Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Congressional bodies rejecting some Trump budget cuts, but...

While it's good to see that GOP-controlled Congressional bodies are dumping big Trump budget cuts, can Congress force Trump's agencies to spend the money?
One subcommittee has rejected Trump’s proposal to eliminate the $1.6 billion Food for Peace program that ships U.S.-grown food to hungry nations. The other subcommittee has restored a $1.2 billion cut proposed by Trump to Army Corps of Engineers water and navigation projects.

Crazy golf course owner keeps posting false 'decor'

You've probably read by now that The Washington Post caught our pathologically dishonest President

posting on the walls of at least five of his golf clubs phony Time magazine covers lauding you-know-who.

And, yes, the Post story documents that the fake TIME cover is posted at Trump's northern Virginia golf club where media had earlier found a plaque signed by Trump commemorating a fake Civil War battle site.

Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot. The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as ‘The River of Blood.’ It is my great honor to have preserved this important section of the Potomac River!” 
Nice sentiment, small problem: there apparently was no such battle.
Hard to miss that the commemorative marker repeats the word "great" three times in three sentences and manages to congratulate Trump, too:

This is a sickness, you know. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

There's only 1 question for Ron Johnson this holiday weekend

Here's what reporters and constituents should ask Ron Johnson if they see him over the July 4th Congressional break:
Ron Johnson, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
"Please explain this contradiction of your own making."

*  The conservative Washington Examiner reported earlier this week you said that the Senate bill would include no cuts to Medicaid

“I don’t think anybody is proposing any cuts,” Mr. Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, said on MSNBC.
*  Today the Washington Examiner reported
The Republican healthcare draft legislation released by the Senate last week would cause 22 million more people to become uninsured over a decade..."

Court says no Federal $$ for WI highway project built w/ bad data

Updating the tainted, twisted tale of the stalled $151 million expansion of Wisconsin State Highway 23 - - check out this 2011 news story - - previously noted on this blog in May, 2015, for example
This blog has been following for years the outrageous attempt to build a costly expansion of State Highway 23 connecting Fond du Lac and Plymouth - - posts, for example here, and here...
Note also the similarities in the ruling to Judge [Lynn] Adelman's earlier rulings in cases involving WisDOT and its deficient planning and spending on State Highway 164 west of Milwaukee and on I-94 expansion in the Zoo Interchange at the Milwaukee County/Waukesha County border where WisDOT left out transit improvements for low-income residents with access to cars.
Here's the Tuesday news update:

A three-judge US Federal Appeals Court panel has ruled that the state's proposed spending on Highway 23 was based on bad data, so while the state is free to go ahead with the project but only without any Federal funding:

If put back on track, the project is expected to cost $151 million, according to state DOT figures released in February. So far, about $34 million has been spent. 
The project has long been delayed because of the litigation. Gov. Scott Walker recommended putting it off another two years even before last week’s decision came down. The ruling could mean further delays.

The federal court rulings sure do make me wonder about why Wisconsin's highway projects keep running over budget, according to this January report:
The cost of major road projects in Wisconsin doubled between the time they were planned and built, a sweeping audit of the state Department of Transportation revealed Thursday.
It cost $1.5 billion to build 19 major projects between 2006 and 2015 — $772.5 million more than originally estimated, the Legislative Audit Bureau found. Even though the state was spending money on most of these projects for 18 years or more, the DOT didn't take into account the considerable effects that inflation and changes to project design would have on those costs over time.
Another 16 projects that were ongoing as of August 2016 saw similar spikes in their costs. Originally expected to cost $2.7 billion, they are now slated to come in at $5.8 billion, the audit found.
And who thinks that the state transportation budget which is stalled in the Legislature and is drowning in red ink and has Legislative Republicans fighting with each other has a spare $151 million lying around to pay for the Highway 23 boondoggle? 

In Johnson TweetSpeak, 'improving' means no more wimping out

About to join fellow Wisconsinite to talk about improving the Senate health care bill

GOP bidding begins for Zika babies, nursing home, disableds' care

Catalogue auctions go "live" online or by phone as the bidding deadline approaches, but GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnell portrait 2016.jpg
gets to run a 'life' auction among his caucus to barter life-affirming medical care for the poor and disabled so that he and someone else have a personal triumph, as The Washington Post online headline framed it:
Both hungry for a win, Trump and McConnell are being tested by the health-care bill
GOP senators: what's your price? Or the value of other 
people's lives - - to get that 'win.'
White House and Capitol Hill officials are exploring potential deals to divvy up billions of dollars to individual senators’ priorities in a wide-ranging bid to secure votes for the imperiled GOP health care bill.

GOP congested from WI Capitol to US Capitol

Republicans have complete legislative majorities and executive control in the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison and the US Capitol, too, but they have so much internal dissension that they can't do much of anything right now.  Which is good for the country.

In Madison, the budgetary process is at a standstill with a key deadline now out of reach - - predicted weeks ago, here - -  as State Senators and Assembly members battle over which will get to pose for the Holiest of Holy Pictures or reach their hands out first to special interest ideological and/or road-builder donors whose water they successfully carried.

At the US Capitol - - 
Mitch McConnell portrait 2016.jpg
- - GOP Senate leaders have just pulled back their intentionally-cruel tax-cut plan disguised as a health-care bill, in part because millionaire GOP members like Ron Johnson and ideological anti-government, self-deluded bots like Rand Paul believe "freedom" for American citizens means being their being free to suffer into death or bankruptcy from birth defects, infectious disease or other involuntary catastrophes stripped of help in the wealthiest country in the world from the larger society which government can and is supposed to protect.

Or as White House counselor and celebrity hack Kellyanne Conway put it to the home-bound severely-disabled or bed-ridden nursing home seniors ticketed for Medicaid cutoffs - - get a job.

I think the lesson here is that governance by selfishness has a paralyzing effect on the governing.

Ron Johnson wants freedom from extending a helping hand

To understand why Wisconsin GOP/Tea Party Senator Ron Johnson wants even deeper cuts to the public provision of health insurance to millions of Americans either not in his millionaire class or with genes as lucky or perfect, you have to remember that his limitless obsession with Obamacare goes way back.
Ron Johnson, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
A public official with even the most minimal sensibilities or sense of American history would never issue the news release which Johnson put out on January 19, 2011, just 14 days after being sworn in as a Senator:
“I truly do believe that the passing of Obamacare is the single greatest assault on our freedom in my lifetime.
Johnson could parse "our freedom" to fit his beliefs, just as he parsed the word 'cut' to deny that the Senate's tax-cut bill deeply cut Medicaid. 

But for the record, Johnson was borne in 1955, so he puts Obamacare and the health care it extended to millions of his fellow citizens as worse for "our freedom" than, say, the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks that killed almost 3,000 people.

Or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Or the attempted assassinations of Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

Kris Khristofferson said that "freedom's just another word for nothing else to lose."

For Ron Johnson, preserving "our freedom" means being free to make sure people in need through no fault of their own get no helping hand in the land of the free.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Milwaukee reposts climate change site taken down by US EPA

Props to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett for having the City of Milwaukee repost on its website here the world-renowned scientifically-vetted climate change web pages, studies and findings which the US EPA under Donald Trump has deleted.

One scientist who had managed now-deleted website for five years called its removal "a declaration of war." 

This spring, political officials at the Environmental Protection Agency removed the agency’s climate change website, one of the world’s top resources for information on the science and effects of climate change. 
To me, a scientist who managed this website for more than five years, its removal signifies a declaration of war on climate science by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. There can be no other interpretation. 
I draw this conclusion as a meteorologist with a specialization in climate science and as an independent voter who strives to keep my political and scientific views separate. I concede that this specific issue is personal for me, given the countless hours I spent working on the site. But it should be obvious to anyone how this senseless action runs counter to principles of good governance and scientific integrity.
Interesting that Scott Walker's WI DNR did the same thing some months ago.

By the way, this is what air quality looked like in New York City as seen from The World Trade Center in 1968, two years before the US Clean Air Act was adopted.

House bill win - beats by 2 mil 'wimpy' Senate's 22 mil Medicaid dismissals

GOP/Tea Party WI US Senator Ron Johnson and compassion-fighter is right.
Ron Johnson, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
And so is Trump White House adviser Kellyanne Conway who reminds us that people who want health-care better than the Medicaid they're on the cusp of losing are always free to get a job.

The millionaire Johnson/ex-Oshkosh plastics manufacturer-turned-medical expert correctly labeled as "wimpythe Senate's version of the tax-cut-for-the-rich bill disguised as health-care reform [sic]. 

And we know Johnson's telling the truth because the more muscular House version jammed through by millionaire and millionaire-obeisant Speaker Paul Ryan targeted 24 million low-income Americans for Medicaid terminations while the Senate version caves and settles on a mere 22 million disabled, wheel-chair or nursing home-bound and birth-defect saddled young freeloaders rightfully thrown off Medicaid.

Johnson's focused on ending coverage for pre-existing conditions, so suck it up, Zika babies, spina bifida children, infants borne with incurable Type I diabetes or the next few hundred or tens or thousands of Americans who contract bird flu, for example.

The Senate wimp-out nailed by Johnson translates to roughly 40,000 Wisconsinites who would be free to keep their unconscioable theft of prescription drugs, nursing home meals, breathing tubes, wheelchair parts and transfusion equipment - -  and hope - - which the House version says more clearly they have no right to access.

No wonder he wants deeper cuts to Obamacare:

In recent days, he has defended the bill’s Medicaid rollbacks against criticism from Democrats but has complained the bill doesn’t go far enough in a conservative direction in dismantling Obamacare rules and mandates. He told [right-wing radio host Hugh] Hewitt Monday it was “wimpy reform.”

WI expert explains Medicaid cuts Ron Johnson said didn't exist

[Updated from 5/23/17 - - Johnson don't understand, or care, that pre-existing conditions arise involuntarily at birth, or through the spread of disease, or via unknown origins. Yet he wants Obamacare cut further than does the Senate's "wimpy" bill.]
--------------- I noted in a post Thursday about WI GOP US Sen. Ron Johnson's obfuscation 
Ron Johnson, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
about whether he'd support his party's 'health-care'-cum tax cut plan - - (definitely, if there are deeper program cuts, apparently) - - and I included a link about Johnson denying that cuts to Medicaid were coming:
Sen. Ron Johnson said Thursday that he doesn’t see cuts to Medicaid spending in the new Republican health care law.
“From my standpoint, I keep hearing about these cuts in Medicaid. I don’t have the numbers yet, but what I’ve seen — I might define cuts differently, cuts to me is actually deduction in spending year to year — I don’t think anybody is proposing any cuts,” Mr. Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, said on MSNBC.
Setting aside the full-strength swampian-parsing that Johnson has totally mastered now that he's into a second six-year DC term, here are some facts from Lynn Breedlove, long-time Wisconsin social services expert and all-around straight-shooter, about what's in store for the 1,250,000 state kids, seniors and other lower-income Wisconsinites who are covered by Medicaid in line for Trump-supported, GOP-drafted 'reform.'
Recently, the House of Representatives voted to cut the program by 25 percent over the next 10 years. The Senate’s health care plan would cut Medicaid over a longer timeline than the House bill, but the cuts would be deeper because the bill changes the program’s funding formula.
In the House bill, our state would need to increase state spending on Medicaid (the largest program in the state budget) by 30 percent in 2021 to avoid cutting services. That won’t happen...
Not to mention: 
At the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, 54 percent of the patients have their health care paid for by Medicaid. Do you believe all those kids will get the care they need with federal funding cuts that big? I don’t...
And here's more that Johnson didn't acknowledge: 
And what about schools? In the 2016-17 school year alone, Wisconsin schools received $187 million in Medicaid funding for school services. The cuts Congress is considering would likely cost many school nurses, psychologists and therapists their jobs.
If it's a contest between Johnson and Breedlove, I'm betting on Breedlove, because he understands that a cut is a cut is a cut.

Why Ron Johnson will attack 'health' bill uninsured number

{Update - - Johnson now says Monday that the bill is "wimpy" and doesn't go far enough with Obamacare repeal. I'd thought he didn't understand how health insurance works - - comparing it buying car insurance - -  but now I think he doesn't believe in it unless, like the millionaire he is, one can afford to pay the entire cost oneself. So - - bring on the Death Panels.]

Because today's official "score, or estimate of the newly-uninsured, will not differentiate between sedans, SUV's and light trucks, these experts say below.

Noted here also.
Cars 2006.jpg

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Ron Johnson, R-Ignorance, blames, punishes those w/ pre-existing conditions

Wisconsin Tea Party/GOP Senator Ron Johnson 
Ron Johnson, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
himself has a serious pre-existing condition:

Knowledge deficits.

So deep and wide that he'd be disqualified from working as a back-up town government lawn mowing summer part-time intern, as he thinks people with pre-existing medical conditions should pay more money for their health insurance because drivers with poor records pay more for their auto insurance.
Ron Johnson: People with preexisting condition don’t deserve insurance like ‘somebody who crashes their car’
Someone needs to take Johnson aside and explain to him that many pre-existing health conditions arise involuntarily at birth or arrive through no-fault spread of disease, or have unknown origins.

Seriously, what is wrong with this man?

Kids at Children's Hospital with spina bifida or seniors in nursing homes with little money and Alzheimer's disease, or babies born with the Zika virus are comparable to habitual speeders or drunk drivers?

Who would suggest pricing sick people - - at the risk of their lives or financial survival or their families' well-being - - out of the health insurance market.

Are there no limits to Johnson's ignorance, lack of heart and infinite capacity to embarrass the State of Wisconsin and people with a normal amount of commonsense and, dare I say what Johnson and Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan lack - - compassion?

In the last few days, Johnson has also failed to grasp that the upper-income tax-cut bill secretly-crafted by his party and disguised as a health-care measure wipes out federal funding to cities and states to infections prevent diseases and bioterrorism and also said cuts to Medicaid coverages for sick children, nursing-home bound seniors and many disabled Americans were not cuts at all.

Then again, what would you expect of a man who neither encouraged a young GOP staffer to report a sexual assault by a state legislator or supported a state bill to make it easier for child sexual assault victims to sue their molesters' place of employment?

Or who says that climate change is due to sunspots and scientists who point to human activity as the cause are "crazy.
  "I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change," Johnson said. "It's not proven by any stretch of the imagination."
Johnson, in a [2010 interview], described believers in manmade causes of climate change as "crazy" and the theory as "lunacy."
"It's far more likely that it's just sunspot activity or just something in the geologic eons of time," he said.

Ron Johnson: your 'health' bill quickly cuts disease prevention $$

[Updated from 6/14/17] I noted in a post yesterday that Wisconsin Tea Party/GOP Senator Ron Johnson was busy parsing the meaning of the word "cut" 
Ron Johnson, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
when denying that his party's high-bracket tax-cut bill crafted in secret and disguised as a health-care plan cut the life-saving Medicaid program - - watch this video, Senator - - which is absolutely targeted for deep and massive cuts to pay for the big tax cut Johnson and his party have long sought for upper-income Americans which keep the GOP afloat: 

As The New York Times disclosed increases for high-income Americans that Democrats used to help pay for the Affordable Care Act are being scrapped entirely.
A 3.8 percent tax on investment income over $250,000 for a couple would be history, as would an 0.9 percent surcharge on payroll taxabove that same level. The Tax Policy Center estimates that would amount to an average tax cut of $54,000 for households making over $1 million.
Here's another cut in the hurriedly-drafted Senate bill I haven't heard the former Oshkosh plastics manufacturer address - - the one that would wipe out funding for disease and bioterrorism prevention which the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides to cities and states (that would include Wisconsin and Oshkosh), as The Washington Post explains:
The health-care bill that Senate Republicans released Thursday would eliminate critical funds for core public health programs that make up about 12 percent of the budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The money supports programs to prevent bioterrorism and disease outbreaks, as well as to provide immunizations and screenings for cancer and heart disease.
The Senate bill would end funding starting in fiscal 2018, which begins in October. That’s more quickly than theHouse GOP legislation, which would gut funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund starting in October 2018...
The CDC’s own immunization program received $324 million from the fund last year, dollars that were sent directly to states and local communities to improve immunization registries and infrastructure.... about 40 percent of the CDC’s total immunization program budget last year.
That support has been especially crucial given the increase in recent years of vaccine-preventable diseases outbreaks such as measles, mumps, and whooping cough. An ongoing measles outbreak in Minnesota has already exceeded the total number of measles cases reported in the entire United States last year.
I am waiting for Johnson to address those cuts.

Perhaps he'll settle on a 'financing reprogramming,' or 'negative dollar allotment.'

Or say nothing.

Past clues to Ron Johnson's health 'care' bill stance

[Updated from 6/23/17] So Wisconsin's ultra-right wing GOP/Tea Party US Senator Ron Johnson is signaling along with government haters like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul that they're not ready to vote for the tax cut bill masquerading as health-care reform his party unveiled Thursday after weeks of secret crafting.

A suggestion: don't get your hopes up that Ron Johnson is growing a heart. 

His objections to the bill so far appear to be procedural, and he's on the record parsing what the word "cut" means when it comes to extracting hundreds of billions of dollars from the Medicaid program that provides health insurance for disabled adults and sick kids and half the births in the US and tens of thousands of low-income seniors in nursing homes.

But Johnson's record offers some clues about the way he reacts when presented with other people's suffering.
Ron Johnson, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
Here's one blog posting with links to his record:
*  Video of Ron Johnson's testimony before a Wisconsin legislative committee that put him in the spotlight even before he ran for US Senate.   
The question was whether to make it easier for claims to be filed: Johnson appeared in opposition. 
*  And do not forget Johnson's silence after being told that a female aide had been sexually assaulted - - a matter that led to more revelations and the eventual ouster and jailing of the abuser - - a high-ranking Wisconsin GOP legislator.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Trump's EPA chief enters Great Lakes Twilight Zone

Well, maybe a fabulist zone is the better descriptor, as the budget proposed for the US Environmental Protection Agency  zeros out Great Lakes restoration funding, yet Trump's EPA chief Scott Pruitt traveled to Ohio and told officials there he fully supports clean lakes.
EPA chief says he wants clean Great Lakes despite seeking cuts
Pruitt did speak some words:
"We recognize the importance of the Great Lakes," said Pruitt. "We will work with Congress to ensure that those objectives are attained."
Who's reassured, especially as there was this news just the other day.
Asian carp discovered near Lake Michigan as Trump pushes budget cuts

Add media stonewalling to WI DNR's science, public interest divorce

I appreciate the Green Bay Press Gazette's meticulous unmasking of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources intentional media stonewalling policy.

And I add it to the agency's calculated divorce from the people and science and its legacy mission ordered up by right-wing GOP Gov. Scott Walker and his hand-picked "chamber of commerce mentality" cudgel, Cathy Stepp.
Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp proudly shows off her first deer, taken opening weekend last year. In the upcoming TV Special "Deer Hunt Wisconsin 2012, Stepp urges male hunters to take more girls and women hunting. "The secret's out," she says. "Hunting is a lot of fun, so don't keep it to yourselves."  photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR

After Cambria mill blast & deaths, reject Trump's labor safety cuts

[Updating from 6/6/17, with news of fifth death
Given the discovery of the fourth fatality in a deadly corn mill blast in Cambria, Wisconsin and learning that the factory has had known safety issues, consider that GOP President Donald Trump's proposed budget 
Donald Trump Pentagon 2017.jpg
includes a big reduction at the Department of Labor which houses worker safety programs:
Trump's slash to Labor Department budget could jeopardize workplace safety enforcement
The White House gave few details on what would have to be whacked if the Labor Department lost a fifth of its budget.
But there’s at least one program already believed to be on the chopping block — and it’s dedicated to worker safety, said Jordan Barab, the Labor Department’s former deputy assistant secretary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“The Susan Harwood grant program, started in the 1980s, provides $10 million a year for safety training for workers,” Barab said... 
The Harwood grants have been in the crosshairs of conservative Republicans for decades, and it’s one of the first programs that will disappear if the department’s funding dries up, Barab said.
The training Harwood grants provide is vital in part because OSHA is so small to begin with: 1,838 inspectors to check 8 million worksites across the U.S., according to the AFL-CIO.
Sound like a good idea? 

Updating Wisconsin budget deadline fail

This predictable Saturday news story:

State officials have already missed their deadline to pass a budget — it's just that not everyone has realized it yet. 
Updates this June 13 blog posting:
Wisconsin GOP State Senate Majority Leader and Senior FantasyLand elf Scott Fitzgerald said on Mike Gousha's Sunday morning newsmaker show that he's hoping that the Legislature wraps up work on the state budget by July 1.
And teaches you something about the dysfunction in Walker's GOP-led state government, where GOP legislators threw out most of Walker's proposed line items, now can't agree on substitutes and don't have a clue about which of your pockets to pick to fix the transportation budget Walker and his road-building legislative servants have drowned in borrowing and red ink, let alone the potholes and project backlogs also spreading across the political environment.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Walker keeps escaping responsibility for Lincoln Hills prison atrocity

US District Court Judge James Peterson on Friday pledged remedial actions and had harsh words about management practices that have spawned brutal conditions which continue at the state's prison for juveniles:
In issuing his ruling, Peterson said DOC's practices of routinely using pepper spray on inmates, placing shackles on inmates without evaluating their need and keeping teen inmates locked up in solitary confinement sometimes for longer than two months likely violate their constitutional rights and said prison administrators demonstrated a "callous indifference" to the harm being inflicted on the inmates through the use of the practices.  
"This is the most severe and damaging type of solitary confinement that is used in the American penal system. Ted Kaczynski has less restrictive confinement than the youth at Lincoln Hills," Peterson said, referring to the domestic terrorist known as the Unabomber, currently held in a supermax prison in Colorado.
And while a probe into conditions there has been going on for two-and-a-half years, somehow GOP Gov. Scott Walker - - supposed supervisor of the Wisconsin Corrections Department Secretary - - has evaded all political and moral responsibility for what months ago I called a humanitarian crisis.

Why doesn't the buck stop with Walker and accountability begin there?

On Walker's watch, Lincoln Hills is a humanitarian crisis 
When it comes to the state-sponsored nightmare that has been festering at Wisconsin's Lincoln Hills youth prison, what language suits you? 
Humanitarian crisis too harsh? 
Given the power differential between the state and underage inmates, I don't think so... 
Why should it take a federal lawsuit to bring this nightmare more fully to public attention, and to the authorities to bring the nightmare to a close?
Does Walker have to be confronted with deaths there - - as have victims, their families and Milwaukee County taxpayers who endured four deaths last year in Sheriff David Clarke's jail - - before some serious remedial action is taken, or ordered?