Steps toward a healthier nation
I try to keep this blog as locally focused as possible, but Sunday night's healthcare reform vote was simply too historic not to comment on. Plus, the measures affect people all across the nation though Wisconsin perhaps a little less, simply because our state already does a decent job of covering people through programs like BadgerCare.
That is, unless you were one of the poor, unmarried, child-free souls who were frozen out of the new BadgerCare Plus Core plan (that would include me). Anyway, I'll have more thoughts on the subject in an opinion article that should appear in this week's print edition of Isthmus, but suffice to say that I'm a little more optimistic than I was before Sunday's vote.
Thompson's take on health care is blowin' in the political winds
I appreciate a willingness to change one's mind as new information and knowledge comes to you, but I'm generally more distrustful of such major tacks when made by politicians-turned-lobbyists who are considering another run for office. Call me a skeptic, but you'd think the former head of Health and Human Services would have a little more interest in securing proper care for people.
Of course, he's been a lobbyist for big health care and insurance companies more recently (as in, is currently employed by) so his priorities may have changed with his paycheck.
Happily, the good people of Wisconsin appear to like lobbyists even less than California's claims of having happier cows or, y'know, the plague.
The faith healers may lay hands on the Supreme Court
In my last post I wrote at length about the ongoing efforts by people like Rep. Terese Berceau to remove the religious exemption in the state's child abuse and neglect laws.
The case that spurred this recent action, involving the death of 11-year-old Kara Neumann from untreated diabetes, looks to be headed to the state Supreme Court. Both of the girls' parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, were found guilty of second-degree reckless homicide for failing to seek out medical care for their daughter even after she slipped into a coma.
Unfortunately, it is the inconsistency in state law regarding religious exemptions that has allowed for the continued appeals of the case:
Although Wisconsin law includes a religious exemption for child abuse and neglect that allows parents to use religion or faith-based rituals as defenses in court, the Neumanns were unable to apply this exemption to their defense. Had they been charged with child abuse and neglect rather than homicide, they could have, with the trial verdicts likely turning out differently.
The reasoning goes, then, that the lawyers in charge of their original defense failed to explore all options and so the couple deserves another shot. Technically that's true, but it doesn't make the situation any less disgusting. Now, in addition to serving as the catalyst for Berceau's bill, it may also serve as a rather unsettling example of what can happen if we don't make Wisconsin law uniform in forbidding religious exemptions when it comes to cases involving the neglect and/or death of children.
Africana, you're not helping
At last week's ALRC meeting, it was made abundantly clear that Africana's days on the near east side are likely numbered. The restaurant, which opened to good reviews of its menu and just a handful of dance nights a month, has since been the source of numerous noise complaints and several violent incidents as they've expanded the party nights and cut back on dining times.
The owner has apparently stopped answering phone calls. There's a rumor floating around that the landlord wants them out. Africana's problems with dance nights was one of the main impetuses for the ALRC's new requirement that lower capacity venues apply for an entertainment license, though it has yet to do so.
Jack Craver of The Sconz notes that Equal Opportunities Commission member (and former alder) Brian Benford even supports the closing of Africana. It's been "bad for the neighborhood," in his opinion.
It's also been bad for the larger debate that's happening in Madison concerning venues frequented by people of color. R Place on Park, for instance, has been the subject of many heated conversations due to a spate of gun incidents in the area. But there's an important difference here. The owners of Africana slipped their DJ nights in after setting up as a restaurant, bypassing several licensing issues and the good faith of the neighborhood. And the venue itself is the source of the many complaints. That's different than a business like R Place, which is exactly the venue it said it would be when it opened and only had the misfortune of being in the vicinity of the gun violence.
Africana should be taken as an individual case and not as representative of venues frequented by people of color, or DJ nights, or hip hop shows in general. Though I know there will be those who make ignorant, knee-jerk assumptions about all of those things and, heavens, black people (because apparently this isn't the 21st freaking century?), I have to hope that more reasonable, less ridiculous heads will prevail. The first step is ignoring the attention starved pleas of a fellow TDP blogger who shall go unnamed here (but is most certainly not The Sconz, so who's left?). The next step is even more important, and involves getting rid of our prejudices and misguided ideas about each other.