Saturday, January 2, 2016

Strict Constructionist activist Justice Scalia points to imagined "Constitutional traditions?"

Feeling free now to be as activist as he wants, Justice Antonin Scalia stepped out into Constitutional fantasy land again, this time imagining its implied religious "tradition." And not one peep out of tea party pocket constitutional Republicans?

Republicans have always pushed the theme that "tradition" is the essence of our founding document, a kind of see what you want to see flexibility built in to push their agenda.  

Except now, we're talking about a Supreme Court Justice strolling around in crazy land. A strict constitutionalist, really? Remember this:
In December he came under fire for comments he made during an affirmative action case, questioning whether some black students would benefit from going to a "slower-track school" instead of Texas' flagship campus in Austin.
Big surprise he voted against the Voting Rights Act. 

Scalia now sees religion, specifically God, as an American "tradition" that gives the Constitution its true meaning: 
AP: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was speaking at a Catholic high school said Saturday the idea of religious neutrality is not grounded in the country's constitutional traditions and that God has been good to the U.S. exactly because Americans honor him ... that there is "no place" in the country's constitutional traditions for the idea that the state must be neutral between religion and its absence.
"To tell you the truth there is no place for that in our constitutional tradition. Where did that come from? To be sure, you can't favor one denomination over another but can't favor religion over non-religion? God has been very good to us. That we won the revolution was extraordinary. The Battle of Midway was extraordinary. I think one of the reasons God has been good to us is that we have done him honor. Unlike the other countries of the world that do not even invoke his name we do him honor. In presidential addresses, in Thanksgiving proclamations and in many other ways. There is nothing wrong with that and do not let anybody tell you that there is anything wrong with that."

Friday, January 1, 2016

Gun Sanity fights back!

Isn’t it about time Democrats counter the Republican agenda with laws that make life incredibly uncomfortable for them.

So, let’s talk GUNS!!!

The GOP roadblock agenda has been overwhelming; voter regulatory hoops, abortion restrictions, testing for food stamps and tighter unemployment qualifications. It's time Democratic answer that challenge with their own set of roadblocks. Virginia has stepped up to the plate, and it's genius:
Virginia last week. Attorney General Mark Herring announced that he would unilaterally repeal agreements with 25 other states for reciprocal recognition of carry permits by February 1st, claiming that he found their standards for issuing carry permits too low. Herring argued that Virginia residents could apply for and receive carry permits in other states when they couldn’t qualify within their own state and therefore evade the restrictions imposed by Virginia law.
Yes, yes, yes. And that includes Wisconsin of course, where almost anything goes now.

And yet, one of the oddest reactions to Virginia's effort was this editorial response in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
But stopping reciprocity agreements with 25 states will do nothing to deter crime here in Virginia. The question that should be asked of Herring is this: Why target CHP holders if they aren’t committing the majority of crimes?
Oh, so CC owners aren't "committing the majority of crimes," just a few of them?

Elections Matter, except when they don't: CC advocates are also making the argument that the Democrats lost in the recent elections...except when they won:
Since Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Herring, and Democrats lost big-time in electoral contests last month — despite millions of dollars from their billionaire benefactor Michael Bloomberg — they are now using tyrannical means to impose more gun control as retribution for their losses.
"Tyrannical" control or the will of the people? Yet the editorial contradicts itself with this head spinning admission about elections:
What’s the takeaway from all of this? Elections can have very deleterious consequences. Virginians knew very well that McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, and Herring were going to enact gun control by any means possible, but they chose to elect them over good men like former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and state Sen. Mark Obenshain. 
Constitutional Hail Mary Lunacy: According to CC advocates, one states law must respect other states laws, the Constitution says so. They're now suddenly saying reciprocity agreements are unnecessary. Oh, now you bring it up...:
Why are they needed in the first place? Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution states, “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.” The inclusion of that clause clearly intended to prevent these kind of legal traps for law-abiding citizens by forcing other states to recognize the licenses and permits of other states, and its placement in the original articles shows that this takes precedence over the 10th Amendment recognition of state sovereignty.
Yes, earlier parts of the Constitution are more constitutional than the latter parts. Love the concept, since that included the 2nd Amendment.

The Fox News Debate: The Accountability Project's Nomiki Konst is the best I've seen arguing against irresponsible gun laws. Townhall's Guy Benson on the other hand, doesn't like it when a "Democrat" AG does what he legally can supposed "fiat:"
Guy Benson: "They failed to regain the state senate...Now that they've lost, now that they've had a failed attempt to convince voters, what are they doing, they're having the state's attorney general - a Democrat - impose this agenda by fiat. Now apparently its within his legal right and authority to do so..."

(Side Note: I'm fascinated by the right wings campaign to make Democratic lawmaking an unthinkable act of villainous conduct. It's a 5 year theme that has taken hold and radicalized the right, making one party authoritarian rule now, the winner by default.)

Not Safer - CC Raising Violent Crime: Forcing through lenient gun laws for the minority of gun toting Wisconsinites who don't represent the majority of us who feel less secure with armed strangers prancing around now have the numbers to back up what we've been saying all along:
Political Heat: In fact, according to FBI statistics that have studied active-shooter situations (PDF), a person without a gun is more likely to stop a shooter than someone with a gun. Thirteen percent of active-shooter situations studied by the FBI ended with someone using means besides a gun to end the situation. Conversely, in only three percent of all active-shooter situations did a “good guy with a gun” actually stop a “bad guy” with a gun.

According to FBI crime stats since concealed carry was implemented in the state, violent crime has gone up in Wisconsin by 22 percent. That’s not to say that concealed carry was responsible for that rise in crime -- but it has failed to make us safer, as proponents like Gov. Scott Walker promised it would in 2011.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Most Immature GOP Manly Man craze....

This was so ridiculous....

Walker's Crumbling Wisconsin.

After 5 years, the Republicans wheels are starting to come off in a big way, exemplified in a number of recent jaw dropping stories that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, a purely ideological agenda minus common sense or compromise doesn't work.

Thanks to bloggers and a few near fearless reporters, it's clear we're closing out the year on a frightening note. Included are a few of my predictions for 2016 as well.

Goodbye to Gun Free Zones: While it never occurred to Wisconsinites to do away with all gun free zones, especially at schools and colleges, Republicans will eventually ram through unrestricted concealed carry everywhere in 2016:
WSJ: A bill that would allow concealed carry permit holders to bring guns into college and university buildings probably won’t come up for a vote during this session of the state Legislature, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said … co-author State Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum said that he “absolutely” plans to reintroduce the bill if voters re-elect him … began circulating the bill in October, days after a gunman killed nine people at a community college in Oregon. 
Scary and Dangerous Prius driving, latte drinking, anti-gun liberals: Republicans fear peaceful middle class families the most. That's why Scott Walker spent $577,000 on overtime for his security team, who he tried to stiff, until ordered by the federal government to pay up. Worse still, that money came out of our almost non-existent transportation fund, which is now mostly borrowed:
Fox6: Federal labor regulators say the state Department of Transportation has paid Gov. Scott Walker’s bodyguards more than half-a-million dollars in overdue overtime. $577,189 in overtime earned between May 2013 and May 2015. The Department of Labor ordered the DOT to award the overtime pay in August.
Minimum Wage Wasteland: It doesn't occur to our "purple state" Republicans that we're now further right than most every other red state. Consumer demand is 70% of our economy. But not to true supply-siders. As one twitter troll put it, "(liberals are) conspiring to make everything in Wisconsin more expensive:"
Urban Milwaukee: Wisconsin is one of the 21 states where the minimum wage is just $7.25 per hour ... The seven-year freeze in Wisconsin’s minimum wage has contributed to the widening income inequality in our state ... Wisconsin had a faster decline than any other state in the percentage of households in the middle class during the period 2000 to 2013.
Walker, the Courageous Underachiever: As county executive, Walker not only saw jobs disappear in Milwaukee, but he nearly bankrupted the county, even suggesting breaking it up and selling off the parts. I suppose we should be happy we're not at the bottom of the bottom half of job creating states:
Political Heat
“Gov. Scott Walker can't avoid the latest bad news on jobs in Wisconsin. A new government report shows that our state ranked 32nd in private-sector job growth among the 50 states in the five-year period that ended in June. That's the entire recovery period since the last recession.”
After Punishing WEDC for Mismanagement & Failed Audits, Republicans to return some Funding Cuts: Imagine the GOP putting more money into the GAB after their bad audit, instead of killing it. Did you ever get the idea that nothing the Republicans ever do is a failure, no matter how much taxpayer money is wasted?
JS: Speaker Robin Vos backed off from his idea of rebranding the state's economic development office, but said he is still considering injecting more money into the agency … after talking with officials at the agency and at the local level. "They don't want rebranding because they think WEDC's brand is OK," Vos said.

Troubled businesses have gotten taxpayer-funded incentives, and top officials at WEDC have steadily left the agency. Faced with those problems, GOP lawmakers in July cut $46 million from WEDC over two years, slashing its budget by 41.5%, Top lawmakers last month said they may restore some of that funding.
'Try Christianity' Christmas Greetings from Republican Legislator Scott Allen: Using taxpayer money to push and endorse a religion is okay this time, according to Speaker Robin Vos. Yes, it's our "fly-by-the-Constitutional-seat-of-our-pants" Republicans again, who think crossing that legal line is no big deal. "...consider the hope offered by the Prince of Peace." Along with a few taxpayer supported Bible passages, what's the harm?
Twin Cities: Vos told The Associated Press that Allen made the video in the Legislature's television studio in the state Capitol's basement using state equipment. He said he felt Allen's message was "entirely appropriate. People are really making a mountain out of a molehill," Vos said.
Walker's digging a Deeper Debt Hole! Supply-side is back to its old tricks, but that just fine, you'll see:
"Follow me down...?"
Cap Times: According to the state's Comprehensive Annual Fiscal Report, Wisconsin's general fund GAAP deficit grew in fiscal year 2015 by about 28 percent, from $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion.
I can't help feeling a little anxious about the coming year, and the lack of criticism from conservative voters who can't all be in the tank for this career incompetent.  

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Kleefisch takes Scattershot aim at everything, including what it is to be a responsible gun owner.

Well, well, well, another "responsible" gun owner is caught not being responsible?
Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) said he's been cited for killing two turkeys with one shot.
Yup, that's Lt. Governors Rebecca Kleefisch's hubby Joel, our very own Duck Dynasty gun totin' Republican representative. Nothing more admirable than a responsible gun owner taking responsibility for not being responsible. Hey, he didn't mean to shoot two:
Kleefisch said … he killed the tom as well as a nearby jake with pellets from the same shot … he didn't mean to shoot the jake. He was told he would be cited since he was warned several years ago about being sure of his target when he dropped three geese with one shot.
Yea, he was warned a few times already, and still broke the law. 

Under the measure children under 10 years old would be able to hunt next year … (which he) said studies show lifting the current age requirement for mentored hunting won't lead to more hunting accidents … it's needed to keep the state's hunting tradition alive. The number of new hunters taking up the sport has been declining in recent years.
Kids with guns, is just another dumb law to make irresponsible gun behavior completely legal. Why do you think Republicans want to allow firearms in and around schools? They want to make forgetful irresponsible gun owners responsible law abiding citizens again, the easy way.

My "responsible" conservative friend in Milwaukee continues to unintentionally carry his concealed gun into "No Gun" zones, dismissing it as no big deal, he just wasn't paying attention to the signs.

The comments following the article get it.... 
-These are the same republican legislators the promote concealed carry permit holders having gun battles in crowded shopping malls. I am sure Kleefisch has his hunter safety permit which is all you need in WI to get a CC permit. One of the things they teach in hunter safety is to make sure of your target and what is behind and around it. His hunting privileges should be taken away for three years for this infraction.

-He is at best nothing more than a reckless dope that is carrying a gun. This guy should not be in the legislature making laws, when he is consistently breaking them himself. Time to throw this embarrassment of a legislator out in the next election.

-Kleefizch = the idiot who thought hunting in a Milwaukee county park was OK.

-Now we know why Republicans support lax and ineffective gun laws. They can't even follow basic safety rules. This behavior makes all lawful Hunter's look bad. He's spoiling the sport for the rest of us.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

"BernieCare" single payer vs Republican Rube Goldberg free market based health care model.

It's interesting to note that the government already "pays about half of the nation's health care bills." That said, Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to go all the way, with an all inclusive government run system.

Real Freedom and liberty: It's easy to sell this too, which begs the question why Democrats don't run with this; No more surprise bills in the mail, no more paperwork, every doctor is your doctor, every hospital is your hospital, and dental is finally included. Say goodbye to outrageously high long term care insurance policies. A yearly premium for someone making $40,000 equals about one monthly premium in our current system.

Bernie's Plan - Breaking it down to the basics:
(It puts) the $3.2 trillion-a-year U.S. health care system in the hands of the federal government, with states acting as administrative subcontractors.
1. Eliminate such things as insurance premiums, deductibles and copays. In their place would be taxes ... a new 2.2 percent "health care income tax," with higher rates for upper-income earners.

2. Sanders would incorporate Medicare and Medicaid into the new system, promising that patients would have no gaps in coverage.

3. You could go to the doctor or spend two weeks in the hospital and not worry about getting a bill.

4. No insurance premiums, deductibles, cost-sharing or copays, even for brand-name medications. Gone would be worries about being penalized for seeing an out-of-network doctor.

5. Long-term care would be covered, whether in a nursing facility or one's own home.

6. Most dental care would be covered, too.

7. For drugmakers, the single-payer system means government-set prices, a reality they must endure in other countries.
WHAT ABOUT INSURERS? Economic changes, new technologies, and globalization have disrupted many industries. People in the United States have learned to live with fast-paced change, even if they don't like it. Under Sanders' plan insurers would be relegated to selling supplemental coverage for services not covered under the single-payer plan. States could hire them to help administer coverage. But hundreds of thousands of jobs would disappear. Billions of dollars in shareholder equity would evaporate. Sanders has proposed a transition plan for workers displaced by the conversion to single-payer. That plan, too, would have to be paid for with taxes.
1. Administrative savings would come from doing away with layers of insurance company bureaucracy. Those would be offset somewhat because the government bureaucracy would grow.

2. As with Medicaid, states would be expected to cover part of the cost of new system. How much remains to be determined.
Crazy Rube Goldberg Ideas from the Right: Adding to the convoluted GOP list of plans is Dr. Ben Carson, who should know better. Take his plan for Medicare; we already know a seniors ability to manage finances drops dramatically as they get older, so forcing them to shop for health coverage is insane:
Medicare itself would be restructured, providing beneficiaries with a fixed payment for a private insurance plan of their choice. His proposal relies largely on tax-sheltered personal accounts, 'Health Empowerment Accounts," opened for every citizen at birth, to promote patient choice, and foster competition among private insurers ... The tax-sheltered accounts would be paired with high-deductible major medical insurance. Routine costs could be covered from the accounts, which would build up balances with time. Carson would also gradually increase the Medicare eligibility age to 70 from the current age of 65.  
I included Carson's Medicare plan because it's similar to the "free market" GOP vision for health care in general, and the "market oriented" systems in Singapore and Switzerland, which is god awful. Singapore takes a whopping 20% out of your paycheck to pay for in patient health care, but not outpatient, which you pay for on your own. Ouch!

Remember, Bernie Sanders' plan takes only 2.2% out of your paycheck.

You'll notice "cost-efficiency" touted below, but that applies to the government, not to us. We get soaked, leaving our economic security up for grabs. It's a convoluted nightmare. The Atlantic:
Socialized medicine saves money, relative to the American system. Switzerland and Singapore  provide powerful examples of how market-oriented health care systems are more cost-efficient than socialized ones.

In Switzerland, there are no government-run insurance plans, no "public options" ... the Swiss get subsidies, much like "premium support" proposals for Medicare reform or the ACA exchanges, from which Swiss citizens buy health care from private insurers. The subsidies are scaled up or down based on income. Switzerland is high on the league tables in terms of government health spending  ... combining high-deductible insurance with health savings accounts for routine expenditures.

THE SINGAPORE MIRACLE?: Singapore has the most market-oriented system in the world. Singapore's comparable (if not higher) health outcomes, and spends an absurdly low amount on health care relative to the West. The key to the Singapore system is mandatory health savings accounts ... like our Social Security system, Singapore takes mandatory deductions from workers' paychecks--around 20 percent of wages--and deposits them into health savings accounts called Medisave. Medisave accounts are used mostly for inpatient expenses, but ... Singaporeans are expected to pay most of their outpatient expenses with non-Medisave cash.

On top of Medisave, Singapore has a government-run catastrophic insurance program called Medishield. Singaporeans can opt out of that plan and buy private catastrophic insurance. Premiums for Medishield can be paid for using the Medisave health savings accounts.

Then there is Medifund, a safety-net program for the bottom 10 percent of income earners, and Eldershield, a private insurance program for long-term care for those with old age-related disabilities. On top of these government-sponsored programs, Singaporeans can buy supplemental insurance for things like outpatient expenses.

It incorporates the central idea behind free-market health care: that health-care spending is most efficient when that spending is executed by individual patients, rather than third parties. It's easy to waste other people's money. But if that money is your own, you are going to try your best to spend it wisely.
No, it's actually called self rationing, which is never a good idea:
Singapore, of course, isn't a democracy--which allows the government to install sweeping changes that wouldn't be realistic here.

The Swiss and Singaporean models wouldn't be perfect models for America...
Check out this ridiculously biased Cato Institute report on universal care vs market based: 2008 paper by Michael Tanner.) The report points to 4 arguments against single payer, and two of them are the same; long lines and rationing. Really, we don't have waiting periods here to see a specialist, and people that can't pay or are dropped for preexisting conditions isn't rationing?

Texas Republicans Tantrum over ObamaCare raises premiums and subsidies.

Republicans made their point, by increasing the cost of ObamaCare (ACA).

Blame their never-ending tantrum over ObamaCare. Specifically, Republicans hate the risk sharing program (risk corridors, where the program collects insurer profits above a certain threshold and pays out to carriers with excessive losses). Republicans don't want ObamaCare to step in to supposedly "bailout" insurers. Those risk corridors expire after 2016.

So you might be surprised to learn Texas insurers are getting the biggest reimbursements (bailouts). Follow me on this, as we compare Texas to California. Dallas News:
In Texas, insurers lost a combined $377 million in the first year of, according to claims in a federal risk-sharing program. In California, insurers contributed over $180 million in profit to the same program.
ObamaCare works in California:
Covered California ... opted to become an “active purchaser,” negotiating with carriers, standardizing benefits and picking plans for the exchange. California also required policyholders to move into the new marketplace even though many resisted.
Texas did just the opposite, choosing instead to have a tantrum over Obama's broken promise that people could keep their existing plans. So Obama gave in and let people keep their plans and "that affected insurers, because it didn’t force everyone — healthy and sick — into the same pool."
California rejected Obama’s proposal and took some heat. But that “short-term political sacrifice” produced long-term market stability ... That decision helped create a more diverse mix of customers. And “California had the healthiest risk pool of all 50 states.
And because Texas stayed with the old system:
In Texas, insurers are raising premiums, restricting prescriptions, narrowing provider networks and eliminating most out-of-network benefits. 

For 2016, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, the state’s largest insurer ... premiums rising an average of 19 percent. Scott & White increased exchange premiums by over 32 percent. Humana’s up 21 percent, and Cigna and UnitedHealth, over 16 percent.
Raising the price of ObamaCare: Those higher premiums mean higher subsidies, draining ObamaCare:
Higher rates affect about 1 million Texans who buy coverage on and also increase federal subsidies that offset the costs.

In California, exchange premiums are increasing by ... 4 percent next year.

Texas politicians didn’t help the situation. They put up hurdles for federal navigators who helped customers select plans, and they’ve never encouraged enrollment. Not surprisingly, fewer Texans get coverage on the exchange: just 31 percent of those eligible compared with 47 percent in California, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

If Texas matched the participation rate in California, over half a million more residents would buy insurance.