Monthly Archives: July 2013

Police arrest 30 singers inside Capitol in Madison

Posted in Wisconsin News on by .

July 31, 2013 Green Bay Gazette

MADISON — Police have arrested 30 people for singing without a permit inside the Wisconsin Capitol.

Tuesday marks the fourth week day out of the past five that people have been ticketed for gathering without the required permit in the Capitol.

There were no arrests Monday, as the usual people who sing songs lambasting Republicans and Gov. Scott Walker performed outside. Another group of conservatives obtained a permit to sing in the rotunda.

About 100 anti-Walker singers returned Tuesday and about 50 others observed.

Police have issued more than 120 tickets since last week to the singers, mostly for not having a permit.

The singers argue they don’t need a permit to exercise their free speech rights. But a federal judge says a permit can be required for groups larger than 20.

State Leading Indexes

Posted in Jobs and the Economy on by .

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia produces leading indexes for each of the 50 states. The indexes are calculated monthly and are usually released a week after the release of the coincident indexes. The Bank issues a release each month describing the current and future economic situation of the 50 states with special coverage of the Third District: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

The leading index for each state predicts the six-month growth rate of the state’s coincident index. In addition to the coincident index, the models include other variables that lead the economy: state-level housing permits (1 to 4 units), state initial unemployment insurance claims, delivery times from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) manufacturing survey, and the interest rate spread between the 10-year Treasury bond and the 3-month Treasury bill.

A time-series model (vector autoregression) is used to construct the leading index. Current and prior values of the forecast variables are used to determine the future values of the index.

View Wisconsin’s Standing

They’d rather do it illegally…

Posted in Weekly Newsletter on by .

Bad resultsIt would obviously have been preferable to defeat Barack Obama last November, but for those with the sense to apply them, valuable lessons are being learned.

Possibly the most illuminating lesson is this past week’s White House threat to veto legislation delaying the Obamacare employer mandate for one year. That legislation would accomplish lawfully what the administration claims to have already done by unilateral executive fiat, that is, illegally.

We can think of one reason for such superficially bizarre behavior. To sign such a bill (it passed the House 264-161 last Wednesday (with 35 Democrats joining majority Republicans,) would be to admit that rewriting federal law requires congressional action; it can’t be done at the whim of a—dare we say it?—dictator.

The Obama administration’s daily misconduct raises legitimate questions as to whether they are actually incompetent, ignorant of the rule of law and constitutional separation of powers, or whether they’re fully cognizant of those things and betting the ranch they can press forward with lawless, unconstitutional abuses without fear that anyone will have the political fortitude to stop them.

Episodes like last week’s veto threat point strongly toward the latter; an administration that clearly understands it must bluff its way past any restraint on its powers, lest it forfeit the chance to carry out its agenda of anti-constitutional lawmaking by presidential decree.

In modern Western societies, dictatorships don’t spring into being overnight, nor can they take root if at some point people say, “You have too far and will go no farther.” People who fear the risk and inconvenience of taking a stand more than they fear living at the whim of a dictatorship tend to get one.

The Bozo Defense

Posted in Weekly Newsletter on by .

trphyWhen somebody’s telling the truth, their story doesn’t change.

Keeping that in mind, consider that Internal Revenue Service harassment of Conservative organizations was first the work of just a couple of “rogue” agents in the Cincinnati field office.  Then it wasn’t. It included undue scrutiny of Liberal groups as well.  Then it didn’t. Nobody was involved except relatively low-level employees, then last week the office of chief counsel for the entire agency was involved. The chief counsel would be one of only two political—that is Obama—appointees in the whole IRS.

All of which guaranteed the administration’s allies in the media would be repeating the “nothing to see here” mantra and devising plausible reasons why all these things would be happening if, indeed, there’s nothing to see.

The grand prize for creative excuse-making goes to USA Today for recognizing the potential to exploit vanishing trust in government and near-universal disbelief in its competence.
So the new story line is that—Hey! It’s a government agency! What do you expect but incompetence?

The USA editorial board actually has the audacity to say no White House political operatives have been linked to the IRS abuses, when administration hacks, elected Democrats, and even the President himself talked openly and in some cases even demanded IRS investigations of Conservative groups in the months leading up to the first known incidents of harassment.

But never mind. We’re supposed to believe all of this is just another example of harmless, bureaucratic bungling.

We seem to recall it was Charles Krauthammer who pointed out that if those behind the IRS targeting of Conservative groups were incompetent, they wouldn’t have done it so well.

The Unsustainable Mayor

Posted in Weekly Newsletter on by .

sewerworkerRegular readers are familiar with our belief that many people adopt the label of Liberal Democrat as a sort of self-administered pardon for wide-ranging bad behavior.
It doesn’t always work.
Last week Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett released his “sustainability plan,” a dog’s breakfast of green sentiment and future mandates that at best will probably make common-sense actions cost more.
Alas, two days later, the Wisconsin Supreme Court turned up with more serious things on its mind, ruling 4-2 against the Mayor’s Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) in a suit brought by downtown building owners. The plaintiffs argued successfully that Milwaukee’s big, expensive, and lamentably inadequate sewer system has, among its many failings, eroded the foundations of valuable downtown real estate.
The Court ordered the case back to circuit court to determine a method of abating the damage to private property.
Milwaukee taxpayers are unlikely to escape with their hides intact, but that’s the fault of bad municipal leadership, not of the property owners who have been harmed.
The remedy is to elect better leaders. Voters might have thought they were doing that when they booted Mayor Marvin Pratt in favor of Barrett, partly on the strength of Barrett’s now nine-year old “100-day plan” to—among other things—fix the MMSD.
Whatever happened during those halcyon 100 days, an MMSD fix wasn’t part of it. The amount of sewage dumped into Lake Michigan since then exceeds by—literally—a factor of millions the amount that cost Marvin Pratt his job.
But never fear: The mayor has another plan.

Property Trax: Walker signs bill allowing lower interest rates on thousands of WHEDA mortgages

Posted in Wisconsin News on by .

July 17, 2013 10:45 am  •  KAREN RIVEDAL | Wisconsin State Journal | | 608-252-6106

Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday signed into law a measure that could help thousands of first-time homeowners in Wisconsin get lower rates on their WHEDA mortgages.

“This bill…provides those homeowners an economic option that can lower their monthly payments, give them extra disposable income, help them build equity faster, achieve better credit scores and pay off their mortgages sooner,” Walker said in a statement.

Under the new law, the program to accomplish the refinancings will be called the WHEDA Refi Advantange. Details are available here.

Important note: not all WHEDA borrowers will be eligible for the lower rates. They’ll need to have earned at least 3 percent equity in their homes and meet some other program criteria.

Often working with community banks, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority helps qualified borrowers get  low-cost, fixed-rate mortgages on their first homes. People who haven’t owned a home for at least three years also are eligible, if they have good jobs and decent credit ratings.

But state law — not anticipating the record and near-record lows that mortgage rates would fall to following the housing crash — had prevented most WHEDA loans from being refinanced, basically to preserve agency funds for more new mortgages.

(You can read more details about the issue in this earlier Property Trax post I wrote after the measure passed the Legislature.)

WHEDA and community banks and their legislative allies argued it was time to loosen that restriction, noting some WHEDA borrowers were still locked into rates as high as 7 percent.

The bill’s chief Assembly sponsor, state Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, said more than 16,000 current WHEDA mortgage holders now pay rates of 4 percent or higher.

WHEDA data also suggests there is demand for a remedy — nearly 80 percent of its legislative contacts in recent years were about the refinancing restriction, WHEDA spokesman Kevin Fischer said.

The measure to allow WHEDA refinancings to lower rates was approved by both the Senate and the Assembly on voice votes in mid-May. Its Senate sponsor was Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee.

“In a bipartisan fashion, the Legislature recognized the tremendous benefit this bill provides for homeowners across Wisconsin,” WHEDA Executive Director Wyman Winston said Wednesday. “Every legislator has my sincere gratitude. WHEDA is excited to get this program rolling.”

Walker signed the bill at Mound City Bank in Platteville.

The End of Law and Order

Posted in Weekly Newsletter on by .

fingerprintSome 40 years ago, when the country was in what we assumed at the time to be serious trouble, Republicans often campaigned for public office on a theme of “law and order,” it being implicit that these things would not be properly maintained with Democrats in power.

It was understood that a generalized threat to law and order might arise from left-wing elements bent on destructive behavior encouraged, but not necessarily carried out, by permissive Liberals. That understanding no longer holds.

Hardly a week passes without an example, not of mob rule, but of mob rulers trampling the laws they’re sworn to uphold. So routine are these episodes, society seems hardened to actions that not so long ago would have triggered a constitutional crisis.  Consider:

  • The Obama administration’s illegal refusal to enforce immigration laws and brazenly selective enforcement—or non-enforcement—of federal election laws;
  • The illegal decree delaying the Obamacare employer mandate past the 2014 elections;
  • The criminal conduct of Internal Revenue Service employees leaking confidential information about political donors to their political enemies, and harassment aimed at suppressing political activity by administration critics.

A lawless national administration is one thing. Pervasive lawlessness at multiple levels of government identifies a far more ominous condition. In Milwaukee County:

  • The County Board intrudes upon a privately-financed hotel development, presuming to legislate the wages paid prospective employees of a single, private-sector business; and
  • The Mayor of Milwaukee openly defies state law, saying he’ll continue enforcing an illegal residency requirement for municipal employees.

Permissive Liberals no longer invite lawless actions; they commit them daily. In 1970, it was occasionally necessary for government to check the people’s behavior. Today it is necessary for the people to check government’s behavior and to re-establish the rule of law.

The War on Energy

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naturalgas“We need an energy strategy for the future – an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.”  President Barack Obama.

This March 2012 quote appears on the White House web site. Whenever the Obama administration states a policy concerning an issue on which the public holds a clear position, it means the administration is already doing the opposite of what it says.

President Obama and his minions have uttered similar words countless times. Our experience suggests this means they are busy all day, every day, making sure “all-of-the-above” is defined as “wind and solar.”

You’ll recall the President three weeks ago, beset on all sides by problems that actually matter, delivering a policy address saying his big second-term priority is to fight global warming.

Let’s pretend we think it important to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide.  Perhaps we’d use more natural gas and less coal for basic energy production–precisely what’s happening in the U.S. energy sector. Moreover, hydraulic fracturing enables an accelerated shift away from coal.

But trouble’s brewing: Obama said he favors increased development of U.S. natural gas reserves, which can only mean he’s doing everything possible to block development of U.S. natural gas reserves.

Last week a veritable blitzkrieg of alarms rolled forth from government agencies, advising that activities associated with natural gas production are implicated in vastly increased numbers of earthquakes. Say goodbye to inexpensive natural gas.

In short, the game is rigged to make unreliable, environmentally destructive wind and solar appear economically competitive with useful forms of energy. The damage done by Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty will be nothing compared with Obama’s War on Energy.

Careers Built on Poverty

Posted in Weekly Newsletter on by .

electionsaheadWindbag state legislators Robert Jauch and Janet Bewley caught a couple of pies in the face last week when opponents of Northern-Wisconsin mining stupidly posted video of themselves invading a mining company test site, threatening and assaulting mine employees, stealing a camera, and spewing such non-stop obscenity as to render intelligible broadcast of their antics impossible.

Jauch and Bewley, previously allied with the “protesters,” expressed disapproval of their thuggish conduct, then circled right back to blaming the G-TAC mining company in advance for anything that might go wrong.

Which begs the question: Why do legislators representing a part of the state that’s suffered economically for generations insist on keeping things that way?

We suspect it’s this simple: Lots of good jobs and a brighter economic future in northern Wisconsin would mean the end of Bob Jauch and Janet Bewley as elected officials. People with a stake in a prospering economy have no use for “leaders” who specialize in pandering to victim-hood.

Having advertised themselves as defenders of the downtrodden and having failed miserably to deliver value—such as jobs with a future instead of demeaning handouts—the Jauchs and Bewleys of this world have to create an alternative reality in order to survive.

If that means taking it easy on people who commit crimes and blaming those who might actually do the region some good, so be it.

Politicians whose sole concern is staying in office tend to have few things to recommend them besides the shortcomings of others. Pandering Democrats routinely demonstrate an understanding that their success depends entirely on damaging Republicans. Their disrespect for individual initiative and accountability has done much to repel normal, working people and those who wish they were working.

Prosperity for their constituents would end their careers.

Scott Walker’s Big Gamble

Posted in News on by .

With his new budget, the Wisconsin governor has angered his party’s right, spelling trouble for a man who appears eager to run for president in 2016.

Scott Walker has come a long way from the days when he was forced to barricade himself in the Wisconsin governor’s office while demonstrators stormed the Capitol Rotunda in Madison to protest his bill slashing state spending and dismantling public employee unions.

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