Monday, January 15, 2018

Three Kentucky Sites on New National Civil Rights Trail

Despite Kentucky having waited until the war was over to join the Confederacy, or perhaps because of that, activists here stepped up when it counted,

From the Herald:

Kentucky and 11 other states are debuting a U.S. Civil Rights Trail on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

The trail, which includes more than 130 landmarks, will highlight three sites in Kentucky: Berea College, Louisville and the Simpsonville birthplace of civil rights leader Whitney Young
“It is an honor to have Kentucky’s historic sites included in the U.S. Civil Rights Trail,” said Kristen Branscum, Tourism Commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Tourism. “This trail presents us the unique opportunity to reflect on our history and inspire us as we embark on our path to be a multicultural destination for residents and visitors alike.”

The trail was created after National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis challenged historians two years ago to inventory surviving civil rights landmarks. 

Berea College was the site of a 20-hour pro-integration sit-in; in the 1960s, Louisville became known for a city-wide civil rights movement; and Simpsonville’s Young received the Medal of Freedom in 1968 for his work fighting employment discrimination, according to the Kentucky Department of Tourism.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Read more here: trail was created after National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis challenged historians two years ago to inventory surviving civil rights landmarks.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Privatization Kills: Tax Edition

Don't ever let anyone get away with saying that private business does a better job than the government at lower prices.  The truth is precisely the opposite.  Privatization is why everything government does is shoddy and useless, and privatization is why we pay way too much money for it.

The solution is to outlaw private contractors and start hiring the millions of local, state and federal employees who will have real incentives to serve the public.

In other exciting news of how Trump’s IRS is fucking up, ThinkProgress reports the IRS hired private collection agencies to go after low-income Americans who owe the government small amounts of unpaid tax and penalties. It was a huge success in the way that only a bureaucracy could love:
[The] debt collectors had cost the IRS $20 million but had only brought in $6.7 million — less than one percent of the total amount targeted for collection. In some cases, the private agencies received commissions for work they hadn’t actually carried out.
We bet that $7 million really helped put a dent in the $450 billion in unpaid taxes owed by Americans. Of course, maybe it’s a teensy bit of a problem that instead of going after tax cheats who owe large amounts, the collection agencies did what they do best, shaking down people making less than the national median income. A quarter of the households targeted for collections had incomes under 250 percent of the federal poverty level — which by coincidence is pretty much the definition of “low income.”
You will not be the least bit surprised to learn that despite the dismal outcome, the IRS plans to continue using private collection agencies, because the practice was pushed by congressional Republicans. And yes, when Mnuchin was asked about the use of private debt collectors during his confirmation hearings, he replied, “it seems like a very obvious thing to do.”
As for the IRS using IRS agents to go after any of the rich fuckwads avoiding taxes, don’t hold your breath — the agency’s lost a fifth of its funding since 2010, and has been targeted for further budget cuts, because EVERYONE hates the IRS.

The Message, Not the Person

No more celebrities, no more amateurs, no more reality-deniers.

Political Animal:

Then I finally read what Dahlia Lithwick wrote and all I could say was, “amen to that!”
I loved Oprah’s Golden Globes speech on Sunday. It was mesmerizing, pitch perfect, and gave voice to many lifetimes of frustration and vindication with eloquence and a full authority she has earned. But I found the strange Facebook response of “Oprah 2020” weirdly discordant and disorienting. Oprah’s speech—in my hearing—wasn’t about why she needs to run for office. It was about why the rest of us need to do so, immediately.
The dominant theme I heard was about giving voice to invisible people. It was the arc of the entire speech…
What I heard in her speech wasn’t a bid to save us all, but rather a powerful charge to the young girls watching at home to tell their own stories, to fight for their own values, and to battle injustices with the certainty that they will be seen and heard…
…what Winfrey and Obama talk about is the limits of top-down power. It is one of the great sins of this celebrity age that we continue to misread this message as a call to turn anyone who tries to deliver it into our savior. When someone tells you “I alone can fix it,” you should run screaming for the emergency exits. When someone tells you to get off your ass and fix it yourself, you should think first about running for office yourself.
Having watched these kinds of outbreaks come and go, I’ll guarantee you that all of the focus on whether or not Oprah will run for president will disappear in another day or two. What we could learn about this incident is that the media remains obsessed with the horse race of presidential politics and doesn’t seem capable of covering a story outside of that frame. By doing so, they create and affirm a narrative that what this country needs is a savior, which smacks of authoritarianism and is the opposite of democracy.
Even more disturbing is when liberals follow the media down that rabbit hole and assume that the big story is about who is going to run for president in 2020. I agree with Lithwick, Oprah’s message last night was “a powerful charge to the young girls watching at home to tell their stories, to fight for their own values, and to battle injustices with the certainty that they will be seen and heard.” If they take her up on that, it will create a wave that will dwarf the story about who runs for president in the next cycle.
Finally, before Oprah, there was another guy who gave powerful speeches that had nothing to do with running for political office, and yet managed to lead a movement that changed this country. The New Yorker remembers him this way today.
View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Radicals Together

Monday is a Day ON.  You can participate in the March and Program at UK or MLK Week in Louisville.

Simon Balto at LGM:
This April 4 will mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination, which means that in 2018 we will probably see even more frequent mendacious arguments from conservatives about King and what he’d think of modern America than we do in any other given year.

In his award-winning book Blood Done Sign My Name, historian Tim Tyson writes that, “In the years since his murder, we have transformed King into a kind of innocuous black Santa Claus, genial and vacant, a benign vessel that can be filled with whatever generic good wishes the occasion dictates. Politicians who oppose everything King worked for now jostle their way onto podiums to honor his memory. Many of them quote Dr. King out of context as they denounce ‘affirmative action,’ despite the fact that King repeatedly, publicly, and passionately supported that principle….[O]ur memories about what actually happened in the civil rights era are so faulty that Dr. King’s enemies can safely use his words to thwart his goals.”
Tyson’s book came out years before Black Lives Matter, and the conservative lust to use King’s legacy in precisely the way that Tyson describes has only been amplified in recent years. O’Reilly does it. Huckabee too. Newspaper columnists, etc.

The idea that King would oppose this generation’s most prominent struggle for racial justice is absurd, of course, but I appreciate Ulriksen making the point explicitly that Kaep and Michael Bennett and the rest of those who kneel and march in service of justice today are firmly in keeping with King’s legacy. In his time, King was in many ways an American radical. He wasn’t murdered for being a moderate.
Via Political Animal:


Why Bevin is Dead Wrong About Medicaid

Mostly because he's an obscenely rich libertarian motherfucker who thinks that people who were not born rich don't deserve to live.

More specifically:

Now, before you get all “ARE THEY GONNA MAKE NURSING HOME RESIDENTS WORK IN COAL MINES,” the letter is quite clear that states can only throw people off healthcare for not working if they’re “non-elderly, non-pregnant adult Medicaid beneficiaries who are eligible for Medicaid on a basis other than disability.” So relax! Sending Meemaw to the coal mines is Phase III, and won’t even be considered until CHIP reauthorization is made conditional on the repeal of child labor laws.

And if most people currently getting Medicaid are already working, or seem to have a good reason not to be working (which may win them an exemption from the work requirement), then why the hell is a work requirement needed in the first goddamn place? That’s simple: You gotta tighten the screws on poor people, because no matter what the reality is, Republicans just know life in poverty is an endless funtimes parade of free stuff. The goal here is to add more barriers to people living the high life on Medicaid, and the result will be fewer people getting the medical care that really can improve their job prospects.

Emma Sandoe is, as always on this subject, excellent:
Eight in 10 Medicaid beneficiaries of working age already live in working families. Recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that the most Medicaid beneficiaries who are not working are sick or disabled (but do not meet the rigid definitions of disability outlined by the Social Security Administration), or they are taking care of their family who may be elderly, sick or children that need care. Many more are in school or are retired.
These people have valid reasons for not working and taking away their health insurance will likely make their health worse or worsen the health of the people that they are caring for. The administration has created a solution to a problem that does not exist.
This policy will make it more difficult for people who are eligible for Medicaid and are working in low-wage jobs to be enrolled in the program. Navigating the complexities of health insurance bureaucracy is difficult for anyone. This policy adds another layer of complexity to the system. Now, beneficiaries will have to take additional steps when applying for coverage, as well as monitor and ensure their state government is accurately recording their information to receive the benefits they are already eligible for. Think how the country would respond if Medicare beneficiaries had to regularly prove that they were aging to keep their Medicare cards.
In reality, IT systems don’t always work, mail gets lost and people working two to three jobs to get by and still making little money may not have the time to correct the paperwork. Healthy people who want to get preventative health care will drop out of Medicaid because the additional burden is too high. These people may miss cancer screenings and diagnosis of chronic conditions.
The purpose of any insurance is to protect against financial devastation. Rigorous and recent research shows that Medicaid coverage not only improves a beneficiary’s health, it protects low-income people against bankruptcy and financial loss. These important protections have reduced extreme poverty and allowed many people opportunities to get out of poverty.

The administration has tried to make this policy more palatable by making exceptions for people who volunteer or have a severe disability. But this policy is so heavily pushed by the administration and Republican states because they think it will reduce the number of people on Medicaid. When we’ve tied work to other government run programs, it does little to increase work. In fact, we’ve seen the opposite: that access to health care can make it easier for people to find jobs. We’ve seen that when people don’t have access to needed medications it is harder for them to find jobs.
The point about how adding further conditions creates bureaucratic impediments that inevitably cause even eligible people to lose their insurance is particularly important.
And this avoidable suffering and misery has become a pillar of Republican policy. A collaboration between one of the worst decisions in the history of the Supreme Court of the United States and Republican state legislators had denied Medicaid to millions of people. A Republican Congress came frighteningly close to enacting massive Medicaid cuts in order to fund a massive upper-class tax cut. And now, having failed to gut Medicaid, Trump and various state legislatures are lashing out against some of the most vulnerable people in society. This is what Republican health care policy is, and it’s simply vile.
"Simply vile" pretty much covers it.

Bevin Lying About Medicaid Like the Motherfucking Liar He Is

A) This isn't about saving money.  This is about destroying every social support system that helps people who are not obscenely fucking rich.  Like Gov. I Got Mine Fuck You.

B) Cutting Medicaid does not save money.  It costs billions of dollars in health care that is no longer covered by a federal program but rather has to be picked up by hospital emergency rooms who then pass the cost onto other patients: us.

C) The total state dollars spent on the tiny number of people who don't "deserve" Medicaid in the eyes of Gov. You Should Have Been Born Rich, Sucker  amounts to less than Bevin spends on lunch.

In a move the state says would save money but cut another 9,000 people from Medicaid, Gov. Matt Bevin's administration is seeking permission from the federal government for more changes to the state-federal health plan that serves 1.4 million Kentuckians.

The changes, filed this week, revise a sweeping plan to the state's Medicaid program Bevin proposed last year seeking federal permission, or a "waiver," to reshape the program in order to impose more costs and personal responsibility on consumers.

The Bevin administration said the changes, aimed largely at "able-bodied" adults, are part of an effort to "provide dignity to individuals" and help them toward "independence from public assistance."


But health care advocates in Kentucky said the changes do nothing to improve the proposal Bevin introduced last year and worsen it in several ways, most significantly increasing from about 86,000 to 95,000 the number of people expected to lose health coverage over the five-year life of the plan.

They say many people will find the new requirements excessively complex and will lose coverage because they are unable to meet them.

"In my mind, this just takes a bad waiver and makes it worse," said Dustin Pugel, a research associate with the Kentucky Center on Economic Policy. 


The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services plans two public hearings on the proposed changes:
July 14, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., in Somerset at the Center for Rural Development, 2292 South Highway 27, Suite 300.
July 17, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., in Frankfort, after the meeting of the joint House-Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Bevin to Quadriplegics: Get Up and Get to Work, You Lazy Takers!

No, I am not kidding.

Bevin's supposed to make a "major healthcare announcement" at - though he's unlikely to have much of an audience as Frankfort is supposed to get hit with an ice storm plus four inches of snow by then.

Governor I Got Mine Fuck You is eager to be the first governor to take advantage of new rules from the Orange Loser forcing everyone off Medicaid and into the salt mines, no exceptions.

In a letter to state Medicaid directors Thursday morning, the Trump administration announced that it would allow states to require Medicaid recipients to participate in a work program or other form of approved “community engagement” in order to retain their health benefits. While there will supposedly be exceptions for disabled people, allowing states to implement the work requirement is a terrible idea. As a disability lawyer and disabled person myself, I know this policy change will be disastrous for my community in a number of important ways.

My first concern involves the eligibility process. According to the Washington Post, states will be able to decide for themselves who qualifies as “disabled” for the purpose of being exempt from the work requirement. No matter how broad they define the category, there will be disabled people who do not qualify for the exemption even though they should.

I know this from experience. Indeed, in my role as an appeals lawyer for people applying for social security disability, I often deal with similar problems. The Social Security Administration acknowledges that its standard for social security disability eligibility is “very strict.” Many people who eventually do qualify for benefits have to go through several appeals that can take years. And even if the standard for Medicaid work-requirement exemption is much more lenient than the standard for social security, it still grants the state a mechanism requiring people to fight for coverage they should be entitled to.
And what about hundreds of thousands of bedridden seniors in nursing homes? Medicaid pays 80 percent of nursing home bills in this country. Maybe those oldsters could push brooms from their beds.

Also half of all childbirth costs.  Maybe the most efficient path there is not to expect newborns to actually haul coal, but just turn them into cold cuts for starving disabled miners to eat.

Cutting Medicaid - and that's what this is, a massive cut in the health plan that supports children, the elderly and the disabled - is eating our seed corn.

But Bevin and his butt buddy don't care about that; they only care about eliminating every Democratic program that give working people a chance to survive in a libertarian economy - and good reasons to vote against repugs.

Hey, only 14 calendar days - 10 working days - to file to run for office in Kentucky's 2018 elections.  Many fine seats still have no Democratic candidates!  Don't let them go begging!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Comer's Going Down; Which Democrat Will Replace Him?

Maybe Marine veteran Samuel "Sam" K. Gaskins, who filed way back on Nov. 15. His website is up, though minimal. He's on Facebook, too.

Seriously, if Kentucky Democrats can't take advantage of this they deserve to keep losing.

U.S. Rep. Jamie Comer, who lost the 2015 GOP primary for governor by just 83 votes after a former girlfriend said he had hit her when they dated in college, is a bully.

Want proof?

In October — as rumors were swirling and just before a legislative staffer complained that she had been sexually harassed by Comer’s good buddy, House Speaker Jeff Hoover — a bizarre, vulgar, threatening, grammatically incorrect Twitter message was sent, targeting the chief clerk of the state House of Representatives. 

“Hey Brad, when the House finally fires your dumbass, (which will be very soon) for being a lazy dumb sh--, David Williams can help you find a job cleaning sh-- stains off the commodes in the Corner Pool Room in Burkesville. But I’m sure you won’t last long there because everyone hates you and you are dumb and lazy.”


You have to wonder what would cause a United States congressman to fire off a message like that. 
It was sent as a direct message to a Twitter account that goes by the name @kyblindside. The account posted a screenshot of the message that day.

Courier Journal was able to establish that the message came from Comer’s verified account when the operator of the @kyblindside account provided us the password for the @kyblindside account on Jan. 3. We were then able to view the original message and were able to click through to Comer’s verified account.

The operator of the @kyblindside account hasn’t revealed their identity to us.
I asked U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan to respond to Comer’s outburst. Haven’t heard back from him either.

Reading that message, three words come to mind.

Petty. Abusive. Vulgar.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

You Have 16 - No! Just 12 - Days Left to Save the Nation From Repug Tyranny

16 Calendar days, but just 12 actual days that the Secretary of State's Office in the Capitol is open to accept candidate filings.  Monday's a state holiday and it will be closed.

Also, the office is open just from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays and since the lege is in session, parking is at a premium.  Keep that in mind.

Meanwhile, there are Democratic incumbent seats now open!  Might be easier to beat a repug, but only if you get past the likely crowd in the primary.

From Jack Brammer at the Herald:

Two veteran state House Democrats — Jody Richards of Bowling Green, who was House speaker for a record 14 years, and Darryl Owens of Louisville — announced Monday that they won’t seek re-election this year.

So far, eight Democratic House incumbents have said publicly that they won’t run this year for another two-year House term. That means it will be harder for Democrats to cut into the substantial 64-36 margin that Republicans hold in the House, because Democrats will have to find candidates to try to replace the incumbents.

Three House Republicans have said they won’t seek re-election this year. They are Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green, Marie Rader of McKee and William Wells of West Liberty.

Besides Richards and Owens, House Democrats not filing for re-election are Steve Riggs of Louisville, Gerald Watkins of Paducah, Will Coursey of Symsonia, Arnold Simpson of Covington, Rick Nelson of Middlesboro and Jim Wayne of Louisville. Rep. James Kay, D-Versailles, has been mentioned as a possible candidate this year for Woodford County judge-executive, but he hasn’t publicly announced his candidacy.
 These seats are begging for new Democratic candidates.  Run, goddammit!  Run!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

When I Say Privatizaation Kills, I Mean That Literally

Via Zandar:

Kiera Feldman at ProPublica takes a long look at the most dangerous job in the Big Apple: working the private garbage trucks that roam the city in the darkness.
 In New York City overall, private sanitation trucks killed seven people in 2017. By contrast, city municipal sanitation trucks haven’t caused a fatality since 2014. SNIP
$80 bucks a shift for 18 hours and no benefits whatsoever, paid cash off the books and you have to buy your own uniform and safety gear, if you get paid at all.  That's where "cheaper, private carting" gets you in NYC these days.  And that's just the start of this piece.
Less than $5 an hour.  That's a literal crime: one-third of New York's mandated minimum wage.  Those workers should be getting 10 times that much. The owners of this criminal enterprise - and the city officials and employees who authorized the contract - get more than that.

You Have 17 Days Left to Save the Nation from Repug Tyranny: State Senate and Congress Edition

Filing deadline for local, state and national races in Kentucky is January 26.

There are 38 Kentucky State Senators, serving four-year terms.  Half are up for election in even-numbered years.  This year, even-numbered districts are up: 19 of the 38.  Those without Democratic candidates are the 2nd, 6th, 12th, 14th, 16th, 20th, 24th, 30th, 36th, 38th.

Congressional races in Kentucky might be interesting. The single Democratic representative and the strongest repug are without challengers:  John Congressman Awesome Yarmuth in the Third and Hal Rogers in the Fifth, although Rogers has a repug challenger for the primary.

In the First District, Jamie Comer, who is in a world of trouble for being an all-around asshole, has one Democratic challenger already.

The Second District's Brett Guthrie appears to have some problems; he has three Democratic challengers.

Thomas Massie in the Fourth has not filed yet, but already has two Democratic challengers.

Candy Barr is hurtin' in the Sixth: he has three Democratic challengers, even though retired Marine Colonel Amy McGrath hasn't filed yet.  Also, the SoS site has Candy withdrawing from the race on the same date it shows him filing.  Calling Alison's webmaster!
Is there no Louisville repug brave enough to challenge Congressman Awesome in the Third?  C'mon, guys: give us a chance to ruin some up-and-coming wingnut's political career by crushing him right out of the gate.