Monday, May 29, 2017

How to throw away $10,000 on Paul Ryan

[Updated] The pride of Janesville later this week will be far away from home, his day job in DC cutting rich people's taxes and poor people's health care, and dealing with pesky little truth-tellers

And remember when he said he'd take the Speakership if he didn't have to run around the country raising money? 

Well, hello, Tennessee, though your ten grand max pales next to one of his recent fundraisers in Chicago, where the top tickets went for $50,000.

Must-read local voice from CAFO-damaged rural WI

I've tried to follow the multiple political and environmental land and water issues forced on Wisconsin by big special interests
but I haven't read a better summary from ground zero than this account from The Kewaunee County Comet: 
A 1,000-cow herd addition requires spreading the untreated waste equivalent to 20,000 humans over land that may be unsuited to accept this amount of untreated manure. 
The herd size increases of just the first few months of 2017 in Door and Kewaunee County will add the human waste equivalent of the entire population of Green Bay to the hundreds of millions of gallons of liquid manure already being applied here... 
For those living in here with concerns about health, property values, and overall quality of life, the further expansion of large-scale farms did not seem like much of a win...
For those who value Wisconsin’s waterways, the continued approval of more and more high-capacity wells and more and more herd expansions in vulnerable areas, the resulting dry lakes and compromised water quality probably won’t feel like a big win.
I also signed up for the publication's weekly email, here

My thanks to the writer and publisher.

One simple sentence shows what climate change needs

Or a single word:


The lede on this New York Times Sunday story gets to the heart of climate change issue: 

Global warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases is having clear effects in the physical world: more heat waves, heavier rainstorms and higher sea levels, to cite a few.
Smoke stacks from a factory.
As do the next few simple sentences which take readers into deeper content:
In recent years, though, social scientists have been wrestling with a murkier question: What will climate change mean for human welfare...?
Now comes another entry in this literature: a prediction that in a hotter world, people will get less sleep.
It's an interesting report, to be sure - - but I was struck by the clear and factual approach to climate change without the doubts and even outright hostility intentionally injected into the issue by ideological partisans obeisant to the very corporate interests actively undermining the discussion, including:

*  The 'chamber of commerce mentality' managers whom GOP Gov. Scott Walker has running the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and who scrubbed climate change language, science and facts from the agency's key climate change page.

Climate change censors driven by science denial and obeisance to polluters these days at the GOP-managed, Scott Walker-redefined "chamber of commerce mentality" Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources are at it again.
Not content with having already stripped content and links from an agency webpage about climate change - - deletions I documented some years ago and which I have frequently referenced - - the ideologues intent on scrubbing science off these pages and sowing doubt and confusion about the consensus view of experts worldwide about climate change have edited, deleted and otherwise compressed to whitewash long-standing concepts and facts off a climate change page about the Great Lakes - - the same way, I will add, that Walker edited and watered-down the Wisconsin Idea, which has for decades had been the University system's historic mission statement

And, for the record, just as I predicted in 2015 they'd do:
Its [the key DNR] website is still noting that there are indeed present-tense impacts of climate change and "Human activities that increase heat–trapping ("green house") gases are the main cause."
So look for more heads to roll at the agency, and since the Walker DNR deleted most of what the Doyle administration left on the agency's climate change pages, don't be surprised if this current language about climate change and Wisconsin gets edited or deleted because it lists what "scientists agree" about:
Climate Change and Wisconsin's Great Lakes
Earth´s climate is changing. Human activities that increase heat–trapping ("green house") gases are the main cause. 
Earth's average temperature has increased 1.4 °F since 1850 and the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 1998. 
Increasing temperatures have led to changes in rainfall patterns and snow and ice cover. These changes could have severe effects on the Great Lakes and the plants, wildlife and people who depend on them. While no one can predict exactly what climate change will mean for our Great Lakes, scientists agree that the following changes are likely if climate change patterns continue.
  • Increased summer and winter temperatures will cause increased evaporation, lower lake water levels and warmer water, resulting in reduced habitat for cold water species and a loss of critical wetland areas.
  • Decreased winter ice cover will also contribute to increased evaporation and lower lake water levels which could have severe economic consequences for our valuable shipping industry, lakeshore recreation, and coastal businesses.
  • Changes in rain and snowfall patterns (including more frequent and severe storms) could change water flow in streams and rivers and increase stream bank erosion and runoff pollution.
  • The good news is that we can all work to slow climate change and lessen its effects. To find out more about climate change and how we can all help, please visit the following links.
That scrubbing of crucial climate change information in the face of known facts was carried out to backstop Walker's disbelief in a warming climate, his efforts to keep greenhouse gases flowing, and openly juvenile behavior when asked on national stages to address these of globally-significant matters:
“I’m an Eagle Scout. We were taught a long time ago, your campsite should be cleaner when you leave than when you find it,” Walker said.
*  Our new Climate Change Denier-in-Chief who campaigned on this famous Tweet:
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
*  The fossil fuel industry ally now in charge of the US science agency with the expert staff to address climate change now facing massive budget cuts: 
Scott Pruitt, the nation’s top environmental official, strongly rejected the established science of climate change on Thursday, outraging scientists, environmentalists, and even his immediate predecessor at the Environmental Protection Agency.
We'd go long way towards cleaning the atmosphere cleaner and leaving a healthier planet to our grandchildren if these Republicans would end their self-interested obstruction to climate change science, but it looks like we're being led in the opposite direction: 

In the Trump White House, the momentum is against the Paris climate agreement

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Wisconsin Gov. tweets unique holiday weekend photo

School kids gave Paul "Atlas Shrugged" Ryan shrug of their own

[Updated] The Pride of Janesville finds out that being Speaker of the US House of Representatives isn't an automatic win, The Washington Post reported:
...a group from South Orange Middle School in New Jersey may remember their trip to the nation’s capital last week for another reason: It was the occasion for a pointed snub of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).
Dozens of the 218 students on the trip refused to have their photo taken with Ryan when he briefly joined them outside the capitol Thursday, students on the trip said...
Matthew Malespina, one of the students who stayed away, said in an interview Sunday that he chose not to be photographed with Ryan because he disagreed with the policies the speaker and his party are pushing on health care, among other things. He called Ryan “a man who puts his party before his country.”
Update: These kids walked from a photo op that rich Tennessee Republican suckers will pay $10,000 for later this week.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The US right adheres to a socio-political takeover blueprint

The right has endless business-driven funding and coordinated institutions that keep compliant Republican politicians in power.

That didn't happen by accident.

And this isn't a conspiracy theory - - just a true story about political planning and discipline.

And now that we have learned about a) the spreading national influence of super-wealthy Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, and b) watched it openly take control of the Walker for Governor campaign which c) Koch interests also boosted as far back as 2007, and 

d) seeing the consequences of Wisconsin's clean air and water being handed to private interests under Walker's chamber of commerce mentality' direction while e) he and his State Capitol allies have a new plan to advance that agenda through a conservative 'leadership' center on the taxpayer funded UW-Madison campus, it's the right time to familiarize yourself with how and where this right-wing movement began:

In a lengthy, must-read blueprint forwarded confidentially as a memo years ago to the US Chamber of Commerce by corporate attorney Louis Powell whom GOP President Richard Nixon was about to elevate to the US Supreme Court.

,,,the Chamber and corporate activists took his advice to heart and began building a powerful array of institutions designed to shift public attitudes and beliefs over the course of years and decades. The memo influenced or inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Accuracy in Academe, and other powerful organizations. 
Powell wanted powerful conservatives and groups to back a system of well-funded right-wing alternative scholars, campus speakers, television, print media, books, and more - - and his pitch pre-dated Citizens United and the Internet.

When I see that Wisconsin Republicans are planning a conservative-focused center on the UW-Madison, or that Walker's DNR is promoting pro-industry ideological information instead of consensus climate change science, and that the Bradley Foundation wants to take its Wisconsin 'successes' national, I see an amped up, 21st-centry version of the Louis Powell right-wing takeover memo still influential after almost 50 years.

Robin Vos has political dreams for UW 'leadership' center

I'd noted recently that Wisconsin GOP leaders were launching through the pending state budget the umpteenth facility named after former GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson - - purportedly an academically-credible 'Leadership' Center on the UW campus - - but then veteran UW-Madison thought controller and partisan eager beaver GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos forgot out loud the cover story:
Picture of Representative Robin VosIn addition to statements about bipartisanship in announcing the center, Vos spoke of his long-held belief that conservative ideology gets short shrift at UW. 
“Hopefully it will be able to offset some of the liberal thinking," Vos said of the center to Wisconsin Public Radio. 
"This is just hoping that we can have a balance of thought on campus."
I guess everyone is entitled to his or own version of the Wisconsin Idea - - like Walker did not too long ago when Vos concluded Walker's timing was off.

And I see Vos' point, as Wisconsin-based conservative groups like the Bradley Foundation can't afford to underwrite studies and writers and advocacy and think tanks.

Golf course annexation scheme gets 5/30 public review

Talk about the rich and powerful tilting the playing field in the middle of a game.

Frustrated with local opposition in the Town of Wilson to the Kohler proposal to convert a 247-acre wetland/rare dune/native artifact rich-nature preserve 

into a high-end golf course, Kohler interests have launched an annexation petition that would repress the opposition by moving the property's boundaries into the City of Sheboygan for perhaps a more favorable reception.

The annexation scheme is on the City's Plan Commission agenda Tuesday, May 30 at 4:00 p.m, beginning with a public input period:

2.2 Approval of the Plan Commission minutes from May 9, 2017.
2.3 Kohler Annexation--Public Input
2.4 R. O. No. 32-17-18 by the City Clerk submitting a communication from Reinhart Attys. at Law at the request of their client, Kohler Co., a Wisconsin corporation ("Kohler"), enclosing the Annexation Petition for lands in the vicinity of Stahl Road (CTH KK) and 12th St. (CTH V) in the Town of Wilson.
2.5 Gen. Ord. No. 4-17-18 by Ald. Bohren and Sorenson amending the City's Zoning Map of the Sheboygan Zoning Ordinance to change the Use District Classification of property being the entire area included in the annexation petition as shown on the attached map received and dated May 15, 2017, from Town of Wilson P1, A2, A3 and R1 to Class Suburban Residential (SR-5) Classification.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Beware privatized roads' siren songs

There has been talk about creating toll roads in Wisconsin,
EZPass logo.svg
or Donald Trump making it easier for states like Wisconsin to convert highways into private-sector cash cows while chickening out on making tough fundamental tax and spending decision-making.

You may hear tall tales from proponents about these can't fail schemes - - but remember that Indiana turned its toll road over to the private sector, only to see the deal go bankrupt, and rates skyrocketed when the City of Chicago privatized its parking meter system"

Some details I posted in 2014: 


Privatization alert II. Or shall we call it - -  Ex-Gov. Mitch Daniels, (R), fail:
In filing for bankruptcy, the company that operates the Indiana Toll Road has reignited an old debate about the controversial privatization of the Toll Road in 2006.
Those who opposed leasing the highway in 2006 are now outspoken, citing concerns about the future of the road and quality of its upkeep.
As we noted here, earlier, warning against these schemes:
FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 2013

Privatization Alert: Why Chicago On-Street Parking Is $6.50/Hr.

File this away as Walkerites at the Capitol look to transfer public assets to private interests for ideological satisfaction, short-term budget gains and long-term added costs to taxpayers, consumers, shoppers and commuters.

One case in point: outrageously expensive parking - - now $6.50/hr.- -  at Chicago ramps and on-street now leased seemingly forever to private operators:

[Consultant Richard Layman] wrote almost one year ago ("A lesson to cities that they need to be very careful when leasing assets to public private "partnerships") about the continuing debacle of Chicago's long term lease of its parking garages and parking meters to a for profit consortium.
Hat tip, 

Same sort of big toll increases continue since its leasing at the Chicago Skyway:

On January 1st, drivers who use the Chicago Skyway toll road will be paying more to use the 7.8 mile length of tollway...from the current $3.50 to $4.00.

According to a report from Fox News citing the Federal Highway Administration, the Skyway was already the costliest interstate toll road in the U.S....

The City of Chicago leased the Skyway, which links the Dan Ryan to the Indiana Toll Road, to a private investment group in 2005 for 99 years and $1.83 billion dollars.

The fatter toll policy after long-term privatization continues right into the
the Indiana tollway, too:

Study calls Indiana Toll Road lease a bad deal

The Indiana Toll Road lease may have paid off in the short term, but a new study concludes it'll be a bad deal for taxpayers in the long run.

Bannon's War Room Strategy: There's Jared!

Watch Bannon
Steve Bannon by Gage Skidmore.jpg
refocus the Trump White House signature circular firing squad at his main rival.
Steve Bannon to head Trump's Russia war room of legal 'A-Team,' street fighters and surrogates
Jared, Trump's bestie surrogate son.

More disconnects between WI beauty, tourism & toxic mining

I had noted the other day that right-wing GOP Gov. and chief state environmental trasher Scott Walker was again touting to tourists the same wetland-and-waterfalls-rich area he'd worked to change with dynamite, drilling and deforestation into North America's biggest open-pit iron ore mine.

Now here's yet another example.

The Journal Sentinel is running another in its 'see Wisconsin' parks and hikes series, this time directing people to scenic sites along the Menominee River on the state's border with Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

But where yet another open-pit mine is planned which could discharge toxic sulfide residue into important waters including into the river, Green Bay and Lake Michigan.

Note these comments in a Michigan publication:

The River Alliance of Wisconsin, the Front 40 citizens group and the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council oppose the mine over fears that pollution could contaminate the adjacent Menominee River, a major Lake Michigan tributary flowing into Green Bay which is the focus of state and federal downstream fishery projects aimed at restoring lake sturgeon populations...
Joan Delabreau, Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin chairwoman, said she was "sickened" by the DEQ draft decision to permit a mine on historic burial grounds. 
I'd written about this, and more than once:
I'd posted about this travesty a few months ago - - 
Regulators in Michigan thought few people would notice on the first day of the three-day Labor Day holiday weekend that the state began formally moving to approve an environmentally and culturally destructive open-pit mine at the water-rich Michigan-Wisconsin border on land sacred to the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin - - 
- - and now it looks like the mine thanks to right-wing GOP Rick Snyder's water and environmental 'regulators' is a big step closer to opening.
And by the way, anyone think Walker's 'chamber of commerce DNR' will do anything but help out Walkers bestie Rick Snyder? 

GOP pols misunderstand "Bully Pulpit," project "Ugly American"

Trump got elected President despite ginning up supporters to "knock the crap" out of certain people at his rallies and creating a hostile atmosphere for reporters covering his campaign, so it's not surprising that his GOP ally Greg Gianforte
Greg Gianforte crop.jpg
could win a Congressional seat in Montana last night after knocking the crap out of a reporter the day before.

The penalty for misdemeanor assault in Montana is a $500 fine, or a six month jail sentence, or both, but apparently there's no penalty for knocking the crap out of a reporter and then lying to the public about who knocked the crap out of whom.

Neutral witnesses noted and publicized the incident's actual true facts, and the congressional candidate who won the election in heavily-Republican Montana where most voters cast early ballots did apologize on election night for knocking the crap out of the reporter but did not apologize for the coverup lies his campaign told on his behalf after the assault.

The country is in deeper trouble if a Congressional candidate can knock the crap out of a reporter, offer a half-apology and be seated in the US Congress.

"Bully pulpit" is a phrase coined by former US President Teddy Roosevelt to describe the virtues and opportunities of Presidential leadership.

The Trumpian breed of GOP politician is light years away from TR because they are taking "bully" as a blueprint.

Trump even shoved aside a world leader for a better spot in a photo op, so that became photographic proof of Trump's bullying penchant.

These Republican power trippers better look to "Ugly American," and instead of knocking the crap out of people, trying just knocking it off.

Walker to make WI #1 in cold-hearted citizen humiliation

[Updated] Wisconsin under right-wing GOP Governor and career public benefit recipient Scott Walker
ranks poorly among the 50 states on everything from job creation to clean well water to road repairs to new business start-up activity - - more facts about his record, here - -  but, by God, he's figured out a way to make us first in something:

Drug-testing some low-income health care applicants before they get the aid, regardless of the cost to taxpayers or the health-care recipients state of mind.

And as to the cost to taxpayers, note the waste in this stupid power play:

As of March, about 1,900 W-2 participants had been screened for drugs, with only nine of those — less than one-half of 1% — referred for treatment and none successfully completing it, according to the Legislature's nonpartisan budget office.
If you want to drug-test Wisconsinites when public dollars might at risk and whose judgment might be clouded by substance abuse, how about testing the people who repeatedly gave away or pocketed millions of public dollars without routine accountability?

Update: The GOP-led, Walker-obesiant Legislature's budget-writing committee has also approved a host of measures further restricting food stamp and other assistance to the poor

The real message is: move out!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trump's Great Lakes pro-pollution budgeting would sacrifice these waters

Donald Trump's so-called budget which also reflects Paul Ryan's end to public services would cancel funding for Great Lakes restoration. 

Twenty percent of the world's fresh surface waters are in Lake Michigan, below, and its four sister lakes - - Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario - - 
which are under major stress from invasive species, manure and chemical runoff and other legacy problems which Trump's budget as proposed would absolutely worsen.

Trump's jargon-addicted budget drafters say state and local governments could pick up the loss of hundreds of millions of federal dollars annually which the Great Lakes and the economies they support need to survive - - 
States may be able to adjust to reduced funding levels by reducing or eliminating additional activities not required under federal law, prioritizing programs and seeking other funding sources, including fees," the budget office's written narrative says.
- - thus displaying Team Trump's abject ignorance about the paper-thin budgeting margins these governments already live with and further ignorance of taxpayer efforts like this at Milwaukee's Bradford Beach and elsewhere along the Lakefront
to keep the Great Lakes clean.

The Trump budget also wipes out a similar clean-up plan for the Chesapeake Bay watershed and cuts the US EPA budget by about one-third.

I guess if you're cutting the Medicaid/health insurance and other social safety net programs, it makes 'logical' sense to cut the environment's safety net programs, too.

Wisconsin dominates drunkest-cities' rankings. At what cost?

Nothing to boast about
Seven Wisconsin cities are within the top ten of a list of the drunkest cities in America. Ten Wisconsin cities are on the top 20 list.
24/7 Wall St.’s Drunkest Cities in America list puts Green Bay at the top, followed by Eau Claire at No. 2, Appleton at No. 3, Madison at No. 4, Oshkosh at No. 6, Wausau at No. 9, La Crosse at No. 10, Fond du Lac at No. 12, Sheboygan at No. 15 and Milwaukee at No. 20.
It does help explain why Wisconsin is the only state to treat a first OWI arrest as a ticket, but you have to wonder if the lost productivity and related health, social and community consequences from heavy drinking acknowledged by the State of Wisconsin in a November, 2016 report - - 

Alcohol Use Remains High
The per capita alcohol consumption rate in Wisconsin is 1.3 times higher than the national rate. The alcohol consumption rate for adults is 10 percentage points above the national rate (63% vs. 53%). Heavy drinking among adults is more common in Wisconsin than the nation as a whole. Wisconsin’s rate of adult binge drinking (22%) is third highest across all states and U.S. territories. Wisconsin women of childbearing age consume alcohol at levels higher than their national peers.
Consequences of Alcohol Consumption Outpace National Rates
Given Wisconsin’s alcohol consumption patterns, it is not surprising that the rates at which Wisconsin experiences the consequences associated with alcohol use have also tended to be higher than national rates. Since 2008, rates of alcohol abuse and dependence have been higher in Wisconsin than the nation as a whole. Wisconsin's rate of death from alcohol-related liver cirrhosis has risen since 2008 as has the rate of alcohol-related deaths from causes other than liver cirrhosis. The latest available data show that Wisconsin has 1.2 times the national rate of arrests for operating while intoxicated (OWI) and almost three times the national rate of arrests for liquor law violations.
- - are in any way connected to the state's persistent economic stagnation and well-documented entrepreneurial failure.

Note also that the State Department of Health Services produced an undated draft report on these matters labeled "not for distribution" but which is posted on the Internet, minced no words and cited 2015 data said state's abusive drinking had been connected in 2010 to more than 5,200 deaths and injuries and more than 67,000 arrests.

According to America’s 2015 Health Rankings, Wisconsin ranks 49th for Binge Drinking and 45th for Chronic Drinking. Wisconsin ranks 23rd for drug deaths... 
Wisconsin continues to rank among the worst in the nation for both heavy drinking and binge drinking among adults. Approximately one in four (24.3%) Wisconsin adults engaged in binge drinking in the previous month, compared to the national median of 18.3%; and 9.8% of Wisconsin adults engaged in heavy drinking, compared to the national median of 6.6% (data not shown).
In 2013, the total bill for the state's binge drinking was reported at $6.8 billion every year. That's a substantial penalty, and its implications demand more policy attention.

I've posted items on this theme over the years - - a sample, here - - and former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk did her best some years ago to focus the public's awareness, but few others followed her lead.

Pressure mounting on Milwaukee County to save its public grounds

[Updated] A reminder that today's the day. so call your Milwaukee County Board supervisor now or attend the Board meeting today at 1 p.m. in support of ceasing road-building and other 'development' on what's left of the County Grounds.
The latest from the citizens who are forcing Milwaukee County leaders to keep the bulldozers and chains saws and road-builders out of what's left of the precious County Grounds:

The public outcry is working!
Thanks to you and your attendance, letters, emails and calls, the door is open for a new Resolution to the County Board to be on the agenda for Thursday May 25th (approximate agenda time, 11am)  at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, 901 N 9th St.,  Milwaukee, WI, 53233, Room 200
Here’s another opportunity to make a call, write another email, and if you can, attend the meeting to support the new resolution requesting that the City of Wauwatosa rezone the remainder of the County Grounds as County Parkland!  
Please contact your Supervisor and cc ALL the Supervisors AND the County Supervisor, urging them to support the resolution to request Wauwatosa to rezone the remaining parcels on the County Grounds as Parkland. 
All County Supervisors and the County Executive contact info can be found at:
Phone calls would be great, as well. (#’s in the link)
Key points to consider: 
  • Wauwatosa has asked the County for their interests for this land, and this is the means and the moment to tell them that the land should be rezoned as parkland. 
  • This resolution will set in motion actions needed for Wauwatosa to rezone and protect this precious area. 
  • Wauwatosa is asking to develop on precious land and asking to loosen restrictions of the UWM land, including the Monarch Conservancy. There will be no stopping Wauwatosa from over-developing the County Grounds UNLESS we continue to make our voices heard. Ask the County Board of Supervisors and the County Executive to SAVE ALL the remaining natural areas on the County Grounds. 
This resolution will request a “suspension of the rules” (which requires a 12+ member vote) and states:
Be it Resolved, that the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors hereby opposes land sale, land swap, rezoning/re-designation, or compromise of the acreage of County Grounds Park; and
Be it Further Resolved, that Milwaukee County supports and encourages the City of Wauwatosa to rezone the remaining parcels of the approximate 43 acres of wooded area under Taxkey # 372999917 and Taxkey #373999907, known as Sanctuary Woods, to the appropriate designation equivalent as parkland to expand the boundaries of County Grounds Park, and be subject to the protections granted under Wisconsin Statutes Section 59.17(2)(b)(3) that prohibit the sale of parkland.
Thank you so much for helping protect this precious bit of land – our heritage and our legacy...