Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Nunes abandons 2015 pledge to combat cyber-attacks

California Republican Congressman and former Trump campaign transition national security point person Devin Nunes 
Devin nunes.jpg
is unabashedly derailing an investigation assigned to the House Intel oversight committee he chairs into Russian interference, including cyber attacks against Democrats, during the 2016 election.

So it's instructive to see how far he's moved from the commitment he made to fight "unprecedented global threats" including "debilitating cyber-attacks" - - his words - - when Speaker Paul Ryan reappointed Nunes to the Intel committee chairman post in 2015, the record shows:

--------------------------------------------

Nunes to Remain as Intel Committee Chairman



Washington, October 29, 2015 
Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22) today issued the following statement announcing his intention to remain Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence:  
“I am honored to have been asked by the new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, to continue serving as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Our nation faces unprecedented global threats ranging from the growing risk of deadly terrorism to debilitating cyber-attacks, and the Intelligence Community’s response to these threats requires diligent Congressional oversight. After careful reflection and in light of the Speaker’s wish for me to continue this important role, I have decided to remain Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. As we move forward under the leadership of Speaker Ryan, it will be important to complete the good work we have done on an intelligence authorization bill and to get cybersecurity legislation passed to the President’s desk.” 
Speaker Ryan said, “The world has gotten only more dangerous, and serious times call for serious leaders. That’s why I’ve asked Rep. Devin Nunes to stay on as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee... 

As I wrote last week:

Nunes 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 like 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 criminal and counter-intelligence investigations into Team Trump.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Walker again opts for humiliation, punishment as anti-poverty tools

Right-wing WI Gov. and never-compassionate-conservative Scott Walker continues to try and obtain more state power over life-preserving public services to humiliate, punish and otherwise strong arm lower-income people into the workforce he has not expanded through mandatory drug-testing and other coercive measures.

A sample as reported by the Journal Sentinel:

Screen these Medicaid applicants [some single adults, 18-49] with questions about illegal drug use and actually test some of them for it. Refusing the test will mean the applicants go at least six months without state coverage. If they test positive, the individuals could receive treatment.
And then extend these practices and others to food stamp recipients - - despite known proof of their costly failure - - along with lifetime benefit limits reduced to adults four years - - all aimed at getting people off public assistance in Wisconsin job markets that have been stalled during Walker's tenure and are principally creating work at the lowest end of the wage scale.

A closed loop which Walker is clueless about genuinely breaking, except as the verbiage might help his 2018 re-election campaign with core supporters and ultra-right donors.


We know Walker has has no real interest in or connection to poor or victimized Wisconsin citizens - - such complex matters go far beyond the simplistic, bumper-sticker level politics that Walker has practiced for an entire career - - whom he has nickel-and-dimed deeper into poverty by slicing benefits and enforcing a starvation-level minimum wage he also billed as "lame" during six+ years of failed job creation as Governor.

His new push to further threaten and beat the poor into behavioral submission flies in the face of cause-and-effect evidence in the most widely-read book about these issues which is now also a teaching aid for those more motivated to solve problems than is Walker, and is also upended by facts in this compelling Journal Sentinel piece Sunday about poverty and work:

Public health experts in Milwaukee and around the nation now see a direct link between childhood trauma and an incapacitated workforce. Improving the latter is impossible without addressing the former. Children exposed to abuse, violence and neglect may not be able to concentrate in school, much less job training programs. They often grow up without the temperament to coordinate with customers and co-workers. They struggle with sleep disorders and register high levels of absenteeism.
Adding good new jobs won’t heal post-traumatic stress, says Laurie Lambach, chief executive of SET Ministry Inc., a Milwaukee health care nonprofit. “The workforce is not ready.”
And there is more in a related, compelling Journal Sentinel report today about the lives of the poor whom Walker stubbornly avoids and dismisses.

Walker's fresh appeal to an equally uninformed and heartless Donald Trump for federal permission to drug test public aid recipients is another Walker pre-election dog whistle to the base GOP constituency he motivated during the 2014 election with a crude metaphor about laziness, and to which he also whistled shouted clear as a bell to upper-income suburbanites in an earlier gubernatorial campaign about preventing Wisconsin from becoming another Milwaukee.


This is what happens when ideology and ignorance brew up a craven, textbook GOP political stew that is served again and again by a Governor motivated by political power and partisan advantage, but without a moral compass.

 

Translating Ryan: 'One-percenters' tax breaks still #1 GOP priority'

The Ryan/Trump 'health care' plan was always about delivering greater wealth to the rich rather than good health to everyone else; inept US House Speaker and over-hyped wonk Paul Ryan 
Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.
told big GOP donors  - - not health care providers or Medicaid recipients or working-class voters in rural America - -  that he's on the case and will deliver the goods:
...a plan was being developed in time to brief the donors at a retreat scheduled for Thursday and Friday in Florida. His remarks indicated that Republicans may be trying to regroup more quickly than Ryan had suggested they would on Friday, when he declared Obamacare “the law of the land” for the foreseeable future.
“When we’re in Florida, I will lay out the path forward on health care and all the rest of the agenda,” Ryan said in the call Monday, according to a recording obtained by The Washington Post. “I will explain how it all still works, and how we’re still moving forward on health care with other ideas and plans. So please make sure that if you can come, you come — it will be good to look at what can feasibly get done and where things currently stand. But know this: We are not giving up.”
Ryan always benefited from comparisons to the likes of full-on dolts like Louis Gohmert or Glenn Grothman, but last week proved a failure at Speakership and this week is playing the partisan/fund-raising fool.

Reinforced by his selection of and support for House Intelligence Committee chairman and House Intelligence investigation fixer Devin Nunes.


This was my take earlier this week:

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. 

And the word is getting out:

The Death of Paul Ryan, Policy Genius

He's always been more con artist than wonk. After the health-care fiasco, the whole world knows it.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Trump OKs more air pollution, lung disease, extreme weather

Trump's fetishistic obsession with erasing Barack Obama's legacy is bad news for people with asthma, cardio-vascular disease, old age, young lungs, and well, everyone else who breathes: 
President Trump will take the most significant step yet in obliterating his predecessor’s environmental record Tuesday, instructing federal regulators to rewrite key rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions.
The sweeping executive order also seeks to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions.
Donald Trump official portrait.jpg
The stupidest, most vindictive and impeachable man on the planet is putting that planet at risk.

Also - - no more finger-pointing at China, or India or other heavy burners of coal.

Stupidity on a global scale.



Watchdog group urges stronger WI Supreme Court recusal rule

You may remember that the conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court had adopted a recusal rule - - actually, more of a blank permission slip - -  that allows its members to sit on cases even if they had received campaign contributions from a party before them.

That earned our troubled Court

Seal of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin.svg
widespread criticism and brought about a petition to the Court from dozens of retired judges who urged that the rule be rewritten.

I had posted about the retired judges' petition, here.


The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, (WDC) had also reported on the judges' petition and today followed through with a strong, detailed comment to the court that explains why a rewrite of the flawed rule is needed.


I urge you to read the WDC comment in full, here, and note its four key points:


1. The reputations of the retired judges submitting it.


2. The tattered reputation of the Wisconsin Supreme Court stems largely from the 2010 recusal rule the Court adopted and applied.


3. The Court’s rationale for its recusal rule has been undermined by its own decision in the John Doe II case and subsequent legislation.


4. The Court’s recusal rule is at odds with the U.S. Supreme Court’s instructions.


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. 
CANADA
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.
ONTARIO
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
WISCONSIN
Toronto
Oswego River
White Lake
Saginaw
Syracuse
MIlwaukee
Rochester
Madison
MICHIGAN
NEW
YORK
Buffalo
Grand Rapids
Detroit
Presque Isle Bay
Erie
Chicago
Toledo
INDIANA
Cleveland
ILLINOIS
PENNSYLVANIA
Nutrients from agriculture flow into Lake Erie, causing algae blooms.
100 MILES
OHIO
Pittsburgh




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 WisOpinion.com 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?


Hardly. 


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 resources...to provide a healthy, sustainable environment...to 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
File:Confined-animal-feeding-operation.jpg
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.


Also:

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.