Thursday, August 31, 2017

Rube Walker 2.0

Rube Walker, 2017:

Wisconsin's offer to Foxconn grew substantially and hit $3 billion on handwritten note

The state was originally offering to pay Foxconn 10 cents in cash for every $1 in qualifying wages it paid to workers, this letter says. The final deal offered to Foxconn would pay the company 17 cents for every $1 in wages. 
Normally, the state offers to pay back no more than 7 cents for every $1 in wages. 
The other Rube Walker, 1953. I like this guy's card better.
Related image

Clarke leaving. Stepp leaving. Rule of 3's says, who's next?

Cathy Stepp, off to Kansas City.

David Clarke has quit.

Red EXIT sign
So if things happen in threes, who do you want see join that disastrous duo?

The floor is open.

Milwaukee Sheriff Clarke resigns. Questions abound

Milwaukee County Sheriff and right-wing self-promoting spokesman David Clarke resigned 15 minutes ago.

Was five relatively recent deaths in the jail he 'managed' the magic number?

Did Cathy Stepp need a bodyguard?

Is there a business which stamps out badges and medals that needs a pitchman?

Did he finally get that Homeland Security position, did Fox 'News' offer him a slot, or does a Trump-endorsed book and right-wing speaking tour a new career make? Appropriate that Clarke is at an event in Tennessee so was not available to comment.

Stay tuned, and bring on qualified candidates, as Milwaukee County really needs a breath of fresh law enforcement air after Clarke's bombastic self-marginalization....

Oh, I forgot, Walker gets to name a replacement, so bring on the partisan hacks.

Expect new UW CROWE 'think' tank to eat a lot of crow

A pro-Foxconn report by a Walker donor and would-be adviser for a Koch/Bradley institute on the UW-Madison campus that did not impress Urban Milwaukee's Bruce Murphy won't be the first such helping.

GOP State Sen. Tom Tiffany as WI DNR Secretary?

[Update from 8/30/17] 

Tiffany - - no comment on whether he's interested.
  19 minutes ago19 minutes agoMore At MJS, had no comment on his interest in being next DNR secy. Said he hasn't been asked by admin. Loves current job.
Here is a thought already circulating about whom Walker could name as his replacement for Wisconsin DNR Cathy Stepp as she leaves to help Donald Trump and EPA's Administrator Scott Pruitt wreak environmental havoc nationally.

State Sen. Tom Tiffany, (R-Hazelburst).

Walker has a history of appointing sitting or former GOP legislators to key policy-making and pension-boosting positions - - off the top of my head I can list ex-GOP State Reps. Jeff Stone and Phil Montgomery now at the Public Service Commission, former Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch who was Secretary at the Department Of Administration, former Rep. Mark Gottleib who served as Secretary at WisDOT until several months ago, and the retiring DNR Secretary and ex-State Sen. Stepp herself.

And while a Tiffany 
Tom Tiffany.jpg
appointment would be controversial, few legislators have been more reliable Walker water-carriers on basic GOP pro-business/environmental deregulation matters including the iron mining bill, the new sulfide mining enabling bill, noted here and more recently, here and the elimination of science staffing positions at the DNR.

Given the GOP's Senate majority, confirmation should be guaranteed, as would filling the vacancy.

Just all fyi.

White House Liar-in-Chief is seeing things again

Didn't see Hurricane Harvey devastation first-hand.

Didn't see Muslims cheering as Twin Towers fell.

Donald Trump Pentagon 2017.jpg

More of his pathology, here.

Scott Walker's Trump suck-up hits new low

Hat tip to the sharp-eyed Jud Lounsbury.

Ahhhh... look: Scott Walker is selling hats that look like Trump's! If you can't beat 'em...

Hostile to climate reality, Walker will further ignore TX lessons

The horrible images broadcast from Houston, Beaumont, and other Texas communities after Hurricane Harvey dropped its historic rainfall show what can happen when government botches basic obligations and makes a bad situation even worse

There's no doubt that a warming climate helped an over-heated Gulf of Mexico fuel the storm, and as I have pointed out often on this blog, communities have been told for years that traditional storm water management systems are insufficient in the face of the more extreme and frequent rain events that a changing climate was unleashing.

Wisconsin has a genuine opportunity to assertively address this so-called 'new normal' because it has yet to adopt its next budget, and Cathy Stepp, the current Secretary of Natural Resources - and hostile to climate science - - is resigning.

So in a smart government - - not a perfect one, but just an opportunistic one in the best sense of the word - - the Governor and the Legislature would, after repeated flooding in the state, coordinate aggressive, science-and-experience-based planning and investment to minimize the impacts of what is already happening here.

But we know this will not happen in Wisconsin, because its actions are driven by ideology, and are verboten under a public pledge to the contrary made to the fossil-fuel Koch brothers kings, thus:

*  The Walker administration disbanded the previous administration's global warming task force and removed its links and resources from state webpages.

*  Indeed, the Walkerites took the Koch brothers anti-climate change pledge.

•  Embraced extensive new road-building and lane expansion, adding to the expanse of impervious surfaces which reduce rainwater absorption and speed runoff.

*  Deleted climate change information from a state website and also took down web-programming about climate change aimed at students and teachers.

*  Have approved the filling of wetlands - - nature's natural floodwater sponges - - as well as adopted a new law easing development in wetlands, on shorelines and stream banks.

*  Is enabling the destruction for a major Walker donor of a nature preserve, its dunes, timber and wetlands, for the construction of a high-end, privately-owned golf course along Lake Michigan.

*  Successfully promoted the diversion of Waukesha's waste water discharge to the flood-prone Root River.

*  Are heavily-pushing a special exemption from wetland filling and stream alteration permissions for the Foxconn factory plan wherever in Kenosha and/or Racine Counties it is likely to be located, and where some heavy and destructive  flooding has recently taken place, as it also did in northern Wisconsin.

This is what happens when ideology and re-election campaigns trump basic, common-sense environmental and public health priorities, but Walker said he wanted natural resource management in the state run with "a chamber of commerce mentality" and Republicans have made it a reality since January, 2011 with no turn-around in sight.

Experts: "D" at Stepp's DNR = 'decline/demoralized/damage'

[Updated 8/30/17, 9/1/17] Given the departure by WI DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp for a regional EPA position in the Trump administration, and some early speculation about who might step into what had been Wisconsin's key environmental stewardship job which Scott Walker wanted managed with "a chamber of commerce mentality," I asked people with first-hand knowledge of the DNR if they had "a response, assessment or remarks" about the situation.

I'd sought a similar review from people familiar with the DNR under Stepp in June, 2016 after some high-profile resignations. That led to this post - -
Inside the WI DNR: poor morale, fear, despair over lost mission
- - which, depending on the counter being used is either the first or second-most downloaded item among more than 17,000 on this blog since it began in February, 2007.
Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp proudly shows off her first deer, taken opening weekend last year. In the upcoming TV Special "Deer Hunt Wisconsin 2012, Stepp urges male hunters to take more girls and women hunting. "The secret's out," she says. "Hunting is a lot of fun, so don't keep it to yourselves."  photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR

Some comments have been emailed to me since Stepp's announced departure; I will post what I have and update it if more arrive:
 I knew Stepp was the least qualified appointee in the forty-plus years I have known the DNR, but I didn't think it possible she could do the kind of long-term damage she has done.
*  [Updated[ During her entire tenure as head of the Wisconsin DNR, Stepp emphasized only one thing, being friendly to business. That simply is not the main mission of the Department of Natural Resources. Yes, when issuing permits, they need to be done in an efficient and fair manner. But more importantly, those permits should be issued with an eye toward protecting some of the most significant natural resources in North America. That should be the main driving mission at the Wisconsin DNR. World-class natural resources demand world class protections. We should not apologize for that fact, but rather embrace it.

The Stepp Administration will be remembered as one focused on returning Wisconsin to the days of pitting the environment against the economy, denigrating scientists who only wished to protect our natural resources and driving the agency to the brink of the irrelevancy. She should do well as part of an administration who is intent on similar results at a national scale."
* Under Secretary Stepp, Wisconsin citizens lost significant public health and environmental protections. Our rights to drink clean water and breathe clean air were eroded, basic science was ignored, publicly-funded research was hidden from public view, and our public lands were diminished by ill-conceived management practices. 
Most everything she did at the DNR put private gain ahead of citizens’ rightful expectation that government should protect the lands and waters upon which public health and well-being depend.
* We're terrified of getting someone worse like [GOP State Sen. Tom] Tiffany and hoping to get someone OK, but can't really come up with a Walker person who is OK...
[Updated] She was apparently ineffective when it came to working with the legislature and governor. She would tell us in staff town hall meetings that she was trying to preserve staff or budget but that it was up to the legislature. She would tell us she was working hard to protect programs but never prevailed. 
We all knew that she was actually proposing the budget or program cuts. What surprised me is that they didn't even give her one or two small budget victories so she could at least look like an effective cabinet level secretary to DNR staff. She was complicit in her own failure. You really have to love your political party to fall on the sword for it like that.
*  Cathy Stepp's tenure as secretary of the DNR was marked by a steep decline in the protection of Wisconsin's natural resources. She leaves Wisconsin's air, land, and water more polluted and less protected than it has been in decades. 
Under her watch, polluted waters increased, manure pollution violations were only enforced 5 percent of the time, scientists were kicked out of the DNR, climate change was scrubbed from its website, she dismantled a popular magazine that regularly printed actual science, she – by her own account – leaves the DNR deeply demoralized.
We're hopeful the new appointee will have actual natural resources management experience as well as leadership skills. It is difficult imagine Stepp's move to an albeit low-level position in the Trump Administration's EPA will be a good thing for the states and tribes she will be serving.
If Cathy Stepp knew anything about our storied conservation history and cared anything about the rights of future generations, she’d have defended the department’s role in balancing the wants of today with the needs of tomorrow. I don’t know if there is anything more shady than a trustee openly disregarding their duties to those whose interests they are charged to represent. So while the legislature and governor are the ones wielding power to undermine our public science agency, Cathy Stepp chose to fill a chair holding a rubber stamp, abandoning the mission, the staff and the people of Wisconsin. 
I’ve been in Wisconsin 41 years. I still remember how empowering it was to know my voice as a lone citizen, or lowly non-profit worker, was welcome and valued in decision-making concerning the resources we all own together.  Back in the public intervenor and independent secretary days, citizens still had to show up with sound science and well defined expectations, but we could show up knowing we’d be heard.
The long slide, edging out citizen voices began long before Cathy Stepp, but the brazen flaunting of chumming up with cronies has been nothing less than shocking to me in the past several years...if someone would’ve described the current situation in state government a few years ago, we’d have dismissed them as a kook.
Government is the great equalizer of interests and there is no more important function than balancing interests around our natural resources. Gaylord Nelson reminded us our economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of our natural heritage. Wisconsin has a special place in the world’s history of recovering places that have been devastated by inventing new land recovery techniques grounded in sound science. The great northern forest cutover was a tremendous opportunity to see the impacts of limitless extraction and out of necessity develop the science of restoration ecology.
I’ve had the privilege of working with...people who intertwined their professional lives with the stewarding of our Wisconsin natural heritage. The same folks being talked about by Cathy Stepp, the legislature and governor as loafing, law-breaking leeches who made too much money at everyone else’s expense.
It’s important to remember our legislature and governor are the engines behind starving the DNR of resources and professional autonomy through budget cuts and statutory changes that concentrate the power of administrative rule-making in their hands.
* Stepp's departure and hiring at EPA's region 7 is indicative of the direction that the Trump Administration under Pruitt is headed.  Unfortunately for the citizenry in Region 7, the widespread environmental damage that was done under Stepp's tenure is heading to Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska & Missouri.  
Who will succeed Stepp?  Everyone wonders. 
What a blow to Wisconsinites to see Stepp climb the ladder of success, despite her widespread failures in protecting the citizens and natural resources of Wisconsin. The fact that Stepp is tooting her own horn about the White House giving her an offer she couldn't refuse - - should leave no doubt in anyone's mind the serious jeopardy that our natural resources face on a landscape where extraction, exploitation, & enterprise rule.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

George Takei on what constitutes a Presidential disaster response

Pete Souza's brilliant Instagram does it again, reminding us of how a real President acts in a time of tragedy.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Trump at work. Posted without comment

“What a crowd, what a turnout,” Trump said while addressing hurricane victims.

WI env. wrecker, climate change denier gets big EPA job

I'd more or less predicted it, but it's official:

The Wisconsin DNR's proven wetland-filling, climate-change information-scrubbing and 'chamber of commerce' anti-environmental tool is bringing her Donald Trump worship and McDonald's store management skills to a senior regional EPA position.
Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp proudly shows off her first deer, taken opening weekend last year. In the upcoming TV Special "Deer Hunt Wisconsin 2012, Stepp urges male hunters to take more girls and women hunting. "The secret's out," she says. "Hunting is a lot of fun, so don't keep it to yourselves."  photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR
Now an entire region- - including Missouri, where Stepp has a home in Branson - -  is in the hands who of a far-rightwing bureaucrat who brought fear, poor morale and despair to the once-proud DNR.

Remember that Stepp, a home builder and former GOP State Senator, rose to the top of Walker's DNR selection list after she posted a ranting, mocking, partisan name-calling screed against the DNR:
Those of you that haven't had the pleasure of peeking behind the scenes of our state agencies like DNR, Health and Family Services, etc...need to know how some of the most far-reaching policies come down on our heads.
The most crushing/controversial rules that businesses have to follow in our state are--most times--done through the "rule making process" of our state agencies. Without bogging everyone down with some really boring procedure talk, suffice it to say that many of these great ideas (sarcasm) come from deep inside the agencies and tend to be reflections of that agency's culture.
For example, people who go to work for the DNR's land, waste, and water bureaus tend to be anti-development, anti-transportation, and pro-garter snakes, karner blue butterflies, etc...This is in their nature; their make-up and DNA. So, since they're unelected bureaucrats who have only their cubicle walls to bounce ideas off of, they tend to come up with some pretty outrageous stuff that those of us in the real world have to contend with.
Stepp cared so little for the environment in Wisconsin, and so little for the people her laissez-faire, shoulder-shrugging withdrawal of pollution science, inspections and enforcement that when manure-tainted brown water ran from rural kitchen taps she couldn't get one single bottle of fresh water delivered, as the DNR had promised, delivered into the heart of manure-overflow country.

So heads up, US EPA region 7, with your nationally-signifiant Ogallala aquifer, your Nebraska sandhill crane flyway habitat, your Iowa corn crop - - nine tribal nations - - and more. (Stepp wanted to help fast-track what would have been the continent's largest open-pit iron ore mine upstream from the Bad River tribal land and waters.)

Walker will replace her with someone just as reliably-rightwing and ideologically-robotic - - someone who will push ahead with the predicted watershed damage at the Foxconn site - - because, as she said, less environmental oversight and faster wetland filling, stream diversion and construction on shorelines and into lake beds is a good thing - -  or at the Kohler golf course ticketed for a Lake Michigan shoreline nature preserve, or at the 26,000-hog CAFO near Ashland's water supply in a pristine Lake Superior bay - - but perhaps with a smaller appetite for agency-wide Halloween parties.

If that's the good news, God help us.

Like WI Gov. Walker, TX Gov. avoids climate change

Right-wing Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas is facing a new, post- Hurricane Harvey normal, but you don't hear him saying what GOP officials have evaded, down-played and flat-out denied for years - - that climate change is part of that new normal.

His climate change denial has been documented.

Right-wing Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker has done the same thing - - stayed silent on climate change after major flooding.

His climate change denial has been documented,

And as I have written on this blog often, federal officials going back to 2003 and the Bush 43 presidency warned government officials that a warming climate was changing weather patterns and increasing the likelihood of major rain events which routine infrastructure could not continue.

Houston is especially vulnerable to this scenario, as it is a flat area with extensive roads, roofs and parking lots impervious to water absorption and thus prone to rapid runoff and thus deluges which include multiple and very recent 500-year-floods.

And sits next to the warm and warming Gulf of Mexico, from which storms get energy and moisture - - a recipe for disaster which has been ignored and wished away as the population has grown to the 4th most populated city in the US.

I recommend this piece for a broader look.

Climate change deniers and ideological captives too afraid to buck the right-wing nose machine make the worst imaginable public officials in these conditions. and now we have one of them in the White House and this headline just days before Houston drowned
Trump to reverse Obama-era order aimed at planning for climate change
So reminiscent of the devastation/denial dynamic after SuperStorm Sandy.Tragic and depressing.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Let's thank WI GOP electeds for our Russia-obesiant President

Given more disclosures about Trump's work during the presidential campaign on a Putin-financed Trump Russian tower project - - and here's more of that reporting - - let's give a shoutout to key Wisconsin GOP pols like Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Ron Johnson, et al, for helping swing Wisconsin to Trump and nail down his win.

But remember, there's been no collusion. No business connections to Russia. Nothing that Putin's got on Trump. Just a bunch of coincidences, fake news, and, don't forget about Hillary's server.
Vladimir Putin - 2006.jpg
I've offered these GOP leaders my thanks before.

And, often last year, beginning with Walker's absolute Trump endorsement.

And, more recently, when I said after #Charlottesville and Republicans barely criticized Trump:

Silence gives consent

Flood should end Texas secession talk, behavior

Remember when 'Texit' was a thing? 

And when Texas pols like Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz, official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg
and Louis Gohmert regularly bashed federal spending while touting states' rights and the Lone Star state's earlier history?

Texas will need billions in assistance chipped in by all 50 states, just as did New Jersey and other east coast states after SuperStorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, though plenty of Texas pols actually voted "No" on the Sandy aid package.

It's one nation, indivisible...and I'm all for Texans getting anything they need.

Time for the WI legislature to put Foxconn on hold

Last week I'd put up a yellow caution light on Foxconn, but with news of possible local tax increases due to Foxconn on top of all the other risks, it's time to switch to red, as the Journal Sentinel reports:
The Foxconn Technology Group deal could drop a multibillion-dollar dilemma onto one of the two southeastern Wisconsin counties competing to land it.
The sheer size of the deal — and the state’s complex tax laws — might leave municipal and county officials in the winning community with a tricky decision... 
"You could see a big (property tax) increase and residents aren't going to be happy with that," said Dale Knapp, research director of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, who examined the issue at the request of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 
Red stoplight​​ 
Here's one updated and summary post with 48 reasons why the Legislature needs to stop before further action.

Add local taxpayers to schools on the cusp of Foxconning

As the Legislature speeds the $3 billion Foxconn state subsidy package and its related demands on local budgets to a final vote - - and also to guarantee what Republicans believe will be Scott Walker's 2018 re-election win - - you can add looming local tax increases to an increasingly cloudy picture:

"You could see a big (property tax) increase and residents aren't going to be happy with that," said Dale Knapp, research director of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, who examined the issue at the request of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 
Yes, you are seeing that FitzWalkerstan heresy correctly (well, as they say, you-know-what rolls downhill)- -  to the environmenteducation and transportation funding being Foxconned.

WI legislators, on educ. today, could show Foxconn effect

[Update - - Also on the cusp of being Foxconned: local taxpayers. Details, here.]

Wisconsin's GOP legislators, both in thrall to the Foxconn siren song and Scott Walker's re-election, are to take up in committee today state education funding as they work their way to crafting a two-year state budget now about two months late.

Keep an eye on how much if any new financing they say they will send to the states schools, how much less that sum is to be if money is predicted towards the multi-year Foxconn diversion, and how much of these potential reductions are shoved into the out years to get the subject off voters' minds as the 2018 election rolls around.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Can Trump, post-Hurricane Harvey, measure up to LBJ?

I know Trump has important golf games to play, campaign rallies to stir up, pardons to issue, investigations to obstruct and Tweets to let fly, but let's see as Hurricane Harvey's flooding recedes if he can measure up to the standard set for other Presidents by LBJ after a devastating hurricane on his watch:
Johnson entered the crowded shelter in near-total darkness; there were only a couple of flashlights to lead the way. 
“This is your President!” Johnson announced. “I’m here to help you!”
37 Lyndon Johnson 3x4.jpg
Hurricane Betsy came ashore at Grand Isle, Louisiana, on the evening of Sept. 9, 1965. Like Hurricane Katrina would do 40 years later, the surge devastated New Orleans, flooding parts of the city, including the Lower Ninth Ward, for days.
One striking difference between Betsy and Katrina was the response of the president and the federal government. Less than 24 hours after Betsy hit and New Orleans was flooded, Pres. Lyndon Johnson was in the city, making surprise visits to shelters, offering encouragements to the city’s newly homeless residents. 
Here is a transcript of LBJ’s remarks upon landing at the New Orleans airport at 3 p.m. that day, via John Edwards ’08 Blog:
Today at 3 o’clock when Senator Long and Congressman Boggs and Congressman Willis called me on behalf of the entire Louisiana delegation, I put aside all the problems on my desk to come to Louisiana as soon as I could. I have observed from flying over your city how great the catastrophe is that you have experienced. Human suffering and physical damage are measureless. I’m here this evening to pledge to you the full resources of the federal government to Louisiana to help repair as best we can the injury that has been done by nature.
And then there is this:
In the Ninth Ward, Johnson visited the George Washington Elementary School, on St. Claude Avenue, which was being used as a shelter. “Most of the people inside and outside of the building were Negro,” the diary reads. “At first, they did not believe that it was actually the President.” Johnson entered the crowded shelter in near-total darkness; there were only a couple of flashlights to lead the way.
“This is your President!” Johnson announced. “I’m here to help you!”
I was a strong opponent of LBJ's escalation of the War in Vietnam, but I'm happy to give LBJ his due in the Hurricane Betsy matter. 

About Arpaio pardon, Paul Ryan barely registers an objection

The House Speaker and leader of the GOP Weak and Meek Caucus, through a spokesman, ever so mildly criticizes Trump.
Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.
"'The Speaker does not agree with this decision," spokesman Doug Andres said in a statement. "Law enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States. We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon.'"
It takes real work to put together something so ineffectual, tepid and emotionless.

These Wisconsin Republicans continue to enable the increasingly erratic, emboldened and dangerous authoritarian in the White House.