been begging to pay for is not smart policy?”

Friday, March 15, 2019

Tavern League don's have tantrum, recommends their Licensed Businesses to hold Weddings in "Vacant Storefronts!!!" No kidding...

Wanna know just how arrogant and out of control conservative organizations have become since Scott Walker and his band of plundering pirate Legislators took control of state government and gave them everything?

Case in Point- The Tavern League: Gov. Tony Evers and AG Josh Kaul don't think wedding barns need liquor licenses because the renters of the barns bring their own stuff.

But the "don's" at the powerful lobbying group Tavern League of Wisconsin don't like spirits to flow free without first funneling cash into their organization.

In a unexpected juvenile-like tantrum, the Tavern League gave marching orders to bars and restaurants to find someone who would have the wedding event of their lifetime in a "vacant storefront" or just some empty "room or hall" someplace. Yea, that'll happen:  
The Tavern League of Wisconsin is providing advice to its members on ways to avoid regulation after Evers' decision — including hosting events in vacant storefronts.
You gotta laugh. Whine, whine, whine....
"This will provide licensed establishments with an unlicensed (area) an opportunity to be a one-stop shop ...that do not have to comply with the laws of a licensed business. Simply amend your liquor license to exempt a room or hall from your license ... you can offer private events with no regulations. The provision would also apply to a vacant storefront in your community."
You can't make this stuff up.

Remember, this all stems from a supposed legal opinion from former AG doofus Brad Schimel who shaped law around the requests of special interests. Who can forget the time he declared high capacity wells off limits to DNR oversight, to any oversight at all. Not kidding:
The decision came after the Tavern League for years pushed former Gov. Scott Walker and now Evers to require such venues to obtain licenses ... "We are not going to sit back and watch business walk out the door," Tavern League lobbyist Scott Stenger said about the new advice. "We are going to evolve and compete on a level playing field." 
Evers, unlike Walker, is not a special interest patsy...
Stenger said Evers' decision marks a "sea change" that will "provide a whole new type of business and will provide value" to his members.
Even "free market" (they aren't really) conservatives were a little surprised:
The conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) President and Chief Counsel Rick Esenberg said, "The status quo has not changed in any way. The law ... remain the same. While it is disappointing that the Tavern League continues to ratchet up their rhetoric on this issue, it is not surprising." Esenberg said bars and restaurants "can certainly own spaces for private events but doing so will not allow them to operate those places as a public facility or to sell liquor without a license.”
But despite the law...
The Tavern League's memo to bars and restaurants says bars and restaurants could provide alcohol and food for the private event because they cannot directly sell the alcohol, the memo reads.
But if that doesn't  work, the Tavern League threw in everything but the kitchen sink:
The memo also outlines rules that apply to licensed venues but not to private events, including having closing hours, adhering to the state's smoking ban and following fire code safety regulations.