Friday, January 31, 2014

Strong Op-Ed From Waukesha Freeman Friday

Is the Lake Michigan Application Politically Driven?

Organizations analyzing Waukesha’s Great Lakes application have a common theme; Waukesha’s application is not based on the city’s need for water. It’s about growth in communities outside the city borders. 

I agree with that analysis. In addition, City of Waukesha residents, the highest taxed in the county, are expected to solely pay the $200 million+ for a construction project to assure everyone outside the city borders have plenty of deep aquifer water for their own development needs. 

Beyond construction costs, city residents would buy water from another community and pay twice to operate and maintain another utility in addition to our own infrastructure and business operations. The cost of Lake Michigan water will cause financial hardships on city residents, including the poor, elderly, and handicapped and also drop everyone’s property value. 

Why consider living in Waukesha when you can have greater financial value elsewhere?

Those who would argue that it would cost more to develop local sources of water, you need to step back and ask; Exactly when is this additional water going to be needed for the city residents or exactly when will the deep aquifers be unsustainable? 

That answer may be that a significant amount of Waukesha’s water originates in Jefferson County to the deep confined aquifer under Waukesha.

That shines a light on why developed, and undeveloped, communities of our region want city residents to get off the unconfined deep aquifer. Unfortunately, everyone else and our own elected officials expect the city residents to roll over and pick-up the tab or continue the fight when the application is rejected.

The 2018 court ordered deadline to be radium compliant prompted the pursuit of Lake Michigan water as one way of meeting the court order. The “drop dead date” to begin construction of pipelines to Lake Michigan is long gone and the utility is now facing court sanctions at ratepayers expense. To pursue litigation is a fool’s approach. 

According to public records obtained by blogger James Rowen in his opinion piece at Wisopinion:

shows that our utility through it’s lawyers in March and May of 2006 asked Governor Doyle to negotiate a 24 million gallon per day diversion to Waukesha without a return flow because of the claimed harm to the Fox River system. The lawyers wanted to keep the records from the public. The request was rationalized by utility manager Dan Duchniak stating, “The last thing we want is litigation”. Governor Doyle did not respond and no negotiations took place. Waukesha’s approach has certainly caused distrust outside our city borders.

The utility can install radium filters on all deep aquifer wells, not just some, to meet the court order at a fraction of the cost of developing a completely new source of water for the city. Filtering out radium however, would end any timetable to pursue Lake Michigan water but safe drinking water would not be an issue. 

Waukesha’s application would then stand alone on the current and immediate need of another source for the city. Without that pressing need, the utility can develop strategies for strategic planning over decades, not all at once, to meet our city requirements and include areas outside the city by regional management of water resources. But, that will mean limiting growth based on available water resources. That’s exactly what SEWRPC should have done from the beginning. 

Creating an expanded service area of the utility in recent years is troublesome to the compliance of the Great lakes Compact. The Town of Waukesha chairman says inclusion in the service area doesn’t mean Town residents have to connect to the city service, but inclusion is “an insurance policy”. No immediate need for Lake Michigan water there. The other communities would would need to demonstrate a need too such as a contaminated supply or a water shortage, but that hasn’t happened even four years later than when the application for Lake Michigan water was filed.

Our city image is badly damaged. The Water Utility and Lake Michigan water supporters pushed so hard to tell the region about how contaminated our water supply is with a carcinogen (radium) that it’s impacting decisions on whether or not to purchase real estate in the city. This concern was recently express to me by a co-worker from another community.

We’ve already spent over $3 million feeding oats to a dead horse. We’re not going to get Lake Michigan water and we (the city of Waukesha) don’t have an immediate need to develop a completely new source of water. It’s time to install the radium filters on the deep aquifer wells and get on with regional planning as “Plan B”, not jumping all in to needlessly develop a completely new source locally. After all, we have the biggest straw in the milkshake; therefore, we control the issue of water use in the region. That control can be used to the benefit, rather than the demise, of the City of Waukesha. 

It’s election season. I want to hear from all city candidates as to why they believe city residents should carry the financial burden for a Lake Michigan diversion exception at the benefit of everyone outside our city borders.

Steve Edlund
Waukesha, WI 

Walker Finds More Millions To Fast-Track Road-Building

There will always be more money in Wisconsin to shove towards the road-builders, and never a dime for transit - - even to operate a fully federally-built train connecting Wisconsin to a regional high-speed system.

PolitiFact Tracks Walker's Big Jobs-Promise Fail

After three years of following Walker's jobs' performance, PolitiFact posts another set of sluggish figures with the same old song:

...43 percent of the way toward the 250,000 mark with 12 months remaining in his term. You can see our updated graphic tracking progress on Walker's promise here.
This was Walker's biggest strategic stumble - - putting a number on something he could not control and making it his signature promise. Any politician will tell you that is a mistake just waiting to explode.

It's like proposal writing or contracting. The road-builders do it all the time and end up with completion bonuses: Under-promise/over-deliver. How did he and all those apparatchiks around him get that so wrong? 

And, yes, for the record, it is the same old song. Here's how PolitiFact put it last summer
Final numbers for 2012 show a long way to go 
Updated: Friday, July 5th, 2013 | By James B. Nelson 
We now have the numbers for the half-way point in our effort to measure Gov. Scott Walker's top campaign promise from 2010 -- that the state would create 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of his four-year term. 
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics on June 27, 2013 released data for job creation in 2012, the second full year of Walker's term. The report said that Wisconsin added a total of 32,282 private sector jobs last year. 
That compares with 29,800 jobs in 2011, bringing the two-year total to 62,082 jobs. 
At the halfway mark of his term, that meant Walker was only about one fourth of the way -- or 187,918 jobs -- from his goal.
Here's additional data, commentary and a look forward posted here Wednesday:
...Walker's promise is 90,000 new jobs off its scheduled completion - - and at the current pace he'd finish his term overseeing the addition of 130,000 new jobs, or 52% of the pledge. 
In business, academic or fund-raising settings, 52% would rate an "F," as in "Fail," and "Fired." 

Pres. Obama's Smart Thursday Trip To Waukesha

Team Obama picked a good spot to insert the President after his State of the Union speech by sending him to showcase industrial manufacturing and training programs in Waukesha.

Of course, Waukesha is Republican turf, but so much the better, as the President was able to surround himself with an upbeat and diverse crowd while pitching ideas that might not be entirely popular there, such as a boost in the minimum wage or a strong government presence in employment support.

I'll bet the President won new friends in Waukesha or neutralized some detractors who tend to get their daily spin from far-right talk radio and Republican activists who have spent years demonizing him.

So kudos to the President and his strategists for picking a good place to bring the Commander-in-Chief and his message about practical government programs yesterday.

And, by the way, the non-issue of Mary Burke's decision to continue campaigning elsewhere is just that, a non-issue. Had she been there, many of the same fake Burke critics on the right would have bashed her for bringing partisan politics to a non-partisan Presidential visit.


Arctic Oil Exploration Going Nowhere

The efforts are too risky, too expensive, poorly managed - - and were applied for incorrectly. This is good news:

Shell Oil announced Thursday that it is suspending efforts to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean in 2014. The announcement came as the company’s new CEO Ben van Beurden addressed investors to confirm that the company’s fourth-quarter profits had dropped by 71 percent to $2.1 billion.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Walker Tweets About A Less-Than-Easily-Accessible WEDC Meeting

I doubt this will stay up his feed, but the site of today's WEDC meeting is far less accessible than downtown Madison or Milwaukee:

  1. We held the WEDC meeting at OneNeck IT Solutions in Fitchburg.
    Image will appear as a link
  2. Where no one without a car can easily attend. .

The Only Thing That Stops Bad Gun Dealers...

Is a judge with a brain:

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Conen ruled Thursday in favor of two Milwaukee police officers in their lawsuit against former local gun dealers and their owners, clearing the way for a three-week trial in September.
Bryan Norberg and Graham Kunisch were trying to arrest Julius Burton in 2009 when he shot them with a gun that another man had purchased for Burton at Badger Guns in West Milwaukee. Each officer suffered lifelong disabilities from the shootings. Burton was sentenced to 80 years in prison.

A Call For Stronger Environmental Media Advocacy On Journal Sentinel Blog Site

The Journal Sentinel's editorial board took a look at the drop-off in Wisconsin DNR pollution enforcement actions and says it isn't necessarily a cause for concern.

[A version of this posting ran yesterday here at The Political Environment.]

The agency is working closely with businesses to make sure problems don't crop up in the first place, says the paper.
But the agency is now managed with an intentional "chamber-of-commerce mentality," yet the paper is willing to give the agency the benefit of the doubt.
I call that a risky, laissez-faire rationalization, especially since the Legislature is moving towards easier private access to the state's waters, so I challenge the effectiveness of the editorial's conclusion:
"Still, it bears watching to make sure the DNR approach under Walker is indeed working."
How would you know it is not "indeed working?"
After the fact, regrettably - - when the pollutants have spilled and the wells or the streams dry up - - because too many people had their alarms on "off" and "snooze," or trusted officials more interested in the corporate balance sheet or campaign accounts' bottom lines.
Remember the major frac sand mud spill into the St. Croix River in 2012?
It was reported to authorities by a hiker, not a company official, and still took another four days for a DNR plane to spot the source.
And what is the commitment where troubling outcomes are already known? Is there pro-activity there, or inactivity?
Levels of nitrates and phosphorous are rising in many sloughs of the Wisconsin River, causing concern among anglers from Iowa, Sauk and Columbia counties and the author of a new study suggests the river should be placed on a national list of endangered bodies of water.
And does the DNR have a pro-active plan to reclaim Wisconsin land and waters already deemed heavily-polluted from from livestock operations?

As of 2010, pollution from livestock operations of all sizes has left more than 4,000 acres of lakes and 377 miles of rivers and creeks too polluted to sustain their designated uses of swimming, fishing, or providing a healthy habitat for aquatic plants and animals in Wisconsin.

Furthermore, does the editorial board take comfort knowing the Legislature is moving towards giving known phosphorus polluters a 20-year extension to finish water cleanup actions that were supposed to be dealt with though a plan in place negotiated among stakeholders that had won federal EPA approval?
The Legislative 'reform' working its way towards hearings at the behest of the WMC and other business interests to derail the plan in place also would transfer some regulation away from DNR professionals to DOA bureaucrats. Where the lines of authority run more directly to the Governor's office.
And, in a separate bill, special-interest legislative captives in the GOP want to reduce the DNR's authority to manage groundwater withdrawals by taking the cumulative impacts of withdrawals on other nearby users - - like municipal drinking water systems - - out of the regulatory/approval equation.
Wisconsin used to have a public intervenor in the Attorney General's office to monitor such events and sue on the public's behalf when necessary if everyone's resources - - fresh water, clean air, pollutant-free land - - were endangered.
Tommy Thompson got rid of it on behalf of his corporate friends; that loss was discussed in a Marquette Law Review article by Wisconsin environmental attorney Jodi Habush Sinykin.
And in this current political environment, where special interests have even more control of the process, and where the public's constitutionally-guaranteed water resources are at stake, media like the state's biggest newspaper need to step up and be the Public Advocate of First Response and Last Resort.
If not you, whom else?
Opinion-makers ought to champion without compromise the guiding public resource protection principle that concluded a long-standing Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling still deemed relevant enough to have escaped scrubbing (so far) from the DNR's Public Trust Doctrine web pages:

"A little fill here and there may seem to be nothing to become excited about. But one fill, though comparatively inconsequential, may lead to another, and another, and before long a great body may be eaten away until it may no longer exist. Our navigable waters are a precious natural heritage, once gone, they disappear forever," wrote the Wisconsin State Supreme Court justices in their opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC. [11/29/66]

Where is the paper's strong defense of the Public Trust Doctrine, which is not only embedded in the State Constitution as Article IX but has been guiding water rights and responsibilities pro-actively since the Northwest Ordinance of 1787?
Laissez faire didn't work well in West Virginia when it came to state stewardship of the people's waters there.
Hoping that oil pipelines would work as well as the operating companies had promised did not keep the Kalamazoo River just next door in Michigan protected from a break, a spill, massive contamination and a long, drawn-out billion-dollar cleanup.

A pipeline run by the same company expanding operations in Wisconsin.
Mega-dairies, frac sand mine excavators, and other private interests which want freer access to publicly-held groundwater, or which would risk acid mine runoff into the Bad River watershed near Ashland have got to be more assertively challenged by media commentators dedicated first-and-foremost to everyday citizens who do not have trade associations, legislative friends, lobbyists, PAC's, donation bundling conduits and PR firms at their beck-and-call.

Wisconsin's Gaylord Nelson gave Earth Day its start; Wisconsin as a whole these days needs and deserves stronger, focused environmental watchdog advocacy.

Congestion Around Atlanta, Capital Of Sprawlville

[Updated] We renew our series, The Road To Sprawlville, noting in this the 57th chapter that it was a road to nowhere these last 36 hours in the greater Atlanta area due to snow and treacherous ice in a relatively warm winter southern climate with poor experience in these matters.

But worse: The snow and ice fell on an already clogged system of 'freeways' without complementary and coordinated transit, thus attracting at once a big cross-suburban emergency commute into a network filling up with cars that had no route of escape.
In this aerial photo, traffic is snarled along the I-285 perimeter north of the metro area after a winter snow storm, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in Atlanta.
Credit:ABC7 photo
And if you are caught in that kind of congestion on a traditional city arterial?

Just work your way to the next intersection on the grid and turn to find an alternative.

But a 'freeway' where the next exit is three-to-five miles ahead, with snow and ice, to boot?

Forget it.

Welcome to Atlanta, Capital of Sprawlville, where the planners, so to speak, laid the groundwork for this historic road-building gridlock.

Drawing attention in The Washington Post for its sprawl-induced dangerous summer weather too.

And though Wisconsin is better prepared to handle winter conditions, we should not be so smug to assume it couldn't happen here. 

Think about the $1.7 billion Zoo Interchange expansion and 'upgrade' surrounded by malls, hospitals, office buildings, and schools.

And it is being built without a single rail connection, and with only minimal bus service in a region already short of connections, especially further out to Waukesha County - - though a federal judge has ordered some transit added to this eight-year boondoggle in a state so strapped for transportation dollars through over-building that its pot-holed roads are crumbling at a rapid pace.

And gaining national media for it.

Some 'planning.'


Walker Is Obama's Friend Today, But Do Not Forget...

Walker's arrogant public letter to President Obama denouncing the Madison-Milwaukee Amtrak line.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Editorial Overlooks WI Law, Key Environmental Protection Directive

The Journal Sentinel's editorial board took a look at the drop-off in Wisconsin DNR pollution enforcement actions and says it isn't necessarily a cause for concern.

Because the agency is working closely with businesses to make sure problems don't crop up in the first place, says the paper.


Run with an intentional "chamber-of-commerce mentality," the DNR applauds its pro-activity and the paper is willing to give the agency and the entities it is grudgingly regulating the benefit of the doubt. 


I call that a risky, laissez-faire rationalization, especially since the paper concludes by saying:

"Still, it bears watching to make sure the DNR approach under Walker is indeed working."
And how would you know it is not "indeed working?"

After the fact, regrettably - - when the pollutants have spilled and the damage is done because too many people had their alarms on "off" and "snooze."

Remember the major frac sand mud spill into the St. Croix River in 2012? 

It was reported to authorities by a hiker, not a company official, and still took another  four days for a DNR plane to spot the source.

And what are the trends where outcomes are already known? Is there pro-activity or inactivity?


What about the report just a few weeks ago that pollution is increasing along the Wisconsin River:
Levels of nitrates and phosphorous are rising in many sloughs of the Wisconsin River, causing concern among anglers from Iowa, Sauk and Columbia counties and the author of a new study suggests the river should be placed on a national list of endangered bodies of water.
And does the DNR have a pro-active plan to reclaim Wisconsin land and waters already deemed heavily-polluted from just from livestock operations?
As of 2010, pollution from livestock operations of all sizes has left more than 4,000 acres of lakes and 377 miles of rivers and creeks too polluted to sustain their designated uses of swimming, fishing, or providing a healthy habitat for aquatic plants and animals in Wisconsin.
Furthermore, does the editorial board take comfort knowing the Legislature is moving towards giving known phosphorus polluters a 20-year extension to finish water cleanup actions though a negotiated plan is already in place with US EPA approval?

The Legislative plan working its way towards hearings at the behest of the WMC and other business interests also would transfer some regulation away from DNR professionals to DOA bureaucrats?

Is that a confidence builder? Or a cop-put?

Opinion-makers ought to champion without compromise the guiding public resource protection principle that concluded a long-standing Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling still deemed relevant enough to have escaped scrubbing (so far) from the DNR's Public Trust Doctrine web pages:

"A little fill here and there may seem to be nothing to become excited about. But one fill, though comparatively inconsequential, may lead to another, and another, and before long a great body may be eaten away until it may no longer exist. Our navigable waters are a precious natural heritage, once gone, they disappear forever," wrote the Wisconsin State Supreme Court justices in their opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC. [11/29/66]
Where is the paper's strong defense of the Public Trust Doctrine, which is not only embedded in the State Constiution as Article IX but has been guiding water rights and responsibilities pro-actively since the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. 

Laissez faire didn't work well in West Virginia when it came to state stewardship of the people's waters there.


Wisconsin needs and deserves better.

Wisconsin's Long-Term Unemployment In Record Territory

Prior to the Great Recession, the percentage of long-term unemployed persons (defined as out-of-work 27 weeks) among the nation's jobless had not been higher than 26%.

The figure went back to 1983, following a long recession.

That long-term rate of 26% is currently exceeded in 41 states, including Wisconsin, where the long-term unemployed make up 34.1% of our state's jobless.

One in three.

And Congress will not renew unemployment benefit payments to this group.

Hearing Tomorrow On WI Groundwater Giveaway Bill

Contravening the Wisconsin State Constitution and its Public Trust Doctrine, the GOP-led, WMC dominated state legislature is about to give polluting industries further de-regulated access to water that used to be yours:

A bill that would make it easier for large agribusiness, mega-sized dairies known as CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), frac sand mining companies and anyone else who wants to exploit Wisconsin’s groundwater for financial gain to obtain a permit for high capacity wells has just been scheduled for a public hearing tomorrow, January 30, 2014 at 12:30 pm in 225 NW at the state capitol.
Make no mistake: this is part of a pattern to drain the Public Trust Doctrine from the Wisconsin Constitution without the political risks attached to a direct attack by amendment. 



Grim GOP Congressman Imitates Name

Good thing his name is only Grimm and not Kills:

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) got into an altercation with a reporter following Tuesday's State of the Union address, during which Grimm threatened to throw the reporter over a balcony. 
The New York Times is reporting that an apology has been made and accepted and the Congressman, a weightlifter, former Marine and ex-FBI agent, will take the reporter to lunch. 

We recommend ground-floor seating.

Special Interests Grab State Water Pollution Policy

I put this item up on Friday about a plan by the GOP Legislature to make it easier for phosphorous-fed algae scum to choke Wisconsin waterways supposedly held in trust for everyone by the Wisconsin State Constitution:

Am hearing that Walker and legislators are floating out some kind of Orwellian-titled 'Healthy Waters' bill backed by the WMC, Paper Council and others to give polluters another 20+ years to get phosphorous out of Wisconsin waters, strip much of the program's management from DNR scientists and hand it to Wisconsin Department of Administration partisan apparatchiks. 
I've been saying for a while that the ultimate goal of these private-sector captives is the destruction of the Wisconsin Constitution's Public Trust doctrine, and this is clearly a step in that direction.
And right on schedule came the bill - - sponsored in the State Senate by former GOP environmental moderate Robert Cowles - - along with the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce laying out the case to overturn or muddy current state law that enjoys US EPA approval.

The impact of the proposal on water, nearby land and businesses is summarized here by the River Alliance of Wisconsin:

Further information in this Journal Sentinel story.


"F"- Rated: WI, Walker Far Behind 250,000 New Jobs'-Rate

[updated] This Capital Times story cites government figures showing that just 97,500 jobs have been created in Wisconsin during Walker's first three years of a four-year term in which he pledged repeatedly to create 250,000 new private-sector jobs.

That means that Walker's promise is 90,000 new jobs off its scheduled completion - - and at the current pace he'd finish his term overseeing the addition of 130,000 new jobs, or 52% of the pledge.

In business, academic or fund-raising settings, 52% would rate an "F," as in "Fail," and "Fired." 

Note that Wisconsin is still tied for last in job growth rate improvement in our region, and is more than 30% behind the national average. 

Wisconsin added 3,000 private-sector jobs in December, according to preliminary estimates by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That gives the state a 4.1 percent growth rate since January 2011, when Walker was inaugurated, and 97,500 jobs added. 
Illinois and Iowa also have 4.1 percent growth rates in that period. Minnesota 
is at 5.6 percent and Michigan is at 6 percent. The national rate is 6.1 percent.
Even The Journal Sentinel, which has twice endorsed Walker for Governor, took note of his "anemic" job-creation data in its editorial on the State of the State speech:
Without a doubt, economic conditions have improved on Walker's watch. The unemployment rate is down, and the state's businesses are hiring. But Walker is nowhere near meeting his pledge that businesses would create 250,000 jobs during his first term, and Wisconsin's job growth is anemic compared with other states. The state is 37th in the nation in private-sector job growth under Walker.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Memo To GOP #SOTU Response Candidates

If asked, just say "No." You can't follow an Obama home run.

Very Strong State Of The Union Speech

From domestic issues - - wage equality, voting rights, health care - - to foreign policy - - no more permanent war footing, and pledge to veto new Iran sanctions. A strong speech and emotional conclusion with the introduction of the grievously wounded Ranger. Very effective.
(Headline corrected from "State of the State" speech. My bad.)

At Speech, Obama Cites Woman Helped By Obamacare

Obama introduces woman able to have sudden surgery thanks to Obamacare. As I noted in December:

MONDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2013 
ObamaCare Enrollment Spiking; Bring On Stories About Lives Saved

"Say Yes. Give America A Raise."

Obama calls on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $10.10/hr. GOP members of Congress sit on their hands, at their political risk.

Obama: "Climate Change Is A Fact."

Strong statement. Policy actions to follow. Finally.

State Of The Union Speech - - First Question

Can John Boehner stay awake?

Bad Call In Waukesha

When the President of the United States comes to your small city and hails cutting-edge job growth there, you welcome him and the Presidency.

Waukesha Diversion Could Run Aground Over Falling Lakes' Levels

Waukesha's timing couldn't be worse, and its need to conserve water instead of diverting it from a dwindling Lake Michigan - - regardless of all the city's promises to return it - - couldn't be greater, as politics and nature seem to be lining up against the diversion:

Ever since the 1990s, Lake Michigan has been predominantly below its long-term water level average, and trending downwards. Water levels plummeted precipitously in the late 1990s, after a strong El NiƱo event warmed up the waters.
“That event drastically increased water temperatures,” explained Drew Gronewold, a physical scientist at NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL). “Over the course of just one year, water temperatures went up by 2.5 degrees Celsius. That’s huge. And the cycle is reinforcing; one really warm year led to more than a decade of dropping lake levels.”
Grelickville, Traverse City, MI - Low Water
Grelickville, Traverse City, MI – Low Water
CREDIT: NOAA
As the lake warms, it’s changing the water levels, as well. Most evaporation on the Great Lakes occurs in the fall when the lake is still warm from the summer, but the air has turned cold and dry. When the water is warmer than usual, the peak evaporation season begins earlier and lasts longer into the early winter. Warmer water also leads to less ice formation and fewer days of ice cover...
In other words, last winter’s record low lake levels are a glimpse of what a warmer climate in the region would do to the lakes — a glimpse that so far has lasted 15 years, set off by one hot summer.
And about those Great Lakes politics:
The Mayor of Thunder Bay, Ontario is strongly objecting to Waukesha, Wisconsin's plan to divert Lake Michigan water across the boundaries of the Great Lakes basin.
Thunder Bay's mayor says he'll fight an American city's bid to take Great Lakes water...


Remembering Pete Seeger, Milwaukee's Bill Brown

Certainly sad today to learn of the death of the legendary musician, civil rights advocate and peace activist Pete Seeger, but look at the long - - 94! - - and meaningful life he led.

I first heard his records with The Weavers on the radio during the folk revival in the early 1960's, and I could care less if that dates me.

I'm sure there are others here in Milwaukee, and in networks across the state, who will sense the similarities with the recent passing of another much-loved public citizen and man of peace, 92-year-old Bill Brown, who's life and work and unfailingly welcoming spirit was celebrated last weekend.

Bill and his wife Sandra were long-time Quaker activists. She and others memorialized Bill's life-well-lived with tributes, funny stories, even song and poetry at a warm service Saturday at the Friends Meeting House in Riverwest.

I was in a position a few years ago to help Bill get around town after he'd quit driving. At the time I had a little convertible inherited from my father; regardless of the weather, Bill would sit tall and straight upright, and with a smile of delight on his face as we bopped around (as my Dad would have put it) the East side.

A lot of fun.

It was a relief to hear that Bill, though frail, had gone through all his routines in the days before his death on January 10th, and had simply gone to sleep without waking up.

Fitting and fair that such a peaceful and serene person would be able to leave this life without suffering.

So as in their lives and deaths, R.I.P. Bill Brown and Pete Seeger.

Let's honor these unusual people by trying to match their example.




Monday, January 27, 2014

For Your Files, And The Record: Walker's Unkindest Cut

Though there are many candidates, this one first noted here - - from p. 65 in the Health and Human Service section of his first budget submitted in the wake of The Big Recession - - still stands out:

"To further encourage W-2 recipients to recognize that the goal of W-2 is for participants to secure unsubsidized employment, reduce the monthly benefit check by $20." 

Rand Paul's New 'Strategy': Anti-Hillary Misogyny-By-Proxy

Yeah, that's a great plan, Rand Paul: attack Hillary Clinton by dredging up the 20-year-old Monica Lewinski/Bill Clinton affair.

And throw in the bizarre claim that Bill Clinton got a pass from the media over it.

The media that gorged on stories through Bill Clinton's second term about the scandal and his impeachment?

What a stupid, desperate plan, but have at it, Tea Partiers: both the Clintons are immensely popular and Rand Paul is coming off as the GOP's misogynist of the week.


Walker And The Big Chill

Just wondering when he'll blame lack of progress towards the unattainable 250,000 new jobs' pledge on the harsh winter? He's grabbed at plenty of excuses before.

State Sen. Dale Schultz's Planned Retirement A Wisconsin Loss

It is regrettable - - but neither surprising or baffling - - that pragmatic, old-school State Sen. Dale Schultz, (R-Richland Center), announced over the weekend he would not run for re-election this fall.

His party has been angry with him since he held up an atrocious iron mining bill after Scott Waller's election because the industry-written plan endangers the state's public water trust.

He was eloquent, fact-driven and completely transparent about it in local and state media.

His reward: Republicans vilified him through their talk radio machine - - even dispatching the private-sector obeisant DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp to lead the attack - - and lined up an opponent for Schultz cloned in the Right-Wing Robotics factory.

Two other consensus-building State Senators - - Democrats Bob Jauch of Poplar and Tim Cullen of Janesville - - are also calling it quits after this session.

Again, who can blame them for wanting to use their productive years in an atmosphere less toxic?

Like Schultz, they are veteran lawmakers who have fought the good fight in a now-militarized State Capitol where moderation is treated by leadership like a virus and special interests serving donors have been given all the keys and access codes.

As Schultz explained a few months ago, citing the mining bill:

Over in the Assembly this bill arrives, nobody is the father of it until (the Republican leadership) all stood up and said, ‘I’m Spartacus,’” he chuckles.
“Silly us that thought we were going to have some opportunity to impact something,” he adds, referring to the alternative mining proposal he worked on with Sens. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, and Bob Jauch, D-Poplar.
For what purpose do people even pursue elected office these days, he wonders.

“When some think tank comes up with the legislation and tells you not to fool with it, why are you even a legislator anymore?” he asks. “You just sit there and take votes and you’re kind of a feudal serf for folks with a lot of money.”

I wish these gentlemen well and thank them for the time they've put in.