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Ukraine, Negroponte & Missiles — Oh My!

By: Jane Stillwater

Poor Ukraine just can’t seem to catch a break. Its ancient history reads like a whole patchwork quilt of disaster stories and its modern history gets even worse. First there was that insanely terrible Ukraine famine of 1932-33, artificially manufactured by Joseph Stalin in order to forestall a revolt. And in just those two short years, 25,000 Ukrainians a day died of starvation — until more than 10 million people were dead.

A postcard of a Ukrainian train station

Ukraine has suffered from strife from its days in the Russian empire.

Then Hitler’s Nazis killed 150,000 Jewish Ukrainians at Babi Yar and used eastern Ukraine as a bloody staging area for the siege of Stalingrad. 3.5 million Soviet soldiers died in Nazi prison camps during World War II and many of those soldiers were local boys. Ultimately, more than five million Ukrainians died fighting Nazi Germany and most of Ukraine’s 1.5 million Jews were wiped out. Poor Ukraine!

Then Chernobyl blew up. Then there was a series of corruption scandals, assassinations, price de-regulations, worker strikes, coal mine explosions and a 3.5 billion deficit to deal with during the 1990s, and the new Ukraine republic was destabilized to the point where its major exports became online porn, mail-order brides and Mafioso types running protection rackets in Sacramento.

Then there was that famous CIA-backed “Orange Revolution” in 2004, yet another total disaster — followed this year by Kiev’s famous beer hall putsch.

Geez Louise, why can’t our CIA ever come up with a plan that Americans can be proud of?

The 2014 neo-Nazi putsch in Kiev, the various resultant slaughters of Resistance fighters in eastern Ukraine and the recent shooting down of Malaysia’s MH17 all seem to have one thing in common: Like any other CIA-backed “nation-building” operation throughout the known world, they are all sort of shadowy, shady and hard to define. However, I am certainly going to try to define them.

To try to understand the pattern of what just happened in Ukraine, you first gotta to go all the way back to Central America during Ronald Reagan’s reign and climb into the mind of John Negroponte — a one-trick-pony kind of guy whose major contribution to America’s international diplomatic policy was the judicious use of snipers and other Trojan-horse-style agitators to initiate various casus-belli false-flag operations.

And since that time when all Hell was unleashed on Central America thanks to John Negroponte (and we still have all those kids at our borders to prove it too), wherever there has been any kind of protests against CIA policy throughout the world, our John’s dead-eye sniper dudes would show up on the sly, take out a few key people on both sides and then just sit back and watch the fun as both sides began to tear each other apart. Negroponte’s signature handiwork soon became available in Iraq, for instance, happily starting wars between Sunnis and Shias.

And even before Iraq received the benefit of Negroponte’s ingenious full monty, there was also the bloody aftermath of 9-11 — wherein some crazy Saudi dudes blew up the Twin Towers and Negroponte’s homeys then blamed it on Afghanistan. And we taxpayers are still paying for that one.

And wasn’t Negrgoponte’s can’t-fail modus operandi also employed in Syria too? And Scotland? And Gaza? But I digress.

It’s almost 100% certain that Negroponte’s brain-children were also at play during the Ukraine protests in Maidan Square last winter too, when both police and protestors were shot at by snipers. And the result? Kiev’s very own beer-hall putsch and seizure of the government by pro-CIA thugs. Poor Ukraine.

The breadbasket of eastern Europe and a jewel in anybody’s crown is now once again wracked by war and killing and death. And the Odessa Steps run red with blood. Again.

“So get to your point, Jane.”

What am I really trying to say here? That perhaps Negroponte and his ballistic-favoring minions have now taken his sniper-attack method of starting conflicts to a whole new level — and are now using long-range missiles instead of long-range rifles to get the dance started? And thus shooting down the Malaysia airline and blaming it on Russia or Ukrainian Resistance fighters is an idea that he and/or his CIA buddies would definitely come up with? Just saying.

 

BDS: Beautiful, Delicious Summer

By: patrick devlin Wednesday July 23, 2014 3:12 pm

cross posted at the demise

A picnic spread on a blanket outdoors

Some politics for your next picnic.

Been thinking of having a summertime picnic – and as it always is with a picnic, trying to determine what yummy summertime portable food to bring, what other equipment to pack — and most importantly: the setting.

I’ve picnicked on the banks of Amphitheater Lake on the top of Wyoming’s Grand Teton, on the iron-stone shores of Lake Superior, in the springtime groves of the Hudson River Valley’s fragrant blooming apple orchards, on the banks of the Flathead River in the Great Bear Wilderness, watching the sun sink below Midwestern farm fields and the Mississippi River, on the beach at Mora in Olympic National Park, on the sandy shores of the Atlantic as it lapped up on Puerto Rico, on the knobby green mountains of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway, at sacred Native American sites in Arizona (within both State and National parks), in the rolly green hills of Wisconsin’s driftless region, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the Cocteau friendly town of Menton France, on the shore of the wild North Atlantic coast at the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim Ireland, in the High Atlas Mountains of central Morocco, surrounded by a magnificent and usable piece of modern art by Frank Gehry in Chicago’s Millennium Park and even amongst the hundred year old trees that dot the Boston Common…so many beautiful spots to picnic in this world.

Breathtaking, delightful settings.

I read a story in the UK’s Guardian newspaper that described some Israelis who have been picnicking themselves over the past week – having a nice summertime meal, sharing wine and sharing community in this sweet and sweltery season, on the hills that overlook Gaza. I’m sure the view is remarkable – heard about those picnickers taking pictures and just basically enjoying themselves … even whooping it up together as they celebrate a meal al fresco in the summer evenings.

Bombing … destruction … senseless

If you are thinking about picnicking and are considering how to fill that picnic basket, here are some things you may want to remember to forget.

Food products:

  • Sabra Hummus: After capturing 60 percent of the American hummus market, Sabra also is attempting to capture the hearts of Israel by “adopting” an Israel Defense Forces unit. The company’s chairwoman says that IDF soldiers are “not army, Israeli soldiers are our kids.”
  • Tribe Hummus :The second largest hummus seller in America, one of whose owners has a long and cooperative relationship with the Jewish National Fund, which is the Israeli organization that buys up Palestinian land (from “absent owners”) and only leases the land to Israeli settlers. The JNF also has a nasty habit of using Caterpillar bulldozers to flatten Bedouin villages…repeatedly.
  • Jaffa Citrus: Grown in the Jordan Valley, 94 percent of which has been land-grabbed by Israel. Extracting wealth from stolen lands is against international law. Knowing this, Jaffa’s products may well leave a sour taste in your mouth.
  • Golan Heights Wine: Named after land stolen from Syria more than 40 years ago, this biz claims in its advertising that it grows its grapes in Israel’s world-class vineyards. More accurate; “grown on land Israel has occupied in contravention of international law for generations.”
  • Soda Stream products: Soda Stream manufactures its products on illegally occupied Palestinian land. Choose instead the similar product made by Cuisine Art called ‘Sparkling Beverage Maker’, and your soda glasses won’t get bloodstains on them.
  • Ahava Cosmetic Products: Ahava operates on land stolen from Palestine and, in a bizzaro fashion, is owned in part by settlement villages the establishment of which is a violation of international law. Another part owner manufactures motion detection systems used by Israel on it’s apartheid wall. Additionally, Ahava excavates the raw materials to make their products from illegally occupied lands. That’s an international law violation three-fer.
  • Medjool Dates: Medjool farms land stolen from Palestine using Palestinian child labor, while often labeling that their products come instead from Israel. Operating on stolen land, using child labor and misrepresenting the origin of the product? That’s a real blind date.

Picnic Togs:

Remembering A People’s Uprising: 1 Year After HB2

By: Kit OConnell Thursday July 24, 2014 4:02 pm

No expense was spared to oppress every Texan who needs access to reproductive healthcare.

On July 12, 2013, the deadly anti-abortion bill HB2 passed the legislature in Texas, forced through in an expensive special session despite the extremely loud opposition of thousands of people who came out to shake the granite building with their angry voices. On that same day this month, one year after the passage and the police brutality of the final night of protests, a few of us returned to the Texas Capitol to reflect on what’s been lost.

From behind, Joshua Pineda and another activist study the Senate hallway where a sit-in took place.

Joshua Pineda (left) revisits the Senate hallway where police violently broke up a sit-in he participated in, resulting in a hospital visit and cranial stitches.

In the previous weeks, there’d been numerous other events to mark what happened last year. Wendy Davis, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful and one of the primary legislators to side with reproductive rights, had packed a major events center in town on the anniversary of her filibuster. She seems to take all the credit for it in the media these days, despite the grassroots direct action which temporarily kept the bill from passing after her filibuster was shut down by male politicians.

The same night as the Davis fundraiser, another celebration occurred at a small bar attached to a local theatre — organized by some of those grassroots activists, but still featuring a stump speech by Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Both were upbeat, aimed at bringing activists together to honor the most powerful and positive moments of last summer and encourage hope for the upcoming election.

I hadn’t attended either. My requests for press credentials at the Palmer Events Center went ignored — unsurprising given the chilly and deliberately hostile reaction I got from the Texas Democratic Party last summer. And the tone of the other event felt off to me — too positive for a bill that is expected to close all but 6 clinics in Texas and which is already endangering lives and causing a rising number of self-administered abortions. I didn’t hate anyone’s desire to celebrate — summer of 2013 held some unforgettable moments of popular activism showing its true power, despite the defeat. But on the filibuster’s anniversary, I felt a lingering sadness when I rode my bike through the Capitol grounds and saw only tourists — not a single person there to claim that public space for free speech and reproductive liberty.

Days later Jay Kasturi, an ally and friend from those days, invited me to co-organize a small vigil on the Capitol grounds on the one year anniversary of the bill’s actual passage. It seemed perfect to me — a chance to honor what we’d done but also all that was lost by everyone who needs open access to reproductive healthcare.

In 2013 we’d held a sit-in the small hours of July 12, and Texas Department of Public Safety State Troopers — dozens of them, imported from all around the state — bore down on us in a spasm of violence and patriarchal rage. One woman had her pants pulled down as Troopers paraded her to detainment in front of witnesses. One temporarily disabled comrade of mine was pushed up and down a short flight of stairs by a pair of Troopers unable to understand why she wouldn’t comply with them until a third pointed out that she was trying to reach her cane.

Anti-police brutality activist Joshua “Comrade” Pineda was also part of that sit-in, and Troopers hurt him so badly he bled, half-conscious, onto the marble floors before being taken to the hospital for stitches in his head. He and about a dozen others still face charges for taking part in nonviolent civil disobedience.

But Pineda and all the rest we reached out to loved the idea of our vigil, and he and several others joined us that evening while others let us know they were “attending in spirit.” At 6pm, it was still in the 90s so we circled in the shade. The ritual Jay proposed was a simple one, drawn from Buddhist meditation. We’d sit in contemplative silence on the grass outside the Capitol for ten minutes, then spend about twenty on a meditative walk through the Capitol, before returning to discuss our experiences and share our feelings.

I looked around to new faces in the circle, like the family that drove out from Dallas for our vigil, and at others I’ve been working with now for years. The silence of the Capitol grounds — even broken by the voices of the handfuls of tourist families and a bride with a fleet of maids on a pre-wedding photography mission —  felt barren compared to the raucous energy that had filled them the year before.

After the sitting meditation, I followed Pineda up to that marble hallway where the final confrontation took place.

Domino Effect: Pension Cutters Gamble on a California Ballot Measure

By: Gary Cohn Thursday July 24, 2014 9:29 am


 

Jon Coupal is nothing if not blunt when he describes one motive behind a Ventura County ballot measure that would replace the “defined benefit” pensions currently enjoyed by county employees and replace them with 401(k)-type plans for all future hires.

“This is meant to be a template for other counties,” Coupal tells Capital & Main. By that, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association’s president means the measure’s conservative and libertarian backers see the “Sustainable Retirement System Initiative” as the newest and most promising weapon in their assault on California’s public employee retirement plans. Having failed to place similar measures on state ballots in  2012 and 2014, a coalition of wealthy individuals, anti-tax activists and government privatizers has seized on an aspect of California law that allows 20 counties to fashion their own public employee retirement policies apart from the CalPERS system that administers such policies for nearly all of the state’s remaining 38 counties.

Ventura, with its postcard shoreline, rugged mountains and groves of avocado and lemon trees, is one of the 20 so-called ’37 Act counties whose retirement systems operate under the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937. These range from Los Angeles County, the most populous in the nation with nearly 10 million people, to sparsely populated Mendocino County along California’s northern coast. Few people doubt that Ventura, which borders Los Angeles County, potentially represents the first domino in a series of future measures targeting public employee pensions.

“I guarantee you that when this passes,” Ventura County Supervisor Peter Foy has said, “in 2016 every ’37 Act county will have this on their ballot.” Foy, who was addressing a supervisor’s meeting, is a strong advocate for the county ballot initiative. He also happens to have served as chairman of the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the radical corporatist group funded by billionaire David Koch. (Foy, who has in the past denied such a connection with Koch, did not return multiple requests for an interview.)

County employees are generally paid less than their private sector counterparts and have long counted on traditional defined benefit plans as a kind of economic equalizer. The Ventura measure would phase out these retirement plans for anyone hired after July 1, 2015 and throw future retirees’ pensions into the riptides of Wall Street trading. (During the last stock market crash and resulting recession, an estimated $16 trillion in household wealth was lost in America.) Furthermore, new employees would be ineligible for the county’s existing death and disability plan. Although the initiative states a new death and disability plan “shall be established by the Board of Supervisors,” it provides no details about its terms.

“Ending the defined benefit plan is a time-bomb disaster for lower income people,” cautions Steve Bennett, chairman of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors. “It’s very difficult for them to save and they won’t be able to maneuver the 401(k) [system] to appropriately invest their savings,” Bennett told Capital & Main.

Proponents argue that the current system is not financially sustainable and is forcing Ventura County further into debt. Critics, however, say the claims of financial doom are greatly exaggerated and they counter that if the measure is adopted it will be harder to attract and retain good employees, particularly in the area of public safety.

Peter Van Buren: Undue Process in Washington

By: Tom Engelhardt Saturday July 16, 2011 4:03 pm

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

A seated Anwar al-Awlaki in front of a low table

The death of al-Awlaki is part of the destruction of our 5th Amendment right to due process.

What a world we’re in. Thanks to smartphones, iPads, and the like, everyone is now a photographer, but it turns out that, in the public landscape, there’s ever less to photograph. So here are a few tips for living more comfortably in a photographically redacted version of our post-9/11 world.

Even if you’re a professional photographer, don’t try to take a picture of Korita Kent’s “Rainbow Swash.”  It’s “one of the largest copyrighted pieces of art in the world,” painted atop a 140-foot-high liquefied natural gas tower in Dorchester, Massachusetts.  James Prigoff, a former senior vice president of the Sara Lee Corporation and a known photographer, tried to do so and was confronted by two security guards who stopped him.  Later, though he left no information about himself and was in a rented car, he was tracked down by the FBI.  Evidently he had been dumped into the government’s Suspicious Activity Reporting program run by the Bureau and the Department of Homeland Security.  (And when you end up on a list like that, we know that it’s always a living hell to get off it again.)  He sums up his situation this way: “So, consider this: A professional photographer taking a photo of a well-known Boston landmark is now considered to be engaged in suspicious terrorist activity?”

And while you’re at it, don’t photograph the water tower in Farmer’s Branch, Texas (as professional photographer Allison Smith found out), or planes taxiing to takeoff at the Denver airport (if you have a Middle Eastern look to you), or that dangerous “Welcome to Texas City” sign (as Austin photographer Lance Rosenfield discovered when stopped by BP security guards and only let off after “a stern lecture about terrorists and folks wandering around snapping photos”), or even the police handcuffing someone on the street from your own front lawn (as Rochester, New York, neighborhood activist Emily Good was doing when the police cuffed and arrested her for the criminal misdemeanor of “obstructing governmental administration”).

The ACLU has just launched a suit challenging that Suspicious Activity Reporting database, claiming quite correctly — as Linda Lye, one of their lawyers, puts it — that the “problem with the suspicious-activity reporting program is that it sweeps up innocent Americans who have done nothing more than engage in innocent, everyday activity, like buying laptops or playing video games. It encourages racial and religious profiling, and targets constitutionally protected activity like photography.”

You know the old phrase, “it’s a free world?”  Well, don’t overdo it any more, thank you very much.  Your safety, your security, and the well-being of an ever-expanding, ever more aggressive national (and local) security state and its various up-arming and up-armoring policing outfits increasingly trump that freedom.  And let’s face it, when it comes to your safety not from most of the real dangers of our American lives but from “terrorism,” freedom itself really has been oversold.  Remember the famous phrase from the height of the Cold War era, “better dead than red”?  It seems to have been updated without the commies.  Now, it’s something like: “better surveilled than sorry.”  And based on that, all behavior is fast becoming potentially suspicious behavior.

Since 2013, State Department whistleblower Peter Van Buren has been covering our new world of constricting freedoms in what he’s termed “Post-Constitutional America” for TomDispatch.  With this look at the government’s newfound “right” to kill an American citizen without due process, he completes a three-part series on the shredding of the Bill of Rights, the previous two parts having focused on the First Amendment and the Fourth AmendmentTom 

Dead Is Dead
Drone-Killing the Fifth Amendment
By Peter Van Buren

You can’t get more serious about protecting the people from their government than the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, specifically in its most critical clause: “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In 2011, the White House ordered the drone-killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without trial. It claimed this was a legal act it is prepared to repeat as necessary. Given the Fifth Amendment, how exactly was this justified? Thanks to a much contested, recently released but significantly redacted — about one-third of the text is missing — Justice Department white paper providing the basis for that extrajudicial killing, we finally know: the president in Post-Constitutional America is now officially judge, jury, and executioner.

Due Process in Constitutional America

Looking back on the violations of justice that characterized British rule in pre-Constitutional America, it is easy to see the Founders’ intent in creating the Fifth Amendment. A government’s ability to inflict harm on its people, whether by taking their lives, imprisoning them, or confiscating their property, was to be checked by due process.

Not Just the Atlantic: Obama Leasing Millions of Gulf Acres for Offshore Drilling

By: Steve Horn Thursday July 24, 2014 9:39 am

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog 

Deepwater Horizon

Deploying the age-old “Friday news dump,” President Barack Obama’s Interior Department gave the green light on Friday, July 18 to companies to deploy seismic air guns to examine the scope of Atlantic Coast offshore oil-and-gas reserves.

It is the first time in over 30 years that the oil and gas industry is permitted to do geophysical data collection along the Atlantic coast. Though decried by environmentalists, another offshore oil and gas announcement made the same week has flown under the radar: over 21 million acres of Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas reserves will be up for lease on August 20 in New Orleans, Louisiana at the [Mercedes-Benz] Superdome.

On July 17, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)  announced the lease in the name of President Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy.

“As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production, BOEM…today announced that the bureau will offer more than 21 million acres offshore Texas for oil and gas exploration and development in a lease sale that will include all available unleased areas in the Western Gulf of Mexico Planning Area,” proclaimed a July 17 BOEM press release.

The release says this equates to upwards of 116-200 million barrels of oil and 538-938 billion cubic feet of natural gas and falls under the banner of the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbon Agreement.

That Agreement was signed into law on December 26, 2013. It served as a precursor to the recently-passed Mexican oil and gas industry privatization reforms, which have opened the floodgates to international oil and gas companies to come into Mexico for onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration and production.

Tourist Hot Spots Port Isabel, South Padre Island for Sale

According to BOEM’s Proposed Notice of Sale Package, dozens of blocks sitting in close proximity to both Port Isabel and South Padre Island will be auctioned off during the August 20 lease. Both Port Isabel and South Padre Island are vacation and tourist hot spots, which were visited during a recent vacation by this writer.

(click to embiggen)

In total, an enormous 4,057 blocks of Gulf of Mexico oil and gas reserves are up for lease on August 20 in the Superdome.

Climate Action Plan?

The Obama Administration will auction off the thousands of blocks of Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leases in the midst of rolling out its Climate Action Plan, best known to some simply as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon rule for coal-fired power plants.

Ruled out of Obama’s Climate Action Plan, however, is any second-guessing of his “all of the above” energy policy.

While critics of the climate plan have noted the carbon rule is a full-fledged embrace of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for onshore oil and gas, another undeniable truism has arisen: it’s also a full-fledged embrace of offshore drilling for oil and gas both in the Gulf — and perhaps soon in the Atlantic.

Silencing the Children of Gaza

By: Siun

The video above is an ad produced by the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, in which the names of the children killed in Gaza are read. B’Tselem attempted to buy ad time on Israeli radio but were refused:

More than 600 Palestinians have been killed during the fighting in Gaza so far, including more than 150 children. Yet Israeli media is barely covering the story, other than mentioning the number of casualties. To encourage public debate in Israel on the issue, B’Tselem asked to purchase a spot on IBA Radio in order to have the names of some of the children killed read out. The radio refused, on the grounds that reading out the names of Palestinian children killed in Gaza is politically ‘controversial.’ Yet the refusal is, in itself, far from neutral: it is a powerful statement in favor of silencing public debate over the massive price that Gazan civilians are paying for this operation.

Yet while some voices are silenced, Israeli officials are not only encouraging but in fact paying others. In a report in USA Today from last summer we learned that Israeli students are offered full or part scholarships in return for posting pro-Israel comments on social media that align with government positions.

Of course, it’s not only paid posters who scramble to toe the line.

And while the propaganda wars play out, today in Gaza, a UN School in Beit Hanoun was once again shelled by Israel:

At least 15 people have been reported killed and 200 injured in the Israeli shelling of a UN school in northern Gaza which was being used as a shelter from fierce clashes on the streets outside.

… Robert Turner, the director for UNRWA told Al Jazeera there was no warning from the Israelis before the shells landed. ‘This is a designated emergency shelter,’ he said. ‘The location was conveyed to the Israelis.

‘This was an installation we were managing, that monitored [to ensure] that our neutrality was maintained.’

Multiple western journalists reported the same – including Dan Rivers of ITV:

I just can’t get over what I have just witnessed at the Kamal Odwan hospital in #Gaza so many injured children

and the BBC:

Correspondents say pools of blood lay on the ground in the courtyard of the school in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza.

There was a large scorch mark where it appeared a shell had hit, the Associated Press news agency reports.

As the reaction grew to this news — and the photos of the killed and wounded spread (see this from NBC News for example) — the IDF issued a belated series of claims, first that:

In recent days, Hamas has fired rockets from an area of Beit Hanoun where an UNRWA shelter is located.

And then:

Last night, we told Red Cross to evacuate civilians from UNRWA’s shelter in Beit Hanoun btw 10 am & 2 pm. UNRWA & Red Cross got the message.

Then:

Today Hamas continued firing from Beit Hanoun. The IDF responded by targeting the source of the fire.

And finally:

Also today, several rockets launched from Gaza toward Israel fell short and hit Beit Hanoun.

Given that UNRWA says specifically that:

…during the course of the day they had been trying to negotiate a window of time with the Israeli army for civilians to leave the area because of the heaving fighting.

But Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (Unrwa), said it was never granted.

And that all other reports were of Israeli shelling not a rocket, it’s hard to take the IDF at their word.

Can State Lawmakers Count on Federal Funds for Highways and Health Insurance Subsidies?

By: WI Budget Project Thursday July 24, 2014 8:07 am

Today’s Circuit Court Ruling Reinforces the Inconsistencies in State Lawmakers’ Reasoning

Photo of a car driving along a Wisconsin highway, under two exit signs

Can Wisconsin afford its road construction projects?

Should state lawmakers turn down federal funds whenever there’s a risk that the funding in question could be cut in future years? If so, why is Wisconsin proceeding with major highway and bridge construction plans at a time when Congress is using short-term gimmicks to keep the Highway Trust Fund from becoming insolvent? And why did Wisconsin cut BadgerCare eligibility in half for parents, based on reliance on federal funding to subsidize the federal health insurance Marketplace?

That last question has gotten little attention over the past year, but it will be raised more often following a ruling today by a subset of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Two of the three judges participating in that ruling concluded that federal subsidies for the health insurance Marketplace can only go to people in states that set up their own Marketplaces. If that ruling is upheld, it would be a huge problem for Wisconsin – considering that 90% of the Wisconsinites who have purchased plans from the federal Marketplace are receiving federal subsidies, and those subsidies cover 74% of the cost of Marketplace premiums.  (Read more about the DC Circuit Court’s ruling in this NY Times article.)

The stakes are even higher in Wisconsin than in most of the other 35 states relying on the federal Marketplace, because Wisconsin lawmakers decided in the budget bill to cut in half the BadgerCare income ceiling for parents. About 70,000 fewer parents over the poverty level are now enrolled in BadgerCare (compared to December 2013), and it was assumed by state policymakers that most of those adults would move into subsidized Marketplace plans.

Over the past year, we have heard prominent Wisconsin policymakers express concerns about taking federal funding to expand BadgerCare because a future Congress might renege on the commitment to provide the increased Medicaid funding. Ironically, those policymakers pushed through an alternative plan that costs state taxpayers more, covers fewer people in BadgerCare, and relies on federal Marketplace subsidies that might be at greater risk than Medicaid funding.

It’s important to note that a different federal court ruling today upheld the Marketplace subsidies, and that federal assistance isn’t going to be suspended in Wisconsin any time soon. Although I think it’s unlikely that federal courts will uphold today’s ruling by the DC Circuit Court, it isn’t the only source of risk for Marketplace subsidies; many of the same conservative lawmakers who oppose continuation of the increased Medicaid funding have also supported repealing the ACA and Marketplace subsidies.

The arguments for turning down federal Medicaid funding because its future isn’t completely certain seem inconsistent and a bit disingenuous, considering that state lawmakers approved BadgerCare changes that rely on another funding stream in the Affordable Care Act and are also are happily taking federal highway funding.

By Jon Peacock