Friday, June 23, 2017

Past clues to Ron Johnson's health 'care' bill stance

So Wisconsin's ultra-right wing GOP/Tea Party US Senator Ron Johnson is signaling along with government haters like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul that they're not ready to vote for the tax cut bill masquerading as health-care reform his party unveiled Thursday after weeks of secret crafting.

A suggestion: don't get your hopes up that Ron Johnson is growing a heart. 

His objections to the bill so far appear to be procedural, and he's on the record parsing what the word "cut" means when it comes to extracting hundreds of billions of dollars from the Medicaid program that provides health insurance for disabled adults and sick kids and half the births in the US and tens of thousands of low-income seniors in nursing homes.

But Johnson's record offers some clues about the way he reacts when presented with other people's suffering.
Ron Johnson, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
Here's one blog posting with links to his record:
*  Video of Ron Johnson's testimony before a Wisconsin legislative committee that put him in the spotlight even before he ran for US Senate.   
The question was whether to make it easier for claims to be filed: Johnson appeared in opposition. 
*  And do not forget Johnson's silence after being told that a female aide had been sexually assaulted - - a matter that led to more revelations and the eventual ouster and jailing of the abuser - - a high-ranking Wisconsin GOP legislator.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

WI wants to OK killing groundhogs 24/7/365 - - even Groundhog Day

As I noted a while ago, the same Wisconsin Legislature that can't agree on a budget or a way to finance road repairs or guarantee clean well water for people who live near ever-expanding industrial-scale farms and feedlots is getting closer to setting up a no-bag-limit open groundhog killing season.

Someone call Bill Murray.

Wisconsin Supreme Court strengthens GOP secrecy embrace

Republican and right-wing public officials love to absorb special-interest campaign money and then behind close doors to use their incumbencies to undermine the public's business.

As they did when drafting the tax-cuts-for-the-rich bill masquerading as a 'health care' measure which GOP US Senators rolled out today, and a Wisconsin legislative gerrymander drafted in secret that has embedded the GOP in power and which the US Supreme Court has agreed to review.


Now we are learning that Wisconsin Supreme Court's 5-2 Republican-supported, right-wing majority elected and solidified with the help of big trade associations and conservative policy organizations has just voted with the strong backing of the retiring Scott Walker servant Justice Michael Gabelman - - 

Justice Gableman
- - to hold more of its policy-making discussions in secret:
For instance, the justices in April debated in public whether they should tighten court rules that dictate when judges must step aside from cases involving people or groups who spent money in their elections. The court rejected the rule changes, 5-2.
The same majority voted Thursday to stop holding such discussions in public. As such, when the court next takes up its ethics policies, it will do so behind closed doors.
And you can see why. 

Remember that some of the same right-wing advocacy and donor groups which invested in the Wisconsin Supreme Court's reactionary majority also wrote the current 'ethics' code that enables state judges and the justices themselves hear cases in which their donors are parties

In response to [a tougher, independent proposal], the Wisconsin Realtors Association (“Realtors”) and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (“WMC”) filed separate petitions...to amend the Judicial Code of Conduct to provide that recusal is not required in a proceeding based solely on any endorsement or receipt of a lawful campaign contribution from a party or entity involved in the proceeding. The petitions also sought clarification that a judge does not need to seek recusal where it would be based solely on a party in the case sponsoring an independent expenditure or issue advocacy communication in favor of the judge.
In a 4-3 decision...the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied the [tougher] petition and adopted the Realtors and WMC’s petitions. 


More material about state park, related preservation for 6/23 comment deadline

I've been calling attention to a regularly-scheduled meeting next week by the oversight Wisconsin Natural Resources Board where there will be a discussion of possible amendments to the master plan for the popular Kohler Andrae State Park.

Amendments to the park master plan could lead to the loss of state parkland and related changes that would facilitate the construction of a privately-owned high-end golf course on an adjacent 247-acre nature preserve woodlands, wetlands, and rare dunes along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

This is happening while there is also a push by the golf course developer to have the nature preserve quickly annexed to the City of Sheboygan, effectively foiling objections to the project in the  much smaller Town of Wilson where the nature preserve is located. 

Though the oversight board's meeting is across the state in St. Croix County, public comments can be filed electronically about the matter by Friday, June 23rd at 11:00.  

Email them to Laurie.Ross@wisconsin.gov 

Also: Here is a link to a substantial file of comments and attachments already sent to the oversight board by the grassroots preservationist organization Friends of the Black River Forest making clear why it is against the giveaway of public land for the benefit of one private owner.

As the former Kohler Andrae State Park park superintendent has said, where's his acreage there for a hotdog stand?

Anyway, please send in a comment that supports the integrity of Kohler Andrae State Park and maintains the nature preserve's land, water and native cultural legacies.

 of  an  e

Senate Republicans release unhealthy tax cut bill

Well, US Senate Majority Leader and Putinesque secrecy maven Mitch McConnell finally released the Republican's long-sought, long-promised super-huge $800 billion tax cut for the wealthy.

Media and Republicans are calling it a 'health-care plan,' but that is misleading because it removes health insurance from many millions of elderly and disabled Americans (Congressional analysts will release a careful estimate on Monday, three days before the bill is scheduled for its no-hearing quickie Senate vote) and additionally targets low-income women by defunding Planned Parenthood and the health-care it already provides.

The biggest impact will fall on Medicaid recipients, a group whom Trump repeatedly said he would not target, and which is being hit hard by deindustrialization, an opiod epidemic and falling life expectations in states like Ohio which Trump carried.

And which includes many formerly-middle class Americans who lost their homes and jobs in the Great Recession triggered by reckless, self-serving banking practices which House Republicans under the leadership of best-friend-of-the-rich Paul Ryan just voted to put back in place
Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.
Ryan has said he's been dreaming of defunding Medicaid since he was a college student. 

Go figure.

However, to the extent that anyone's health is protected by the bill, look to Republican members of Congress whose seats, incomes, privileges and future careers as lobbyists are cushioned, even posted, because many of the bill's most uncivil measures don't kick in until after the 2018 and 2020 elections.

Tax cuts for the rich. Incumbency protections for GOP Senators and House members.

Republican health care at work.




Kohler golf course comment deadline is 6/23

The headline corrects an earlier post with an incorrect deadline date.  My apologies.

Earlier Wednesday I put up a post about the City of Sheboygan slowing down a fast-tracked annexation of hundreds of acres in the neighboring Town of Wilson where the Kohler Co. wants to bulldoze, cut, fill and otherwise convert a nature preserve into a high-end golf course along Lake Michigan.


Here's how to email your objections about the project to the state, but the comment deadline is just around the corner, so heads up.


A regularly-scheduled meeting in St. Croix County of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board - - the separate body which oversees the Wisconsin Natural Resources Department - - has on its June 28th agenda a proposed rewriting of the Kohler Andrae State Park's Master Plan which could make it easier for the golf course to proceed and even take some parkland.


*  Here is the specific item on the agenda.


*  Here is the Board's full agenda with meeting site information.


*  Here is information about where to email your objections to this project, and please note the deadline is this Friday morning, less than 48 hours away, as Friends of the Black River Forest and other opponents reminds you.:

Comments are due by Friday, June 23rd at 11:00.  
Tell the DNR you are opposed to the both the destruction of the beautiful, rare, open and forested Great Lakes sand dune ecosystem and the give away of publicly owned state park lands for the exclusive use and destruction by Kohler, a for-profit, private company. 
Kohler Company is requesting to take State Owned land to build an entrance to the golf course and a maintenance building. He wants all of this built on our STATE LAND.  He has his own access to the property and plenty of room to build a maintenance building. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Comment deadline 6/23 on Kohler golf plan's state park impact

Updated with corrected headline:
"Comment deadline 6/23 on Kohler golf plan's state park impact"
Earlier today I put up a post about the City of Sheboygan slowing down a fast-tracked annexation of hundreds of acres in the neighboring Town of Wilson where the Kohler Co. wants to bulldoze, cut, fill and otherwise convert a nature preserve into a high-end golf course along Lake Michigan.


Here's how to email your objections about the project to the state, but the comment deadline is just around the corner, so heads up.


A regularly-scheduled meeting in St. Croix County of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board - - the separate body which oversees the Wisconsin Natural Resources Department - - has on its June 28th agenda a proposed rewriting of the Kohler Andrae State Park's Master Plan which could make it easier for the golf course to proceed and even take some parkland.


*  Here is the specific item on the agenda.


*  Here is the Board's full agenda with meeting site information.


*  Here is information about where to email your objections to this project, and please note the deadline is this Friday morning, less than 48 hours away, as Friends of the Black River Forest and other opponents reminds you.:

Comments are due by Friday, June 23rd at 11:00.  
Tell the DNR you are opposed to the both the destruction of the beautiful, rare, open and forested Great Lakes sand dune ecosystem and the give away of publicly owned state park lands for the exclusive use and destruction by Kohler, a for-profit, private company. 
Kohler Company is requesting to take State Owned land to build an entrance to the golf course and a maintenance building. He wants all of this built on our STATE LAND.  He has his own access to the property and plenty of room to build a maintenance building. 

Golf course plan which includes state park land taking on hold

Facing opposition, unanswered questions and the likelihood of costly litigation, the City of Sheboygan Common Council put off deciding until July 17 whether to annex land for a Kohler golf course which had been on a fast-track:
After council members voted to send a pre-annexation agreement back to committee, City Administrator Darrell Hofland recommended they put annexation and zoning decisions on hold. He said if the council approved the annexation without the pre-annexation agreement, it would lose its leverage over development details.
Kohler Co. is pushing for the annexation of more than 400 acres to build an 18-hole golf course on land it owns in the Town of Wilson along Lake Michigan. The project also could involve using land in the nearby Kohler-Andrae State Park. 
The Sheboygan Common Council streams and archives its meetings, here.

The project would need multiple permits and approvals from agencies and interests as varied as the US Army Corp of Engineers, several Native American tribes and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, regardless of its final location.

Here's a recent posting about the direction that the DNR has been taking since right-wing GOP Gov. Scott Walker installed what he termed "a chamber of commerce mentality" atop the DNR management structure. 

You can find multiple posts about the issues on this blog, including this item from last year which focused on the project's demand for land inside the neighboring Kohler Andrae State Park:
 [Updated] I'd supplied some fresh information earlier today about the ongoing battle documented on this blog for the last two years over whether a privately-owned, high-end golf course proposed in a Lake Michigan nature preserve - - 
.

- - by a major Scott Walker campaign donor should win approval by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. 
The plan proposes turning over to the development between four and twenty acres of the adjoining Kohler-Andrae State Park.

Of rulers and princes and sons

Trump and the Saudi King are closer than you'd have thought weeks after Trump's visit..
Salman bin Abdull aziz December 9, 2013.jpg
One of them exercised his ruling family's prerogatives and elevated his son with a big mission and princely, Middle East status.

The other was also in the news.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Brown water, black water state AGs blend their 'expertise'

The Attorney General of West Virginia, where coal companies have been known to pollute the drinking water, has linked up with our own Brad Schimel, the corporately-obeisant Attorney General of Wisconsin, where contaminating, industrial-scale animal feeding operations have been turning the drinking water brown.
Kewaunee County, WI feedlot runoff
A marriage made in heaven?

Here's the goal of the partnership, reports the Capital Times, and let me be the first to say, "I won't drink to that."

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel is partnering with West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey in an effort to push back against federal environmental regulations they say infringe on states' authority.
Schimel and Morrissey led a group of 20 states that sent a letter this week to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt seeking changes and clarifications to the EPA's "waters of the U.S." rule, implemented under then-President Barack Obama's administration and currently under review...
 One bit of information about where Schimel's heart lies:
Attorney General Brad Schimel is trying to send a closely watched case involving the expansion of a large dairy farm to appeals judges in conservative Waukesha County — and keep the case away from judges in liberal Dane County.
More, here:
WI ignores lessons of self-inflicted MI water crises.
...file under 'with governing comes responsibility.'
5 Michigan Officials Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter in Connection With Flint Water Crisis
I'm not saying there is perfect equivalency between what happened in Flint and what is going in Wisconsin's Kewaunee County, for example, where the state has not moved aggressively against known, long-standing drinking water contamination - - 
Complete DNR fail: Massive fecal pollution in Kewaunee County wells
 - - and where lax pollution inspections and enforcement has been organized against by citizens and advocates, and documented:
State audit finds DNR ignoring own rules on water pollution

- - but the Michigan tragedy with multiple victims which will linger for years is certainly a lesson in personal responsibility, smart policy-making - - unlike Wisconsin's laws blatantly-tilted towards factory farming - - and the consequences, logical or unintended, of public policy failure.
And quietly shipping Kewaunee residents bottled water as the 2018 election looms, and after years of inaction while government kept expanding the big feedlot operations while reducing inspections and pollution enforcement, speaks volumes.










Round-up of key recent posts about Wisconsin's damaged DNR

I'm consolidating three very recent posts about the expanding damage being done intentionally to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - - and by extension to the people's land, air and water rights - - by right-wing GOP Gov. Scott Walker, his legislative allies, and the developer Cathy Stepp
Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp proudly shows off her first deer, taken opening weekend last year. In the upcoming TV Special "Deer Hunt Wisconsin 2012, Stepp urges male hunters to take more girls and women hunting. "The secret's out," she says. "Hunting is a lot of fun, so don't keep it to yourselves."  photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR
whom he installed atop the agency to implement a "chamber of commerce mentality" greatly at odds with science, the public interest and the DNR's long-standing and now-threatened mission.

*  Wisconsin groups fight Walker's DNR. Again.
This time the familiar pattern repeats itself because the DNR hurriedly approved a big sand mine where there are wetlands and rare stands of timber, and environmental groups are going to court to force the DNR to do its job on behalf of taxpayers and the environment spelled out here by the DNR itself.
*  Divorcing the public, WI DNR flips off State Fair.
Scott Walker's intentionally-refocused "chamber of commerce mentality" DNR - - which is more and more a defacto state commerce department prioritized to hand out permits for massive animal feeding operations and sand mines than an environmental protection organization - - is adding to the distance it is cementing between everyday Wisconsin residents and taxpayers by ending its 70-some-years-old big outreach presence at the Wisconsin State Fair: 
Effective this year, the DNR will no longer offer fisheries, wildlife or environmental management booths, casting clinics, archery, a children's nature play area, Smokey's Schoolhouse and a number of other attractions. 

A surprise not unlike its efforts to kill off without warning or fact-based justification the 99-year-old popular Wisconsin Natural Resource magazine that legislators hope to save by trimming its issues by one-third.
*  Damage deepens at Walker/Stepp's anti-science WI DNR.
It was only yesterday that I put the DNR's near-complete withdrawal from a high-profile, seven decades-long run of exhibits, clinics and welcoming staffing at the annual State Fair into a broader context of the DNR's intentional pullback from public information services and modern scientific work in the public interest that people in Wisconsin absolutely need if they, we are going to have clean and air, water and land.
* That post validated information and opinion I gathered, posted and updated last year from many current and former DNR staffers and managers, as well as a number of professionals in routine contact with the agency.
They all described a debilitating, politicized, anti-science environment within the DNR that was squashing research, data collection and normal activities at what had been a nationally-valued public resource oversight department.
*  Now a new hammer blow that suggests the tipping point has come:
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Walker is further weakening through disconnecting transfers - - an age-old bureaucratic ploy - - the work of the few science staffers whose positions he had not already eliminated that his GOP legislative allies have sought and will additionally further restrict scientific work carried out at the direction of Cathy Stepp, the former developer whom Walker appointed in 2011 as agency's business-friendly Secretary.
*  WI ignores lessons of self-inflicted MI water crises.
...file under 'with governing comes responsibility.'
5 Michigan Officials Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter in Connection With Flint Water Crisis
I'm not saying there is perfect equivalency between what happened in Flint and what is going in Wisconsin's Kewaunee County, for example, where the state has not moved aggressively against known, long-standing drinking water contamination - - 
Complete DNR fail: Massive fecal pollution in Kewaunee County wells
 - - and where lax pollution inspections and enforcement has been organized against by citizens and advocates, and documented:
State audit finds DNR ignoring own rules on water pollution
- - but the Michigan tragedy with multiple victims which will linger for years is certainly a lesson in personal responsibility, smart policy-making - - unlike Wisconsin's laws blatantly-tilted towards factory farming - - and the consequences, logical or unintended, of public policy failure.
And quietly shipping Kewaunee residents bottled water as the 2018 election looms, and after years of inaction while government kept expanding the big feedlot operations while reducing inspections and pollution enforcement, speaks volumes.


WI groups fight Walker's DNR. Again.

Again, the people of Wisconsin have to fight for the land and water - - and at their own cost - - against the state government they also fund through taxes.

Such is life in Wisconsin - - whether it's to save the Bad River watershed in the Northwest from open-pit mining, destructive golf course construction along the Lake Michigan shoreline near Sheboygan, or drinking water supplies long-contained by feedlot runoff in Kewaunee County in the Northeast - - because right-wing GOP Gov. and corporate servant Scott Walker has installed "a chamber of commerce mentality" atop the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. 

Here's the bigger picture.

This time the familiar pattern repeats itself because the DNR hurriedly approved a big sand mine where there are wetlands and rare stands of timber, and environmental groups are going to court to force the DNR to do its job on behalf of taxpayers and the environment spelled out here by the DNR itself.

Here's what's happening in the latest DNR-created crisis:
-----------------------------------

Wetlands Destruction Permit Challenged over Significant Harm
Ho-Chunk Nation asks for review of DNR’s approval

FOR RELEASE: Tuesday, June 20, 2017

CONTACT:  Sarah Geers, Midwest Environmental Advocates Staff Attorney, 608-251-5047 x 5, sgeers@midwestadvocates.org

Stacy Harbaugh, Midwest Environmental Advocates Communications Director, 608-251-5047 x 1, sharbaugh@midwestadvocates.org

MADISON, WI – On Monday, Midwest Environmental Advocates – on behalf of the Ho-Chunk Nation – filed a petition to challenge the wetland fill permit issued to Meteor Timber LLC for an industrial sand processing facility and rail project. Clean Wisconsin also challenged the permit and requested administrative review by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The petitions ask to put the wetland fill on hold until the parties can get review of the agency’s decision.

The request is urgent. The DNR’s approval for Meteor Timber to fill over 16 acres of rare and high-quality wetlands puts valuable natural resources in danger of irreparable destruction.

“The public needs the DNR to protect natural resources like wetlands,” said MEA staff attorney Sarah Geers. “The agency admitted in Meteor Timber’s permit approval that this action may lead to increased applications to destroy rare wetlands. Without our DNR as a gatekeeper, we will continue to lose valuable wetlands that provide irreplaceable habitat and ecological functions. Meteor Timber’s promise to conserve land or rebuild wetlands isn’t a guaranteed fair trade. These rare, high quality wetlands are very difficult to recreate and provide vital and disappearing habitat for threatened or endangered species. “
                                                                                                                                                                            
The Ho-Chunk Nation and Midwest Environmental Advocates are challenging the Meteor Timber wetland fill permit because:

-            Meteor Timber’s project will cause irreparable harm to high quality wetlands and habitat – the DNR acknowledges the significant adverse environmental impacts of this project, but allowed this large wetland fill anyway.

-            The DNR approved the permit without enough information – the agency needed more information on the net positive or negative impacts of Meteor Timber’s wetlands destruction and mitigation plan before making a decision.

Information is still missing on how many acres are shifting from cranberry production to industrial use, whether a wildlife underpass would be successful, restoration and reservoir drawdown plans, wetland and vegetation surveys for mitigation plans and other details about threatened and endangered species protection.
-            Meteor Timber did not prove there would be an economic benefit for the public – the applicant did not do enough research on other sites that would not cause as much wetland destruction on the false promise that the project would provide economic benefits to the community, despite significant public opposition to this project.

-            The DNR’s findings of fact prove that DNR should not have issued the permit – in the Meteor Timber wetland permit, the DNR could not guarantee there would not be significant and adverse impacts to the environment, and the DNR should have denied the permit on this basis.

The Ho-Chunk Nation and Midwest Environmental Advocates have been raising questions about Meteor Timber’s application by submitting formal comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in July 2016 and to the DNR in April.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Incivility; words or deeds?

We are hearing a lot these days about the lack of civility in contemporary politics.

The context is usually about the incivility in our discourse.

I would suggest that we expand the conversation in Wisconsin beyond words to an assessment of actions.


Civil or uncivil to:


*  Tolerate long-standing nitrate and fecal contamination in rural drinking water?


*  Restrict voting rights and ballot box access through partisan law-making?


*  Mandate drug-tests on low-income Wisconsinites prior to their obtaining public assistance for which they quality, presuming their substance abuse, perhaps even with illegal drugs?

*  Help a mining company win legislative approval for a massive open-pit mine that would have dynamited, clear-cut and otherwise contaminated the Bad River watershed and the Bad River Ojibwe band's lands and water, and put into play their secret campaign funds, to boot?

*  Cut and limit food aid and other forms of assistance, and raise taxes, on some low-income Wisconsin residents.


* And, nationally, repeatedly work to throw 20-24 million Americans off their health insurance?

Civll or uncivil?

Reminds me of Woody Guthrie's observation about being robbed at gun point or by the words on a piece of paper.

Same difference, no?

Feel free to suggest others.