Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Seized kids? A Craven Gov. Walker shrugs, bails

Walker is one of Trump's persistent enablers, so no one in WI will be surprised
Gov. Scott Walker refused to take a position Tuesday on the Trump administration's policy of separating families after illegal border crossings and ignored calls to pull Wisconsin National Guard troops off the southern border.
Of course, he's always got time to Tweet about his favorite burger, custard or the cold brew he enjoyed on the 16th in the mansion we provide him and his family.
89 degrees and on the water with a cold Summer Shandy!

The WI/Walker/Schimel/Scott Pruitt alliance gets deeper

There's more evidence that Wisconsin is the policy shop and personnel pool for Trump deregulatory valet and blatantly pro-corporate US EPA administrator Scott Pruitt.
Scott Pruitt official portrait.jpg
* Pruitt last year hired Scott Walker's DNR Secretary and lead corporate cudgel Cathy Stepp, eventually naming her EPA's Great Lakes regional director.

* Kurt Thiede, Stepp's deputy, joined her in Chicago as Chief of Staff in February.
The move of Stepp and now Thiede to the EPA comes at a time when Foxconn Technology Group has started to submit environmental permit applications to the DNR for a massive industrial complex in Racine County.
*  Pruitt also hired a GOP AG Brad Schimel staffer, David Ross, to a EPA's key water post. I'd written about Ross and that move, here.

But wait, there's more.

Remember the story in January about Atty. Anna Wildman, a former Wisconsin CAFO lobbyist named by Wisconsin AG Brad Schimel to replace Ross and oversee the AG's environmental unit?

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel’s appointment of a lawyer and former dairy industry lobbyist to lead the environmental protection unit of the Justice Department has drawn objections from the leader of a public interest law firm and concerns from a former secretary of the Department of Natural Resources.
Well, she's already gone.

To the EPA.

And a job under the afore-mentioned David Ross, Pruitt's Assistant Administrator of EPA's Office of Water. 

Dave Ross is the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 
Dave has more than 20 years of experience working on water issues in both state government and the private sector.  
Prior to joining EPA in January 2018, Mr. Ross worked as the Director of the Environmental Protection Unit at the Wisconsin Department of Justice. 
Wildeman is now EPA's Deputy Assistant Administrator, according to this EPA web page. 
Anna Wildeman, Deputy Assistant Administrator 
And here's what's managed at EPA's Office of Water:
What We Do 
The Office of Water (OW) ensures drinking water is safe, and restores and maintains oceans, watersheds, and their aquatic ecosystems to protect human health, support economic and recreational activities, and provide healthy habitat for fish, plants and wildlife. 
OW is responsible for implementing the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, and portions of the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Ocean Dumping Ban Act, Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act, Shore Protection Act, Marine Plastics Pollution Research and Control Act, London Dumping Convention, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and several other statutes. 
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Office of Water works with the ten EPA regional offices, other federal agencies, state and local governments, American Indian tribes, the regulated community, organized professional and interest groups, land owners and managers, and the public-at-large. 
OW provides guidance, specifies scientific methods and data collection requirements, performs oversight and facilitates communication among those involved. 
OW helps the states and American Indian tribes to build capacity, and water programs can be delegated to them for implementation.
And the Office Water runs these, too: 

Our parents said it couldn't happen here. It is

[Further Updated]: 

Trump says immigrants will "infest" the country. 
Critics of Trump’s language argued that it was dehumanizing to use a term traditionally used for pests. 
The conservative Bill Kristol put it best: 

Trump’s statement that immigrants will “infest our Country” probably sounds better in the original German.
[Updated with Walker's no comment today, at bottom] These things had better wake us up.

Trump calls news media 'The enemy of the People.' 
President Trump, in an extraordinary rebuke of the nation’s press organizations, wrote on Twitter on Friday that the nation’s news media “is the enemy of the American people.” 
Even by the standards of a president who routinely castigates journalists — and who on Thursday devoted much of a 77-minute news conference to criticizing his press coverage — Mr. Trump’s tweet was a striking escalation in his attacks.
Asylum Seekers Reportedly Turned Away At US Border 
In recent months, migrant children have been separated from parents, immigration judges have been ordered to speed up cases and federal prosecutors have been instructed to seek criminal charges against anyone who crosses the border unlawfully. 
Donald Trump official portrait.jpg
Trump uses xenophobia to rile up his base again 
The president's message...is yet another example of the xenophobia he uses to galvanize his white, working-class base. He is showing once again that he lacks both the humanity and perspective that we expect in a president.
 Trump Defends White Nationalist Protesters: "Some Very Nice People, on Both Sides." 
Speaking in the lobby of Trump Tower...a combative Trump defended his slowness to condemn white nationalists and neo-Nazis after the melee in central Virginia, which ended in the death of one woman and injuries to dozens of others, and compared the tearing down of Confederate monuments to the hypothetical removal of monuments to the Founding Fathers.
Blumenthal: End 'inhumane, immoral' border policy on children
 “We are at a moment of reckoning and they must show the backbone and moral compass” to change it, he said. 
He said it is reminiscent of dark moments in American history, such as when Japanese-Americans were interned during World War II.
Listen to Children Who've Been Separated from Their Parents at the Border 
The desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children, separated from their parents one day last week by immigration authorities at the border, makes for excruciating listening. Many of them sound like they’re crying so hard, they can barely breathe. They scream “Mami” and “Papá” over and over again, as if those are the only words they know.
Sessions cites Bible in defense of separating children from families 
In his remarks, Sessions hit back at the "concerns raised by our church friends about separating families," calling the criticism "not fair or logical" and quoting Scripture in his defense of the administration's tough policies.
"Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution ... I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes," Sessions said. 
Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims so far 

In the 466 days since he took the oath of office, President Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president.

That’s an average of nearly 6.5 claims a day.

When we first started this project for the president’s first 100 days, he averaged 4.9 claims a day. Slowly, the average number of claims has been creeping up.
Indeed, since we last updated this tally two months ago, the president has averaged about 9 claims a day.

GOP candidates are now mimicking Trump's authoritarianism. That's ominous
Around the country, Republicans embroiled in tough primaries are increasingly emulating President Trump — by echoing his xenophobia, his veiled racist appeals, his attacks on the news media, and even occasionally his calls for imprisoning his political opponents.

Wisconsin National Guard troops head to southern border 
Walker's spokeswoman didn't immediately reply to emails Monday. 
"By not immediately condemning (separating children from parents) and reversing course, Scott Walker is putting his political allies in the Trump administration ahead of doing what's right," said TJ Helmstetter, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

Because Walker will say anything to get re-elected...

He says he's the "pro-education" Governor.

Right. Everything in his record screams 'pro-education,' and then some:

He's always been the pro-teacher, public employee Governor.

Whose Act 10 left collective bargaining intact [Sic].

And, remember, it was just a set of "modest, modest requests [Sic]."

From Governor 'Midwest Nice.'

And he's also been the never-cut-school funding Governor.

The always-honest friend of higher-education Governor.

And friend of the printed word, like all pro-education officials.

The pro-blue-collar worker Governor.

Who created those promised 250,000 new private-sector jobs right on time.

He's also the pothole-fighter.

The poverty-fighting Governor.

The champion of local control.

And the pro-women's-health Governor.

As he's been the friend of the small dairy farmer Governor.

Foe of chronic deer herd wasting disease Governor.

And the small-business startup Governor.

Also, the tight-fisted principled-conservative steward of the people's money Governor.

In part due to his wise acceptance (not) of federal funds.

The take-me-at-my-word Governor.

Like he was about his college records and early departure from Marquette U.

Because he's the no-dark-money Governor, wink-wink.

And champion of free and open elections-Governor.

Also, the pro-science Governor.

Especially climate change science.

And like all pro-education governors, would not downgrade children's climate science teaching.

And would never remove air pollution alerts which are vital for kids and seniors.

He's also is the wetlands-champion Governor.

Fighting for public resources over special-interest favors.

The smooth-roads Governor.

Because he's also not the finish what you sort on time Governor, nor:

The clean air Governor.

The clean rivers Governor.

The clean drinking water Governor.

The pro-sobriety Governor.

The save-the-state-parks Governor.

The opioid-fighting Governor.

The pro-DNR governor.

The recycling Governor.

Because, after all, Walker's consistently been the never-tell-a-lie Governor.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Juneau, Wood Counties finding well water contamination

I'd missed this Kewaunee County-type situation and news release last week - - 
Manure runoff in Kewaunee County - - not limited to Kewaunee County
- - so here you go:
Contact: Sue Kunferman, Health Officer, Wood County Health Department, 111 W. Jackson Street – 3rd Floor, Wis. Rapids, WI Rapids, WI 54495 (715) 421-8911, skunferman@co.wood.wi.us
Barb Theis, Health Officer, Juneau County Health Department, 200 Hickory Street, Mauston, WI. 53948, (608) 847-9373, btheis@co.juneau.wi.us
High Nitrate in Private Drinking Wells
The Wood and Juneau County Health and Land and Water Resource Departments are working to ensure that all citizens have a source of safe, clean drinking water.
[Mauston, WI] – High nitrate levels have been found in private drinking water wells of some Juneau and Wood County residents near Armenia Township (Juneau County). We urge residents to take the following actions if their well water has a high nitrate level:
• Infants less than 6 months, pregnant women, and women who may become pregnant should immediately stop using the high nitrate water for drinking or preparing foods (infant formula, soup, rice).
• Everyone should avoid long-term consumption of water with high nitrate levels
• It is ok to use the water for activities like showering and household chores.
High nitrate levels are a health risk particularly for children less than 6 months old. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should also pay attention to nitrate levels. To learn more about what you can do to protect yourself and your family from high levels of nitrate, see the Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ (DHS’) factsheet on nitrate
In May 2018, the Juneau and Wood County Health and Land and Water Departments partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to conduct a survey of nitrate levels in private wells to address drinking water concerns expressed by residents in the Armenia township area.
“So far, we have found that 41% of the total wells tested had nitrate levels above the groundwater standard,” said Juneau County Health Officer Barb Theis. “It is important for residents with high levels of nitrate to take immediate action by using bottled water to assure a safe source of water for drinking and cooking.” The groundwater standard for nitrate is 10 milligrams of nitrate per liter of water (mg/L) and is the amount of nitrate that can be in the groundwater and be safe for drinking. The percent of wells observed with high nitrate levels, through this survey, is greater than the estimated statewide average of 9% of wells.
Both Wood and Juneau Health Departments and county conservationists are working to help residents understand their water-quality issues, and in identifying long-term solutions other than continued use of bottle water. An educational session is part of the groundwater testing program and will occur once all results are analyzed and mapped.
More information, please contact:
Juneau County Health Department: 608-847-9373
Juneau County Land and Water Resources: 608 847-7221 extn. 114
Wood County Health Department: (715) 421-8911
Wood County Land and Water Conservation : 715 421-8475
DHS’ Nitrate Factsheet: dhs.wisconsin.gov/library/p-02128.htm
Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Groundwater Study: datcp.wi.gov/Documents/GroundwaterReport2017.pdf


Vukmir: Ready, aim, pander

Nurses support gun control as public health issue. 
As the premier organization representing the nation’s 3.4 million registered nurses, the American Nurses Association has and will continue to be engaged in efforts to prevent and reduce gun violence. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy, ANA issued a call to action to Congress and policymakers to take swift action to curb gun violence.
Well, not all nurses, especially one whose campaign website text begins with "Leah Vukmir is a nurse...," but who's in a US Senate primary fight for the far-right GOP base. 
MADISON, Wis. —With a holstered handgun next to her on a kitchen table, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Leah Vukmir promises in her first television ad of the campaign released Monday to stand with President Donald Trump just as she did against death threats in Wisconsin.
State Sen. Leah Vukmir speaks at the Racine Tea Party event on Jan. 13, 2013. (8379730772).jpg 

Court districting ruling gives WI Dems 2nd chance, blue wave impetus

The US Supreme Court today didn't completely close a key door to democracy. It just made knocking on more doors more important.

What the Supreme Court strategically did was avoid an up-or-down ruling on the Wisconsin gerrymandering case, thus disappointing Democrats who'd hoped for a clearer blue-wave path at the polls this fall while easing Republican anxieties over legal fair play they will always favor suppressing.

I commend to you from Supreme Court scholar Rick Hasen his explanation of the internal, Court politics which continue to drive stall the issue, and direct you to ways to help the plaintiffs.

A few off-the-top-of-my observations:

*  Once again, we learned that it's risky predicting what the Supreme Court will do. I'd heard everything from 'we're gonna win 6-3' - - nope! - - to 'the Court will flat-out validate current law' - - not exactly.

*  While the ruling leaves in place a fouled redistricting landscape that favors Republicans who structured it through secrecy and dirty poolthe Democratic plaintiffs are alive to fight another day because the Court basically told the Dems how to fix a procedural flaw which the Justices, by a 7-2 vote, said needed repairing.

Sure, it'd be disappointing for a professor to return your term paper with a grade of incomplete, but then you see a note attached which says, 'here's how to return it for regrading.'

*  Bottom line: courts are not going to save democracy in Wisconsin, just like Robert Mueller isn't going to save the Republic. Only we the voters can do that, and, yes, today's ruling makes that more burdensome is also a reminder that old-fashioned organizing, despite the obstacles, and opponents who intentionally create even more, will always be the solution.

Yes, it's hard work that just got harder. I'm hoping, despite all the awful national news, and the post-recall setbacks in Wisconsin, that we all have the energy we need to win meaningful gains in Wisconsin in November, and in the State Supreme Court race in 2019, and than in 2020.

And progressives have solid, persuasive grassroots issues to win with  - - state roads in ruins, a state deer herd infected with a spreading epidemic Walker and his corporate-attuned DNR have ignored, state rivers persistently more polluted, groundwater consistently too dirty to drink, out-of-control special interests, and state budget turned over by the billions of tax dollars to one foreign business exempted from fundamental legal and environmental rules which apply to everyone else - - all while Walker buys his way with public money towards a third term, perhaps more.

So: let's take what the Supreme Court gave us, and use what's at our fingertips, and get busy restoring democracy in Wisconsin, one voter-at-one-door at a time. 

More NW WI floods. Right place for huge mine, pig CAFO?

Here we go again:
More major flooding in Northwest Wisconsin.

Remember the 2017 storms?

And the 2016 events?

And businesses enabled by Walker and his GOP bellhops hoped to site a 26,000-pig feeding and manure-producing operation and a mountain-top removing, forest-flattening, wetland-filling open-pit iron ore mine at least 4.5 miles long in the area.

Imagine the runoff, as the planet warms and storm intensity increases.

In a state where heavier storm events are predicted to be a climate change consequence.

And where legislators and Walker just approved removing protections for 100,000 acres of flood-absorbing wetlands.

The state might be less inclined to make such foolish decisions, and the public might be better informed about what's already happening, if the DNR hadn't decided that this was the right time to delete climate change information and links from its climate change webpage.

A highlight of the career of former DNR Secretary and home builder Cathy Stepp, now a Trump/Pruitt-appointed US EPA regional director, during her nearly-seven years bringing to the DNR the "chamber of commerce mentality" Scott Walker wanted atop the agency.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

DNR highlights Stepp's career. Let's fill in the blanks

[Updated from 6/16/18] The latest issue of the WI DNR magazine "Wisconsin Natural Resources" carries a retrospective 50-year-timeline that barely gives former Secretary Cathy Stepp's almost seven-year tenure its due.

She gets these credits:
 "*As DNR Secretary launches Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and redesigned website for better customer service. * CWD is detected in Washburn County and the state hires an independent deer trustee to review Wisconsin Deer management. * Voluntary Public Access Program is enacted to encourage landowners to allow public use. * Participation in Green Tier programs grows from 46 businesses in 2009 to 86 in 2010. * DNR introduces streamlined water quality permit process for large-scale dairies."
I know - - space considerations - - but here, for the record, is some of what did not make it into print, as Stepp, with her well-documented corporate focus:

* Had climate change information and links deleted from the DNR's Great Lakes climate change webpage - - discovered by this blog. The story gets wide circulation.

* Dragged her feet complying with federal clean water obligations

* Eliminated initial air quality and pollution alerts, so by the time a notice was actually issued it was too late for at-risk people and groups already engaging in outdoor activities to do anything about it.

* Defended the many program and personal cuts at DNR on her watch by saying that wildlife, clean air and water don't pay the bills. 
In employee meetings she has referred to some DNR activities as beloved but nonessential “glitter and rainbows.” In a videotaped management seminar in Florida, she described difficulty remaking the DNR, saying she has needed to tell employees that “deer and the butterflies and clean air and clean water ... don’t pay taxes and they don’t sign our paychecks.”
* Though holding what is traditionally a non-partisan position, Stepp made overtly partisan appearances on Milwaukee right-wing AM talk radio in support of legislation to enable a controversial open-pit iron ore mine in wetland-rich northwestern Wisconsin just upriver from Ojibwe waters and wild-rice growing estuaries.

The mine never opened. The bill, written with input by the mining company which also secretly routed large campaign donations to benefit Gov. Walker, was passed by the legislature and signed by Walker. 

The law is still on the books. It drastically reduced iron ore permit review periods and watered-down public participation in the permitting process.

* Gave $500,000 to a group which claimed sporting goals, but turned out to have been aligned with pro-Walker political activities and did not even have proper tax-exempt paperwork. After an uproar, the grant was rescinded.

* Assigned DNR work opposing President Obama's clean air program to a senior DNR politically-appointed staffer who had been the environmental spokesman at a former employer, the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. The group has a long history opposing some clean air initiatives.

* Supported Walker's defunding of the century-old DNR's bi-monthly magazine. The move, allegedly to save money though the magazine was self-supporting, provoked such widespread opposition that the decision was overturned.

The magazine survives as a quarterly, and has yet to run any more articles about climate change which some had cited as a reason for its proposed elimination.

* Did not fight for science staff positions eliminated by Gov. Walker.

* Wished for staffers as pliable as the restaurant workers she had supervised in a previous job as a McDonald's manager.

* Supported selling state parks naming rights and backed the diminution of the DNR's long-standing policy oversight board to merely advisory status - - a scheme which went nowhere after widespread backlash. 

* Did throw staff statewide a Halloween party.

* Moved to reduce inspection and enforcement actions, stressing voluntary compliance by the regulated.

* Moved towards allowing the regulated to hire private experts to draft their DNR permits.

*  Provided a key Walker donor-developer with years of free access to DNR staffers tasked with facilitating approvals and plans for the construction of a privately-pwned golf course on a unique nature preserve and inside an adjoining state park on the Lake Michigan shoreline a what is now the southern tip of Sheboygan.

* Created a 'do not respond' blacklist of people it didn't want to hear from, and played other games with open records.

* Further tilted what at the time was a wolf management advisory committee to a pro-wolf hunting rubber-stamp by removing most of the wolf hunt opponents.

* Routinely failed to follow its own pollution enforcement rules, and allowed widespread fecal contamination in rural water supplies near large dairy cattle operations which vastly expanded under Stepp's management.

*  Allowed a senior staffer to influence the issuance of civil citations only against a human waste hauling polluter who had donated to the staffer's earlier political campaign committee. The civil citation penalty was approved by Stepp's deputy - - himself a former building organization executive.

Had DNR employees remove a pet deer from a private animal shelter, and euthanize it. The DNR's website then crashed after large numbers of people objected; a panicked Gov. Walker hurriedly proposed a bill to make sure there were no more such outrages.

* Separately shot and killed a deer during hunting season. The DNR memorialized it photographically, below.

Stepp disclosed she did not make eye contact with the animal before she fired.

Some commenters have noted that the deer was pretty small.
Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp proudly shows off her first deer, taken opening weekend last year. In the upcoming TV Special "Deer Hunt Wisconsin 2012, Stepp urges male hunters to take more girls and women hunting. "The secret's out," she says. "Hunting is a lot of fun, so don't keep it to yourselves."  photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR
* Lauded reduced environmental reviews for the Foxconn project, and waxed eloquently over its the arrival  - - despite its promised wetland filling and farmland destruction. And laid the groundwork for quick DNR air pollution permit approvals - - no surprise there - - after her departure.

Those approvals will allow Foxconn to spew nearly 800 tons of new, annual emissions.

Another DNR approval OK'ed a diversion of millions of gallons of water daily from Lake Michigan, and the projected return to the lake of Foxconn wastewater with as yet-to-be-identified substances. 

* In her capacity as a private citizen - - but identified by media as the DNR Secretary - - Stepp spoke at a rally in support of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, where she urged women voters to back him - - "this is our time, ladies," - - and later claimed she was unaware that Trump was a climate change denier.

* Resigned her DNR secretaryship in 2017 to work in Donald Trump's EPA run by the environmentally-hostile Scott Pruitt. She is now director of the key, Great Lakes regional office, headquartered in Chicago, and oversees EPA policies in Wisconsin.

* Having weakened the state's natural resources' protections, concluded a leading, neutral observer.

Snowmobilers again want trails in Blue Mound State Park

Blocked once by a Dane County Circuit Court judge, snowmobilers
Conservation Wardens will be hitting the trails this winter
are back before the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board June 27th again seeking trail planning for Blue Mound State Park. 

Heads up.
  1. Request approval to initiate a planning process to develop a plan revision or plan amendment to the Blue Mounds State Park Master Plan Concept Element.

Advocates to hold groundwater session 6/21 at WI's CAFO ground-zero

Four things to note about Kewaunee County, WI, other than its new, pro-conservation State Senator is about to be sworn in:

*  Kewaunee County, in the northeastern part of the state and bordering Lake Michigan south of Green Bay, has so many dairy-related concentrated animal feeding operations, (CAFOs) which can pollute the groundwater that the DNR will supply bottled water to people who believe their wells have runoff contamination

So goodbye 'brown water events' downstream - - or at the kitchen tap - -

Manure runoff in Kewaunee County

- - and Flint, Michigan, Hello!

*  Fecal contamination in Kewaunee County is rampant and documented, yet the DNR continues to green-light CAFO expansion there. While offering outdated information on its website about the rapid expansion of CAFOs statewide. 

After all, Walker intends to move CAFO 'regulation,' such as it is, from the DNR to the friendly confines of the dairy marketers over at the state ag department, so why update the DNR's data if state ag is about to take over?

*  Important litigation that could rein in one large Kewaunee County CAFO is headed for an appeals court chosen by GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel to better serve Corporate Wisconsin. 

His move is but one of many by GOP politicians and agencies they control which continually put Corporate Wisconsin and industry's demands above the public's rights to clean water, fresh air and unspoiled open space.

And, yes, you can add the severely, self-inflicted-conflicted State Supreme Court to the list of Wisconsin agencies where big business has an out-sized, campaign-donation presence. Which makes the April, 2019 race to fill a vacancy being created by the planned retirement of long-serving liberal Justice Shirley Abrahamson so important - - but later for that.

* So - - Midwest Environmental Advocates, (MEA), the public interest law firm long involved in the fight in Wisconsin for cleaner water and government in the public interest will hold an information meeting about water issues in Kewaunee County on Thursday, June 12. Details here.
JUNE 21, 2018 
Clean Drinking Water Advocacy in Kewaunee County
MEA Staff Attorney Sarah Geers will present the latest information about groundwater quality in Kewaunee County and the Department of Natural Resources’ response. 
This will be a simple and practical discussion of drinking water contamination with time to answer your questions. We’ll leave you with information about well testing and what you can do to advocate for clean drinking water in your community.
6:30 pm - 7:30 pm 
Algoma High School, Little Theatre 
1715 Division Street, Algoma, WI 54201