Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wisconsin's Republicans New Mantra: 'Can We Find An Activist Judge? Plu-eeze!'

Republicans and conservatives and other righteously self-reliant men and women of confident integrity regularly fuss about and sneer at plaintiffs who whine and go to court and present themselves as victims of this injustice or that unfairness and, through one of those hated trial lawyers. ask a judge to block or throw out a law or rule or action.

You've heard the Right's summary accusation: "Activist judges!" 

They might as well be saying, "You...you...liberals. Using the courts to get what you didn't or couldn't get (read: deserve) from some person or agency. Loser."

Well, the Madison Capitol shoe sure is on the other foot, or planted somewhere else, as three Republican state senators finding themselves facing properly-certified and scheduled-recall elections believe they and their lawyers have found a technicality in the paperwork and want a judge or judges to toss the whole thing.

So...this thing..this independent branch of government called a judiciary...with these judges...has a valuable role after all to play in a civil society?

Amazing. The situational and ephemeral and hypocritical world in which some political conservatives operate.

Grassroots Opposition To Northern Wisconsin Iron Mine Growing, Being Documented

Report about iron mine from the field, here.

Report from the Right, here.

Early-on issues discussion, right here.

Cong. Paul Ryan, Courageous? Worshipful? Not.

Despite what Dick Cheney says, Paul Ryan is neither courageous or worshipful.

Nor Winston Churchill, either.

WMC Running Alberta Darling/Iron Mine Radio Ad

I heard a radio ad today paid for by GOP State Sen. Alberta Darling's corporate friends at the Wisconsin Manufacturing & Commerce that touted her support for the proposed open pit iron mine to be dug near Ashland, in the Lake Superior watershed.

That's the deep, four-mile long mine Walker and his legislative lieutenants (e.g., Randy Hopper, too), want to run through a fast-tracked permitting 'process' at the new, pro-business Department of Natural Resources, formerly a conservation agency.

Remember that when her recall election rolls around.

Trump Lite: Palin The Prankster

She's too immature to be taken seriously as a Presidential contender, let alone office-holder.

This weird east coast media/branding tour of hers is nothing more than a sideshow.

Trump lite.

[Update: They met! OMG!!]

Kloppenburg Has Made Our Point; Next Step, Investigations, Reform In Waukesha County

JoAnne Kloppenburg has wisely decided against further appeals of the State Supreme Court race and conceded to David Prosser.

The recount she requested validated Prosser's victory, and the recount added credibility to the outcome - - which had been thrown into doubt by problems in the Waukesha County Clerk's office that were dramatically exposed, but were not new.

The Government Accountability Board needs to complete and publicize a full accounting of those election procedures in Waukesha County that led to the uncertainty of the vote totaling there and set in motion all the post-election uproar and the need for much-needed changes in that office.

Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nikolaus must end, or be forced by County or state officials to terminate, her one-person control of elections, including the practice of keeping voting records on a computer outside of the County's network and to which she alone has the password.

Without these changes, we're just one more election away from another blow to Wisconsin's political credibility.

Next Republican Election 'Reform' In Wisconsin May Be 'Reforming' The Election Board Itself

Having already tipped the scales its way with a voter suppression law aimed at limiting voting in central cities and on campuses (read: Democratic votes), Wisconsin Republicans, peeved at the way the state Government Accountability Board, (GAB), is processing some State Senate recall petitions, could move in the legislature to punish it by changing its makeup or cutting its funding.

Controversial?

Sure.

But it wouldn't surprise me because this has been the GOP approach to government since taking absolute power in Madison on Jan. 3rd.

The GAB - - a merged agency comprised of the former and separate state elections and ethics boards - -  is run by a non-partisan group of six retired judges selected by a panel of Appeals Court judges, nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate. [This sentence includes a correction that clarifies the nomination, selection and confirmation process.]

I wouldn't put it past Walker or this legislature to put the GAB further under more direct political control.

Among the best examples of the GOP's power-grabbing approach, along with blowing up collective bargaining for most public employees statewide  - Walker, legislators and special interests working to remake the structure of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, block its phosphorus pollution rules, suspend its wind turbine siting regulations, ease wetlands fillings and arbitrarily limit the time and scope of mining permitting - - all to satisfy one set of players - - business interests.

Who generally support Walker and Republican legislators come campaign-time.

The legislature also gave Walker the power to review and reject all state agency rules - - eliminating the Legislature's rule-making role and public committee hearings that had been part of the process.

So changing or politicizing the structure of an agency or a procedure to remove elements of fairness or public interest means nothing to these ideological partisans.

No-Nukes Germany Is A Bold Experiment

In the wake of Japan's nuclear power catastrophe, Germany - - Europe's leading economy - - makes an historic commitment to conservation, alternative and renewable energy generation by declaring it will abandon nuclear power by 2022.

I'm impressed: Can you image the US doing this, or as nuclear-dependent a state as Wisconsin?

Right now, we can't even get our new Governor - - the same guy who has stopped wind turbine and Amtrak expansions in the state - - to follow through on the plan to convert the UW's Charter St. coal-fired plant to biomass, (he is substituting natural gas.)

Help Save Wisconsin Waters From The New, Official Polluters

                            River Alliance Of Wisconsin explains how:

Giant Leap Backward for Wisconsin's Waters

On Tuesday, May 24, the Republican members of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee (JFC) voted to overturn Wisconsin's rules for controlling polluted runoff, and set the stage for routing recently approved rules to control algae-causing phosphorus and to protect lakes and rivers by managing shoreland development.

Polluted runoff --fertilizer and manure from farm fields, and oil, metals and other toxic stuff from city streets -- is the biggest source of pollution to Wisconsin's waterways. Without any discussion, JFC voted to direct the Department of Natural Resources to repeal and recreate NR 151, the state's rules for controlling nonpoint pollution.



In place since 2002 after years of painstaking negotiations and compromise, and lauded as a model program across the country, the nonpoint rules were amended just last year to improve how they work for private land owners and municipalities. Even though last year's update took years of work by citizen advisory committees and DNR staff, the direction from Joint Finance is to redo it by the end of this year!

Pardon us for failing to believe the new version will provide the protections our waters deserve.

JFC also directed the DNR to complete, by the end of the year, an "economic impact analysis" of two rules adopted just last year: standards to control how much phosphorus can enter waterways; and standards for development along shorelines to protect lakes and rivers from the impacts of development. Clearly this is the first step to gutting the phosphorus rule and the shoreland zoning rule too, as the analyses will be used to argue that protecting Wisconsin's lakes and streams is "bad for business."

The dismantling of these three important rules would be a giant step backward in the protection and restoration of Wisconsin's waters, but there's still a chance to fix this bad situation. These issues are inappropriately buried in the state budget, which is still under review by the Joint Finance Committee. They could choose to revise their vote, but they need to hear from you why gutting these rules is a bad idea. Please let them know today!


Contact Your Legislators
You can find contact information for your senator and representative http://legis.wisconsin.gov/w3asp/waml/waml.aspx, and register your comments with a quick email or phone call.

Contact the Joint Finance Committee
It is especially important to contact your legislator if they are a member of the committee, but the entire committee should hear from you:  

Monday, May 30, 2011

Who Knows: Racine Taste-Test Winning Water May Appeal To Waukesha

Though it's a costly distance and the farthest-away from three potential Lake Michigan suppliers, the City of Racine may find its noteworthy water also has the right political formula for the City of Waukesha when it decides whether to contract with Racine, Oak Creek or Milwaukee for a possible Lake Michigan supply.

More Money For Wisconsin Highways, Less For Everything Else

The legislature is hacking the financing for the state's popular Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program by 30% - - and the Journal Sentinel opines that, while regrettable, it's the way things have to be given the state's fiscal woes.

And that's been the Walker justification and approach whether for land preservation or education budgets or trains or sewer projects or school nurses or bus services - - cut, cut, cut...because we're broke, broke, broke.

Except when it comes to highways.

Then it's spend, spend, spend.

AM 620 WTMJ, a Walker-friendly source, says the transportation budget increase is more than $300 million. Since transit is coming on for cuts, you can read "transportation" as road-building. Trust me.

A public interest organization looks at proposed Wisconsin highway projects to come up with a figure about five-to-six times larger. 

My research shows Walker favoring $1 billion for rebuilding and a new lane on I-90 from the Madison area to Rockford; $350 million to replace Milwaukee's Hoan Bridge; hundreds of millions on a somewhat slowed pace to finish the I-94 North/South widening and rebuilding between the Milwaukee airport and the Illinois line; and Walker's favorite - - the fast-tracked, Waukesha County-driven $1.7 billion Zoo Interchange rebuilding and expansion- - reduced in scope, but still a whopping expenditure for a state that's so broke.

What we have here is what transportation watchdog Gretchen Schuldt calls "a binge."

Aware that people have calculators, Walker & Co. play the rhetoric card, arguing that highway costs are not expenditures - - they are investments - - that help the economy and create jobs.

I'd say the same is true for Stewardship funding, and schools and other forms of infrastructure, too..

Back to the Journal Sentinel editorial, which stated:

Cuts in the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, while painful, are the right thing to do given the state's budget woes.

So when it comes to highway spending: where's the equity?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wisconsin's Brush With Clinic Shootings Should Stop The Concealed Carry Bandwagon

For gun-crazy legislators trying to make it as easy to carry a concealed weapon  in Wisconsin as a wallet, the fortuitous capture of a man admitting his murderous intentions should be a major, major teachable moment.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

There's Scott Walker, Making Wisconsin Look Bad Again

Smiling in a NY Times piece about making it harder to vote in Wisconsin.

That's his legacy to date: wiping out collective bargaining rights, obstructing voting rights, cutting programs for the poor, from school meals to transit access to school health services to tax credits for low-income workers.

When we travel, people ask us these days, "whatever happened to progressive Wisconsin?"

We say damage is being done, but recall relief is on the way.

In The Upside Down World Of Wisconsin Politics, Glenn Grothman Becomes A Fiscal Obi-Wan

Even West Bend's far-right State Sen. Glenn Grothman knows giving away state money by the millions is plain stupid. (Noted here last week.)

And in today's post-Scott Walker Bizzaro-World State Capitol, Grothman has become Scott Walker's Fiscal Obi-Wan.

Heaven help the Galaxy.

Radical Republican Missteps Drove This Blog's Readership Last Week

Here's some top-five weekly reader feedback information, and thanks for the hits, that seem to keep on coming, eh?

May 28, 2011

May 27, 2011

May 25, 2011

May 25, 2011

May 24, 2011

Fitzgerald Falsehood, With a Side Of Hypocrisy

PolitiFact explores Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's statement to the recent GOP state convention that half Wisconsin residents are somewhere on the dole, and rates the claim "False:"

Here’s the bottom line:

Fitzgerald made a bold statement at the state GOP convention -- that one out of every two Wisconsin residents "is on some kind of government handout." He was able to provide no evidence to back the claim, and even one of his aides essentially acknowledged it was wrong. The Senate leader later provided a different number, but the data he relied on is not specific to Wisconsin.

We rate Fitzgerald’s statement False.
It's fascinating that career conservative politicians - - Fitzgerald, 47, has served in the Senate continuously since 1994 - -  who enjoy comfy publicly-paid lifestyles and the related exercise of power can be counted on to routinely demagogue - - even falsely - - others who may also be receiving a public payment.

It's a complete double-standard - - made even more intense with Fitzgerald brother Jeff serving as Assembly Speaker and Dad Stephen being recently appointed head of the Wisconsin State Patrol.

By the Walker administration, following Stephen Fitzgerald's defeat for election as a county sheriff.

Consider that in addition to a salary of just under $50,000 for a part-time, legislators like the Fitzgerald brothers receive:

*  An $88-per-day meal, lodging and travel expense payment - - tax-free - - for every day they set foot in the Capitol. Show up just three days a week and you pocket more than $13,000 a year. (Legislators living close to the Capitol, like the Madison delegation, are eligible only for $44 per diem payments.)

* A separate mileage reimbursement for in-district travel.

*  Home district office expenses of about $56,000 annually, on top of a State Capitol office and staff - - some of whom earn considerably more than the legislator for whom they work.

* A State Capitol parking spot.

* A state-paid cell phone.

* Access to generous health, life and income-continuation insurance, the state pension plan, and other benefits based on what employee unions had negotiated.

* Certain out-of-town travel, lodging, meals and meeting or conference fee reimbursements.

*  Additionally, the Senate Majority and Minority leaders, as late as 2009, had access to separate $12,000 "leadership" expense funds, though I do not know if these perks are in place now.

All in all, not a bad deal for Scott Fitzgerald and the Fitzgerald clan, thus begging the question: who's on the dole?

Paul Ryan Earns "Worst Week In Washington" And "Sore Loser" Notices

"The Fix," a Washington Post online political column, awards our very own Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan its coveted "Worst Week In Washington" accolade for contributing to the loss of a safe upstate New York state Congressional seat.

His politically-toxic Medicare privatization plan drove voters away from a Republican candidate who praised it to the Democratic candidate who opposed it, and an expensive, last-ditch GOP effort to save the seat - - once held by GOP icon Jack Kemp - - couldn't overcome Ryan's taint.

Ryan stayed on message - - touted his plan, pouted a little, condemned his critics - - so got slammed pretty hard by the economist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman (the words "lying" and "sore loser" were included in Krugman's New York Times analysis), and four US Senate Republicans in a test vote on Ryan's plan voted "No," showing some resistance among moderate Republicans to campaigning next year on his plans' major themes:

Turning Medicare over to private insurance companies, and giving Seniors down the road a voucher intentionally insufficient to meet a good chunk of their health care costs.

A fifth Senator, the Tea Party goofball Senator Rand Paul, (R-KY), also voted "No" because he didn't think Ryan's plan went far enough.

Paul Ryan...Rand Paul...minor differences in name and 'philosophy'...but both are all for turning Medicare into a cash cow for private insurers and further expanding the power of the GOP's financial arm - -  Corporate State.

Scott Walker Makes Winds Of Change Blow Backward In Wisconsin

Pro-fossil fuels Gov. Scott Walker and real estate interests are making it impossible for any new wind farms to be installed in Wisconsin.

It's a crazy approach that is killing investment and jobs in a state allegedly open for business.

So while we go backward in Wisconsin, major corporations are looking forward.

Such as Google, a big believer in wind power.

But Walker & Co. wouldn't want to study a marginal start-up firm like that to learn anything about where the energy economy is heading.

So how about Kohl's Department Stores, a successful national firm based in Wisconsin?

It's about the greenest company in the country.

Can Walker look past the name of the firm - - to which US Sen. Herb Kohl, (D), has no connection - - and learn a thing or two about why you want your state and its economy to be ahead of the curve?

Friday, May 27, 2011

My Favorite Sarah Palin Column In This Iteration Of "Will She Run?"

I mean, ask yourself, where else will you read solid reporting, polling data - - and analysis proving that Sarah Palin is the 2012 GOP Al Sharpton?

Good News: Republicans To Legalize Sunrise Booze Sales

This will help Wisconsin's image, OWI statistics, etc.

Thank The Nice Man For Cutting Teachers, Art, School Meals, Phy Ed...

Robin Vos
Just passed k-12 education portions of the budget with statewide property taxes almost frozen! GOP is watching out for your family budget.
27 minutes ago via Twitter for Android

When More Guns Are Carried, More Guns Will Be Used To Defend One's Beer And Bar Food

Remember that the version of concealed carry that Republican knuckleheads are set to pass in Madison says you can carry a gun just about anywhere, without a license or training in its use.

So here we go...track this case that involved a dispute over some beer and wings. Seriously.

We first noted it here, just as legislators were even making gun carrying permission more widespread by removing a proposed prohibition against carrying concealed weapons in the State Capitol.

There's a brilliant idea.

We'll keep track of the inevitable consequences...guns being whipped out to defend territory, masculinity, bar snacks, reputations...in bars, counseling sessions, Little League arguments, neighborhood disputes, school conferences...

Today's Anti-Union Secret Word Is "Overreach"

Wisconsin.

Alabama!!

Promoting More Corporate Money Into Campaigns

Plutocrats ready their checkbooks.

Don't worry, Republican candidates - - John Roberts & Co. know what to do.

Fractional Increases In Transit, School Aids Will Not Save Recalled Senators, Or Walker

The Joint Finance Committee, co-chaired by recall-eligible State Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills), is planning on incrementally trimming the cuts Scott Walker has proposed to schools and transit.

She and the other reactionary Republicans who have thrown the state into turmoil since January are severely mistaken if they think 11th-hour nickels and dimes will make the recall movement go away.

Nice try.

Public Access To State Capitol Still Being Debated

It sure is taking a long time for the Wisconsin State Capitol to be open to the people who own it.

The Legislature's GOP leadership and Scott Walker are putting their special Badger spin on "hiding in plain sight."

Walker And The Grand Overreach Party (GOP)

Back in February, I posed this question, principally to moderate Republicans and editorial boards which supported Scott Walker's gubernatorial run:

Is there an overreach anywhere in this radical performance by a governor elected with just 52% of the vote that gives you genuine pause about where Walker and his extreme team are taking the state?
It's worth asking today, too, in light of these and other efforts to tilt the playing field away from citizen involvement and towards a far-right agenda, and guaranteed Republican office-holding and corporate self-interest:

*  Despite polling to the contrary, Walker has said he will sign any bill sent to him legalizing the concealed carry of firearms in Wisconsin, and it looks like we are about to go from a state banning the practice to approving one of the most radical examples in the nation - - a bill without a requirements to pass a proficiency test, get training or obtain a license. And without prohibitions carrying a concealed weapon in places where there should be no deadly weapons - - from taverns to the State Capitol.

* Walker's signing a highly-restrictive Voter ID bill into law - - with supporters masking its deliberate partisan framework and intent to discourage Democrats' voting in cities, and on campuses while citing the flimsiest and fanciful justification: a handful of wrongfully-cast ballots or improperly-registered voters. Do we condone in Wisconsin such an assault on citizen rights?

* Walker seeking and being given the power to veto any and all departmental administrative rules, aggregating to the Governor's office public review procedures previously held by the Legislature, and in a public hearing process.

* Walker planning to change the structure and governance of both the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and, separately, the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus - - both frequent targets of the far-right, and now targets of opportunity for Walker's conservative, corporate interests to control.

* Through Big Government budgetary, fiscal or rule-making manipulations from on-high in Madison, Walker is overruling local control and forcing a decline in numerous quality of life programs and practices by starving the financing of sewer improvements, water quality, education, police and fire-fighting staffing, transit operations - - and more. Examples related to water policy, among the many - - here and here.

* Walker and Company's efforts to change the rules and rush through permission for an out-of-state iron company to dig a four-mile long open-pit mine near Lake Superior that will inextricably degrade sensitive watershed acreage.

* Walker and the Legislature being enjoined from implementing his surprise, unjustified bill to strip unions of their collective bargaining rights - - that "bomb" of his that the Journal Sentinel editorially said would have led to his defeat had he disclosed it during the campaign.

Walker and his Legislative allies are recklessly using the power of the state to increase the reach of the Executive branch and cement a long-lasting Republican majority that will expand the influence of corporations that have little interest in public input about public resources.

It's past time, but not too late, for opinion leaders in the state send Walker this message: Stop The Overreach.

The recall organizing for both Walker and his Senate sycophants - -  already ahead of the opinion-makers' moxie - - will continue the push to right (no pun intended) the wrongs that the Right has already perpetrated from Walker's weak base, a 52% November margin of victory.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

True To His Nature, Pawlenty Cavils On Ryan Medicare Plan

Says he'd sign it if he were President, but only under some circumstances.

Not to worry.

He won't get the chance.

In Polls And With Pundits - - Paul Ryan Is Caught By The Ever-Turning Wheel

A Washington Post columnist finds that "demagoguery" fairly fits Ryan's current, self-inflicted political Medicare -killing predicament.

And his Wisconsin poll numbers are down - - note the plunge with Independents.

Walker Era Defined: Respect, And Disrespect For Law In Wisconsin

The contrast about the use and misuse of law in Wisconsin is there for all to see.

Yesterday, Scott Walker signed into law the noxiously partisan and unsupportable Voter ID law. It's goal: tamping down voter turnout in cities and on college campuses, complicating the entire election-day experience, and intentionally restricting fundamental voting rights.

Today, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi, respecting law and basic governmental practice in a democracy, permanently blocked Walker's most noxious move to date: stripping public employees of their rights to collective bargaining by breaking a statute - - the Open Meetings law - -  to get it done.

The Voter ID law needs to go the way of the union-stripping bill.

The law and legislative process - - state power - - should not be used in Wisconsin against the people and their rights.

You don't create one law by breaking another - - especially the very law created to guarantee open, legal lawmaking.

Walker Budget Will Increase Basement Flooding Risk

Scott Walker is proposing a cut in funding for sewer improvements in the very cities like Milwaukee where geography increases flood risks but local governments, with their hands tied by new Walker-mandated fiscal controls, will not be able to complete those very sewer improvements that will keep sewage out of basements and waerways.

The Journal Sentinel points out the contradiction.

Will Walker and the legislature listen?

Probably not.

Concealed Carry Approved In The State Capitol; Republicans Are Losing Their Minds

What's next, mandatory shooting?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Scott Walker Drives Out Award-Winning UW Professor

To Texas, reports The Daily Cardinal.

Just wait until Walker and his ideological cleaners get their hands on the spun-off UW-Madison through a new board of directors. In the name of "flexibility" - - code for "arbitrary, partisan and politically-driven."

Watch the resignations multiply as Walker's attack on a liberal faculty in a liberal city becomes a full-time obsession.

Hat tip, Illusory Tenant blog.

Wisconsin Coming To Its Senses; Scott Walker's Approval Rating Down To 43%

Wisconsin is definitely open for recalls, as Scott Walker's approval rating has fallen nine points from his close win in November with 52% of the votes.

And how happy with them apples are Alberta Darling, Randy Hopper, Dan Kapanke and other Republican State Senators facing recall elections and former-legislator status by their fealty to Walker?

Forty Republican US Senators Vote For Paul Ryan's Medicare Privatization

Four voted against it, along with a fifth, the Libertarian/Republican-sorta/Tea Partier Rand Paul, from Kentucky who also voted "No" because Ryan's bill didn't go far enough! - - but forty Republicans Senators present Wednesday on a vote are on record favoring a plan to demolish Medicare that 80% of the public opposes.

And the forty are on their way to political ruin.

Walker, Ryan And Cantor Will Be Undone By One-Dimensional Politics

It's amazing to watch Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker head towards political destruction.

They won elections, but lost their bearings.

Each forgot - - or didn't care - -  that politics needs nuance and shading and cooperation to meet the needs of, and advance a common good in a 50-state union of more than 300 million people.

Instead, they have become too obedient to self-generated certainty, too enamored with power and its exercise on behalf of the already-wealthy and powerful.

Winning with only 52% of the vote, Walker has become a caricature of a chief elected officer.

He breaks promises and speaks falsely, governs by surprise and aggregates more power to himself.

He dissembles, busts unions, budgets with a chainsaw, grabs off rule-making authority previously held by the Legislature, plans to radically remake a key regulatory department - - the Department of Natural Resources - - through Executive Order into a so-called Charter department with less public input, fewer hiring and procedural restrictions, and thus more advantage for Big Business.

Ryan believed his press clippings that labeled him a brilliant, infallible guy, and so he thought he'd make history by cutting and privatizing even Medicare - - and with what supportive constituency anywhere outside his echo chamber, you ask?  - - because his party had retaken the House in 2010 and gave him the plum chairmanship of Ways and Means.

So this was his chance to cement his status among Republicans, Tea Partiers and Think-Tank Corporate America as The Number One Friend Of The Private Sector, or The Man Who Undid Medicare.

Or as the right calls it: Socialized Medicine.

Cantor's ascent to power in the House as #2 to the increasingly hapless John Boehner has led to a rather gruesome stumble - - substituting ideology and Tea Party slogans for thoughtful leadership in holding emergency aid to Joplin tornado victims hostage to equivalent budget cuts.

Thus treating tornado sufferers like they'd been caught sneaking to the front of the line for seconds at a church supper.

I'm sure my right-wing readers will send comments full of conflation with Democrats who went on power trips, or who abused their mandates, but there is something troubling about this GOP bunch - - they're all about the same age, with the same talking points and buzzwords available on automatic pilot, believing they are Ronald Reagen's political offspring - -  though they forget Reagan's humanity and pragmatism - - all evincing a dumbfounding level of heartlessness and venality that brands them as extremists.

That has already begun to backfire (See: Wisconsin recalls; Walker plummeting popularity; Upstate NY GOP House election defeat Tuesday, etc.)

Yes, damage has been done, and it'll take a long time to correct, but, when voted out of power,  this trio, their Wisconsin allies and others will find they had no one to blame but themselves.

Great Letter To The Editor About The Need To Keep Phosphorus Out Of Wisconsin Waters

From the Journal Sentinel on May 23,  in response to Scott Walker's plan to suspend Wisconsin's regulatory approach to phosphorus pollution:

LAKE MICHIGAN
Implement ban on phosphorus now

Phosphorus is the prime cause of cladophora growth, the invasive algae that washes up on Lake Michigan's shores harming our lakefront. That's why it is deeply troubling that the state budget proposes to delay the ban on phosphorus.

As an area businessman, I've never been fond of regulations. But as a grandfather and someone fortunate enough to own property on the lake, I understand the need for regulations to protect our valuable assets.

The Lake Michigan shoreline is one of Wisconsin's prime attractions, but thanks to increased phosphorus runoff, families aren't able to enjoy the lakefront.

Over the past few years, I haven't been able to let my grandkids in the water because of the rotting weeds that contain harmful bacteria, including E. coli. They can't play barefoot in the sand without risking infected cuts from mussel shells that accompany the cladophora.

And the state, which we count on to protect us, now says we'll have to wait years before it can even start to clean up this mess.

Let's not put our children at risk this summer by allowing phosphorus pollution to continue to damage our lake. Wisconsin needs to implement the phosphorus ban now.

Jim Te Selle
President
Wisconsin Great Lakes Coalition
Grafton

Eric Cantor Leaps Ahead Of Paul Ryan In Republicans' Run To Ruin

Politicizing tragedy:

The #2 man in the US House of Representatives says there will no emergency appropriation for Joplin's recovery without an equal amount of federal funding cut somewhere else.

Like the oldsters whom Ryan would stick with bankrupting medical bills when their Medicare vouchers run out, Cantor would have Joplin tornado victims pull themselves up by their bootstraps unless Congress makes Tea Party-inspired budget cuts- - if residents of what was Joplin can find their boots.

Upstate New York House Seat Upset Opens Signage Option In WalkerRyanLand

Wisconsin: You Can Get Recalled Here

Embracing The Radioactive Paul Ryan, The GOP Hands Safe House Seat To Dems

Voters in upstate New York hand a safe Republican seat to a long-shot Democrat who beat her opponent with a blunt instrument: Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan's politically-tone-deaf 'plan' to trash Medicare and hand billions, trillions in public-dollar Medicare voucher payments to private insurers.

And that bit of calculated cleverness - - exempting people over 55, but sticking it to younger people - - badly backfired: who would support a plan that will cut the standard of living and quality of medical care for the under-55 generation, and perhaps also impoverish their parents who might have to burn through their savings to take care of younger relatives whose vouchers ran out?

All while enriching insurance companies.

People are not as stupid as Ryan and the GOP assumed.  These Republicans yammer in their ideological, bumper-sticker dialectic about "personal choices vs. Government," when, in fact, people like Medicare and told the GOP in the upstate NY congressional election they "choose" it over insurance company profits and a voucher scheme they know will come up short with their first medical crisis.

At 55, they could face decades of shortfall and heartbreak - - and they understand that the Ryan plan would make it all worse.

Next to feel the Ryan sting: Senate Republicans who are going to be forced to vote up or down on the Ryan plan because the bumbling Majority Leader John Boehner rammed it through the House and sent it on to the Senate where it never had a chance of approval, given the Democrats majority.

This is what the politics of overreach, ideological blindness and extreme Ryan Worship are bringing on to the GOP.

It will be interesting to watch Republicans in the Senate run from what is becoming Ryan's Distress; GOP leaders and talk show hosts from Rush Limbaugh to Charlie Sykes in Milwaukee were so heavily-invested in Ryan's now-fading persona as The Smartest Gun In Congress that they will have to spin their way around the NY results and also from Ryan - - though throwing him under the bus would be too much an admission of their own failure to see the fallacies and risk in Ryan's scheme.

But they will pull the bus to the side of the road, let him off far from his destination - - the speaking circuit, maybe the road to The White House in 2016 - - and suggest that on his walk home alone that he find an out-of-the-way dumpster to drop that plan of his, and fast, because everyday it's out there it's a serious drag on the Party of Overreach.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Concealed Carry Fatal Shooting Case - - And Case Study - - Unfolding On Milwaukee's East Side

This won't be the last of these tragedies, as the legislature moves to make concealed carry of firearms in Wisconsin legal and easy- - maybe even without a permit, training or proficiency test.

GOP Rejection of Wisconsin Educational Covenant Is Pure, Cruel Spite

Republicans using the budget to kill the Wisconsin Covenant - - a plan that rewards successful students with a guaranteed spot in a state university and the most modest of grants-in-aid.

Some honesty would be appreciated, as the program has a minuscule fiscal on the budget - - a budget in which Walker and his lieutenants have found fresh power and hundreds of millions for business - - even a new, quasi-public Commence Department - - in tax breaks, bonding gifts and other programs.

Wiping out the Wisconsin Covenant is to lessen the legacy of former Gov. Jim Doyle. To these spiteful Republicans, Doyle is to get nothing. That was a major reason that Walker killed the Amtrak extension; once he saw that Madisonians were proposing that the new station near the Capitol Square be named for Doyle, the train had to go.

Same with the conversion of the Charter St. electrical generating plant. Doyle wanted biomass, both for environmental and business development reasons, so Walker changed the conversion to natural gas.

If Doyle was for something, Walker and that crew must be against.

But to roll back a plan to encourage and help state students to succeed - - and to keep them in-state to stem the brain drain to Chicago, Atlanta and elsewhere proves that Walker and Joint Finance co-chair Alberta Darling and the rest of that gang are shallow beyond measurement.

Group Emphasizes Scott Walker's Rail Funding Fiascos (Yes, Plural)

The High Speed Rail Association of Wisconsin has totaled up the cost of Scott Walker's foolish rejection of $810 million for the Madison-Milwaukee-Chicago Amtrak extension and improvements  - - and notes that the state now must borrow fresh millions more to pay for some items the $810 million would have covered.

That's some fiscal conservatism.

Here is the text of the group's statement:

May 16, 2011 

Walker Rejection Causes New WDOT Bonding Boondoggle

State taxpayers facing $139.6 Million Bill for Needed Passenger Rail Improvements

 

Today, the nearly 800,000 regular users of the popular Hiawatha Service between Milwaukee and Chicago woke up to find a $210 million dollar surprise being reported in their local newspaper.

In a major expose, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that state taxpayers will be forced to pay for an additional $139.6 million in passenger and freight rail bonding in addition to the previously reported state bonding needs for the Madison to Watertown freight rail line.

A whopping $160 million for both projects is being placed on the state credit card increasing state debt for costs that would have been covered by the 100% funding federal grant totaling $810 Million that Governor Walker turned down in December 2010. The returned dollars are at work in others states, improving service and adding local construction jobs.

"We are very disappointed that Governor Walker's earlier short sighted decision to reject under all circumstances the bipartisan $810 Million federal rail line grant could now cost state taxpayers and transportation fund stakeholders and additional $139.6 million in new bonding," said Mr. David Mumma, President of the High Speed Rail Association of Wisconsin.

Repairs and upgrades are needed for the Hiawatha service because of its increased popularity and use. Originally, these badly needed repairs and ADA required improvements were included in the $810 Million federal Milwaukee to Madison corridor grant, which Governor Walker loudly rejected in December of 2010.

Last year, the Inter-model Station in Milwaukee served 1.3 Million passengers including those connecting to local and intercity bus transportation.

The HSRW is an advocacy group that is committed to the development of high speed and passenger rail for the betterment of Wisconsin and its citizens.

-30-

Gary R. Goyke
High Speed Rail Association of Wisconsin
608-219-5237
gary.goyke@gmail.com

Again, An Aviation Safety Lesson In Cockpit Management

I still am still interested in aviation safety, a reporting beat I carved out at the old Milwaukee Journal.

So when I read today that the mysterious Air France Airbus crash into the ocean in 2009 appears to be linked to a distracted crew, it rang some bells.

I remember writing for a series on air safety about the 1972 crash into the Florida Everglades of a then-state-of-the-art jetliner, a Lockheed L-1011.

In that case, too much attention was paid to a warning light and not enough attention paid to the plane's descent.

And the 1985 crash of a Midwest Express DC-9 in an Oak Creek woodlands after takeoff from Mitchell Field was related to problems what the experts call "cockpit management" - - productive, coordinated teamwork and communication between the pilot and co-pilot.

I don't like the term "pilot error,"  unless there is evidence of truly reckless conduct. It gets in the way of remedial action to prevent additional tragedies, which should be the goal.

New Bill May Slow Rushed Wisconsin Mining Approvals By A Few Weeks

Republican Legislators who want to set arbitrary 300-day mining permit review deadlines - - this to give a proposed four-mile-long open pit mine near Lake Superior a quickie approval - - are said to considering a concession to an outraged public: adding 65 days to their arbitrary review scheme to make it a nice, neat one-year.

Is there any science, data, experience that says 365 days is the magic number? Why not 366? Or 500?

This is legislating with calculators, Ouija boards and dice. The whole approach is condescending and over-the-top political.

And needs to be rejected.

Milwaukee Businessman Expounds On Wisconsin Corruption

It all began with questionable highway building under Tommy Thompson, says Bob Chernow.

Talk about speaking truth to power...

Call Legislators NOW And Help Get Phosphorus-Rule Suspension Out Of The State Budget

Scott Walker has put a two-year suspension into his budget of a carefully-negotiated rule to begin requiring a halt to damaging phosphorus pollution from entering our lakes, streams and wetlands. 

Here are the details:

Wisconsin Association of Lakes
Tell Joint Finance Committee to Remove Suspension of Phosphorus Rules from the Budget Bill
 Today 
Contact the Joint Finance Committee
The Joint Finance Committee of the Wisconsin State Legislature is responsible for detailed review of the state budget.  It is especially important to contact your legislator if they are a member of the committee, but the entire committee should hear from you:
 

 

The Governor’s budget proposal contains a provision that would suspend implementation of the phosphorus standards & rules that went into effect last year. These rules contain specific numeric limits on how much phosphorus can be in runoff, but also provide great flexibility to businesses and municipalities through innovative cooperative management plans and opportunities to work through the implementation process over time. Allowing the rules to be suspended means accepting the same algae blooms and negative economic impacts the rules are meant to prevent.
 
The Joint Finance Committee may vote on the phosphorus rule suspension today-- please consider a phone call or e-mail to the members of the committee before the vote (click here for a list).

 
 
  • The provision is non-fiscal , i.e. non-budgetary, and doesn’t belong in the budget in the first place! The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau agreed in their memo to the JFC (click here for the memo), but the Committee has so far declined to remove it.
  • What is being reported as a “delay” in implementation is really a suspension of existing rules, rules that some entities are already working to implement. The new standards and rules took effect in December of 2010, and the federal EPA approved them, incorporating them into federal law.
  • The two-year suspension of the rules is effectively much longer. First, the start date of the suspension is unclear – if it’s the start of the fiscal year, then the clock starts mid-2011, instead of the 2010 effective date of the rules. But what’s more, permits under the rules are good for five years or more – tacking on two years more means phosphorus will continue to be discharged into our lakes and streams at the old rate until 2018 and potentially longer! And a whopping 550 permits come due in the next two years.
All this, with good, strong rules already in place!

If you agree that Wisconsin needs strong phosphorus rules to protect our waters and the businesses and property owners that depend on them, please consider contacting the members of the Joint Finance Committee as soon as possible, as well as your own legislators. Tell them to remove the phosphorus rules suspension from the budget!
For a list of Joint Finance Committee Members, click here.
To find your legislator, click here.
To download a .pdf with more info on this issue, click here.


 
 

WHEDA Spokesman Must Not Have Seen WHEDA's 'Be Civil 24/7' Memo

Dan Bice told readers in his Sunday (column iten #2) about the hiring of busy conservative Franklin blogger and former GOP legislative staffer Kevin Fischer as spokesman at WHEDA - - the Wisconsin Housing Economic Development Authority, essentially the state's development bank.

Not long ago, I wrote about WHEDA's recently-issued rules about employees' use of social media, including blogs, which told all employees - - even on their own time - - to be thoughtful and civil, and informed them that that their social media postings were monitored 24/7.

The WHEDA memo, says, and the bold-facing is in the agency's  original text:  

"Don't pick fights"...don't alter previous posts without indicating that you have done so...Respect your audience and your coworkers...Be thoughtful about how you present yourself in online social networks..."
So I note below the full text of a recent Fischer entry about Senate Democrats on his blog, "This Just In," and wonder how it aligns with WHEDA's written policy:

Those crazy, wacky state Senate Democrats

May 19, 2011  

Heard today on the floor of the state Senate before photo ID was finally approved, hyperbole to the nth degree:

1) Lena Taylor used all kinds of historical references including Dred Scott and poll taxes to suggest photo ID proponents are racist. Taylor was on the verge of becoming totally unglued, ready to scream and cry and throw her microphone. But Gwen Moore-lite hasn’t perfected those theatrics just yet.

2) Spencer Coggs said having to show an ID at the polls would have “a chilling effect” on the majority of Wisconsin residents. Right, Spencer, because millions of Badgers don't have photo IDs and are virtually too stupid to be able to get one without a heavily subsidized government outreach/education program.

3) Chris Larson, proving that he’s not just a kleptomaniac, he’s also nuts, referred to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as “conservative.” That's news to the Pulitzer Prize winners.

4) Pompous windbag Bob Jauch said May 19, 2011 was “the day democracy died in Wisconsin.”

5) Another Jauch-ism: the process used to approve photo ID was “absolute tyranny.”

6) More pomposity from Jauch: He said there was a GOP pattern of “dictatorial madness.”

7) And finally, one more from the Goodyear blimp Jauch. There is “one good benefit in this tragedy. Citizens will return government in Wisconsin to the institution people are proud of.”

Hmmmm. How that can possibly be if so many people who would vote Democrat won’t be able to get their hands on a photo ID?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Racine's Journal Times Objects To The Regulated Gaining Power At Walker's Remade DNR

Nicely-constructed editorial about the pitfalls, and merits (it's not a screed), of Scott Walker's plan to give regulated businesses even more say in the operations of the DNR.

I have argued that Walker has not earned the benefit of the doubt on this environmental, structural bombshell.

Van Hollen For Senate? Does He Breathe Enough Fire For The Faithful?

Hat tip, blogger Tom Foley, for this skinny.

Coal-Burning Steamship Company Expands Efforts To Keep Lake Michigan Ship Afloat

The S.S. Badger is the last coal-fired ferry plying the Great Lakes - - and the Manitowoc, WI-to-Ludington, MI round trip leads to coal ash flying out of the smokestack (thanks to a special Wisconsin exemption legislatively-approved many years ago) and a coal-ash slurry being dumped into the water on a daily basis.


The US Environmental Protection Agency is trying to get the ship's owners to convert it to diesel, but politicking and PR have stalled that effort.


I have been writing about these issues for some time. Samples, here and here - - and now the company has opened a new front - - a charity auction and "grassroots" plan to raise funds and "awareness" about the ship.


The effort is being led primarily from the Michigan side of the lake, where the ship company has its offices.


From the company news release:

 

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Brandy Henderson, brandyh@ludington.org


Grassroots Effort to Build Awareness of S.S. Badger Future


May 23, 2011, LUDINGTON, Mich. – In an effort to build awareness and support of the continued operation of the S.S. Badger beyond the 2012 EPA deadline, 6 members of community have joined together to begin a grassroots effort- Save Our Ship!


Mayor John Henderson, Dr. Bill Anderson, Barry Neal, Brad Reed, Todd Reed and Heather Venzke have come together to spread the message that the Ludington Area needs the S.S. Badger to continue operations beyond 2012 in order to remain a competitive player in the region’s tourism and manufacturing industries.

GOP Will Rue The Day It Gave The Rule-Making Veto To An All-Powerful Governor

Unless the Wisconsin GOP really believes its majority and control are permanent, they will regret giving the state's Governor so much authority. Somewhere, a payback countdown clock has been wound.

Against Gingrich, Huckabee, Trump, Palin and Daniels - - Pawlenty Looks Good

If you're a 15-minute miler, you look fast compared to runners who cover the distance in half-an-hour, or who won't enter, or who dropped out at the half-mile mark.

Recall Candidate, Job-Hunting.

That's how I'd interpret this long-shot no-shot candidate for Green Bay Democratic State Sen. Dave Hansen's seat.

One Story About One Small Farm Suggests Several Larger Questions

Karen Herzog, one of the fine writers at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who proves the value of the printed word and page, offers a quietly provocative feature about the values of one Dane County farmer and her small, 15-acre asparagus operation.

It made me wonder - - which is what a good journalist wants her readers to do : can the Walkerites - - busy at the Capitol re-arranging the state's legal and environmental regulations and reviews so that Wisconsin open space, even wetlands, can be mined, paved, drained, polluted willfully, subdivided and otherwise "developed" - - think very far from their partisan scheming and campaign fundraising, sit back quietly and  read a piece like Herzog's?

And give it some thought, say, as far as their next meal?

Storm Intensification Predicted As Climate Change Consequence

Every time I read about more intense precipitation and storm events - - like yesterday's tornado outbreak - - I think back to a US Environmental Protection Agency  presentation for Midwestern Mayors in Chicago I attended with Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist at the end of 2003, where scientists told the Mayors to ready their storm water and other municipal services to handle the heavier storms that were coming.

I wrote about this three years ago.

And state-by-Midwestern state, repeated in depth by the Union of Concerned Scientists in 2009.

The Chicago conference was during the Bush years, by the way, so the people from the EPA - - scientists and technical experts - - were not infiltrated into the program by Al Gore.

Note, too, that the insurance industry, long warning about the costs of climate change, also wants local governments - - including Chicago - - better prepared, according to this current report.

According to Nikhil da Victoria Lobo, senior client manager in the Global Partnerships team at Swiss Re, the industry is trying to help local governments prepare for extreme weather to mitigate damage--and insurance liability. "Insurance can put a price tag on climate risk, and help local governments more efficiently prepare for and finance what may happen," he said on the call. If governments know how much money they're going to have to spend on extreme weather, they might be willing to invest more now. And if they invest more at this point, then insurance companies won't have to shoulder as much of the burden when people are taken unawares.
There are a number of ways that cities can prepare for climate change--New York, for example, might need to work on flood-proofing the subway system, while Chicago needs to upgrade its aging sewage infrastructure.

Scott Walker: Brays About His Decade-Long Fight To Deny Voting Rights

Governor 52% Tweets a brag about his decade of support for Voter ID:

Governor Walker

Ten years ago, the Wisconsin State Bar said this about Walker's then-failed Assembly bill:
Assembly Bill 259 - AB 259 requires certain voter identification in order to be able to vote. After a significant amount of "discourse," the Assembly passed AB 259 by a 61-36 vote. The Individual Rights & Responsibilities Section o [sic] the State Bar of Wisconsin opposes AB 259 on the basis that it could disenfranchise some voters. 
What kind of leader, what kind of elected official would brag about being on that side of an issue?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Fresh Walker Boondoggle: Free Taxpayer Money To Investment Companies

This Walker plan is so bad - - the state would let go of $200 million in seed money and waive repayment - -  that even State Sen. Glenn Grothman, (R-West Bend), says it stinks.

I can't wait to play "follow the money" with this latest example of the small government crowd being oh, so generous to a special interest - - with the public's money.

And we also read today that Walker is forcing the layoff of 21 MPS school nurses. $1.5 million no longer available - - even though the state just figured out that instead of being broke, as Walker claimed, its revenues were running $636 million ahead of projection.

Irony, anyone?

Wisconsin DNR Webpage Offers Detailed Timeline For Waukesha Application Review

Nice public participation step-by-step timeline; other buttons on the DNR's Waukesha application website provide additional information, documents, and so on.

Craig Gilbert Asks Those Tommy Thompson/US Senate-Run Questions

The Journal Sentinel's Washington, DC bureau chief tries to make sense of the latest Tommy Thompson tease at a candidacy.

You ask me and I say the ugly reaction to Tommy's possible interest in running from increasingly fringy party activists speaks volumes more about the GOP than it does about Tommy himself.

Either way, I can't imagine Tommy really going through with a run for Herb Kohl's Senate seat, and part of me truly feels sorry for the guy, as his need for the spotlight - - even at 70, even after a long career in state and federal service - - is so compelling that he'd put himself in the way of nasty criticism from people in his own party in Wisconsin.

People who used to love him, and some, no doubt, who owe their careers and successes to him, but who now would diss him at the party's convention.

Politics is not beanbag, as they say - - and I've been hard at times on him - - but Tommy was a better friend to Milwaukee than Scott Walker will ever be on his best day.

So Tommy knows how the game is played and understands loyalty can be ephemeral in politics - - but if I were advising Tommy, I'd tell him to tell his turncoat critics to buzz off, then go have a nice steak dinner.

The Benefits Of Congestion

John Norquist writes a primer on the merits of congestion.

Herman Cain In, Mitch Daniels Out In GOP Presidential Sweepstakes

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, out: Bad news for serious conservatives.

Ex-Godfather Pizza King, in: With Donald Trump out, and New Gingrich foundering - - good news for Jon Stewart.

And the Cain boomlet brings happy days to mainstream Wisconsin Republicans who made Cain the winner in the Presidential straw poll at last weeks's GOP Convention of a Presidential straw poll; Hey can all join Cain as he leads us back on the gold standard.

And help him fight the spread of Sharia law in America.