Marcus Bachmann’s “Mental Health” Clinic Receives Medicaid Funds

Michele Bachmann, lying liar and hypocrite

NBC News Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff has learned that Marcus Bachmann’s “Clinic” has been receiving $137,000 in Medicaid payments in addition to the $24,000 in federal funds previously reported by the LA Times. Isakoff writes:

While Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., has forcefully denounced the Medicaid program for swelling the “welfare rolls,” the mental health clinic run by her husband has been collecting annual Medicaid payments totaling over $137,000 for the treatment of patients since 2005, according to new figures obtained by NBC News.

[….]

The clinic, based in Lake Elmo, Minn., describes itself on its website as offering “quality Christian counseling” for a large number of mental health problems ranging from “anger management” to addictions and eating disorders. There is different types of treatments for addictions and maybe inpatient is right for you.

[….]

…state records show that Bachmann & Associates has been collecting payments under the Minnesota’s Medicaid program every year for the past six years. Karen Smigielski, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services, said the state’s Medicaid program is funded “about 50-50” with federal and state monies. The funds to Bachmann & Associates are for the treatment of low-income mentally ill patients and are based on a “fee for service” basis, meaning the clinic was reimbursed by Medicaid for the services it provided.

Smigielski added that these were not the only government funds that Bachmann & Associates has received. The clinic also participates in managed-care plans that are reimbursed under a separate state-funded Minnesota Health Care program. But the state does not have any records of payment information to the individual clinics that participate.

In addition to being a right wing nut and hatemonger who thinks god talks to her, Michele Bachmann is a sleazy lying liar and a hypocrite.


Wednesday Reads: Radiation, Abortion Rights and Whitey Bulger RICO…Suave

Good Wednesday Morning! Lots of stuff going on this week, so let’s have at it!

There are some updates about Whitey Bulger being reported in the NYT.  Some Charges May Be Dropped in Bulger Case as Prosecutors Focus on Killings – NYTimes.com

The federal government moved on Tuesday to drop a racketeering case against the longtime fugitive James (Whitey) Bulger, saying it wanted to focus on a separate case that charges him with 19 murders, among other crimes.

But Judge Mark L. Wolf of Federal District Court said he would not immediately allow the dismissal, in part because Mr. Bulger needed time to confer with his lawyer about it.

In seeking to drop the 1994 racketeering case against Mr. Bulger, federal prosecutors said they wanted to focus on getting justice for the murder victims. The evidence against Mr. Bulger is stronger in the murder case, they said, and the penalties are steeper if convicted. A conviction on a single murder charge could send Mr. Bulger, 81, to prison for the rest of his life.

I am glad the prosecutors want to focus on the murder victims…all nineteen (19) of them. Ten of the murder charges stem from  murders Bulger commented while he was an informant for the FBI.  The article quotes Dick Lehr, a Boston University Professor as saying,

“There’s no question that that one is the big enchilada,” he said. “Racketeering cases by their nature are so huge and complicated. Why not tidy up and go full bore on the big one?”

Makes sense to me…but there could be other reasons for dropping the RICO charges.

Peter Krupp, Mr. Bulger’s temporary lawyer, said in a hearing Tuesday that the government appeared to be trying to avoid dealing with Judge Wolf, who presides over the 1994 racketeering case. Judge Richard Stearns of Federal District Court is in charge of the murder case.

Judge Wolf, the chief judge of the district, has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bulger cases and has a reputation for being “brilliant but overbearing,” Mr. Lehr said. The judge scheduled another hearing for Thursday on whether the 1994 case should be dropped. Judge Wolf has also not yet decided whether Mr. Bulger is eligible for a free, court-appointed lawyer.

With all the talk of the Casey Anthony trial, the Bulger trial is one I would love to see.  (Anyone looking for another perspective of the CMA trial, check this out: Women in Crime Ink: Trials: Truth, Expectation and Reality )

There is a new article and video up at CBS News that interviews a resident of Fukushima about her concerns about radiation and her children. Japan’s radiation dilemma: Leave or live in fear – CBS News

For ten years, Akiko Murakami has lived a suburban dream — growing flowers, as she raised four sons, in a leafy corner of Fukushima city. But now she wonders if it’s safe to stay here. CBS News reporter Lucy Craft brought a Geiger counter, which measures radiation, to her house.

The home she and her husband built for their kids, ages 12 to 21, is surrounded by pockets of radiation — known as hotspots.

Fukushima is a city of 300,000 people, and I guess it is just too many people to evacuate. (Bit of snark there.)

The government has lowered radiation exposure standards in the Fukushima region to 20 millisieverts a year. That’s about the same amount as 50 mammograms. Fukushima City is 40 miles from the nuclear plant, the source of the radiation, but Japan is telling its residents that there’s no additional risk. Many international experts and even the prime minister’s own nuclear advisor disagree. They claim that Fukushima is no longer safe – particularly for children.

Fukushima children to receive radiation meters

Residents travelled to Tokyo to protest after the government loosened safety limits — despite the fact that the long-term impact of low-dose radiation is unknown.

I am no doctor or radiation expert, but 50 mammograms seems like a lot of x-ray exposure to me. Murakiami says that her biggest fear is her children’s health, no doubt she is just one of the many families facing the same decision. Stay or go…I say, get the hell out if you can.

Oh, and while many of you have those 50 “tata” mammograms a year in your minds, lets move on to yet another fight that Breast Cancer victims must face…Breast Cancer Patients Fight for Avastin, a Breast Cancer Drug – ABC News

Priscilla Howard, who has metastatic breast cancer, has been taking the drug Avastin for a little more than two years and has seen a remarkable difference in the progression of her disease, she told a panel of experts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration during the first day of a two-day hearing that pits the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research against Genentech, Avastin’s manufacturer.

“I am progression free but not cancer free,” said Howard, one of a handful of Avastin patients who gathered both inside and outside the FDA to fight for keeping Avastin on the market.

“I want every available weapon in my arsenal as I fight this devastating disease,” Howard told the panel. The hearing will ultimately decide the fate of what some patients consider a lifesaving drug.

The FDA could take Avastin off the list of approved medications for cancer patients, which

Some cancer specialists said the decision could hold huge implications for the way their patients will be treated.

“This decision [could] remove an option for patients,” said Dr. Edith Perez, clinical oncologist at the Mayo Clinic.

American Cancer Society’s deputy medical officer Dr. Len Lichtenfeld attended the hearing and tweeted “No one has asked the question: What do we say to all the patients and families who testified this morning?”

I am thinking that one of the reasons the FDA wants to withdraw the use of Avastin may have something to do with the cost of Avastin. As this article from the New York Times in 2008 states:  The Evidence Gap – In Cost Cancer Drug Avastin, Hope and a Dilemma – Series – NYTimes.com

…some in the pharmaceutical industry worry that such prices will raise concerns about whether the drugs are worth it, leading to a backlash like price controls or restrictions on use.

Roy Vagelos, a former chief executive of Merck who is considered an elder statesman of the industry, said in a recent speech that he was troubled by a drug, which he would not name but which was a clear reference to Avastin, that costs $50,000 a year and adds four months of life. “There is a shocking disparity between value and price,” he said, “and it’s not sustainable.”

You thinking what I am thinking…screw the women that may get extra time on this earth to live their lives, cause it cost too damn much.

And on that note, I want to give you a link from the state of Kansas on the continued war against women.  Second abortion lawsuit filed in Kansas | CJOnline.com

The Center for Reproductive Rights submitted to federal district court in Kansas City, Kan., a challenge to abortion clinic licensing regulations adopted by the 2011 Legislature and signed into law by anti-abortion Gov. Sam Brownback.

The suit was filed on behalf of the Center for Women’s Health, which has been operated in Overland Park by physicians Herbert Hodes and Traci Nauser.

“Between the rigid and unnecessary building standards and the absurd deadlines, this licensing process is a complete sham,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“Our clients have a long record of providing safe and high-quality OB/GYN care, including abortion services, to women over the last 30 years,” she said. “These regulations have nothing to do with safety standards and everything to do with an aggressive anti-choice government trying to shut down abortion providers.”

And BTW, the article points out that if these three clinics are denied licenses, Kansas will be the first state, “not to have abortion services on demand.”

Let’s end with an article about Hillary Clinton Chides Male Domination of African Union – Bloomberg

Hillary Clinton’s speech was met with silence from the male-dominated envoys at the African Union as she criticized the continents aging autocrats. The mood changed when the U.S. Secretary of State turned her attention to women.

“The women of Africa are the hardest working women in the world,” said Clinton, addressing the 53-nation body in Addis Ababa on June 13. Interrupted by loud cheers from the visitors’ area in the upper gallery in the back of the hall, she exclaimed: “If all the women in Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town, decided they would stop working for a week, the economies of Africa would collapse.”

If African women were given equal access as men to vocational training and technology, the continent’s economy would expand by at least 40 percent, according Calestous Juma, a professor of international development at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The disparities are most evident in agriculture, which accounts for 70 percent of employment and 30 percent of the gross domestic product of sub-Saharan Africa. About 100 million women in Africa use only rudimentary farm tools. That limits them to cultivating at most an hectare (2.5 acres) of land, which they spend almost 2,000 hours a year weeding.

Damn, I appreciate this woman so much…

For Clinton, the plight of women has helped drive an aggressive travel schedule that her office says has clocked up more miles than any of her predecessors. She’s gone 567,305 miles, visiting 85 countries in 232 days on the road since taking office in January 2009. She makes it a point to meet local women in impoverished nations.

And the Bloomberg article ends with this, Wonk take notice…cause it is something you have mentioned many times:

Women’s rights have been the defining issue for Clinton, from her time in Arkansas to the empowered wife of President Bill Clinton in the 1990s to senator for New York and finally the face of American diplomacy.

As first lady she traveled to China in 1995 to attend the United Nation’s Fourth World Conference on Women and defied Chinese authorities by refusing to tone down a speech that state radio and television blacked out.

“It is time for us to say here in Beijing, and the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights,” she told 180 delegates from the podium. “Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words.”

As she prepares to leave office next year, Clinton has given a glimpse of where her future lies.

Which all of us here at Sky Dancing believe is a return to advocating for the rights of women and children…and geez, we need her fighting for us…big time!

So what are you reading and blogging about today? Get busy in the comment section!

And for those of you who have the song Rico Suave running through your head, I apologize…for those of you who don’t remember this tune, this video is for you:


Late Night: Ohio Woman Sprays Cops with Breast Milk

Stephanie Robinette

This is too much! Stephanie Robinette had a bit too much to drink at a wedding reception; at some point she hauled off and hit her husband “with a closed fist” and then locked herself in her car.

Deputies who arrived at the scene said Robinette was yelling profanities and refused to get out of the car, with the door open.

“Then she took out one of her breasts and literally started pumping her breast to spray the milk on officers,” said Sheriff Walter Davis II.

Deputies got Robinette out of her car but said that she attempted to break out the left rear window of a deputy’s cruiser with her feet before she was taken to jail, Strickler reported.

“Alcohol makes you do things you don’t normally do under normal circumstances and obviously she had way too much to drink,” Davis said.

Robinette, who was charged with multiple offenses, later apologized for her behavior.

She was…charged with domestic violence, assault, obstructing official business, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, authorities said.

Robinette, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, was released from custody on her own recognizance following a video arraignment on Monday, 10TV News reported.

Before her release, Robinette, a teacher employed at a charter school, apologized for what occurred.

“I have no criminal record; I take these charges very seriously and I absolutely intend to seek help for substance abuse with alcohol because alcoholism does run in my family,” Robinette said.

Robinette teaches second and third grades at a charter school for children with developmental disabilities.


SDB Evening News Reads for 062811: Kabul Bomb, Los Alamos and Saved TaTas

Just a quickie for today’s reads.

There has been an explosion in Kabul that according to the Guardian, the Taliban has taken credit for.  Afghanistan: Kabul’s Intercontinental hotel attacked by Taliban militants | World news | guardian.co.uk

A famous hotel in Kabul is under attack from a commando squad of Taliban militants armed with small arms, at least one suicide bomb and rocket propelled grenades.

The assault on the old Intercontinental, which is popular with Afghan politicians and foreign visitors, began late on Tuesday night when it is thought at least two receptions were taking place.

Although details about the ongoing assault are still unclear, a Taliban spokesman, contacted on the phone by journalists, was quick to claim credit for the assault.

A Kabul police chief, Mohammad Zahir, said the assault involved “several gunmen shooting”, and that a “number” of police had been wounded.

The NYT has some more information on the details of the attack.  Group of Attackers Storms Hotel in Afghan Capital – NYTimes.com

Several attackers stormed the Intercontinental Hotel in the Afghan capital, Kabul, Tuesday night, and witnesses said shooting and a loud explosion were heard as Afghan security forces rushed to the scene.

Afghan security forces were still struggling to bring the situation under control, and the number of casualties was not immediately clear. But a Western security official said that early reports indicated that there were as many as six attackers — armed and believed to be wearing suicide vests — and that 10 people had been killed in the attack.

The wild fire that started in Arizona, which had at one time threatening the Nukes we have stashed at Los Alamos, is once again knocking at the door.  New Mexico fires threaten Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab – again – CSMonitor.com

For the second time in 11 years, a New Mexico fire is threatening one of the nation’s three nuclear-weapons laboratories, as well as the town that hosts it.

The approaching Las Conchas fire is raising concerns that if the blaze reaches the lab, it could free radioactive material from the grounds and storage sites surrounding the laboratory.

The bulk of the lab’s stockpile of highly-radioactive material is stored in structures specifically designed to withstand fire, lab officials say.

On to another fire that the Attorney General’s office would like to see put out…ATF Head Kenneth Melson to Testify Before Congress on Operation Fast and Furious – The Daily Beast

The head of the embattled federal agency that combats gun trafficking has agreed to talk with Senate investigators, a potentially important breakthrough as Congress tries to determine whether higher-ups in the Obama administration knew about a controversial sting that let assault weapons flow across the border into Mexico’s drug wars.

[…]

ATF has acknowledged it knowingly allowed more than 1,700 weapons—most of them semiautomatic assault weapons like AK-47s—to be sold by cooperating U.S. gun dealers to suspected straw buyers for the Mexican cartels during a 15-month sting in Arizona known as Operation Fast and Furious. Melson is the highest-known official to date to acknowledge approving a strategy to build criminal cases against Mexican drug cartels by allowing assault weapons to flow from U.S. gun stores through straw buyers and across the border. Officials said his testimony is considered a key piece of evidence, and Grassley’s investigators plan to interview him by the middle or end of July.

The revelation of the botched sting has generated outrage in both the United States and Mexico. Nearly half the weapons were later recovered at crime scenes on both sides of the border, including two at the murder of U.S. border agent Brian Terry last December and more than 300 at Mexican crime scenes. In recent days, evidence has emerged in the investigations conducted by Grassley and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) that the deputy attorney general’s office inside the Justice Department encouraged a new gun-fighting strategy in October 2009, just days before ATF started the Fast and Furious operation.

A recent article at Washington Monthly is creating a stir among various blogs.  Matt Yglesias has this to say: The Hidden Welfare State | ThinkProgress

Basically when you create government programs to subsidize certain activities via the offer of tax credits or tax deductions, people don’t mentally process that as a “government program.” Thus one can speculate that such people would be hostile to the idea of higher tax rates as a way to fund useful government programs, even both tax subsidies and appropriated subsidies require higher tax rates over the long term.

For a direct link to the article that Yglesias is referring to click here.

And lastly, 30-Year Trial Confirms Mammograms Save Lives – ABC News

Mammograms save lives, period, end of story. But it takes decades to appreciate just how many.

That’s the takeaway from the longest-running mammogram study — which followed more than 100,000 swedish women for 29 years — that many doctors believe will put the recent ruckus over the frequency of breast cancer screening to bed.

The researchers found that seven years of mammograms made for 30 percent fewer breast cancer deaths years down the road, when compared with women who didn’t receive mammograms.

“I think this study indicates the absolute benefit of screening in terms of breast cancer deaths prevented,” says Stephen Duffy, a professor of cancer screening at Queen Mary, University of London, and lead author of the study.

You may remember in 2009, there was a new recommendation regarding suggested age for women to begin annual mammograms…

While the American Cancer Society had long recommended that women over the age of 40 receive yearly mammograms, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force challenged this recommendation in 2009, calling into question whether the number of lives saved were worth the cost of such regular mammograms and the increased possibility of false positives. In light of the possible adverse effects of yearly screening, the Task Force recommended that women get screened every other year starting at age 50, and stop mammogram screening altogether after age 75.

But the Swedish study, published Tuesday in the Journal Radiology, suggests that when women are followed over the course of decades (in this case 29 years) instead of the seven or so years that many past studies have looked at, mammograms may save many more lives. Among the 133,065 women studied, one breast cancer death was prevented for every 414 to 519 women screened.

I urge you to read the entire article, especially if you are a woman or you love someone who has a set of ta-tas…

That new recommendation from 2009 which stated women no longer needed to begin having annual mammograms starting at age 40 always bothered me.  I actually lumped it into the typical crap we see when it comes to medical procedures that are used as preventative women’s healthcare.  Whether it is changing the opinions on when to begin mammograms, to taking an anti-cancer drug off of an approved list of medications to treat breast cancer, to defunding Planned Parenthood and therefore risking the health of so many women that use PP for reproductive health issues…these services and medical procedures are always threatened when Government funding is in question…but I would guess that any drugs or procedures for limp dick syndrome will always be covered…come on ladies, get angry about it! It sure as hell makes me mad!


France’s Christine Legarde Set to head IMF creating another ‘first’ for Women

One of the world’s best economists and France’s Minister of Economics, Finance, and Industry–Christine Legarde–will likely be the newly appointed head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).   Thankfully, the U.S. joined with other members of the IMF board to approve Legarde which virtually assures her appointment.  Legarde will be the first woman to head the IMF.  She is widely regarded as the best Finance minister in the Eurozone.  She will inherit an IMF still reeling from the sex scandal surrounding Dominique Strauss-Kahn as well as an IMF dealing with the Greek sovereign debt meltdown. The IMF is an important development vehicle for many of the world’s struggling economies.  It has been controversial in the past since it has been seen to implement ideological as well as development strategies.

Lagarde’s presence itself as the first female head of the IMF will go a long way toward reinvigorating any demoralization of the staff. Granted, Lagarde is poised to earn the job because she’s the most qualified and best positioned to help the organization deal with its pressing economic crises. And while putting an extremely successful woman atop the IMF certainly won’t erase the Strauss-Kahn scandal or stop every unwanted advance, it should go a long way toward reminding the IMF’s staffers how much the organization values gender equality and won’t tolerate such behavior at any level. At the very least, having someone in charge who doesn’t have the reputation of being a womanizer is surely a good thing.

It’s unclear how much the internal culture at IMF actually needs fixing. A May New York Times story laid out an image of the IMF as a place “in which romances often flourish—and lines are sometimes crossed,” and where a pressured, “sharp-elbowed” place left complaints of harassment unanswered and where “rules are more like guidelines.” Some 676 women in the organization filed a response to the story, saying they were insulted by the way their workplace was depicted.

Still, Lagarde herself says the organization will need to “take pains to show the outside world” that it is a leader in ethical behavior.  And she acknowledges that staff morale will need some mending following the august organization’s embarrassing time in the spotlight.

Legarde has a formidable intellect and is well-known for her straight and tough talk.  Finance and economics are areas dominated by men with swagger.  She has succeeded in ways that many men have not.

Ms Lagarde was appointed France’s Trade Minister in 2005 and under her watch, French exports reached record levels.

In 2007 she became finance minister, the first woman to hold this post not just in France but in any of the G8 major industrial countries.

Never afraid of speaking her mind, she has blamed the 2008 worldwide financial crisis partly on the male-dominated, testosterone-fuelled culture at global banks.

One of France’s most popular right-wing politicians, in 2009 she came second in a poll carried out by broadcaster RTL and newspaper Le Parisien on the country’s favourite personalities, beaten only by singer and actor Johnny Hallyday.

But her popularity has stretched beyond French shores and she is viewed with high regard in the international arena.

In 2009, the Financial Times voted her the best finance minister in Europe.

She has won international respect for promoting France’s negotiating clout in key forums like the G20, for which France currently holds the presidency.

She has also received plaudits for the key role she played in approving a bail-out mechanism to aid struggling members of the eurozone last May.

Lagarde has played a large role in the many challenges facing the Eurozone since the U.S. financial market meltdown.  Unlike the U.S. which has basically coddled the very executives whose risky behavior and bad business practices have gone largely unpunished, Largarde has worked hard to reform the system to avoid a repeat.  She not only has to herd French politicians but also create consensus among the other members of the EU community.

Lagarde has won praise for steering France through the financial crisis, notably by dispensing $48 billion in aid to French banks, which are repaying the money with interest after stabilizing themselves. She also fought successfully to provide corporate tax relief, aid to small businesses, and tax credits to stimulate research. “None of those things would have happened without Christine Lagarde,” says Frédéric Gonand, an economics professor at Paris-Dauphine University who recently stepped down after four years as Lagarde’s chief economic adviser. “She placed her own mark on economic policy.” A May poll by Ipsos for the magazine Le Point put her approval rating at 51 percent, far above her boss Sarkozy’s 37 percent.

Still, France has fallen behind Germany in making the kinds of changes that could give the economy a serious boost, such as reducing government bureaucracy and labor market restrictions. The need to carry out policies dictated by Sarkozy has also put her in awkward situations at times. In 2009 she had to defend his plan to invest $51 billion in research and development and other projects at a time when France was under attack by other euro zone countries for running a 7.5 percent budget deficit, far above the 3 percent that member countries had agreed on. And despite her role in negotiating the euro rescue package, the terms of that deal, such as automatic sanctions against aid recipients if they didn’t meet agreed-upon targets, were dictated largely by Germany. “France’s game seemed to be, ‘Let’s stick to the Germans as closely as possible,'” says Philip Whyte, a senior research fellow at the London-based Centre for European Reform. “She’s a great facilitator and chair, but she’s probably not in the absolute center of influence.”

I actually can’t tell you how excited I am about this development.  As I’ve said before, she’s been a great success in France.  This shows she can once again bust through a major glass ceiling that’s been there for ages for women in my profession.


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!

Well, I hate to keep having to read about states out to get women’s health clinics, but here we go again!

The Texas Legislature approved a bill Monday that would both compel the state to push the Obama administration to convert Texas’s Medicaid program into a block grant and defund abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.

The omnibus health bill also includes a number of other controversial provisions, including plans to save $400 million over the next year by increasing the use of Medicaid managed care.

The legislation now goes to the desk of Gov. Rick Perry, who has been generally supportive of both the Medicaid reforms, as well as anti-abortion language.

Here’s so more details on the Texas situation from the Dallas News.

The bill would deny $34 million to Planned Parenthood from family planning grants, curb abortions at public hospitals and promote use of adult stem cells from the patient’s own body in new medical treatments.

“Early in the session, I didn’t dare dream that we could make the gains this bill would accomplish,” said Joe Pojman of Texas Alliance for Life.

Also, under the bill, Texas could join Georgia and Oklahoma in creating a health care compact. Under the proposal, if Congress approved, the states could agree to cap the federal government’s contribution to several health care programs, including Medicaid and Medicare. In return, they would be freed from current federal laws on eligibility and benefits.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood is suing to prevent Kansas from implementation of its law meant to shut down abortion clinics as well as Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood is asking a federal court to block Kansas from cutting off its federal funding, after winning a similar injunction Friday in Indiana.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri filed a lawsuit Monday that seeks to prevent Kansas from implementing a provision of the state budget that would cut off federal funding.

According to the group’s brief, Kansas blocked federal money from going to organizations that specialize in family planning without also providing primary and preventive care. The provision would cut off funding to all Planned Parenthood clinics, even those that do not provide abortions, the group says.

This is really getting serious folks!  States are trying all kinds of things because they know think the courts might rule in their favor.  The amount of money going to defend nuisance laws in these states must be astounding.

The President is signalling that a ‘significant’ deal with the Republicans might be in the works about the federal budget and deficit.  Better check your passport status!  It’s likely we’re about to get fleeced and you may want to head for a country that appreciates its middle class for a stay!

President Barack Obama plunged into deadlocked negotiations to cut government deficits and raise the nation’s debt limit Monday, and the White House expressed confidence a “significant” deal with Republicans could be reached. But both sides only seemed to harden their positions as the day wore on, the administration insisting on higher taxes as part of the package but Republican leaders flatly rejecting the idea.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for about 30 minutes at the White House, and then met with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky for about an hour in the early evening.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama reported after the morning session that “everyone in the room believes that a significant deal remains possible.” But Carney also affirmed that Obama would only go for a deficit-reduction plan that included both spending cuts and increased tax revenue, an approach that Republicans say would never get through Congress.

  There’s an interesting post up at the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation called “Too Big to Fail or Too Big to Change“.  It points to failure of the SEC and the DOJ to hold corporations and their officers responsible for malfeasance.  It suggests that institutional investors may have to use the courts to fill the void.

It has increasingly fallen to institutional investors to hold mortgage lenders, investment banks and other large financial institutions accountable for their role in the mortgage crisis by seeking redress for shareholders injured by corporate misconduct and sending a powerful message to executives that corporate malfeasance is unacceptable. For example, sophisticated public pension funds are currently prosecuting actions involving billions of dollars of losses against Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Wachovia, Merrill Lynch, Washington Mutual, Countrywide, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, among many others. In some instances, litigations have already resulted in significant recoveries for defrauded investors.

Historically, institutional investors have achieved impressive results on behalf of shareholders when compared to government- led suits. Indeed, since 1995, SEC settlements comprise only 5 percent of the monetary recoveries arising from securities frauds, with the remaining 95 percent obtained through private litigation as demonstrated by several examples in the chart at right.

Institutional investors must continue to lead the charge and prosecute fraud to send a strong message that such misconduct will not be tolerated and to guarantee that shareholders are fairly compensated for their losses. Both the courts and Congress have recognized that meritorious private securities litigation is “an indispensable tool with which defrauded investors can recover their losses[,]…promote public and global confidence in our capital markets and help to deter wrongdoing.” While originally intended as a supplement to government regulation, recent events demonstrate that institutional investors may now be the entities best positioned to protect investors’ rights. Without such protection, and if Wall Street bankers are permitted to profit from their frauds without a proportionate retributive response, we may be fated to repeat the same economic calamity that has defined our generation.

The local sheriff is now investigating the Prosser ‘defensive chokehold’  at the request of Wisconsin Capitol Police Chief.

The state Capitol Police Chief, Charles Tubbs, said Monday that he is turning over the case to local law enforcement.

“After consulting with members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, I have turned over the investigation into an alleged incident in the court’s offices on June 13, 2011 to Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney,” Tubbs said in a statement. “Sheriff Mahoney has agreed to investigate this incident and all inquiries about the status of the investigation should be made with the Sheriff’s Department.”

Mahoney issued a concurrent statement declaring that he has directed detectives to investigate the incident.

“Beginning today, detectives will work diligently to conduct a thorough and timely investigation,” Mahoney said. “Because this case is in the very early stages, no further information is available at this time.”

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism first revealed the June 13 incident on Saturday, reporting that Prosser put his hands on Bradley’s neck during debate over the legality of the “budget repair bill,” which the court’s conservative majority ruled is legal in a 4-3 decision June 14.

Reaction on the Web — where partisans have been arguing Wisconsin politics for months — was swift.

At ThinkProgress, Ian Millhiser surmised four ways Prosser can be legally removed from office.

“Should the allegations against Prosser prove true, it is tough to imagine a truer sign that our political system has broken down than if the calls to remove him from office are not unanimous,” he wrote.

Natural disasters in our country have triggered concern about nuclear facilities.  The latest facility to be jeopardized is Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab in New Mexico.  Add this to the two nuclear power plants in Nebraska surrounded by the flooded Missouri River.

The Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab in New Mexico has been shut down for the day due to a fast-moving wildfire that is endangering the lab and surrounding area. The fire began around 12 miles southwest of Los Alamos, charring about 6,000 acres. Fire officials say none of the fire is under control yet. Lawrence Lujan of the Santa Fe National Forest said, “We have homes and we have the labs, so it’s a very, very big concern, not only locally, but nationally and globally.”

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner--Argentina’s president–has announced she’ll run for a second term in office in October.

Her announcement marks the beginning of Argentina’s presidential election campaign. Ms Fernández is in good shape to secure another term. She is comfortably ahead in the opinion polls, thanks in large part to Argentina’s strong economic performance: GDP grew by an annualised 10% in the first quarter of 2011, due in no small measure to growing international demand for soya, now the country’s biggest export.

Ms Fernández faces no challenges from within her governing Peronist Party. And despite months of attempts to form a coalition of opposition, her political adversaries remain hopelessly split. Her strongest opponents are likely to be Eduardo Duhalde, a former president, and Ricardo Alfonsín, the son of a former president. But her biggest problems lie elsewhere.

One is a corruption scandal surrounding the Association of Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group of women campaigning to discover what happened to their children under Argentina’s military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983. Ms Fernández and her husband allied themselves to the group, providing them with millions of dollars of state funds with which to build houses for the underprivileged and without seeking any guarantees. The Mothers have now been caught up in a fraud investigation, which some think could cause problems for Ms Fernández.

One last bit of good news! Southern Right Whales Return to New Zealand After a Century of overhunting and being on the brink of extinction.

Southern right whales were once a common sight along the coast of New Zealand, though in the 19th century overhunting brought the species to the brink of extinction. But now, after a decades of being virtually non-existant off New Zealand’s shores, wildlife experts are seeing endangered right whales finally returning to their ancestral calving grounds — offering hope that the whales’ are rediscovering a ‘cultural connection’ to this region after a century-long hiatus.

Before they were brought to near-extinction by whalers who considered them to be the best whale species to target — hence the ‘right’ in their name — southern right whales are thought to have numbered in the tens-of-thousands in the waters off New Zealand. In the decades that followed, however, the few surviving whales limited their calving grounds to the sub-antarctic regions to the south, despite the fact that closer to the New Zealand mainland had ancestrally been where they raised their young.

But recently a team of researchers from the University of Auckland and New Zealand Department of Conservation made a remarkable discovery; right whales seemed to be heading home.

“With the increase in numbers observed around the Auckland Islands over the last decade, we think that some individuals are re-discovering the former primary habitat around the mainland of New Zealand,” researcher Scott Baker tells The New Zealand Herald.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Media Making Same Mistake with Bachmann They Made With Palin

Michele Bachmann announcing her presidential run in Waterloo, IA

Michele Bachmann officially announced her candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination today in her birthplace of Waterloo, Iowa. In her speech, she talked about growing up in Waterloo and how as a young girl she didn’t want to move away to Minnesota.

I often say that everything I needed to know I learned in Iowa. It was at Hawthorne and Valley Park Elementary Schools and my home, both a short distance from here, where those Iowan roots were firmly planted. It’s those roots and my faith in God that guide me today. I’m a descendent of generations Iowans. I know what it means to be from Iowa—what we value and what’s important. Those are the values that helped make Iowa the breadbasket of the world and those are the values, the best of all of us that we must recapture to secure the promise of the future.

[….]

I’m also here because Waterloo laid the foundation for my own roots in politics. I never thought that I would end up in public life. I grew up here in Iowa. My grandparents are buried here. I remember how sad I was leaving Iowa to go to Minnesota in the sixth grade, because this part of Iowa was all I knew—I remember telling my parents that we couldn’t move to Minnesota because I hadn’t even been to Des Moines to see the state capitol.

I’m guessing Bachmann’s recollections of Iowa probably made a good impression on her audience, but multiple media outlets are focusing on a gaffe Bachmann made in talking to a reporter. She claimed that John Wayne was from Waterloo, but the only John Wayne born there was serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

Sure, that’s funny–and it’s one of many embarrassing gaffes made by Bachmann during her brief political career. But what is the point of ridiculing her about it while ignoring the scary policies she proposed in her speech? George W. Bush made lots of silly gaffes too, remember? But he was [I won’t say elected] President for two terms.

Furthermore, at conservative blog Hot Air, I learned the following.

It turns out there is a Waterloo connection for John Wayne:

Bachmann’s campaign pointed out to ABC News today that actor John Wayne’s parents did live in Waterloo, although the actor himself did not.
And a little internet research proves that point correct.
According to the book “Duke: We’re Glad We Knew You” by Herb Fagen, Clyde and Molly Morrison – actor John Wayne’s parents – lived in Waterloo early in their marriage – but they moved to Winterset before the birth of son Marion Mitchell Morrison (he changed his name to John Wayne professionally).

Says Dave Weigel, “I’m not from a small town, but I’m from a pretty anonymous place (Wilmington, Delaware), and I know that when you’ve got a tenuous local connection to a celebrity, you flaunt it.” Someone probably once told her that John Wayne’s parents met in Waterloo and either she wrongly assumed he’d been born there or else she’s fumbling a talking point about John Wayne’s family being from Waterloo. But this is simply too stupid a story to devote any further thought to, so let’s move on.

I agree with Weigel. I’d rather focus on making sure Bachmann doesn’t manage to soften her extremist image enough to get the nomination and have a shot at beating Obama.

The most important part of the speech, according to Jonathan Chait is this:

“We can win in 2012 and we will,” said Bachmann in launching her campaign. “Our voice has been growing louder and stronger. And it is made up of Americans from all walks of life like a three-legged stool. It’s the peace through strength Republicans, and I’m one of them, it’s fiscal conservatives, and I’m one of them, and it’s social conservatives, and I’m one of them. It’s the Tea Party movement and I’m one of them.”

Here’s Chait’s argument:

Bachmann is trying to break out of the box of the social conservative movement candidate and define herself as a mainstream Republican. First, she declares she can win. Then she pledges her fealty to all three issue families of conservatism, leaving social conservatism for last.

One reason commentators have so grossly underestimated her chances is that they have an antiquated model of the Republican Party in their minds. In that model, religious conservatives are a faction set off from the rest of the party. Pat Robertson could finish a strong second in the 1988 Iowa Caucus, but his appeal was completely limited to right-wing Christians brought into politics by social issues. But the religious right has changed — its power to bend the party to its will has decreased, and its focus has largely merged with that of the GOP as a whole, so that the religious right is almost as concerned with economics and foreign policy as with social issues.

Bachmann represents that transformation. She came into politics through Christianity, but has broadened that style of apocalyptic thinking to economics and foreign policy. There is hardly any difference in the way Bachmann warns that Obama’s policies will destroy the traditional family and the way she warns his economic policies will destroy the economy, or that his foreign policy will lead to the triumph of our enemies. And there’s hardly any difference in the way she discusses these issues and the way most other Republicans do. They are all speaking the same apocalyptic language now.

Unfortunately, Chait is right. The Republican party has moved so far to the right that the nutty fringe is now becoming mainstream. If Bachmann runs for President the whole public conversation is going to move even further right. Just look where Obama is now. He’s more conservative than Nixon–hell he’s more conservative economically than Reagan! Reagan worried about unemployment and social security. Obama couldn’t care less if we have 10% unemployment and old people dying in the streets.

But what’s the “progressive” response to all this? Juli Weiner ridicules Bachman’s “favorite metaphor,” the three-legged stool.

Not to be obtuse, but we counted four (4) legs on the metaphoric stool: “peace-through-strength Republicans,” “fiscal conservatives,” “social conservatives,” and “the Tea Party movement.” Is the Tea Party movement the stool itself, and not one of its legs? We’re English majors with no background in carpentry, but we feel confident in our interpretation.

Who knows? Who cares? Not the Republicans in Iowa, and apparently not in Florida either. Do progressives really think Mitt Romney will win primaries in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania over Michele Bachmann? I don’t. Can Romney beat Bachmann in the south? Give me a break! We need to see the serious threat her candidacy poses.

Is the ridicule just because she’s a woman? Because it sure looks like Bachmann is going to get the same treatment that Palin got in 2008. That is a big mistake, in my opinion. And how is the Obama administration responding to Bachmann’s speech? I found this statement from spokesman Ben LaBolt at MSNBC.

Congresswoman Bachmann talks about reclaiming the American Dream but her policies would erode the path to prosperity for middle class families. She voted for a budget plan that would extend tax cuts for the richest Americans on the backs of seniors and the middle class while ending Medicare as we know it. Congresswoman Bachmann introduced legislation to repeal Wall Street oversight – risking a repeat of the financial crisis — and while she voted to preserve subsidies for oil and gas companies she opposes making the investments necessary to enhance America’s competitiveness and create the jobs of the future.

What is Obama doing about those issues? A great big nothing, as far as I can tell. I’m expecting him to give away the store to the Republicans during his “negotiations” on raising the debt limit. If Obama doesn’t offer something besides “I’m less horrible,” we could very well end up with our first woman President–and not the woman we all wanted back in 2008.

Bachmann should not be underestimated.