Monday, March 31, 2014

Wisconsin Progressives Could Score Big Wins Tuesday...

If they'd boost the turnout above the statewide 12% that officials are predicting.

The Journal Sentinel Touts The Drinking Culture

The Journal Sentinel has devoted reams of copy to Wisconsin's many-faceted, multi-billion-dollar struggle with alcohol abuse, so editors should take a closer look at what the paper is leading with as Open Day returns Major League Baseball to Milwaukee. 

Does celebrating cold beer for breakfast make the paper part of the problem or part of the solution?

Springtime in Milwaukee: Beer, brats and Brewers opening day

There's cold beer and hot brats for breakfast and a baseball game after lunch as Monday's opening day tailgate is well underway in the parking lots surrounding Miller Park. | Updated: 11:00 a.m.

Update: I don't know when the headline changed, but "Fans hit the parking lots early at Miller Park before the Brewers’ home opener" sends a better message.

I've been to many an opening day game, and I take second-place to no one's lige-long love of the game, but for too many fans, the drinking at the stadium often takes precedence over baseball on the field - - to true fans' aggravation.

Here's a true story:

A few years ago, I went to opening day with a friend from out of town. He worked for a high-profile professional sports franchise - - I will not be any more precise for obvious reasons - - and for business reasons wanted to observe baseball in Milwaukee.

As we were walking to the stadium from the parking lot off Canal St., my friend stopped, in shock at the drinking.

Not the tailgating. He'd seen that before.

The drinking.

Like he had not seen.

He took out his cellphone and began recording images.

The scene he found the most unbelievable was a drinking game taking place at the back of a rental truck.

In the truck was a half-barrel of beer, a card table with glass pitchers filled with beer, and a long piece of plastic tubing topped with a funnel.

A guy standing at the back of the truck on the lift was pouring pitchers through the funnel and tubing; the 'game' was to see if young women could open-throat-swallow a pitcher of beer gravity-fed through the funnel

With a crowd of about 15 people watching - - mostly young men - - we saw one young woman actually swallow an entire pitcher of beer as onlookers chanted "drink, drink, drink."
My friend was surprised that stadium management tolerated the behavior - - an indication of what is more widely-permitted, even encouraged, in a state always ranking at or near the top on various rankings of binge drinking, drunk driving, and other alcohol-related negatives.
Years ago the team had a campaign against the two-fisted slopper - - the fan who sloshed you with beer as he brought multiple beverages back to his seat.
I do think the team is doing a better job of alcohol-control inside the stadium, thought I think it's still a mixed bag outside given the weird scene I saw after a game two summers ago when a very drunk young man ran full-speed into the side of a taxi parked in the queue working its way toards the stadium gates.
But my posting today is directed at the newspaper.
Be truer to your larger mission - - "reshaping the culture" - - as the editorial board defined the state's challenge after a year's worth of investigative reports called "Wasted in Wisconsin" - - by starting at home.

Noting Park East Development, And A County Golden Oldie

Tom Daykin catalogues the development going on in the Park East corridor.

One of the obstacles to getting projects started there had been Milwaukee County government's inexperience or unwillingness during the Ament and Walker years to do development and real estate marketing.

Walker's disinterest in Park East redevelopment ran deeply.

He felt the need to monkey-wrench anything that then-Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist had set in motion, like the Park East tear-down, the downtown trolley or anything smacking of progressive New Urbanism, despite Walker's talk about jobs and business growth.

For Walker, running County government was a step to the Governor's office, so the inside political game that led to the operation of a secret communications system in his office suite to coordinate with campaign operatives too precedence over nuts-and-bolts public policy and service delivery.

He had no County agenda. He had a Walker & Co. agenda.

And look whom Walker had appointed to 'manage' County economic development in general and the Park East acreage specifically: Long-time Walker crony and now-convicted felon Tim Russell:
Russell's highest-paying county stint was as associate economic development director, starting in April 2003. 
He was paid about $83,000 a year in that post. Walker also nominated Russell to lead the county's economic development office in late 2004, but county supervisors voted down the Russell appointment the following April on a 12-7 vote amid complaints that Russell was unqualified and a Walker campaign functionary.
Walker took the unusual step at the time of sending a letter beseeching County Board Chairman Lee Holloway to back Russell's appointment, saying he was needed to provide continuity on the county's efforts to market vacant Park East Freeway corridor land. 
Supervisor John Weishan Jr., a frequent Walker critic, said Thursday he and others were irritated at Walker repeatedly placing Russell in county posts despite concerns Russell did campaign work on county time.

Oh, Canada. Oh, Wisconsin

The New York Times has outdone itself over the last two days, running a strong op-ed about Canada's demolition of its environment to extract and sell tar sand crude oil, and a separate opinion piece about the proposed GTac open-pit iron ore mine that would wreck the Bad River watershed in Northern Wisconsin.

And it's hard to miss a crucial similarity: in both Canada and Wisconsin - - despite long stewardship histories - - governments have rewritten and weakened laws to enable resource extraction regardless of the consequences to land, water and environmental legacies. 

About the Wisconsin situation, author Dan Kaufman writes:

To facilitate the construction of the mine and the company’s promise of 700 long-term jobs, Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation last year granting GTac astonishing latitude. The new law allows the company to fill in pristine streams and ponds with mine waste. It eliminates a public hearing that had been mandated before the issuing of a permit, which required the company to testify, under oath, that the project had complied with all environmental standards. It allows GTac to pay taxes solely on profit, not on the amount of ore removed, raising the possibility that the communities affected by the mine’s impact on the area’s roads and schools would receive only token compensation.
About the Canadian situation, author Jacques Leslie writes:
After winning an outright parliamentary majority in 2011, Mr. Harper’s Conservative Party passed an omnibus bill that revoked or weakened 70 environmental laws, including protections for rivers and fisheries. As a result, one proposed pipeline, the Northern Gateway, which crosses a thousand rivers and streams between Alberta and the Pacific, no longer risked violating the law. The changes also eliminated federal environmental review requirements for thousands of proposed development projects.
It all comes full circle, as the Koch brothers are major lease holders in the Canadian tar sand territory and they back Scott Walker.

Walker tells Pres. Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and Canadian crude leaks into Lake Michigan.

It's clear that special interests and major corporations are running the show in Wisconsin and Canada, at the expense of land, water and law.

Another Bad Ranking For Walker's Wisconsin

Wisconsin is going in the wrong direction under Walker, as we're 35th in personal income growth since the Great Recession and 35th in job-creation over the most recent 12-month period tabulated by the feds, data show.

And over the last month we're #2 in another ranking - - 2nd-worst job loss in the nation.

Tax cuts for business, mini-tax reductions for wage-earners and a raft of news releases by Walker's troubled Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation cannot make up for the damage he did to the middle-class and the overall Wisconsin economy by ideologically-motivated austerity.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Another UN Warning On Climate Change

Expect this important story to be discounted by talk radio entertainers-turned-scientists Monday:

The world’s leading environmental scientists told policymakers and business leaders Sunday that they must invest more to cope with climate change’s immediate effects and hedge against its most dire potential, even as they work to slow the emissions fueling global warming. 
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that climate change is already hurting the poor, wreaking havoc on the infrastructure of coastal cities, lowering crop yields, endangering various plant and animal species, and forcing many marine organisms to flee hundreds of miles to cooler waters. 
But the Nobel Peace Prize-winning group said that climate change’s effects will grow more severe and that spending and planning are needed to guard against future costs, much as people insure themselves against possible accidents or health problems. 
The report said that damage from climate change and the costs of adapting to it could cause the loss of several percentage points of gross domestic product in low-lying developing countries and island states. It added that climate change could “indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts in the form of civil war and inter-group violence” by “amplifying” poverty and economic shocks.

In Light Of Breakthrough NY Times Mine Expose...

Let's remember that in addition to the company-written, environment-degrading iron mining bill given major exposure in Sunday's New York Times, there have been several bills prompted by Walker and approved by his corporate servants in the Legislature that attack the public's ownership of and access to wetlands, rivers, streams, lakes, and shorelines statewide.

And, again, a big salute to the Times. May every official at the EPA, the Department of the Interior, the Justice Department, the Congress and White House read and absorb every word.

Walker's Tweet After Badgers Win Suggests He Was Elsewhere

Was he in Las Vegas begging for Sheldon Adelson's millions? In the air flying back, as he puts it, "last nigth"?

If this is the best he can hurriedly Tweet it suggests Walker missed the show. 

My son said the UW campus was electric last nigth after Badgers win!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

BP's Lake Michigan Spill Exceeds 1,500 Gallons

Bigger story in the LA Times than in some Wisconsin media.

We Await Tip-Off, And Walker's From-Vegas Tweet

He'll Tweet his 140 characters of post-game love, but today AdelsonFest outranks the Elite 8.

NY Times Piece Tells The World About Walker, Iron Mine Calamity

There has not been a better story written in mainstream media about the mine.

A must-read/must-resend-post-Tweet-and otherwise re-distribute outburst of journalism.

Newspaper Gives Hand To Investigators, Embattled Walker Administration

Scott Walker's crew - - given its unwavering respect for records' procedures during the secret emailing days that helped it win the Governorship in 2010  - - has rightly begun an investigation into who may have leaked confidential patient information that ended up in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about patient abuse on Walker's watch at the County Mental Health Complex.

We haven't seen this much love for political plumbers since the days of Richard Nixon - - Walker's role model, according to former Nixon legal counsel and fellow Watergater John Dean - - but hat tip to the aforementioned Journal Sentinel for helping investigators by noting that a Kelly Rindfleisch and other Walker aides were batting around the name of one Mental Health Complex resident/victim while Walker was in charge everything at Milwaukee County government - - hiring, staff coordination, record security, patient health, patient survival, etc.

That would be the same Kelly Rindfleisch who took a pity pot break to downplay to The Wall Street Journal her role during the Walkerites' good old days when his political and taxpayer-paid staffers worked together on secret emailing and on-the-job-GOP fund-raising and campaigning a few feet down the down the hall from then-County Exec SKW.

Looks like the newspaper, while protecting its First Amendment right to publish, and obligation to hold politicians and officials accountable, might just be tossing the Walker health investigation a road map to help it better define its search for the truth.

Outstanding public service journalism.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Undeniable Consequences Of Climate Change

Right-wing talk radio and Fox 'News' TV continues to mislead its audiences about climate change - - extreme drought, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes and polar melting not withstanding - - but The New York Times shows the devastation already inflicted by changing climate in Bangladesh:

 “There are a lot of places in the world at risk from rising sea levels, but Bangladesh is at the top of everybody’s list,” said Rafael Reuveny, a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University at Bloomington. “And the world is not ready to cope with the problems.”

Elmbrook Church Might Need Gun Check At Ladies' Room

The Wisconsin Legislature, Scott Walker and the NRA were all behind allowing concealed gun carrying into churches, but for crying out loud, at least make sure the safety is on if you're going to leave a semi-automatic handgun with a full magazine in the bathroom:

A semiautomatic handgun loaded with a full magazine, with the safety in the fire position, was found in a bathroom at Elmbrook Church about noon March 19...
A volunteer teacher at the church later called looking for her weapon, which she said she had set down in the bathroom and accidentally left behind. She told police she is normally very careful and was told she could recover the gun the next day.

Walker Distrustfulness Shown By Broken Deadlines, Fresh Fees In Casino Play

To Scott Walker's disregarded promise of 250,000 new private sector jobs you can add the added-and-never justified delays in his Kenosha casino decision and the tripling to $1.5 million in legal fees for his hand-picked attorneys who are helping him make the decision.

Details, here.

Fix The Potholes? Wisconsin Pols Buying More Lanes Instead

Media are telling us it's spring road construction season.
The language is interesting. The closings and detours and delays are so routine, so 'normal' they're considered seasonal - - like tulips and fish - - when, in fact, the spring road construction season is predictable because both political parties have campaigns to fund and there is no more reliable source of donations than road-builders.
But what's truly seasonal when it comes to roads and the calendar?

A particularly tough winter has battered the pavement, motorists' nerves and wallets.Potholes, everywhere, with some worthy of building permits and environmental impact statements, but has the state, awash in surplus dollars, directed added funding to local street repair budgets that have been getting routine, budget-season reductions?

Even in a $43 million supplement of highway spending?
The Government/Road-builder Complex run out of the State Capitol, and in satellite offices in nearby trade associations and lobbying shops, has chosen instead to pour extra millions of our tax dollars into more new lanes - - big-dollar projects that will, after a freeze-thaw cycle or two acquire their own axle-breaking-tire-popping cracks, splits and degradation.
Why not fix what we have first?
Because there are bigger profits to pocket and ribbons to cut and news releases to Tweet when adding new lanes than fixing the cracks and holes with lower-profit asphalt.
The Journal Sentinel notes the 'seasonal' big-ticket spending for just our region:
The state Department of Transportation has 34 projects underway or to begin soon in Milwaukee County, including multiple projects affiliated with Zoo Interchange construction. An additional 28 projects are underway in six surrounding counties...
In southeastern Wisconsin, 96 projects are started a year at a cost of $410 million on 
average. In 2014, the number of projects started will be 65, but some of these will be larger than usual, making the price tag $443 million.
There is nothing on the horizon to think this politicized and costly pattern can be broken. The multi-billion-dollar so-called 'freeway' expansion in Southeastern Wisconsin has years to go because it has not yet been fully extended into Walworth, Ozaukee, Washington and Western Waukesha Counties.
The Battle at Story Hill over widening and perhaps elevating I-94 in the City of Milwaukee near Miller Park against the neighbors' wishes is yet to be fought, and by the time the region's seven-county 'improvements' that originated with an unelected regional planning commission are completed, the Marquette Interchange will need another expansion.
And, of course, the politicians and road-builders will continue starving transit systems, and blocking passenger rail, so travel will be forced on to roads that congest and deteriorate and congest again.
Former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist used to joke that balanced transportation in Wisconsin meant "half asphalt, half concrete," but anyone can take a look across Southeastern Wisconsin's pothole-pocked streets and see that concrete is winning.
Cross-posted at Purple Wisconsin.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Don't Be Fooled By Walker's Voting Hours Partial Veto

All it does is add back a few of the hours cut by the Legislature, and does not restore the important weekend hours that were of such value to people with weekday jobs, child-care obligations and transportation difficulties.

Voter suppression is still voter suppression.

UW-M Hosting April Bad River Band, Mining Discussions

Early notice. Mark your calendars:

American Indian Sovereignty and Natural Resources in the Western Great Lakes 
Monday, April 7 and Tuesday April 8, 2014, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 
Union Theater (Monday) • Curtin Hall (Monday evening), and Wisconsin Room (Tuesday)
  • What does Tribal Sovereignty mean?
  • Why do Tribes have a say in resource development?
  • What are the historic roots of the federal-tribal relationship?
Speakers • Singers • Film • ReceptionDay & Evening Events • Free & Open to the Public 
A two-day conference at UW-Milwaukee will explore the role of tribal sovereignty in resource management and development including speakers from the Bad River tribe explaining their experiences with the planned Penokee Mine. 
More info at AIS.UWM.EDU or on Facebook

No Surprise: WI State Senate Shelves Modest OWI Law Tweaks

Reliably under the thumb of special interests, the GOP-controlled State Senate will adjourn without passing minor changes in the state's notoriously weak drunk driving statutes.

Wisconsin is still the only state that treats most first-offense OWI traffic stops with mere municipal tickets, so the message to state residents and tourists alike is that from trails to highways the rolling pub crawl continues, and Wisconsin Is Still Open for Drunk Driving.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

No Country For Fixing Old Potholes, Wisconsin

The Government/Road-builder Complex poured extra millions of your tax dollars into more new lanes - - projects that will, after a freeze-thaw cycle or two acquire their own axle-breaking-tire-popping cracks, splits and degradation - - because there are bigger profits to pocket and ribbons to cut in adding new lanes than in fixing the streets we already have:
The state Department of Transportation has 34 projects underway or to begin soon in Milwaukee County, including multiple projects affiliated with Zoo Interchange construction. An additional 28 projects are underway in six surrounding counties... 
In southeastern Wisconsin, 96 projects are started a year at a cost of $410 million on average. In 2014, the number of projects started will be 65, but some of these will be larger than usual, making the price tag $443 million.

Alcohol, WI Snowmobilers, And The More Things Change...

When I see a story like this about Wisconsin's ubiquitous, harmful embrace of alcohol...

Alcohol is main factor in Wisconsin's rise in snowmobile fatalities
I remember writing a series for The Milwaukee Journal more than 27 years ago that among the consequences of Wisconsin's drinking culture was all of Wisconsin's snowmobile fatalities in a recent year had been alcohol-related. (See the chart by right clicking to on page 10 after the jump).

The series was keyed to the drowning death of two teenagers in a downtown river.

Sound familiar

Walker Tweets To Evangelical Voters

He uses his official Twitter account to widely distribute a Bible verse.

My take: this  is a signal Evangelical to voters that he's their guy. Add that to his book,' national fund-raising effort and now foreign policy punditry - - anything to distract from his failed job-creation performance - -  and there's no doubt that he's running hard right for the 2016 GOP nomination.

And if First Amendment advocates question his use of the Twitter account to broadcast a religious message, all the better for Walker to get a boost from Fox and the Palin crowd while playing a conservative victim card that Ted Cruz will wish he'd dealt first.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Again, Walker's Wisconsin Is #35

First it was our stalled job growth. We're 35th.

Now, income growth since the recession, and what do you know? We're 35th!

Scott Walker, Foreign To Foreign Policy

Reading that Scott Walker is weighing in on and being taken seriously about foreign policy is a continuation of his Magical, Mystery Tour into early primary states, editorial board offices and Sunday network TV talking head studios.

Yes, we are to believe that Scott Walker - - Marquette University dropout, Legislative back-bencher, failed County Executive and far-right wing Gubernatorial tool with a penchant for documented false speaking - - is  somehow Presidential in stature, training and depth.

Worthy of access to and control over various red phones, Summit negotiations, situation rooms, nuke-proof bunkers and launch codes.

If you think Scott Walker projects Commander-in-Chief, you also think Beetle Bailey is an action figure, or Will Ferrell is a TV news anchor.

This is preposterous political theater, with the depth of fingernails down a blackboard.

BP Spills Tar Sand Crude Oil Into Lake Michigan

The leak came from the big BP oil refining complex in Whiting, Indiana, near Chicago, and is the plant where, a few years ago, a plan to release more ammonia into Lake Michigan was stopped by protests.

But where regulators did allow more mercury to be discharged.

Take this as another warning about the added risk of building an oil shipping dock operation in Northern Wisconsin, at Superior on the Big Lake.

Like I said the other day, oil spills and other forms of environmental contamination are necessarily 'somewhere else' stories.

Scott Walker Rewrites Old Slogan

Since Walker's off to Las Vegas for a Presidential campaign audition before a casino magnate who gave him $250,000 to survive the recall, and, with his wife donated $92 million to Republicans in 2012, Walker is proving that 'Money Talks and Bulls**t Hawks.'

Georgia Law Enacting NRA's Wish List


Giving felons the right to claim "Stand Your Ground," and allowing guns in bars and airports is just the beginning.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Check Out MATC's Annual Sustainability Summit

Always a great event, with broad sponsorship and participation. Program information, here.
Conserving the Future Together

Scott Walker: Too Failed To Be Big

The message about Scott Walker that needs to be hammered home is that he cannot come close to meeting his signature 250,000 new private sector jobs promise.

After three years in office, there should be something on the order of 187,000 such jobs on the rolls, but the data show on Walker's watch only 103,000, along with fewer jobs added last year than first officially estimated and none created in January, according to early estimates, the Journal Sentinel reported last week.

The notion that he should get another term and use it as a springboard to Presidential consideration is preposterous. He's too failed to be big.

Walker Campaign Continues Inane Union-Bashing

A fund-raising appeal keyed to Scott Walker's allegedly "amazing" budgetary skills dropped into my Internet inbox today - - those folks do know how to use email, don't they - -  but the message ignores the state's 35th-and stalled job-creating ranking, or his failing 250,000 new jobs promise.

And the actual pitch for money is keyed to fighting "the big government union bosses."

Every time the right talks about unions, it's always about bosses. Big bosses. I always imagine someone on the order of Shaquille O'Neil or Andrew Bogut, barking orders.

What right-wing, Pavlovian palaver

What's big these days in politics, thanks to the Supreme Court, is money, and Walker is aligned with the Koch brothers and other right-wing financiers who are truly "big."


Sunday, March 23, 2014

March Madness On And Off The Court

While we celebrate UW-Madison's comeback win against Oregon Saturday night and give props to UW-M for its earlier valiant but losing effort against higher-seeded Villanova, it's been hard to miss other madness afoot in our state this week:

Like seeing Marquette's basketball coach Buzz Williams bolt without warning from a city that embraced him for a long-term, big dollar deal in Virginia.

Then learning that a real book publishing company reportedly paid Scott Walker at least $340,000 to 'write' a book that has sold something like 16,000 copies despite a book tour and gobs of free media from adoring conservatives and fawning talk show hosts.

And watching a seamy GOP-led, lobbyist-compliant Legislature debate late last week exactly how many pennies it could squeeze from cancer patients who only wanted to access a new class of easier-to-take oral chemotherapy drugs.

The final version of the bill isn't done yet because lobbyists haven't handed key legislators their last-minute language.

Scott Walker added to the shameful scene by allowing, after seeing which way the winds were blowing that, yes, he'd sign the measure after having said a bit earlier he didn't know enough about all this chemotherapy business to have a position on it.

Maybe he'd been too busy word-smithing his book to jump start paperback sales.

Or maybe he was adding fresh spin to his stump speech since last week's job growth data showed Wisconsin mired in 35th place among the states, guaranteeing that a jobs comeback for Walker as the 2014 election approaches is as doomed as was Oregon's failed fourth-quarter at the Bradley Center.

Too bad Walker didn't take the Buzz Williams approach - - just grab the money and head out of town.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Walworth School Dispute With WisDOT Was Blog's #1 Item Last Week

Interesting, and just fyi, that despite all the Scott Walker/state legislative/Paul Ryan news last week, a posting about one village's dispute with WisDOT registered the most hits last week. My take? Local stories that tell a bigger story resonate far and wide. Here are last week's five most-read items:

Pipeline Break Releases North Dakota Oil, Corporate Spin

The latest crude oil pipeline break in energy-booming North Dakota produces a mess and some not-so-assuring spin from the company:

"...the flow of crude oil was substantially controlled…"

Watershed Pollution Isn't Just A Somewhere Else Story

You have no doubt seen and read about toxic coal ash spills into a West Virginia river.

Or followed the massive tar sand pipeline break in Michigan and its billion-dollar+ cleanup.

Yet there are other ongoing spills with toxic consequences that have not produced dramatic images, but which are having impacts and raise questions about what kinds of business practices and levels of regulation are tolerated on our collective watches.

Note in this most recent story about the ongoing cleanup beneath the Madison-Kipp metals plant in a residential neighborhood on Madison's east side - - and when I lived a few blocks away during a ten-year period I thought the only environmental issue there was the occasional acrid taint in the air - - that Kipp had been routinely flushing chemical-laden water into the ground.

Right under its plant off busy Atwood Ave., near homes and small businesses, churches and an elementary school, and a few blocks from Lake Monona.

In a city that takes its drinking water from wells, not its lakes.

And one of those wells is not too far from where the plant's toxic underground contaminated water "plume" needs to be drained and pulled back, retrieved and properly processed.

So, yes, there has been regulatory enforcement, and a cleanup plan is about to finally begin, but I am asking myself how and why Kipp could have carried out this polluting discharge, and how I, as a nearby resident, local investigative journalist and chief Mayoral assistant for all those years could have been unaware of the practice.

Makes me wonder also what else I miss(ed)?

Glenn Grothman Adds Voting Fairness To Denial Resume

West Bend Republican state senator, caulking expert and cultural critic Glenn Grothman has convinced the Wisconsin Legislature with a straight face that a big city like Milwaukee can manage its in-person absentee voting during the same number of hours as can a smaller community.

West Bend has about 30,000 people, while Milwaukee is 20 times larger, with roughly 600,000 residents - - and Milwaukee's 15 aldermanic districts on average have more residents than does all of West Bend - - but Grothman is now the Legislature's election fairness expert and his already-approved Senate bill flew through the Assembly on a party-line vote at the end of the session and is headed to Gov. Scott Walker's desk.

The bill mandates that in-person absentee voting in all Wisconsin municipalities will be trimmed uniformly from three weeks to two weeks before election days, and will be further limited to a maximum of 45 weekday-only hours - - parent-and-worker-friendly weekend hours are now banned - - during those two weeks.

All municipalities, regardless of size, will be allowed to offer early in-person absentee voting at a single location only - - so the time frames for in-person absentee voting have been compressed but the current limitation on voting sites is not expanded - - therefore where do you think the longer lines and greater inconvenience will be?

West Bend, or Milwaukee?

And why?

These restrictions and the barriers to voting inherent in the Wisconsin GOP's high-priority and partisan Voter ID law should be investigated by federal voting rights officials, I have argued.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Federal Voting Rights Oversight Needed To Protect Wisconsin Balloting

Scott Walker and his right-wing Wisconsin GOP legislative lieutenants - - for the second time since their ascendancy in 2011- - have passed legislation to cut the hours of in-person absentee voting.
The desired outcome - - abetted by the GOP-initiated Voter ID statute - - is to tilt elections and embed GOP power by obstructing ballot-box access in cities with large populations of minority, transit-dependent, Democratic-leaning voters.
This coordinated, one-party manipulation of state power for partisan and constituencies' advantage should be slapped down hard and overturned without equivocation by state courts to ensure unobstructed voting in Wisconsin.
But that guarantee of basic citizen voting rights in Wisconsin will now require the intervention of federal officials.
That is because right-wing advocacy groups aligned with Walker and key GOP legislators have helped elect some members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court members with campaign advertising buys.
The conflict-of-interest is obvious and dangerous.
Voters here need Federal protection from Jom Crow-style ballot-box barriers because The Vote in Wisconsin has been willfully compromised.
Cross-posted at Purple Wisconsin. 

WI Assembly Takes NRA Agenda To Ridiculous Height

And also further kills - - and "kills" is not too strong a word - - local control.

This time by giving shooting ranges carte blanche:

The bill would allow any shooting range in operation as of July 16, 2013 to continue at its location regardless of any local ordinances. 
The bill also makes the owners, board and employees of shooting ranges immune from lawsuits based on the negligence of a shooter at the range.

Local controls, in Wisconsin? 


In Wisconsin, The Right Gives Itself More Rights

Scott Walker and his right-wing Wisconsin GOP legislative lieutenants - - for the second time since their 2011 ascendancy to total state control - - have passed legislation cutting the hours of in-person absentee voting. Their desired outcome is embedding GOP power by obstructing voting in cities with larger numbers of Democrats, minorities, and transit-dependent voters.

Chemo Bill Pits Sen. Darling Vs. Rep. Vos

It will be interesting to see if GOP Senator Alberta Darling - - a cancer survivor - - wants to try and convince her colleagues in last-minute negotiations to oppose the $100 monthly patient deductible that insurance-industry servant Robin Vos, the GOP Assembly Speaker, inserted to weaken and perhaps kill a chemotherapy access bill.

And the real question is: What does Walker want and how does this impact his re-election campaign?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

As GOP Legislature Pulls All-Nighter, And Walker Hides Out...

Please remember his ironic, iconic bluster given to the friendly folks at The Lakeland Times newspaper during the 2010 gubernatorial election, including these keepers:

When he says he believes in government transparency, it's not just a campaign slogan, Walker said.
"I don't just say that, I've lived it," he said
Walker said he does not favor proposed constraints on access to police 911 tapes or to the state's online circuit court records, and he says he also believes the Legislature itself needs to be more transparent.
"In fact I've even proposed - in terms of the budget process, but it would apply to anything - other things that would help transparency," he said. "I don't think there should be any votes in closed caucus, on any issue... If a county board or school board can't discuss a budget in private, then the state Legislature certainly should not. There should not be any closed caucuses on the budget."
What's more, he said, the budget should only entail budgetary items; there shouldn't be any nonfiscal items in it.
" And I would make it, by statute, that the Legislature can't vote on anything after 10 at night or before 9 in the morning," Walker said. "They did things this last (budget) at 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning. As I tell my staff, nothing good happens after midnight…" 

Sloppy Sleaze Supporting Mine

The Wisconsin State Journal sheds light on heavy-handed political work by Americans for Prosperity - - a Koch Brothers-funded right-wing advocacy organization - - aimed at defeating grassroots candidates who oppose the proposed controversial open-pit iron ore mine in Iron County.

Heavy-handed and ham-handed, too, as the group's big-dollar, door-to-door literature misidentified one well-known mine supporter as an opponent, and mistakenly published his neighbor's phone number, to boot.

The flyer listed phone numbers for each of the seven candidates challenging county board members.  
"Call these anti-mine radicals and tell them to stand up for you and your local jobs, not radical environmental policies," the mailer urges in bold red lettering.
An out-of-state organization claiming others are influencing local issues is pure projection propaganda, given its underlying hypocrisy.

Similar efforts by the group have been noted in local Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio elections. 

The northern Wisconsin leaflet is not the first indication the outside right-wing advocacy group has ties to the controversial mine plan.

In November, I'd noted the mining company - - GTac, owned by Floridian Chris Cline - - and Americans for Prosperity had hired the same lobbyist for Wisconsin activities.

Robin Vos Blocking The Oncologist's Door

Thursday update:

GOP Assembly Speaker Rep. Robin Vos is apparently engineering in a closed-caucus process some face-saving, industry-friendly amendments to win his' support' for the oral chemotherapy drug access bill.

The Legislature adjourns in a matter of hours, and any changes to the bill would require the agreement of the Senate, where a 30-2 vote suggests little interest in Vos' one-man obeisance to lobbyists' agendas..

So one legislator dancing to the special interests' tune still stands between cancer patients and more affordable, less-invasive therapy.

Walker Showed Zero Leadership On Chemo Access Bill

Scott Walker's saying at virtually the very end of the debate that he would sign the chemo bill is not the same thing as backing the bill early and forcefully against cruel industry lobbying that still may kill it with poison pill amendments which Walker could stop with a simple phone call or email.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Walker, Doe Silence And Upcoming State Job Pick

Walker has not taken John Doe email questions for weeks, but if he picks a former Milwaukee County personal staffer or campaign - related figure to fill a new UW communications job six months before the 2014 election then you have received your answers to all those questions, and about John Doe II.

'Progress' On Chemotherapy Bill Reveals WI GOP Priorities

The moral miasma that drifts out of Republican Party closed-door State Capitol caucuses has cleared enough Wednesday morning to reveal some key truths about The Grand Old Petty Mean Party, circa 2014.

For one thing, we may soon - - and I emphasize "may," as Assembly poison pills may get written into the prescription - - have an answer to the question oft-asked since Scott Walker was elected Governor, and the Brothers Scott and Jeff Fitzgerald took the reins in the Senate and Legislature:

"What will it take to make them abandon a special interest?"

The answer seems to be cancer.

Cancer, and reasonable access to modern-day, life-saving oral chemotherapy, may trump the inside political power of corporate, conservative money.

We'll know for sure by the end of this disgraceful Legislative session Thursday if all you have to have is metastasizing melanomas to break past a know-nothing Governor, a flip-flopping Senate Majority Leader, and a soulless Assembly Speaker who hinted as late as yesterday that he still had some procedural tricks up his sleeve to outmaneuver cancer patients and hand a victory to former GOP Assembly Speaker-turned-lobbyist Jeff Fitzgerald on behalf of the insurance industry.

As for Walker, why it was only yesterday that he offered up the preposterous notion that he didn't have a position on the chemotherapy access bill because he hadn't studied it.

Right: the guy whose County and political teams' emails showed him online in the daily 8:00 a.m. briefings, the take-charge guy firing off instructions, cobbling together strategies, and dictating memos and news releases didn't know enough about the bill to take a position.

That's changed, too, as Walker now says he'd sign the bill.

Because he'd seen the headlines statewide and got briefed - - about internal polling or talking-point development that was sending one message:

Running for re-election against cancer politics is a losing proposition.

Show Of Hands If Liking 35th Jobs Ranking…Yes, Gov. Walker?

Though GOP leaders said Wisconsin's economy would take off "like a rocket" after the recall elections went away, private-sector job growth in Wisconsin has only inched upward, from 37th to 35th place among the states during a recent 12-month period.
The figures released Wednesday are a key benchmark, picked by Gov. Scott Walker, to measure how well he is meeting his 2010 campaign promise to add 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of next year.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that for the 12-month period between September 2012 and September 2013, Wisconsin added just over 28,300 private sector jobs. The percentage increase of 1.2 percent puts Wisconsin 35th compared with all 50 states.
So the state is facing both an economic and political shortfall, as Wisconsin is far off the pace required mathematically to create the 250,000 new private-sector jobs that gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker promised repeatedly in 2010 and 2012 to achieve in a first term.
In percentage terms, our private-sector job growth during that 12-month period lags all neighboring states, except Illinois, the official data show.
So "Still Better Than Illinois" is available to Walker as a re-election bumper-sticker, though some might say that is over-stating the obvious.

1:30 p.m. update:

In fact, the data show Wisconsin lost manufacturing jobs during the period while gaining workers in the food service sector, the Journal Sentinel reports.

Meaning there was an increase in wait-staff minimum wage jobs over family-supporting blue-collar work.
Hardly a prescription for success.

The Legislature As Wellness Metaphor

We will soon know, as a vote of some sort looms in the State Assembly over a chemotherapy access bill, whether the Legislature and body politic in Wisconsin is well or malignant.

Some background.

DNR Tribal "Success Stories" Measured In Nickels And Dimes

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources during its Chamber-of-Commerce/Cathy Stepp Secretaryship on behalf of Scott Walker has had its share of difficulties with some of Wisconsin's Native American tribes over serious matters like wolf hunting, walleye fishing, iron mining and treaty rights, just to name a few.

So DNR staff were instructed to formally file internally all interactions with, or on behalf of the tribes according to memos I cited last year, and which, one could argue, could help the agency document itself out of its self-inflicted PR purgatory.

And in January, after sorting all the records submitted internally, the Department put together a two-page master list of "Selected Success Stories" for an agency-wide memo which I will reproduce below.

Now you can decide how much of all this record-keeping merely catalogued public-employees-just-doing-their-jobs, like "Attended 2013 State of the Tribes Address," or "Increased overall outreach and sharing of information to engage tribes and build partnerships," or "joined together with Lac du Flambeau warden forces over the busy 4th of July weekend to work boating safety on the lakes within the reservation," or "Regularly attend Voigt Intertribal Task Force meetings to provide information and updates upon request."

Or how much was worth bragging about.

But I found that the memo broke some new bureaucratic ground, because you don't always see government funding touted as successes right down to the penny.

That some record-keeping!

Here's the memo, with italics added:

State of Wisconsin
Box 7921
Madison WI 53707-7921

Selected Success Stories
Secretary’s Office/Agency-Wide
Scott Walker, Governor Cathy Stepp
  •   Attended 2013 State of the Tribes Address. 
  •   New Tribal Liaison and Regional Directors met individually with each of the eleven tribes in the spring.
  •   Developed several new communication tools to enhance employee awareness and engagement
  •   Created the Tribal Summer Youth Program, a new grant program to enhance relations and provide an opportunity for tribal youth to learn about and experience conservation of natural resources.
  •   Increased overall outreach and sharing of information to engage tribes and build partnerships.

  • Fisheries & Water Program
  •   Implemented the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative; grant funds are available to tribal entities with fish hatcheries to enhance their fish hatchery operations and increase the capacity to raise walleye for stocking in Wisconsin waters.
  •   Donated 150,000 walleye fry to Red Cliff due to a shortage at their hatchery.
  •   Continuing our commitment with the Menominee Nation (MOU) to transfer sturgeon from the lower Wolf River to Keshena Falls area of the Wolf River in Menominee County each year for the next ten years; continue to provide 15 sturgeon each year for the Menominee’s spring Sturgeon festival.
  •   Worked jointly with Menominee, Oneida, Ho-Chunk and Stockbridge-Munsee on a federal grant to provide technical advice and help restore wetland and stream area.

  • Law Enforcement
  •   Partnered with GLIFWC Chief Warden to create tribal training sessions; two-full day sessions created specifically for DNR law enforcement with goal of educating staff on tribal cultures and history.
  •   DNR joined together with Lac du Flambeau warden forces over the busy 4th of July weekend to work boating safety on the lakes within the reservation.
  •   Partner with tribal law enforcement to conduct joint firearms training, hunter’s safety courses; invite tribal members to DNR Warden Recruit Academy; regularly invite tribal members to attend DNR warden meetings to enhance working partnerships, build cultural understanding and to learn from each other.
  •   For the second year, DNR Wardens worked with Menominee Tribal Wardens to assist with setting up a volunteer Sturgeon Guard program within the reservation.
  • Grants/Loans
  •   $159,669.95 in grant funds provided to our 11 tribes through the Basic Recycling Grants to Responsible Units program.
  •   $5,000 Urban Forestry Grant to Sokaogon Mole Lake for a start-up grant for tree inventory, hazardous tree pruning, removal and other tree management.
  •   $3,260.65 Forest Fire Protection Grant to Lac Courte Oreilles to expand the use of local fire departments to augment and strengthen the DNR’s overall initial fire suppression capabilities on forest fires.
  •   Since 2010 awarded over $592,000 in recycling and forestry grants, all 11 tribes received funds.

  • Wildlife Management
 Partnership with Oneida Nation/UW-Extension/UW-Green Bay planting biofuel warm-season plants on tribal lands in Outagamie County.
  The Bad River and Red Cliff Bands Food Distribution Programs provide volunteers to deliver ground venison that has been processed as part of DNR’s Wildlife Damage Abatement and Claims Program to families in need in Ashland County.  
  Working with Ho-Chunk Nation on the development of a MOU for their contribution and management/monitoring efforts for elk reintroduction into the Black River Falls area.   
  Continue working with the Ho-Chunk on a deer transport Memorandum of Understanding, which will clarify what tribal members can do when transporting deer. 
  • Forestry
  •   Created First Downs for Trees program with Oneida; a unique partnership between Green Bay Packers, WI Public Service Corp, WI DNR, US Forest Service, Oneida Nation and communities within Brown County to plant trees to offset the Packer’s carbon footprint when they travel to away games. For every first down at least one tree is planted within Brown County; to date over 2,000 trees have been planted.
  •   Partner with Lac du Flambeau on timber sale planning and bid packages; identify white birch collection areas for balsam fir bough collection.
  •   Forestry tribal liaisons provide regular information and updates to tribal counterparts.
  •   Invite tribes to provide input on Interim Forest Management Planning.

  • Air, Waste, Remediation & Redevelopment
  •   DNR Air Monitoring section provides on-going technical assistance to Bad River and Forest County Potawatomi under existing MOU, including set-up and maintenance of monitoring sites, annual performance audits, and assistance with multifunctioning equipment.
  •   Continue to work with FCPC on technical review of Class I air quality related values and thresholds that support protection of natural resources on tribal lands.
  •   Worked with FCPC on Biodigester project, Potawatomi hotel expansion and a parking structure for the hotel expansion in Milwaukee.
  •   Working with the Bad River Band to provide information and full awareness of all DNR regulated activity associated with the proposed Gogebic Mine site. Regular meetings being held to discuss technical issues; other partners invited to these meetings, such as US EPA and GLIFWC.

  • Voigt Intertribal Task Force
 Regularly attend Voigt Intertribal Task Force meetings to provide information and updates upon request. 
  •   Lac Du Flambeau, Lac Courte Oreilles, and Red Cliff Bands have worked in partnership with the DNR for the past five years to offer a Summer Youth Training Program. High school aged tribal students are employed to work on various natural resource-related projects on state and tribal lands; provides them an opportunity to mentor and learn first-hand about resource management activities.
  •   Improving aquatic plant management consultation process; working with GLIFWC to develop protocol well in advance of permitting issuance. With partnership of GLIFWC, sponsored several workshops for tribal natural resources staff and tribal members.
  •   Continue working with Oneida Nation & Brown County on removal of a series of dams on Duck Creek.
  •   DNR continues to work with the Ho-Chunk Nation on the Badger Army Plan, including land transfers and master planning.