Sunday, May 31, 2015

On an excursion, Admiral Walker comes out against 'excursions'


He might have meant "incursions," but who knows - - he's already mistaken "Molotov" for "Mazel Tov." 

What is wrong with his brain? Look up the word:


a short trip or outing to some place, usually for a special purpose andwith the intention of a prompt return:
a pleasure excursion; a scientific excursion.
a trip on a train, ship, etc., at a reduced rate:
weekend excursions to mountain resorts.
the group of persons making such a journey:
an excursion of tourists.
And does Walker understand how ridiculous he sounds when he makes remarks about US military actions "excursions" abroad while he's on an actual excursion - - a New Hampshire boating trip - - - - while on one of his many recent excursions t from Wisconsin, fitting the definition of an excursion to a "t."

Again, for the record:

He's not for "open-ended excursions," he told GOP activists on a sunset cruise on Lake Winnipesaukee.
Do we really want a US Presidency this devalued? 

And, Wisconsin, are we getting full value from our absentee Governor for the $12,000+ we pay him every month when he's off on these cross-country and overseas excursions?

One GOP '16 hopeful continues embrace of dark communications

Of course Walker supports NSA data collection on American citizens, though it's been ruled illegal.

Didn't every GOP presidential hopeful run a public office with a secret parallel communications system set up on the premises by an old political friend on the public payroll, and where the senior political users of the system were known as "the dark side?"  

Note also that Walker has added the phrase "if we have in America enemy combatants" to the word salad always on his menu.

Yes, President Obama told him to bone up on his foreign policy, but Walker, upbraided as  "misinformed" on the NSA issue by no less than long-time GOP conservative Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, has opted instead for Dick Nixon/Dick Cheney-style self-serving fear mongering.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Will major completed WI bike trail be our last?

Great news about the multi-county Oak Leaf Trail nearing completion, though I have been told the Walker transportation budget soon to be approved 12-4 in the GOP-controlled Joint Committee on Finance will bar the funding of future bike/hiking trails in Wisconsin, even if federal funds are available, as they are routinely in national transportation financing for the states to mitigate the congestion and environmental effects of fossil fuel-burning vehicles

I first posted about this last week, Thursday.

The budget committee yesterday adopted a UW budget package that deleted from state law the requirement that campuses work with local communities and regional planning commissions on transportation plans that provided bike, pedestrian, ride-sharing and other environmentally-friendly alternatives.

Go figure, in 2015.

WI DNR should use common sense, kill redundant talking point

Earth to the 'chamber-of-commerce' Wisconsin DNR spokesman Bill Cosh: Lose the all-purpose talking point:

In Department Secretary Cathy Stepp's May testimony before the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee defending her agency's budget and its cuts:

"Providing good customer service...means following the law, using sound science and using common sense in all our decisions." [Bold-facing included]
In an April report, Cosh defended the plan to cut agency researchers:
 “When it comes to making decisions the agency remains committed to doing so by using sound science, following the law and using common sense.”
Last week, when the legislature approved cutting half the agency's research scientist roster:
In a [Friday] statement, DNR spokesman Bill Cosh said the DNR has not yet identified what positions would be eliminated but remained committed to sound science, the law and common sense.
On the DNR's having approved railroad bridge pile-driving into a marsh where endangered birds were roosting, according to this Friday report:
DNR spokesman Bill Cosh said staff “followed the law, used good science and common sense” in approving the permit.

Walker, GOP legislators play the big cut/small back fill $$ game

[Updated 5:28 p.m.] There it is again - - that phony budgeting game played so well by GOP elected officials in the name of trimming budgets: Walker announces a major state budget cut - - for the UW system, for example - -  then GOP legislators save the day by putting back a small portion of the cut and the budget-cutters come out as heroes.

Like here:

UW cut trimmed but tenure, shared governance changes infuriate faculty
And here:
GOP plan reduces cuts to UW System funding
Yes, thank goodness the GOP had a plan!

The stories below the headlines are rich in detail, but many people look only at the headlines, and readers' conclusions could easily be, 'Hey, good for the GOP. Their 'plan' is helping out poor old Bucky.'

And it's much like the Walkerites' plan to slightly raise K-12 public school funding which Walker had proposed cutting - - though the proposed legislative increase is not to the level Walker cut in his first budget, with his legislative allies' enthusiastic approval.

That cut was the largest in the nation at the time, by some estimates

And this proposed slight increase heroically inserted Friday into the budget by GOP legislators will be negated by their fresh, short-to-long term budgetary transfer of gobs of public education dollars to so-called choice, private and parochial schools, the legislature's non-partisan analysts have determined.

Thank goodness the GOP had a k-12 education plan, too.

Update - - Don't forget this version of Walker's game: Invite people to a news conference announcing your expansion of a plan to assist seniors and the disabled - - but leave out of the announcement that the feds forced you to do it. True story, circa 2011.

I'd said a couple of weeks ago his shell game could continue because Walker played it when he was Milwaukee County Executive.

He'd heroically budget cuts - - honoring taxpayers - - and then the County Board would try as best it could to finance a restoration.

Walker would say after the budget was approved that he'd continued an unbroken string of budgets that froze taxing and spending, and then he'd heroically submit his next budget based on the budget which the Board had increased.

As I'd written recently about his current scorched-earth budget:

Here's how he plays the game: He deeply cuts a program - - this time, state educational TV, and there have been others (in the last budget, a smidgen returned to schools after budget #1's huge cuts), and we're not done yet - - and the legislators heroically add back a portion. 
He gets to play the arch-fiscal conservative and perennially campaigning 'friend-of-the-taxpayer,' the legislators play the 'moderates, and the public, their programs and the staffers get the shaft.

The larger game - - promoting a brain drain from Wisconsin campuses among faculty and students believed to be leftist commies, and Democrats.

Thank goodness the GOP has a plan for that! 

DNR used "good science" to further endange endangered birds

Today's Orwellian lesson from Stupidville, the capital Fitzwalkerstan, where Scott Walker and his GOP legislative allies are cutting scientists - - even those federally-funded - - from the WI DNR staff.

Yes, DNR spokesman Bill Cosh, nothing protects endangered terns, their nests and eggs during roosting than driving railroad bridge pilings into the La Crosse marsh where they live than Wisconsin DNR "good science."
Čorík čierny (Chlidonias niger) a (4644831482).jpg

Meanwhile, Walker goofing around, spinning on NH cruise

His budget is roiling people and institutions across Wisconsin  - - here and here - - but absentee Governor Walker is yukking it up on a political and partisan lake cruise in New Hampshire while on the Wisconsin taxpayer dime.

Great report by Craig Gilbert shows Walker suggesting he is directing the budget long-distance - - as if that's what we pay him for - - while changing by softening his tune about attacking ISIS with fresh US boots on the ground.

And we need to call him on his claim, and it's not the first time, that he's won in "blue" Wisconsin, ignoring the four terms to which Republican Governor Tommy Thompson was elected, Republican Senator Ron Johsjon's incumbency, and the 5-3 majority of Wisconsin's House of Representatives seats held by the likes of Paul Ryan. Reid Ribble, F. James Sensenbrenner, Ryan Duffy and Glenn Grothman.

Not to mention the solid GOP majorities in the State Legislature - - majorities enjoyed by Walker for most of his 4.5 years in office.

Wisconsin is purple, tilting towards red these days and Walker's claim should be rated at least mostly false. Last year, PolitiFact rated a statement "false" by Rush Limbaugh that Wisconsin was one of the bluest states.

Joint Finance defunds Gaylord Nelson chair, UW campuses transit plans

Also gone, along with tenure: the UW-Madison's new, successfully, grant-funded energy research project  - - all among dozens of damaging cuts to the UW system in Joint Finance Committee motion #521.

It's a way to purge Madison of presumed leftist faculty, grad students and incoming first-year students.

McCarthyism by another method.

It lives behind Walker's mask.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Cutting scientists from the WI DNR...

Including at least nine federally-funded professionals is like firing some of the oncologists, anesthesiologists and laboratory technicians from your cancer treatment team.

It's petty, vindictive, self-defeating and just plain stupid, led by industry-obeisant special interest backwater servants masquerading as elected, public servants.

Natural resource scientists are the keepers of the water, land and air who keep everyone here healthy and happy, who are friends to the farmers and the consumers, and who help bring back the tourists, campers, hikers, bikers, birders, hunters, swimmers, bicyclists, photographers, canoeists, sailors, boaters, not to mention retirees.

Here is the bigger, uglier Walker historical picture, about whom on environmental and DNR matters I accurately called "the Destroyer" in an early February posting:
Scott Walker's budget contains a direct, ideological and donor-driven attack on science-based conservation and citizen input at the Department of Natural Resources.

GOP ending UW tenure; More brain drain ahead

Add University of Wisconsin faculty to those heading for the exits - - the Walkerites think they're all libera Dems, when in fact they are job-creating grant recipients, innovators and entrepreneurs - -  and don't look for quality replacements, either.

Who would spend years in the teaching/graduate school/Ph.D program grind, then locating and working in the UW system where now you could be fired on the whim of the administration, or GOP Walkerite legislators who have always misunderstood and hated academe?

The Green Sheet, Jon Stewart and unlicensed WI teaching

I'm going to miss The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, but nothing lasts forever. Tell me about it, you say, as the Wisconsin Governor and Legislature right now aim to raise state park fees, fire state scientists, end some school teacher licensing and devalue UW degrees through staff, program and arbitrary funding cuts.

Back to Jon Stewart. His closing program is Aug. 8th; replacement comic Trevor Noah takes over on Sept. 28th.

I know these dates because I read them in the reborn Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Green Sheet, so right there you've got a bit of a challenge to the maxim that everything has an expiration date.

Now I like that they've brought The Green Sheet back. I wasn't raised with it, as I didn't get to Milwaukee until my early 30's, but it was appealingly Milwaukee-and-Journal quirky, and it's fun when old standards and standbys are upheld, like baseball players' socks that are pulled calf-high.

Who doesn't get a kick out of seeing an A & W roadside restaurant come into view?

Still, resurrecting The Green Sheet feels like an acknowledgement that the newpaper's better days are behind it.

Which brings me to this:

I ran into a smart, younger guy on the East side the other day and we got to talking about the future of Downer Avenue's commercial strip, and in particular the long-empty storefronts there. It's a complicated situation. Big plans were abandoned, developers went bust, and properties up and down the street are up for auction June 1.

Naturally, people in the area have concerns and hope for the best.

I opined in the conversation with the younger guy that I was glad to see Downer Ave. still able to support Boswell Books and the Downer Theater - - two of my favorites - - along with the restaurants and Sendik's Market - - but to my surprise the other guy said the theater and the bookstore were of less concern to him than other commercial operations or opportunities there because books and sit-down movies represented old models which younger people were ditching for digital, downloaded entertainment.

He wasn't being mean or judgmental, and had nothing against theaters and  bookstores, but his perspective caught me up short and added to my 'nothing-lasts-forever' frame of mind.

So, for the record, I'm hoping people enjoy The Green Sheet, that Downer Ave. thrives with a movie theater and bookstore long into the future - - in fact, mark on your wall calendar (or computer and/or smartphone calendar) Andrew Maraniss' June 22nd reading at Boswell from his award-winning sports and civil rights book Strong Inside - - and that traditional models survive and prosper along side the new.

Jon Stewart walking away from The Daily Show is one thing, and God Speed to him.

But if ideologically-motivated Wisconsin Republican are out to fire DNR scientists and allow unlicensed people - - some without even a high school diploma to teach your children - - then we're going to have to make it our business to maintain some important things in the face of those who want to prematurely kill them off.

Walker and the dismembering of Wisconsin

Conservative power broker Grover Norquist famously said he wanted government shrunk to the point that he could drown it in a bathtub.

That's been Walker's plan for us the citizen lab rats in his right-wing, roll-back experiment as he hacks at Wisconsin these past few years and budgets - - from the intentional undermining of public K-12 education in favor of subsidized private schools, to Act 10 and its wholesale discounting of public service, to the demolition of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource's historic scientific-and-conservation-for-the-peop;e mission, the rejection of federal funding for health insurance and Amtrak expansion, to the future construction of bike trails, and bike lanes/sidewalks along major state-and-federally-funded major road projects.

Also the abandonment of state stewardship land acquisition, to the harsh upending of home care for the disabled and senior prescription drug programs, to his arbitrary, politicized attack on the UW system's role, programs and faculty, and more examples too numerous to list here.

Walker's definition of small government comes with a giant, hypocritical asterisk: his retention and use of state power from on high when it suits his personal advancement and ideological goals, such as gaining the rights to insert more political appointees in state agencies, approve all state administration rules or sell any state asset.

Also barring any increase in the $7.25 minimum hourly-wage, mandating medically-unneeded and invasive ultrasound procedures for women, stripping of funding for women's health clinics, humiliating public assistance recipients with mandated drug tests and a presumption of criminality while slashing their eligibility and food on the table, wiping out local input and controls on everything from public worker salaries and union negotiations statewide, to development-related water planning in Dane County, to employee residency in Milwaukee. to local zoning oversight in Madison where a politically-tainted $200 million publicly-financed palace for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, its bloated, debt-laden budget and road-building clients is to be built without a pressing need.

And turning state attorneys and bureaucrats loose to fight everything from cleaner utility smokestacks, to pollution-free streams and rivers, to marriage equality for same-sex couples to unfettered ballot-box access.

We've lost track of his various divide-and-conquer tactics, but it's clear that to Walker, small government comes with a heavy dose of Big Government power-tripping - - a toxic contradiction borne of cold-blooded hypocrisy to serve big donors' narrow corporate interests - a warning sign as Walker single-mindedly and self-servingly tramples on whomever and whatever he selects to further his campaign nationally to win and wield ultimate Big Government power.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Will we hear about an activist WI Leg. Fiscal Bureau?

The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau is being criticized by a leading school choice advocate over the agency's estimate of the extent of the likely, expanded income transfer to private, religious choice schools from public education funding - - in other words, criticized for doing its job.
Sending thousands more students to private, religious schools under an expansion of Wisconsin's statewide voucher program could shift $600 million to $800 million out of public schools over the next decade, according to an analysis from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
"I'm a little bit surprised the fiscal bureau put this memo out," said Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin. "Normally, they don't say, 'We're going to take a purely speculative run and just guess at the numbers.'"
.Here's how the agency's website explains itself:

And the GOP's Pataki makes it 31

I was hoping for a pun-filled posting working off GOP presidential hopefuls and "19 and Counting,"  but with George Pataki's potential or declared hat now also edging towards the ring today, the clown car has expanded to a circus train with 31 riders.

There shall be a new $200 million WisDOT palace, despite 'crap' budget

Scott Walker and his GOP legislative/budget-writing water carriers are cutting programs, raising state park entrance and camping fees, erasing bike trails and sidewalks from road projects, firing DNR scientists and refusing federal funds to help poor people obtain health insurance - - all in the name of fiscal restraint also termed "crap" by a GOP legislator - - but, by God, there shall be a new, $200 million palace built on Madison's West side for state transportation officials and their client road-builders who write politicians nice checks.

And to make sure this new WisDOT facility is built, GOP legislators are adding to the budget a provision that exempts the project from City of Madison zoning codes.

So to Madison, it's the same sort of raised, no-local-control middle finger that the budget-writers gave Dane County when they slipped language into the proposed budget taking away county participation in water policy-making development decisions.

It's not a coincidence that the Madison and Dane County-only budget provisions will aid privileged developers who have somehow managed to get an inside track to these big-dollar troughs.

Let's see who ends up with the contracts and development rights made easier by Walkerites who are writing for the winners a special set of easy rules.

As I wrote almost two years ago, to the day:
Any investigative reporter worth his or her salt will watch carefully who 'wins' the choice Hill Farms site on Madison's prosperous West Side once WisDOT is moved out to its unneeded, but oh, so illustrative new digs. 
Small government for everyone except you and your big projects, Road-building/Government Complex.  
Remember, Walker is about to get the right to sell any state asset to the bidder of his choice - - without competitive, public bids - - needing only a deferential thumbs-up from obeisant Joint Finance Committee majority.

As to Walker and the DNR, why not just fire everybody?

He said he wanted a DNR with a "chamber of commerce mentality," so now that the big layoffs he's budgeted there against agency pointy-heads (scientists) could have an even more expansive domino effect, why doesn't he just let every go except Cathy Stepp's smiley-faced PR people and transfer  them to the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce fortress just down W. Washington Ave. where they can write news releases like "Phosphorus and weeds make our trout streams greener" and "Abandoned open-pit mines someday make cool swimming holes."

And when the feds come in to enforce the US Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, Walker can yammer about big government.

A win-win for him, which these days is all that matters to him.

Fresh WI GOP budget assault on WI bike transportation brewing

There is apparently a move underway by GOP legislators to insert language in the budget that would end the use of state funding, or federal funding passed through the state to localities, for various pedestrian and bike projects and trails.

The popular Henry Aaron State Trail that has been integral to the revival of the Milwaukee River Valley received such support.

Bikes and pedestrians mitigate traffic congestion and road use, and also attract tourists, as has the successful Interurban project in Ozaukee County, and WisDOT touts may similar projects over the last twenty-some years.

The projects also add a bit of balance to the far bigger highway budgets.

Legislators who do not represent big cities often do not appreciate the extent of non-vehicle commuting and recreation. These legislators 'thinking' is: if localities want these facilities, they have to pay 100% of the coset - - though state-imposed spending caps make that outcome difficult-to-impossible, and no such one-dimensional approach is required when a street or highway expansion is planned.

Walker's budget already repeals the Complete Streets Act, which called for the addition of bike lanes or sidewalks on street projects above a certain expenditure level; the potential prohibition of spending on separate bike or pedestrian trails extends this one-sided 'transportation' model in Wisconsin.

One more thing? Will Walker and the GOP's anger at former Trek executive Mary Burke ever subside for her audacious 2014 campaign challenge to Walker?

Remember the good old days, when everyone in Wisconsin - - Walker included - - lauded Trek and the biking it fostered?

Righty candidate sugarcoats harsh government mandate

Scott Walker - - he of the preposterous grasp for that which he is intellectually and emotionally unprepared to manage - - somehow does not understand the difference between the altogether voluntary ultrasound images he and his wife obtained during her pregnancies that produced their two sons to medically-unnecessary and politically-inspired and physically invasive ultrasound images he and his far-right cohorts are legislating through the power government on women whose constitutional right to an abortion Walker & Co. are continuing arbitrarily to abridge.

Walker says intrusive ultrasounds are "cool."

Not when partisan politicians demand that women undergo them.

Will new EPA rule protect more Wisconsin streams?

Some Wisconsin waters and their sources are already under assault, like the Little Plover river as documented by the River Alliance of Wisconsin - -
- - and the state under Walker is enabling the release of weed-producing phosphorus pollution into Wisconsin waterways - -
weed and algae growth in Wisconsin waters (c) Will Stites

I'm hoping there is relief on the way through a new rule announced by the US Environmental Protection Agency under the Federal Clean Water Act after years of studies and meetings.

Resistance by Walker's "chamber of commerce mentality" Department of Natural Resources, which along with his Public Service Commission, is already fighting new EPA clean air standards.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Stem ballooning WI business tax credits

Another important posting from the always-informative Wisconsin Budget Project. One chart tells the story.

Walker would take WI even faster to low-wage basement

So basically, we're looking at a low-wage, sparse growth, class-defined Wisconsin - - via state power, again.

Not content with obstructing any increase in the Wisconsin $7.25/hr. absolute minimum of minimum wage, and cutting public employees take-home pay and capping raises at 1% through Act 10, and signing the blue-collar wage-depressing 'right-to-work' law he said would never reach his desk (wink, wink), he's now on board (wink, wink 2.0) with signing a proposed repeal of so-called prevailing wage legislation that guarantees big project workers a living wage - - another measure he'd recently said wasn't a priority for him.

All that's left is a declaration of love for working people.

Oh, wait, he basically did that already.

Breaking news: You may not need no stupid teaching license in WI

Forget mail-order diplomas or counterfeit credentials: just about anyone might soon be your Wisconsin kid's teacher, even that guy you knew who quit school in 10th grade to sell weed or go find himself, if a major policy shift one GOP legislator has slipped in the proposed state budget wins partisan approvals soon.

Frther subtext - - professional teachers and their unions can go F themselves, and I don't mean give themselves a failing grade.

For the love of these WI Republicans!

When I hear people like Alberta Darling invoking Scott Walker's "love" for Wisconsin, or Walker proclaiming his "love" for the poor, I remember that some displays of love are best aired privately.

Enjoy and preserve Milwaukee's miles of public lakefront

Thank the 19th-20th century Socialists for keeping this in the public domain. Be its advocate.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Give Alberta Darling a coveted OrwellianSpeak Award

The long-time GOP State Senator from tony River Hills, and current co-chair of the legislature's budget-writing committee- - 
Darling alberta.jpg
- - produced this awe-inspiring rhetorical gem when explaining why Republicans either bounced their Leader Scott Walker for cause from the Board Chairmanship of his scandal-ridden WEDC jobs agency, or granted his wish to expeditiously skedaddle  - - either way freeing him from WEDC's toxicity as his preposterous run for The White House leaves Wisconsin behind:
"I think he loves Wisconsin so much that he felt that if some of the members on the board feel like the group would be better off if he would not be the chair ... I'd say that's leadership on his part," said Joint Finance Committee co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Falls. "He feels that he is a factor that's not contributing to constructive dialogue, and he knows that chemistry has has to be changed. I give him credit for doing it, so let's see what happens."

Noted 'non-candidate' not sure if he'll not run in FL

Walker, always strategerizing about things other than done-with-Wisconsin on his mind.

You want another example of his full on feinting? Try this explanation by Walker that he didn't flip-flop when he changed his positions on the immigration issue, because only legislators who take votes and change their positions can be said to have done the flip.

Really? I'd rate that a full self-serving full gainer.

I wonder if PolitiFact agrees, since it has often rated Walker's half-flips or full flops. Here are his 2015 flip.flop ratings, of which there are six.

About Texas, weather extremes and political extremists

As Texas goes from killer drought to killer rain and floods, how will the state's two right-wing climate change - denying GOP presidential hopefuls - - Ted Cruz and Rick Perry - - deal with the facts and reality on the soaked, sad and shattered ground?

Pity those helpless WI GOP Legislative 'leaders'

Like Walker who wasn't pushing union-bashing, wage-depressing 'right-to-work legislation,' but, big sigh, signed it anyway, GOP legislative leaders want you to believe that there's nothing they can do to control those darn kids in the caucus back benches who want to repeal a related law that sets a living wage for workers on major projects.

Jeepers: What's a powerless GOP legislative 'leader' to do?

Virginia Small champions Milwaukee's O'Donnell Park

Nice op-ed in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by one of the tenacious defenders of O'Donnell Park between the downtown and the lakefront. A good reminder that public assets are under attack in Wisconsin these days, so here's a salute to the people who respect the land and intend to make sure it's there for the next generations to enjoy and pass along, too.

As Small writes:
I happened to be in O'Donnell Park on a recent Saturday afternoon and was struck by the many clusters of people taking photographs of each other from various vantage points. I've witnessed that before, but the park was especially full of shutterbugs and strollers, despite fog almost completely obscuring the view of the Calatrava's outstretched white wings...
I'm glad that the Milwaukee Art Museum wants to preserve O'Donnell Park and to protect the assets that especially serve museum visitors: its grand view, convenient parking and access from E. Wisconsin Ave. across the park plaza and bridge...Our local economy, especially tourism, depends on having such a compelling public place. It deserves better care and respect for its value...
Next time you're downtown, consider stopping by O'Donnell Park. Check out the picture-perfect views, which are ever-changing with the weather and time of day, and see who is enjoying Milwaukee's extraordinary town plaza.

Monday, May 25, 2015

About GOP hopefuls, righty columnist Kathleen Parker talks studliness

Is May is the cruelest month? Wisconsinites will immediately note the omission to the column headline question about how the GOP should choose which candidates get to take the debate stage - - "Who's the studdliest of them all?"
...why not just select our senior superlatives the way we did in high school? Who is something-est — the tallest, handsomest, smartest, wittiest, friendliest, cutest, nicest, toughest, most likely to succeed and, not least, most likely to attract about 40% of the Hispanic vote? 
Oh, and who can beat Hillary Clinton? Lest I be a spoiler, I'll let you fill in the blanks. I'd be willing to bet that the superlatives selected will be the 10 contestants — I mean, candidates — appearing on the big stage come August. Hints: Jeb Bush is 6-feet-3; Marco Rubio and Bush speak Spanish fluently; Ted Cruz speaks Spanglish; and Mike Huckabee is pretty funny.

Doctors Lazich, Walker practice medicine, soft-pedal rape, incest

Plus, Wisconsin taxpayers are about to waste a lot more money on legal fees, but the only thing that matters to far-right GOP office holders is pandering to their base voters. I grant that it's a serious and sensitive issue, but it looks awfully partisan and timed to fit with Walker's Iowa caucus agendas.

GOP now a subsidiary to Koch brothers party

Solar site at Milwaukee County's airport? Good thing Walker is gone as Co. Exec.

Our anti-solar Governor in servitude to the Koch brothers, ALEC-defined fossil fuel policies would no doubt have squashed this green, cleaner-air opportunity and proven modern technology on Milwaukee County property.
A proposed 5-acre solar energy farm at Mitchell International Airport took one step forward this month with a consultant's report showing there are a dozen open spaces large enough for a broad array of sun-tracking panels that would not interfere with aviation or traffic control.
If the project is built, Mitchell Airport would join as many as 70 airports in the U.S. with solar farms, the consultant's report says.
More on our status as an anti-solar 'leader' is contained in a recent industry newsletter, here:
Gov. Walker has made much throughout his tenure of supporting business interests and proclaiming Wisconsin is “open for business.” He has also been closely associated with conservative, pro-business organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Americans for Prosperity
Such groups frequently work against renewable energy on the national and state levels, presumably influenced by their close ties with the fossil fuel industry. In an interview this summer, ALEC’s new CEO, Lisa Nelson, named Walker a model for promoting limited government, and applauded him for promoting “growth and competition.”

Ugly data show Wisconsin at cusp of zero-growth

A couple of days, when analyzing policies of Walkerite Republicans that make Wisconsin unattractive, I'd written:
It would not surprise me if Wisconsin's population gain slows or plateaus as a result of these punitive, small-minded and overtly hostile GOP programs, guaranteeing Wisconsin's long-term status as a low-wage, slow-to-no-new job growth entrepreneurial and lifestyle backwater.
So make sure you read to the bottom of this long, chart-illustrated story posted Sunday by the Madison Capital Times to find the population change statewide from 2013-2014: a gain of 0.25%

A quarter of one percent.

A quick Google survey finds, for example, that Indiana's growth at 0.51%, was twice Wisconsin's, as was Iowa's.

And, yes, we're doing better than Michigan, though given Michigan's complex problems related to the US auto industry, that hardly makes Wisconsin look like Nirvana.

Now I know that there a lot of factors involved, including birth and death rates, but I haven't heard anyone in the Walker administration touting a population growth rate of one-quarter of one percent as proof that people and employers are flocking to a state recently described as hollowed-out.

They could actually spin it this way: it's a better number than other years of clear-cut out-migration during the Walker administration, but that strategy is similar to Walker's spinning that redefines his failure to create the promised 250,000 new jobs as a -so-called success because about half that number were added on his watch. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

In Wisconsin, the Tiffany is not a gem

There was a time not that long ago that it would have been bad form in Wisconsin politics to be as openly subservient to special interests as is State Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, and this added, under-the-table example involving private timber cutting in state forests on top of his water carrying for Scott Walker, or conservative State Supreme Court justices, or wolf-for-sport hunters, or iron and sand mining interests - - here, or here, or here- - shows that Wisconsin under the GOP's complete control is now wide open for political business that undermines - - no pun intended - - core democratic, citizen-focused governance.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Federal $$ for dubious WI Highway 23 expansion blocked

[Updated 9:59 p.m.] This blog has been following for years the outrageous attempt to build a costly expansion of State Highway 23 connecting Fond du Lac and Plymouth - - posts, for example here, and here.

Now we are learning about a huge win in Federal court against the use of federal funds to pay for the Highway 23 project, so hat tip to 1000 Friends of Wisconsin - - and here is the group's news release about it - - for sticking with the issue.

And we really need to learn a lot more about how this $146 million boondoggle found its way into the budget and the so-called "enumeration" process about 15 years ago by which road projects in Wisconsin are selected, as this news story disclosed:

The U.S. Eastern District Court on Friday halted a road project that would have expanded Highway 23 into a four-lane highway between Fond du Lac and Plymouth... 
According to the 26-page court decision by District Judge Lynn Adelman, an environmental impact statement released by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation failed to justify higher traffic volumes or explain how recently updated demographic data (slower growth projections) might affect traffic projections...
An internal DOT email quoted in the ruling states: "This project was placed in the budget by a certain legislator. That legislator either got the project into the budget in a trade for support or something else ... given that it happened behind closed doors and outside the (Transportation Projects Commission) there are no rules."
Note also the similarities in the ruling to Judge Adelman's earlier rulings in cases involvingWisDOT and its deficient planning and spending on State Highway 164 west of Milwaukee and on I-94 expansion in the Zoo Interchange at the Milwaukee County/Waukesha County border where WisDOT left out transit improvements for low-income residents with access to cars.

Strong Green Bay op-ed on Walker's 'hollowing out WI'

This one by UW-GB business professor Meir Russ is a keeper:
The hollowing-out of Wisconsin predicted, the [Walker] policies accelerated the slide to a low-cost, low-wage economy while hurting the higher income portion of the population (the top 25 percentile) the most (relatively).
This would suggest that high-paying jobs are leaving Wisconsin either through attrition (retirement or downsizing) or migration, and are replaced by low-paying jobs. Add to that the fact that Wisconsin ranks highest in the nation on losing the middle class and 38th in new jobs creation; the picture is not pretty.
Now let's turn to education. Wisconsin ranks second in high school graduation but only 20th in higher education, 31st with advanced degrees, and 33rd with doctoral degrees. Further, Wisconsin is ranked 37th in state appropriations for higher education, and 47th in percentage growth in higher education spending. All of these rankings are prior to the new cuts suggested by the governor... 
Maybe the results of the first four years will change some minds in regards to the governor's budget proposals for public and higher education. If not, we will see in the next four years how much lower Wisconsin will go.

Walker's WEDC tied to several troubled loans, practices

[Updated, 1:55 p.m.] Yes, there is a politically-tainted $500,000 bad loan in the news made by the state jobs agency Walker created and chairs, and yes, we are learning that the the agency - - Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, is now throwing six figure sums of the public's money at private lawyers to try and collect the debt - - but it's hardly the only loan or internal practice about which questions have been raised and documented.

I point you to this 2012 story:

MADISON (WKOW) -- The chief financial officer of the state's flagship jobs agency resigned, as state leaders vowed better accounting practices, after the agency lost track of more than $7 million in unpaid loans.
This second of two 2014 WEDC postings on the same day:
Working my way through the full text of the jaw-dropping state audit of the operations at the Scott Walker-conceived-and-created Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. 
Virtually every page documents an agency not meeting rules, standards or law or failing to provide documentation, accurate data or procedural follow-through - - as state funds were disbursed willy-nilly.
Or this 2014 story: 
One of the high profile companies to receive backing from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is again delinquent on its loans with the state. 
Superior-based Kestrel Aircraft Company — a firm touted by Gov. Scott Walker as an example of his business recruitment efforts — hasn’t made any payment on its $4 million in loans since October. It is supposed to pay $6,600 monthly and is now over $26,000 in arrears.
And this 2014 story: 
MADISON (WKOW) -- A liberal advocacy group reports that nearly 60 percent of the financial assistance money awarded by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has gone to businesses whose owners or employees have donated money to the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) or the Republican Governors Association (RGA)...
One Wisconsin Now found that 192 donors associated with businesses receiving WEDC grants donated a total of just over $1 million directly to Gov. Walker's campaign and another $1.1 million to the RGA.  The RGA is a special interest group that spent $13 million to help get Gov. Walker elected in 2010 and then defeat the recall effort in 2012.
One Wisconsin Now reports that $570 million of the $975 million in funds awarded by the state's leading economic development agency went to the companies of those donors.
(Disclosure: I sit on the One Wisconsin Now C-3 board but was not involved in the group's work on the WEDC portfolio.)

WEDC puff piece now looks even more propagandistic

[Updated] Eight days ago I wrote a posting suggesting that an op-ed about the scandal-plagued WEDC and signed by its CEO and Board Secretary Reed Hall in the Journal Sentinel and Milwaukee BizTimes was more propagandistic than informative.

It appeared a couple of days after The Wisconsin State Journal began its important series about multiple lending and accountability problems at the agency that had first been highlighted in 2013 by state auditors. 

The series began with this blockbuster headline:
WEDC under fire again for not tracking loans, losing top executives
The key words there - - "again."

The job-creating and development agency was established in 2011 by the Legislature at the behest of Scott Walker. He has served as its only board chair - - thus to get more credit when the WEDC because the success he assumed it would be - - but the agency has been plagued with legal, fiscal and political problems from its beginning, saddling Walker with more blame and bad media for his
 broken signature election promise in 2010, and repeated in 2012's recall campaign, too, to create 250,000 jobs for Wisconsin.

In the week following the op-ed's publication, Walker continued to praise and defend the agency, but then abruptly ended the WEDC's lending role and distanced himself further from the agency as the State Journal expanded its series to include the details of an egregiously bad and politicized $500,000 loan down the drain.

All of which undermined one of WEDC CEO Hall's op-ed claims:

There have been lessons learned along the way. WEDC's first state audit – released in May 2013 – documented our need for better systems to track loans, oversee expenditures and monitor the performance of award recipients. After that audit, we have implemented significant changes to rebuild accountability, transparency and public trust in its operations.
By the end of the week, and just days after Hall's op-ed, Walker said he wanted to step down altogether from the board and abandon its chairmanship; GOP legislators also were saying he should step down, so they voted to do just that and removed him on a 12-4 party-line vote at the Joint Committee on Finance, the Legislature's budget-writing arm.

Nobody wanted to be close to the WEDC right now, making Hall's boasts and assurances about the agency ring all the more hollow.

Despite the devastating (and second) audit detailing accounting and oversight laws and procedures not followed, and more revelations about one particularly bad loan, WEDC's Hall had spun things this way in the op-ed:

While the new audit highlights some of WEDC’s improvements, it also raises some issues about WEDC that require clarification. For example, one of WEDC’s core purposes is to work with businesses to help create and retain jobs. We want to ensure the public that our efforts are having a measurable, positive effect and are actually growing jobs in the state. That’s why we have implemented stringent measures that include requiring companies to provide detailed payroll records and a signed attestation to verify their job creation and retention figures. 
WEDC invariably follows state statutes and its own policies. Some of the main issues raised in this area are a result of differences of opinion between WEDC and the audit bureau about how the organization administers its contracts. For example, the audit bureau noted that WEDC contracts use the word “may” instead of “shall,” even though the same audit noted that the word “shall” does not in any way affect WEDC’s legal ability to enforce the contract.
Summing up:

In a few days, Walker went from being WEDC's creator, only board chair and reliable cheerleader to board chair, retired. 

So are you telling me that Walker decided to end WEDC lending, then agreed to either be booted from or to quit its board only after the WEDC produced that glowing op-ed?

As I also wrote: What did he know and when did he know it?

I think Walker and his political handlers knew they needed to get rid of that WEDC albatross, but wanted to buy him some time for a smoother, cleaner getaway, and the op-ed was to distract the public from the agency's troubles by creating for it, and thus Walker, by association, an undeserved, positive image.

Maybe events moved faster last week than Walker had hoped, but that doesn't mean they weren't trying - - unsuccessfully - - to get reporters to cool their jets.

Reread that op-ed for yourself. It's still on the agency's website.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Note new Walker appointee to Dane County Bench

This will be short-lived service, as I doubt Dane County voters will go for Walker's naming naming Jim Troupis, a go-to GOP attorney mentioned in this story, to the local circuit court bench.
Lawyers in GOP redistricting case withheld 34 emails from groups
Also mentioned in this separate, earlier story: 
Federal court issues harsh order that GOP must release redistricting records
More commentary, here.
Seriously? Judge Troupis?
Always interesting, though, when the party of cut spending/shrink government finds partisans willing to take a state salary and benefits. 

Will GOP claim Feingold is Californian, having breathed air there?

Consult this flaming PolitiFact ruling for even nuttier context.
Pants on Fire!

How Ron Johnson would react to major climate/sea level news

About news like this. Johnson's attitude, with his status and his millions, is pretty much tough sh**, as I just said.

Little wonder he is the Senate's most-vulnerable member. He doesn't recognize the vulnerability of millions of human beings.

Honoring my former colleague Don Walker on his passing

[Updated] People who worked with Don Walker at the newspaper, or who came into contact with him in his old neighborhood in Story Hill, or at City Hall where he did some of his late-career work before heading off to Marquette on a fellowship are all mourning the sudden death today of our pal Don Walker at age 62.

You don't get to work with many people who are always so fair-minded and friendly and fun to be around.  He was at the old Journal when I got there in 1983 and showed me the ropes. When they later made me an assistant Metropolitan Editor for a couple of years, Don was the assignment editor and bailed me out of too many jams to remember.

Everybody loved him and always wanted to be involved in his projects.

This is a tough one.

Here is the first story I've seen about it.

Also a very nice take in the paper by his friend Don Behm, then expanded by Crocker Stephenson.