Saturday, October 25, 2014

Walker and that pheasant 'hunt'

He says the owie he got was worth it because he "got the bird." Oh, dear...

Big government Walkerites to build new palace, reward hand-picked developer

Kudos to the Cap Times' Mike Ivey for casting light on the big spenders from Scott Walker on down who want to hand pick a developer for a subsidized building boom principally on Madison's west side.

We first began hearing about this a year and a half ago when the project centered on building WisDOT a new Tower of Power.

Well, the Tower is still the key, replacing a perfectly decent building at Hill Farms - - but I guess WisDOT needs more space in which to plan more underused highway expansions while transit and social services statewide are starved.

The highway lobbyists would prefer nicer offices in which to keep their ball rolling. Power and privilege shall be served. With our money.

And, yes - - the planning to replace the WisDOT building began under the evil Jim Doyle, but Walker's people better not say that too loudly, since a) in their world, Doyle did nothing right, and b) Doyle's plan cost 25% of Walker's inflated public sector McMansion.

These hypocrites talk a good game about cutting spending, but put them in charge, and camouflage the bidding process and off to the races they go.

Everything gets nailed down Nov. 7th.

How convenient.

Translation: Chisholm too smart to fall into conflict-of-interest snare

With nothing to investigate, all the Milwaukee County DA would be doing if he took the bait is set himself up for circular, no-win conflict-of-interest allegations from Walker's outside donor groups and far-right talk radio hosts.

Nice NBC shout out to Cap Times, state bloggers

Cap Times editor invites "Meet the Press" anchor Chuck Todd in for coffee, and the paper's blogging/commentary daily roundup gets props:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Schimel signaling 'ollie, ollie in come free' to solve Walker Doe woe

In the AG debate with Democrat Susan Happ tonight, GOP hopeful and Scott Walker protector Brad Schimel retreated from an earlier principled position and toed the party line as the election looms which is to strangle the Government Accountability Board next year.

Schimel also dished up a side of contempt for state campaign finance law that bars the kind of candidate campaign/third-party strategy and fund-raising coordination that got Scott Walker's 2012 campaign a cool $700,000 from the iron mining company which is planning to blow up the pristine, water-rich Penokee Hills for the continent's biggest open-pit iron ore mine.

Sounds more like a partisan Scott Walker foot soldier than a fair-and-open-minded top state lawyer.

Journal Sentinel editorial on environment is a muddle

[Updated, 6:02 p.m.]The Journal Sentinel editorial board continues a series of gubernatorial election issue commentaries today with observations on the environment that make for a muddle of contradictions, suppositions and omissions.

In a word: Yikes.

*  The editorial board cites data showing the Department of Natural Resources under Walker is referring far fewer polluters for prosecution than did predecessors Tommy Thompson and Jim Doyle - - OK, so far- -  but then says that's "not inherently a bad thing."

So what's the upside? 

The editorial board posits - - but does not document - - that the collaborative relationship the DNR is pursuing with businesses could save money and hasten compliance - - but cites no data to back up that supposition. Note all the qualifiers - - "can mean...perhaps..."

Stepp's (and Walker's) approach is to have DNR employees work with businesses to get them to cooperatively solve whatever problem crops up. That can mean fewer costs for both the business and state taxpayers and, perhaps, quicker compliance.
I hope readers across the state who live downwind of a frac sand mine's dust, or within sniffing distance of an expanded mega-dairy's cattle herd runoff, or within well water pumping range of a fuel pipeline break and spill - - details here - -  give the paper an earful about its paean to Wisconsin's regulatory softness.

^  This editorial has all the hallmarks of something produced in stages, and that ignored even its environmental reporters solid work from 19 months ago:

I'd written recently on this blog and in the Journal Sentinel's Sunday Crossroads section that Wisconsin waters - - though held in trust for all the people by the State Constitution - - were in crisis from political mismanagement, neglect and downright attack by state government...
The evidence was a string of new laws, proposals and administrative actions serving special interests since Scott Walker took office that removed or weakened protections for ground water, surface water, shorelines, construction sites, wetlands and woodlands that help hold and filter precipitation.
Now comes a stunning story by Lee Bergquist of the Journal Sentinel - - that more than 150 additional state bodies of water are so polluted they will be added to a list of impaired waterways needing fixing - - and that Walker tried unsuccessfully to 'address' the problem by holding up the implementation of state rules aimed at reducing levels of phosphorus run-off - - one of the main pollutants in impaired waterways making the list.
*  The editorial board is all over the map on iron mining, the environment, and the legislation used "to entice" the mining company to come to Wisconsin:
We feel that legislation opens the door to unnecessary environmental damage. That was not only a mistake, it holds the potential for disaster for northern Wisconsin.
Square that with what the editorial board wrote just a few lines earlier in support of the mine:

...we believe such a mine could be built while preserving much of the area's natural beauty and restoring the area after the mine runs dry. 

The editorial also omits any mention of the once-secret $700,000 mining company donation routed through a third-party group to the Walker campaign, so who exactly was enticing whom?

*  The editorial leaves out any mention of the Walker administration's disregard for Ojibwe treaty rights in the proposed mining region - - which means Walker is teeing up the state for costly and divisive litigation.

How is it that the Walker administration gets kudos from the editorial board for cost-saving collaborating with businesses on environmental matters, but there's no criticism in the editorial for the administration's failure to work closely with the tribes on the mining issue which is already producing acrimony and costly litigating?

Finally, the editorial discusses energy, generally praising Burke on alternatives and criticizing Walker for his PSC appointments, and for obstructing of rail, wind and conservation incentives.

No clear winner here. I know the paper is not making endorsements this go-round, but muddle is not substitute.

I will copy out below the entire section about the DNR and the mining issue and you can decide for yourself if it makes sense to you. And I encourage people to read the piece in its entirety.   

Department of Natural Resources: The major criticism of the DNR under Walker from environmentalists is essentially that it's too friendly to business and is reluctant to strongly enforce laws designed to protect the environment.
We think that's an unfair assessment. The approach under Walker and DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp is different but not necessarily weaker. 
Yes, the DNR has referred fewer environmental cases to the Department of Justice under Walker: 24 in 2011; 34 in 2012 and 35 last year, according to DNR records. By comparison, in 2000, when Republican Gov. Tommy G. Thompson was governor, there were 61 cases sent to the attorney general. And during Democrat Jim Doyle's administration, the agency referred an average of 68 cases a year.
But that's not inherently a bad thing. Stepp's (and Walker's) approach is to have DNR employees work with businesses to get them to cooperatively solve whatever problem crops up. That can mean fewer costs for both the business and state taxpayers and, perhaps, quicker compliance. And making it easier for businesses to communicate with government officials, as is now the case, is actually a good thing.

But the DNR has to walk a fine line between cooperation and caving in. There have been a couple of disturbing cases in which the Walker administration appeared to bend over backward to accommodate a business. The DNR still must enforce the laws and make sure the environment is protected. We think for the most part the DNR is meeting that challenge.

Mining: Here we disagree with both candidates. Republicans pushed through legislation making it easier for Gogebic Taconite to build a $1.5 billion iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. Burke says she opposes the proposed mine. But we think the mine could provide needed jobs in a particularly hard-pressed area of the state. And we believe such a mine could be built while preserving much of the area's natural beauty and restoring the area after the mine runs dry.

Where we take issue with Walker is the legislation used to entice the company, much of which was written with the help of the company's lobbyists and lawyers, to build in Wisconsin. We feel that legislation opens the door to unnecessary environmental damage. That was not only a mistake, it holds the potential for disaster for northern Wisconsin.

In search of 137,000 jobs before Nov. 4th...

on the wheels of the world's clunkiest slogan.

Poor Scott Walker, begging for cash

Why, I declare, it's almost like watching someone get by on the minimum wage.

Cap Times Editor Writes Strong Brief For Mary Burke

This thoughtful piece by Cap Times editor Paul Fanlund lays out the case to undecided voters for Mary Burke as Governor on her merits, with specifics:
Burke must be an unpleasant surprise to over-confident GOP operatives as she is so many things Walker is not. Foremost, she is a sincere and authentic contrast to an egocentric career politician...

On the minimum wage, voting rights, marriage equality, reproductive rights, pay equity, environmental regulation, consumer protection, you name it, Walker adheres to a tea party playbook, not the majority wishes of his constituents. He must actually believe in those policies, or at least has rationalized them in his relentless, career-long pursuit of the next political job...

More than anything, my message to the undecided or under-motivated is that Burke would heal Wisconsin, not embark on some boomerang-like journey of political payback and score-settling.
Having known and watched her for years, Burke is precisely what she appears to be. She is reasonable, caring, genuine and modest, which is about as far from the traits of Walker as one can get and still belong to the same species.
If her candidacy is indeed bolstered by a late tide of votes from those who have not been consumed by politics, she will win.
And at that point, the politics of healing would begin.
Fanlund's piece is well-timed, given Walker's clumsily corrosive effort yesterday to gin up his base by claiming Madison would vote against him out of anger.

Classic Walker divide-and-conquer, scapegoating agitation - - precisely what Burke is not doing with her trademark pragmatic calm.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hair today, gone tomorrow

I am among the tens of thousands of men burdened by bald spots which God surely intended for someone else who chuckled their way through Jim Stingl's piece in the Journal Sentinel about Scott Walker's hair loss.

I was hoping that Stingl would somehow weave in a reference to what has to be the most memorable story on these matters ever to appear in the old Milwaukee Journal.

That would be veteran medical reporter (and 2014 Milwaukee Press Club Hall of Fame Inductee this weekend) Neil Rosenberg's early 1990's expose of a surgical hair transplant doctor who'd enlisted the help of an assistant who lacked a medical license - -  but did have a background in animal skinning and farm work.

I couldn't find the story on line. Maybe someone else can. I know this story ran because I remember someone in the newsroom singing a bit of "Mule Skinner Blues" as the story was being read.

Another theory about Walker's weird, fresh attack on Madison

While it sure does look like a classic case of projection - - after having delivered a sneak (Act 10) attack on state employees, Walker is now attacking Madison for allegedly being angry! - - it may be that after tossing out in the second debate with Mary Burke that faux 'I love kids love to go Bucks' games' paean, Walker can't dump on Milwaukee the way he did right before the recall election when he warned upscale Waukesha County exurbanites that his defeat would turn Wisconsin into "another Milwaukee."

So needing a target to run up his base's fear factor, he just swapped Milwaukee for Madison on the eve of this election.

Welcome to the Walker spin-and-grind machine, Madison.


Thank you, candid Chris Christie...

...for identifying Scott Walker as the GOP's Wisconsin voter suppressionist-in-chief, and thank you also, writer Joan Walsh, for identifying Christie's remarks, below, as "a confession." 
“Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist?” he asked. “Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke? Who would you rather have in Ohio, John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald?” he asked.
“The fact is it doesn’t matter if you don’t really care what happens in these states, you’re going to care about who is running the state in November of 2016, what kind of political apparatus they’ve set up and what kind of governmental apparatus they’ve set up to ensure a full and fair election in 2016,” he said. “All of those things are incredibly important.”
Great that it is Walker pal Christie spilling the beans.

We need more such truthiness from our political leaders and the journalists who cover them.

Gov. Divide-and-Conquer At it Again

Wrong-Way Walker launches his end-of-campaign, hilariously self-dismissing, self-dissing 'I'm rubber you're glue, your words bounce off me and stick to you' attack.
Walker says Madison voters driven by anger
More self-parody from the politician who bragged about his divide-and-conquering strategy still very much alive that tapped into and ginned up anger at public employees.

A new low in Wisconsin animal cruelty

You think that legalized use of wolf chasing dogs, metal wolf leg traps and caged animals for hound 'training' - - and even a case of whooping crane killing - - set a bar for wildlife disrespect in Wisconsin that could be lowered no further, but then this release from Federal authorities drops into your email box and you realize that bar had already been dropped.

Not for the faint of heart or weak stomach, but props to the investigators and prosecutors.

In Wisconsin, we have judge shopping, and then some

The Racine Journal Times makes a strong editorial argument against judge shopping. The specific case the editorial referenced had to do with a conservative political group finessing filing paperwork to get its case before its preferred judge - - US District Court Judge Rudolph Randa.

And props to the Madison Capital Times for leading its state debate roundup today with the Racine paper's editorial and crediting the Journal Sentinel for first reporting the machinations that got the group before Randa.

Call it a mainstream media Tinkers to Evers to Chance.

I'd add that Wisconsin also faces a justice fairness problem larger than judge shopping: the long-term leasing through millions of big business dollars in donations of a majority's biases on the State Supreme Court.

It reflects what US Sen. Elizabeth Warren recently called the anti-democratic rigged political game, which I'd analyzed a few days ago citing the state supreme court majority's ties to big business.

Walker + Numbers = Falsehoods

Scott Walker

Wrong-Way Walker hasn't met a statistic he can't twist into a fib.

Take a look at all of PolitiFact's Walker findings and note how many involve numbers he gets wrong or uses inaccurately.

A flub here or there, OK.

But this is a pattern. Statistical incompetence, ignorance, or voter manipulation?

We ask these questions because, well, there goes again:

PolitiFact on Wednesday did a superb job explaining Walker's false use of data in the last debate with challenger Mary Burke: 
SCOTT WALKER "The next state budget will begin with a surplus of over half a billion dollars -- $535 million to be exact." As of now, a "structural deficit" is projected.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Schimel whips up GOP crowd that boos the Supreme Court

And this guy wants to the Wisconsin Attorney General? What would be his reception from Justices if he had to argue at the US Supreme Court? I!
Republican Dan Sebring, who is running for the fourth time against Gwen Moore (D-WI) for her seat in the House of Representatives, said that the [voter ID suspension] ruling “stinks,” while the Republican candidate for Attorney General, Brad Schimel, called it “bad news”—prompting the whole crowd to boo the high court. 

When seeing "Walker," "campaign," and "highly unethical" in a headline...

There's not much surprise in the rest of the story:
A national procurement expert said Wednesday that inside information on a county real-estate deal provided by top Milwaukee County officials to the treasurer of Gov. Scott Walker's gubernatorial campaign was "highly unethical" and made a "fraud of the entire process."

Happy to spot my dad in a Ben Bradlee retirement picture

Indulge me one more time. That's my dad Hobart Rowen, second to end, far right, applauding at Ben Bradlee's retirement. Call it throwback Wednesday. Thank you, cousin Carol, for pointing it out.

Joel Kleefisch looking for national exposure

I had three reactions to this most-recent Joel Kleefisch pro-hunting news release when I got to the end.
This January I hope to form Wisconsin's first ever Sportsmen's Caucus. It is my hope that my fellow legislators on both sides of the aisle will heed the call and join the movement so that Wisconsin can benefit from the leadership of the National Assembly of Sportsmen's Caucuses. 
Wisconsin has a long-established tradition of hunting and fishing. It is time we honor that tradition by joining the national conversation. 
My reactions:

*  Somebody's itching to go to some meetings in picture-postcard locales and get on the national stage, too.

*  "Sportsmens" and "Sportsman" mask a lot of violence, and are archaically sexist - - especially since the DNR and some groups are pushing female participation to combat a decline in hunting.

*  If Kleefisch really wants to Wisconsin to be part of some national conversation, he's going to get an earful from people who are tired of Wisconsin's noisy, bloody, politically-connected wolf and bear hunting, and are tired also of Kleefisch's mono-manical fascination with killing animals.

Proof that WI is not cleaner than before Walker took power

You may remember that I called Walker out when he ridiculously said that Wisconsin was somehow cleaner now under his reduced-inspection regime than when he'd taken office.

To refute Walker's claim, I listed specifics with links - - from toxic oil and gasoline pipeline breaks to frac sand mining spills to illegal human fecal matter spreading violations to airborne and ground water pollution from big dairies, and more.

So props to aggrieved and concerned citizens and environmental groups which are now asking the feds to intervene - - following dismissive health and safety enforcement and intentional regulatory withdrawal by Walker's "chamber-of-commerce" DNR  - - and force Wisconsin to clean up where the mess is pressing and dangerous - - big-dairy manure pollution of drinking water.

But it is outrageous that when state government puts special interest and corporate benefits above the taxpayers' health and the common environment's well-being, taxpayers have to spend their own money to force the state to do the job it is supposed to be doing everyday on taxpayers' behalf.

Major, must-read frac sand mining study

A primer on the issue intended to help local communities in wisconsin and Minnesota avoid problems.

Read, save and circulate.

More later.

Hat tip, LL.

'Coordinating' is Walker's Achilles' Heel, yet now says others are doing it to him

Wrong-Way Walker has earned that sobriquet, especially when he proves he is not the smartest guy in the room.

Like when became the guy who ran for Governor in 2010 on a stupid, unforced failed-and-broken 250,000 new-jobs-promise, and still isn't halfway to that total while neighboring states are leaving Wisconsin behind.

The same guy who got caught benefiting from a secret $700,000 donation routed from a well-connected mining company to his 2012 recall campaign by a third party group with which his campaign was not supposed to be coordinating such things.

And speaking of coordinating…

Walker has been dogged for months by a potentially career-ending scandal over possibly illegal coordinating with third party groups that state law says are supposed to remain independent of direct work with campaigns.

You'd think Walker and his allies would be the last politicos who'd throw the coordinating term around.

So yesterday - - when previously-sealed Milwaukee County documents surfaced that proved Walker campaign people had been coordinating official Milwaukee County staff communications after The Milwaukee Journal asked if such coordinating had taken place - - Walker and his allied GOP operatives rushed out to complain, with no facts to back it up, that the release of the damning documents had been...wait for it…coordinated between Mary Burke's campaign and the office of Milwaukee County Chris Abele:
The Republican Party of Wisconsin said it filed an open-records request with Abele's office Tuesday, calling the release a "slimy political stunt" involving "directly coordinating messaging" between Abele's office and the campaign of Democrat Mary Burke. 
So take that, coordination accusanistas: the Walkerites' just showed that without any proof they will throw around the charge that only reminds voters why we've been hearing about coordination of late.

Suggesting a lack of internal coordination up and down the line at Team Walker.

La Crosse students turn out by the ten for Ron Johnson

Though I may be overstating it, according to this newspaper story:
The Wisconsin Republican spoke to a gathering of about 10 Viterbo students Thursday afternoon. 
File under #goner2016. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

R.I.P., Ben Bradlee

R.I.P., Ben Bradlee, every reporter's dream editor and boss. Our family knew him for decades. We were lucky, and then some. He and my dad Hobart worked together at Newsweek's DC bureau where Ben was the bureau chief and Dad was a business writer. When Ben moved to the Washington Post in the mid's 1960's, he was told he could bring with him one staffer and he took Dad.

The ride lasted for Dad almost 30 years as reporter, columnist, business editor and eventually Ass't. Managing Editor, Finance. 

Best little personal memory: I visited Dad at his newsroom in the mid-80's after I'd joined the Milwaukee Journal staff. Ben waved me into his office, threw his arm around me and said "Congratulations, Jimmy. You finally found honest work."

Square the lede in Walker endorsement with today's JS jaw-dropper

I never thought I'd see our state's leading politician's leading, false and broken promise so glibly dismissed by the state's leading editorial board, but now I've seen everything:
Gov. Scott Walker's false promise of job growth isn't that big of a deal
We sure didn't see the newspaper telegraph this kind of whatever shoulder-shrugging in 2010, when it led its crucial Walker endorsement editorial this way:
Scott Walker has said repeatedly during his campaign for governor that he will develop strategies to create 250,000 new jobs during his first term.
It's a big promise - one that has been derided by his critics. But for the sake of Wisconsin, Walker had better be right.
"Not that big of a deal."

When Walker is this wrong?


Weak jobs numbers again challenge Walker, spin team

The latest federal jobs numbers came out today, and for Bucky, Becky and Wrong-Way Walker, it's the same sad old story:

Despite creating two, two-year budgets laden with pro-business entitlements, stage-managing the Legislature, setting up and chairing his floundering and dysfunctional WEDC jobs agency, mocking Illinois and sending Rebecca Kleefisch there to try and convince corporations that "open for business" borders signs are a development plan, Wrong-Way Walker's new jobs numbers over the last year trail Illinois' - - ouch, #BeckyFail - - and most other Midwestern states.

From the Federal data, Table D, jobs added in the previous 12 months:

Illinois - - 69,000
Indiana - - 59,600
Minnesota - - 50,700
Wisconsin - - 41,800
Michigan - - 32,700
Iowa - - 22,100

So the challenge for Walker and his PR people is spin away from "We're 4th of 6," "We Cleaned Iowa's Clock," "At This Rate, 250,000 Is A Pipe Dream," and "Ha, Ha, Illinois Only Beat Us By 60%!"

I cannot confirm that the Walker spin team operative who thought Wisconsin could be bumped into the top half by including Mississippi, (14,300 new jobs) as a Midwestern state because it shares the Mississippi River with Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota was re-assigned to Kleefisch's staff.

And trust me, that staff needs help. On her official Lt. Gov. web site, the Wisconsin face of business development is featured in a "Blueprint for Prosperity" video that has been up since January and has garnered all of 164 views on You Tube - - where some genius thought to promote it.

And though the data show otherwise, she's touted on her campaign web site as a key figure in Wisconsin job creation:
Widely credited for coining the phrase, “Wisconsin is Open for Business”, Rebecca immediately played a key role in business growth and retention for Wisconsin – cold-calling Illinois businesses that, in turn, relocated to Wisconsin, and nimbly responding to businesses looking for support.
Rebecca serves as Wisconsin’s “Jobs Ambassador’ and spearheads the Governor’s Small Business Summits, listening and input sessions held all over the state. She chaired the Governor’s Sub Cabinet on Workforce Investment that developed the “Wisconsin Working” plan, designed to connect the unemployed to jobs, encourage the hiring of veterans and address Wisconsin’s graying manufacturing workforce.

WI DNR allowing wolf killing above published quotas

[updated 12:20 a.m., Tuesday] The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board set a final 2014 season kill quota of 150 trapped and shot wolves  - - I will not use the officlal jargon "harvest," as that conjures up picture-postcard images of hay baling and apple picking - - but note in the Department of Natural Resources chart currently online that a significant excess of wolves has already been killed in two of the six geographical zones now closed.

In Zone 2, the kill is nearly double the published quota of 15. Maybe the 24 hours  the DNR gives hunters and trappers to report their handwork is excessive, as it can delay a zone closing while the quota is broken.

Why 24 hours? How about 12? Everyone has a cellphone these days and can get within range in less than 24 hours.

Unless the DNR firmly closes the two remaining open zones early, and lowers those zones' quotas, the final tally would be 163, or nearly ten percent higher than the agreed-upon 150.
ZoneQuotaHarvestZone Status
The WI wolf kill totals in the two previous seasons also exceeded the established quotas by seven.

Is this a DNR back-door method of raising the kill to satisfy some hunters who might resort to poaching for their satisfaction?

Or is the agency just catering to a constituency?