Sunday, March 26, 2017

Could UW tornado program get hit by Trump budget cuts?

Fascinating story in the Journal Sentinel about a cutting-edge meterological institute on the UW-Madison campus that looks deeply into tornados, like the big El Reno tornado killer 
May 24, 2011 Chickasha, Oklahoma tornado.JPG
in Oklahoma in 2011.
Running computer simulations of many tornadoes will help build a database for  accurately predicting twisters. That would be a much safer alternative to storm chasers' usual tactics: putting themselves in harm's way to set up instruments to measure tornadoes. Two years after the 2011 El Reno tornado, four storm chasers were killed by a twister in the same area.
So I got on the Institute's website, and I see it receives National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration funding, works on climate science and partners with a satellite program - - subjects and programs which Team Trump has teed up for cuts:
Trump proposes steep budget cut to leading climate science agency
President Donald Trump's administration is seeking to slash one of the government's premier climate science agencies by 17 percent, delivering steep cuts to research funding and satellite programs, according to a four-page budget memo obtained by The Washington Post... 
The Office of Management and Budget outline for Commerce for fiscal year 2018 proposed sharp reductions in specific areas within NOAA, such as spending on education, grants, and research. NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would lose $126 million, or 26 percent, of the funds it has under the current budget.
So stay tuned.

Trump's Great Lakes funding dagger gets national attention

Only fools would stop the progress being made saving the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the five Great Lakes, but because that's where Donald Trump is headed The Washington Post is pointing out the scope of the danger:

The Chesapeake Bay watershed’s wide reach
More than 150 major rivers and streams flow into America’s largest estuary with a watershed extending from Virginia into southern New York and throughout six Mid-Atlantic states. More than 17 million people live in the 64,000-square-mile bay watershed. All precipitation and runoff from this watershed drains into the Chesapeake Bay and onward to the Atlantic Ocean...
Working across state and country borders by the Great Lakes
Trump’s budget proposal also cuts the EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which was launched in 2010 to protect and restore the lakes. The Great Lakes region stretches across eights states and affects more than 30 million people in the United States and Canada. The lakes hold 84 percent of all surface freshwater in North America... 
The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1987 identified 43 geographic areas of concern: 26 in the U.S., 12 in Canada and five shared between the two countries. These were locations suffering environmental degradation as a result of human activity. In 2012, the updated agreement reaffirmed these areas and the effort to restore them.
Always important to remember that Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Ron Johnson and the rest of the GOP establishment said Trump was the best option for Wisconsin for the next eight years. 
Because the lakes were created by glaciers about 14,000 years ago, they do not have traditional watershed with tributaries. Instead, the Great Lakes basin collects water that falls within the immediate area.
Deer Lake
Sault Ste. Marie
The EPA has defined 43 areas of concern within the United States and Canada, which require special attention to return to an acceptable level of health. Three in the U.S. and four in Canada have been restored to acceptable levels through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. 
Traverse City
Green Bay
Oswego River
White Lake
Grand Rapids
Presque Isle Bay
Nutrients from agriculture flow into Lake Erie, causing algae blooms.

New low in GOP-sold out WI: big polluter amnesty

We've seen right-wing GOP Governor Scott Walker's "chamber of commerce mentality" DNR green light wetlands fillings, cut back pollution inspections, tolerate groundwater contaminating manure flows from feedlots with comical wrist-slaps and let sand mine diggers tear up even pristine woodlands, but right-wing GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel - - with a chief of staff from the ranks of lobbyists and a new internal unit established to give priority to a conservative, corporate agenda - - has given a major polluter
Smoke stacks from a factory.
a jaw-dropping pass:

A 'settlement' to stop polluting the air without a penalty or fine 

2016 air pollution case against 3M Corp. represented the first time under Attorney General Brad Schimel the Justice Department allowed a company to make upgrades to a facility but avoid paying a financial penalty as part of the settlement. 
Minnesota-based 3M agreed to make $665,000 in improvements at two facilities in Wausau for air pollution violations in 2014 and 2015, according to court records.
I'll bet VW is envious. 

Oh - - and the 3M violations occurred on 29 days at two facilities in 2014 and 2015, so something of a pattern.

I think you can imagine how Schimel would approach clean water violations by the big groundwater users he's helping to win permanent control of that public resource.

So Happy Earth Day next month, Bucky, but check the air quality before engaging in outdoor activities.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Paul Ryan and his failed wonkology

"Wonkology" is my term for ideology + buzzwords, and there's no bigger believer in it and its toxic detachment from everyday human reality than Wisconsin GOP Congressman and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.
The Trumpcare plan sprung from the final iteration of Ryan's years-long war for upper-bracket tax breaks at the expense of lower-income Americans' longevity violated the first rule of both medical and political science:

Do no harm.

*  The Ryan/Trump health care 'Never Did Care' plan would have removed health insurance for 24 million Americans 

*  While taking away from millions and millions more citizens essential coverages for everything from maternity care to pediatric treatments to mental health services.

*  While raising deductibles and increasing premiums to enrich insurance firms, their CEOs, and high-end taxpayers whose payments into the system would plummet.

Yet Ryan, in "excited" thrall to Ayn Rand's 'you're-on-your-own' ideology and in service to wealthy GOP donors bloodlessly described his bill with means-to-ends talking points and coded partisan, political language as if no humans with life-and-death illnesses and care-giving obligations were actually involved:

This is, this is so much bigger by orders of magnitude than welfare reform, because let me just describe exactly what this bill does for conservatives. This is why I’m so excited about it, and this is why I think people need to see the forest through the trees. We are de-federalizing an entitlement, bloc granting it back to the states, and capping its growth rate. That’s never been done before. 
[Interviewer] Correct.
And then, we’re taking another entitlement, an open-ended subsidy with the health insurance that the government makes you buy, and repealing it and replacing it with Republican tax policy that we’ve been talking about for 20 years... 
It’s something that we as conservatives have always said if you really want to get free market principles injected into the health care system, you need to have an individual market where people care about what things cost, where people have real freedom, where those providers of health care services, be they insurers, doctors, or hospitals and everybody in between, compete against each other for our business based on value, based on price, based on quality, based on outcome. 
Words, words, and more words, with no relation to the adults and children he'd be kicking off Medicaid or pricing out of their doctor's offices in the name of "freedom."

His program, his words - - "de-federalizing an entitlement, bloc granting [sic] it back to the states...where those providers...compete against each other for our business based on value, prices..." is the soulless wonlology which drove everyday Americans to Congressional town hall meetings where they boiled it down to its essential "hell, no."

Too bad Ryan didn't hold one, or shut down his office phones, because he missed what regular folks understood that Ryan's glorious "de-federalizing an entitlement" would be mean their cancelled mammogram or their son's terminated opiod addition treatment or their grandkid's out-of-reach, live-saving pediatric care.

Ryan said "people need to see the forest through the trees."

They did.

And, and in the aftermath of your historic defeat, right back atcha.

Ex-GOP State Sen. Kanavas misrepresents DNR magazine

Whether Scott Walker should discontinue the self-supporting Department of Natural Resources magazine WISCONSIN Natural Resource is the topic covered in the latest "Insider Debate video posted by between former Democratic State Senator Chuck Chvala and counterpart ex-GOP State Senator Ted Kanavas.

Chvala says during the two-minute debate that the magazine offers important information and should be retained, while Kanavas ends with a predictable, emphatic two-word summary - - "private sector" - - after inaccurately dismissing the publication as "a fishing magazine." or a "hunting and fishing" publication that he claims is
 not central to the DNR's core mission - - "permitting."

More about that soon, and I am glad to see the topic out there because it tells me that killing the magazine may be meeting more resistance - - but "fishing magazine?"

I bet Kanavas hasn't taken a close look at WISCONSIN Natural Resources, so let's do that here.

Everything in the magazine teaches readers about the Wisconsin that belongs to all of us. 

The cover piece in the most recent issue contains a photo gallery of Wisconsin lighthouses.
Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine cover photo
Also featured on the cover are stories, again with plenty of illustrations, are stories about North American wildlife conservation funding and Wisconsin tribal youth programs - - including one run by the DNR itself.

Inside there is a detailed, 12-page insert about Wisconsin groundwater, a fascinating account of how working on forest preservation helps people improve their health, and coverage of subjects as varied as geology, woodlands and a unique ice falls. 

Some natural features rest through the centuries without fanfare. Imagine the entire volume of the Wisconsin River dropping nine stories in a mile-long torrent, and now imagine shoving that entire river into two wooden straws. That would be a place revered by the Ojibwe and called Grandfather by 17th century French missionaries — the steepest plunge on the 430-mile river and an attraction that goes back through a thousand years of portage trails and timber drives. 
There are more than a dozen letters to the editor, a humorous account of an encounter with hibernating bear, dozens more photos of Wisconsin scenes and - - a recipe for fish chowder. 

But does one fish recipe on page 29 of the 32-page issue prove Kanavas' argument?


Permitting is a DNR function, and Walker has elevated it under the "chamber of commerce mentality" management he has installed at the agency.

But the DNR has a far broader role, and its magazine, with around 
90,000 subscribers does a good job - - obviously too successfully for the anti-science, anti-information, anti-public sector GOP and Walker - - explaining and showcasing and strengthening the DNR's historic public mission "to protect and enhance our natural provide a healthy, sustainable ensure the right of all people to use and enjoy these resources..."

Where would I get those crazy ideas?

From the DNR's mission statement, right off its website:

Our Mission

To protect and enhance our natural resources:
our air, land and water;
our wildlife, fish and forests
and the ecosystems that sustain all life.
To provide a healthy, sustainable environment
and a full range of outdoor opportunities.
To ensure the right of all people
to use and enjoy these resources
in their work and leisure.
To work with people
to understand each other's views
and to carry out the public will.
And in this partnership
consider the future
and generations to follow.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Karma alert: Remembering Reince Priebus' Tea Party embrace

The Tea Party led to the take-no-prisoners/want-no government GOP faction known as The Freedom Caucus that killed the Trump/Ryan 'Never Care' health care pushed hard by White House Chief of Staff and Wisconsinite Reince Priebus.
Reince Priebus CPAC 2017 by Michael Vadon.jpg
So it's important to remember that Priebus was delighted to use the Tea Party people when he and the traditional Republican Party needed them to help save Scott Walker:
Priebus fires up tea party crowd
Caledonia - Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus told several thousand tea party supporters Saturday "I don't know about you, are you ready to save Wisconsin and show Tom Barrett for the door the second time. And then after that, we're going to save America and fire Barack Obama." 
So be careful what you wish for and who you empower.

Rally photo, here.

WI GOP senators omit hearing, debate on water giveaway bill

[Updated] A GOP-led Wisconsin State Senate committee, having seen the public's great concern over a groundwater privatization bill brazenly demanded in writing by Big Ag and Big Dairy
that is now speeding towards Gov. and special-interest bellhop Scott Walker's desk has decided to eliminate public participation, committee member debate and normal voting procedures when the bill comes up for a committee decision next week:
State Senate Republicans plan to vote next week without a public committee meeting or debate on a controversial bill that would further loosen regulation of high-capacity wells that are linked to low water levels in lakes and streams.
After the plan for Labor and Regulatory Reform Committee members to vote by submitting paper ballots was announced Thursday, Democrats accused the GOP majority of trying to duck public discussion of the bill, which is favored by the agriculture industry, but unpopular with recreational users of lakes and streams.
That's how public resource stewardship forfeiture is handled by Walker's 'chamber of commerce mentality' government and his allies in the Legislature and brazenly and in writing by GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel. 

History and specifics, from a 2016 posting, here:
Here is a summary post of the consequences of that intentional policy direction.
Inside the WI DNR: poor morale, fear, despair over lost mission
This is all particularly relevant now that [DNR Secretary Cathy] Stepp wants to change the rules and allow big water users and other permit applicants to self-regulate by writing their own permits, thus dictating the terms of their operations as well as any post-permitting enforcement even if the public's land and water is at stake.

But Pence's Sweet 16 trip WAS repealed

White House's wires not tapped. Just crossed:
According to USA Today, Pence is postponing his trips to Memphis and Little Rock to stay in Washington. He is working with President Donald Trump as the House of Representative works on Republican plan to replace Obamacare -- with a vote reportedly set to take place on Friday.
Mike Pence official portrait.jpg 

Fresh GOP stall keeps 24 million Americans in healthcare limbo

Sensing defeat after a day of faking momentum to their side, but still committed to kicking 24 million Americans off health insurance and leaving others with basic coverages deleted, the Trump/Ryan 'We Didn't Ever Care" health 'care' plan has been pulled back from a vote, again.
Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.

BREAKING: House Republicans, short of votes, withdraw health care bill.

The New York Times said the GOP was in mutiny.


Proposals for Trump 2.0, Art of the Fold and Seven Wasted Years, The Paul Ryan story could flood book publishers.

Walker's 'run-like-a-business' gov't. faces 49% more red ink

Talk about sticking it to the people.

Right-wing WI GOP Gov. and breaker of economic promises Scott Walker now knows his proposed 2017-'19 state projects a deficit of $1.1 billion, up from the $740 million he'd led us to believe:

Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal for the state’s next budget creates a larger structural deficit than previously thought, nearly $1.1 billion, in the ensuing budget cycle beginning in 2019, the state’s nonpartisan fiscal office said Thursday... 
A previous estimate from Walker’s office pegged the number at about $740 million.
That's a 49% increase in red ink.

So get ready for cuts I said last fall were coming

Next WI budget could be Walker's harshest yet
The bottom line is that Walker needs to serve his road-builder and business donors who are demanding bigger and better roads, while at the same time Walker needs to firm up his conservative credentials with one, possible two elections on his Ronald Reagan impersonation itinerary.
For Wisconsin residents, that means a budget balanced on the backs of low-income citizens who have the least clout to resist it.
And if some Democratic cities and Mayors and University towns feel the heat, a Walker-GOP-and-suburban win-win-win. 

Trump/Ryan care means Christmas everyday for insurers

Paying for 'health insurance' in the Trump/Ryan bill that does not include the so-called "essentials" would be like buying automobile insurance that didn't cover anything or anyone involved with your vehicle. 

You might as well just hand over your cash to the insurance company

or write it a check with the word "gift" on the message line.

Paul Ryan's Intel chair pick is Coverup King

[Updated from 11:05 a.m]. - - Or maybe he's just a nut, as he withdrew his 'Trump was monitored' claim.


Trump puppet and camera hog Devin Nunes' obstruction is out in the open as House Intelligence Oversight Committee ranking Democrat Adam Schiff tweets:

BREAKING: Chairman just cancelled open Intelligence Committee hearing with Clapper, Brennan and Yates in attempt to choke off public info.


Devin nunes.jpg

was the Trump transition team national security liaison. No wonder he is sabotaging the Intel committee's investigation, especially after chairing Monday's hearing - - a debacle for the GOP - - where the FBI confirmed the agency's criminal and counter-intelligence investigations into Team Trump.

Looks to me that the White House and GOP are circling the wagons and are making sure Nunes' committee doesn't hold anymore open hearings like Monday's embarrassment where FBI Director James Comey told the world that his agency had been running a criminal and counter-intelligence probe into Trump's campaign moving forward since last July.

Killing health insurance essentials echoes GOP "freedom" blueprint

[Updated from 3/23/17] So now Trump and Paul Ryan want to pull so-called essentials out of health insurance coverage requirements in the name of "choice," which means you would have insurance coverage if you're hit by a bus, but not if you're pregnant, or are addicted to opioids, or were born with a mental illness, or are a child and so forth.

Of course, that's cruel and insane, as it would force women and children and others into poverty - - and even premature death - -  but we all have to understand what Republicans and their extremist, misnamed "Freedom Caucus" are really trying to repeal.

It's not just upending Obamacare, which if the repeal/replace goes through also gives the richest Americans a huge tax break, thus more financial "freedom," if you will. 

It's a big step towards repealing government itself - - and its supportive financial and regulatory and power-sharing underpinnings in place since the New Deal - - that Republicans have long been after, and a Trump/Ryan/McConnell/Chief Justice Paul ("Citizens United") Roberts alliance gives them their best shot ever at achieving.

Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.
It's precisely why one of Trump's first administrative actions was blocking the implementation of a rule requiring financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients.

You'd think such basic fairness would have already been in place, but it isn't, and may never be, but the fact that Trump moved quickly to keep if off the books speaks volumes about how the GOP intends to use government power and who will benefit from this perverse interpretation of "freedom."

Trump's huge budget reductions in federal health and safety agencies like the US EPA - - and these won't be the last deep cuts he carries out should he remain in office - - are designed to give the most powerful corporations and wealthiest individuals more "freedom" to take and use land, water and clean air as they see fit.

On a more local level, it's precisely why the libertarian/conservative Koch brothers' interests and other well-heeled friends saved Scott Walker in the 2012 recall election, and still adore him.

It's why the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources which Walker has been running aggressively for seven years with his publicly-declared "chamber of commerce mentality" is green-lighting the filling of wetlands.

And has intentionally been easing back on pollution inspection and enforcement, and is likely to hand out permits to a major Walker donor to cut half the woodlands on a 247-acre nature preserve, fill in some wetlands, and obtain several acres in an adjoining state park  and convert the land into a high-end golf course along Lake Michigan.

Rarely have we seen something so perverse about one-sided small-government: Walker reduces the size and authority of the DNR, yet has assembled a major team there to privately help the golf course owner/donor edit and smooth his golf course permit drafting so it can navigate a smoother, faster route to approval.

This GOP attack on government authority when the "freedom" of the wealthiest among us dares be put into a public-interest equation is precisely why Walker doesn't believe the government should even establish a minimum wage, and why in Wisconsin Walker has refused to allow that poverty-guaranteeing wage to rise above the federal floor of $7.25 an hour, Trump's potential future callousness not withstanding.

And why Walker has used state power to promote and sign so-called "right to work" and other blue-collar wage-depressing laws, while giving tax breaks that distribute more wealth and embed more social control at the higher end of the scale.

Here's a longer list of Walker's fake freedoms.

He talks a small government game - - benefiting from government that transfers to him $12,000 a month, and provides him cars, chauffeurs, airplanes, expense accounts and a mansion to live in - - while continually minimizing as policy what government on his watch will allot to the poor and working class.

Ditto for Trump.

The Billionaire has said wages in the US are too high.

And he somehow managed to amass a fortune in real estate and development despite building codes and construction standards (and with public financing and other government-provided hypocrisies), and is now in a position with his Ayn Randian and Koch brothers allies in Republican Congressional leadership to eliminate rules, regulations and entire social safety nets in the name of "freedom" that actually keep working people and the middle class alive.

Ryan's Trumpcare plan devastates Medicaid and lays the groundwork for turning Medicare into a voucher-driven benefit for private insurance companies.

Update - - A last-minute change as described by The Washington Post to Trump[/Ryancare to help push the bill through the House now includes a transfer of funding from the Medicare Trust Fund to upper income Americans. Meaning, perhaps, that cuts to Medicare are looming because, 'hey, look - - Medicare is short of dollars!'

The Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, would draw on Medicare's financially distressed trust fund to put money back in the pockets of some of the country's richest people. 
Republicans would repeal the Medicare tax, a 0.9 percent surcharge on annual salaries of at least $200,000 for individual taxpayers or $250,000 for married couples. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that over a decade, repealing the tax would forego $117 billion that those wealthy households are currently expected to pay into the trust fund, which is used to cover the costs of health care for elderly Americans.
Nothing is off the table for this group of self-interested takers who say they want small government, or no government, but are always willing to take an extra share for themselves, their acolytes and donors.

Republicans from the Governor's mansion in Wisconsin to the halls of Congress to the White House itself have turned the party of Lincoln into a special-interest juggernaut enthusiastically locking down an even more disproportionate share of power, wealth, land and water.

All in the name of "freedom."

For a select few.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

London train station posts awesome message

It's the day GOP leaders unmasked themselves

Quite the 24 hours for the party in charge, as we learned some truths about the leaders:

Their House Intelligence Committee chairman is not intelligent, their House Speaker is not the smartest guy in the room, couldn't write and pass a health care bill after seven years and a big GOP majority, and this guy - -  
Donald Trump official portrait.jpg
Donald Trump - - is not The Closer. Or the Deal-Maker. Or a winner.

Trump abandons environmentalism, WI cities step up

So props to Madison
...the city of Madison set a goal of reaching 100 percent renewable energy use with a resolution passed by the City Council Tuesday night.
The city began reviewing its climate goals after approving an energy work plan in June 2016. The Sustainable Madison Committee and Board of Estimates previously supported the resolution.
The resolution approved Tuesday calls for city staff to develop a plan by January 2018 that would include target dates to meet goals, interim milestones, budget estimates and estimated financial impacts. 
And to Milwaukee
City officials recently held a press conference to tout its ReFresh MKE sustainability plan, adapted and adopted to guide city actions and also encourage citizens and businesses to engage in solutions that are economically, environmentally and socially smart for the economy...
[Mayor Tom] Barrett stressed that ReFresh MKE’s initiatives not only benefit the environment, but the economy as well. He highlighted ongoing efforts to make new and old buildings more energy efficient, incentives for owners to become more efficient, the forthcoming streetcar, Bublr Bikes, the transition of vacant lots into parks, increased solar panels, and the windmill in Bay View as examples of ReFresh MKE’s push for green solutions.
“There’s a lot of work that’s going on and it’s something we’re not going to slow down,” said Barrett.  “I know what the political winds are in Washington D.C, that they’re howling in a different direction. And my reaction is well, let’s capture that wind in wind farms!”