Ron Johnson Waffles on Obamacare Repeal

Fer cryin’ out loud

Four conservative GOP senators, including Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, quickly announced initial opposition to the measure and others were evasive, raising the specter of a jarring rejection by the Republican-controlled body. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., indicated he was open to discussion and seemed determined to muscle the measure through his chamber next week.

 Johnson ran for office twice on the promise to repeal Obamacare. If he can’t bring himself to actually act after years of promises to his constituents, then he is the lowest form of politician – and that’s starting from a very low point, indeed.

Queen Reported for No Seat Belt

Ha!

The Queen has been reported to West Yorkshire Police for not wearing a seat belt in the official car for the State Opening of Parliament.

A 999 call was made by someone saying the monarch was not strapped in while being driven through London.

The phone call was confirmed in a tweet by the West Yorkshire force, which added the hashtags #not999 #notevenwestyorkshire.

Civil and criminal proceedings cannot be taken against the Queen in UK law.

Yes, unlike America, there are people who are actually above the law in the UK.

2.2 Mile Shot

Wow.

“The Canadian Special Operations Command can confirm that a member of the Joint Task Force 2 successfully hit a target from 3,540 meters. For operational security reasons and to preserve the safety of our personnel and our Coalition partners, we will not discuss precise details on when and how this incident took place,” the unit said in a written statement.
Due to the distance of the shot, some voices in the military community expressed skepticism at the Canadian government’s report. The reported shot from 3,540 meters, or about 2.2 miles, would eclipse the previous sniper world record of 2,474 meters or 1.54 miles set by the United Kingdom’s Craig Harrison when he killed two Taliban insurgents in November 2009.
The Globe and Mail first reported the shot’s success and said it disrupted an ISIS attack on Iraqi forces, citing unnamed sources.
“The elite sniper was using a McMillan TAC-50 sniper rifle while firing from a high-rise during an operation that took place within the last month in Iraq. It took under 10 seconds to hit the target,” the paper said.
The Canadian military unit confirmed the distance of shot shortly after the Globe and Mail story was published, but the shot has yet to be formally confirmed a third party agency.

Pelosi’s Leadership Challenged

I, for one, support the continued leadership of Pelosi.

(CNN)Around the same time House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was declaring she had broad support to remain the top Democratic leader and jabbing back at her critics, a group of her colleagues met privately to brainstorm on whether there was a way to force her out.

New York Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice, one of a small group who has gone public with the message that Pelosi should go, hosted a dozen Democrats in her office Thursday for an hour-long strategy session.
Rep. Cedric Richmond, the Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who many have touted as a rising star in the party, attended the session, according to three Democrats who also attended. The CBC includes roughly 40 House Democrats, many in senior leadership and committee positions, including Pelosi allies.
In an interview on CNN before the meeting, Rice admitted that the problem facing the party now is that no one has emerged as an alternative.

City Wants Access to County Sales Tax

Heh. This is another stark reminder of the lies of politicians.

Washington County officials implemented a sales tax a few years ago to fund different initiatives — now municipalities want to access those dollars to fund projects of their own.

Officials from West Bend are collaborating with other municipalities in the area to draft a resolution petitioning county officials for a revenue-sharing agreement to access almost $3 million of the county’s $11.4 million sales tax revenue.

City Administrator Jay Shambeau announced the measure during the June 5 meeting as part of an update to the city’s 10-year financial plan when he alluded to possible alternative revenue streams.

“There are some other options that are potentially out there for the council to consider,” he said. “One is a portion or a tax sharing with the county sales tax. I have begun to have some conversations with the county about that.”

The reporter glosses over it, but one must remember the history here. Washington County implemented a county sales tax several years ago to pay for some specific “critical” capital projects like the new radio system that the Sheriff needed for public safety. The tax was supposed to pay for those capital projects and then go away. As almost always happens, after those projects were long since paid off, the tax is still here. County officials simply kept the tax going and used it to pay for other stuff. It once again proved the maxim that “there’s no such thing as a temporary tax.”

Now the city is looking over at that pile of money extracted from taxpayers and wants a slice. Never leave a pile of money around a politician…

Ryan Pledges Tax Reform

Good.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, pledged to manufacturers Tuesday that Congress and President Trump will “fix this nation’s tax code once and for all.”

Ryan, speaking at a National Association of Manufacturers event, laid out outlines of a “very ambitious plan” that House Republicans are working to put into legislation. And he said Republicans will “get this done in 2017” because the current tax code is hurting the U.S. economy and is too complex for families.

“This whole system is too confusing, and it’s just too darn expensive. We have got to stop this madness. Don’t you agree?” he said as the NAM 2017 Manufacturing Summit attendees applauded.

That’s all well and good, but I’ll believe it when I see it. I’d like to see some actual legislation get passed.

Philando Castile Shooting Dashcam Video

Now that the trial is complete, the have released the dashcam video. You can view it here.

My opinion that the jury got the decision right stands. This is a case where details matter. When you see the incident unfold, it is a normal traffic stop and nobody seems particularly agitated. Then Castile says this:

dashcam

After that, the officer tells him not to reach for it. While the video does not show what’s happening inside the car, everyone agrees that Castile was reaching for something. The officer repeats his order to not reach for it. Castile keeps reaching. The officer opens fire.

While Castile did not tell the officer he had a firearm in an aggressive way, he said it and then began reaching for something. That was the fatal mistake. The officer has to react based on his actions – not on what he said. The evidence is that Castile said he had a gun and then began reaching. It was a horrible, tragic mistake. It is also a mistake that one wonders if it might have been avoided had Castile not been high on pot at the time.

Handel Wins Handily

Boy, CNN is trying to spin this the best they can, but it’s clear that the Democrats through everything they had at this contest and Handel still won it walking away.

(CNN)Karen Handel’s victory in the Georgia special House election Tuesday night has House Republicans who recently voted for a deeply unpopular bill to repeal Obamacare breathing a sigh of relief.

And it will now offer some cover — even political reassurance — to Senate Republicans who are gearing up to cast similar votes next week.
The Democrat in the Georgia race, Jon Ossoff, was unsuccessful in flipping a traditionally Republican district in the Atlanta suburbs previously represented by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Had the 30-year-old first-time political candidate pulled off an upset, it would have dealt a major blow to the Republican Party’s already complicated efforts to gut Obamacare.

Washington County Board Moves to Evening Meetings

Good. While I wouldn’t expect to see a flood of people attending meetings, this certainly makes it more likely that working people can attend if they so choose.

For the second instance in 12 months, Washington County officials will modify the meeting time for County Board meetings from the morning to the evening with the hope increasing public participation.

Supervisors voted during their June 13 meeting to change the meeting time for the County Board of Supervisors meetings from 7:30 a.m. on the second Tuesday of the month to 6 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month. Supporters claim it would not only allow additional residents to attend the meetings, but also increase the applicant pool for elected office.

“The way I look at it is that we should afford our constituents every opportunity we can,” Supervisor Denis Kelling who spearheaded the effort to move the meeting time. “I mean I may not be a religious person, but I have the freedom to practice my religion. I may not own a gun but I have the freedom to carry a gun.”

Kelling spoke to address issues opponents mentioned, including that meeting times do not drive attendance and potential overlap with municipal gatherings.

“Selfishly I am going to vote against this,” Supervisor Jeffrey Schleif said because the time conflicts with another obligation. “As for being available for people, I think if the issue is something that is important for people, we do public notices, people come if they need to come so I discount the 6 p.m. a little bit.”

Uber Implements In-App Tipping

I don’t like this at all (from the email).

In-app tipping is here. From 5-star ratings to compliments, and now with tipping, our app gives you many ways to say thanks. To ensure a smooth, uninterrupted ride, you can tip drivers after your trip at a time when it’s convenient for you. Tips go directly to drivers; Uber takes zero service fees.

I am a frequent Uber user. One of the selling points for it is the ease of use and the fact that I can grab a ride without the need to carry cash or tip. I did occasionally tip, but only if the driver did something out of the ordinary (like stop at a shop or run through a drive through for me). There was never, however, any expectation of a tip.

The problem is that while Uber has a rating system where I can rate the driver, it also has a rating system where the driver can rate the passenger. The intent of that is that if a passenger is abusive, messy, drunk, or just gross, a bad rating will discourage other Uber drivers from having to put up with a bad passenger. Eventually, bad passengers will never be able to get an Uber ride.

Now that there is tipping, however, there is an incentive for the passenger to give big tips – even when it is undeserved – just to prevent being blackballed by bad ratings from grumpy drivers. Uber should have one or the other. Either have tipping or do away with the passenger rating system. Having both promotes undeserved tipping. It also increases the overall cost of using Uber versus other transportation alternatives.

Article V convention

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:

The Constitution of the United States has stood for more than 200 years as the most perfect political document ever crafted by the hands of men. While other nations have crumbled under tyranny or burned in revolutions, the United States has persevered thanks to the unique strength and flexibility of its foundational document. The Wisconsin legislature is advancing an effort that could replace the Constitution with a newer version.

Article V of the Constitution is the article that allows the document to be revised and updated over time. It is under Article V that the Bill of Rights was passed, slaves were freed, women were granted the right to vote, alcohol was banned and then permitted again, and the federal government was given the power to tax our incomes. All of those amendments were enacted under the part of Article V that allows the federal legislature to initiate specific Constitutional amendments by passing them with a two-thirds majority of both houses of the Congress. Then three-fourths of the states must ratify the amendments.

But Article V allows another procedure to amend the Constitution that has never been followed whereby the states initiate the amendment process. The Constitution allows for two-thirds of the states to call a full Constitutional Convention which can then draft and pass one or several amendments to the Constitution. Whatever amendments the convention passes must then be ratified by three-fourths of the states in order to take effect. It is this second amendment procedure that the Wisconsin Assembly have harkened to when they advanced a resolution calling for a Constitutional Convention. If the Senate and governor agree, Wisconsin will become the 28th state to call for a convention. Thirty-four states are required for a convention to be convened.

The push for a Constitutional Convention is born out of frustration. The federal government has accumulated a staggering national debt and shows no sign of addressing it any time soon. As the national debt approaches $20 trillion — which is greater than the annual gross domestic product of the nation — it has robbed future generations of their wealth and threatens to destabilize our nation. Such enormous debt has spurred revolutions and totalitarianism in other nations. Americans should not have such hubris to think us immune from such consequences.

For generations, politicians in the federal government have demonstrated a collective fiscal restraint that would make drunken sailors seem circumspect, so many folks in the states think it is time to call a Constitutional Convention to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment that would require that the federal government always have a balanced budget like the state of Wisconsin.

While it sounds like a good idea, forcing the federal government to have a balanced budget would be lunacy. In times of war or deep recession, deficit spending is often sound fiscal policy. The problem with the federal government is that in times of peace and economic expansion, when they should be taking advantage of natural surpluses to reduce the debt, they continue to spend and run deficits. The politicians in Washington need to be checked on their spending, but a Balanced Budget Amendment is not the way to do it.

But the debate over a Constitutional Convention has little to do with the actual justification for it. Opponents cite the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the convention that created our Constitution, as the reason to avoid another one. The delegates of the Convention of 1787 were convened with a limited charter to make slight adjustments to some perceived malformations of the Articles of Confederation. Instead, the delegates almost immediately jettisoned their original charter and decided to write a new constitution from scratch. Opponents of a new Constitutional Convention fear that modern delegates may follow their forbearers’ example.

Would that be a bad thing? Opponents are fearmongering that modern constitutional delegates would strip the Constitution of protections for minorities and disenfranchise people. Such fears are utter rubbish spouted by cynical hacks. What many of them really fear is that many of the courtimposed corruptions of the Constitution, like federal power to force people to purchase health insurance, will be annulled by a redrafting of our nation’s fundamental document.

There is a fallacy in historical study that forgets that while a few of the delegates to the convention that created our remarkable Constitution were brilliant, most were fairly average intellects. And all of them were subject to the human faults of vanity, envy, greed, selfishness, bigotry and all of the other sins that comprise the human condition. The divine spark in our Constitution is that it managed to acknowledge and balance many of these human failures to create a framework that has been responsible for the greatest expansion of liberty and prosperity in the history of the world.

A modern Constitutional Convention may stick to its stated charter to create a Balanced Budget Amendment, but it may also completely cast aside our venerated Constitution and try to write a new one. Perhaps that divine spark will once again manifest itself is something even greater than the sum of the delegates’ abilities. Perhaps not.

In either case it would take ratification by three-fourths of the states, which is a high standard that would represent a remarkably broad consensus by We the People. Such a high, but not impossible, threshold for Constitutional reform is yet another example of the brilliance of our 1787 Constitution and an affirmation of our founders’ wisdom. They wrote Article V with the humility that they were not perfect and the forethought that future Americans may wish to create a new Constitution. Perhaps it is time to see if we can do it any better.

 

Administrative Movement In West Bend School District

Ouch.

Jeridon Clark, a Mequon-Thiensville school administrator who announced in March he would take a job as the new principal of the West Bend high schools, is staying in the Mequon-Theinsville district.

Clark was expected to step into the role at the beginning of July, taking over for Tracey Conners, who has resigned after a year as the interim principal. The district also announced Monday that Director of Secondary Education and Fine Arts Jason Levash has resigned effective June 30, the sixth to administrator to leave around the end of the academic year.

It looks like Clark got a counteroffer from the Mequon District and will be staying there as the Assistant Superintendent.

The amount of turnover in the administration does seem heavier than it should be. Bearing in mind that the district has gotten a new Superintendent and a new board in the last year, some turnover is to be expected. Some people just like things they way they were and would rather move on or retire rather than deal with a new regime. But the number of departures is high and the district is clearly having difficulty finding replacements.

North Koreans Kill Otto Warmbier

Make no mistake, the North Koreans detained this young American, scrambled his brain, and killed him. His alleged crime? He took a poster. Remember that they also have nukes.

The US student held in captivity for more than 15 months in North Korea has died a week after returning home.

Otto Warmbier, 22, was serving 15 years of hard labour for attempting to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.

He was sent back to the US last Tuesday on humanitarian grounds – it emerged he had been in a coma for a year.

North Korea said he had contracted botulism but his family say North Korea subjected him to “awful torturous mistreatment” in detention.

A team of US doctors have also disputed North Korea’s version of events.

Iowa Obamacare Insurer Jacks Up Rates

Wow. Working?

One of the last insurers on Iowa’s ObamaCare exchanges announced Monday it would sell plans in 2018 but proposed an average rate increase of 43.5 percent.

Medica’s decision means every county in Iowa will have at least one insurer on the exchanges next year.

There were questions about whether or not Medica would participate next year after two other insurance carriers announced they would not.

If Medica pulled out, nearly all the counties in Iowa would have had zero insurers on the ObamaCare exchanges in 2018.

Officer Acquitted In Killing of Philando Castile

This case is very troubling.

The jury of 12, including two black people, had to sort through the competing narratives. Both prosecutors and defense lawyers said the video footage supported their version of events.

At Officer Yanez’s trial, in this small courtroom in downtown St. Paul, defense lawyers made repeated mention of Mr. Castile’s and Ms. Reynolds’s use of marijuana. The drug was found in Mr. Castile’s car after the shooting, and Mr. Gray said that Mr. Castile had been under the influence of marijuana and delayed in his reactions at the time of the shooting.

“We’re not saying that Philando Castile was going to shoot Officer Yanez,” Mr. Gray said. “What we’re saying is that he did not follow orders. He was stoned.”

But Mr. Paulsen, the prosecutor, said that version of events was contradicted by video. He said footage showed that Mr. Castile was driving normally, pulled over quickly and was alert and courteous when talking to Officer Yanez. He accused the defense of blaming the victim.

“He offered no resistance,” Mr. Paulsen said of Mr. Castile. “He made no threats. He didn’t even complain about being stopped for such a minor offense.”

In the end, I think the jury got it right. While I think a preponderance of the evidence points to wrongdoing on the part of the officer, there isn’t enough evidence to meet the threshold of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The details really matter in this case.

First, Castile properly declared that he had a gun in the vehicle. He did it calmly, but he did not specify that he had a concealed carry permit. Such a declaration does indicate that he was not trying to be deceptive, but it also puts the officer on edge.

I have been pulled over more than once when carrying a firearm. I was instructed to behave in a way that was as non-threatening as possible. I turn on the dome light and keep my hands on the steering wheel. When the officer asks for my ID, I present it with my concealed carry license. At this point, the officer usually asks if I am carrying and where the firearm is. Then we go about our business. I had one officer in Texas once ask me to surrender my firearm for the duration of the stop, which I did. He returned it at the end of the process and we were both on our way. At no point do I ever utter the words, “I have a gun.” Even when said nicely and calmly, such a declaration has ominous overtones. That being said, Castile’s action was ill-advised, but shouldn’t have gotten him killed.

Second, it seems clear that Castile was stoned. That, in and of itself, is also no reason to shoot him, but it would make his behavior unusual. If he was moving erratically, speaking oddly, and reached for something, it would not be unreasonable for the officer to read malicious intent in Castile’s behavior – especially when the officer was already suspicious that Castile might have just committed a robbery.

Third, the officer could have been much clearer with his instructions. When Castile informed him that he was armed, the officer could have queried him about it more. And if the officer already thought that Castile might be a threat, he should have clearly instructed him to remain completely still.

In the end, it looks like a series of poor decisions and misinterpreted actions led to the officer killing Castile. It should not have happened, but I lean toward thinking that the jury got it right. I suspect that a civil suit will have different results.

Massive Data Breach Includes 62% of Americans

Yikes.

Sensitive personal details relating to almost 200 million US citizens have been accidentally exposed by a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee.

The 1.1 terabytes of data includes birthdates, home addresses, telephone numbers and political views of nearly 62% of the entire US population.

The data was available on a publicly accessible Amazon cloud server.

Anyone could access the data as long as they had a link to it.

SCOTUS Upholds 1st Amendment

Excellent.

“The disparagement clause violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion for the court. Contrary to the Government’s contention, trademarks are private, not government speech.”

Now it is time for other government bodies (looking at you, public universities) to end their prohibitive practices that ban certain words and phrases.

SCOTUS Issues Stay in Redistricting Case

Excellent. Our State AG is pleased.

MADISON, Wis. – By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court of the United States this morning granted Attorney General Brad D. Schimel’s application for a stay in the redistricting case, Gill v. Whitford. Earlier today, the Court agreed to hear the case, which is expected to be scheduled for oral argument during the term starting in October 2017.

The stay prevents implementation of the three-judge panel’s ruling, which would have required the Wisconsin Legislature to redraw district maps in the coming months.

Attorney General Brad Schimel released the following statement in response.

”The stay is particularly important because it preserves the Legislature’s time, effort, and resources while this case is pending. In our stay application, I argued that requiring the Legislature to re-draw district maps this year would have been a waste of resources. I also argued that it was likely that the lower court’s decision would be eventually overturned. I am pleased that the Court granted our request on this important issue.”

Escalating in Syria

See what I mean?

Russia has said it will treat US warplanes operating in parts of Syria where its air forces are present as “targets” amid a diplomatic row caused by the downing of a Syrian jet.

The country’s defence ministry said the change in position would apply to all aircraft, including those operating as part of the US-backed coalition.

It will also suspend a hotline between Russia and the US set up to prevent mid-air collisions.

SCOTUS to Rule on Wisconsin District Lines

It’s interesting how the reporter in this story frames the story.

The U.S. Supreme Court could announce as soon as Monday how it’s handling a landmark legal fight over Wisconsin’s gerrymandered political map, which has helped lock in legislative majorities for the GOP since it took power in 2011.

The key legal question: Can a set of political districts be so stacked toward one party that it violates the Constitution?

Until the court speaks, that is unsettled law.

But while the law is uncertain, the politics are quite clear.

Legislative boundaries like Wisconsin’s present a stark civics question:

How meaningful are elections when control of the legislature in a competitive state is largely predetermined by the way the districts are drawn?

One might also ask, “how meaningful are elections when the party that is elected to control the legislature is stripped of the power to draw districts as they have done for the last 150 years?”

I guess we’ll see.