Tuesday, January 17, 2017

On climate, Canada done w/ censorship; whither Trump and WI?

Grim that incoming key Trump senior nominees, like their boss and our soon-to-President have no use for climate change science.

And after I'd shown that the State of Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources had again scrubbed climate science information and links from its official web pages, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that similar deletions had whitewashed official Wisconsin Public Service Commission web pages.

Smoke stacks from a factory. 
I'd missed the depth of the long official Canadian crackdown on climate change research and publications which gratefully has been sent packing by the forward-thinking Trudeau government, so consider the Canadian experience a cautionary tale and a reason to fight government censorship - - scientific or otherwise - - wherever you find it:
Nine years of censorship
Canadian scientists are now allowed to speak out about their work — and the government policy that had restricted communications...
The crackdown on government scientists in Canada began in 2006, after Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party was elected prime minister. During the nine-year Harper administration, the government placed a priority on boosting the economy, in part by stimulating development and increasing the extraction of resources, such as petroleum from the oil sands in Alberta. 
To speed projects along, the administration eased environmental regulations. And when journalists sought out government scientists to ask about the impacts of such changes, or anything to do with environmental or climate science, they ran into roadblocks.
In fact, Canada now has a cabinet level department of Environment and Climate Change; ironically depressing, isn't it, that while Trump and right-wing GOP and anti-environmental Gov. Scott Walker both claim to be job-creators, the Canadians are going to be providing a far more friendly environment for green research, development and manufacturing, by policy:
About Environment and Climate Change Canada
At Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), our business is protecting the environment, conserving the country's natural heritage, and providing weather and meteorological information to keep Canadians informed and safe.
Environment and Climate Change Canada is building on its accomplishments with the environment through credible science, effective regulations and legislation, successful partnerships, and high-quality service delivery to Canadians.
We support sound environmental decisions. We work to repair the damage of the past, to collect and pass on knowledge, and to develop, implement and enforce policies to prevent future issues. We also work to ensure that Canadians have a safe, clean and sustainable environment today, tomorrow and well into the future.
Environment and Climate Change Canada is a diverse organization where our programs, services, and people lead the way in implementing the Government of Canada’s environmental agenda. We collaborate with our partners at home and abroad, to realize concrete progress on initiatives that will protect the health of our people and our planet.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Fight for The Milwaukee County Grounds "Sanctuary Woods"


Don't let the last remaining piece of high quality natural area in the County Grounds be destroyed! Show up on Tuesday to let the City of Wauwatosa know you do not support the 'Emerald Parkway'.
When:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017 at 6:30 pm CST
Where:
City of Wauwatosa City Hall
Common Council Chambers

7725 West North Avenue   
Wauwatosa, WI 53213
Why:
The City of Wauwatosa is holding a Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss a conceptual master plan for the southeast part of the County Grounds, which includes a new thoroughfare connecting UWM's Innovation Park with the Village of Wauwatosa, which is north of and parallel to Watertown Plank Road.

The roadway would bisect what is currently the last remaining high quality parcel of natural area in the County Grounds, known locally as "Sanctuary Woods," which currently provides important habitat for wildlife and recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. While the plan is still in its conceptual stage of development, if it is approved, it will be incorporated into the City's comprehensive plan and move on to design, engineering, and construction planning, which can be implemented. The area to the south between the new road and Watertown Plank Road would also be slated for development.
Milwaukee Riverkeeper has been working to protect the County Grounds for more than 20 years and we know how important this piece of land is to our Milwaukee River Basin residents. We attended an open house in May 2016 to oppose the construction of what is being called the "Emerald Parkway" and to ask the city to rezone the land to Parks to ensure future protection.
We encourage our supporters to attend the meeting on Tuesday to do the same. 
Graef, the city's engineering consultant, will be giving a presentation on the Master Pan. It's unclear what kind of public input the Wauwatosa Common Council will be accepting on Tuesday. 

The City has said there will be another open house on February 7, 2017.

Here's what the White House press corps should do now

Plenty of rumors out there that Donald Trump will expand his distance from live, transparent news coverage by kicking the media he disrespects out of their White House office - - and thus its access to the Presidency - - that's been there since 1901:
According to three senior officials on the transition team, a plan to evict the press corps from the White House is under serious consideration by the incoming Trump Administration. If the plan goes through, one of the officials said, the media will be removed from the cozy confines of the White House press room, where it has worked for several decades. Members of the press will be relocated to the White House Conference Center—near Lafayette Square—or to a space in the Old Executive Office Building, next door to the White House.
I'll tell you what my late dad Hobart Rowen - - career reporter, Newsweek columnist, Washington Post assistant managing editor/finance section editor, and frequent guest on Meet the Press - - would have done on behalf of the First Amendment, a free press and readers who need media to disclose what all the administrations he covered from FDR to Bill Clinton would have preferred remain buried:

He'd have gone to the White House Press Room, done his work, and then sat down.

Because he never let public officials push him around.

Because, as the son of immigrants in a competitive business, he'd fought for every media job and assignment and promotion he ever had.

Because he had a standard line whenever he wouldn't comply with some authority figure who was stepping on his rights, and I heard it many times, and is it ever relevant today, as it always began, "Well unless we're now living in the Soviet Union..."

And he'd sit down in that press room and stay for the duration, until Trump backed down after deciding not to endure any more live coverage by recognizable media figures worldwide broadcasting and reporting about this open attack on the Constitution.

Because the White House is the people's house, in a democracy sustained by an unfettered media.

Dad has been gone for a while, but media today need to grow the spine and take-no-sh*t attitude he brought to the newsrooms he worked in for almost 60 years.
Image result for Hobart Rowen photo

WI GOP's pollution caucus again hugs mining interests

Informative op-ed by long-time Wisconsin conservation advocates Al Gedicks and Dave Blouin about a fresh effort by GOP environmental despoilers to kill long-standing rules placed into law with bi-partisan support by which toxic metallic mining can take place in Wisconsin:
The company with the most to gain from repealing the mining moratorium is Aquila Resources, a Canadian exploration company that owns the controversial Back Forty metallic sulfide mine proposal adjacent to the Menominee River that forms the border between Wisconsin and Michigan and flows into Green Bay.
The proposed mine threatens pollution of the Menominee River and the desecration of multiple burial sites and mounds within the mine site sacred to the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin. Aquila also owns two metallic sulfide deposits in Wisconsin: the Bend deposit in Taylor County and the Reef deposit in Marathon County.
Not the first time that far-right Wisconsin GOP legislators like State Sen. Tom Tiffany 
Picture of Senator Thomas Tiffany
have found a way to target both the land and the state's original residents whose water and environmental stewardship time and again have bailed out the state from absolutely awful special-interest machinations.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Priebus reveals more of that 'Midwestern nice'

Here's the prism through which I see the threat just made against the congressional ethics watchdog by Reince Priebus, who along with fellow right-wing Wisconsin politicians Scott Walker and Paul ('lazy black men') Ryan, seem at ease with presenting a less-than-menacing, 'midwestern nice' face to the world while routinely abusing less-powerful people by misusing official authority.
Reince Priebus by Gage Skidmore 3.jpg
Donald Trump's incoming White House chief of staff warned the director of the Office of Government Ethics on Sunday to "be careful" about criticizing Trump's handling of his business conflicts.
*  What better example from our state of power arrogated was there than right-wing Governor Scott Walker, after having "dropped the [union-busting] bomb" on public employees and 50 years of collective bargaining later claiming for himself during his 15-second run for the President that uninformed and inaccurate media trope 'midwestern nice' to paper over his rigid, rightist and repellent record?
In a recent interview with conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt, Walker addressed those concerns. “Yeah, I’m nice. I’m midwestern nice. There’s no doubt about it,” he said. 
Right: 'Midwestern nice' neatly disguises Walker having frozen the minimum wage at $7.25-per-hour. slashing K-12 and UW system financing, dog-whistling drug testing of poor people, defunding women's health clinics, green-lighting wetlands filling, enabling well-water contamination near deregulated animal feedlots, retaining through a private bill singing the retention of offensive Native American school names and mascots, and rejecting federal funding for passenger rail expansion, rural broadband improvements and Medicaid services for low-income citizens.

Much of which was catalogued here.

*  So Priebus is that midwestern nice mistake 2.0, who, yes, looks less menacing that the Manhattan marauder who's hired him and hasn't even officially occupied the Chief of Staff position before behaving with the very arrogance that is the signature style of the original midwestern nice mistake Scott Walker.


* Not to mention the bullying of another right-wing Badgerland bust, Wisconsin GOP State Senator Scott Fitzgerald and his 'arrest those absent Senators!' legacy.

* And do not forget Wisconsin right-wing GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who openly threatened the independent state ethics chief Kevin Kennedy before Fitzgerald, Walker and Vos wiped out Kennedy's job and non-partisan agency.


Said Vos, signaling what the GOP leadership in our nice Midwestern state eventually did:

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, says the head of Wisconsin’s elections agency “has to go.”
But Gov. Scott Walker says the issue isn’t on his radar.
Vos harshly criticized Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the state Government Accountability Board, both on Tuesday at a luncheon in Madison and again Wednesday during an interview with the State Journal.
Keep an eye on that second sentence with Walker's feigned disinterest, because not long thereafter, Vos, Fitzgerald and Walker got the deed done, with Walker apparently having gotten over over his disinterest (wink-wink):
Scott Walker signs bills dismantling GAB, overhauling campaign finance law
*  Now it's Priebus' turn to behave in the same, ultra-partisan, ethics-free, ends-justify-the-means-fashion, which, if media are going its job, should give the definitive lie to the idea that Wisconsin GOP pols on the national scene are just a bunch of 'Mr. Smith Goes To Washington-aw-shucks' fellas.

*  Final thought: would it surprise you to learn that Vos and Priebus were college roommates?

Two of Wisconsin's top Republicans -- Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Wisconsin Rep. Robin Vos have a friendship that dates back to their days as college roommates!
In the late 1980s and early 1990s in an apartment near campus, two ambitious young UW-Whitewater students became roommates, forging a friendship that forever changed Wisconsin politics.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

WI GOP establishment helped give us Trump the Irrational

[Updated from 1/13 with news of Donald Trump's dishonest and disrespectful Twitter attack on US civil rights icon and Congressman John Lewis.] 

Watched Trump's crazy news conference. And I remembered that one of the factors which helped to win Wisconsin - - and the Presidency - - was the backing of all sorts of experienced pols who told us Trump was supportable and Presidential :

Scott Walker. Paul Ryan. Ron Johnson. Sean Duffy. David Clarke. Cathy Stepp. Most of conservative talk radio.

Some of them saw Trump as a means to an end. A route to more power, or a job, or keeping special interests happy, or the cool proximity to a billionaire/TV personality.

We can argue from now to Doomsday - - and experts say Trump's cavalier embrace of a new nuclear arms race makes that no laughing matter - - about the impact on the outcome of flaws in Hillary Clinton's campaign and the very real interference by the FBI, the Russians and Wikileaks.

I don't downplay any of that.

But let's remember the Wisconsinites who organized the state for Trump and helped put him where he is right now, and thereby also helped put the rest of us and programs we need - -  Obamacare, Medicaid, Medicare, Planned Parenthood, clean air and water guarantees - - in danger.

  


What Walker's DNR/PSC climate change scrubbers are denying

Just a follow-up to disclosures kicked off on this blog last month about  the scrubbing of climate change information from official State of Wisconsin Public Service Commission and Department of Natural Resources websites - - and especially to this report - - 
the [DNR] website now states the cause of climate change is debatable. Gone are sentences attributing global warming to human activities and rising carbon dioxide levels. Also gone is language saying that scientists agree the Great Lakes region will see longer summers and shorter winters, decreased ice cover and changes in rain and snow patterns if climate change continues... 
Most scientists agree burning fossil fuels has increased greenhouse gases and caused global warming. A 2014 United Nations report found that human influence on climate is clear. The report also found global warming is unequivocal and unprecedented.
Smoke stacks from a factory. 
 - - I want to get into the discussion this information from a posting by the 49-year-old University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute that illustrates the  depth and extent of what's [my interpretation] being denied and ignored:
Wisconsin can expect an increase in extreme heat waves and more frequent droughts in summer. At the same time, severe thunderstorms may double in frequency, increasing the amounts of damage caused by heavy rainfall, flashfloods, hail and strong tornadoes. The winter season is likely to be punctuated with increasingly frequent mid-winter thaws, freezing rains, ice storms and flooding. We may expect heavier snowfalls, especially in the near term, yet the average length of time the ground stays snow-covered and our lakes remain ice-covered will shrink with each decade...
These projections for Wisconsin’s future climate are but a microcosm of the most recent global climate forecast of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC’s 2007 report concluded that “warming of the climate systems is unequivocal” and “sea level rise under warming is inevitable.”
The report presents the consensus findings of nearly 4,000 of the world’s leading experts on climate and climate change, the product of more than 450 authors and 800 contributing authors from universities, environmental organizations and industries throughout the world, whose work was reviewed by 2,500 other scientific experts to ensure that it represented an objective and complete assessment of the latest scientific information available. “Consensus” means general agreement on every finding presented in the report, so as alarming as many of the report’s conclusions are, it is a conservative assessment and most likely understates the problem.


Ron Johnson touts worst health care approach

Wisconsin Tea Party creation and self-proclaimed Senatorial accounting genius Ron Johnson got to the heart of the matter when he said "free market reforms" would guide Republicans if they ever get around to replacing [Sic] Obamacare.
Ron Johnson, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
Ah, yes. The free market, that mythical right-wing construct which, when applied to medical care and insurance will free patient care from oversight and availability.

That same brand of phony free market behavior which Johnson enjoyed to the tune of a federally-subsidized rail line which boosted the value of his plastics company in Oshkosh - - and which also freely transfers government-paid drug development research to proprietary pharmaceutical products, and provides other benefits to corporate entities freed under crony capitalism from public interest goals and disclosure.

I'm looking forward to Johnson and his party's contorted co-optation of the life-and-death issue of pre-existing conditions to a return to pre-Obamacare care coverage exclusions so that insurers and hospitals and physician practices and nursing home operators believe are  too onerous to abide.

Because it's more important to create fatter dividends and compensation packages for CEOs - - like it was in the old days - - who can afford to buy every exotic medical treatment on the planet than it is to help everyday Americans free themselves of diabetes, heart disease, MS and cancer.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Or as Scott Walker would call it, 'a drafting error'

After all, it's only pocket change to these folks:
Betsy DeVos omitted $125,000 anti-union political donation from Senate disclosure form
Betsy DeVos 2005 crop.jpg

Stand with Cong. John Lewis


John Lewis-2006.jpg
None of us were in the room with US Rep. John Lewis to hear what he heard in that confidential briefing. But I know that Lewis is going to take a lot of grief for what he said after he left the briefing- - 
Democratic Rep. John Lewis says he's doesn't consider Donald Trump a "legitimate president," blaming the Russians for helping the Republican win the White House.
- - so the way I see it, Lewis has earned the right to air his opinion about Trump's illegitimacy, and has also earned the right to be supported by people like me who have never faced what he's endured.











Despite scrubbing, climate change remains fact on WI & linked sites

Again, we are learning that the climate change censors are scrubbing climate change materials from official State of Wisconsin websites:
Props to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for discovering and disclosing that climate change information posted on official websites and managed at taxpayer expense by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission has been scrubbed.
I had been pointing out such intentional state censorship since 2012, and more recently, to such ideologically-driven behavior by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

And I have also been showing the sheer futility of trying to stamp out the facts and the physical evidence presented by the realities in Wisconsin of climate change impacts such as rising temperatures and increased flooding.


Here's more proof that there aren't enough censors in state service on Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker's payroll to get at every mention of climate change, or put another way, why it's just plain stupid to even try:


*  Here is the official website hosted by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.


* In the search box, type in "climate change."


* Open the first link that comes up, which takes you to this resource:

Producer Led Watershed Protection Grant Program Collaborating with University of Wisconsin-Extension [UWEX]
*  Read the first paragraph's first two sentences: See what's there, and not as a matter of debate: 
UWEX local educators and specialists bring the latest university research out to every part of Wisconsin. County agriculture agents have expertise in crop and livestock production and farm conservation. Natural resource educators and specialists bring knowledge and resources in surface and ground water management, natural resource policy, climate change, and resource conservation.  
*  Now go back to the DATCP homepage, again enter "climate change" in the search box, and open the second link that comes up:
Crawford County Land and Water Resource Management Plan 2016-2025
In the Executive Summary of this publicly-financed plan adopted by a rural county board of supervisors and written through a publicly-financed regional planning commission, you find this approved language:
Climate Change: Wisconsin is becoming generally warmer and wetter. Wisconsin climatologists say the state is likely to continue this trend toward more precipitation. The projected increase in annual rainfall and more intense rain storms heighten the potential for significant soil erosion, affecting water resources and agriculture.
*  Then read further into the document, to section 2.8, Climate Change, and you will see the factual acknowledgement that climate change, is happening and carries risks to the rural lifestyle that Scott Walker voters enjoy:
Climate Change
According to the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts Wisconsin is becoming generally warmer and wetter and the decades ahead are likely to bring changes much more profound than those seen so far, according to climate models. In Wisconsin, the average annual temperature rose about 1.1° from 1950 to 2006, according to analysis by scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The one-degree increase combined with the shorter length of time that our lakes remain frozen, the change in timing of some bird migrations, and the emergence and flowering of certain plants indicate milder winters and earlier springs. 
The state’s climate scientists suggest that Wisconsin’s warming trend will not only continue, it will increase considerably by the middle of this century. Wisconsin climatologists say the state is likely to continue its trend toward more precipitation overall, with the most probable increases in winter, spring, and fall. 
The projected increase in annual rainfall and more intense rain storms heighten the potential for significant soil erosion, affecting water resources and agriculture. Without appropriate adaptation measures, future soil erosion rates could double by 2050 compared to 1990 rates. Agricultural lands hold enormous capacity for climate change adaptation and mitigation, including capacity to efficiently manage flood waters, mitigate risks to public health, and prevent degradation to water quality. 
Changes in temperature and precipitation could affect Wisconsin’s growing seasons, crop yields, weed and pest infestations, and animal productivity. 

GOP US House targets ethics office; in WI, GOP trashed it

Republicans in the US House of Representatives are targeting the independent Office of Government Ethics, (OEG),  after its Executive Director criticized incoming GOP President Donald Trump's continuing business relationships.

So much for independent ethics reviews.


Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature targeted and then abolished the independent Government Accountability Board, (GAB), after its Executive Director and non-partisan oversight board comprised of retired judges participated in an investigation of GOP Governor Scott Walker and his relationships with business and third-party donors:

Scott Walker signs bills dismantling GAB, overhauling campaign finance law
So much for independent ethics reviews. 
  


More climate change items found scrubbed from official WI websites

Props to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for discovering and disclosing that information posted on official websites managed at taxpayer expense by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission has been scrubbed.

The PSC is the taxpayer-paid state agency most responsible for clean air quality.
Smoke stacks from a factory. 
Regrettably, but predictably, the ideologically-driven anti-science stance of the Scott Walker administration seen in its elimination of science staffers from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, as well as climate science scrubbing from DNR webpages discovered by this blog in 2012 and also last month is proof that official Wisconsin its aligning its fossil fuel preferences and climate change denial with the incoming Trump administration.

All of which will continue to isolate Wisconsin intellectually and send green jobs and modern development to states like Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana and others with which Wisconsin already weakly competes.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

If it's January, it must be Wisconsin wetland filing time

The bid by a frac sand business to open a large mine in Wisconsin which would necessitate a major wetland filling and pristine timber cut has taken a decidedly uglier turn - - the threat by the owner of the land to clear cut the property for financial reasons if the Wisconsin DNR doesn't grant the mining permit.

We ought to call January "Walker Wetland Filling Month" in Wisconsin, since that's where it all began within hours of Walker taking office:


*  As I noted on January 4th, 2011, a day after Walker's swearing in:

Take a look at Item #6 of Walker's Special Session directive to the Legislature in Executive Order #1, as it will impact 1.6 million acres protected of non-federal wetlands, or 30% of the wetlands in Wisconsin...
I also quoted an alert about it issued by the Wisconsin Wetlands Association:
On Day 1 of his administration, Governor Walker released an Executive Order that calls for "exemptions from water quality certification and wetland mitigation requirements for certain non-federal wetlands that are less than two acres in size" (see item 6 in the Executive Order). In other words, Governor Walker wants to make it easier for developers and industry to destroy isolated wetlands in hopes of creating jobs. 
*  Later that month, and after administratively blocking an ongoing wetlands filling permit appeal process so he could help a developer/campaign donor build on a wetland near Lambeau Field, Walker had a special bill introduced into the Legislature to further smooth the way for the developer.

Think about how much of the official state machinery was set in motion to benefit one person, a Walker campaign donor.


*  The bill quickly passed, followed by Walker signing into law a broader wetland filling bill in front of cheering Realtors a year later, and wouldn't you know it - - in January, 2012 all sorts of insiders were bragging about how they a wetlands' deregulation bill done:

The Wisconsin Builders Association offers itself a pat on the back and a lesson in State Capitol Politics 101 when telling its members how wetlands' deregulation legislation got drafted.
Here is a key paragraph from the WBA newsletter - - remember it when you see the predictable editorials urging its passage after a few tweaks:
The key to this bill passing is to get some minor technical changes in committee and make sure the bill is not “watered down” (no pun intended!) during the process.  WBA staff professionals will continue working with members, local staff members and the legislature to pass a strong wetlands bill before the end of the legislative session...
*  Followed by another effort begun in January, 2014 to get another special permission for one Door County development to fill a wetland.

See the pattern yet?

No?

*  Followed by Walker's signing an even more permissive law in 2016 to allow development in specialized wetlands previously off-limits to development.

Of course, wetlands are nature's pollution filters and flood water controls - - 


- - issues of little importance to Walker and the "chamber of commerce mentality" mangers he has installed at the DNR which he has been systematically diminishing and downsizing and freeing from science guidance and public policy concerns.

*  And, as we speak, this being January - - Walker is considering a budgetary DNR coup de grace to break the agency apart and make it less likely to enforce pollution standards so Walker's corporate donors can have at the people's waters, clean air, state parks and environmental legacy as they wish.


So Happy Wetland Filling Anniversary Month to Walker and his Pollution Party, though we also remember what the Wisconsin Supreme Court had to say - - and which is quoted out on this blog's face page - - about such matters years ago:

"A little fill here and there may seem to be nothing to become excited about. But one fill, though comparatively inconsequential, may lead to another, and another, and before long a great body may be eaten away until it may no longer exist. Our navigable waters are a precious natural heritage, once gone, they disappear forever,wrote the Wisconsin Supreme Court in its 1960 opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC and buttressing The Public Trust Doctrine, Article IX of the Wisconsin State Constitution.
Back when the Wisconsin Supreme Court hadn't devolved along with much of the political environment that had first produced John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day. 


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Former WI judges want ethics rule strengthened

I doubt that it will go anywhere, given the current 5-2 conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, but dozens of retired Wisconsin judges are asking the state's high court justices to fix a conflict-of-interest enabling rule approved when conservatives had only a 4-3 edge that made it easier for judges to hear cases involving their campaign donors.
More than 50 retired jurists on Wednesday asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to require judges and justices to step aside when hearing cases involving those who helped bankroll their elections. 
The proposal from the 54 former judges comes seven years after the high court adopted rules that said campaign spending, on its own, isn't enough to force a judge off a case.
Seal of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin.svg
What a blot on the state's reputation and an official barrier to equal protection and due process right in the state's courtrooms.

Even if the reform effort fails, it's important that the issue is highlighted, as it's not particularly well known and speaks volumes about how and why the state's reputation has plummeted.


I've been writing about this since 2014 - - updated here - - noting the unbelievable reality that the Wisconsin Supreme Court's conservative majority not only approved a recusal rule that allowed state judges and justices to hear cases involving entities which had donated to the campaign committees - - they solicited the recusal rule draft from some of their special interest/donors, then approved it.


Here's what I wrote a few years ago:

As arguments swirl around the objectivity of the Wisconsin Supreme Court in reviewing John Doe matters, and the Journal Sentinel petitions the Court to open a hearing and records on a related issue, I thought I would re-post an item I wrote last summer pointing out how conflicted - - by its own doing  - - is our Supreme Court.
-------------------------------------------------------
As you process the news that the conservative majority on the Wisconsin State Supreme Court Justices today validated Wrong-Way Walker's rollbacks of voting and collective bargaining rights - - and that several of the same Justices' campaigns were significantly funded by the WMC and other corporate special interests which also heavily back Walker - - do not forget that these same Justices let the WMC and the Realtors write for the Court a new ethics rule defining when - - basically, never - - recusals were in order by Judges and Justices to reduce conflicts-of-interest and enhance the appearance of fairness.
Yes, you read that right:
In response to [a tougher, independent proposal], the Wisconsin Realtors Association (“Realtors”) and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (“WMC”) filed separate petitions.[4] The petitions sought to amend the Judicial Code of Conduct to provide that recusal is not required in a proceeding based solely on any endorsement or receipt of a lawful campaign contribution from a party or entity involved in the proceeding. The petitions also sought clarification that a judge does not need to seek recusal where it would be based solely on a party in the case sponsoring an independent expenditure or issue advocacy communication in favor of the judge.
In a 4-3 decision,[5] the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied the League’s petition and adopted the Realtors and WMC’s petitions. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, joined by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice N. Patrick Crooks, criticized the majority’s decision to adopt the rules calling it “a dramatic change to our judicial code of ethics.”[6] In particular, the dissent took issue with the majority’s decision to adopt petitions “proposed by special interest groups.”[7] Dissatisfied with the majority’s decision, the dissent urged the Legislature to “engage in further study of judicial recusal.”[8]
Part of a regrettable, embarrassing pattern.
And noted nationally, cited here:
The Center for American Progress surveys the states on judicial ethics, gives Wisconsin an "F," and slaps David Prosser's face at the top of the Internet version of the report. Read it here:
Wisconsin: F (35 points) 
Wisconsin received a failing grade after its state supreme court adopted a recusal rule that literally instructs judges not to recuse themselves from cases involving campaign contributors. 
In 2010, the four-justice conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted to institute a recusal rule written by the Wisconsin Realtors Association and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, a group that subsequently donated nearly $1 million to support conservative Justice David Prosser’s re-election in 2011.  
The rule says that recusal is not required “based solely on … a lawful campaign contribution.” The majority’s comments that accompany the rule say that requiring recusal for campaign cash “would create the impression that receipt of a contribution automatically impairs the judge’s integrity.”  
In other words, the four justices in the conservative majority are worried that mandatory recusal would lead the public to think that judges are biased.

5 ex-DNR Secretaries do not want agency broken up

Rightwing GOP Gov. Scott Walker signaled recently he might break the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources apart and scatter the pieces across state government - - the dream scenario of the very special interests he's put in charge of the agency when he ordered it be run with a "chamber of commerce mentality" - - and now a bi-partisan group of former DNR Secretaries is publicly urging Walker to leave the DNR intact.

That's an important action, and needs to be buttressed with thousands of emails and letters to Walker, legislators, editorial boards, websites, and more, or else Walker will accelerate an even greater transfer of public assets into private hands, and a further reduction in pollution prevention and abatement in a state which has a unique environmental legacy - - John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Gaylord Nelson - - and an economy organized around the appreciation of the unspoiled nature those giants helped secure.

We'll know if Walker goes there when he when he releases his budget, but make no mistake about it:

Walker and his special-interest bellhops have done great damage to the DNR - - and to its mission of environmental stewardship on behalf of the people - - where now even censorship is policy - - and to the clean air, pure water and open space which belongs to the public as a birthright.
  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Walker's State of the Conned

[Updated from 10:23 p.m.] We are hours away from right-wing GOP Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's State of the State address, the kickoff of his Year Seven of The Great Con, wherein middling growth, crumbling roads, contaminated groundwater, disrespect for workers, contempt for science, cuts to education and a fast-disappearing middle class will be spun into red state Nirvana.

Cue the ovation from his gerrymandered GOP legislators, soon to be forced into fair elections by Federal judges beyond the reach of a State Supreme Court and judiciary under partisan purchase.


Walker has only one real goal in this speech: convincing Wisconsinites that he really likes being Governor, that he's really learned to love Wisconsin all over again in his phony, by-invite only 'listening sessions,' that his flirtation with the Presidency actually worked out well because he got to keep the best darn job on the planet.


And that good times are here again because Big Daddy Donald will help make Wisconsin great again by sending the state all sorts of job-producing federal money that was deemed untouchable when President Obama offered it by the boatload for Amtrak, broadband expansion and the very Medicaid expansion that, once rejected, cost state taxpayers and potential recipients hundreds of millions of life-affirming dollars and prevented some heroin addicts from getting the treatment that Walker will now say is a crisis occupying some of his attention.


So the Great Con continues, on live TV, with all sorts of nods to programs and policies that were, are and will always have been secondary to Walker's first priority: election, re-election, special-interest servitude and GOP votes at the Electoral College confab.


Also - - look for his signature fake winks and shoutouts to the Packers and UW football Badgers.


If only he could wear their jerseys, bought with Koh's cash, of course.


Now that would make for some excellent TV.


Updated: Here's the text of Walker's speech, and I have to say that 
Walker, being Walker, as he's done before, just could not deliver remarks without a snarky, dog-whistling shot at the poor:
Here in Wisconsin, we are willing to help people who are down and out. But public assistance should be a trampoline, not a hammock.
Remember when he found the same scapegoat before? Somethings never change
In the final month and a half of the campaign, Gov. Scott Walker is making a blunt promise to voters — that he'll ensure jobless workers aren't on drugs, or their recliners. 
"My belief is we shouldn't be paying for them to sit on the couch, watching TV or playing Xbox," Walker told cheering Republican campaign volunteers last week in West Bend.