Category Archives: Politics
Seriously… why even bother supporting national Republicans?
“Hello, Bob,” Trump began. “So, we just pulled it.”
Trump was speaking, of course, of the Republican plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, a plan that had been languishing for days amid unrest throughout the party as the president and his allies courted members and pushed for a vote.
Before I could ask a question, Trump plunged into his explanation of the politics of deciding to call off a vote on a bill he had been touting.
The Democrats, he said, were to blame.
“We couldn’t get one Democratic vote, and we were a little bit shy, very little, but it was still a little bit shy, so we pulled it,” Trump said.
There’s a lot of blame to go around. In no particular order, those responsible are:
- Trump and his supporters. Trump is not a conservative and supported the continuation of some Obamacare provisions like forcing companies to cover preexisting conditions, keeping kids on their parents’ plan until 26, etc. This forced the House to create a bill that pleased nobody.
- House conservatives who refused to vote for a 90% repeal bill thus leaving all of Obamacare in place. Idiots.
- Senators Paul and Cruz who agitated the House members in order to build their own egos and national profiles.
- Speaker Ryan. He has a strong majority and couldn’t get this through his own caucus. He needed to be a Speaker that would crack heads, replace committee chairmen, campaign in his members’ districts, etc. in order to get this done. I think he just doesn’t have enough bully in him to do what needed to be done.
- And finally, Trump is right. Democrats are also to blame. They don’t give a rip about the people being harmed by Obamacare and didn’t even pretend to work on fixing it. They are willing to sacrifice them on the altar of socialized healthcare. Socialists are always to sacrifice people.
Obama won. Obamacare is here to stay. Our nation is worse off for it.
One of the West Bend School Board candidates has a troubled history in Washington County. Before taking her current job, Nancy Justman was the Executive Director of AIS, which runs the Washington County Fair Park, for about eight years. She resigned abruptly after a lot of heat for botching the budget and running up a massive debt. Mark Petersen, one of the now defunct liberal columnists for the local paper, has some of the background:
The Education Committee minutes, starting on March 31, begin to tell the story. Nancy Justman, chairwoman of AIS, “presented a draft master plan for Fair Park dated February 11, 2008, and reviewed the 32 items identified in the plan. It was noted the items have not been prioritized and there are no cost figures associated with the items.” The Education Committee members approved the draft – apparently on the basis of trust, since they accepted a “master plan” that had no cost figures and no spending priorities. In the months that followed, no plan beyond this draft was approved by the County Board.
After March 10, new supervisors were elected, summer passed and, by early November, the Finance Committee had hammered out and approved a solid county budget.
Then something odd happened: a few weeks after the budget was finished AIS asked for the extra $410,000 to cover its overruns. AIS had to know about the additional $130,000 worth of improvements, apparently approved on the fly as construction was underway. Moreover, since the summer’s main events had failed to produce the anticipated profits, someone at AIS had to have known, well before the budget was finished, that they needed an additional $410,000. So why would AIS bring it up after the budget was passed? I’d like to know.
More alarming, when the request was finally presented in December, it was still missing the dollar amounts any competent County Board needs to make a good decision. The minutes from the County Board proceedings on Dec. 9 indicate that, as they’d done nearly seven months earlier, members of the Board asked for an updated business plan, this time to be submitted no later than Jan. 15.
While not excusing the poor management of the Washington County Board at the time, Justman’s failure to provide basic budgetary information was negligence bordering on incompetence. Justman resigned and ran for the hills a couple of months later under a cloud of controversy.
TOWN OF POLK – Nancy Justman, Executive Director of the Washington County Fair Park since July 2001 has accepted a new position outside of Washington County. Her last day at the Fair Park will be April 9.“We are sorry to see her leave. She did a good job for the Agriculture and Industrial Society,” said Gordon Tonn, board of directors president. “We wish her well in her new endeavors, and it’s unfortunate that she had to leave us. She did a good job for both the AIS and the county.”
County Board Chairman Herb Tennies was surprised when notified by the Daily News that Justman had submitted her resignation. He declined to comment until he could read a copy of the resignation letter.
Justman touts her experience working with a board as a qualification for the West Bend School Board. Experience does not always mean successful performance.
The West Bend Chamber of Commerce held its forum for the candidates for the West Bend School Board. You can find a run down of the questions and responses at the Washington County Insider.
Well, that was a short-lived effort.
West Bend will remain chicken-free as officials highlighted their concerns to permit chickens in the area, despite several constituents publicly stating they are in favor of the measure. An ordinance that would modify the municipal code to allow chickens within city limits failed Monday because no other Common Council members would support the motion introduced by Alderman Chris Jenkins. Many highlighted enforcement issues and concerns from residents worried about the smell and noise.
My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. The resignation of Therese Sizer last night puts it in a different context this morning. Here you go:
April 4 brings us another opportunity to exercise our right to elect our political and judicial leaders. While the national and state elections tend to get all of the attention, it is our local elected officials who arguably have more of a direct impact on our everyday lives. It is also our local officials who often work long hours, deal with a lot of quirky citizens and do so for little money or fame. We should all give our neighbors a big “thank you” for being willing to serve our community.
One of the important races on the ballot in West Bend and neighboring communities is for the West Bend School Board. Three of the seven board seats are on the ballot with only one incumbent running for re-election. The results of this election could push the school board in an entirely new direction.
Two incumbent school board members decided to not seek re-election. President Rick Parks and Vice President Bart Williams are both concluding their second terms and deserve a sincere thank you. While ideologically different, both Parks and Williams went about their business on the school board in a thoughtful, thorough, collegial, and effective manner. During their tenures, they navigated the district through the aftermath of Act 10, implemented a merit pay system for teachers, started a charter school, started a clinic for district staff, hired a new superintendent and many other things for which they should be proud. Thank you, gentlemen.
The third incumbent school board member did choose to seek re-election. Ryan Gieryn is running for his second term and wants to see through some of the issues he worked on in his first term including continuing to refine the teacher merit pay system, evaluate the effectiveness of the district’s testing regimen, direct the new superintendent that he helped hire and look ahead to replacing Jackson Elementary. While I did not support Gieryn when he ran the first time, his thoughtful and measured service on the board has been commendable and he has earned my vote for a second term.
There is also the issue with experience on the board. Our republican form of government is kept healthy by the constant refreshing of elected officials, but some experience in governing is necessary. An inexperienced and naïve school board shifts power to the unelected administration. If Gieryn does not win re-election, then every board member except one, Therese Sizer, would be serving their first term. Gieryn’s experience on the board will be particularly important as the new superintendent settles into his role.
Bob Miller is running for the school board for the second time having fallen just short last year. He has spent the past year talking to people, participating in school events and learning more about the district. Miller is a graduate of the district with three kids attending schools in West Bend.
He is a fiber optic technician, school bus driver, Boy Scout leader, father and husband who has some great common sense ideas to improve the district’s outcomes. A fiscal conservative, Miller wants to ensure that the district spends money wisely and has seen enough working and volunteering in the district to have some tangible ideas on how to save money. The second time is the charm for Miller and he deserves a seat on the board.
Richard Cammack has lived in West Bend for 22 years and wants to see the district improve in many areas. He believes in the importance of family, students, teachers and business and a school district that serves all constituents. Cammack considers himself a realist who needs to fully understand an issue and listen to the district’s stakeholders before making a decision. Cammack is receiving my third vote April 4.
The remaining three candidates, Tonnie Schmidt, Joel Ongert and Nancy Justman, are running as a bloc with virtually identical platforms. They all claim to be conservatives (one stands little chance of winning election in a district that is 70-plus percent conservative if one does not claim to be one). They trumpet “accountability” but only seem to want to hold administrators accountable. While that is a laudable goal, their reluctance to continue or strengthen even the mild performance pay standards for teachers is troubling.
Their repetition of the talking points coming out of the local teachers union and lefty talking heads leads one to believe that these three would be reliable agents for whatever the West Bend Education Association wants. Many of the yards in West Bend whose Hillary and Bernie signs died during the winter have now sprouted signs for Schmidt, Ongert and Justman with the coming of spring.
I will note that all three of these candidates refused to be interviewed for this column. Despite claiming to be conservatives, they had no appetite to be probed by the district’s only resident conservative columnist.
Once again West Bend is privileged to have some great people running for local office. I am happy to support three of them for the West Bend School Board. I will be happily voting for Ryan Gieryn, Bob Miller, and Richard Cammack on April 4.
March 20, 2017 – West Bend, WI – Therese Sizer has resigned from the West Bend School Board.
Sizer, a clerk on the board, read a prepared statement following a vote on policy 511.1 which related to nepotism within the district.
The board passed the policy on its second reading with a 6 – 0 vote; Sizer abstained as she has a daughter that works in the West Bend School District.
The policy essentially made clear that a board member cannot vote on a measure that affects a direct relative.
After the measure passed Sizer read a 3-page statement and left the meeting.
“I didn’t take it that she was upset,” said board member Ryan Gieryn. “She made clear that she didn’t try to do anything that would have an affect on her daughter and she’s always been very ethical.”
Gieryn described Sizer’s statement as “eloquent.”
During her statement Sizer mentioned how the nepotism policy would only allow her to vote on minute amounts and she’d have to recuse herself so much that she could not fulfill her responsibilities on the oath she took to perform her duties on the board.
“Sizer just said that with this policy in place she doesn’t feel she can truly fulfill her duties as a school board member because anything she votes on would affect teachers,” said Gieryn.
Wow. Clearly she thought that the new policy would conflict with her ability to fulfill her duties. Hats off to her ethics, but it doesn’t seem that the policy would effectively prohibit a family member of a school staff member from serving. She seems to be adhering to an exceedingly strict interpretation of the policy.
As you will see in my column tomorrow, this means that if Gieryn fails to win reelection, every single board member will be in their first term. I’m all for a healthy turnover on the board, but a little experience is helpful too.
According to the proposed ordinance, individuals who wish to keep chickens must pay for and possess the necessary license, and must keep the area clean, sanitary, and free from odors and vermin.
The ordinance also limits permission to those living in single-family dwellings and owner-occupied duplexes. It states roosters are not permitted at any time and slaughtering animals is not allowed.
The chickens must be kept in a waterproof,
rodent-proof and predator-proof enclosure in a fenced-in area. They cannot be placed in the front yard and have a side and rear yard setback of at least 5 feet. Residents are also not allowed to place the enclosure within 25 feet of any residential structure on an adjacent lot.
Eh, whatever. We have ordinances for nuisances, noise, etc. As long as those are enforced, I don’t have a problem with people keeping chickens. It’s probably less annoying than some folks’ dogs.
Expect strong warm winds emanating from Washington today.
Judge Neil Gorsuch will appear Monday before senators looking to pin him down on his philosophy — and some will air grievances about why Gorsuch is even here at all. Gorsuch, for his part, will try to defend his approach without discussing specific cases or damaging his smooth nomination in any way.
I read this story by Paul Funlund is entitled “A Path to Defeating Scott Walker” with the anticipation that there was a plan afoot to actually do it. What it really is is a story about two lefties sitting around day dreaming about the kind f candidate who might be able to defeat Walker. In the end, the root of the story is right here:
Granted, this person will be hard to find, and neither Pocan nor anyone else I know has a specific name.
Unlike Obama, one gets the sense that the Trump Administration will back up a “red line.” The real question is, should we?
Seoul (CNN) The US would consider military action against North Korea if it was provoked, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday.
Speaking in Seoul at a joint press conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, Tillerson said Washington’s policy of “strategic patience” had ended.
“Certainly, we do not want things to get to a military conflict… but obviously if North Korea takes actions that threatens the South Korean forces or our own forces, then that would be met with an appropriate response,” he said, in response to a question from CNN.
“If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe that requires action, that option is on the table,” Tillerson added.
Shockingly, it’s just another tax with a fancy name.
The PRAT tax, the latest tax scheme cooked up by La Crosse County officials, is really just another half-percent sales tax that could be imposed on nearly all retail businesses in the county. As with any other sales tax, this $6.6 million new tax will inevitably be paid for by consumers like you.
“But without more money we can’t fill the potholes!” the tax-and-spend crowd keeps shouting in your ear every time you turn on the TV. What they conveniently omit are their own failures to properly prioritize county spending.
La Crosse County budgeted for $136,764,518 in revenue for 2016. It planned nearly $33 million in property tax collections and $11.6 million from the county’s 0.5 percent sales tax. Yes, the county already has a sales tax onto which the proposed PRAT tax would be stacked.
According to the state Department of Revenue, 44 categories of business are subject to this tax in any jurisdiction that enacts it — bars, restaurants, gas stations, clothing retailers, hotels — even a category called “miscellaneous retail stores,” lest any devious boutique business falls through the cracks. In short, pretty much every business that a tourist could theoretically walk into would be subject to the PRAT tax.
The PRAT was conceived for the most innocent of reasons. When the summer residents of certain areas, like the Wisconsin Dells, fled for the winter, the Dells and similar tourist reliant areas needed a consistent revenue source.
Thus the Legislature invented the PRAT, but it required at least 40 percent of assessed property values in the taxed region to be composed of tourism-related businesses in order to be enacted. Thus, only six municipalities in Wisconsin currently have a PRAT tax, according to the Department of Revenue. At 5.3 percent, La Crosse County doesn’t come close to qualifying.
There seems to be a pressing meme from the Left that goes something like this: “we shouldn’t cut small government programs because it won’t make a substantial difference in the debt/taxes/spending.” At the same time, they say that we can’t cut the big government programs like Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, etc. The only thing they seem to be OK with cutting is the military. Funny how that works…
Slashing funding for the IRS, the Coast Guard and legal aid for the poor would not move the needle on the United States’ long-term debt problem.
Yet these and other domestic programs are exactly where President Trump is expected to focus his proposed budget cuts due out Thursday.
This kind of spending — called nondefense discretionary spending — goes to everything from education programs to food stamps to foreign aid to technology grants to national parks and museums.
I just don’t care. If he did anything illegal, I would hope that officials at the IRS and Justice Department would have prosecuted him. If he didn’t, then I just. don’t. care. It has zero bearing on my life. But I do love how Trump trolled the media once again. They jumped on this leak, which I’m willing to bet came from Trump himself, and made themselves look like fools. Now he’s effectively taken the story line away from them.
US President Donald Trump paid $38m (£31m) in tax on more than $150m (£123m) income in 2005, a leaked partial tax return shows.
The two pages of tax return, revealed by US TV network MSNBC, also showed he wrote off $103m in losses. It gave no details on income sources.
The White House said publishing the tax return was against the law.
Mr Trump refused to release his tax returns during the election campaign, breaking with a long-held tradition.
The Army Corps of Engineers has finished cleaning up three Dakota Access pipeline protest camps that were on federal land in North Dakota.
The Corps hired a contractor after the main camp and two others were cleared out and shut down late last month in advance of the spring flooding season. They’d operated since last spring and at times held thousands of pipeline opponents.
Corps Capt. Ryan Hignight says a total of 835 industrial-size trash bins were filled and removed in the operation that wrapped up late last week. That doesn’t include materials such as lumber and propane tanks that were set aside for reuse or recycling.
The total cost of the operation hasn’t been tallied yet, but the Corps has estimated that it could cost taxpayers more than $1.1 million.
A Republican bill seeking to examine the relocation of state agencies outside Dane County — including moving the Department of Children and Families to Milwaukee — could cost about a half million dollars or more, while potential savings are unknown, according to a state fiscal analysis.
If a study led to an agency moving out of Madison it has the potential to disrupt hundreds of Madison workers and have ripple effects on the city’s office rental market.
The proposal from Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-West Allis, tasks the Department of Children and Families with developing a plan to move its headquarters from Madison to Milwaukee in the 2019-21 budget.
In the horse era, it made sense for most of any state’s government agencies to be located in the capital city. It allowed for the convenient sharing of information and work to flow between agencies as needed. In the 21st century, it is no longer necessary. Not only can workers easily travel across the state in hours if needed, but the availability of inexpensive and powerful collaborative technologies makes it easy for workers to work together from anywhere. Businesses and governments are doing it all of the time.
In the 21st century, it make much more sense to distribute state work. First, putting certain agencies closest to the people its serves makes sense. In this case, a vast number of DCF’s customers are in Milwaukee. It makes sens for them to be close to them. It might make more sense for the DNR to be centrally located in the state or for the Department of Corrections to be in Waupun… maybe. It’s worth a look.
For agencies that serve the whole state, it would benefit Wisconsin to “spread the wealth,” so to speak. Wouldn’t Appleton benefit from the jobs and investment if the Department of Revenue were located there? I’m sure Stevens Point would be delighted to host the Department of Public Instruction? And La Crosse seems like as good a place as any for the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. The point is that all Wisconsin taxpayers pay for these agencies. Why shouldn’t some of those tax dollars flow back into communities all over the state instead of just into Madison? Not only would it help more people be closer to their government, but it would help more of our government be closer to the people.
My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:
For years the teachers unions and the rest of the liberal education establishment has considered the Wisconsin State Department of Public Instruction to be their exclusive domain and rightfully so. Almost all previous superintendents in the past several decades have been put into office by the money and power of the teachers unions and each superintendent has returned the support by pushing the union agenda. The current superintendent is no exception. Fortunately, Wisconsin has a real opportunity to make a change April 4 and elect a superintendent whose values and priorities are more in line modern educational thought.
The Department of Public Instruction is a somewhat unusual department in Wisconsin. Although part of the executive branch headed by the governor, the superintendent of the department is a constitutional non-partisan office that is elected every four years. The state constitution simply says that the state superintendent is responsible for the supervision of public instruction and that their “qualifications, powers, duties and compensation shall be prescribed by law.”
In the 169 years since the office was created, the legislature has granted more and less power to the office and shifted the responsibilities with the needs and wants of the time. The DPI is responsible for a wide swath of responsibilities including distributing state money to local districts, administering federal programs and money, providing operational and technical services to local school districts, crafting curriculum, compiling state education data and many other things. With a budget of over $6 billion per year, it is one of the largest state agencies.
The incumbent superintendent, Tony Evers, is asking for a third term in office. Evers’ agenda for the previous eight years has been to advance the liberal and union education agenda. He has passionately and aggressively fought back against the expansion of school choice in the state. Evers has been in step with the Obama Administration’s federal intrusion into education including pushing Common Core. After eight years of Evers’ leadership, the state’s education infrastructure is still languishing in mediocrity and he has fought every innovation coming from the legislature to try to improve it.
Thankfully, Wisconsin has an excellent alternative to just doing the same tired thing and getting the same disappointing results. Lowell Holtz, a selfstyled “Kidservative,” plans a new path for Wisconsin education.
Holtz has a broad and varied resume. He was a teacher in both private and public schools in Minnesota and Wisconsin. He was once Wisconsin’s Principal of the Year and was recognized as a National Distinguished Principal. Holtz has been the superintendent or district administrator of three Wisconsin public school districts in Palmyra-Eagle, Beloit and Whitnall. What is interesting about these districts is that they cover a range from rural to urban, small to big and homogeneous to diverse. In every leadership position, Holtz can point to a strong record of making a positive change.
More importantly, Holtz has a vastly different vision than Evers for improving education for Wisconsin’s kids. In fact, Holtz’s vision for education is much more in alignment with what the voters have been supporting as reflected in their choices for state and local leaders in the past several years. Holtz breaks down his vision into three basic categories.
First, Holtz wants to push more control back to the local districts and pull back state and federal mandates – including Common Core. Second, he wants to improve the graduation rate and close the achievement gap. He proposes to do this by providing resources and collaboration to the school districts who need it. Third, Holtz wants to empower teachers by pulling back burdensome administrative hurdles and improving classroom discipline.
Perhaps most importantly, Holtz supports innovation in educational choices including choice, charter, and online school options. Instead of trying to maintain the education establishment of the 1950s, Holtz welcomes a 21st century educational infrastructure to serve 21st century kids.
April 4 is a chance for Wisconsin to force the Department of Public Instruction to look to the future instead of protecting the past. Vote for Holtz.
One might think that the misinformation campaign was intentional.
The state saw at least 60 cases of 17-year-olds voting illegally during the 2016 spring primaries, according to a report the Elections Commission will submit to the Legislature.
Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney said that was a significant increase from prior elections, which had seen only a handful of these cases.
The report, which commissioners will review at their meeting tomorrow, notes some political campaigns “were providing false information” that indicated 17-year-olds could vote in the April primary if they turned 18 by the November general election. Other states let teenage voters do so but “the answer is clearly no in Wisconsin,” the report says.
The report also highlighted other cases of potential voter fraud or irregularities, including at least 16 cases of people voting twice in the same election or felons voting despite being under Department of Corrections supervision. The report looked at anything between June 30, 2016, and Feb. 15, 2017, and includes cases in both the primary and general elections.
Magney attributed the increase in 17-year-olds voting illegally to a “perfect storm” of false information on social media and high interest in the April presidential primaries. Magney said people can register to vote before they’re 18, but cannot vote until they hit that age.
Germany is refusing to meet its commitments to NATO and the U.S. by failing to invest in its own defense. This sets up some interesting decisions for Trump.
The world’s fourth-largest economy spent $37 billion — 1.2% of its economic output — on defense last year, according to government figures. That is far short of the 2% set by NATO and a third of the 3.6% of gross domestic product that the United States spent in 2016, according to NATO figures.
That shortfall by Germany and other NATO countries is why Trump renewed his call in a speech to Congress on Feb. 28 for NATO members to pay their fair share of defense costs. “Our partners must meet their financial obligations,” Trump said. “Now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that. In fact, I can tell you that the money is pouring in.”
That’s not quite the case in the German capital. The federal government plans to increase its military spending by $2.1 billion this year. It would bring total spending to $39 billion, a 5.4% annual boost. The increase pales in comparison with the 10%, or $54 billion, hike in U.S. defense spending Trump proposes for 2018.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will meet with Trump at the White House on Tuesday, recently announced plans to add 20,000 soldiers to the Bundeswehr to bring the force to nearly 200,000 but not before 2024, and the increase merely offsets recent cuts in troop strength.
Here’s the thing… the United States has invested billions of dollars for the past 80 years to provide a military defense for Europe and Europe has benefited from that by being able to spend their money on rebuilding their economies and infrastructures after WWII. But while there were some altruistic motivations for that, the real reason was that it was in the best interests of the U.S. to do so. The macropolitical reasons were that if Russia were to ever bulge out of its borders in a quest for world domination, it will most likely have to go through Europe before getting to America. American leaders invested in European defense because we would rather fight the Russians on the continent of Europe and let them exhaust their energy on that soil than let them do so on the shores of New Jersey.
While the Russian threat has ebbed in recent decades, we are right of the precipice of a new Angry Bear with the face of Putin. He has already invaded Ukraine, created a virtual satellite state in Syria, and is threatening Poland and other former Eastern Bloc countries. One would think that European nations would see the threat and act accordingly, but the memories of WWII and the abject pacifism remains a powerful cultural phenomenon.
So what should the U.S. do? If we withdraw from Europe and leave them to themselves, the threat of war increases. And in the event that another European war breaks out, it is inevitable that the U.S. will become involved. Or, in another scenario, Germany’s inability to defend themselves with conventional forces may lead them to launch a nuclear defense in the face of a Russian assault, thus starting the nuclear war that we have spent 80 years trying to prevent. But if we continue to defend Europe with American forces, we are expending a lot of money to prevent an eventuality that may never come. How much American money should we spend to defend countries who refuse to adequately defend themselves?
What will the Trump Doctrine be?
Of course, I trust Putin’s mouthpiece about as far as I can throw him, but he’s right in the fact that it’s the JOB of an ambassador to talk to people and build multilateral relationships.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said in an interview Sunday that the Russian ambassador who met with Trump campaign officials also met with “people working in think tanks advising Hillary or advising people working for Hillary.”
“Well, if you look at some people connected with Hillary Clinton during her campaign, you would probably see that he had lots of meetings of that kind,” Dmitry Peskov told CNN “GPS” host Fareed Zakaria. “There are lots of specialists in politology, people working in think tanks advising Hillary or advising people working for Hillary.”
Peskov said it is the job of Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to meet with officials on both sides to talk about “bilateral relations.”