Jul 262013

The Department of Justice has filed suit against the State of Florida for warehousing kids with disabilities in nursing homes and keeping them isolated from their families and communities. The DOJ alleges that the heavy institutional bias of Florida’s Medicaid program violates the rights of these kids under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as articulated in the Supreme Court’s landmark Olmstead ruling. The children in question have complex medical conditions and some rely on ventilators or feeding tubes.

The lawsuit shouldn’t come as a surprise to Florida officials. The DOJ has been warning the state for the past couple years that its segregation of kids with disabilities was a serious problem that could result in legal action. But Governor Rick Scott and his Tea Party allies in the legislature instead chose to refuse federal funds that would have helped these kids remain at home because they wanted to make a political statement about the Affordable Care Act. Florida also has not increased its reimbursement rates for home care services since 1987.

For people with disabilities, Florida and Minnesota might as well be different countries. It shouldn’t be this way, but our fragmented Medicaid system perpetuates these gross inequities. Perhaps this lawsuit and others like it will persuade state policymakers to reassess their priorities and work in a bipartisan fashion to ensure that both kids and adults with disabilities can live and thrive in their communities.

Jun 262013

Plenty of eloquent words have already been written on the Court’s pair of historic rulings today on same-sex marriage, so I won’t bother repeating them. Of course, I’m thrilled that so many couples will now receive full legal recognition and protection. Marriage equality will exist in a patchwork fashion for the next several years, but these decisions set us on a path towards a more just society. As William Gibson said, the future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.

And I demand that some Caribbean nation establish the Antonin Scalia School of Legal Argle-Bargle. The man deserves no less.

Jun 102013

I’m not sure I’m ready to label Edward Snowden a hero, but he deserves credit for initiating a robust discussion on how we should demarcate privacy rights in a digital age. We haven’t given much thought to the countless petabytes of data we are collectively generating every day and the extent to which that information should be available for national security purposes. It may be one thing for the government to mine metadata that shows whom we called or texted over a period of time. It may be something else entirely for the state to review e-mail or instant messages. We live in world of peril and we have powerful tools available to mitigate those perils, but those tools depend on our acquiescence to a certain amount of intrusion.

May 132013

Governor Dayton will sign marriage equality into law tomorrow after the bill cleared its final legislative hurdle today. Congratulations again to the legislators and advocates who helped Minnesota take this next step into the 21st century. Special kudos to those legislators who voted in favor of equality even though they hail from districts that supported a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Such displays of political courage are all too rare in our polarized era.

I’d urge my brother and his partner to come to Minnesota to get married, but they seem willing to wait until equality comes to California. And with a little help from the Supreme Court, they may not have to wait long.

May 072013

Minnesota may be on the verge of legalizing same-sex marriage, less than a year after voters rejected a constitutional ban on the same. I’m among those who thought legislators would avoid the issue in the wake of the bitterly fought ballot campaign, so I’m pleased that they proved me wrong. Given its generally progressive history, Minnesota should be among the early adopters of same-sex marriage.

One wonders if we would be at this point if Republicans hadn’t pushed so hard to incorporate discrimination into the state constitution. If this passes, we may need to acknowledge Republicans as our unwitting partners in promoting equality.

Mar 262013

In the wake of today’s oral arguments on the Prop 8 case, it may be a good time to remind everyone that it’s a waste of time to predict how the Court will rule on a high-profile issue. Around this time last year, pundits were writing the eulogy for the Affordable Care Act. And we all know how that turned out. Keep that in mind over the next few months as various “authorities” claim to have the inside scoop on how the Court will rule. They don’t.

Jan 312013

Years of negative coverage about the skyrocketing price of a legal education and dwindling job prospects for new attorneys are finally catching up with law schools. Law school applications are at 30-year low and some observers are predicting the closure of lower-tier schools in the next few years. If this trend persists, I can’t see how the Twin Cities can continue to support four law schools. William Mitchell and St. Thomas might find themselves competing for the dubious honor of being the third law school left standing (the University of Minnesota and Hamline law schools will likely survive) in the metropolitan area.

I sometimes wonder if I would have chosen to go to law school in the current climate. I think I still would have pursued it, but the cost would frighten me. I graduated with a fair amount of debt, but it was modest compared to the debt loads that burden so many new attorneys today.

Oct 112012

Kudos to Netflix for agreeing to caption all of its streaming content by 2014. Perhaps this will prompt all of the major streaming video players to ensure that their content is accessible. And a big “fuck you” to the Ars Technica commenters who suggested that deaf customers can take their money elsewhere if they aren’t happy with Netflix’s accessibility. As if Hulu and Amazon are doing all they can to capture the lucrative deaf demographic. The whole point of laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act is to compel businesses, within reasonable limits, to make its goods and services accessible to the public when free market principles might otherwise dictate inaction. As a nation, we’ve decided that it’s important for people with disabilities to be included in all aspects of everyday life, including consumerism. But because of recalcitrant corporations and our unceasing hero worship of unbridled capitalism, people with disabilities are forced to constantly re-litigate the question of whether we deserve to be fully participating members of society.

Sep 242012

Sarah Silverman has a few thoughts on voter ID laws that she would like to share with you.

Minnesota voters will be voting on a constitutional amendment to require voter identification. The latest polling indicates that it may pass. I may be preaching to the choir, but please vote NO on this amendment. It has nothing to do with voter fraud and everything to do with disenfranchising citizens. Don’t fall for false analogies. Voting is not like renting a car. Voting is a fundamental right. We Americans aren’t guaranteed much, but we do make a point of proclaiming that every citizen has equal access to the ballot box.

People have died to safeguard the right to vote. Soldiers and students and housewives. When we start restricting the right to vote, we shit on every ideal for which they fought and died. Don’t fall for the scare tactics of politicians struggling to remain in power. Don’t bring Jim Crow to Minnesota.

Sep 192012

The Justice Department is suing the state of Florida for dumping kids with disabilities into nursing homes. Many of these kids have complex medical needs, which most nursing homes are ill-equipped to handle. The article also notes that Florida has turned down federal funds to keep people out of nursing homes. Florida has also made deep cuts to Medicaid home care payments rates.

Florida’s neglect and warehousing of kids with disabilities is further evidence of the need for stronger federal Medicaid policy on providing care in community settings. Two decades after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and more than a decade after the Supreme Court’s landmark Olmstead decision, people with disabilities continue to face the threat of institutionalization. If the nation is ever going to live up to the ideals of integration expressed in those documents, the DOJ better be prepared to file many more lawsuits like this one.

Thanks to Adam for the link.