Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Fitzgerald in the news, but Vos's presence is felt, too

It's certainly more Scott Fitzgerald's day than Robin Vos's. 
Fitzgerald plods into Congressional race
But while Big Fitz grabs the headlines, don't overlook the literal and cumulative  impact of - - 
A) Vos's budget and transportation politicking - - 
Vos, Walker blocked commuter rail in congested, deadly I-94 corridor
- - And B) also which Vos's budget politicking - - 
I-94 north-south funding is in Foxconn bill
The funding is contingent on also receiving federal money for the project. Getting that money is no guarantee, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said, but state leaders are hopeful given President Donald Trump’s role in recruiting Foxconn to build in the United States.
“With how interested the president has been in getting this deal done, it makes perfect sense because it’s one of the things Foxconn needs,” said Vos, R-Rochester. 
- - has had and continues to inflict on Southern Wisconsin, as the Vos effect crashes the news cycle:
Crash backs up I-94 traffic in Racine County again
- - and then, this. No lie
Second crash makes for miserable travel on northbound I-94 south of Milwaukee
Both crashes occurred in construction zones 
I know Vos is something of a Winston Churchill fan, but he's also living out the dictum of another leader who famously said, 'You can't scramble the traffic without breaking a few drivers.'

Robin Vos speaks at Racine Tea Party event (8378614585).jpg

Greater smog will join more pesticides, dirtier water on Trump's achievement list

Trump's wiping out by Executive order of California's established clean air rules is going to kill some asthmatics and make lung, heart and eye ailments more prevalent and serious, especially in children - - caged or free-ranging

He's already approved weakening the Clean Water Act, and all he's done to confront the warming climate his administration is enabling on behalf of oil magnates and coal country constituents is throwing paper towels to Puerto Rican super storm survivors.

Trump doesn't care if you live or die, are battered at one of his rallies, get poisoned by pesticides, are run over by a nice neo-Nazi. 

He doesn't care what kind of future you children will be left with because he's trading it for Putin's approval, a handful of swing state votes and bookings at his hotels.

Trump called reporters "the enemy of the people."

I think we know where the real threat is coming from.

Head shot of Trump smiling in front of an American flag. He is wearing a dark blue suit jacket, white shirt, light blue necktie, and American flag lapel pin.

Fitzgerald plods into Congressional race

WI GOP Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald is running for the Congressional seat Jim Sensenbrenner has held since a 1979 win.
Wisc Sen. Scott Fitzgerald.jpg

This is like finding out that your uncle is finally selling the Oldsmobile and has his eye on a Plymouth. And not a car show collectible.

I get that whole hierarchical, it's my-turn-pecking-order-thing.

But swapping a conservative Congressional fixture for a conservative state Senate fixture first elected during Bill Clinton's second year as President - - second year, not second term - - and who's still not known by half the electorate shows you how devalued Congressional seats have become.

On the one hand, I'm not totally surprised by Fitzgerald's bid.

He's reliably done what the donors demanded. 

Cut their taxes. 

Muscled Act 10 into law. 

Put the gerrymander in place. 

Locked down the lame-duck legislation. 

And look, Fitzgerald's options for electoral advancement are slim.

He won't ever be Senator or Governor. The charisma deficit is too great.

So this is his shot.

And while the travel grind will be harder - - no more one-hour car commutes back home to Juneau County and his horses - - and he'll face an cycle that would shrink from four years to two, the risk-reward ratio is favorable, the seat is safe and the Big Government perks are downright irresistible:

An annual salary of $174,000, which is more than triple what he's making now.

Pension benefits that would definitely inflate what the state will provide.

Not to mention foreign junkets galore, an upgraded steak house and rubber-chicken circuit, primo big city parking, gym privileges, big staffs, regular access to The Special Interest Smorgasbord any day of the week, and private Capitol elevators without pesky constituents and tourists clamoring for souvenirs and selfies.

Alas - - no special Capitol subway - - because that 'for-Senators-only' plum is but one among many reasons why House members quickly learn that the Senate is really the place to be.

What should give any Republican set on joining the Congress next year some serious pause; their agendas will likely set by Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi and various Democratic committee chairs who may mistake Fitzgerald setting in a distant minority row chair for Glenn Grothman, Fitzgerald's more junior ex-State Senate colleague.

Note, too, that Freshman Fitzgerald would be outranked in an institution that rewards seniority by Grothman, and Ilhan Omar, Mark Pocan, AOC, and another 400 or so members, give or take, entitled to treat the former Badger State Senate Majority Leader - - a genuine big cheese in the cheese state - - as their junior.

That's a big daily dose of bitter pills to swallow. 

Bring your Tums, along with diminished policy opportunities.

And if Trump is defeated, forget White House soirees or private Bill Barr briefings, at which point a lobbyist office on Madison's Capitol Square might look like a more inviting retirement job.

Anyway, consider Fitzgerald the 5th District's GOP front-runner - - or at least lead plodder - - as he maneuvers away from the breezier podium hogging Robin Vos who now becomes with Fitzgerald's DC focus the even more official unofficial shadow Governor in a state that once stood for progress and produced leaders who were giants.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Officially-sanctioned dog abuse extends beyond Wisconsin's woods

Readers of this blog know that I document Wisconsin's officially sanctioned dog abuse through a state payment program which generously has compensated hundreds of hounders - - even scofflaws and repeated program participants - - who release their dogs into fatal encounters known wolf territory.

I was reminded of that when I read this story today reaffirming that dogs are not necessarily everyone's best friend.

U.S. officials knew bomb-sniffing dogs were dying from neglect in Jordan. They sent more.
In just the last six weeks, 20 hounds in Wisconsin have met these violent deaths, with each owner eligible for a $2,500 payment. And since the program began in 1985, more than 350 hunting hounds have been sacrificed this way. 

Several of the recent Wisconsin depredated through owner disregard have been Plott hounds, perhaps looking like this one.

Public session Tuesday on proposed changes to historic Kletzsch Park

It's time to stand up for Kletzsch Park. Again.

County officials will present their latest 'improvement' plan to excavate, chainsaw, pave over and otherwise 'improve' scenic Kletzsch Park along the Milwaukee River bank west of the well-known dam remnant at a public meeting Tuesday beginning at 5:00 p.m. at Glen Hills Middle School, 2600 W. Mill Rd., Glendale.

Conservationists, historic preservationists and anyone with a smidgen of common sense won't warm up to what the County has in mind.

What began as a plan to repair the dam 
and add a fish migration viewing stand has morphed into an unjustifiably extensive reconstruction that would cut down these and other pre-statehood oak trees 

and disturb an ancient Indian Prairie and graves noted by Increase Lapham, the legendary 19th-century naturalist and surveyor who recorded the area's unique features in 1850, two years after statehood.

Opponents are suggesting some options upriver which would not undermine the integrity of the riverbank, damage the character of the park or tamper with sacred lands. 

A core question comes to mind - - and it's the same one that underlies the possible contamination of the Menominee River and its sacred lands for a mining company, or the proposed sacrifice of a nature preserve, some state park acreage and rare dunes in Sheboygan for a luxury golf course, and in so many other battles for Wisconsin clean air, fresh water and precious lands:

Why such a lack of humility on the part of the decision-makers who would let such irreplaceable features be so abused?

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Nestle's massive Great Lakes basin diversion provokes a challenge

Good to see a challenge to Nestle's massive Great Lakes basin water extraction which continues daily and yearly, bottle-by-bottle, for the mere annual paperwork charge of $200. 
There's no state tax, license fee or royalty associated with the company's extraction of a precious natural resource.
The so-called 'bottle water exception' is a gaping hole in the Great Lakes Compact inserted to grandfather an Michigan industry to assure that state's support when the Compact was up for approval.

Also assured: Michigan's reciprocated tolerance for Wisconsin's repeated diversions,
Speaking of diversions, is there still radio silence about Pleasant Prairie's?
A friend asks what happened after the reporting about a year ago that Pleasant Prairie, WI - - no, not Mt. Pleasant, WI, where Foxconn is also on tap for a Lake Michigan diversion - - was being allowed to receive even more Great Lakes water that it had earlier managed to obtain.
Lake Michigan, Milwaukee. James Rowen photo, 2018. 

Ron Johnson, science guy. For real.

Ron "Sunspots" Johnson just said public policy should be based on science.
Ron Johnson, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
Well, not every policy; he was talking about how to regulate e-cigarettes
"We want to keep these things out of kids’ hands and these companies with these flavors — they’re marketing to kids. That we need to end. Again, I just want to make sure we’re basing this on science.”
But before you say, 'Oh now he's for science,' remember that he's often blended a keen grasp of science with other disciplines to sharpen the public debate.

* You may remember that when Johnson attributed a changing climate to sunspots - - memorialized in this post with links to Johnson's comparison of environmental activists to followers of dictators and mass murders like Joseph Stalin - - he also  showed off a deep understanding of botany, chemistry mobility and world history:
"Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere "gets sucked down by trees and helps the trees grow," said Johnson. Average Earth temperatures were relatively warm during the Middle Ages, Johnson said, and "it's not like there were tons of cars on the road."
In other words, take that, you phony 97% of scientists who believe humans are causing climate change and the stupid 175 world leaders who want to do something about it, because Dr. Johnson has been definitive:
'I absolutely do not believe in the science...it hasn't been proven by any stretch of the imagination.'
* And he's got proofs, which every good scientist knows seals the deal. Didja notice, Johnson has observed, that no one's moving to Antarctica:
“Mankind has actually flourished in warmer temperatures...Most people move down to Texas and Florida, where it’s a little bit warmer.”
* Oh, and about all that flooding and storming and things, which the La Crosse emergency government manager said were related to climate change, a multi-tasking Johnson found a better answer in a  classic synthesis of history and meteorology, not to mention sharp-eyed observation: 
"We’ve always had weather,” Johnson said Wednesday afternoon on WIZM. “We’ve always had flooding and tornados and hurricanes, that kind of thing."

Friday, September 13, 2019

Following Kewaunee Co. manure runoffs. And the followups.

Yes, that's "runoffs," plural, which helps explain why Kewaunee County clean water activist Nancy Utesch - - and others - - have said enough of this, already.

Manure flowing from a Kewaunee CAFO.

Several days ago I posted information about those repetitive manure flows into Kewaunee County surface water:

... this was a headline and story on Friday
Kewaunee County warns neighbors about drinking water after manure spill
The DNR says solid manure flowed off nearby fields due to significant rain on Thursday. The spill was first reported to the DNR Friday (Sept. 6) morning. The DNR says El-Na Farms, where the runoff occurred, is containing and collecting the manure-laden water.
The area's independent online media The Kewaunee County Comet has posted this informative followup on the El-Na Farms incident, and about several earlier polluting spills: 
UPDATE: Kewaunee County filed a civil suit against Kinnard Farms Inc. alleging livestock operation runoff and seeking a civil forfeiture on Tuesday afternoon (Sept. 10).
A contractor working with Kinnard Farms spread manure over a field along Chestnut Road near Pheasant Road shortly before a major rainfall on Aug. 7...Contaminated water reportedly flowed into Rio Creek and eventually the Ahnapee River... 
In the case of the El-Na event – which involved solid manure that was being incorporated into the soil but washed away in heavy rain before the job was completed – county Public Health officials went door-to-door to inform neighbors of a drinking water advisory. 
“It was not liquid manure, it was kind of like a packed solid sand manure that was applied – tons, not gallons – and they got two inches of rain and it flowed off,” [an official] said.
If Kinnard rings a bell, it's because it's been in litigation yet to be resolved with its neighbors, for years. By the way, the website for Speaker Vos' Water Quality Task Force shows no meeting held in or planned for Kewaunee County, despite the history of manure-linked water contamination there. 
New research indicates tainted Kewaunee County wells tied to manure pits


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Mt. Pleasant setback. Foxconn's conning tower shelved!

Oh, no! More surprises at Base Camp Foxconn: They're ditching the control tower
Foxconn's plans to build a nine-story circular office building reminiscent of Epcot's iconic Spaceship Earth building at the entrance of its Orlando theme park in Mount Pleasant have been put on hold... 
The building...was going to serve as Foxconn's network operations center. It would have been a central location where administrators will "manage, control and monitor one or more networks."
Now I fear for the Big Ben-ish edifice and the rest of this multi-billion-dollar Disneyworld-Meets-Versailles coffee kiosk hub.

Screen shot from Foxconn's video showing the Mt. Pleasant campus-to-be
I'll be adding this news to my Foxconn archive.

National clean water policy overseen by golf course owner, coal lobbyist

Not this golf course owner, though its Wisconsin developer is willing to sacrifice a nature preserve and some state parkland to build it.

I'm talking about this one one, also referred to as POTUS, the Commander-in-Chief and Ranking Hotelier to the military he controls: 
From Scotland to Palm Beach, Los Angeles to Dubai, Trump Golf is home to some of the most iconic golf properties and championship courses in the world. 
And if those Trump administration facts weren't bad enough - - 
Trump administration to Roll Back Clean Water Protections
- - remember that his policies and the EPA are being overseen in our Great Lakes region by a former McDonald's manager who has gifted the future of the Menominee River and the Boundary Waters principally in Minnesota to foreign toxic mining firms.
Barring a successful legal challenge, PolyMet is clear to begin construction of the state's first-ever copper-nickel mine, once it raises the estimated $1 billion it will cost to build it. Later this month, PolyMet is expected to conclude a stock offering to clear debt from its balance sheet, which could result in the Swiss mining and commodities giant Glencore winning majority ownership of the company.

Water quality regionally which will get a fresh pollution champion if GOP foot-soldier and open-pit mining tool Tom Tiffany slides into the NW Wisconsin Congressional seat vacated by Sean Duffy.

You have to wonder if these GOP bellhops and their families drink bottled water and sit next to an air purifier 24/7?

Remember that what the Trump people are doing to the Clean Water Act isn't an anomaly, as they also rewrote Clean Air enforcement for an already-contaminated zone in SE Wisconsin to give Walker one last Foxconn favor before he lost his re-election bid.
EPA chief Pruitt overrules staff, gives Wisconsin's Walker, Foxconn big break on smog

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Bad River watershed, saved from mining, faces more toxic threats

Toxic politics just won't leave Northwest Wisconsin alone

You may remember the fight to save the Bad River watershed from open-pit mining aimed there by ex-Gov. Walker and his special interest sidekick and now GOP Congressional-candidate Tom Tiffany.

Now the Bad River tribe is beginning to litigate to save the same area from an aging Enbridge oil pipeline 

which could turn the land and waters there into a toxic wasteland: 
Engineers who built the pipeline expected it to last 50 years. Now 16 years past its expiration date, no major replacements have been made. On the stretch of Line 5 that includes the Bad River Reservation, Enbridge identified 844 “anomalies,” referring to cracks or features resembling cracks in 2011, according to data acquired by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in 2017. NWF also found that Line 5 itself has leaked at least 29 times since 1968, spilling more than a million total gallons of oil.Many Great Lakes residents still remember 
Enbridge’s most infamous disasterin the region, when another pipeline, Line 6B, released more than 843,000 gallons of heavy tar sands oil into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The 2010 leak was the costliest oil spill in U.S. history as well as one of the nation’s largest inland spills, all made worse by the fact that Enbridge’s own failure detection methods failed.

Lame-duck laws, GOP obeisance cost WI opioid treatment $

Walker and Schimel left the fight for damages to others and are still keeping the new Democratic AG from litigating for the public - -  so we get news like this:
Wisconsin not part of tentative Purdue Pharma opioid deal; attorney general pledges to pursue case
Members of the Sackler family which founded and owned Purdue Pharma, the makers of the addictive pain-killer Oxycontin, show up as Scott Walker campaign donors here, Mortimer, for $10,000, and here, Richard, for $1,000
Well, done, hacks.

No-cost climate newsletter a must read

The opening few lines in the latest offering of Nexus Clean Energy News shows why this free newsletter is a must read.  
New research finds that clean energy would be cheaper than over 90 percent of proposed natural gas plants. Los Angeles is moving ahead with a record-low solar plus storage project after the developer reached an agreement to use union labor. Electric vehicles take center stage at the Frankfurt auto show as companies roll out a range of battery-powered models. Oil majors are on track to complete a record number of clean energy deals this year, with digital and efficiency technology the most popular investment. 
“If you look at how things pencil out, we’re at a tipping point,” said Mark Dyson, Rocky Mountain Institute electricity markets analyst and co-author of a new report. "Here's evidence that the switch from gas to clean energy makes economic sense and is compatible with utility companies' need for reliability."
Solar panel array at Refuse Hideaway Landfill.
Solar installation at a Middleton, WI landfill. WI DNR web photo

Madison should not dump noise pollution on its low-income residents

I cannot believe Madison would consciously allow itself to become the poster city for a textbook environmental justice failure by levying a disproportionate share of measurable F-35 jet fighter 
F-35A off the coast of Northwest Florida
noise pollution on low-income residents who live close to the city's military air base.

The poor are already stressed and marginalized in countless ways. It's wrong to use public funding and state power to again make their lives even more difficult.

I don't live in Madison anymore, but I know its citizens and government officials in 2019 know better and can do the right thing.

I also recommend this comprehensive commentary by the Capital Times editorial board:
It is especially notable that the [draft environmental impact] report suggests that the increased noise pollution would disproportionately impact minority and low-income populations, as well as children. 
These are not the complaints of critics of the F-35 program. These are details from a report prepared by the Air Force and the National Guard Bureau, which we give credit for providing a thorough, 1,099-page report that assesses plans for basing 18 jets at Truax, as well as F-35 basings in locations across the U.S.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

20th hound - - Price County's 2nd in 4 days - - in fatal wolf encounter

Another day, another dead Plott hound, another twisted, On Wisconsin lottery ticket to be cashed. 

The 20th hunting hound lost since the first week of July as Wisconsin hunters let their GPS-collared dogs off-leash to chase bears has been reported by the DNR (see map below).

And when wolves in their territory kill the smaller, vulnerable hounds, the state steps in with a $2,500 reimbursement. 

So we're about half-way to the 2016 record slaughter of 41 hounds, and the bear hunting season when GPS-collared hounds are running free through wolf country has weeks to go.

Hound owners are eligible for the state reimbursement even if they released the dog into known wolf territory, or near bait which attracts both bears and wolves, or if the hound owner is a scofflaw, a repeat reimbursement collector, and so on.

This only-in-Wisconsin blood sport will continue through the end of October.

09/10/2019Price1 Hunting dog killed (Plott, 8-year old female)Price depredation sitePrice depredation location map [PDF]
This is what a Plott hound looks like before it gets thrown to the wolves..
Plott hound
Until the state stops paying them $2,500 for each off-leash bear-chasing hound so lost, hunting dog owners in Wisconsin won't stop releasing their animals to chase wildlife - - wolves are still federally-protected, though social media carries reports of wolf poaching under the 'shoot shovel and shut' mantra - - and be overpowered and killed by the larger, pack-organized and dominant predators.

This only-in-Wisconsin payment system after wolf-hound fighting has been in place since 1985.

Here is a DNR website with minimal information about the hound deaths. 

Bear-chasing-treeing-and-shooting season began Wednesday, September 4.

We're on Central Time. Vos is on Junket Time

Vos's La Dolce Vita. From The Twitter:
Leading the @NCSLorg International Symposium for Legislative Leaders in Italy as NCSL President. Legislative leaders from across the country are taking part in the international exchange, which includes meetings with local dignitaries and tourism officials.

Foxconn's $100 million commitment to UW-Madison is less than 1% funded

If cash is the problem down at the Eighth Wonder of the World
Screen shot from Foxconn's video showing the Mt. Pleasant campus-to-be
the company could juice its commitment to UW-Madison by donating the first of its robotized coffee vending machines to the Memorial Union.

Regardless, Vos got his highway expansion, so his district's sprawl development is safe.

I'll add this post to my full Foxconn archive, below:
[Updated continuously from June, 2017] This archive with more than 340 posts - - and even more links and references - - tracks, explains and unmasks Wisconsin's public awards of $4.5 billion in state and local funds to Taiwan-based Foxconn. 

Call it a Scott Walker - - and failed campaign manuever - - production.

From NB

When Walker's hostility to Amtrak is aired, don't forget the 'math' he used to derail it

I see social media highlighting this piece in the Door County Daily News:
Civil Discourse: High Speed Rail Would Have Been Better Bet Than Foxconn
Wisconsin turned down more than $800 million in federal stimulus money in 2010 that would have created high-speed rail corridors between Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and Minneapolis. 
Turning down that money will cost Wisconsin far more than it will ever gain from Foxconn. 
No argument from me; I'm glad to see that commentary and history debated and absorbed, especially in the context of $3 billion in state subsidies promised to Foxconn for production and employment that has gone from dubious to fanciful to farcical.
Talgo trains built for Amtrak in Milwaukee which Walker and GOP legislators made sure never operated here.
But I want to memorialize - - as I did earlier - - Walker's cavalier manipulation of numbers to justify what was in truth his partisan, politically-inspired and right-wing attack on urban rail and the state's biggest cities by focusing on one set of Walker statements and numbers.

Walker claimed if the Amtrak line was completed, state taxpayers would have to contribute $7.5 million (or more) annually for its operation.

That's $625,000 a month.

Walker's first two-year budget in 2011 called for spending $64.1 billion, or $2.76 billion every month. Fractions of pennies on the Foxconn dollar.

But wait: It turns out that Walker's annual Amtrak annual payment estimate of $7.5 million could have been vastly overstated, according to reporting at the time by Jthe ournal Sentinel's Larry Sandler:

Even with the federal government picking up the line's full construction cost, Walker has said he doesn't want state taxpayers to pay operating costs, projected at $7.5 million a year, starting in 2013. 
A state transportation official has said state taxpayers' share could be as little as $750,000 a year, if federal aid covers 90% of operating costs, as it does for Amtrak's existing Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line.
But wait, again, because Sandler quoted Walker saying the annual Amtrak operating cost to Wisconsin taxpayers could be even more costly than his $7.5 million pronouncement:
"The whole reason we made a point of raising our concerns about this is I don't want the taxpayers of this state to be stuck with a bill of $7½ (million) to $10 million a year when we have roads and bridges that need to be fixed," Walker said.
So $750,000 jumped to $7.5 million, and then by a third to $10 million?

I'll leave it at that for now. It's almost time for my morning coffee - - no robot involved. 

Feel free to fix my math and fill in your comments about the roads, bridges and Scottholes Walker didn't fix.