Archive for February, 2010

Kagen proposes a change to Obamacare

February 26, 2010

Wow, I feel obnoxious using “Obamacare.” It’s been almost exclusively used for misinformation purposes, but you gotta give it to those crazy townhallers, it’s catchy.

Steve Kagen, a Democrat from Northeastern Wisconsin, is proposing an amendment to the health care bill that will require businesses selling health care products (pills etc.) to disclose all their prices on the internet.

Kagen said he first offered his proposal as an amendment to the health care bill the House passed in June. But House leadership barred amendments from being attached to the bill.

He introduced his measure Thursday as a stand-alone bill at the same time Obama was hosting a bipartisan summit on health care reform.

Kagen is a former doctor and a millionaire. He is also the most vulnerable member of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation. He won his first election 51-49 in a huge Democratic year. In his second election, which was another great year for Dems, Kagen got up to 54 percent.

Kagen’s lack of seniority is only one part of what makes the 8th district (wikipedia map of it) the best target for the GOP in November. The main population hubs are the Fox Cities and Green Bay. Traditionally Republican territory, many state politicos (mainly from the Dem side) are commenting that the “Fox Valley is changing.” Both Brown and Outagamie counties voted solidly for Obama in 2008, his margin of victory (10+) much more substantial than any margin Clinton enjoyed during the 90’s (The Fox Valley gave less support to Ross Perot than the nation).

Nevertheless, Kagen has some work to do if he wants to keep his seat. I do believe that health care reform is an issue close to his heart, but I also bet that this bill would be a great way for him to get some positive name recognition in his district. What he’s proposing is simple and popular. It’s very hard for the GOP to portray this as a government takeover of private business –– people understand and appreciate basic consumer protections. The voters of the 8th district may be right-leaning and somewhat distrustful of government, but there is not a meaningful enclave of Ayn Rand objectivists who will oppose making big pharmaceuticals post their prices online. Just in case you thought the Badger Herald editorial page was indicative of typical Wisconsin voters…

Brunch Links

February 26, 2010

There were a lot of birthdays yesterday. Not only did Madison celebrate the birth of county board candidate Michael Johnson and College Dems head Molly Rivera, who I believe was spotted at Wando’s drinking a fishbowl of five hour energy drink, but also my cherished commenter Whitney Swance and my neighbor Val, who threw a bitchin’ party last night. That’s where I discovered my other neighbor’s blog. She’s graduating early and moving to Florida –– tell her why that’s not a good idea and that the Sconz sent you.

High of 30, low of 17 and sunny! Sounds like a Carnival baby!

Head of ASCME calls board of Wisconsin Policy Research Institute “a band of prostitutes.”

Thank God. The Council should seriously consider this provision, which would push back the date at which landlords can start showing apartments.

Wisconsin, like all other states, is desperate for Medicaid funds.

Looking to skate tonight? Check out the conditions of the various rinks in Madison.

Fishing club says Assembly forest bill violates constitution. I was definitely not familiar with this provision, which bans “private bills,” which affect only one group or person. I don’t think there will be any serious legal challenge though.

Funny thing is the City Council targets specific groups all the time –– this new provision to require bars over a capacity of 49 to get an entertainment license is sort of an example.

Where are these diploma mills and where can I sign up?

Incredible. The minority leader in the senate calls Badger Care Basic a “government take-over of healthcare.”

No Patrick, the GOP is not becoming more libertarian.

Don’t split the grad school up, writes Cardinal ed board.

Alleged Sexual Assault: “UW…acted with deliberate indifference”

February 25, 2010

This will be big news tomorrow, and going into the future. From a report released on the website of the Center of Public Integrity:

It took nine months in 2005 and 2006 for the University of Wisconsin at Madison to contemplate, then reject filing disciplinary charges against a crew team member accused of rape.

Enough time for the accused student to start his fourth year at the university, compete in another rowing season, and glide into another spring as a celebrated college athlete.

Enough time, too, for an enraged encounter with his accuser, Laura Dunn, at a fraternity party. “He started threatening me,” said Dunn. “When he hit the wall, he used his whole forearm, and just slammed within inches of my head.”

The story:

Laura Dunn was a member of the crew team, too, during her freshman year at the University of Wisconsin. She left the next year after the alleged rape by two teammates, she said, made the already-slender athlete lose weight and sleep. But even as her crew career fell apart, she didn’t report anything to campus authorities for more than a year.

The Universities response:

The university said a police investigation and the alleged victim’s objections to one of her investigating officers accounted for the delay. The criminal investigation, too, ended without charges against the accused student, who said Dunn willingly participated in sexual activity.

The early assessment:

“UW … acted with deliberate indifference,” wrote former Security On Campus, Inc. legal advocate Alice Purple. “The harassment that Ms. Dunn was forced to undergo was so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it deprived her of educational benefits by forcing her to quit the crew team and causing her grades to fall.”

I just wanted to get this up for now. More commentary to come tomorrow.

BadgerCare Basic approved

February 25, 2010

The legislature approved Badger Care Basic today, which will allow adults without dependent children to buy into a health care program for a $130 a month premium. Kathleen Vinehount (who has not responded to my email on a separate matter) was the only Democrat to vote against the bill, which passed by one vote.

Now, the program is not supposed to cost the state any money. It’s all supposed to come out of the premium. However, Republicans insist that the revenue generated from the premiums will not be enough to cover the costs of “a very sick population,” and that the state will inevitably be forced to chip in.

That may be true, but even if that is the case, it does not spell fiscal disaster. The program concerns less than 25,000 people. I will look into the numbers and try to get some stats on the average age etc. of the target population. I suspect there are quite a few young people in the program, many of whom are in good health.

Campus sexual assault story about to break?

February 25, 2010

From a statement just released by Dean of Students Lori Berquam:

Members of the UW-Madison community,

In coming days, there will be a great deal of media and online coverage of sexual assault in our community and around the UW System.

Reading these stories reminds us of the importance of the work we are doing to try to prevent these horrible acts, to respond in victim-centered ways and to seek accountability from those who would perpetrate them.

Is there a big campus sexual assault story that is about to break? It would only make sense that a statement like this would be released in the midst of an accompanying scandal.

I’m the Sconz!

February 25, 2010

I just took this quiz that is supposed to figure out what “state you are.” I answered as honestly as possible.

You’re Wisconsin!
You are perhaps the cheesiest person alive. You like ’80’s music, posing for photographs, fastballs, cartoon cheetahs, and real mice. You want to have a cow, man. You have been known to do the Forrest Gump shrimp routine with the word “cheese” replacing “shrimp”. Once in a while, beer will supplement your diet of unending cheese. Deep down, though, you’d prefer to drink fermented cheese.

Granted, I may have to re-think the question they asked me about government.

Herald accepts ad from holocaust denier

February 25, 2010

And Smathers explains it:

This newspaper has made a principle of accepting any individual or group advertisement submitted. The only cases in which we would reject an advertisement are if it exhibits threats toward any person or group or is of a libelous nature. This advertisement, while certainly fueled by veiled anti-Semitism, does not rise to the level of threats and therefore does not merit rejection.

The basis of these decisions does not rest on a desire to collect money for these advertisements, but on the editorial principle that no opinions or assertions can be so offensive that we cannot bring ourselves to hear them. If we run from manifestly vitriolic, destructive and false arguments when they present themselves, they will continue to roam and perhaps proliferate.

We attend a research university of nearly unparalleled intellectual might. As such, we have attracted the most intelligent minds of our country into one intellectual community dedicated to the perpetual search for the truth. This was our mission in 1894 when the UW System Board of Regents defended the “fearless sifting and winnowing” for truth, and it serves a guiding social principle for this campus to this day.

It is that mission that should guide us in this instance. It is patently obvious to the most rational individual that there is no truth to Bradley’s grand project. Any student of this university who views the page (or, perhaps even the link) would recognize his mission as a wholesale rejection of truth and, in turn, dismiss it.

Removing this advertisement would undercut and debase that belief in rational evaluation. The UW community has every ability to confront these lies and reject them on their face. To remove this advertisement would assume our community lacks the intellectual integrity to properly define this movement as an affront to objective truths. The absolute incompetence with which Smith defends his views can only be fully illuminated if this campus is faced to confront those views in their rawest form.

In many other western nations, holocaust denial is a crime. Here, saying “shit” on the radio is a crime. Both are unacceptable restrictions of individual liberty and I don’t believe that either does much to reduce the ugliness that its suppose to combat.

Here is a video of Noam Chomsky defending the right of French “historian” Robert Faurisson to deny the holocaust. The European press was incredulous, and quite a few American conservatives, including my former colleague Ryan Masse, saw it as evidence of anti-Semitism. That’s ludicrous. Even the crazy, deranged lunatics, from the KKK to the people who stand in front of Humanities and tell us we’re going to hell, have the right to free speech.

But that still doesn’t mean the paper had to accept the ad. To have refused it would not have been to abandon the principle of the right of free speech in society. No, the law shouldn’t outlaw hate speech, but the media is not obligated to publish it either. If the Herald is willing to reluctantly accept $75 for the ad maybe it should take the next step and court hate organizations for ads. Why not? It’s the principle right?

The hate speech laws in Europe are wrong. But some of the informal measures politicians and the media take to isolate the far right are worthy of consideration. When far right members of parliament get up to speak, all other members leave the chamber. Candidates refuse to debate with far right opponents. Quarantine.

Wilco to become Madison citizens

February 25, 2010

Sorry for the lack of brunch links today folks. I thought this piece of legislation would suffice as a replacement.

WHEREAS, Wilco has visited Madison and played concerts here at least thirteen times since 1995 (including a show at Club DeWash in February of 1995); and,

WHEREAS, Jeff Tweedy says of Madison: ‘We really like it here’; and,

WHEREAS, Wisconsinites generally have a love/hate relationship with all things from Illinois but the sold-out show at the Overture Center on February 21, 2010 (sic) had only love for this band from Chicago; and,

WHEREAS, at least one member of the Common Council attended the show and can attest to its excellence; and,

WHEREAS, The Isthmus called Wilco ‘America’s shiniest rock object’; and,

WHEREAS, Duluth, MN may be cool, but we would not want it said that either that fine city or its mayor are cooler than Madison and our mayor (even if Mayor Dave is not sure who Jeff Tweedy is); and,

….You get the point. A point of order: is it proper to refer to the mayor by his first name during official city business? And practically the only thing I know about Duluth, MN is that it is a tad bit cooler than Madison, WI.

Bad year for Dems could mean Feingold loss

February 24, 2010

Russ Feingold has tons of respect from people who pay attention. I have countless anecdotes about conservatives who vote for Feingold because they respect his honesty, intelligence and commitment to principle. But that only means that history will look kindly on him. That does not mean the 2010 midterm elections will. Here are some polls I forgot to post last week:

In a new Rasmussen poll, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold (D) fails to garner 50 percent against two announced Republican challengers, while he trails former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who has yet to say whether he will run. Thompson led Feingold by a similar margin last month.

Thompson 48, Feingold 43

Feingold 47, Wall 39

Feingold 47, Westlake 37

For Feingold to lose against Wall or Westlake the Democrats will have to do really badly. If the economy is still in bad shape (and showing no signs of improvement) Obama and his party is going to get hammered. Feingold will not be immune to the damage.

A Brothers battle rundown

February 24, 2010

The three questions that I see as especially relevant in the Brothers controversy:

1. Are there any attempted justifications for the Universities use of eminent domain?

Most commentators have responded pretty negatively to what appear to be the Universities heavy-handed tactics with the Fortney brothers, a couple UW alum. Emily Mills, in her post yesterday at the Daily Page, seems to offer the best attempt at a justification for the Board of Regents choice to renege on the deal that the Fortney brothers claim was negotiated between themselves and UW and WARF.

But it’s a money grab, plain and simple. They [the Brothers owners] bought the property knowing full-well that it would be a short-term investment and something they could wave in front of the university as a bargaining chip when the music school plans went forward. Put up a stink, ask for a whole lot more money than you paid for it, and then claim, loudly and publicly, that you’re getting screwed so as to stir up support for your cause.

I’m not generally a fan of eminent domain, but I can’t say I entirely blame the UW for wanting to use it in this case. The alternative smells very much like blackmail.

2. Does that justification work?

I think not. As Emily notes, the Fortney brothers acquired the property by outbidding the University for it. If the University had plans for the property, it should have outbid the Brothers owners for the property in the first place. The Fortneys’ purchase of the property, even if it was done with the intentions to sell it to the University later, just seems like good business, nothing else (and certainly nothing bordering on illegal).

3. This PR campaign…WTF?

Since the Brothers owners decided to drape that two story banner declaring, “No UW Music School,” on the side of their building last week, more and more locals have begun to see this campaign as one employing a condescending attitude toward the importance of a new music school.

Yesterday, I argued exactly that point in the Herald, pointing to further incriminating evidence in the form of their actions on Fox News, as well as those infamous full-page open letters to the anonymous donor who has pledged $15 million toward a new music school. Today, the Herald made Mr. Sam Clegg’s column containing an apparent disagreement with my conclusion the feature of their Wed. opinion section. Clegg wrote:

Sweeping generalizations are often more to the detriment of their authors than their intended targets. In an interview with Eric Fortney, the co-owner of the bar apologized profusely for any potential offense the sign may have caused, saying he and Marc are not, as was implied in yesterday’s article, opposed to the existence of a music school building.

The accusation of the use of sweeping generalizations is bogus. But, regardless of what the Fortney brothers intentions were, or what they say they were, the campaign itself as of late has had an almost completely transparent, and certainly arrogant and condescending, anti-music school message. They are now saying they aren’t opposed to a music school, and that is a good thing. But until their campaign reflects that fact in the future, previous actions should guide our assessment, not them saying “woops.”

Check out the comments section of yesterdays Brunch Links if you want to see a back and forth between Sam and I on this with a good helping of snark.