Saturday, April 10, 2021

Tiffany bashes non-white US farm aid despite perpetual discrimination

Our non-fiction blog series "WI Sends its Worst" offers yet another embarrassing look at the Badger State's GOP Congressional delegation.

Regrettably, but not surprisingly, there is a distorted, historical white grievance bias to the episode.

Let me begin with this quote from the most recent 'Tiffany Telegram' newsletter that shines, shall we say, a bright white light on the Northwoods representative's ahistoric and defective partisanship:

Equality for all farmers 
Just before the Easter holiday, I introduced legislation with my friend and colleague Rep. Burgess Owens of Utah to introduce the Agriculture Civil Rights and Equality Act – or ACRE Act for short. Our bill would prohibit officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture from discriminating or providing preferential treatment to any person on the basis of race, color, national origin or sex. 
Telegram readers may recall that the massive spending bill recently signed into law by President Biden includes a $5 billion agriculture debt relief program earmarked exclusively for non-white farmers . 
We believe that’s just plain wrong.  If we are serious about ending discrimination in the agriculture sector, the first step is for the government to stop doing the discriminating. You can read more about the bill here , and why Mr. Owens and I are working together to put an end to this unfair discrimination.
OK: Let's first look at some other numbers and facts about which Tiffany
Image of Tom Tiffany

knows little and cares less.

* For one thing, there are 1,920 billions in a $1.9 trillion bill, and Tiffany is talking about five of them, so I'd say that leaves plenty of millions and billions that will be principally absorbed by or invested for state and national populations which are predominantly white.

* So to get into the issues for real, how about this number in The Atlantic's seminal 2019 report The Great Land Robbery which Tiffany could digest:
A war waged by deed of title has dispossessed 98 percent of black agricultural landowners in America.

Analyzing the history of federal programs, the Emergency Land Fund [an early reference to the fund and its focus is here] emphasizes a key distinction. While most of the black land loss appears on its face to have been through legal mechanisms—“the tax sale; the partition sale; and the foreclosure”—it mainly stemmed from illegal pressures, including discrimination in federal and state programs, swindles by lawyers and speculators, unlawful denials of private loans, and even outright acts of violence or intimidation. 
Discriminatory loan servicing and loan denial by white-controlled FmHA and ASCS committees forced black farmers into foreclosure, after which their property could be purchased by wealthy landowners, almost all of whom were white. Discrimination by private lenders had the same result. Many black farmers who escaped foreclosure were defrauded by white tax assessors who set assessments too high, leading to unaffordable tax obligations. 
The inevitable result: tax sales, where, again, the land was purchased by wealthy white people. Black people’s lack of access to legal services complicated inheritances and put family claims to title in jeopardy. Lynchings, police brutality, and other forms of intimidation were sometimes used to dispossess black farmers, and even when land wasn’t a motivation for such actions, much of the violence left land without an owner. 

* For Tiffany to put his name on that sentence "To extend government assistance to some farmers but not others based on race undermines the constitution’s guarantee of equal protection for all Americans" goes beyond 'just plain wrong' to just plain insultingly uninformed in light of American history which is:

- Documented in books:

Discrimination against African American Farmers in the Age of Civil Rights  

Between 1940 and 1974, the number of African American farmers fell from 681,790 to just 45,594--a drop of 93 percent. In his hard-hitting book, historian Pete Daniel analyzes this decline and chronicles black farmers' fierce struggles to remain on the land in the face of discrimination by bureaucrats in the U.S. Department of Agriculture....hundreds of thousands of black farmers lost their hold on the land as they were denied loans, information, and access to the programs essential to survival in a capital-intensive farm structure.

- Or has been more recently documented in national media

Discrimination started a century ago with a series of federal Homestead Acts that offered mainly White settlers deeply subsidized land. Since then, local U.S. Department of Agriculture offices charged with distributing loans have frequently been found to deny Black farmers access to credit and to ignore or delay loan applications. 

Many Black farmers don’t have clear title to their land, which makes them ineligible for certain USDA loans to purchase livestock or cover the cost of planting, and they have seldom benefited from subsidy payments or trade mitigation compensation — almost all of President Donald Trump’s $28 billion bailout for those affected by the China trade war went to White farmers.

- And was reported in the Journal Sentinel, in 2010

The U.S. Senate was scheduled to vote Monday night whether to approve funding for a longstanding $1.2 billion settlement for black farmers who accused the government of decades of discrimination. The black farmers' lawsuit was settled in 1996 after a court found the U.S. Department of Agriculture systemically denied black farmers the same loans, grants or subsidies as white farmers solely because of their skin color. 

What's remarkable about the huge financial settlement is that it confirmed the kind of widespread institutional racism some people swear doesn't exist in governments.

- And was documented again on Wisconsin Public Television last week

According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, only .07% of Wisconsin farmers are Black. That’s less than 1%...Today, there are only 62 Black farmers out of more than 88,000 producers statewide. 

In 1910, Black farmers owned more than 16 million acres of farmland nationwide. That’s compared to 2.5 million acres in 2017. It’s a major loss of land that several studies have linked back to systemic injustices involving lending practices and access to federal resources.

- I mean, you, me, anyone - even Tom Tiffany - could spend all day reading what's freshly available on this subject: 

For decades, the US Department of Agriculture systematically denied Black farmers access to the loans and other aid lavished on their white peers, contributing to foreclosures and millions of acres of lost landfor tens of thousands of farm families. 

According to the Land Loss and Reparations Project—a team consisting of Texas A&M’s Thomas Mitchell; University of Massachusetts, Boston, economist Dania V. Francis; the New School’s Darrick Hamilton; Harvard’s Nathan Rosenberg; and journalist Bryce Stucki—the USDA’s historical injustice helped trigger a loss of Black wealth worth at least $300 billion, contributing to a massive and persistent racial wealth gap.

Wouldn't it be nice if Tiffany spent less time and public money bloviating about baseless grievances and began reading up on American history and law?

Taxpayers provide each House member with an annual salary of $174,000 and more than a million dollars annually to run their offices, so even if Tiffany doesn't have the intellectual curiosity to read up on the country and institutions he is supposed to be serving he could assign the same staffers who tap out his 'Telegram' to find him some reading materials so he could do his job and dump that dunce cap.

Here's a start provided several weeks ago during Black History month by Milwaukee Municipal Court Judge Derek Mosley: 

Everyone has heard the term “40 Acres and a Mule,” but many don’t know it by its official name, Special Field Orders #15. These were military orders issued on January 16,1865, by General William Tecumseh Sherman of the United States Army. It provided for the confiscation of 400,000 acres of Confederate land along the Atlantic coast of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida and dividing it into parcels of 40 acres on which were to be settled by formerly enslaved families. Mules were not a part of the original order, but Gen. Sherman would make an oral agreement to provide leftover Army mules. 
The promise was the first systematic attempt to provide a form of reparations to newly freed slaves. Unfortunately, President Lincoln was assassinated in April of 1865, and his successor, Andrew Johnson, a sympathizer with the South, overturned the Order and returned the land to the very people who had declared war on the United States of America. 
The order effectively left 3.9 million blacks to fend for themselves with no money, education, or land. Many were forced to become sharecroppers, working for former slaveholders.  
Just imagine had the former slaves actually had access to the ownership of land. If only they had been given a chance to be self-sufficient economically, to build, accrue and pass on wealth.

But I hold out little expectation that someone who already ran roughshod over deeply-embedded tribal treaty rights in his own backyard in preferred obeisance to an out-of-state mining company and more recently as a Member of Congress ran over the US Constitution, too - would suddenly show an interest in doing his job they way it should be done - on behalf of all the people.

Final thought: Let's not kid ourselves, Bucky: White identity politics and the ballot-begging grievances which accompany it are boiler plate Wisconsin Republican talking points and behaviors. 

Here is one summary post about that I put up in 2019:

Trump's white identity card played by WI GOP pols

Before Trump, Walker and Grothman and Ryan weighed in.

Which is why this headline in The Washington Post today caught my eye: 
White identity politics drives Trump, and the Republican Party under him
And haven't Wisconsin Republicans shown him the way, albeit sometimes - - but not always - - a wee bit more slyly?

* Walker did his part, what with his repetitive resentment-triggering dog whistles about hard-working people paying others to loaf in hammocks and on the couch playing Xbox?   

Walker signing one of his hammock-flipping measures in Milwaukee
(That from a guy routinely dispensing corporate welfare from his taxpayer-provided lakefront mansion and enjoying cushy benefits for decades.)

And remember Walker's warning near the end of the 2012 recall election tossed out to a crowd in an upscale, essentially all-white Waukesha County exurban community about Wisconsin becoming "another Milwaukee" should he have lost that election?

That was less a Trumpian 'go back to where you came from' slur and more of a 'keep them in the inner city where they are now' directive.

*  And speaking of inner city critiques - - before he became US House Speaker, Paul Ryan said in a radio interview that inner city men were so lazy they didn't even think about working:
 ”We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.
This was before he was elevated by his party to House Speaker. where he could count on support from Badger state US Rep. and resentment champion Glenn Grothman.

* And speaking of Grothman, let's not forget his gratuitous race-baiting hostility towards Kwanzaa expressed as a State Senator:
In his press release, Grothman says "almost no black people today care about Kwanzaa -- just white left-wingers who try to shove this down black people's throats in an effort to divide Americans," and called for the holiday to be "slapped down."
This took place before Grothman moved to a safely-gerrymandered congressional district where Wisconsin voters continue to send him to the House of Representatives.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Does key electronics' shortage imperil Foxconn's vehicle mfg. 'plan'?'

Having already blamed shifting market conditions and even "snowy and icy cold" winter weather (in Wisconsin) for its failure to launch manufacturing at the firm's bulldozed, valley-free Wisconn Valley rural Racine County site, Foxconn could be handed another excuse if its latest teased venture - electric vehicle production - is added to a published list of non-starters which include way of flat panel TVs, airport coffee kiosks and ice cream exports.

This is the relevant story:

General Motors and Ford halt production at more factories as global semiconductor shortage worsens

As I've said: Building electric vehicles in Mt. Pleasant would be nice, but it was hard to put much stock in that announced plan even before we have learned that a  shortage of key electronic components is slowing vehicle production by established car and truck makers already working with stressed supply chains worldwide. 

Here's an excellent in-depth look at the Foxconn fiasco: 

The 8th Wonder of the World

And here is my blog's Foxconn archive covering nearly four years with about 400 posts:

Foxconn Fever: A Primer.

From NBC Nightly News, 7/21/19 

What partisan price will Vos demand to save expiring Federal food $$?

Wisconsin Republicans have been using food assistance as a partisan cudgel since 2011, as I've documented here.

And now the GOP-aggrandizing State Supreme Court Court has just given Republicans another chance to steal the poor's meal money - and to further weaken Democratic Gov. Tony Evers by stripping from him the authority to issue pandemic-related emergency orders and thereby jeopardizing $50 million in emergency monthly Federal food aid which will end in May

Lawmakers were aware of the loss of supplemental benefits before the court struck down the emergency order, but it hasn’t been clear, until now, when the state would begin losing emergency supplemental FoodShare benefits provided by the federal government.

So now we wait to see what political price GOP legislative 'leaders' will extract from the Governor - and how many calories from low-income residents' meals - to keep the food aid flowing.

In other words, what partisan-advantage-for-food-swap can vindictive, power-grabbing and sore-losing Wisconsin Republicans concoct?

Republicans in Wisconsin have been on a partisan power trip ever since voters removed Scott Walker from a governorship which the GOP assumed was theirs in perpetuity.

As if Walker was ensconced in office with the same certainty they'd guaranteed themselves after hiring private lawyers with taxpayer dollars to craft district maps in secret that continue to give Republican legislators more seats and political power than honest mapping would have fairly awarded.

The obvious hostage demand of Evers by legislative Republicans would be control of Federal COVID relief funds - a gubernatorial power which GOP legislators routinely allowed Walker and which Evers has, so far, not handed over.

These COVID-related Federal funds are available only because Democrats wrested control from multiple, do-nothing GOP COVID enablers who golfed and vacationed which the virus raged and killed.

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

And assuming Evers vetoed the unseemly food-for-partisan power grab, Vos would then in full, familiar and breezy insincerity blame Evers for the food aid's loss.

A reach for COVID dollars would be par for Vos's course, as he has used the Speaker's powers for personal staff expansion, repetitive private-attorney hirings, and more assorted lawyering-up by the millions of taxpayer dollars.

Just as he has added more dollars to legislators' receipt-free meal reimbursements, making any trade of public-food-policy-for-partisan-advantage even more repulsive.

And don't think for a moment that Vos who just added public education to his growing, grievance-laden hit list would find leveraging food assistance for partisan opportunity to be a tawdry, tacky step too far.

He's already said he'd ask the State Supreme Court to force Evers to turn over control of the funds.

Remember also this telling precedent: during the pandemic Vos dealt with Democratic State Rep. Jimmy Anderson's perfectly reasonable request for wellness-related modification to in-person Assembly attendance rules with this Speaker's signature spite.

And, after delays, Vos grudgingly budged - by implementing a still-restrictive rule modification without having consulted with Anderson, along with 10 Assembly rule changes unrelated to Anderson's health-based request that enhanced GOP prerogatives and Republican opportunities to override Evers vetoes.

A summary post about the Speaker's unspeakably shameful treatment of Rep. Anderson - which earned Vos a PolitiFact "False" rating and some ugly national media - is here.

Vos continues to 'lead' through grandstanding and humiliation

But this happens when a party checks its-already-tattered reputation and any remnant of collegial humanity at the Legislature's chambers' doors to protect, use and abuse their secrecy-abetted and illegitimate, gerrymandered command.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

DNR continues long look at Long Lake, region's too-long drawdowns

Wisconsin's long, long look at long-acknowledged harmful and excessive groundwater pumping is about to get yet another long look.

And, yes, this latest long look will continue to look at Long Lake, which in a 2007 blog post I referred to as "Gone Lake" because its falling water levels were known way back then.

Long Lake in Waushara County is pretty much Gone Lake, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Meg Jones, as spring-fed lakes dry up in a continuing drought....

We'll see if the politicians in our state can connect the a state literally created because of its proximity to the Great Lakes and to land naturally-enriched by streams, rivers, lakes and underground supplies left behind by melting glaciers.

(Regrettably that MJS link no longer functions.) 

On the one hand, it is good to see the WI DNR relying on science and data to advance the study of groundwater depletion in the Central Sands region, and to announce Tuesday a request for public input.

Over the past three years, the DNR and partners have evaluated and modeled the impacts of groundwater withdrawals from high-capacity wells on Pleasant, Long and Plainfield Lakes in Waushara County, as required by state law. The Central Sands Lakes Study built on decades of studies evaluating groundwater and surface water connections in the Central Sands region.

While the three study lakes fluctuate naturally, the DNR determined that groundwater withdrawals for irrigated agriculture significantly reduce water levels on two of three study lakes: Long and Plainfield.

Policy dedication to science, data and public opinion - particularly when it came to water supply and quality matters - had been flushed away during the Walker years, as I noted in a 21-part blog series in 2018:

...take note of this unbelievable, no, very believable story published just yesterday about Walker's DNR, aided by GOP AG Brad Schimel and GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos:

Wisconsin permits wells in areas judge ruled pumping would harm trout streams

I'd written about this lever-pulling-industry-to Vos-to-Schimel-to the DNR-and back-to-industry-judiciary-and-the-public-be-damned network before:

Wisconsin officials tilt land, water, conservation to corporate goals

...Including [Schimel's] issuance of a favorable opinion that granted large-scale groundwater withdrawals to big operators which they had openly demanded GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos deliver. 

While Wisconsin is abusing, over pumping and contaminating our groundwater, the Legislature's GOP Assembly Leader Robin Vos - - a leading Wisconsin corporate water-carrier - - is seeking an opinion from GOP Attorney General and fellow corporate water-carrier Brad Schimel that could turn over more groundwater to corporate control and away from public oversight...

On the other hand, studies into Long Lake and the Central Sands region have dragged on for years, and I noted in 2015:

Groundwater in the Wisconsin's central sands region is both over-pumped and contaminated at high levels by animal waste runoff, but officials have been unable or unwilling to stop it.


and here in a July, 2019 post, among many.

There's more proof that science is back in Wisconsin public policy work after being shelved during Walker's eight-year reign on behalf of donors and polluters...
This [Wisconsin Public Radio] story quotes the noted Wisconsin water expert George Kraft on the relationship better agricultural practices and clean drinking water. 

George Kraft, an emeritus professor of water resources with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, said one problem is that the costs of pollution are externalized...And that’s disconnected from where the nitrate pollution is being applied," Kraft said.
In central Wisconsin...Potatoes require large amounts of water to grow. Kraft said the use of high-capacity wells had increased from 97 in the Central Sands region in 1960 to about 2,500 now. 
Separately, here is another report, with photos.
The River Alliance of Wisconsin cites the [Little Plover] River's situation as a warning about the consequences of state water misuse; I posted last year these River Alliance Little Plover photos, below, and mentioned the river's problems in a summary blog post from last May that included more than a dozen links cataloguing the many threats to public waters in Wisconsin
Scott Walker and his party's obeisance to businesses which think the state's groundwater and surface water are theirs to deplete, pollute and otherwise expropriate have only intensified the state's water crisis.
River Alliance of Wisconsin photos

Dead Brookie

Those impacts on the Little Plover River have long been recorded, as this story noted four years ago tomorrow, April 7, and cited events dating to 2005:

A now completed report confirms what researchers revealed last year: high-capacity wells in the Central Sands region of the state are affecting the water flow in the Little Plover River.

The Class 1 trout stream — which begins near Plover and flows into the Wisconsin River — has dried up several times, starting in 2005.

One of the report’s authors, state geologist Ken Bradbury said the river’s problems are tied to an increase in high-capacity wells.

And let's not forget that Vos worked hand-in-hand with then GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel so the state would accede to big ag's hand-delivered demand for guaranteed access to state groundwater - which in turn led to litigation that reversed some of this blatant exercise of special interest power.

Judge tosses well permits, citing waterway protections 

So my bottom line prediction today: the DNR's studies - important and well-intentioned as they are  - will continue, as does citizen action.


The state's long look at Long Lake's falling levels speaks to a crisis statewide - noted by The New York Times as Wisconsin's 'Flint' - that has produced a wait for healthy and rational water solutions which a Kewaunee County rural activist said years ago had been delayed 'long enough.' 

Note that the GOP has opposed raising the minuscule fees which pay for some clean rural drinking water provision, and support taking away localities' ability to oversee some mega-dairy operations.

Despite the documented medical and public health costs:

Around 10 percent of private wells sampled in Wisconsin exceed safe levels of nitrate in groundwater — about 90 percent of which stems from agriculture, according to the Wisconsin Groundwater Coordinating Council.

The report found nitrate contamination was more often growing worse than improving in Wisconsin among nearly a quarter of roughly 3,800 public wells from systems that serve restaurants, taverns and churches.

This obstruction will persist because the Legislature remains gerrymandered in the Republicans' favor - and the GOP's open embrace of big water-sucking ag operations  - you can read Republicans' Valentine in their own words, here - will continue to water down or block any Evers' directed/science-and-environmentally-based groundwater solution.