Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Romney's Stone-Walling On Taxes Opens Door To Rumors Galore

Like paying no taxes for a decade, as Harry Reid relays the story.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) claimed Tuesday in an interview that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney refuses to release additional tax returns because he didn’t pay taxes for 10 years.
Reid said his source was a Bain investor.

For all we know, it's Sen. John McCain, or someone from his 2008 presidential campaign, since Romney turned over 20-some years of returns back then, and who knows who's seen what and divulged it?

WI Senate Dem Recall Win Yielding Documents, Public Information

Republicans had been chortling that the Democratic Party's reclaimed control of the State Senate with John Lehman's win in Racine was nothing more than symbolic, as the Senate is not scheduled to be in session until after the November elections, when the GOP thinks it will retake control.

But wait, there's more: Turns out that the flip in partisan control means the GOP now has to turn over records to incoming majority Democrats that make the GOP look bad, and dishonest, to boot, as this first batch of released records shows, courtesty of the Wisconsin State Journal:

Wisconsin's Republican legislative leaders have said the voting district maps they drew last year were not aimed at political advantage, but new documents made public Tuesday show they discussed ways to increase the number of "safe" and "leaning" GOP districts and to protect conservative incumbents.

In one email, state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, offered these thoughts about redrawing her district: "Western Wauwatosa — yes (more GOP)," "West Milwaukee — No (forgot to mention this part of current district — VERY Dem" and "Milwaukee — cop wards if needed..."

The documents were among hundreds turned over to new Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller, D-Monona, by Michael Best & Friedrich, hired by Republicans when they controlled the state Senate.
So elections have multiple consequences: look for more disclosures on issues from redistricting to mining.

There's more to controlling a legislative house than floor voting - - and in this case, the public gets a deeper look-see at the special sausage GOP legislators cooked up, with public money.

Scott Walker Advises Against Negative Ads, LOL

He used his record breaking recall war chest successfully to batter and defeat Tom Barrett with negative ads, but now Walker advises the Wisconsin GOP Senate field to avoid them. None will be brave enough to tell Walker he's a hypocrite, but we can get the ball rolling here.

Romney Campaign Makes Sure Poland Visit Gets Equal Gaffe Treatment

After leaving behind insults in England and Israel, Mitt Romney didn't disappoint during his stop in Poland, where his spokesman spiced up a Warsaw photo op by channeling Charlie Sheen and telling reporters to "kiss my ass" and "show some respect" in the same breath.

You know what they tell political staff: Always make the boss look good and never generate bad press, so well done, soon-to-be-former media guy who should self-deport away from the campaign.

Romney's World Foot In Mouth Tour is ending, but don't worry: a four-month national tour is just beginning.

SEWRPC Role In Water Dispute Highlights Suburban Biases There

The City of Milwaukee finds that an obscure technical tweak in water planning recommendations is assuming a central role five years later favoring Waukesha's position on diverting water to an area outside its borders.

How many examples do we need to grasp that Milwaukee is harmed by its inclusion in the southeastern regional planning commission (SEWRPC), where City of Milwaukee taxpayers supply 16% of the seven-county commission's operating budget but by law have no commissioner's vote.

SEWRPC is the agency that began a regional housing study a couple of years ago - - under pressure from urban advocates - - but hadn't written such a plan since 1975 as the region sprawled away from Milwaukee's economy and its minority residents and job-seekers.

And developed the freeway expansion plan - - against the City's wishes - - that will push development farther from Milwaukee, where transit is dying, but where water is sought and where SEWRPC has recommended in a study Lake Michigan water be diverted.

In 2006, I wrote:

SEWRPC has paved the way for much of the region’ssprawl, literally: The agency recently recommended $6.5 billion in state spending on freeway modernization and expansion, including adding new lanes across Waukesha County – - the very area where overdevelopment has contributed to the county’s water problems.

Though it says it will examine conservation and other alternatives, SEWRPC will probably endorse out-of-basin diversions as a key element for regional

More Criticism Of Walker's Washington Post Health Care Op-Ed

I put up an item about the Journal Sentinel's "False" PolitiFact ruling about Scott Walker's Washington Post health care op-ed.

Let me draw you attention to another critique by Wisconsin fiscal policy expert Jon Peacock, who wrote, in part:

Walker’s Washington Post Column Misrepresents the Cost of the ACA

Figure the Governor Uses Arbitrarily Excludes the ACA’s Enhanced Federal Aid

A PolitiFact article in Sunday’s Journal Sentinel critiques an op-ed column by Governor Walker in the July 12 Washington Post, in which he contended that that the federal health care reform law would “devastate” Wisconsin.   PolitiFact analyzes four of the factual assertions in the Governor’s column and rates them as false, concluding that the Governor’s op-ed: “cherry-picks data, leaves out critical facts and mischaracterizes some of the numbers, creating a highly misleading impression.”

The article by Guy Boulton and Dave Umhoefer notes that they will look later at the fiscal claims in Walker’s column, such as the assertion that during the period 2014 through 2019: “after all federal aid and tax credits are applied, the state’s portion of the bill [for implementing the ACA] will be $433 million.

I evaluated some of the problems with the Governor’s column two weeks ago and later in a guest blog post for the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University. 

If Madison's Climate Becomes Wichita's, Head North. Farrrr North

I'd posted an Internet tool from a state website showing climate change models predicting Madison's climate approximating that of Wichita, Kansas.

The collaborative site also has a new interactive climate predictive tool that can show you what kind of climate your Wisconsin city could have by 2046...

Wichita, Kansas, Hello! We're talking 683 miles to the southwest. 
Here's the forecast for Wichita from the Internet at 11:20 p.m. Monday:

Weather for Wichita, KS

93°F | °C
ThunderstormsThunderstormsMostly SunnyMostly Sunny
Partly Cloudy

Wind: E at 14 mph

Humidity: 29%110°75°108°79°111°81°106°75°
Detailed forecast:The Weather Channel-Weather Underground-AccuWeather

Skimpy Record Supporting Controversial Waukesha Water Service Map

Milwaukee has asked the DNR to step in and referee Milwaukee's disagreement with Waukesha over how Waukesha's proposed new and broadened water service area's boundaries should be drawn as part of Waukesha's application for a Lake Michigan water diversion.

Milwaukee is a potential water seller to Waukesha, but does not want to extend the sale beyond Waukesha to portions of four smaller communities - - The Towns of Genesee, Waukesha and Delafied, and the City of Pewaukee - - that Waukesha included in its application's water service area - - an area that was mapped by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission,(SEWRPC).

I've already opined that the DNR has evaporating credibility to referee the dispute.

What follows is more of the story about how the controversial map got drawn that has escaped much publicity.

The dots I've connected tell a lot about how this map was created, and also about how major public policies can be born and set in motion almost invisibly by technocrats and obscure committees before their work hits the front pages, decision-making by elected officials and public budgets that impact everyone.

To wit:

When the dispute between Waukesha and Milwaukee broke out a few weeks ago over the definition of the SEWRPC-drawn water service territory, the Journal Sentinel said that SEWRPC had created the water map for Waukesha with the input of others, including the DNR. Wrote Don Behm, in a Sunday story:
Many of the property owners there [in the Town of Genesee] probably will seek municipal water because private wells tap into a shallow aquifer contaminated with fecal bacteria and nitrates from private septic systems. The DNR and Waukesha County asked the commission to include this area in Waukesha's water service area.
So I sent an inquiry to SEWRPC Executive Director Ken Yunker and asked about the referenced DNR and Waukesha County requests to SEWRPC, since earlier I'd asked for records about the creation of the map and had seen nothing indicating input from the DNR or Waukesha County:
Sent: Monday, July 02, 2012 12:23 PM
To: Yunker, Kenneth R.
Subject: Fw: Re: FW: Open Records request
Ken - - I'd like you to review this email string in light of this line in Don Behm's Sunday story - - http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/clock-ticking-on-starting-waukesha-milwaukee-water-talks-kb5u6j5-160968855.html - - about how the Waukesha service territory was crafted by SEWRPC:

"The DNR and Waukesha County asked the commission to include this area in Waukesha's water service area."
Yunker responded the same day, July 2nd and cited a request about water service territory map drafting made by a DNR staffer at the SEWRPC Regional Water Supply Advisory Committee meeting in March, 2007 - - (see committee minutes in pdf, here) - - that a portion of the Town of Genesee be included in future Waukesha water service territory maps. Wrote Yunker:
WDNR staff, at a meeting of the Regional Water Supply Planning Advisory Committee, requested that the special well casing area in the Town of Genesee be added to the Waukesha water supply service area. I can recall WDNR staff making this recommendation at a Committee meeting and it should be part of the meeting minutes of the Committee.
The advisory committee minutes of March, 2007 indeed show this detail (again, here is the pdf, scroll to pages 12-13 March, 2007):
[Secretary’s Note:
Mr. [Charles] Czarkowski [of the DNR] provided a memorandum documenting additional areas to be considered for municipal water supply service. A copy of that memorandum is attached hereto as Exhibit C. The additional areas recommended to be considered have been mapped and, in some cases, added to the municipal water service areas. The revised maps and text are included in the revised version of Chapter IV provided with these minutes.]

In answer to another question by Mr. Czarkowski, Mr. Biebel indicated that areas designated by the WDNR within which special well casing were required because of groundwater contamination were not explicitly considered in the delineation of the urban service areas. However, he referred to Map IV-2 and noted that some of the proposed municipal service areas did include special well casing areas, such as the Lannon area. He noted that some of the special casing areas were located beyond the planned urban service areas and, thus, municipal services were not recommended to be extended to those outlying areas. Mr. Czarkowski indicated that he would provide to the Commission staff recommendations for the inclusion of other selected areas in the urban service areas in response to groundwater quality issues.
Then...scroll to page 20 of that cited "Exhibit C" - - it won't highlight, as appended on the SEWRPc web site - - and there you find a "suggestion" about including a part of the Town of Genesee in a proposed Waukesha water service territory map.

A "suggestion."

By a member of a technical advisory committee on water supply that was created by SEWRPC, itself an advisory, non-elected body, that met in the SEWRPC headquarters' basement-level conference room in Pewaukee.

Public meetings, yes. I went to many. But it was a process pretty much for insiders who wrote, debated and edited long, technical chapters and reports eventually turned into a final, advisory report.

And if DNR staffer Charles Czarkowski's "suggestion" is the policy directive from the DNR that the DNR and Waukesha say are part of what defeats Milwaukee's argument about redrawing the new water service map - - well, that is a very thin reed upon which to rest a controversial, region-roiling, precedent-setting Great Lakes diversion proposal, and to an extent, the amount and destination of some of the water sought.

I also asked SEWRPC Executive Director Yunker about the Waukesha County input into the Waukesha water map mentioned in the Journal Sentinel story.

And the reed got thinner.

On July 13, 2011, Yunker said:
We are not aware of any request from Waukesha County.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Some Elements Of SEWRPC Water Plan Ignored

Much of the debate about water sale policy between the cities of Waukesha and Milwaukee last week focused on one criteria inserted by the regional planning commission (SEWRPC) into the discussion:

Delineating on a SEWPRC-drawn map an enlarged water supply area for Waukesha that is contiguous with Waukesha's sewer service territory by including parts of four neighboring municipalities that Milwaukee says have not demonstrated a need for Lake Michigan water.

But in the November, 2002 prospectus released by SEWRPC that outlined the needs and parameters for a regional water supply study - - a study that ultimately recommended that Waukesha receive Lake Michigan water as Waukesha's Lake Michigan diversion application endorses, too, SEWRPC said there was more to the supply of water:

The Need to Coordinate Water Supply Planning with Land Use, Transportation, Sanitary Sewerage, Park and Open Space, and Natural Resource Protection Planning

A needs exists at the regional level to relate water supply planning to regional land use, transportation, sanitary sewerage system, park and open space, and natural resource protection planning. The availability of public water supply is an important determinant of the urban land use pattern of an area. Along with the availability of sanitary sewerage, and a level of accessibility, as determined by the transportation system, the availability of public water supply influences the type, intensity, location, and extent of urban land use development in an area. Water supply facilities should form coordinated subsystems within the urban and urbanizing areas, and should be designed to promote land use development in accordance with adopted regional, county, and local municipal comprehensive plans. Such comprehensive plans are, in turn, required as a basis for the design of the location, configuration, and capacity of the public water supply facilities.

SE Wisc. Bad Air Alert Extends To Five Lakefront Counties

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Advisory for Ozone (Orange)

Start Time: 5:30PM CT Monday, July 30, 2012
End Time: 11:00PM CT Monday, July 30, 2012
Counties: Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, and Sheboygan


Air Quality Index
(AQI) Values
Levels of Health Concern Colors
When the AQI
is in this range:
...air quality conditions are: ...as symbolized
by this color:
0 to 50 Good Green
51 to 100 Moderate Yellow
101 to 150 Unhealthy for
Sensitive Groups
151 to 200 Unhealthy Red
201 to 300 Very Unhealthy Purple
301 to 500 Hazardous Maroon

For More Information:

Daily Air Quality Hotline - 1-866-324-5924 (1-866-DAILY AIR)

Milwaukee Under Unhealthy Air Alert

Current Air Quality for Milwaukee, WI

Monday, July 30
At 4 PM CDT Ozone reached 104 AQI - Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups

Do not reply directly to this email. If you want more information on the air quality forecast, or other aspects of the local air quality program, please contact your local air quality agency using the information above. For more information on the U.S. EPA's AIRNow Program, visit http://www.airnow.gov
Look for more passivity from the DNR.

Koch Brothers Climate Skeptic Now Says Climate Change Is Happening

Says Bill Muller, in a stunning turnaround:

"Humans are almost entirely the cause."

And calls for a reduction of greenhouse emissions, though Koch interests are heavily-involved in fossil-fuel industries:

Richard Muller, a physicist who spent two years trying to see if mainstream climate scientists were wrong about the earth's climate changes, determined that they were right, the Associated Press reported.

His findings showed the temperature had risen about 1.6 degrees since the 1950s.

"The skeptics raised valid points and everybody should have been a skeptic two years ago," Muller told the AP. "And now we have confidence that the temperature rise that had previously been reported had been done without bias."
Here's how Muller put it in a New York Times op-ed:
Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause. 

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases. 

These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming.
Rather amazing that Muller and long-time global warming writer Bill McKibben find common ground.

Bill McKibben, Again, Raises The Global Warming Alarm

Award-winning environmental writer and college teacher Bill McKibben is again trying to raise awareness about climate change and global warming - - this time with a long, documented essay in Rolling Stone. It's worth reading, down-loading or clipping from a hard copy.

As are stories overlooked before this summer's baking heat predicting average worldwide temperature increases of a ruinous 11 degrees Fahrenheit, while  McKibben warns the +2 degree rise that some experts believe tolerable are catastrophically close at hand.

The climate change deniers who regularly tee off on this blog against the science and implications making up McKibben's positions will have their reflexive field day:

Rolling Stone? That tree-hugger McKibben?


And we're not just talking about right-wing blog trolls with time on their hands and anonymous screen names.

The same pro-carbon industry mentality is on full display at the administratively-inert, ideologically- compliant Scott Walker-run Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which scrubbed its climate change web pages, but made sure to have a helluva Halloween party across its divisions and offices last year.

A couple of weeks ago, during record heat, a stretch of air pollution advisories and ruined crops in the field, this was the DNR's "Air Quality Tip of the Week":

For the week of July 1, 2012:

"Happy Birthday America! No doubt about it, fireworks are a part of the festivities on the 4th of July. Yes they do cause air pollution, but the smoke is localized and disperses quickly causing little harm. Learn more"
And so be it: it's a waste of time arguing with closed-minded people who, as they say, will crush you with their experience.

But here's what should trouble anyone taking the time to read the essay: it scientifically predicts unsustainable Earth temperatures resulting from the aggressive and suicidal burning of carbon resources held by major multi-national and state corporations - - mining and consumption and combustion that seems inevitable because those corporations' profits and their countries' budgets and economies are at odds with life-saving resource conservation.

A central point McKibben is trying to make, and which he hopes will trigger awareness and then mass movements in opposition to the Carbon industry's agenda:
We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn. We'd have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to avoid that fate. Before we knew those numbers, our fate had been likely. Now, barring some massive intervention, it seems certain.

Yes, this coal and gas and oil is still technically in the soil. But it's already economically aboveground – it's figured into share prices, companies are borrowing money against it, nations are basing their budgets on the presumed returns from their patrimony. It explains why the big fossil-fuel companies have fought so hard to prevent the regulation of carbon dioxide – those reserves are their primary asset, the holding that gives their companies their value. It's why they've worked so hard these past years to figure out how to unlock the oil in Canada's tar sands, or how to drill miles beneath the sea, or how to frack the Appalachians.

If you told Exxon or Lukoil that, in order to avoid wrecking the climate, they couldn't pump out their reserves, the value of their companies would plummet. John Fullerton, a former managing director at JP Morgan who now runs the Capital Institute, calculates that at today's market value, those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion. Which is to say, if you paid attention to the scientists and kept 80 percent of it underground, you'd be writing off $20 trillion in assets. The numbers aren't exact, of course, but that carbon bubble makes the housing bubble look small by comparison. It won't necessarily burst – we might well burn all that carbon, in which case investors will do fine. But if we do, the planet will crater. You can have a healthy fossil-fuel balance sheet, or a relatively healthy planet – but now that we know the numbers, it looks like you can't have both.

The False Five - - Walker, Wisc. GOP Senate Candidates On Health Care

The Wisconsin GOP Senate candidates all fibbed about health care, and Walker makes five.

The Fab Five, or Four, they are not.

After Lake Delton Dye Job, Is Name Change Imminent

Lake Delton might think about changing the name of the community or its namesake lake to Lake Clairol, as only the official town dye master knows for sure.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

You Just Knew Romney's Israel Trip Would Endure A Londonesque Gaffe

Here's what happened. Romney told the Israelis that all options were on the table.  They thought he was referring to Iran, but he meant out-doing his London Olympics gaffes.

And there it is: his big dollar fund-raising dinner canceled because his campaign's goofmeisters scheduled it on a Jewish fasting holiday.

However, his [Sic] Romney's gaffe-prone world tour was not without error in Israel as it was revealed he was forced to cancel a high-price dinner fundraiser in the nation because it was scheduled for a Jewish day of fasting.

The cultural misstep followed a disastrous trip to Britain, where he insinuated that London was not ready for the Olympic games -- receiving cutting rebukes from Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson...
The Republican presidential candidate originally had planned a $50,000-a-plate dinner in Israel for Sunday night -- even though today is also Tisha B'Av, a Jewish day to mourn the victim and the Holocaust and the destruction of first and second Temple of Jerusalem.

It is traditionally a day of fast when restaurants in Israel are closed by law. 

The Huffington Post reports that Romney's campaign knew the significance of the date, but planned the fundraiser anyway, hoping a 'small meeting but a big fundraiser' wouldn't offend his Israeli supporters. 

'Dietary laws will be observed. Refreshments will not be served until after the fast,' read the invitation to the event.

Tisha B'Av
Holy: Tisha B'Av was originally meant to mourn the destruction of the first and second Temple of Jerusalem, though it has also become a day to mourn the victims of the Holocaust

The campaign, however, didn't expect a backlash from Israelis, who were upset that the former Massachusetts governor planned to raise money during the solemn occasion.
You can't make this stuff up.

Walker Misled The Nation On Health Care; Will Wash Post Correct?

It takes a lot of staff time, it takes a lot of scheming and it takes a boat load of chutzpah to concoct an op-ed filled with distortions.

And then to get it placed in a prestigious publication like The Washington Post on a major issue like health care  - - but that is exactly what Scott Walker has done.

Call it the audacity of deception. This should be a national news story.

PolitiFact has released a detailed examination of the op-ed, found it manipulated and misrepresented data and findings, and rated its central claim "False."


A study showed that President Barack Obama’s health-care reforms will "devastate Wisconsin" by pushing people off employer-sponsored insurance, driving up premiums, increasing dependency and making 122,000 people ineligible for Medicaid.

Scott Walker on Thursday, July 12th, 2012 in an op-ed piece

Scott Walker says a study shows the federal health care law will "devastate" Wisconsin

The authoritative PolitiFact finding, published today in the Journal Sentinel, is long and complex, and comes with considerable heft because it is co-authored by Dave Umhoefer, a Pulitzer Prize-winner.

It's a case study that exposes the worst in politicized messaging; here's the PolitiFact bottom line:
Walker pulls some numbers from an actuarial study of the impact of the law, but cherry-picks data, leaves out critical facts and mischaracterizes some of the numbers, creating a highly misleading impression. Indeed, some of the numbers he attributes to the study are really estimates from his own administration.
We rate his claim, taken as a whole, False.
You can read the op-ed, here.

A couple of points:

* Walker's ideological hostility to the Affordable Health Care has been disclosed and analyzed since 2011.

* That Walker's op-ed was misleading was immediately called out by Wisconsin health care advocate Robert Kraig. He made many of the same points validated by PolitiFact. I posted Kraig's remarks in full a day after the op-ed appeared, here.

*  As has been pointed out - - whether as a political strategy of a character flaw - -  Walker defaults to the false side.

PolitiFact has rated 63% of Walker statements vetted as mostly false, false, or pants on fire. Here is his record:

Walker's statements by ruling

Click on the ruling to see all of Walker's statements for that ruling.
* Is it coincidental that all four Wisconsin GOP candidates for the open US Senate seat have earned "False" or "Pants on Fire" PolitiFact ratings on the health care issue?

*  But I would argue that constructing an op-ed for The Washington Post, now rated "false" by PolitiFact and easily exposed for the manipulation it represented, is a serious breach of responsibility in a democracy by Walker because of the effort it would have taken to produce it, market it successfully to a national platform, and hope for ill-gotten political and ideological gain.

The Washington Post, for its own sake and the needs of its readers, must amplify the PolitiFact finding and call Walker on the carpet for such a willful act of misrepresentation.

And have a new process for handling op-eds with Walker's name on them:


Climate Change, Global Warming Get Minor WI DNR Billing

It may be that decision-makers at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources don't read the papers, or get outside much these days, since they are not reacting to events:

Record heat not seen in Wisconsin since 1936.

Destructive drought. Major farm losses.

The state's condition has been reported nationally:

Wisconsin Drought 2012: USDA Designates 23 Counties As Natural Disaster Areas

AP  |  By Posted:
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Federal officials on Wednesday declared 23 drought-stricken counties across southern Wisconsin as natural disaster areas, making farms in those areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans.

The counties have been scorched by a recent stretch of heat waves, where temperatures sizzled in the 100-degree range and left severe drought conditions that took a toll on crop production.

The declaration came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which also applied the same designation to 53 other counties in Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan and Nebraska.
But as I noted several times on this blog, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, with a staff that knows a lot about our state and world's air and water resources, has had little information or context to offer on these matters.

It had been a while since I checked the DNR's web pages, but still see over the weekend only one paragraph with one link on the agency's climate change page - -all that was left after more substantive information and multiple links to agencies and programs was scrubbed.

And if you insert "global warming" in the agency's web search box, the first entry is EEK! a children's site - - useful to be sure - - but how about more from the scientific community? 
Clicking here will take you to the EEK! Home Page

Global Warming is Hot Stuff!

Global warming is a hot topic (no pun intended). The Earth is warming up. While that may be hard to believe in the middle of a Wisconsin winter, if it's true it could mean big changes for our planet. For more info on this topic, browse on! What is the greenhouse effect?
The greenhouse gases
What might happen if Earth heats up?
Global warming: It's more than just a game of up-and-down on a thermometer.
YOU can help slow global warming!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

David Maraniss Exposes Anti-Obama Conspiratorialists

A great essay by historian David Maraniss, the author of a new book about President Barack Obama:

There are Obama doubters and haters out there who claim with righteous anger that they are “vetting” the president, something they say the mainstream media never did. Some of them have said that my new biography — unwittingly, they argue, for I am too dumb to understand what my research has unearthed — proves that Barack Obama’s defining memoir is phony and that his entire life is a fraud.

My intent is not to defend Obama or his book; he can take care of himself, and I have my own questions about “Dreams From My Father,” which I make clear in my book. But when comparing the liberties Obama took with composite characters and compressed chronology — which he acknowledged in the introduction to his memoir — to the stretches his most virulent detractors have taken in building their various conspiracies, I believe that they are the frauds and fabricators.

Another Crazy Florida Shooting

We'll let BloggingBlue tell the story of the castle doctrine gone wild:

A man in Cape Coral, Florida on Wednesday was arrested for shooting and killing an unarmed door-to-door salesman on his property.

Kenneth Bailey Roop, 52, has been charged with second-degree murder for killing 30-year-old Nicholas Rainey.

A co-worker who witnessed the shooting said Rainey had knocked on Roop’s door, but received no answer. While Rainey was walking down the drive-way, Roop pulled up in his pickup truck and asked why Rainey was at his house. Rainey explained that he was selling steak and seafood. The witness said Roop then pulled out a black handgun and shot Rainey. As Rainey lay on the ground, Roop fired another bullet into the back of his head.

Roop later told police that he shot Rainey in the head “for effect” and that he had three no trespassing signs on his property. Roop said he feared for his life.

Enbridge's Calamitous Pipeline Spill Record

I put up a post yesterday about yet another pipeline break in Wisconsin at an Enbridge operation, and noted that it was hard to keep up with the company's messy history.

Well, thanks to Reuters and The New York Times today, you can read the scorecard for yourself:

The following lists Enbridge's pipeline spills and incidents over the last decade: 

* June 2012 - Enbridge shuts 345,000 bpd Athabasca pipeline after 1,400 barrels of oil were spilled near Elk Point in northeast Alberta. The line was quickly restarted after the company was able to bypass the Elk Point pump station. 

* March 2012 - Enbridge shuts the 318,000 bpd line 14/64 between Superior, Wisconsin, and Griffith, Indiana, after an SUV crashed into a pumping station near New Lenox, Illinois. 

* September 2011 - Enbridge shuts Line 26, a 25,000 bpd oil pipeline running from Berthold, North Dakota, to Steelman, Saskatchewan, for one day after about 20 barrels of oil were spilled from a pumping station at Berthold. 

* May 2011 - Enbridge estimates between 700 and 1,500 barrels of oil spilled from the 39,400 bpd Norman Wells pipeline south of Wrigley, Northwest Territories. 

* November 2010 - Throughput on the 670,000 bpd Line 6A, which feeds Midwest refineries and the key Cushing, Oklahoma, crude oil hub, reduced after a problem with a power disruption from a local utility in Lockport, Illinois. 

* September 2010 - Enbridge closed its 70,000 bpd Line 10, which runs from Westover, Ontario, to New York state, while the company investigated a small leak. It was quickly restarted when it was determined to be leak-free. 

* September 2010 - Enbridge closed Line 6A for eight days after it leaked 6,100 barrels of crude near Romeoville, Illinois. 

* July 2010 - Enbridge shut its 290,000-bpd Line 6B, which runs from Griffiths, Indiana, to Sarnia, Ontario, on July 26 after a rupture near Marshall, Michigan, spilled about 20,000 barrels into the Kalamazoo River system. 

* January 2010: An Enbridge pipeline leaked around 3,000 barrels of crude near Neche, North Dakota. Authorities ordered Enbridge to reduce pressures on the line, and in a letter to Enbridge, raised concerns over the strength of some of its pipeline seams. 

* November 2007: Two workers were killed after an Enbridge-operated pipeline caught fire in northern Minnesota. The same line had recently been repaired. Following the incident, which resulted in a pipeline closure, up to 20 percent of U.S. crude imports were temporarily halted. Enbridge was fined for having allowed pressure on the pipeline to exceed recommended limits. 

* January 2007: A spill on an Enbridge line transporting Canadian crude to Chicago leaked around 1,190 barrels in rural Wisconsin. About a month later, and further north, the pipeline spilled 2,976 barrels after a construction crew broke the line. 

* 2005: Enbridge spilled more than 9,825 barrels of oil in several incidents over the year, according to National Wildlife Federation data compiling spill volumes. Most oil was quickly contained by Enbridge. 

* June 2003: Enbridge spilled around 452 barrels in Wisconsin's Nemadji River, and additional crude spilled from an Enbridge terminal was contained. 

* July 2002: 6,000 barrels spilled from an Enbridge pipeline into marshlands near Cohasset, Minnesota. 

Sources: Department of Transportation, Enbridge, spill data compiled by the National Wildlife Federation, SEC filings.

How Stalled Is Waukesha's Water Diversion Application? Some Perspective

You can get an idea of how slowly the City of Waukesha's Lake Michigan water diversion application is moving (the DNR is conducting the first of many reviews, with an Environmental Impact Statement procedure, plus reviews in seven other states and two Canadian provinces yet to happen) by reading through this posting from May, 2009:

Basic questions still on the table were being asked for the record and at public meetings years ago:

...Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson confirmed that Waukesha will forward a diversion application by the end of this year, but will ask for permission to withdraw 25% less water, or up to 18.5 million gallons daily, than the 24 million gallons discussed earlier, Nelson said.
Eighteen-and-a-half million gallons is still twice Waukesha's daily usage, and even with growth and likely annexations adding future water utility customers, it is still not clear why Waukesha would seek such a substantial surplus of water.
Some other interesting nuggets from the meeting:
Nelson said even though Waukesha had nine years in which to fully meet federal clean water mandates,  the city would be moving forward with its diversion application now because of the complex, multi-state review, and because there could be delays if groups opposing a diversion filed a lawsuit, or if one of the Great Lakes states turned down the application and Waukesha needed to litigate.
Nelson also said Waukesha would soon release lengthy responses to a set of questions posed to the city months ago by local and statewide conservation and environmental groups.
A link to the questions, submitted nearly five months ago, is here.
Among those concerns are:
How will Waukesha manage to send back treated water to Lake Michigan through a yet-to-be named tributary - - perhaps Underwood Creek, or the Root River - - without causing flooding or environmental damage to the tributary;
Will Waukesha will agree to close off its existing wells, or keep them in reserve;
Does Waukesha intend to discharge some treated diverted water into the Fox River through its existing sewage treatment plant knowing that the water will flow towards the Mississippi River, not the Great Lakes, as required by the Great Lakes Compact?
In fact, some of these questions go back to 2006 and pre-date the adoption of the Great Lakes Compact now governing Waukesha's current diversion application:
Environmentalists and others concerned about suburban sprawl question the need for a diversion of Lake Michigan surface water to Waukesha.

They argue that Waukesha needs to better manage the water resources it has and that receiving fresh supplies of Lake Michigan water would encourage even faster growth and more diversions elsewhere.

Questions about how underground water moves to, from and near Lake Michigan, and how surface and underground waters in the region interact are at the center of widespread legal, political and academic debate in Wisconsin, and across the Great Lakes.

Continuing scientific work by federal and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee researchers, and by staff and consultants for the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, should produce more facts and interpretations about the science of water in the next 12-18 months.

Those findings could help the legislature write Annex-implementing legislation in 2007, and several Wisconsin environmental and wildlife organizations want the new law to strengthen provisions concerning diversions, conservation planning and public participation in water policy-making.

SS Badger Still Hoping For Coal-Burning Extension

Operators of the SS Badger, the Great Lakes last coal-fired ferry that the US EPA is trying to wean off its dirty, ash-producing fuel, has been told its application for an extension is incomplete.

I've been following the issue - - and the Badger's daily dump of coal ash into Lake Michigan during the sailing season - - for years.

Here is the entire history from the EPA and a recent entry:

On July 18, 2012, EPA notified Lake Michigan Carferry that the permit application submitted on May 23, 2012 was incomplete, consistent with 40 C.F.R. § 124.3.  EPA identified that the application did not contain the five coal ash samples and two ambient lake water samples required by EPA in its letter dated February 24, 2012. 
EPA acknowledged that the company had submitted additional effluent samples that may address the deficiency identified in EPA’s letter, but that the effluent data could not be fully reviewed prior to the end of sixty day period set out in the regulations.  EPA will complete the effluent data review and then notify the company of its determination on the completeness of the application.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Yet Another Enbridge Pipeline Break In Wisconsin

Remember when the Journal Sentinel urged regulators to allow the pipeline firm Enbridge to expand operations in Wisconsin - - but didn't highlight the company's already-tacky record in the state?

Well - - it's happened again.

Hard to keep track of these.

And I love the line in the news story describing a spill of 67,200 gallons as "minor."

You know - - like "minor" surgery. "Minor" when it happens to someone else!

Enbridge pipeline in Wisconsin ruptures

About 1,200 barrels of crude spilled into field

Updated: Friday, 27 Jul 2012, 9:45 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 27 Jul 2012, 9:30 PM EDT
GRAND MARSH, Wisc. (WOOD) - An Enbridge pipeline in Wisconsin pipeline, causing another minor spill.

Enbridge said that a drop in pressure in Line 14 near Grand Marsh, Wis. was detected around 2:45 p.m. CMT Friday.

The line was immediately shut down and isolated. Emergency crews were then sent to the site.

About 1,200 barrels were released into a field off County Road G, initial estimates indicate. That works out to about 67,200 gallons.

Sierra Club, Alliant Helping Clean Wisconsin's Dirty Air

It's been a rough year for clean air in Wisconsin, so hats off to Alliant Energy and The Sierra Club for working towards a settlement with the EPA that will help scrub more coal pollution from the air we all breathe.

Alliant Energy Corp. of Madison will shut down a coal-fired power plant in southwestern Wisconsin while adding pollution controls to a plant in Sheboygan to keep it running, the company announced Friday.

The company announced a $1.4 billion strategy for the power plants owned by its Madison utility, Wisconsin Power & Light Co., that will see the utility rely more on natural gas to generate electricity than it does today...
The Sierra Club was instrumental in getting the stinky Charter St. coal-fired plant shut down in Madison as well.


Cullen Tiff Over Committee Chairmanships Worked Out

Glad to see that State Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) and Majority Leader Mark Miller, (D-Madison), found a way to get Cullen leadership recognition and a path back to the caucus.

Cullen looked peevish for a few days and got significant assignments, including the chairmanship of a new mining committee.  Keep your eyes on that.

Prosser Recusal Strategy Moving Forward

State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser needs four justices on the seven-member Court to recuse themselves from hearing judicial ethics code complaints filed against him after his confrontation with Justice Ann Walsh Bradley last year, and today we learn he picked up Justice Annette Ziegler's proxy.

With Justice Patience Roggensack already on board, Prosser's four-member righty bloc will fall into line and the case will evaporate.

Since only the Justices can hear such complaints, the recusals end the process.  


You could say the Right has a chokehold on justice in the state, especially on and for the Court, too.

Special Interests Politicize Mining Bill

This is as blatant as it gets:

The state's largest business group is urging the Wisconsin Mining Association not to discuss mining legislation with Democrats and environmentalists until after the November election, when Republicans stand a good chance of regaining control of the state Senate and shaping a bill more to their liking.

The letter came under fire on Thursday from some of the parties involved, including Sen. Robert Jauch (D-Poplar), who said that Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce was trying to shut the public out of the process.

The letter sheds a public light on the political strategy of WMC, a powerful business group that has been trying to streamline the state's mining laws after a company with plans for a $1.5 billion iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin demanded major changes.
And about as hypocritical, too. Remember DNR Secretary Stepp's partisan complaining when the first bill went down to defeat?
Cathy Stepp is stirring the pot all over again on the mining issue, and bringing a divisive image to an agency, state government and issues that hardly needs it.
...what we saw happen was just kind of the Senate Democrats and (GOP) Sen. (Dale) Schultz throw it up in the air as if it was confetti at a labor rally...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Waukesha Water Deal Without Milwaukee Solves Problems, Creates New Ones

There was a faction on the Waukesha Common Council and in the city at-large that did not Waukesha entangled, as they saw it, in a contractual relationship with Milwaukee for water and the regional policy cooperation Milwaukee expected.

So a water deal with Racine or Oak Creek instead would ease that political strain in and for Waukesha, though it sets up a fresh obstacle for Waukesha in addition to the higher cost of bringing water from the farther-away municipalities:

There is the return flow issue, as the Great Lakes Compact requires diverted water to be returned as close to the point of withdrawal as possible. The return flow proposed in the diversion application - - the Menomonee River via Underwood Creek - - was designed with a Milwaukee withdrawal in mind.

I believe also that the Environmental Impact Statement being prepared by the DNR is evaluating that return flow as proposed with Milwaukee, too.

How fast could the science could be catalogued and studied should the Root River be used as a return flow route for a Racine sale to meet the EIS requirements and pass the eight-state muster for diversion approval, too?

Everyone Once In A While Greenland Melts...

So scientists will study one such event earlier this month in the context of climate change.

Walker To Speak At Harvard Government Conference On Education, But...

But would the Harvard Medical School have invited Col. Sanders to speak about nutrition?

I'm sure Walker will brag that he cut more money per-pupil from state public school budgets than any other state - - separate from almost $450 million excised from higher ed budgets - - but in case he forgets, here's the chart.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Romney Kicks Off Anglo-Saxon Appreciation Tour

That leaves me out and I'm okey-dokey with it.

But does he have a clue about American residential and voter demographics?

And who is advising him, and why does he want these ignoramuses around and speaking for him?

Walker Outspent Barrett 6:1 In Recall

But you have to get to graf eight for that factoid.

PolitiFact Finds All Four WI GOP Senate Hopefuls Speaking Falsely About Health Insurance

Wisconsin's conservative GOP Senate candidates share much in common when it comes to health care and President Obama.

Falsehoods, says PolitiFact - - with the field going four-for-four. What a coincidence!

The bottom line? A party with character issues.

Tommy Thompson:


Federal health care reforms amounted to ‘the government takeover of health care.’

Tommy Thompson on Thursday, June 7th, 2012 in a television ad:

Tommy Thompson says federal health care reforms are a ‘government takeover of health care’

Pants on Fire!

Jeff Fitzgerald: 

Says "Obamacare" is "the largest middle-class tax increase in history."

Jeff Fitzgerald on Thursday, June 28th, 2012 in a tweet

"Obamacare" is largest-ever tax on middle class, GOP U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Fitzgerald says

Pants on Fire!
Mark Neumann: 

"Obamacare" is the "biggest tax increase in American history."

Mark Neumann on Tuesday, July 10th, 2012 in an interview

Biggest tax hike in U.S. history? "Obamacare," says GOP U.S. Senate candidate Mark Neumann


Eric Hovde:


Says Obama health reform law denies millions "access to affordable insurance."

Eric Hovde on Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 in a blog post

Newcomer and Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde says "Obamacare" denies millions "access to affordable insurance"


Comments Accidentally Deleted This A.M.

About Cullen, Waukesha water, light rail. Please resend.

Tim Cullen's Self-Centered Folly

The Janesville Senate Democrat (D -?) says his failure to land a big enough committee chairmanship from Senate Democrats is the reason he will bolt the caucus, become an independent and thus undo a year of grassroots struggle and fund-raising to take back the Senate.

Here's a part of his explanation, and in it there is a lot of "I":

"It's an insult to my district," Cullen of Janesville said. "I'm going to leave the Senate Democratic caucus. I will be bound by nothing they decide."
He may gain power as a swing vote courted by both parties, but will lose more in respect from Democrats and others who will see this for the ego trip it is.

Where's the loyalty to policies and ideas?

Remember that Cullen had thought about running for Governor in the recall election, but didn't have the money or support to boost a candidacy.

And he toured with Republican State Sen. Dale Schultz in the name of bi-partisanship.

This move by Cullen is less a clarion call for bi-partisanship, or leadership, than a loud, "look-at-me" Bronx cheer.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Milwaukee Council Rejects Waukesha Water 'Compromise' - - As Predicted

As predicted here, the Milwaukee Common Council rejected a plan by Ald. Jim Bohl to get water talks going with Waukesha.

And by the way, I'm sure Waukesha's note to Mayor Barrett didn't win any support on the Milwaukee Council, either.

Voter ID Is All About Race, And...

First of all, hat tip to James Causey for highlighting the results of a study that links strength of support for Voter ID (read: Voter Suppression) to negative attitudes towards African-Americans.

And to Barbara Miner for an earlier post, too.

Secondly - - I think you can say the same thing about the fringes of the Tea Party/birther movement and its freak-out since President Obama's election: it's all about an unwillingness to accept an African-American president, and African-Americans' full equality in this country.

Thirdly - - to its everlasting discredit, the mainstream [Sic] GOP has embraced Voter ID and the farthest right-wing's race-inspired paranoia to boost Republican electoral majorities, in Wisconsin and nationally.

The party of Lincoln!

Waukesha Water Issue Has Broader Audience Than Us Locals

Media in southeastern Wisconsin are replete with coverage of the Waukesha water diversion issue. Laurel Walker of the Journal Sentinel weighs in, for example, here.

And certainly the issue is local, and what we think of as regional:

Can Waukesha find a willing partner to sell it water diverted from Lake Michigan - - Milwaukee, Oak Creek or Racine - - so there is delivery if Waukesha's formal diversion application is approved?

Will the DNR browbeat the Town of Waukesha in to the City's diversion application?

How expensive will the plan become if Milwaukee is not the supplier, and can a negotiation between Milwaukee and Waukesha get started despite conditions Waukesha and the DNR have rejected, at least for now?

But remember that there are other audiences and decision-makers farther away, and they are extremely important in the final analysis - - in fact, can make or break the application.

For Waukesha to receive the diversion, all eight Great Lakes governors must give their approval, and Canadian provincial leaders along with First Nation officials there are permitted input, though not a vote, as the Great Lakes are a shared resource held in trust, with no owner.

This much larger regional review - - beyond the border at 124th St. or the authority of the DNR - - is where critical issues like Waukesha's plan to return the water as treated, wastewater, or Waukesha's interest in sending water beyond its current borders to four smaller municipalities gets sticky.

And where the DNR's support for the wider distribution - - hung on the very thin reed of mapping decisions by SEWRPC, an advisory regional planning body run by unelected officials - - could easily raise eyebrows, and worse, in the other states.

The Waukesha application is the precedent-setter under a 2008 statutory Compact, and all the reviewers in the others states, and in Canada, are likely to follow every word and comma in the submission.

And in the DNR's processes and findings, too, because when the application goes out for the wider review, it goes with the DNR seal of approval, too.

A few years ago, the DNR sent out a smaller diversion request on behalf of New Berlin to the other Great Lakes states and Canadian regulators for an informal, courtesy review - - a different set of standards applied - - and some tough comments delayed final approval.

You can read some of that, here, below, and factor that history into what lies ahead as Waukesha and the DNR make decisions that will be vetted by regulatory reviewers from Minnesota to New York to Canada with the power to say "yes" or "no."

New York: On Aug. 15, New York officials said the application was without key studies, complete data, adequate water supply descriptions, enough system and geological maps and “descriptions of the situation and feasible options.” New York opined that there was “no evidence that the applicant is aware of or familiar with the full range of applicable state and national regulations, laws, agreements or treaties” and cited other deficiencies or possible inaccuracies. Additionally, New York observed that “the statement of no cumulative impacts is unsupported by any data in the document and does not address potential cumulative impacts to Lake Michigan water levels, shoreline, other users, water-dependent natural resources, etc.”

Illinois: On July 14, Illinois officials suggested the application could be strengthened with data of “forecasts of future water use, both inside and outside the Great Lakes basin.” Illinois also suggested that New Berlin extend its sprinkling ban, evaluate the effectiveness of its conservation planning, and expand its search for well-water alternatives to its proposed Lake Michigan diversion that could eliminate the need for a diversion.

Michigan: On Sept. 25, the state of Michigan said it would not begin a formal review until a full-scale diversion application was received. On Oct. 31, its attorney general said that without a formal application meeting federal standards provided by the U.S. Water Resources Development Act, New Berlin could not proceed.
And all must say "yes" for Waukesha to move forward.

Walker Budget Cuts Cause Hike In GOP Enclave Taxes

Upscale, deeply red-River Hills turned out in droves for Scott Walker, so no complaining, please, about the increase in local school taxes there.

As a result of an estimated 14.4 percent reduction in state aid, the Glendale-River Hills School Board will likely increase its levy by 2.1 percent in the upcoming 2012-2013 school year.
Too bad the good progressives in the middle-class and working-class sections of the district got dragged along for the ride.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ald. Bohl's Bold Two-Step Water Sale Plan

He suggests one negotiation for Milwaukee water with and for Waukesha, one separately including the smaller ccommunities Waukesha wants to serve.

Interesting proposal to get negotiations started, but I don't see Waukesha agreeing. It wants the whole enchilada now, and has the DNR in its corner.

And wants to be a new regional water wholesaler, so I don't see it accepting a piecemeal ptlan while Oak Creek and Racine purportedly are willing to sell Waukesha all the water it wants.

And while lawyers would decide if the Bohl plan would require a second diversion application, give the Milwaukee alderman credit for his initiative.