Category Archives: Politics

Right to Try Bill Heads to Trump’s Desk

Excellent! Wisconsin’s own Senator Ron Johnson got this done. And it is another bipartisan bill, if that’s important to you.

(CNN)With a House of Representatives vote Tuesday, Congress passed legislation that could give terminally ill patients a way to independently seek drugs that are still experimental and not fully approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The House voted 250-169 in favor of the bill, which the Senate passed in August. The bill will now be sent to President Trump, who is expected to sign it.

Congress Pulls Back Dodd-Frank

In a bipartisan vote, no less.

The House on Tuesday passed a plan to roll back banking regulations passed in response to the 2008 financial crisis, sending the bill to President Trump to sign.

The measure leaves the central structure of the post-financial-crisis rules in place, but it would make the most significant changes to weaken the Dodd-Frank banking regulations since they were passed in 2010. It would exempt some small and regional banks from the most stringent regulations, and also would also loosen rules aimed at protecting the biggest banks from sudden collapse.

The measure is nearly certain to become law after its passing in the House, 258 to 159, on Tuesday with nearly all House Republicans and 33 Democrats voting for it. The Senate approved the bill in March with bipartisan backing, and White House officials said that Trump plans to sign it in the coming days.

The bill’s supporters say it provides needed relief for community and local banks withering under Washington’s regulations. But critics charge it opens the financial system back up to the abuse and risky behavior that brought the U.S. economy to its knees a decade ago — and does so at a time when financial firms are posting record profits.

This law was a classic legislative over-reaction to a crisis.

Foxconn begins to deliver on its promise

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

While there is still a long way to go before Wisconsinites can evaluate the full impact of the Foxconn development, so far it is proving to be the economic boon for Wisconsin that Gov. Scott Walker and other supporters of the deal predicted. The official groundbreaking ceremony will be June 28, but the work has already started.

When Walker announced the deal with Foxconn, it marked the largest economic deal the state of Wisconsin had ever struck. Liberals vacillated between bemoaning corporate welfare and declaring that Wisconsin should have gotten a better deal. Conservatives cringed at the massive amount of tax dollars involved to lure one company to Wisconsin. Walker touted the deal as a transformational economic development that would benefit Wisconsin for generations. It is possible that everyone was right, but certainly Walker deserves credit for getting it done.

Before the first shovel could be put in the ground, nearly 500 subcontractors, suppliers, service providers, vendors and other companies attended an information session hosted by Foxconn for the projected $10 billion construction project. These businesses came from all over Wisconsin and the world for the chance to participate in one of the largest construction projects in United States history.

Late last month, Foxconn began announcing the contractors that they would use. True to their word, Foxconn officials strongly favored Wisconsin companies. Ninety percent of the contracts so far have been awarded to Wisconsin companies.

In just the first phase of the project, 27 Wisconsin companies and one Illinois company are sharing $100 million to do the preparation work for the site including excavation, erosion control, soil and water testing and stormwater management. A $100 million project would already be one of Wisconsin’s largest construction projects, and that is only 1 percent of what Foxconn is planning to spend to complete the project. Furthermore, as Walker predicted, the economic benefits are not limited to southeast Wisconsin. One of those Wisconsin companies already working is a Black River Falls construction company which has been tasked with moving about 325,000 dump truck loads of dirt and installing 120,000 linear feet of sewer. That company, Hoffman Construction, has indicated that they will need to hire about 150 additional seasonal workers to handle the work.

MJM Truckin’ LLC of Nekoosa, Wood County, Panacea Group LLC of Seymour, Outagamie County, and other businesses throughout the state are already seeing money flow from Foxconn into their businesses.

The reason that all of Wisconsin will benefit from Foxconn is simple. The Foxconn project is just so incredibly huge that southeast Wisconsin does not have the people or material necessary to complete it. Not only will Foxconn need to bring in workers from all over Wisconsin, they will have to bring people from all over the world to Wisconsin to work.

A study by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce estimates that Foxconn’s new Wisconsin plant will contribute about $51 billion to the state’s economy over the next 15 years. Calculating the exact economic impact of the massive Foxconn development is inherently difficult, but Wisconsin is already seeing a ripple effect spread across the state.

All of this positive development makes the stance of some of the Democratic candidates for governor even more puzzling. While some may disagree with the deal that Walker struck with Foxconn, it is done. The contracts are signed and both sides are obligated to honor their side of the agreement. Yet some of the Democratic candidates are hoping to see it all fail and rip a hole in Wisconsin’s economy as it does.

Rep. Dana Wachs has said “we will find a way to end it.” Matt Flynn said that he will end the deal, “no matter what.” Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and Rep. Kelda Roys want to renegotiate the deal — whatever that means. Try to imagine a world in which one of these Democrats wins the governor’s chair and uses it to douse the Foxconn economic fire with a vat of cold water. Not only would it hobble the Foxconn economic juggernaut, but it would neuter Wisconsin’s ability to attract business for decades to come. What company CEO in his or her right mind would make a long-term commitment to Wisconsin if all it takes is a new governor to tear up the contracts?

The argument over whether or not the Foxconn deal was a good one for Wisconsin will be decided in the years to come. One would hope that whatever one thought about the terms of the deal, we could all root for it to live up to its promise. Fortunately for our state’s economy, so far it has.

Public Credits Trump for Good Economy

This, if anything, will blunt the Blue Wave.

More than two-thirds of Americans credit President Donald Trump for the country’s healthy economy, a new poll has revealed.

The CBS News poll, which was released on Sunday, shows a sharp partisan divide, with Republicans more likely to give the president positive reviews while Democrats and Independents are not as complimentary.

According to the survey, 35 per cent of Americans say Trump’s policies are ‘a great deal’ responsible for the economy.

Around the same number – 33 per cent – say the president’s policies are ‘somewhat’ responsible.

Haspel Confirmed as CIA Director

Excellent.

The Senate voted 54-45 Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel to lead the Central Intelligence Agency — once sworn in, she would become the first woman to hold the post.

Haspel succeeds Mike Pompeo, who was confirmed as Trump’s secretary of state last month.

Six Democrats helped Republicans in confirming Haspel: Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia – most of whom are up for re-election this November in states Trump won handily in 2016.

Graduate Protests Suppression of 2nd Amendment Rights on Campus

Good for her.

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Kaitlin Bennett graduated from Kent State University in Ohio with a degree in biology.

The following day, the 22-year-old returned to the campus with an AR-10 semi-automatic rifle strapped to her back and posed for photographs while holding a graduation cap emblazoned with the words “come and take it”.

Bennett, who later posted the photographs on Twitter, says she was protesting against a university policy that prohibited students, professors and employees from carrying “lethal weapons” on campus – but allows “guests” to possess them on school grounds (but not in buildings).

She noted that Kent State was the location where “four unarmed students were shot and killed by the government” – a reference to the 1970 incident where soldiers clashed with Vietnam War protesters, firing shots that hit 13 protesters and bystanders.

Walker Pushes for Dem Convention in Milwaukee

While a convention of this scale would be good for the city and state, they need to make sure the contracts are firm. These conventions can be expensive for local taxpayers.

The meeting Monday afternoon at the Wisconsin Center focused on the growth Milwaukee’s tourism economy continues to show, and leaders who attended agree that landing the 2020 Democratic National Convention would only further that growth.

Following Visit Milwaukee’s annual meeting, the president/CEO and board chairman of Visit Milwaukee, Paul Upchurch and Omar Shaikh, respectively, and their counterparts at the Wisconsin Center, president and CEO Marty Brooks and board chair Ellen Nowak, expressed enthusiasm about not only the potential impact of hosting the 2020 convention in Milwaukee, but the city’s chances of securing the quadrennial event. Late last week, Milwaukee was named one of eight finalists to host the DNC in two years, along with cities like New York, San Francisco, Atlanta and Houston, according to reports from CNN and NBC News.

Even Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who sought the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in the 2016 election, said he hoped Milwaukee would win the right to host his rival party’s convention when asked following his introductory remarks at Monday’s meeting.

“I think it would be huge,” Walker said. “I think any convention here of that magnitude is a big deal.”

Andre Jacque Wins Primary

Excellent!

State Rep. André Jacque attributed his win against Alex Renard for the GOP Republican nomination in the 1st SD Tuesday to his “positive campaign” and independent record in the Legislature.

Meanwhile, in the 42nd AD, Jon Plumer, who owns a Lodi karate school, won a four-way GOP primary

Jacque said in a phone interview he’d bring the same strategy he used in the primary to the June 12 general election where he’ll face Dem Caleb Frostman, the former executive director of the Door County Economic Development Corp.

“I expect we’ll certainly see more negativity out there, but we’re going to continue to talk about the things we’ve been able to do,” he said. “I think we have a really strong record of results we’d like to communicate.”

State of Illinois Takes Over Chicago Public Schools Special Education

Of course, it’s not like the State of Illinois has a solid record of competent management.

The Illinois State Board of Education took on sweeping authority to supervise special education at Chicago Public Schools on Wednesday, voting to appoint an outside monitor who for at least three years will have to approve any changes to the district’s special ed policies and procedures.

ISBE will now meet with CPS to map out what state schools Superintendent Tony Smith described as “the road to transformation” after officials concluded that the district’s 2016 overhaul of special ed violated a swath of federal law and regulations.

“The corrective action and recommendations we offered today are the right first step to helping CPS fully serve all children and families,” Smith said in a statement. “The common good requires uncommonly good public schools.”

ISBE also recommended that the district change the way it creates legally mandated education programs for special ed students, and identify students who may have had their services delayed or denied because of the CPS policy overhaul so parents have an opportunity to pursue needed changes.

Washington County Votes to Keep State Tax Limits

Good to see!

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Wisconsinites Will Continue to Leave State for Legal Sports Betting

This isn’t a surprise.

MADISON, Wis – On Monday, the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law that prohibited all states except Nevada from allowing sports betting.

New Jersey led the lawsuit, with the support of 18 other states that want to use sports gambling for college and professional teams to bring in more tourism and tax revenue.

A representative with the Wisconsin Department of Administration said “sports gaming is prohibited by the Wisconsin Constitution, state law, and is not allowed under the state tribal compacts.”

“Between the constitution and the compacts that are in place already in the state of Wisconsin, it really won’t have a bearing one way or the other,” said Gov. Scott Walker.

First, Walker is morally opposed to the expansion of gambling, so he’s not going to try to move mountains to get it in Wisconsin. Second, the state compact with the Tribes that protect their gambling monopolies can’t be reopened without the Tribes agreeing. There isn’t much incentive for them to do so with a Republican administration.

Liberal West Bend School Board targets November for $80 million referendum

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

As the West Bend School Board continues to search for a new superintendent after the unfortunate departure of the previous one, it is also aggressively following the liberal playbook to bamboozle the taxpayers into approving a new, massive, $80 million (plus interest) spending referendum. While every one of the school board members ran for office on a platform of conservatism and transparency, their governing is indistinguishable from the arrogant liberal school boards in Milwaukee or Madison.

Since Act 10, the liberals in Wisconsin have fought for more spending and stumbled upon a process to get school spending referendums passed that plays on the fears and best intentions of goodhearted people. The West Bend School Board is following that process and looking to take advantage of the projected “Blue Wave” in November to get more money from district taxpayers.

First, the School Board created the Citizens Facility Advisory Committee last year with a strong majority of members who were already convinced of the need to spend more money. The only questions were “on what” and “how much?” The board hired a company based in Milwaukee called Bray Architects to run the CFAC meetings. Bray brags on its website about the expensive building projects funded by referendums it helped get passed.

Bray did its job for the board and ran a rigid CFAC process that would only lead to the outcome that the board had predetermined. In one unguarded moment, the Bray facilitator admitted that “the decision to build a new Jackson school was made in the prior efforts.” The taxpayers of West Bend would be surprised to know the decision to build a new school was already made. When the facilitator was asked by a CFAC member about why they were even bothering with the committee, he answered, “because we need to help the community understand why a new Jackson is being considered.” In other words, CFAC was a sham propaganda tool from the beginning — not an actual advisory committee. Recent events confirm that conclusion.

After the bogus CFAC process, the School Board is taking the next step of spending $35,000 of our money to conduct a sham survey. The board pretends that the survey is going to be used to gauge public support for areferendum. The survey is a propaganda tool used to build support and, like CFAC, has a predetermined outcome.

The West Bend School Board has hired SchoolPerceptions to conduct the survey. A recent column

by Mark Belling exposed School Perceptions for the propaganda machine it is. Instead of conducting an objective survey that is honestly seeking answers, “the whole point of School Perceptions is to influence opinion through framing questions,” Belling writes.

The upcoming survey in West Bend will not be any different. It is telling that while asking respondents about a list of projects, there will not be an option to just say “no.” The West Bend School Board has decided to intentionally spend taxpayer money to conduct a propaganda effort under the guise of a survey with the intent to sell a spending referendum. It is a shameless act of liberal activism at taxpayers’ expense.

It is worth noting that while the West Bend School Board members are intent on jacking up spending and taxes, the transparency that constituents have enjoyed with previous boards has muddied. Many meetings are no longer recorded, meeting minutes are missing from the district’s website, the use of special and closed sessions has become the norm and many agenda items appeared to have been already discussed and decided before the public meetings. This School Board has made a practice of obscuring their actions from public view.

Furthermore, when I have repeatedly asked the elected school board members to comment on issues for more than a year, the only member of the School Board who has ever responded was Ken Schmidt. Every other Board member has refused to respond — including the two who were just elected. This is a sharp departure from previous years where even the most liberal School Board members were willing to chat with me over a cup of coffee. Elected officials have a duty to speak with their constituents. It is part of the job. Sadly, most of the members of the West Bend School Board lack the sense of duty or humility that good public service requires.

West Bend is proud of our conservatism and proud of our public schools. The School Board is failing our public schools by failing to govern as the conservatives they professed to be. Before they come hat in hand for another $80 million to spend, they need to get their house in order and rebuild the public trust that they have squandered.

 

Madison School Board Denies President

Only in Madison

Madison School Board members quashed a proposal Monday that could have allowed the board president to block other members from requesting information about the school district they are elected to govern.

During an Operations Work Group meeting, board members agreed not to pursue a proposed change to board policy that would have given the board president the ability to deny or alter requests for district information made by other board members.

District spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson said the policy change is part of a routine update of policies and is meant to “codify the board’s current ways of working.”

“We work very hard to fulfill all requests in a timely way,” she said. “In the very rare instance that a request is very difficult to fulfill, we run that request past the board president so they can decide the best way to move forward.”

Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said the intent of having the president deny a request would be to make it clear that a district employee does not have to tell a board member a request is too difficult to fulfill.

SCOTUS Strikes Down Ban on Sports Betting

I agree with the ruling on constitutional grounds. It will be interesting to watch what states do with it.

The Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way for states to legalize sports betting, striking down a 1992 federal law that limited such gambling and likely touching off a nationwide battle to dominate what is sure to be a multi-billion-dollar industry.

The justices ruled in favor of New Jersey, which had long argued that the federal law unconstitutionally intruded on state affairs, telling state legislators what they can and — more importantly — can’t do with their time.

“The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority. “Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own.”

The ruling will open the floodgates to an industry long the domain of barroom bookies and Las Vegas gambling parlors. In New Jersey and Delaware, the first bets could be placed within days or weeks, and Mississippi could follow within a month or two. In total, about 20 states have either enacted laws or introduced bill to legalize sports betting, all an anticipation of this moment.

Trump Promises to Help ZTE

Wha?

US President Donald Trump has said he wants to help save ZTE, one of China’s biggest telecoms companies.

The firm has suspended operations after the commerce department last month banned US companies from selling it components for seven years.

[…]

ZTE pleaded guilty to making illegal shipments to Iran and North Korea.

US commentators say the tone of the tweet is a dramatic shift for Mr Trump, who has consistently accused China of stealing US jobs.

The concession to Beijing comes ahead of high-level trade talks later this week in Washington aimed at resolving an escalating trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies.

[…]

In March 2017 ZTE admitted to violating US sanctions by illegally shipping American technology to Iran and Korea and was fined $1.1bn (£800m).

The current export ban was imposed last month after the company allegedly failed to comply with its agreement, lying about the punishment of employees involved in skirting the sanctions.

While the story cites the upcoming trade talks as a possible explanation for Trump’s actions, I have to think that the upcoming summit with North Korea is also in play. While ZTE is clearly breaking the rules, there are bigger issues at play.

Trump is one of the few presidents we have seen who works with everything on the table all the time. He’s willing to move things around that are seemingly unrelated in order to find a way to move his agenda forward.

Senator Leah Vukmir Wins GOP Endorsment

Excellent!

MILWAUKEE — State Sen. Leah Vukmir has won the official endorsement of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, a key stamp of approval from the party’s grassroots heading into a primary battle with businessman Kevin Nicholson.

The vote came at the state GOP’s annual convention Saturday in Milwaukee. Vukmir, R-Brookfield, and Nicholson, of Delafield, were seeking their party’s nod to face Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin in November.

Vukmir won the support of about 73 percent of delegates. The threshold to secure the endorsement was 60 percent.

“Let’s tell Tammy Baldwin it’s time for her to go home,” Vukmir told cheering GOP delegates after securing the endorsement.

Vukmir’s speech was really, really good. You can watch it at this link.

Nobody expected Kevin Nicholson to win, but it was uncertain whether or not Vukmir could get the super majority necessary to win the endorsement. Vukmir got an overwhelming number of votes. I’m happy to report that Washington County was the county that took her over the top.

The party endorsement tells us a couple of things. First, as expected, Vukmir is the overwhelming favorite of the party stalwarts. This makes sense because Vukmir has been working in Wisconsin for years and has built a lot of trust a loyalty within the party. Nicholson will use this to affirm his spin that “Vukmir is the establishment candidate.” The basic messaging of the candidates is well established (pardon the pun) at this point.

Second, the party endorsement actually means something in Wisconsin. This gives Vukmir access to the party apparatus, donor lists, victory centers, etc. for the primary campaign. So while Nicholson is going to run a very strong, very well financed air campaign, Vukmir will have the grassroots activists working to her benefit. Given that we are talking about a primary election, turnout of the party faithful is critical. This endorsement will have a tangible benefit for Vukmir.

Taylor’s Tantrums

This senator

Sen. Lena Taylor is decrying what she called a “political lynching,” insisting she had done nothing that warranted her removal from the Legislature’s powerful Joint Finance Committee.

Flanked by supporters at a Milwaukee news conference yesterday, Taylor defended her actions at a Milwaukee bank last month that resulted in a disorderly conduct citation. She also disputed she bullied staff, which is what Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling cited in replacing Taylor with fellow Milwaukee Dem La Tonya Johnson on JFC.

Shilling announced the move Tuesday after an investigation into a human resources complaint determined the Milwaukee Democrat had violated: the Senate Policy Manual’s anti-bullying provisions; and the anti-retaliation section related to an employee’s Family Medical Leave Act leave.

“I don’t think I did anything that warrants me being taken off of Finance, since in the midst of all that was going on, I don’t think anybody was able to stop me from dealing with 9,000 constituent cases,” Taylor said.

Taylor criticized the process in the HR case and said she disputes the findings.

“That report, I disagree with it,” Taylor said “And those findings are not accurate. And that the process alone, being a kangaroo process, where they failed to follow their own rules, is not even one that I want to give credence to.”

I admit that I have a soft spot for Taylor because she supported concealed carry when so much of her caucus didn’t. But man… she’s a piece of work.

Brennan Confirmed For Appeals Court

Finally.

WASHINGTON – Milwaukee lawyer Michael Brennan was confirmed for a key federal judgeship Thursday, filling the oldest appellate vacancy in the country but deepening a partisan schism in the U.S. Senate over judges.

Brennan will take a seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago that has stood open since 2010 amid a bitter political standoff.

He was confirmed 49-46 with only Republican votes, over the objections of Democrat Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin’s junior senator.

That has typically been enough to sink a nomination in recent years, because senators from both parties have enjoyed an effective veto over the selection of federal judges from their home states, a tradition known as the “blue slip.”

Outside of party loyalty, there was no rational reason for Baldwin’s intransigence.

Nah, It’s Not a Mental Illness Problem

The BBC appears to be upset that more and more people are reacting to mass killings by wanting to improve our public mental health care policies instead of with more gun control.

In fact, few mass killers actually suffer from a diagnosable, serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and psychotic spectrum disorders. A 2004 analysis of more than 60 mass murders in North America, for example, found that just 6% were psychotic at the time of the killings. And when it comes to mass shootings, those with mental illness account for “less than 1% of all yearly gun-related homicides”, a 2016 study found. Other studies indicate that people with mental disorders account for just 3-5% of overall violence in the US, (much lower than the prevalence of mental illness in the general population – up to 18%) which “still leaves you with around 96% of violence, even if you’re able to eliminate all people with mental disorders”, Appelbaum points out.

[…]

Moreover, much of the violence that people with serious mental illnesses commit are minor infractions, such as verbal assault or hitting, not homicide (suicide, however, is a significant problem), and such infractions tend to be directed at those the perpetrator lives with, not at strangers and not at a mass scale. Large attacks also require a level of planning and organisation that often defies many with serious mental illness. A 2014 study, for example, found that just 2% percent of 951 patients discharged from a psychiatric hospital committed a violent act involving a gun, and just 6% committed a violent act involving a stranger.

That knee-jerk conclusion is problematic, he continues, because it encourages even more stigmatisation of people who have a mental illness, many of whom already have extremely difficult lives and already face discrimination in several areas, namely housing, jobs, and relationships. Individuals suffering from mental illnesses are actually three times more likely than the average person to be victims of violence, as they are more vulnerable.

 […]

Making this inaccurate link can also shift the focus of policy debates in the US. In debates over limiting access to firearms, some people start talking about fixing the mental healthcare system instead. “Suddenly you hear the gun lobby – which is very powerful in this country and has a vested interest in not having guns be regulated – become an advocate for better mental health care in America,” Swanson says. “It’s a distraction so we don’t talk about guns.” (Read more: “What if all guns disappeared?”)

It’s difficult to psychologically profile mass shooters because they often commit suicide or are killed during their attack. But what doctors and scientists do know is that the perpetrators of such events are frequently angry young men, who feel they have been mistreated by society and therefore seek to extract revenge.

9/11 Terrorist Wants to Testify Against CIA Chief Nominee

What the hell?

The self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks has asked for permission to share information about Gina Haspel, nominee for CIA director, at her confirmation hearing.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is held at Guantanamo Bay, has asked a judge if he can share six paragraphs of information, the New York Times says.

Mr Mohammed was tortured by the CIA following his capture in 2003.

Ms Haspel is facing a grilling from senators at the hearing.

Her nomination has faced opposition over her role at a secret CIA prison in Thailand where detainees were waterboarded in 2002.

From a political perspective, the Republicans should allow his testimony. The campaign ads in October about Democratic Senators agreeing with a 9/11 terrorist’s opinion about a nominee would be gold.