Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Last Call For The Same Old Bevin

Joe Sonka details the "changes" that Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin has made to his planned waiver of Medicaid expansion, which the federal government basically told him that he wasn't going to get approved.  Bevin apparently doesn't give a damn and is submitting it anyway, and is daring the Department of Health and Human Services to tell him to piss off so he can blame somebody else when Kentucky Republicans take health coverage away from ten percent of the state.

Under the waiver proposal dubbed Kentucky HEALTH and first unveiled in June, individuals with income up to 138 percent of the federal poverty rate would still be eligible for expanded Medicaid, though “able-bodied” persons would have to pay a monthly premium to maintain coverage and could be locked out from coverage if payments are missed. Such individuals also would no longer be automatically eligible for benefits such as vision and dental, having to earn credits in their My Rewards Account by having health risk assessments, volunteering, taking smoking cessation classes, having a job or being in school. 
Bevin reiterated in a press release announcing the submission of the 87-page waiver on Wednesday that his plan would lead to better health outcomes, ensure the long-term sustainability of the state’s Medicaid program — as Kentucky must begin to kick in a small percentage of costs for covering the expanded population next year — and “familiarize members with commercial insurance and prepare them for self-sufficiency.” 
“The submission of this waiver is the result of many months of extensive research, planning and time spent traveling the state listening to Kentuckians,” said Bevin in his press release. “Kentucky HEALTH will allow us to continue to provide expanded Medicaid coverage, but unlike the current Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, it will do so in a fiscally responsible manner that ensures better health outcomes for recipients.”

The major scam here is the "My Rewards Account", like any health savings account you put money into to cover your medical expenses, but you lose all the money in it at the end of the year.  It's a tax on people who are bad at predicting exactly how sick they'll get in the course of 12 months, underestimate it and you lose your coverage for non-payment of premiums, overestimate it and you pay the state extra tax money you really can't afford.  It's a fun guessing game, and the winner is Bevin, every time.

While Bevin’s proposal had received wide praise from Republican officials in Kentucky, health care advocacy groups have expressed concern that requiring premiums and locking people out of coverage for failure to make payments would serve as an obstacle to many low-income individuals and families gaining Medicaid insurance. HHS also has emphasized that states seeking a waiver to alter its Medicaid expansion may not limit access to coverage or benefits by conditioning eligibility on work or other activities, impose premiums or cost sharing at levels preventing low-income individuals from accessing coverage, or penalize people for needing Medicaid coverage for multiple years. 
When unveiling his proposal in June, Bevin warned that if HHS does not approve the waiver, then “there will not be expanded Medicaid in the state of Kentucky,” an indication that he would either repeal the executive order of former Gov. Beshear to expand Medicaid — which resulted in over 400,000 people receiving coverage — or decline to reauthorize it next year. When asked what he would do if HHS only approved of 90 percent of Kentucky’s waiver proposal, Bevin said at the time that there is still a “negotiating process” going forward. 
HHS press secretary Marjorie Connolly released the following statement after Gov. Bevin’s announcement, again praising the success of Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion over the past few years and indicating that the process going forward could still take considerable time. 
“Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion has been very successful in improving health coverage, access to care, health outcomes, and financial security for its citizens,” said Connolly. “HHS has been clear that, as we begin the review of this application, we will assess it based on longstanding Medicaid principles of access to coverage and affordability of care. As in other states, we are prepared to continue dialogue for as long as it takes to find a solution that maintains and builds on Kentucky’s historic progress, and avoids moving backwards.”

Except backwards is exactly where Bevin is heading with this.  He's holding health insurance coverage for 400,000 plus Kentuckians hostage, and either he gets what he wants or the people of the Bluegrass State get it right between the eyes.

That's our governor!

Trump Cards, Con't

So we've reached the point of this insane election season where a presidential candidate is now actively promising to use the power of the executive to prosecute and imprison his political opponent if elected, even though Clinton has been exonerated by said Justice Department.  But that's just a technicality, see...

On Monday night in Ohio, Trump unveiled his plan for clearing this hurdle. The GOP nominee decried the conspiracy between the FBI and Justice Department to “whitewash” Clinton’s use of a private email server, saying, “They certainly cannot be trusted to quickly or impartially investigate Hillary Clinton’s crimes.” 
Thus, Trump demanded an “expedited investigation by a special prosecutor” into his rivals misdeeds. “The Clintons made the State Department into the same kind of pay-to-play operation as the Arkansas government was,” the mogul declared
Granted, Trump’s proposal doesn’t actually “make sense.” Only the Justice Department has the power to appoint a special prosecutor. If Trump is elected, he could, presumably, appoint an attorney general willing to appoint such a prosecutor — but at that point, why wouldn’t Trump just let Attorney General Chris Christie carry out the witch hunt himself? 
Nonetheless, the special-prosecutor plan appears to be a central part of Trump’s agenda going forward. After cancelling a series of campaign events on Monday — including a marquee speech on immigration policy — Trump released a revised schedule on Tuesday morning. On the docket: A speech in Austin that aims “to draw national attention to his call for border security as well as the need for a Special Prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton’s bought and paid for State Department.”

At this point, if you're somehow still on the fence over your 2016 presidential vote, and somehow Donald Trump vowing to send Hillary to prison is the one thing you needed to hear from him in order to secure your vote, then yeah, you have much bigger personal problems to deal with.

Meanwhile in Trump outreach to voters of color, we have something something Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations.

Standing before a vastly white crowd in Ohio on Monday evening, Donald Trump made a passionate pitch to African American and Hispanic voters, whom he described as living in poverty in neighborhoods that are more dangerous than war zones. 
"What do you have to lose?" Trump asked again and again. 
It's a question that Trump first posed to African American voters during a rally in North Carolina on Thursday. He then repeated it at a rally in Michigan on Friday evening and Virginia on Saturday night. In Ohio on Monday, Trump expanded his pitch to include Hispanics. 
"Our government has totally failed our African American friends, our Hispanic friends and the people of our country. Period," Trump said in Akron, Ohio, straying from the prepared remarks the campaign provided to reporters. "The Democrats have failed completely in the inner cities. For those hurting the most who have been failed and failed by their politician — year after year, failure after failure, worse numbers after worse numbers. Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No housing, no homes, no ownership. Crime at levels that nobody has seen. You can go to war zones in countries that we are fighting and it's safer than living in some of our inner cities that are run by the Democrats. And I ask you this, I ask you this — crime, all of the problems — to the African Americans, who I employ so many, so many people, to the Hispanics, tremendous people: What the hell do you have to lose? Give me a chance. I'll straighten it out. I'll straighten it out. What do you have to lose?
The mostly white crowd cheered and then started chanting: "Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump!"
Dear stupid black and brown people, why the hell won't you vote for me?  Your buddy, Don.

Still, it's nice that we've reached the desperate phase of the Trump campaign.   Another 11 weeks of raw, brutal misogyny and overt racism should be good for the country, right?

Who's Watching Charm City?

Since the start of the year the city of Baltimore has been under constant surveillance from the skies by the Baltimore PD in a newly-revealed program scooped by Bloomberg News, the same type of aerial spotting used by our forces in Iraq is now being used by a large police department against mostly citizens of color, conducted by a private firm called Persistent Surveillance. The company was founded by a former MIT engineer named Ross McNutt, and their goal was to show the country's major police forces that constant surveillance by air, using retrofitted Cessnas, was an invaluable tool.

Baltimore PD has apparently taken McNutt up on his offer, and it wasn't the first to do so.

A single, long-term contract with an American police department would be worth about $2 million a year, he says. By 2012, McNutt was approaching the police departments of the 20 most crime-ridden jurisdictions in the country, marketing his services. He floated several of them an offer: Let us fly over your city to show you what we can do, and then you can decide if you want to hire us.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department quietly took him up on the offer, allowing him to conduct a nine-day trial run over Compton, a largely minority city south of L.A., in 2012. According to Patrick Bearse, operations lieutenant for the Aero Bureau of the sheriff’s department, the county recognized the potential of Persistent Surveillance’s service, but it didn’t sign a contract with the company because the technology, particularly the quality of the images, didn’t meet the department’s expectations. The city’s residents didn’t find out about the flights until a year later. Angry protesters demanded a new “citizen privacy protection policy” from local leaders, but even those leaders—from the mayor on down—hadn’t been told about the test program. “There is nothing worse than believing you are being observed by a third party unnecessarily,” Compton Mayor Aja Brown told the Los Angeles Times.

The next city to try McNutt’s technology was his home base of Dayton. After the L.A. County trial, he improved the system by more than doubling the resolution, to 192 megapixels, increased the archive’s storage capacity, and sped up the image processing to allow analysts to conduct multiple investigations simultaneously. The Dayton police department and the city council were sold on it, and they aired the idea for a contract at a series of public hearings. Joel Pruce, who teaches human rights studies at the University of Dayton, helped organize the opposition. To the objecting residents, it seemed as if it hadn’t occurred to city leaders that the surveillance program might be interpreted as a violation of some vital, unspoken trust. “At the hearings, nobody spoke in favor of it except for the people working for the city,” Pruce recalls. “The black community, in particular, said, ‘We’ve seen this type of thing before. This will target us, and you didn’t even come to us beforehand to see how we’d feel about it.’ ” Dayton’s city leaders dropped their attempts to hire the company after those hearings.

Last year the public radio program Radiolab featured Persistent Surveillance in a segment about the tricky balance between security and privacy. Shortly after that, McNutt got an e-mail on behalf of Texas-based philanthropists Laura and John Arnold. John is a former Enron trader whose hedge fund, Centaurus Advisors, made billions before he retired in 2012. Since then, the Arnolds have funded a variety of hot-button causes, including advocating for public pension rollbacks and charter schools. The Arnolds told McNutt that if he could find a city that would allow the company to fly for several months, they would donate the money to keep the plane in the air. McNutt had met the lieutenant in charge of Baltimore’s ground-based camera system on the trade-show circuit, and they’d become friendly. “We settled in on Baltimore because it was ready, it was willing, and it was just post-Freddie Gray,” McNutt says. The Arnolds donated the money to the Baltimore Community Foundation, a nonprofit that administers donations to a wide range of local civic causes.

In January, McNutt opened the office above the parking garage. The only sign greeting visitors is a piece of copy paper taped to the door that reads “Community Support Program.”

Almost everything about the surveillance program feels hush-hush; the city hasn’t yet acknowledged its existence, and the police department declined requests for interviews about the program. On Aug. 10 the U.S. Department of Justice released a 163-page report that detailed systemic abuses within the Baltimore Police Department, including unlawful stops and the use of excessive force, that disproportionately targeted poor and minority communities and led to “unnecessary, adversarial interactions with community members.” Within a week, civil rights groups filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission claiming that the department’s warrantless use of cell phone tower simulators known by the trade name StingRay—an activity the police acknowledged last year in court—violated federal law and targeted minorities. “The problem of radicalized surveillance is particularly pronounced in Baltimore,” the complaint stated. The city was already on the defensive, even as the aerial surveillance program was shielded from the public eye.
So now we find out that that a police department rife with massive abuses of people of color in the city, abuses so awful that the Justice Department detailed a major report scorching the department, now has on top of all that a secret aerial spying program.

These guys can't be sued into oblivion quickly enough.  What the Justice Department has done with Ferguson, Missouri they need to do to Charm City: dismantle the police, take the department over under federal guidance, and rip out the corruption at the root.

It's far past time for the Baltimore PD as we know it to cease to exist.


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