Wednesday, March 31, 2021

WI people need Biden's jobs/infrastructure/climate plan, but...

Biden's proposed once-in-a-lifetime lifeline for road repairs, green energy -  

Wisconsin wind farm, east of Waupun
GOP policies have slowed green energy in Wisconsin. This wind  farm east of Waupun, Wisconsin was developed by an out-of-state firm.

- clean water infrastructure, modern transit and climate change mitigation - and all the good jobs to fuel local economies that need the opportunities and the spinoff revenues - could be de-railed into popcorn manufacturing upgrades, wacky 'medicine' production and polluting, wider traffic lanes past residential areas if loose-cannon losers like Ron Johnson and Robin Vos with toxic track records get their hands on the agendas or the money.

Backing GOP, Justices free COVID to live, work & play in WI

It's not a surprise that the rightwing and GOP-obeisant majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court has thrown out Gov. Evers' statewide masking order.

Wisconsin Supreme Court overturns statewide mask mandate, blocks Evers from declaring multiple emergency orders

In a 4-3 decision, conservative justices in the majority declared the statewide mask mandate invalid and ruled Evers exceeded his authority in issuing multiple emergency declarations over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Evers used the emergency orders to require face coverings be worn indoors statewide after lawmakers opted not to. 

Those in this peculiar, partisan 4-3 court majority continue to help their more openly-Republican allies diminish this Governor's authority in ways that former governors, and especially defeated GOP Gov. Scott Walker, were never restrained.

But let's give the court's four unofficial Republican members their due for backing several virus-related freedoms in their majority ruling Wednesday.

* Because why should the virus be disinvited from Wisconsin by Big Government masking mandates when other states are making sure the virus can move as it chooses? 

* Remember that a GOP State Senator said he'd still oppose mask mandates even if Wisconsin's COVID19 caseload exploded ten-fold, so now, Go COVID!

And the caseload is again trending upward - and while the numbers are not as bad as they've been, give it time.

* And similarly, why should a Wisconsinite's freedom to spread the virus - and particularly its new variants which buttinski medical experts say are strengthening into yet another viral wave - be limited when other people in other states have already been freed to spread the virus as they choose?

* From a business perspective, why should southern beach communities with their spring break advantages get all of the virus's benefits? 

* Why should Wisconsin front-line medical workers with slowing shifts let their counterparts in states with fewer pesky COVID rules get career advancement opportunities and more on-the-job-training which COVID19 freely provides?

* It's also an equally unfair barrier to force Wisconsinites to travel hundreds of miles to South Dakota bars and restaurants for a week of motorcycling fun and potentially also breathe in freer exposure to the virus at the same time. 

* And given the 4-3 court majority's Wednesday ruling, and some earlier decisions, it's a given that it will soon rule that the Legislature's GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee and not Gov. Evers gets to say how and where COVID19-related Federal grants are directed.

Because as GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos noted the other day, Republicans who bravely come to the State Capitol to collect their meal money - because they had no choice in the matter - are also battling a dictatorial Governor who is hell-bent on saving lives and the state's economy, too.

And speaking of food aid, WI gets $50 million in food assistance monthly because it had a statewide COVID order, so I guess that's out the window now.

* On the other hand, low-income people who were wasting too much time feeding their family this past COVID year are now freed from that burden and can look for work. That freedom to self-bootstrap is so important to hold dear.

The rightist Wisconsin court majority has rebranded itself as an activist subsidiary of the State Republican Party that has repeatedly strengthened the GOP-run Legislature's grip across State Capitol rather than serving as a fair-minded referee between the legislative and executive branches.

The court majority waved through this latest partisan GOP power-play Wednesday even though Vos and then-GOP State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (now promoted to US Representatives in a safely-gerrymandered district from which he tried to prevent the legal certification of President Joe Biden's record-setting tally) took most of 2020 off as the pandemic raged so legislators were free to focus on their re-election campaigns.

'Contests' with outcomes already rigged in the the GOP's favor through redistricting maps drawn up in secret by private attorneys using taxpayer dollars. 

Because as Vos might have put it as we/they close in on a failed-state identity through the self-fulfilling 'government-can't work' narrative which validates the GOP's core message and practice:

What choice did they have?

Monday, March 29, 2021

Enbridge history and oil soak into Ft. Atkinson

When looking at how tar sand and pipeline polluting giant Enbridge abused Ft. Atkinson people, and water -  

Enbridge Energy waited more than a year to notify the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources of a spill on one of its pipelines running through south-central Wisconsin, leaving residents wondering if their wells could be impacted by petroleum products.... 
The spill took place in Fort Atkinson, on Blackhawk Island Road near the Rock River and Lake Koshkonong.

- just remember who and what you're dealing with, Bucky:

After Keystone, WI is pipeline ground zero

The Canadian oil pipeline company with a record of spills and violations - - and which is already on its way to 'winning' permission in post-Walker de-regulated Wisconsin to vastly increase the carrying capacity of a major cross-state tar sand oil pipeline - - has even bigger pipeline plans for Bucky:

An entirely new pipeline running the length of the state to rival the risks to land and water of what the rejected Keystone XL pipeline would have carried, reports The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

And, earlier, here

Enbridge's calamitous pipeline spill record

Or here, for starters:

Enbridge Oil Spill Fix In Michigan Taking 4+ Years, $1+ Billion

With the tripling of the Enbridge tar sand crude oil pipeline capacity from Superior to Delavan, WI going forward with the blessing of the Journal Sentinel editorial board and without a full environmental review - -  I thought I'd post an update on the Enbridge pipeline spill cleanup of the Kalamazoo River just across Lake Michigan. 

It is precisely this history that led the Bad River Band in NW Wisconsin to block an effort by Enbridge to force an expanded pipeline across tribal lands in 2020:

As a result of a lawsuit filed by the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Enbridge is working to remove a 12-mile segment and bypass the reservation with about 42 miles of new pipe through Ashland and Iron counties.

And why Michigan authorities, remembering the Kalamazoo River disaster, are hoping to permanently decommission an underwater Enbridge pipeline which imperils the Great Lakes, according to this 2020 report. 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Dan Eichinger on Friday notified Enbridge that a 1953 easement allowing it to operate dual pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac to transport petroleum and other products is being revoked and terminated. 

And let's not forget who made a campaign stop at an Enbridge project in Northern Wisconsin in 2014 to let the company whose side he was on:

Remember - - it's Scott Walker's tar sand oil pipeline

When the inevitable tar sand oil pipeline spill occurs in a Wisconsin river, farm or neighborhood, Walker can jump into a cleanup shift wearing that orange Enbridge t-shirt he posed with last year.

He got the souvenir when he visited the Canadian company's Superior, WI storage tank farm to laud, with a few well-rehearsed re-election talking points the major expansion of tar sand oil pipeline capacity, the company wants to run north-south across the state.


Vos: WI needs more COVID litigation right now

WI GOP Assembly Speaker and man spotting a taxpayer's wallet on the floor - Robin Vos - is threatening yet another payday for GOP lawyers - (pattern noted) - to snatch management of Federal COVID grants from Gov. Evers so GOP gerrymandered legislators can gain control over the money.

This from the same Republican legislators who spent most of 2020 on vacation collecting full salaries, refusing to come up with their promised COVID policy package while also litigating against Evers' initiatives, as this 2020 news story points out:

Evers sent GOP legislative leaders a letter in early October asking them to bring him a plan they could accept to combat the virus, given the repeated challenges to Evers' ideas, but neither Vos or Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald responded.

Republican leaders of the state Senate suggested this weekend they haven't yet contemplated what, if anything, to put in a plan to combat the raging outbreak nine months after the virus began to spread in Wisconsin and six months after they sued Evers to eliminate his plan.... 

“Gov. Evers has consistently said he will not even talk to us until we have our own plan, which I think is idiotic,” Vos said.   

I love Vos's pose of helplessness about the next partisan lawsuit he'll have have taxpayers finance: 

"If for some reason the governor vetoes this bill, we will have no choice but to go to court.”

And the millions of our dollars for partisan purposes fly out the window

Because, as Vos says, Republicans have no choice.

It's pre-ordained.

Their hands are tied. 

And, as you know, they're dealing with a dictator:

Nothing says "work with us" more sincerely than labeling the other party a "dictator" and "czar."

Vos says Evers ‘acting like a dictator’ in issuing health emergencies without Legislature’s support 
The Rochester Republican said in a virtual event Thursday the guv’s decision to keep reissuing emergency orders every 60 days without getting approval from the Legislature was illegal. 
He said the Legislature has been asking “since last June, to be able to work with us and do it in the process that’s legal, as opposed to one where you kind of take the law into your own hands and act like a dictator.” 

Remember that Vos, his Senate GOP colleagues and then-Gov. Walker began their 'work with us' outreach to Evers prior to his inauguration in late 2018 by stripping him of powers Walker had routinely enjoyed.  

Monday bulletin - Evers vetoed the bill

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers killed a bill Monday that would have given Republican legislators oversight of Wisconsin’s share of billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds, instead announcing his own plan for distributing the money.

Evers, a Democrat, took the unusual step of vetoing the bill during a news conference at a Milwaukee cafe, holding up the veto for television cameras. The move reflects the growing animosity between the governor and Republican legislative leaders as the pandemic drags on.  

Mind you, this latest threat to further undermine the Executive branch by grabbing control of COVID-related federal dollars in a manner never applied by Team Vos to ex-Gov. Walker are directed is coming from the same GOP Assembly Speaker who received nearly $300,000 in COVID-related federal grants to support his business, then backed making the receipt of such funds tax-exempt.

We've gone so far down a State Capitol rabbit hole so self-serving these days that many - but not all - legislators participate in law-making which directly impacts their own wallet without flinching at the appearance of conflicts-of-interest.

At least nine legislators or their families have an ownership stake in businesses that received PPP loans, records show. 

Among them are Vos, whose popcorn business received a loan of about $298,000, and Republican Sen. Joan Ballweg of Markesan, whose family farm implement business received a $535,000 loan.

Rep. Francesca Hong, D-Madison, announced last week she would not vote on the measure because her restaurant had received a $65,000 loan.

Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, also refrained from voting. Businesses he or his family have an ownership stake in received $127,000 in loans, most of which went to Hebl's law firm, records show.

Again, pattern noted

Some Wisconsin lawmakers double as landlords — and have passed laws that undermine renters' rights

A series of sweeping laws promoting the interests of landlords at the expense of renters, local governments and even public safety have been pushed through the state Capitol since 2011 by a group of lawmakers who moonlight as landlords. 

Backed by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos — a college-town landlord with 23 properties worth about $3.8 million — the Republican-controlled Legislature enacted five major bills largely benefiting landlords.  

The measures speed up the eviction process, eliminate some tenant legal defenses, limit the power of cities to police landlords and cap fees tied to building code violations. They also allow landlords to toss renters' belongings on the curb immediately after an eviction, instead of placing the property in storage.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Brainless WI & FL men achieve miraculous mind meld

Psychiatrists and political scientists now have more Republican retreat from reality to review as the saga of Ron and The Don stays in perpetual motion.

This rich vein of material began earlier this month

GOP Sen. Ron Johnson says he never felt threatened during Jan. 6 Capitol attack

And in just fourteen days, re-surfaced here:

Trump says Capitol rioters posed 'zero threat'

Plus, the role reversal between apprentice and mentor in mere days will definitely attract students of psychological relationships, various dualisms or walk-ins, and other forms of interpersonal shape-shifting.

Ron Johnson - 45's apprentice - goes deeply to the dark side

Side note: Here is a running list of those charged in Federal Court so far for their roles in the Capitol breach and riot which Johnson has suggested may have been nothing more than "jovial, friendly, earnest" exuberance as one would see perhaps at a large picnic or sidewalk merchandise sale. 

Further side note: Johnson also is associated with followers of a former federal prosecutor whose mind may also be on the fritz, so some of this phenomenon may be contagious and transmitted, as if it were a virus.

All in all, a big day for political neuroscientists, historians, headline writers and sci-fi buffs.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

GA affirms GOP as 'You can't vote' party. Evers will veto similar suppression here.

Republicans are not wooing new voters with fresh ideas and agendas to regain the Congress and Presidency they lost in 2020.

Instead, the GOP has begun in Georgia what it hopes to do in state legislatures nationally, including Wisconsin's: keep or expand their power and incumbencies - 

Image of Duey Stroebel
State Sen. Duey Strobel, (R-Cedarburg), is leading the charge to add more restrictions to voting in Wisconsin. 

by adding layer after layer of new obstacles to election day procedures and absentee voting.

This legislative cycle, Republicans around the country have proposed hundreds of bills that would restrict access to voting, taking aim at issues like absentee voting, voter registration and disability access. Wisconsin Republicans are part of that trend, releasing their plans as well.

Last Wednesday, Wisconsin Republicans started circulating a package of 10 bills that would, among other requested changes: stiffen the criteria to vote as indefinitely confined. Under current law, people who self-elect that they cannot get to the polls because of age, illness, infirmity or disability do not have to provide a photo ID to vote absentee.

This is the identity of the GOP now: a single-issue party at war with Americans' voting, furthering their failing party's dedication to a defeated, fascistic President who dispatched a mob to attack the US Capitol while states; fairly-awarded electoral votes were being counted.

In other words, more of that 'your vote doesn't count' philosophy, energized by lies before morphing into fatal violence on January 6th.

The GOP's abandonment of the legacy of Abraham Lincoln mirrors its throwing overboard in the 2017 tax-cuts-for-the-wealth measure its core-but-revealed-as-fake 'conservative' concern over deficits and debt.

Or at the state level in Wisconsin, the Republican Party which embraced of picking and funding winners and losers (see: Foxconn), or its repeated love since 2011 of centralized state power directed from Madison to cush heir quaint, faux-'principle' of local control.

Memo: GOP lawmakers passed 128 measures limiting local control since 2011

No doubt Republicans long for a more one-sided and toxic version of the 'good old days' when voting and other realities of American democracy and citizenship were limited to white male property owners, or later were restricted to whites-only by state-sponsored Jim Crow-era poll taxes and literacy tests.

With only one national party now committed to democracy, expect Republicans to more regularly and intentionally mispronounce "Democratic Party" as "Democrat Party," lest Republicans inadvertently remind people that one major American party continues to practice and protect democratic values - and it's not the GOP.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Without evidence, Vos repeats routine Republican resentment-building smear

Thanks to WKOW-27's Madison Capitol Bureau chief A. J. Bayatpour for capturing in a single Tweet Wednesday the breath-taking hypocrisy of WI GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos who - 

* Accepted full taxpayer-provided salary and benefits during a nine-month vacation in 2020;

* And established the levels of free meal and mileage reimbursements he and his colleagues may accept without submitting receipts;

* While also repeating another mean-spirited version of the resentment-intensifying smears - without a shred of evidence made intentionally by calculating cold-hearted Republicans from Ronald Reagan to Paul Ryan to Scott Walker - that people of lesser means are lazy thieves stealing public money: 

Speaking this morning to a group of business owners on a forum, says unemployment/stimulus checks are encouraging people to stay out of the workforce. "If you give them free money, they don't have the same incentive to work."

WI GOP legislators excel at nothing doing & doing nothing

Remember how sitcom characters Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza successfully pitched NBC on a show about nothing? 

Episode 43 of "Seinfeld. Check it out.

Well, Wisconsin's GOP-led legislature - already labeled America's laziest?- has it's own version of a show about nothing. 

Call it 'Nothing doing, doing nothing' - sponsored by the Wisconsin Republican Party and its special interest clients.

It's a real-life, post-November 2018 partisan series that's into Season 3, and is anything but comedic.

The latest nothing doing, doing nothing plot line was was spun out by the always-reliably unreliable Assembly Leader Robin Vos - the guy you never want watching your back because his mantra is 'there's nothing we can do about it.'

Top Wisconsin Republican says arresting perpetrators is likely the only thing that can be done in response to mass shootings

The leader of the Wisconsin Assembly said Tuesday there is little the state can do about mass shootings other than arrest the perpetrators after they commit their crimes. 

Because what you won't find on GOP agendas as mass death events become more and more routine are policies of public health and violence prevention put in place even as bodies pile up and families have to collect and bury them.

Which is why when GOP legislative leaders were asked to expand gun purchase background checks in November, they preferred inactivity to pro-activity, and officially did nothing.

Senate, Assembly adjourn special sessions on gun control immediately after they begin

The Assembly and Senate special sessions on gun control legislation that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers ordered to take place Thursday both lasted less than a minute.

And this embrace of nothing doing & doing nothing - a kind of procedural nihilism, if that's a thing - or just plain 'no' - itself a variant on Vos's #never to block expanded health care for citizens not fortunate enough to tap into the subsidized health care he enjoys as a legislator - was by no means a WI GOP one-off related to gun violence.

There was the lightning-fast, no-action adjournment in September on policing and justice system reforms:

Only a few lawmakers attended the special session of the Wisconsin State Legislature on policing reform Monday. No debates or voters were held and the session adjourned shortly after a Senate clerk and a few Assembly lawmakers gaveled it in. Gov. Tony Evers had called for the legislature to convene following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, WI. 

* There was an equally lightning-fast, no-action adjournment -

Wisconsin GOP Leaders Make No Election Changes in Special Session

- over adapting last April's election to the exploding pandemic which Vos underplayed while swaddled in first-class medical gear:

Republican Wisconsin assembly speaker wears protective gear while telling voters they are 'incredibly safe to go out'

And speaking of the pandemic, GOP legislators did a lot of nothing about it, because actually doing something about it would have meant working with Gov. Evers and state health officials - but the nothing doing & doing nothing caucus preferred to vacate and self-remunerate, and litigate, not legislate

Review finds Wisconsin has least active full-time legislature in nation since pandemic

GOP legislator and health committee chair Joe Sanfilippo laid out where the GOP-led legislature - and, for that matter, the GOP-led White House had positioned Wisconsin and country in 2020 - while Americans nationwide were dying daily by the thousands from COVID19:

State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo argued Tuesday there is nothing more Wisconsin lawmakers can do to address the coronavirus after passing legislation to help hospitals and the unemployed six months ago.

“Beyond that, I think we have to remember that this is a virus. There is nothing that government can do,” Sanfelippo said in an interview with the WisconsinEye Public Affairs Network. “You know, we can’t wave a magic wand and make it go away.”

Long-time GOP State Sen. Alberta Darling said - and did - much the same thing.

The Republican co-chairwoman of the Legislature’s budget committee said lawmakers have done enough to fight the surging coronavirus pandemic Thursday, echoing the comments of another GOP legislator this week who said there is nothing more they can do.

Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills contended Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has all the powers he needs to deal with COVID-19, even as she and other Republican lawmakers have gone to court to try to limit his ability to act on his own.

Of course having a plan and an honest, proactivive people-first commitment instead of game-playing for partisan advantage will beat nothing doing and doing nothing every time. 

Biden Administration To Meet Goal Of 100 Million Vaccine Doses On Friday

Update - Let me correct myself and point out that Wisconsin GOP legislators actually did pass some COVID-related legislation Tuesday - furthering their partisan effort to wrest executive power from the Governor and limit the effective distribution of COVID vaccines that will save lives and hasten the safe re-opening of businesses and social interactions. 

State lawmakers on Tuesday passed a series of Republican-authored bills that would require COVID-19 vaccines to be optional and sent to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers a bill that gives GOP lawmakers control over how federal relief funds are spent in Wisconsin. 

Which is worse than nothing doing and doing nothing:

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

USDOT's urbanist Mayor Pete should nix I-94 widening through Milwaukee

You have have read that despite it being too expensive for Scott Walker - and also a looming setback for environmental justice across the west side of Milwaukee - the Evers administration has revived a billion-dollar plan to shoe-horn two more lanes onto the I-94 corridor between the Marquette Interchange and 70th St.

While transit in Wisconsin is continually short-changed, and bridges and roads go un-repaired.

And while no one knows if pre-COVID traffic volumes will increase.

I've posted - for years - information about our expensive and misnamed 'freeway' system - here, for example - and said this in July when Team Evers began embracing the West side expansion:

There is no constituency or true priority for, and zero fit with environmental justice and climate science facts and agendas to justify rebooting the Story Hill-area I-94 expansion which even road-building-boosting Walker had abandoned.

Why are we still dreaming about adding expensive 'freeway' [sic] lanes while the potholes ('Scottholes') and crumbled pavement statewide which helped drive Walker out of office remain unrepaired?

More recently, former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist recently wrote extensively about it for Urban Milwaukee:

Evers Is Wrong on I-94 Expansion

...WisDOT and the Highway Lobby have never let up. They keep pushing to widen the freeways already built. They’ve included the I-94 widening in the state budget despite the elected officials that represent the people in the corridor opposing it. US Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee) opposes it. Both aldermen Bob Bauman and Michael Murphy oppose it. State Reps Daniel Riemer and Evan Goyke oppose it. Regardless of the opposition of these locally elected officials, WisDOT is trying to get the Federal Highway Administration to break past precedent and go along with using a 5 year old Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to speed up a project that Milwaukee isn’t asking for. In a recent phone conversation Mayor Tom Barrett indicated that Governor Tony Evers gave him no heads up before including the I-94 project in his state budget. 

So I was interested see this piece posted today by CNN which draws attention to the more progressive urbanist views of newly-confirmed US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg; perhaps a new Secretary serving an Amtrak booster in the White House might prevent Wisconsin from yet another widening of Interstate Highway lanes 


that were supposed to connect cities, not bisect and devalue them:

Secretary Pete, going 'big' on road projects won't fix America's cities. This is what will.

While the theme coming from Secretary Buttigieg seems to be "go big," the projects most likely to meet all of the administration's goals will need to be small, incremental and city-focused. They would repair damage from past grand initiatives instead of launching new ones....

For small and mid-sized cities, the administration need only look to Buttigieg's hometown of South Bend where, as mayor, the secretary dramatically changed the city's approach to transportation and community investment.
Focusing on the struggling downtown, Mayor Pete made investments to shift traffic patterns from high-speed, one-way corridors to two-way streets with much slower speeds. This shift in emphasis allowed public biking and walking projects to pay off through increased private investment. As a result, South Bend has significantly grown housing, jobs, businesses and its overall tax base while improving safety and reducing its long-term liabilities.
    Much of this renaissance happened by fixing highway corridors built decades ago through the center of the city. Those highways did great damage to South Bend's economy while denuding the community's wealth. Today, they present the greatest opportunity for revitalization. 

    There are many American cities with the same challenge. Federal leadership and resources can shift state departments of transportation to support efforts to undo the damage of past highway building, restoring local communities and reducing long-term maintenance costs in the process.

    I'm happy to see intelligent, non-partisan commentary coming to the fore. We need to amplify it, stop making the same mistakes over and over again and match policy and spending with more care for people, clean air and the environment.