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“The Elderly And The Infirm”: Scott Walker’s Latest Victims Are The Most Vulnerable

When Governor Scott Walker faces Wisconsin voters in 2014, he’ll be running on a record of confronting public worker unions, turning down Medicaid expansion that would have covered 181,000 Wisconsinites and creating far fewer than the 250,000 new jobs he promised.

And if that isn’t enough, he can run on the Wisconsin Omnibus Tort Reform Act of 2011.

One of the first bills Walker signed into law, these reforms were taken almost entirely from the Koch-funded legislative warehouse of the Billionaire Rights Movement, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The legislation prevents state health investigation records from being admitted as evidence in any civil or criminal cases against long-term care providers, including nursing homes and hospices.

Sarah Karon of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism looked into the impact of the reform and found that the families of patients who often cannot testify on their own behalf are powerless to redress abuse and neglect.

In one case, Joshua Wahl — a paraplegic patient with spina bifida and brain damage — had a bedsore left to fester for months before he was finally hospitalized, according to a state investigator.

“It scares me for those who put their trust in a facility,” said Karen Nichols-Palmerton, Wahl’s mother. “It scares me to think of things that could be brushed aside. I don’t rest so easy anymore.”

Nichols-Palmerton is suing the facility, but the investigator’s report will not be heard in court, thanks to the Wisconsin Omnibus Tort Reform Act of 2011.

Why did Walker and Wisconsin’s Republicans decide records documenting such abuse shouldn’t be admissible in court?

It isn’t good for business.

“Each of these (proposals) is aimed at one thing — jobs,” said Brian Hagedorn, Walker’s chief legal counsel, during a hearing for the bill. “These changes send a symbolic and substantive message that Wisconsin is open for business.”

State investigators’ reports are published online. But a Department of Justice spokeswoman told Karon that the law makes it difficult to prosecute abuse and neglect cases at early stages, when severe injuries or death can be prevented.

Nursing homes that accept Medicaid or Medicare must be investigated every 15 months. Non-federally certified facilities are investigated by the states every two years. Wisconsin has cut its staff of nursing home surveyors by more than 30 percent, even as complaints about such facilities have risen by more than 100 percent since the year 2000.

Walker’s record of opening Wisconsin “for business” and turning away from its grand tradition of progressivism hasn’t had such a great effect on job creation. And the cost, especially for those forced to rely on long-term care, is falling squarely on the most vulnerable.

 

By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, February 22, 2013

February 25, 2013 Posted by | Scott Walker | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Babyface Scores A Takedown”: Glenn “The Heel” Beck Does The Impossible

Remember the good old days when professional wrestlers “injured” in the ring would pretend to be injured in public just in case a fan saw them?

No? Ok. Well, take my word for it. The term of art is “kayfabe.” It’s the wrestling equivalent of a blue wall of silence. Omerta. That wall is very thin these days, and WWE proudly calls itself an entertainment company. No one is fooled, but the wrestlers try to keep in character most of the time, and the fans generally pretend to accept the real fakeness of wrestling. It is a confusing mental feat, but WWE makes a lot of money every year, so they’re doing something right.

In the past, when WWE wrestlers have formally broken character during a show, it’s because something bad happened; the real world intruded unexpectedly in a way that kayfabe couldn’t cover. The death of wrestler Owen Hart in the ring 14 years ago. Commentator Jerry the “King” Lawler suffers a heart attack on air a few months back.

Now, it’s something more… jovial. It’s Glenn Beck.

It started on Beck’s Mercury Radio Network program. WWE has a new character that Beck believes is “stupid.” The character is a Tea Party take-off who taunts the current WWE world champion, Alberto Del Rio, for allegedly being an illegal immigrant. Lest you find offense at this in any way, note that in this storyline, Del Rio is the good guy, and gets cheers from the fans, and the Tea Party wrestler, Zeb Colter, is the bad guy. (Colter’s bud is a veteran wrestler named Jack Swagger, another villain.)

Beck said this of the storyline:

So may I ask: Did George Soros buy the WWE? Is this a Cass Sunstein presentation? And maybe it’s just us. Maybe — you know what? Maybe we’re wrong. Maybe that’s the way WWE people view the TEA Party. And maybe they love to hate the TEA Party. But I have to tell you, I expect that from Hollywood, but I don’t expect — if I’m getting my entertainment from somebody that I think is on my side — and I’m sorry. I just don’t see a bunch of progressives going and buying their tickets to the WWE. Do you? I mean, and maybe there are. I tend to notice that the progressives are not as popular in the South unless they’ve moved from the North. So I’m just trying to figure out exactly who they’re trying to appeal here, who they’re appealing to.

He actually referred to George Soros and Cass Sunstein. Beck goes on to speculate that the WWE is alienating 80 percent of his audience, which he thinks “skews” conservative.

WWE responded by first inviting Beck to appear on their program. (It’s the biz!)

But then they released a video, where the wrestlers in question break character and bash Beck.

WWE’s reps concede that they’re promoting a storyline that makes anti-immigrant politics look bad because a significant and growing portion of their audience domestically and in Latin America is Hispanic.

And here is where Glenn Beck gets his sense of WWE wrong: wrestling might not seem “progressive” to him, but wrestling fans are young. They’re of the Obama generation. They like to be on the right side of history. Actually, if you look at wrestling storylines years back, you’ll see how the script matches or tries to catch up with the political zeitgeist.

Beck will get some PR out of this, but WWE has Wrestlemania on April 7.

Win!

 

By: Marc Ambinder, The Week, February 24, 2013

February 25, 2013 Posted by | Immigrants | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Message Was Crystal Clear”: On The Sequester, The American People “Moved The Goalposts”

I don’t agree with my colleague Bob Woodward, who says the Obama administration is “moving the goalposts” when they insist on a sequester replacement that includes revenues. I remember talking to both members of the Obama administration and the Republican leadership in 2011, and everyone was perfectly clear that Democrats were going to pursue tax increases in any sequester replacement, and Republicans were going to oppose tax increases in any sequester replacement. What no one knew was who would win.

“Moving the goal posts” isn’t a concept that actually makes any sense in the context of replacing the sequester. The whole point of the policy was to buy time until someone, somehow, moved the goalposts such that the sequester could be replaced.

Think back to July 2011. The problem was simple. Republicans wouldn’t agree to raise the debt ceiling without trillions of dollars in deficit reduction. Democrats wouldn’t agree to trillions of dollars in deficit reduction if it didn’t include significant tax increases. Republicans wouldn’t agree to significant tax increases. The political system was at an impasse, and in a few short days, that impasse would create a global financial crisis.

The sequester was a punt. The point was to give both sides a face-saving way to raise the debt ceiling even though the tax issue was stopping them from agreeing to a deficit deal. The hope was that sometime between the day the sequester was signed into law (Aug. 2, 2011) and the day it was set to go into effect (Jan. 1, 2013), something would change.

There were two candidates to drive that change. The first and least likely was the supercommittee. If they came to a deal that both sides accepted, they could replace the sequester. They failed.

The second was the 2012 election. If Republicans won, then that would pretty much settle it: No tax increases. If President Obama won, then that, too, would pretty much settle it: The American people would’ve voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes.

The American people voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes.

In fact, they went even further than that. They also voted for a Senate that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes. And then they voted for a House that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes, though due to the quirks of congressional districts, they didn’t get one.

Here in DC, we can get a bit buried in Beltway minutia. The ongoing blame game over who concocted the sequester is an excellent example. But it’s worth remembering that the goalposts in American politics aren’t set in backroom deals between politicians. They’re set in elections. And in the 2012 election, the American people were very clear on where they wanted the goalposts moved to.

 

By: Ezra Klein, The Washington Post, February 23, 2013

February 25, 2013 Posted by | Sequester | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Rage-Driven Fanaticism”: Deluded Republican Reformers

Conservative pundits and intellectuals have spent the past week or two—ever since the publication in Commentary magazine of Peter Wehner and Michael Gerson’s “How to Save the Republican Party”—talking about, well, how to save the Republican Party. They have lots of ideas—some good, some not so good, most very sober-minded policy prescriptions. I wrote a short blog post about this on Thursday. But then I reflected: This topic needs a longer treatment. The party they purport to support and care about has been engaged in burning down the house of American politics for three or four years now, and they are saying nothing about it; and until they say something about it, everything else they say is close to meaningless.

As I’ve written many times, the conventional view of what’s wrong with the GOP gets at only a portion of the truth. When The New York Times or Politico does such a story, the story inevitably focuses on policy positions. Immigration. Same-sex marriage. Climate change. Tinker with these positions, several sages are quoted as saying, and the GOP will be back in the game.

God knows, policy positions are a problem. But they are not the problem. The problem is that the party is fanatical—a machine of rage, hate, and resentment. People are free to scoff and pretend it isn’t so, but I don’t think honest people can deny that we’ve never seen anything like this in the modern history of our country. There’s a symbiosis of malevolence between the extreme parts of the GOP base and Washington lawmakers, and it is destroying the Republican Party. That’s fine with me, although I am constantly mystified as to why it’s all right with the people I’m talking about. But it’s also destroying the country and our democratic institutions and processes, which is not fine with me.

The party can change all the positions it wants, but until people stand up and yell “Stop!” to this fanaticism, it won’t mean anything. In fact, the problems feed into each other, because the idea that today’s Republican Party can change its stripes on same-sex marriage or immigration is absurd, and it is absurd precisely because of the rage and fanaticism I’m talking about, much of which is directed at brown people and gay people. Such a party cannot change its stripes on these issues until the mindset and world view are changed.

Immigration, you say? I’ll believe it when I see it. In fact, I’ll make a prediction now: I bet the House is likely to break immigration reform into two pieces, enforcement and path-to-citizenship. Maybe more, but for now let’s say two. A big majority of Republicans will support the former. The latter will pass, if it does, with a small number of Republicans joining nearly all Democrats, and therefore only with John Boehner breaking the Hastert Rule once again. And the haters will go on hating.

And the following people will write nothing about it: David Brooks; Ross Douthat; the aforementioned Wehner and Gerson; Reihan Salam; Yuval Levin; Ramesh Ponnuru. Now I know most of these gentlemen, and I like them. But they’ve been participants to varying degrees in these recent conversations I’m talking about, and frankly, they are wasting their own and their readers’ time. They’re like a family in deep denial at the Thanksgiving table. Guys, debating the best way to cook brussels sprouts is of marginal utility. Whether Cousin Ruthie wears her hair this way or that way is not worth dwelling on. The overwhelming fact at hand is that Uncle Ralph is drunk again, and he’s being a belligerent racist homophobic ass again, and he is preventing any civility and progress from taking place, and it’s been this way for four Thanksgivings in a row, and you are intentionally choosing to say nothing about it.

I do not understand how they can watch this and let it happen—to their party!—without saying anything. This past week, we have had four Republican senators—Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, and Rand Paul—in essence demand that a cabinet nominee, Chuck Hagel, disprove rumors against him. It’s one thing for Breitbart bloggers to do that. But senators? Using tactics that are straightforward McCarthyism? If one of the above named or some other prominent conservative pundit criticized that quartet, then good for them. But I sure didn’t see it, and I think I would have.

Like me, I’m sure many of you were aghast at those people who cheered John McCain when he lectured the parent of the son who was killed in the Colorado shooting. There was blood lust in that cheer, just like the blood lust in the boos back in the presidential primary season of that gay soldier. Are any conservative thinkers writing that this kind of thing makes them sick and ashamed?

We all know the problem. It’s Rush Limbaugh and his imitators and Roger Ailes and his network. They drive this hatred daily, and they intentionally misinform and lie; you think it’s an accident that polls always find Fox viewers the least connected to empirical reality? Pushing this fury and constructing this alternate reality is great for business. But it’s horrible for America. And the “serious” conservative pundits by and large try to pretend it doesn’t exist, or it’s not that bad, or MSNBC does the same thing in reverse. Well, it does exist, it is that bad, and no, MSNBC does not do the same thing in reverse. MSNBC has an agenda, but it doesn’t craft its messages in such a way as to make it viewers hate half the country.

This is the poison in our politics. Nothing changes until it changes. Somebody has to initiate it, and the people I named are the only people who can. Of conservative thinkers—and I apologize to him in advance for naming him, because I’m sure praise from me in this context will make him wince—only David Frum has addressed this problem. His 2011 New York magazine essay “When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?” said it well. He understands that this problem is one of the central facts of our current historical moment.

If that were my party or movement, I promise you I would criticize it (and I did, in a book in 1996, as Brooks and others know). I sure wouldn’t be wearing blinders and pretending that my side could solve its problems with the right kind of EITC expansion. I’d be glowering at Uncle Ralph as he poured himself another, getting surlier and surlier, and I’d be scheming to take the bottle away.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, February 23, 2013

February 25, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Way Pass Stupid”: Creationism, Ayn Rand And Gun Control…Actual Laws Proposed This Month

In Missouri, it would be a felony to propose gun control. Oklahoma wants to protect students from science. Really

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wants Republicans to stop being the stupid party — but apparently the memo hasn’t gotten out to state legislatures around the country.

February has been a banner month for truly silly and anti-intellectual bills in state capitals across the country. Well, mostly across the South and Midwest. Some of these bills are based on the idea that birth control is poison, and that students should not fail for arguing in biology class that dinosaurs and humans coexisted. Others would stop gun control efforts by making it a felony to try to enact gun control.

This is not the Onion: Here are some of the actual proposals.

1. Let corporations vote!

In Montana, state Rep. Steve Lavin introduced a bill that would allow corporations to vote in local elections, taking the idea that “corporations are people” to new heights.

Think Progress reports that the bill was tabled earlier this month. But under the proposal, “if a firm, partnership, company, or corporation owns real property within the municipality, the president, vice president, secretary, or other designee of the entity is eligible to vote.”

2. Criminalize gun control!

In Missouri, state Rep. Mike Leara believes even proposing gun control should be illegal. So he has proposed legislation that would make it a felony for “any member of the general assembly who proposes a piece of legislation that further restricts the right of an individual to bear arms, as set forth under the second amendment of the Constitution of the United States.”

“I filed HB 633 as a matter of principle and as a statement in defense of the Second Amendment rights of all Missourians,” Leara told Buzzfeed. “I have no illusions about the bill making it through the legislative process, but I want it to be clear that the Missouri House will stand in defense of the people’s Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”

3. Birth control is poison

The full state Senate in Oklahoma will take up a measure to allow companies to strip birth control and abortion coverage from employer healthcare plans under a bill that unanimously cleared the committee level last week.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of state or federal law, no employer shall be required to provide or pay for any benefit or service related to abortion or contraception through the provision of health insurance to his or her employees,” the bill reads.

That would put the law in conflict with the Obamacare provision that mandates contraception coverage in employee group insurance plans, unless the company in question meets the religious organization that qualifies for an exemption.

The state senator who proposed the bill said the idea came from one of his constituents, identified as Dr. Dominic Pedulla. The Tulsa World calls him “an Oklahoma City cardiologist who describes himself as a natural family planning medical consultant and women’s health researcher.” He told the paper he stopped offering his insurance plan because it required contraception coverage.

“Part of (women’s) identity is the potential to be a mother,” Pedulla said. “They are being asked to suppress and radically contradict part of their own identity, and if that wasn’t bad enough, they are being asked to poison their bodies.”

4. Read Ayn Rand or stay in high school

The chairman of the education committee in Idaho’s Senate introduced a bill earlier this month that would make students read — and pass a test — on “Atlas Shrugged” as a requirement for a high school diploma.

Then he backed away from the bill, saying he was just trying to make a point. The senator, John Goedde, told the Idaho Spokesman-Review he was “sending a message to the State Board of Education, because he’s unhappy with its recent move to repeal a rule requiring two online courses to graduate from high school, and with its decision to back off on another planned rule regarding principal evaluations.”

Why that book? It “made my son a Republican,” he said, then adding, “well, he’s not a practicing Republican. But it certainly made him a conservative.”

5. Meanwhile, make the teachers question science

In Kansas, the state Board of Education will vote on new science standards this year, so the legislative jockeying has begun. A bill before the House Education Committee would make schools include evidence against climate change in science classes.

According to the bill, science teachers would be required to “provide information to students of scientific evidence which both supports and counters a scientific theory or hypothesis.”

As the Topeka Capital Journal notes: “The bill says instruction about ‘scientific controversies’ should be objective and include ‘both the strengths and weaknesses of such scientific theory or hypothesis.’ The only controversy identified in the bill is ‘climate science.’”

There is no specific sponsor on the bill, which carries the committee’s name. The committee is controlled by Republicans.

In Oklahoma, however, go right ahead and argue that humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time. On a 9-8 vote last week, the Oklahoma Common Education committee approved the so-called Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act.

If the bill becomes law, it would make it illegal for biology teachers to fail students who write papers against evolution, climate change and other theories with near 100 percent approval in the scientific community.

“I proposed this bill because there are teachers and students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks,” said state Rep. Gus Blackwell to Mother Jones.

By: David Daley, Executive Director, Salon, February 24, 2013

February 25, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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