Monthly Archives: August 2013

Don’t bet on it

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Failure conceptPresident Obama’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) dropped what it hopes will become a political hot potato for Governor Scott Walker, when it green lighted a new Indian gaming casino in Kenosha.  The final decision rests with Walker, who issued a set of standards for expanding off reservation gambling in Wisconsin well in advance of the BIA’s decision.  The Menomonee Tribe and its supporters want the Governor to change his criteria in the middle of the approval process.

Gov. Walker’s Standards for an off-reservation casino require that all three of the following criteria be met:

  1. Local Support for the Casino.
  2. Consensus in favor the application from all of the state’s 11 sovereign tribes, and
  3. Assurance that the new casino does not represent a net increase in gambling in Wisconsin.

The Menomonee Tribe is crying foul because one of the eleven tribes, the Forest County Potawatomi opposes the new Kenosha casino. The Potawatomi say a recent study shows that the gambling market in Wisconsin is saturated. In addition, gambling revenue which remained flat in 2012 actually declined this year meaning a new casino will not result in any new revenue or jobs but rather move economic activity from one city to the other.

Potawatomi officials have told the Business Journal that 20 percent of the Milwaukee casino’s customers come from Illinois, particularly the Chicago area. Analysts and observers alike say virtually all of that customer traffic is likely to be cut off with a casino in Kenosha.

But the Potawatomi are not the only ones who have cause to be concerned about a new casino in Kenosha.  The decade long effort to build a casino in Kenosha has been mired in corruption since day one, including criminal convictions, mob ties, political bribes and corruption.

  • Partners in a development company retained to develop an off-reservation casino in Kenosha (Nii-Jii Entertainment, LLC) were found to have done business with several individuals with ties to organized crime figures in Chicago. Morgan Murphy Jr., Morgan Murphy III and Robert D. Boyle failed to disclose past business links to two Chicago crime figures – John Serpico and John Credidio. The two were described as “persons of notorious and unsavory reputation”. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 2-2-2006)
  •  In March 2007, Kenosha developer Dennis Troha was indicted on federal charges for allegedly funneling $100,000 in improper campaign contributions to former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, who had final approval over Indian gaming in the state. Troha was charged with one count of fraud and one count of making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Chicago Tribune 3-1-2007)
  • Former Kenosha County Executive Alan Kehl pleaded guilty to illegally accepting $15,000 from developer Dennis Troha. (Chicago Tribune 4-9-2008)

Swimming Upstream

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Swimming against the tideWith nothing to offer except ranting about how awful everyone else is, the Left plods along with dead-end strategies like trashing Wisconsin’s economy under Governor Scott Walker, most specifically the pace of job creation compared with Walker’s ambitious goals.

Certainly there are times when those goals seem to have been driven by a hefty dose of exuberance, especially considering who already occupied the White House when Walker took office. Nevertheless, un-spun statistics show Wisconsin’s employment picture improving along with its overall economy on multiple fronts.   Everyone who thinks Barack Obama did that, raise your hand.

Inconveniently for leftists, their gripes about Walker collide head-on with the reality of a U.S. economy that continues to under-perform Wisconsin’s. Recent data from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve, which tracks the individual state economies, ranks Wisconsin’s growth trajectory third strongest among the 50 states.

Of course many different measures affect comparisons between one state’s performance and the nation’s.  But one difference in particular would warrant the “elephant under the rug” metaphor, except in this case it’s a donkey under the rug.

Wisconsin enjoys a degree of what could be called economic buoyancy thanks to Walker and the conservative reforms begun in 2011, keeping its head above the economic flood unleashed by the Obama administration.

That would be one explanation for the federal government falling farther in debt while increasing taxes, even as Wisconsin manages to increase tax revenue collections without increasing taxes.

No sensible person would say Wisconsin’s economy today is what we’d like it to be. But given the relentless tide of federal taxation, regulation, and Eastern Bloc-style command and control economic drudgery, Wisconsin is a bright spot.

Another Reason to Like Mining

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Ecological handshake businessman in a forestSo far prospects of a mining revival in Wisconsin’s north woods have opened up the possibility of thousands of new jobs in two areas that have struggled economically—the mineral-rich, employment-poor northern counties and the manufacturing counties of the southeast—and turned the bright light of truth on the Bad River Chippewa Band’s pollution scandal that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

But there’s another reason to cheer on the resurrection of a northern mining industry. It’s bringing into focus who’s on the side of working people (and people who wish they were working,) and who’s prepared to abandon them in order to please well-heeled far-left elites.

Wisconsin’s legislative Democrats have already demonstrated this by opposing an activity that can give their constituents a better life. Now we have a story from the Minnesota Iron Range that shows it’s no fluke: The leftists who boss the Democratic Party simply don’t give a hoot about the people they pretend they’re protecting.

The liberal Minneapolis newspaper does a good job spelling out the Democrats’ dilemma, but in quoting ex-legislator Tom Rukavina it conveys an even richer irony. A genial promoter of the biggest possible government, Rukavina was so liberal in his long statehouse career that even fellow Democrats called him “Tommy the Commie.”

To find Rukavina at odds with the environmentalist Left is to illuminate its bottomless contempt for real people trying to live their lives. This is the kind of awakening that moved blue collar Democrats to embrace Ronald Reagan.

And last week’s exposure of more seamy Wisconsin tribal politics in hiring a mine opponent to trespass on presumed mining sites, potentially suborning a crime, is all the more so.

Who knows what might get cleaned up before this drama ends?

The Blob Marches On

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marchblobxThere’s a reason many of us long ago took to calling the public education establishment “the blob,” a term suggestive of willful inertia and an ability to engulf and neutralize anything critics hurl against it.

Now comes word that the Department of Public Instruction probably won’t finalize details of Wisconsin’s  pitifully small, 500-student school choice expansion until after funding decisions are made for local school districts.  What a surprise!

Meanwhile, the Legislature’s status-quo-at-any-cost Liberals continue boring away at the foundations of education reform. Just before the August 1 choice-school enrollment deadline, La Crosse Senator Jennifer Shilling turned up with a list of manufactured bogeymen.

“Despite numerous concerns that have been raised about the lack of accountability and oversight at these [choice] schools,” Shilling wrote in a taxpayer-funded press release, “the Republican-controlled Legislature has refused to take steps to protect children in this program and ensure that these private schools are held to the same high standards as our public schools.”

Would  it be bad manners to ask if Shilling means the same high standards that resulted in our seeing police officers stationed full-time in some of Milwaukee’s public schools as long as 40 years ago?

She indicated she would introduce legislation to “strengthen oversight, prevent fraud, improve academic standards, and protect children attending private voucher schools,” so here’s a hot tip for Senator Shilling: The legislation you’re talking about, to improve academic standards and strengthen oversight, has already been passed and signed into law.

It’s the choice expansion you voted against two months ago in the state budget bill.

The strengthened oversight is parental and its chief aim is a (regrettably modest) push-back against the greatest educational fraud of all: The bureaucracy-ridden system that disproportionately shortchanges minority students, helping perpetuate cycles of poverty and dependence.

An Enemy of the State

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Soviet starWhen we heard last week about the rodeo clown ordered to undergo sensitivity training for the offense of wearing a Barack Obama mask while performing at the Missouri State Fair, our immediate thought was of the Soviet-era practice of confining anti-communist dissidents in psychiatric hospitals to “get their minds right.”

Our second thought was that as far as we know, the Soviets reserved that treatment for those judged capable of creating serious problems for the regime.  We guess you can learn a lot about people by considering who makes them feel threatened.

A couple of days later and spurred by new developments, along came Thought Number Three: The Obamoids aren’t going to let up on this guy.

Sensitivity training seemed creepy enough by itself, given that whatever the clown—the clown!!!—may have done, it couldn’t reach the level of what’s routinely seen on late-night TV. So it seems reasonable to conclude that the protocol is now to first decide who it’s safe to pick on before applying full fury.

Then we learned the clown had been banned for life from working the Missouri State Fair, a development eerily reminiscent of another Soviet-era practice, that of making dissidents unemployable.

But the allegation of a “hate crime”—a designation we’ve always found stupidly offensive in that it values one victim’s suffering over another’s and seeks to punish unknowable thoughts rather than culpable actions—enters the domain of intellectual anti-matter.

We aren’t going where you think we are with this. Two hauntingly familiar overreactions and one bizarre failure of reasoning do not add up to a Soviet resurgence.

Remember, the Soviets could comprehend what mattered. The poor clown is the nemesis of very small individuals, likelier to react vengefully against imaginary threats.

So be careful out there.

Reaffirming Worker Rights

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workerLast Thursday, an appeals court decided that Michigan’s right-to-work law applies to state employees as well as to those in the private sector.

It’s no overstatement to say Michigan’s implementation of a right-to-work law early this year was a political earthquake of major proportions.  Thursday’s 2-1 ruling qualifies as a very strong aftershock for those who, inevitably, were hoping they could use the courts to chip away at the reform and make their way back toward the old status quo.

Great significance can be read into all this seismic activity emanating from Michigan, of all places. It was Michigan, after all, that spawned the teacher union movement, built on the United Auto Workers model and exported around the country to dominate electoral politics in many states, Wisconsin prominent among them.

Michigan exported not only the concept but some of the same people to Wisconsin, to the detriment of educational professionalism. It says something big that the state with the most intimate knowledge of public employee unionism is throwing it overboard, despite Act 10-style protests, physical threats, and the customary litigation.

The split among the appellate judges also says something big. The two who made up the majority are both appointees of former Governor John Engler, whose pro-growth policies of welfare and education reform and income-tax reduction helped fuel prosperity.  The dissenting judge is an appointee of Jennifer Granholm, who succeeded Engler, increased taxes and regulation and helped bring on seven percent unemployment years before Barack Obama made it the nationwide standard.

The majority wrote that applying right-to-work is a “proper exercise of the Legislature’s constitutional authority” to determine conditions of work for those on the state payroll.

We’d say the Legislature exercised the authority of the real employers: Michigan taxpayers.

Bad (River) Timing

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sparseeetingDepending on which account you read, last week’s DNR hearing on a proposed Northern Wisconsin iron mine may have been a display of overwhelming opposition or a ten-hour trudge that lacked the big crowds some expected.

If most witnesses opposed the project, that would be no surprise; hearings of this sort are primarily a chance for the opposition to have its say. Those who like the idea or don’t care usually find something else to do.

So what’s interesting is not how many witnesses said the same thing, but what kind of thing was said. Of course State Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar)—last seen expressing solidarity with the public nuisances otherwise known as the (arrested) Solidarity Singers—was on hand to campaign against an enterprise that would deliver jobs for his constituents.

But for the unparalleled highlight, the spectacle of sanctimonious hypocrisy, we must turn to local resident Allie Raven, as quoted by WisPolitics:

“Don’t let an inexperienced company with an ill-conceived, vague, and scientifically unsupportable plan experiment on and destroy the Bad River Watershed, the most pristine and valuable watershed in the Great Lakes Basin, and the human, animal, and plant life it supports,” said Allie Raven, a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.

Ms. Raven should have checked with the Environmental Protection Agency before getting all huffy in front of DNR officials who may also have pretty good information about Bad River water quality issues.

Awkwardly, the EPA picked last week to finally order a cleanup, figuring, we guess, that there’s nothing “vague” or “scientifically unsupportable” about what happens when the Bad River Band pours sewage into Lake Superior.

How ironic, if a mine and the attention it’s attracting turned out to be the watershed’s salvation.

Permanent Campaigns

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campaignSpeculation about 2016 candidacies invites wishful thinking that if we just sit here quietly, our source of torment will eventually go away.

Dream on.

Coordinated by the Obama campaign organization, the Left is geared up to harass Americans into acquiescing in policies that would be unachievable through legislation and are more easily pursued without the encumbrance of preserving positive feelings toward a candidate.

Orchestrated nationally, it’s conducted locally, giving it a grassroots look.

Last week we wrote about Obamacare as a political organizing tool to be wielded by leftist organizations all joined at the hip with Organizing for Action—the campaign’s post-election name.

Now watch for seemingly local, seemingly grassroots efforts to discredit officials, organizations, and businesses showing reluctance to commit economic suicide in the name of fighting global warming.

And in case you plan on objecting to any of this, be advised that the First Amendment rights that invigorated the defense of American values in recent years are under siege. The Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy, operated by the militant Left, is in the thick of it.

It was during the Clinton years that people first spoke of “the permanent campaign,” meaning the respite from electioneering when no election was near had become a thing of the past. Superficially, it was an annoyance. Deeper down, it put the serious, daily work of governing on the back burner, behind posturing contrived to enhance the image of The Leader, or, more often, to slander his critics.

The permanent campaign is now a permanent struggle over subjecting every aspect of your life to a political test. Those on the wrong side may expect a run of bad luck.

Smells like ’73…

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70sNothing stimulates memory like a distinctive smell, and for those who were around back then, watching events unfold, the IRS political targeting scandal—barely three months old—smells more and more like 1973.

Connoisseurs will recall that summer when the Nixon administration’s abuse of power gradually came to light. We can’t guess how high the IRS scandal will reach and we’ll venture no reckless predictions.

But we know what we said May 22, just 12 days after Lois Lerner used a planted question to “admit”  a couple of her IRS minions—“rogue” employees in the Cincinnati office—had singled out Tea Party tax exempt applications for improper scrutiny. What we said then looks better all the time:

“Do you know any career federal bureaucrats?  If so, do you find they are inclined toward bold, impulsive actions, heedless of consequence?  Do you think a government that still maintains a national helium reserve so Navy dirigibles will be able to fight submarines is full of underlings carelessly committing criminal abuse of people’s tax information without first making certain there will be no trouble from upstairs?”

Lois Lerner doesn’t think so, or she wouldn’t have tried taking the Fifth a couple of months ago.

Her decision, if it holds up, appears all the more rational amid disclosures this week and last, of IRS collusion with Federal Election Commission staffers in engineering the harassment of conservative organizations. This takes matters to that mythical place we finally, for the first time ever, think we understand, i.e., “the next level.”
The abuse of power is not confined to the IRS. Multiple agencies have been twisted into weapons for use against the administration’s political opponents. It smells like ’73 and the smell is getting stronger.

Reading between the lines

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keeprightLast Friday’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story about the decline in Wisconsin public employee unions’ lobbying expenditures is remarkably informative—assuming an already well-informed reader.

Study the first three paragraphs and you’ll realize you’re being told that until recently, public employee unions were absolutely the dominant force driving Wisconsin government.

But if their lobbying expenditures were significant, their real muscle was in campaign spending, through direct contributions and, more importantly, through attack advertising and manpower. Teacher union campaign spending historically dwarfed that of Wisconsin “big business” groups. It worked that way for decades.

Surprisingly, two dozen paragraphs go by before we get to the stuff about how tough Act 10 is on unions:

“The law requires unions to vote to re-certify annually using a difficult-to-meet standard; allows employees to opt out of paying any dues to the union if they choose not to belong to it; and bars employees from paying their union dues through payroll deductions collected by the state or local governments.”

Let’s analyze: The “difficult-to-meet standard” is a majority vote by the members.

The “opt out” provision is exactly as it sounds. Unlike pre-Act 10, if you don’t want to join the club, you don’t have to pay for a membership.

And it “bars employees from paying their union dues through payroll deductions?” Try this: It ends the practice of government collecting dues on behalf of unions, which spend the dues electing legislators who support higher taxes, hence higher salaries and more dues to be spent electing legislators who support higher taxes.

The real story here is that Wisconsin government no longer preoccupies itself with appeasing a handful of closely allied Liberal interest groups. That would be a good thing even if we didn’t get balanced budgets in the bargain.