Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Final OK for Waukesha water diversion will whet West's thirst

Western US states now baking in the global warming crisis brought on by science-and-climate change denial could cite Wednesday's anti-climatic announcement - 


 - should they ever move to unwind a Great Lake management agreement's weakening diversion restrictions for permission to pipe in water, too, and say:

* Hey, Wisconsin, you gave Waukesha a diversion which rewarded unrestrained annexations as documented in a 2005 report by Midwest Environmental Advocates' attorneys and based on Waukesha records:

Data provided from the City of Waukesha Department of Community Development’s Planning Division demonstrates that the City, over the past 20 years, has increased in size from 15.5 square miles to 23.6 square miles, reflecting a 52% expansion....

Moreover, city planners concede that annexations of property bordering the city occur on a regular basis, as developers continue to buy up farmland and then petition the city for annexation. In the last five years alone, over 1,300 total acres have been annexed by the City of Waukesha, with over 4,413 total acres annexed in the past 15 years. 

* And you're willing to spend another billion dollars of  public money to further reward that sprawl with an urban interstate highway widening at the expense of clean air and environmental justice. 

The freeway project borders homes in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Milwaukee, which would be affected by the expansion.

* And you further bent Great Lakes water diversion legal requirements to fuel what has become phantom, politically-inspired non-residential development by Foxconn, a wealthy multi-national corporation, on prime agricultural land in Racine County. 

As Midwest Environmental Advocates argued: 

The Racine diversion violates the Compact and Wisconsin’s implementing legislation because the water diverted outside of the basin will not serve “largely residential customers.”  
In fact, none of the water diverted outside of the basin will go to residential customers. As a result, the Racine diversion does not meet the public water supply purposes requirement in the straddling community exception... 

Thus, DNR’s approval of the Racine diversion establishes a misguided and dangerous precedent with far-reaching implications for the Great Lakes region. This precedent opens the door to diversions throughout the Great Lakes basin—to any customer and for any purpose—as long as the in-basin community supplying and receiving back the returned water does so through a public water system.  

'So rules, shmooles, Wisconsin, we (pick a city, county, state, purpose or business) deserve our share, too.'

Lake Michigan gale
Lake Michigan along the Milwaukee shoreline, 2019. James Rowen photo.

And don't think the cross-country diversion idea recently floated again can't happen - or is not feasible - (they are piping oil from Alberta, Canada, Wyoming and Colorado to Wisconsin and the Gulf of Mexico) - especially as the parched UW west dries out and catches fire.

Kapenga leaves his socks on the abasement basement floor

Wisconsin's GOP State Senate Majority Leader Chris Kapenga

Image of Chris Kapenga
Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield

writes in a public letter that his collection of loyalty swag to the defeated President includes "Trump socks" which he said he was wearing while composing his letter.

Who knew they were available? Are there matching sheets and jammies?

This embarrassment was wrapped in a defense of some state GOP officials loyalty to Trump, as reported to the entire world in The New York Times, here

In a blistering statement last week on the eve of the state party’s convention, the former president accused top Republican state lawmakers of “working hard to cover up election corruption” and “actively trying to prevent a Forensic Audit of the election results...."

Mr. Kapenga’s letter to Mr. Trump was a telling distillation of the delicate way Republicans try to navigate the former president’s whims, combining ego-stroking and gentle pushback.... 

“The power of your pen to mine is like Thor’s hammer to a Bobby pin,” the Senate president, Chris Kapenga, wrote, adding that he was wearing “Trump socks” and a “Trump-Pence mask” while boarding a commercial flight.

Kapenga's move to the abasement basement was separately described by Times' editorial writer Michelle Cotter as a bootlicking "master class in the art of Trump sycophancy."  

Dear Leader: A Near-Perfect Letter From a Trump Sycophant, Annotated

Picking up on Kapenga's socks, Cottle writes, in part:

In addition to my Trump socks, I will pull up my Trump/Pence mask when I board the plane, as required by federal law.

This bit of toadyism may feel like it’s going too far, but, with Mr. Trump, too far is never enough. And it never hurts to take a shot at the feds....

Thank you for doing great things as our president.

Always close with straight-up bootlicking. Don’t try to be fancy — or subtle. 

One more thing: Kapenga Tweeted that he wanted you to read his letter: 

Today I wrote a letter to President Trump. His claim that I am blocking an election audit couldn’t be further from the truth. Read my letter about how I requested an audit that is still ongoing.

Here is the letter which he posted on his taxpayer-funded office website - so please indulge him.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Sen. Bamboozled echoes an ex-Charlatan-in-Chief

It is possible that people following GOP Sen. Ron Johnson's relentless obstruction of science along with his his boundless allegiance 

to a President who sought to overthrow the 2020 election might have missed his weekend swerve into science fiction.

No, it was not the first time he looked to the stars and reached a bizarre conclusion

Sunspots are behind climate change, Johnson says

Also, there's no evidence that Johnson showed up at his party's Wisconsin Dells convention after watching videos of UFOs which is suddenly a thing to do on Capitol Hill.

It seems Johnson decided to dress-and-sum up an attack on his critics with an homage to the 1997 sci-fi film "Contact" - a book by scientist and philosopher Carl Sagan.

The Capital Times reported it this way:  

At WI convention, Ron Johnson calls for GOP to 'take back our culture'

"Our little democracy here, this marvel we call America, is but a blip in time. It’s kind of tiny, it’s kind of insignificant on that scale. But man, is it rare and is it ever precious," he said, alluding to the 1997 film "Contact."

The film was thought-provoking, and lead actor Jodie Foster who played a scientist amid other scientists, was terrific. 

I did a modest search on Google for lines from the film or elsewhere from Sagan which approached Johnson's appropriation; perhaps Team Johnson was referencing Sagan's famous tiny "Pale Blue Dot."

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

Or not.

But it's brutally paradoxical that a politician as contemptuous of science as is Johnson - remember that after his convention speech he made this news

Fact check: Sen. Ron Johnson (again) misleads on vaccines and reported deaths

- would try and align himself with a thinker like Carl Sagan who understood precisely why science is valuable and how it should be applied in the public sphere: 

“Science is a way to call the bluff of those who only pretend to knowledge… It can tell us when we’re being lied to. It provides a mid-course correction to our mistakes.”

And I did find in my Google search a link to something Sagan wrote which points to the place in contemporary politics which Johnson has carved out for himself, to Wisconsin's shame:

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” 

― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark 

Monday, June 28, 2021

WI Assembly wants 'truth in meat' labeling; must 'hamburgers' be all-pork?

WI GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos allowed a 'truth in meat' labeling bill to reach the floor where it passed last week.


A related measure promoted by the Wisconsin dairy industry aims to stop soy or almond products from being labeled "milk."

Set aside the fact that consumers with commonsense understand that you can't milk an almond.

Or that shrimp are 'jumbo' mostly in the eye of the buffet operator, and that there's no ham in a "hamburger," and take on faith that there's no Buffy or Bowser in a hot dog.

(Though I'm not sure how many people know that the ubiquitous "Ice Mountain" bottled water comes from groundwater in rather not-so-mountainous Michigan, but I digress).

Anyway, while we'll see if Wisconsin's State Senators fall in line, do Assembly members in the cheese and dairy state who believe their bills stand up for Wisconsin agriculture understand they are undermining it by validating claims by Italian cheesemakers that no one but producers in a specific region there should be allowed to say they are making Parmesan cheese? 

Parmesan from Wisconsin? How dairy you?! Italy wants to reclaim its cheese. 

How far down this road will Assembly Republicans take us?

Will Wisconsin producers or sellers be able to advertise and provide Peking duck, Kielbasa or Roquefort cheese not directly imported from their countries of origin?

Wouldn't the Legislature better spend its time and our money addressing actual dairy and rural issues, such as manure run-off, or over-pumping, and persistently polluted wells, or on public health issues raised by the so-called traditional American diet?


Saturday, June 26, 2021

Surprise! (not). Vos hires divisive partisan as voting 'probe' chief

WI GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced at the state GOP convention that he'd hired with taxpayer funds ex-Wi Supreme Court Associate Justice Michael Gableman to oversee retired police officers Vos 

had already hired to chase after alleged 2020 election fraud.

That Vos announced Gableman's hiring at the GOP convention further exposes the blatantly partisan nature of the 'probe'.

After all, Gableman had already aligned himself with people who were recklessly claiming the 2020 election was stolen by Democrats. 

Hundreds gather to support President Trump at Serb Hall

The crowd waved flags, held up signs, chanted and listened to speakers, which included former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman. 

Many of the people in the crowd said they agree with President Trump's false and baseless claims about election fraud or voter irregularities.... 

"I don't think anyone would be here if we all had confidence that this was an honest election," Gableman said. 

But there had long been plenty of evidence which suggested putting Gableman is absolutely the wrong person to examine the integrity of an election. 

* You may remember that Gableman won a State Supreme Court election in 2008 through a campaign which one veteran watchdog journalist labeled "vile."

Gableman -- unfit for any office 

 * And in case you have forgotten it, please watch the video of Gableman's speech while a sitting Justice at a Republican gathering in Green Lake in which he projects partisanship and biases onto Democrats and then-Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenberg who was running at the time against Gableman ally Justice David Prosser.

His dog whistle fear-mongering about Jesse Jackson and outsider "Illinois license" influences riding into Wisconsin should make any observer gag.

* I'd noted that Gableman appearance in a 2011 blog post (but the video link had since died, so access it in the paragraph, above), and I later wrote up a Gableman speaking role scheduled at another GOP, partisan event

Wisconsin's far rightwing, often-conflicted and corporately-beholden conservative majority had been correctly given a failing grade for ethics - details, here - - but we learned today via the indispensable Wisconsin Democracy Campaign that Associate Justice Michael Gableman has lowered the bar, broken it into splinters and tossed them into the judicial dumpster:

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who penned the court opinion that ended the controversial John Doe probe of Scott Walker’s campaign activities, is one of the featured speakers at a Republican Party fundraiser – along with the head of a shadowy rightwing group that the John Doe prosecutor was reportedly looking into. That group, Wisconsin Club for Growth, spent more than half a million dollars to get Gableman elected in 2008.
Gableman, who is among the court’s 5-2 conservative majority and faces reelection next year to a second 10-year term on the court, is scheduled to appear March 11 at the Barron County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner in Rice Lake.
In addition to Gableman, the director of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, Eric O’Keefe, will also be a keynote speaker at the event.

Vos is just wasting more taxpayer money with Gableman's hiring and hoping to use a rigged investigation to rig future elections.

Sounds vile to me. 

Friday, June 25, 2021

Wolves as deer disease fighters can be DNR science, education tool

You hear it all the time:"Follow the science."

We constantly say that science needs to be at the heart of public policy. 

Which makes total ethical and practical sense when it comes to fighting climate change, or ensuring clean air and safe drinking water.

Because our health, our very survival is at stake.

But making science the core of state-sanctioned wolf-killing is a really big, contradictory ask.

Because special 'sporting' interests have long had the inside track that makes snared legs, head shots, wolf trophy collection and their packs' decimation the science-obliterating public policy outcome.

And in no way conserves the species, let alone suggests wolves have any larger value to people beyond Wisconsin's indigenous tribes:

We understand wolves to be our educators, teaching us about hunting and working together in extended family units. Wolves exemplify perseverance, guardianship, intelligence, and wisdom. 
Moreover, in the Anishinaabe creation story, we are taught that Ma’iingan is a brother to the Original Man. The two traveled together throughout the earth naming everything. Once this task was completed, the Creator said that the two had to take separate paths, but indicated that whatever happened to one would happen to the other. Each would be feared, respected, and misunderstood by the people who would later join them on earth. 
Thus the health and survival of Anishinaabe people is tied to that of Ma’iingan. We can do no less than to fully support efforts to protect and promote acceptance and to ensure healthy and abundant populations of wolves–it is our future we are also considering…”

The ugly reality of Wisconsin's official wolf policy was plainly shown to the world during the cavalier, bloody and politicized 2020 'hunt' when Wisconsin authorities threw science, their own kill quotas, fair chase standards and other best practices out the door as they also did in earlier wolf killing seasons, too.

So here is a simple, doable baby step that the DNR could take to bring science and public service back into the matter by incorporating wolves as part of solutions, and not defining and treating them solely as the problem.


By inserting into the discussion and policy-making intentional myth-busting education that explains and implements the positive, natural role wolves can play in culling diseased deer from the state's herd.

Who would oppose the state more effectively confronting the continuing spread of chronic wasting deer disease (CWD) by using wolves as "nature's first responders" to the deadly deer disease?

Focusing on wolves' value as natural CWD fighters and and also as a key contributor to the overall health of the forest would give the DNR reason to reiterate its own findings - I'd enumerated them in a 2013 web posting here - that showed wolves do not markedly reduce the overall integrity of the herd, as some hunters mistakenly believe: 

According to the Wisconsin DNR, "Each wolf kills about 20 deer per year. Multiply this by the number of wolves found in Wisconsin in recent years (630), and approximately 13,000 deer may be consumed by wolves annually. 
This compares to over 40,000 deer hit by cars each year, and about 450,000 deer shot annually by hunters statewide. 
Within the northern and central forests where most wolves live, wolves kill similar numbers of deer as are killed by vehicles (about 13,000), and about 1/10 of those killed by hunters (127,000 in 2008). 
Wolves are a factor in the deer herd, but only one of many factors that affects the total number of deer on the landscape." 
And a DNR publication discussing research to begin in 2010 also threw cold water on the notion that wolves take deer from hunters:
Some hunters argue an expanded wolf population, in particular, has resulted in fewer deer in the northern and central forests.  
Review of published research and preliminary data analysis suggests bears are having a small but measurable impact on fawn mortality and that wolves have a small impact on the mortality rate of adult does.
And you will see the same belief again debunked during a discussion of DNR research recorded at the agency's Wolf Management advisory committee's most recent meeting in Wausau, on July 18.

This is important because many hunters miss that point.

Among hunters who applied for 2020 Wisconsin wolf killing permits, 42.4% - the largest number by far - chose this statement as their top reason among 10 choices for their permit application:

"I wanted to reduce the wolf population impact on deer and other animals," according to survey data shared by the DNR at its Wednesday wolf advisory committee meeting.

So the DNR can focus research on the deer-wolf relationship and also expand and sharpen its brief, repeatedly-qualified and cautious language on the matter which the agency has included in a web-based wolf information Q & A: 

The relationship between wolves and deer is complex. Generally, winter weather and human harvest, especially antlerless harvest, have greater impacts on deer populations than predation over the long term. Deer herds in northern Wisconsin have increased significantly in recent years, even with an established wolf population, suggesting that wolves do not limit deer population growth. However, deer may alter their behavior, movements and/or habitat use in response to the presence of wolves.

Wolves are skilled at identifying vulnerable prey, and tend to target individuals that are old, young, sick or otherwise weakened. Hence, deer removed by wolves are less likely to survive and less likely to produce offspring than the deer that remain. The average age of white-tailed deer killed by wolves was 6.5 years in Minnesota, for example, whereas the average age of does taken by hunters was 2.5 years in this same area. This targeting of vulnerable animals serves to reduce the impact of wolves on long-term deer population dynamics. It has also been suggested that wolves might reduce CWD transmission rates and prevalence by removing sick individuals.

An interesting and more detailed article on the relationship between deer hunting and wolves was published by a Minnesota biologist in 2009.

In other words, the DNR can strengthen its commitment to good science, and to useful, accurate public education and perception.

Luckily, the agency can make use of the work of Wisconsin Greenfire, the non-partisan group of Wisconsin experts and scientists, which recently released a report 

Creating A Shared Vision for Wolves in Wisconsin 

- that provides facts and directions that can be integrated into state wolf policy.

There are ways to actively bring science into DNR policy-making. 

We'll see if the agency has the will to do it.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Latest WI Lake MI diversion project began w/out authorization

The cascade of ill-advised and boldly bogus Great Lakes diversion plans by Wisconsin communities is getting stronger, and this bulldozing trend needs replacement by a more credible level of scrutiny and enforcement if the state is going to be a trustworthy Great Lakes regional resource partner.

I'd noted a couple of months ago the regrettably unsurprising news that the Village of Somers in Kenosha County had become just latest Wisconsin community to seek a diversion of water from Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

I say 'unsurprising' given the way various Wisconsin state officials and localities continue to treat the Great Lakes' finite water volume and its purportedly-controlling water management compact of 2008 as more of a proprietary Badger state open faucet than a last-ditch source and solution to public health or water supply emergencies, with the Foxconn diversion being the most ill-advised and egregiously bogus.

A document filed by the Village with the Department of Natural Resources in support of a diversion application makes clear the diverted water will serve existing customers and anticipated commercial, residential and industrial users as the Village expands through annexations into land that is "primarily commercial and farmland" to reach "full buildout."

So, this is basically a sprawl-enabling plan. Which the Compact was not intended to fuel because if one jurisdiction is allowed to use diverted water for economic advantage, others will follow.

Again, see the Foxconn diversion/debacle, as litigants noted and warned after a state judge waived it though :

From the beginning, this case was about ensuring that diversions of Great Lakes water meet the letter and spirit of the Compact. The unfortunate outcome of this case underscores both the importance of monitoring the implementation of existing diversions and the need to prepare for future diversion requests.

But it turns out that Wisconsin's now routinized contempt water conservation has produced an actual new fact that underscores just how lightly and carelessly some officials here are treating the Compact, its water conservation goal and normal process transparency:

Somers officials have already spent millions of public dollars to complete 40% of the proposed diversion's construction without legal authorization from Wisconsin officials

State regulators have ordered the Village of Somers in Kenosha County to halt construction on its project to draw water from Lake Michigan. The village began work before receiving all the necessary approvals to move forward. 

Somers wants to divert an average of 1.2 million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan as the village is seeing new development. The Public Service Commission launched an investigation Thursday after regulators discovered construction was underway on a water transfer station and about 5 miles of pipe that would bring water outside the Great Lakes basin. 

Midwest Environmental Advocates, a nonprofit law center, wants to ensure any proposal to divert Great Lakes water is subject to the highest scrutiny, according to staff attorney Rob Lee.... 
This is the first time unauthorized work has occurred on a project that must meet requirements under the Great Lakes Compact, according to a PSC spokesperson....The DNR plans to hold a public hearing on the proposed water diversion once the agency has obtained all necessary information as part of its review. 

We've got say more than 'oops' here. 

The diversion application should be rejected, the relevant agencies must explain publicly how they managed to overlook the work until it was 40% done, and people who failed to do their jobs or, worse, looked the other way should be held accountable.

And props to Midwest Environmental Advocates for doing watchdog duty which relevant state and local officials had abandoned.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Yet another health alert about cow feces in Kewaunee Co. wells

For the umpteenth time, science shows that cow manure in rural drinking water has been pinpointed as the cause of human illness. 

The No. 1 factor for acute gastrointestinal illness in Kewaunee County’s private drinking water wells is cow manure, according to a federal study released today. The findings raise questions about the effectiveness of existing regulations aimed at protecting residents from tainted drinking water.

And while you are digesting that disgusting reality, remember that the same GOP politicians who are OK with brown water in rural taps are also walking away from active regulation of contaminating, 'forever chemical' industrial water pollution statewide as well as lead poisoning that is damaging the brains of young urban children.

Whether it's promoting bad water in rural wells or big-city water systems, the Wisconsin GOP, as I said last weekis the equal pollution opportunity party.

WI GOP budget cuts flush out possible new party logo 

The bad news is that WI's gerrymandered GOP legislators say they will delete funding to replace lead water pipes; they did the same thing two years ago because too many kids in Milwaukee might have gotten the benefit

And to stay consistent with that embrace of lead-laden household water pipes and their long-standing support of animal waste in well water, Republican legislators are refusing to write statewide standards into the budget that would speed the removal of toxic "forever chemicals" from state waters.

Like I said in 2016:

The Wisconsin GOP chooses to be The Pollution Party

* Back to the manure report; maybe that reminds you of this 2017 report: 

Up to 60 percent of sampled wells in a Kewaunee County study contained fecal microbes, many of which are capable of making people and calves sick, two scientists told hundreds of local residents gathered at a public meeting Wednesday night.

The microorganisms included Cryptosporidium, a parasite that comes from both people and animals. Researchers estimated Crypto in drinking water is likely infecting 140 of the county’s 20,000 residents each year.

Or echoes earlier media, like this 2019 blog post:

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 - for years - 'enough of this, already.'

Data show what people in Kewaunee County and the Central Sands region who live near the industrial-scale Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs, already know:
Their drinking water is contaminated:
WI Central Sands the next Flint? Kewaunee County already soaks up that honor.
And, yes, new litigation has been filed by dozens of residents in Juneau County - - but did you know that a delayed and diverted 2012 case brought against a Kewaunee County CAFO was successfully re-routed by former Attorney General Brad Schimel through the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court to Waukesha County?

* I even ran a guest blog about this by a Kewaunee County resident in 2014

Wells, cooler temperatures and a government that is encouraging industry to move in with a "no holds barred" culture is already increasing the number of Dairy CAFOs along with the numbers of cows.

For example, here in Kewaunee County we now have 76,000+ cows with another estimated 30,000+ by 2016! 
It is becoming a common belief system that Citizens United/ALEC/Americans for Prosperity are the present administration's puppet masters. Big vertically integrated industrialized agriculture (with $$ billions under their control) have this administration's complete attention and obedience. 
The environment and human citizens are no more than "collateral damage" getting in the way of massive greed-driven profits that benefit only a few (and who are very likely carefully out-sourcing their ill-begotten profits far away from any governmental oversight) 
The next few years may be very dramatic and traumatic...time will tell what the "big boyz" and our "government" are up to!
* In the GOP-led Walker era, politicians routinely ignored the warnings, like this one in 2015:
One-third of wells in Kewaunee County unsafe for drinking water

And if the rotten relationship between GOP politics and rotten drinking water everyday Wisconsinites, this 2020 posting proves you are right, again

WI GOP leaders go to bat for CAFOs. Again

Wisconsin GOP legislators, bellhops to corporate agriculture, will continue to serve brown tap water to rural constituents and the back of the hand to residents statewide....

Because the GOP is politically-attached to CAFO proliferation.
As an addendum to posts on this blog about GOP objections to WI livestock siting rules which have stalled and cost Gov. Evers his Ag department secretary nominee, I want to add some relevant correspondence, below.
It's a letter signed by WI GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and WI GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald....

Remember that major ag special interests, regardless of what runs off on to the land and into the water, have enjoyed special relationships with Walker, the DNR, and legislators (see the hand-delivered marching orders Big Ag handed them, here (bold-facing and color-coding in the original hand-delivered October 15, 2015 communication:

An urgent communication to all Wisconsin legislators

We are at a crossroads. It is imperative that the legislature assert its authority and bring certainty and sanity to the regulation of new and existing high capacity wells in Wisconsin.... 

If this sounds like an urgent plea, that is because this is. We cannot wait any longer for the legislation described above.

However, we cannot accept any legislation that would create new, stifling regulations or establish regulatory uncertainty as to how DNR and the state will approach new well applications moving forward