Thursday, June 22, 2017

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.


Reminder that WI GOP gerrymander was hatched in secret

I commend to you an excellent and updated analysis by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's political data guru Craig Gilbert of the GOP-led Wisconsin Legislature's ultra-partisan redistricting gerrymander whose constitutionality the US Supreme Court will decide.
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
If the Court finds the gerrymander and status quo unconstitutional, constitutionally-fair voting districts would have to be drafted and the Wisconsin GOP's lock on the Assembly and Senate majorities could be unraveled, though Gilbert's updated reporting today indicates the Court may let the gerrymander stand:
In a related ruling Monday, the high court handed Republicans a victory by blocking a lower court ruling that the state develop new maps by Nov. 1. Democrats and those aligned with them took that order as a sign they could lose the case.
I want to add more element to this story: a reminder of the malodorous secrecy with which legislative Republicans created the district maps at issue, including off-Capitol drafting in lawyers' offices, and requiring that legislator sign on pledges of confidentiality before they were allowed to see what their district boundaries looked like.

Details and more of the history, here.


As they say: if you have nothing to hide, why the secrecy?


And also do not forget that it was discovered that some records had been deleted from state computers used in the redistricting drafting process, though it could not be determined if the deletions had been in bad faith.

Divorcing the public, WI DNR flips off State Fair

[Updated from 6/17/17:] Walker intends to further reduce the DNR's science agenda by disconnecting through transfers the few scientists he hasn't already pink-slipped. A key GOP Walker legislative ally says the goal is to make sure climate change science is more deeply buried at the agency, even though there is existing and new information that a warming climate threatens state fisheries.]

Details, context here:
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Walker is further weakening through disconnecting transfers - - and 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: 
The story quotes outspoken climate change denier and eager corporate captive State Sen. Tom Tiffany, (R-Hazelhurst), in support of even more limitations on what remains of DNR science:
Stepp should be able to ensure that research benefits sportsmen and the DNR should be better able to prevent further research that takes climate change into account, Tiffany said.
Tiffany doesn’t accept the findings of 97 percent of working climate scientists that the climate is changing rapidly in large part because of human-caused pollution.  
-------------------------------------
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has found a new way to further separate itself from taxpayers and visitors who want the agency to embrace its information services and stand up for an environment which has been allowed to degrade under a politicized DNR.

*  The DNR has already stopped providing timely and useful information to the public about deteriorating air quality or climate change.


*  It has turned away from policy basics like aggressively attacking fecal contamination of rural well-water

* And 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.

I remember years ago when a Wisconsin Secretary of Transportation said the agency's job was "to let contracts," as if citizens as varied as motorists, pedestrians, transit riders, and people living near highways who expected the agency to deliver a basic like clean air weren't as important as road-building contractors and the concrete they were going to receive taxpayer dollars to pour.


So add the DNR under Walker and his hand-picked Secretary, former developer and McDonald's restaurant manager 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
- - to Wisconsin department secretaries who are divorcing their agencies and missions from the people and public expectations

An elitist, corporatist attitude Stepp affirmed last year when describing a jargon-filled departmental reorganization that is all about business and not about, say, the families who walk the state fair grounds every summer and had enjoyed the DNR's informative and open-arms traditional greeting now headed for the ash can: 
In an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal and meetings with employees, DNR secretary Cathy Stepp and her top deputies said plans for the next 18 months include:
Creating a certification program aimed at placing more responsibility on private contractors in the writing of permits governing lakefront construction and water pollution discharges from animal feedlots.
Reducing the number of armed rangers with arrest powers in state parks...
Distributing what remains of the department’s science research bureau among several divisions.
Stepp touted the plan as a first-of-its-kind “business plan” detailing agency functions in ways that should help shield the department from budget cuts and make the shrinking DNR workforce happier and more efficient.
As I wrote last year to end a long description of the ascendancy of corporate privilege and control throughout Wisconsin at the expense of the people's interests:
Wisconsin is corporate heaven; less so for the less-powerful
...the Walkerites have used law and policy and political power in Wisconsin - - this GOP/corporate control has been an under-covered, carefully crafted take-over operation - - to tilt benefits and access in a heavenly way towards big business and the executives who own them.