Opinion

The Incredible Shrinking $7.5 Million Damage Tab for the Wisconsin Capitol Protests

When all is said and spun, some will judge the veracity of Governor Scott Walker's administration by a single number it released in March 2011.

The "Wisconsin Uprising" hit its stride in February-March, 2011 with more than 100,000 protesters rallying outside the Capitol and thousands more inside, including hundreds who occupied overnight for up to three weeks. When the administration was seeking to limit public access to the Capitol during the protests, the Wisconsin Department of Administration's chief counsel Cari Anne Renlund, told a judge hearing the access case that the cleanup would cost $6 million to repair damaged marble inside the Capitol, $1 million for damage outside and $500,000 for costs to supervise the damage. The estimates (which were the same as the original cost of the entire construction of the Capitol nearly a century ago) were based largely on alleged tape residue damage from signs. Protestors countered that they had consulted with preservationists and used marble-safe blue painter's tape. Their militant adherence to the blue tape was visible to every Capitol visitor.

Scalia's Jokes Mask Reality Too Many of Our Leaders Shield Themselves From

Wendell Potter, CMD Fellow and former head of PR for CIGNASince Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia clearly isn't going to take the time to actually read the health care reform law before he decides whether or not it's constitutional, maybe he and a couple of his buddies on the High Court can catch a screening of "The Hunger Games", the movie about children battling each other to the death in a futuristic America, renamed Panem.

"You really want us to go through these 2,700 pages?" Scalia asked during arguments on the constitutionality of the law last week. "Is this not totally unrealistic? That we are going to go through this enormous bill item by item and decide each one?"

He joked that spending time to read the Affordable Care Act before the Court decides its fate would put him in danger of violating the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. LOL, Judge.

Journalists Participate In Democracy; Gannett Cowers

Gannett logoA guest post by Dave Saldana, who is a journalist, attorney, and media critic

You really have to hand it to right-wing media hounds. They've gotten so good at bird-dogging the media that they don't even have to raise their alarm of faux outrage and trumped up claims of bias anymore. Now, so fearful are the once-great bastions of journalism of the mere accusation, that they hound their own.

See, for example, the Wisconsin newspapers of the Gannett chain, which yesterday offered mea culpas for their 25 employees among the million-plus Wisconsinites who signed the petition to recall Governor Scott Walker.

Greta Van Susteren Falls for Walker’s Waterloo Ballyhoo

Scott Walker as NapoleonIn an interview with Fox News legal eagle Greta Van Susteren, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker says his upcoming recall election will be a "Waterloo" moment for national unions that will "invest everything possible to try and take me out to send a message."

Van Susteren fell for Walker's Emperor Napoleon spin, giving him ample time to describe how he is being unfairly persecuted by big-money, out-of-state unions who apparently imported all the protestors last year who surrounded and occupied the Wisconsin State Capitol. "When that started to happen, when you see the buses of people come in, the charter planes coming in -- and the money they spent. I mean, they dumped $4 million to $5 million even before any campaigns last year," Walker said.

More Free Sludge! Calabasas, California Offers Free Sewage Sludge "Compost"

"Organic Biosolids Compost"Good news! The sewage treatment plant in Calabasas, California has been giving away free sludge! Free sludge, you say? That potent stew of human and industrial sewage sludge laced with flame retardants, endocrine disruptors, pharmaceutical residues, phthalates, industrial solvents, resistant pathogens, and perfluorinated compounds? "Composted" sludge, which can bioaccumulate in plants grown in sludge-contaminated soil? Oh, goodie.

Paying for Cancer Treatment for Children in America with a Car Wash, Bake Sale and Fish Fry

Wendell Potter, CMD Fellow and former head of PR for CIGNA"It shouldn't be this way," read the subject line of an email I received Friday morning from a conservative friend and fellow Southerner. "People shouldn't have to beg for money to pay for medical care."

At first, I thought he was referring to my column last week in which I wrote about the fundraising effort to cover the bills, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, that the husband of Canadian skier Sarah Burke is now facing. Burke died on January 19, nine days after sustaining severe head injuries in a skiing accident in Park City, Utah. I noted that had the accident occurred in Burke's native Canada, which has a system of universal coverage, the fundraiser would not have been necessary.

But my friend was not writing about Sarah Burke. He wanted to alert me to another fundraiser, this one on Alabama's Gulf Coast, to help pay for the mounting medical expenses for a beautiful 13-year-old girl fighting for her life at USA Children's & Women's Hospital in Mobile, Alabama.

The High Cost of Allowing Health Insurers To Continue Keeping Us In The Dark

Walking in the darkIn his State of the Union address, President Obama said very little about health care reform, but what he did say was a reminder of how tight a grip the insurance industry has on the U.S. health care system -- and will continue to have if the Affordable Care Act is not implemented as Congress intended. And it is largely up to the President to make sure that it is.

"I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny your coverage or charge women more than men," he said.

That comment drew applause, although certainly not from the insurance industry’s friends in Congress, who continue to call for gutting the law. That’s because when and if it’s fully implemented, the Affordable Care Act will make many of the most egregious practices of insurers a thing of the past. Weakening or stripping out the consumer protections in the law that insurance companies despise would make executives and shareholders of those companies very happy, not to mention much richer in the years to come.

Stress Testing Tim Geithner

U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim GeithnerThanks to Occupy Wall Street, in the State of the Union this week President Obama struck some of his most populist themes yet. He wants to tax millionaires, bring back manufacturing and prosecute the big banks. He touted his Wall Street reforms saying the big banks are "no longer allowed to make risky bets with customers deposits" and "the rest of us aren't bailing you out ever again."

But are we safe from the next big bank bailout? Many experts are dubious and Wednesday the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen decided to test the theory in the most direct way possible. They used the administrative law process to formally petition the nation's top bank regulators to move swiftly to break up Bank of America (BofA) asserting in their petition: "The bank poses a grave threat to U.S. financial stability by any reasonable definition of that phrase."

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