Thursday, March 5, 2015

Walker budget upends Long-Term-Care patients; private insurers' win

Here we go again - - another Walker surprise, 'because-I-can' budget bombshell - - this one upending thousands of families utilizing in-home Long Term Care assistance and routing some to out-of-state private insurance providers:
Gov. Walker’s proposed budget would change the way thousands of Wisconsin families get care for an elderly loved one, or a member with disabilities.
Participants could lose relationships and possibly their doctors under the proposed Family Care overhaul, according to Kit Kerschensteiner, an attorney with the group Disability Rights Wisconsin. 
“If your doctor that you have now isn’t part of that network, doesn’t choose to become part of that network or isn’t approved in that network then you will be…sounds like, it appears…that you would be changing your doctor,” Kerschensteiner says. 
Kerchensteiner says Wisconsin’s long-term care system was set up to include regional managers who could remain in close contact with the people they serve. She fears those management organizations won’t be able to offer all the benefits the new model promises, and meet all the new regulations. 
“It’ll be a whole new ball game. It seems likely that there would be out-of-state national kinds of insurance entities that would come in and fill that void,” she says. 
Kerchensteiner hopes lawmakers put the brakes on plans to redesign Wisconsin’s long-term care programs, so stakeholders can get together and brainstorm improvements.
Remember when he said at a recent presidential campaign event before the Club For Growth's one-percenters he believed in the total privatization of Medicaid?

Bomb dropped.

And, again, like the UW makeover, the recasting of the Natural Resources Board to advisory status, the suspension of the Stewardship fund and a host of other fundamental policy changes - - all dumped into a 2,000 page and complex budget document with the public essentially unprepared.

He set the pattern with Act 10 - - a fundamental default to deceit.

Walker '16? Shudder the thought.


Walker practically begging media to report his secret email system

Walker calls the kettle black.

Route his secret router to Page One, as American Revival revives his operatives' work, on his behalf.

Good summary of the Walker secret system here.

His former Deputy Chief of Staff, Kelly Rindfleisch, is appealing her felony misconduct conviction that resulted from an investigation into politicking on Milwaukee County public time by Walker's top staffers, and she's the one who took down and packed up the secret router when stories about its use broke in Milwaukee media, with this penultimate headline:
Emails link Scott Walker to secret email system
Another long-time Rindfleisch cohort, Walker campaign veteran and Milwaukee County aide, Tim Russell, (l, below), purchased the Internet equipment installed clandestinely in Walker's County Executive office suite that was used to politick and raise campaign funds on public time.

Russell was convicted of felony theft with another Walker associate in the same investigation that led to Rindfleisch's conviction. In all, six of Walker's aides, associates or donors were convicted.

Will Walker puntificate on ethanol in Iowa Saturday?

{Updated] Walker can't sign the 'right-to-work' bill until Monday his Koch and Wisconsin Manufactures & Commerce allies are rushing through the Wisconsin Legislature he controls because he has a more important engagement this weekend in Des Moines, Iowa.

That's the day Iowans have their crucial "AG Summit," and where, we expect, Walker will have to stop punting on the ethanol mandate issue and either tell Iowans what they want to hear - - that he's all in on the big Federal government program that turns a lot of Iowa corn into ethanol as a gasoline supplement, or tick them off and oppose it on ideological, free market grounds that will please Tea Party voters nationwide and especially ranchers in Texas who want low-priced corn reserved for animal feed.

He likes to say he doesn't go to certain places to pontificate on certain issues, so punts them.

More than a month ago, in Iowa, he said he'd take a position on ethanol if (wink, wink) he ran for President.

But he's already said he was "the original Tea Party in Wisconsin."

So what is it? Ideology, or expediency?

Will the real Scott Walker ID himself?

Will Iowa be Walker's Waterloo?

He's already punted renewables, like solar and wind, and Amtrak expansion to Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota.

This weekend in Iowa, no puntification.

Finally, after Citizens United, some GOP donor restraint

Yep, there's a new GOP progressive on the scene, and no, it's not Scott Walker:
Awash in cash, Bush asks donors not to give more than $1 million – for now

Walker to end 48-hour waiting period for promise expiration

Why not, given his sudden backing for tougher abortion restriction and distracting crucial right-to-work' legislation, and now his surprise support for ending Wisconsin's forty-eight hour waiting period to get a handgun. 

WI missing renewable energy, jobs

Check this new map: Regrettably, the data show how much better Wisconsin could be doing if Walker and the ruling GOP had the will - - even the interest.

How Clean Energy Works for Wisconsin

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WisDOT blows off federal rules, rights, gets national notice

A national transportation website takes note of the systematic, same-old-story shoulder-shrug given federal rules and equal-rights expectations by Wisconsin's Department of Transportation:
In its breakdown of thewidening of I-94 in Milwaukee, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin shows how easily and casually Wisconsin DOT can dismiss the discriminatory impact of its policies.
I guess the agency will find itself back in Federal Court, wasting taxpayer money explaining why it continues to ignore the needs of low-income and minority citizens Constitutionally-entitled to a fair share of transportation resources.

More documents:

*  Court order in Highway 164 case.

*  Details of a second settlement, adding Federal transit funding to the Zoo Interchange project which began without a transit component.

Olmsted documentary program coming to Lake Park Saturday

People who love the Milwaukee County Park System, or want to learn more about it should not miss this event Saturday:

"Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America" Lake Park Friends
Subject :"Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America" Lake Park Friends
Location :Lake Park Pavilion - Marcia Coles room
Date :Saturday, March 7, 2015 from 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM 
Organizer :"Park People" <parkplace@parkpeoplemke.org>

Please join the Lake Park Friends History Committee
for a viewing of the PBS documentary
"Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America"
The film will be introduced by Laurence Cotton,
originator of the film. Mr. Cotton, of Portland, Oregon,
served as principal researcher and consulting producer
for the film project.

Saturday, March 7, 2015 at 1:00PM
Marcia Coles Community Room
3133 East Newberry Boulevard
Refreshments will be served

This program is sponsored by Lake Park Friends
in cooperation with the Milwaukee County Parks
and with financial assistance from the Coles Family Foundation.
It is free and open to the public.

GOP Assembly in WI agrees to not listen for 24 hours

Republicans running the State Assembly will be texting, napping, playing "Angry Birds" or just sticking their fingers in the ears during a hearing for the next 24 hours before robitically-approving a bill that will reduce private-sector wages.

This show hearing will complete Scott Walker's 2010 "dividend-conquer" capture of labor which he promised to his largest donor (see video).

After swearing for several years that he had no interest in even seeing the bill reach his desk - - "a distraction," was his 2014 campaign spin, Walker has announced that he will enthusiastically sign the measure after returning from a Saturday event in Iowa where he is also busy manipulating an even wider swath of voters.

Journal Sentinel reports on the Downer Woods issue

Well, more people are on notice now. My take, as it has been, is that putting the fate of Downer Woods into the hands of a remade, essentially rechartered UWM under the control of a very problematic Walker-appointed Authority does not insure that the Downer Woods are maintained under their current, legally-protected permanent preservation.
Downer Woods

Furthermore, a budget that suspends the land acquisition Stewardship Fund and cuts other environmental programs, a budget that contains other major policy surprises to the entire UW System and other agencies, a budget introduced by the same Governor Walker who has just flipped on issues as diverse as abortion and right-to-work offers little reason to believe that the Downer Woods are a priority for preservation

Milwaukee historian John Gurda, through Dom Noth, gets the last word:

"For well over a century, Downer Woods has survived threats from developers, overzealous university administrators and invasive species,” Gurda wrote me.  “It would be a tragedy if this remnant of our ecological past fell victim to a governor who's entirely willing to sacrifice long-term beauty for short-term gain. Scott Walker literally can't see the forest for the trees."

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dom Noth crushes the Walker budget

Take a few minutes and read Dom Noth's superb takedown of the Walker budget's threat to UWM's Downer Woods, and by implication, to the public's land, water, air and peace of mind statewide:
The growing community anger over Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to delete conservation and architectural protection for Downer Woods -- a beloved nature haven and historical beacon of the UWM campus--   could quickly radiate statewide. 
Legislators in 71 counties outside Milwaukee are only now becoming aware of serpents within the thousand or more deletions and adjustments in Walker’s two year budget proposal. But their own residents are already there in blogs and bothersome questions to local editors and officials. They are worried about their own backyard, from absence of regulation on frac sand mining to manure dumped directly into nearby rivers. 
That search for their own hidden  “Downer Woods” problem is engaging citizen researchers, the everyday citizens who more quickly uncovered the assault on Downer Woods.

Racist Ferguson email also received by key, ex-Walker aide

[Updated] 

Hey, did you hear the one about the dogs?

One of Walker's trusted operatives did.

Seems that a senior aide during her stint in the Milwaukee Courthouse office on then-County Executive Walker's staff a few years ago was hanging out online with the same sort of bigot who had access to the official computers in racially-troubled Ferguson, Missouri.

Oh, these people with time on their hands to play with public resources online are so funny.

I'd noted the presence of a couple of racist emails found received by then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's #2 staffer on a computer in his office suite, including this one, with a photo, to which which the staffer responded, "Hilarious:"
"This morning I went to sign my Dogs up for welfare. At first the lady said, 'Dogs are not eligible to draw welfare'," the email, first reported by Buzzfeed, read. "So I expla ned [sic] to her that my Dogs are mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can't speak English and have no frigging clue who the r [sic] Daddys are. They expect me to feed them, provide them with housing and medical care, and feel guilty because they are dogs."
The Walker staffer, former Deputy Chief of Staff Kathy Rindfleisch, has been found guilty of misconduct in office for doing political work on public time for Walker and other GOP candidates and campaigns.

Rindfleisch, a long-time GOP operative in Wisconsin, traveled with Walker to a fund-raiser out-of-state after her arrest and resignation from Walker's staff.

Turns out this is one of the very emails which US Justice Department investigators found in official City of Ferguson, MO email accounts and cited as proof that the city discriminated illegally against its African-American citizens, The Washington Post reports:
An e-mail described a man seeking to obtain “welfare” for his dogs because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are.”

WI Governor back from travels, major bill appears on desk

Wisconsin is open to magic.

Why, I declare, somehow a bill Walker said would never get to his desk is just about there.

Poor fella must have been sooooo distracted by all that preparation to fight ISIS and put Putin in a headlock and figure out where the Dodd ends and the Frank begins that he never saw that 'right-to-work' bill coming.

Well, nuthin' left to do but sign it, I guess.

Divide-and-conquer 2.0.

Walker '16

Privatize The Downer Woods: UWM says not its idea

[Updated] More about that plan Walker has sneaked deep into the UW budget to remove the "permanent," legal preservation status for the Downer Woods
Downer Woods
and historic East side Downer campus buildings, raising the specter of condos or perhaps another campus area sub shop or two where the preserve now sits.

Hat tip to activist Virginia Small for nailing down that UWM did not ask for the preservation status to be removed:

"None of these legal changes were requested by UWM, according to Kevin O’Connor, who handles communications for external affairs. “UWM did not ask for the changes to state law that remove the legislative protection for the Downer Woods property and buildings,” he says. “The University has no plans to develop or sell the Downer property or buildings and is presuming that the current protections for Downer Woods would be maintained by the Public Authority that is being proposed for the UW System.'” 
"Did the UWM Real Estate Foundation request these changes? “No, this is the first that I have heard about this,” says David Gilbert, the foundation’s president."
Update 5:40 p.m. Some may argue these changes are merely paperwork shuffles - - drafting mechanics, if you will - - to move the property off the state's rolls and on to the books of to a new charter or Authority-run University under Walker's overall plan sprung with his signature stealth in the budget.

I'd say watching Walker's surprise remake of the entire UW system, to his Act 10 "bomb," to his sudden 'approval' of the right-to-work law to his unanticipated 13-year suspension of the Stewardship fund to his pandering and quick embrace of tougher abortion restrictions means it's foolish to take Walker or state leadership's word or credit them with good intentions. Period.

Also nice blog and photos by the essayist and photographer Eddee Daniel: 
It was a gloomy morning. Although it began with a light snowfall that might have been lovely, by the time I reached Downer Woods the snow had turned to drizzle and the overcast sky dimmed. Despite the undeniably dreary day, however, the gloom I felt had more to do with the news than the weather. 


Since I live clear across town in Wauwatosa I don’t go to Downer Woods often. But when I heard the news I was impelled to do the things that come naturally to me: to walk in the woods and make photographs. The news? Governor Walker’s latest budget proposal includes a provision to remove protection of the “the sole remaining natural area on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee”—in the words of the very Wisconsin Code that established that protection. 

Walker & Co. are borrow and spend wastrels

Walker's DOT Secretary warns against cuts to road-building borrowing. The only way out of that budget box and eventual costs to taxpayers of Walker's creation given the GOP/Tea Party opposition to a gas tax increase, higher fees or tolls (yeah, right) is...additional reduction to other non-road state services.

Which could easily happen.

Rare 2010 Walker transparency forecasted his 2015 'surprises'

We do not usually see a headline linking the words "Walker" and "transparency" like the one at the top of this post unless it's to disprove any real-world connection between the two.

But as we note the spate of 'sudden' Walker further-far-right reversals or lurches against legal abortion rights, or university funding and public land conservation crafted carefully to enhance his appeal to the farthest right-wing funders and voters - - do not forget he gave us warning in an unusually transparent remark to CNN:

"I was the original Tea Party in Wisconsin."
I'd posted and reposted his boast, so let's remind everyone, especially when you see commenting or reporting which suggest that Walker is somehow less extreme that other Tea Partiers, like Ted Cruz. 

More muddled messaging by the WI DNR

I've noted repeatedly at this blog that the PR flowing out of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - - whether in the form of "Clean Air Tips" contradicted by DNR or Scott Walker priorities, or invitations to scenic sites in the state threatened by anti-conservation Walker policies - - continues to suggest that DNR publicity folks don't think through what they distribute.

I got another of these contradictions by subscription email today from the DNR - -  an invitation to visit the woods in the Baraboo Hills as part of its "Natural Areas Spotlight" series.
Plan a May pilgrimage to hike amid the striking spring flora at this rich, mesic mapleforest in the Baraboo Hills. Bring your wildflower guidebook and camera to record the diversity of ephemeral beauties like these Dutchman’s breeches. Keep an eye to the treetops formigrating warblers.
Sounds beautiful, right. Anyone who's ever been to the area knows it's special.

What I'm pointing out here is that we need to remember that the Baraboo Hills sit atop a deposit of iron ore similar to what is at the heart of controversial, and now-suspended open-pit iron ore mining plan in the Penokee Hills in Iron and Ashland Counties.

And while that plan has been shelved, for now, the sweetheart, pro-iron-mining bill with relaxed environmental regulation that would have enabled the mine is still on the books.

A law defended vociferously by the DNR's pro-development Secretary Cathy Stepp.

More than once, as we recall this Stepp talk radio appearance when the bill was being debated.

So perhaps we should say "thanks" to the DNR for helping raise, even if inadvertantly, more awareness about what a bad lawl could do to one of the great public assets in the state.

And why that law should be stripped from the books so the Baraboo Hills and the Penokee Hills don't turn into polluting open-pit scars to which no sane person would take the "pilgrimage" pitched by the DNR:

Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program


McGilvra Woods (No. 206)

McGilvra Woods
Photo by Thomas A. Meyer


Location

Sauk County. T11N-R6E, Section 8, 14. 74 acres.

Description

McGilvra Woods is one of the richest southern mesic forests in southwestern Wisconsin and noted for its display of spring wildflowers. The forest is situated on a gentle to moderate northwest slope at the edge of the Baraboo Hills with a knob of exposed sandstone bedrock found near the southeast corner of the site. Sugar maple and basswood dominate the woods with black cherry, red oak, white ash, yellowbud hickory, bigtooth aspen, and white oak. The trees are medium-aged, but the site is intact and with protection could become an old mesic forest. The sparse shrub layer contains eastern prickly gooseberry, common elderberry, and alternate-leaved dogwood. The groundlayer flora is rich in spring ephemerals and contains more than 110 species including the rare cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis) along with uncommon plants such as leatherwood and putty root orchid. Showy species include spring-beauty, toothwort, woodland phlox, wild geranium, hepatica, May-apple, Virginia waterleaf, bellwort, nodding trillium, and several orchids. McGilvra Woods is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 1986.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ferguson, MO racist emails, jokes condemned, and others?

The US Justice Department will release a report Wednesday documenting racist communications by Ferguson, MO police and other public officials found in official emails

Among the findings: At least two racist jokes and derogatory remarks made against African-Americans, including President Barack Obama:
One says Obama will not be president for long because "what black man holds a steady job for four years." Another says a black woman in New Orleans was admitted to a hospital to end her pregnancy and then got a check two weeks later from "Crime Stoppers."
Ugly and disgusting and worthy of complete condemnation.

Here's a snippet from another racist joke (in chain letter format, below) taken off another official government email account. See if you can guess where. Hint - - Not Ferguson:
In the nightmare ... I am a homosexual, and on top of that with a Mexican boyfriend. Oh, my God ... Black, Jewish, disabled, gay with a Mexican boyfriend, drug addict, and HIV-positive!!! ... Say it isn't so!!! I can handle being a black, disabled, one armed, drug-addicted, Jewish homosexual on a pacemaker who is HIV positive, bald, orphaned, unemployed, lives in a slum, and has a Mexican boyfriend, but please, Oh dear God, please don't tell me I'm a Democrat.
Stumped? Here's another non-Ferguson email, received and labeled "hilarious" by the official to whom it was sent with a photo of four dogs:
"This morning I went to sign my Dogs up for welfare. At first the lady said, 'Dogs are not eligible to draw welfare'," the email, first reported by Buzzfeed, read. "So I expla ned [sic] to her that my Dogs are mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can't speak English and have no frigging clue who the r [sic] Daddys are. They expect me to feed them, provide them with housing and medical care, and feel guilty because they are dogs."
Give up?

The emails were found on the computers of senior officials who reported to and were hired by former Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker.

The first joke was in an email exchanged between then-Walker Chief of Staff Tom Nardelli (now deceased) and then-Walker Deputy Chief of Staff Kelly Rindfleisch, (since convicted of felony misconduct on the job for illegal campaign activity).

The second joke was received by Rindfleisch.

Source for racist joke #1. (link to full chain email text, here)

Source for racist joke #2.