Monthly Archives: November 2013

One cheer for the EPA

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badcornWe regularly connect restrictions on energy use and control of health care insurance as two potent weapons in the hands of a government intent on creating a docile and submissive populace, so a brief moment of celebration is permissible in light of the Environmental Protection Agency’s minor climb-down on renewable fuel standards.

A week ago Friday, the EPA proposed to reduce by 16 percent—to 15.2 billion gallons—its mandated amount of ethanol to be added to U.S. gasoline supplies in 2014. For a host of reasons it’s a travesty that any amount is mandated at all, but less is better than more.

The irony is that environmental benefits have been one of the false premises on which the ethanol mandate has been sold to the consuming public.  The case can be made that growing food to burn—inefficiently—in our gas tanks causes net environmental damage, through factors like increased energy consumption and fertilizer runoff from planting crops on marginal land.

James Taylor, Senior Fellow for Environmental Policy at the conservative Heartland Institute, gave grudging credit to the EPA’s “long-overdue realization that ethanol mandates not only cost consumers money, but they also inflict substantial environmental damage. The only beneficiaries of ethanol mandates are special interests who use the power of government to profit off of the American people.”

Lest we mistake this for an epiphany at the EPA, note that its decision is forced by more fuel-efficient vehicles driving ever-increasing ethanol mandates into the ten percent “blend wall.”  Even the EPA’s uber-regulators can understand the trouble they’d be in if they mandated adding amounts of ethanol that ruin automobile engines and void manufacturers’ warranties.

We hope the ethanol lobby fights back hard.  It just might attract enough scrutiny to end this long-running rip-off.

Voting with their feet

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emptyhallWe used to use the expression “voting with their feet” in reference to people packing up and leaving rather than put up with oppressive governments. Now it appears a sizable percentage of Wisconsin’s unionized government employees have found a new way to vote with their feet: Put them up on the coffee table and see what’s on TV when the union asks them to help keep it in business.

Two more government unions bit the dust last week in re-certification elections.  The Associated Press story reeks with contempt for the Walker administration reforms that brought this about, but there’s enough fact to convey the idea.

A couple of things stand out. Most obvious is that the union de-certified by prison guards—drawing an appalling 15 percent support in the election—represents a second try, after the guards decided earlier this year to pull out of the Wisconsin State Employees Union.  Maybe there’s a message here. Two strikes and you’re out?

Secondly, AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) Council 24 has been one of the more militant and politically energetic elements of Wisconsin government unionization over a stretch of time long predating the Walker reforms. Council 24 was in the forefront of protests against those reforms, yet its component groups—in this case, teachers working in state institutions—can’t be motivated to say “union, yes.”

There’s a lesson here for cautious Conservatives who may think it safer to go on defense than to pursue continuing reform:  When a bare majority of unionized teachers declines to support their union, Act 10 has well and truly taken hold and the broader public is almost certainly ready for more.

Fili-busted

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Break the rule conceptIn a decent world—which is to say not in this one—a Republican U.S. Senate majority after a future election might undo the havoc wrought by Harry Reid and his fanatical Democrats last Thursday and restore the protection of minority rights that was part of the Senate’s internal governance structure for more than two centuries.

But a sane Republican majority wouldn’t dare. They would owe it to the country not to do the right thing.

Coverage and commentary on Thursday’s brutish power grab has fixated on ending use of the filibuster to delay confirmation of most presidential appointees. But the harm goes even deeper than that.

It’s now established that any rule of the Senate can be changed at any time by a simple majority vote.

The plain meaning of this is that now there are no rules, because whenever one gets in the way of the leftist agenda, Democrats will feel free to sweep it out of the way. To call this the behavior of a banana republic is to insult the civic institutions of banana republics.

There should perhaps be no surprise, given a Senate majority and executive branch that pay no deference to the laws even they themselves have recently enacted. Nevertheless it’s worth quoting the current chief executive’s words on the Senate floor in 2005, when a Republican majority backed away from the action he lobbied his Democrats to undertake last week:

No majority party, he said, should “change the rules in the middle of the game so they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet.”

To do the right thing in respect for so dishonorable an adversary would be suicidal. Ruthless partisanship is the last remaining defense against lawlessness and chaos.

The last traditional Democrat

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LabelRound-Democrat-04Friday marks precisely 50 years since the presidency passed, traumatically, from the hands of a man who spoke of the United States as a nation of enterprise and achievement, into the hands of one who immediately set about expanding dependency on government —a path from which no Democrat who has served in the White House since has deviated.

John F. Kennedy will never stand as a hero in the Conservative pantheon, but does anyone doubt that the country would be freer and safer today if someone more like him resided in the White House?

Read the inaugural address.  Liberals who pretend to venerate Kennedy would be horrified if a contemporary president delivered the identical words.

Kennedy defended the country. His reflexes were anti-communist and pro-freedom. He fumbled the Bay of Pigs invasion but admitted it, and if that seems trivial, try imagining either the operation or the admission happening today.  He allowed federal employees to unionize, but not to bargain collectively or to strike. He cut taxes to grow the economy and lucidly explained why that helped more than just the wealthy.

If the overall record fell short of the “Camelot” legend—the revisionist construct of a media that found it convenient for advancing a left-wing liberalism Kennedy demonstrably didn’t share—stipulate that even a C-minus performance from those days belongs to a different world than the hostility toward traditional understandings of the United States that consumed Kennedy’s party after he was gone.

The overwhelming difference between Kennedy and the Democrats who followed is that some of Kennedy’s actions actually benefited the country.

Pass on the green tea

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madhatterRecent days bring reports of Tea Party Conservatives teaming up with the likes of the Sierra Club to champion so-called “green energy” development.  Bad idea.

We fervently hope they do so unwittingly, but Tea Partiers—and others—who fall for green energy claptrap about creating jobs and liberating consumers from utility monopolies achieve little besides image-making for an industry that would rapidly collapse without massive taxpayer subsidies.

And did we mention this planet-saving green energy comes at a steep price in…environmental damage?

Solar energy is not uniquely harmful.  We’ve always been repelled by the idea of growing food to burn in our gas tanks, but the environmental costs of corn ethanol are so severe even the Huffington Post has now taken notice.

Wind farms?  Why disfigure immense land areas to produce volumes of energy you could get from a natural gas-fired turbine that would fit in a good-sized barn?

Wind and solar work fine on the scale of an eighth-grade science fair project, but contribute microscopically to the needs of a modern economy. The UW-affiliated Energy Center of Wisconsin acknowledges that wind turbines sited in this state actually deliver the power attributed to them less than one-fourth of the time.

But the dirtiest secret is that without continuous backup, unpredictable green energy would crash the grid. That means running fossil generation all the time but utilizing its output only when renewables quit; that is, wasting fossil fuels while continuing to produce fossil-fuel emissions, just to humor believers in pretend clean energy.

We aren’t the first to use the word “watermelons”—green outside, red inside—to describe the environmental subsidy-seekers who manipulate people’s desire to do right by the planet.  It would be a shame if Tea Party Conservatives allow themselves to be taken in.

Land of Fixers

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Some lessons can’t be repeated too often.  And for some people, no amount of repetition will make the point.  Illinois government, for instance.

Last week it appeared our neighboring museum of political malpractice was about to shed 2,000 private-sector jobs because state lawmakers were stalling tax credits that could lure the corporate headquarters of the newly-merged Office Depot and Office Max to Naperville.

If the credits aren’t enacted, Office Depot likely stays in Florida, and Office Max employees now in Illinois would move.

If you’ve been reading these columns for a while, you know we’re not setting up an argument in favor of the tax credits. We’re setting up an argument in opposition to a self-destructively corrupt political system in which government voluntarily renders itself unable to retain private sector employers except with sweetheart deals that put taxpayers on the hook. The Chicago Tribune gave some clues last month.

Illinois serves a valuable purpose by providing a sort of window into Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell—or at least the Fourth and Eighth where, respectively, greed and fraud are punished. With taxes rising and public employee pensions underfunded by nearly $100 billion, Illinois government struggles to keep private-sector employers around. Unfortunately, it does so by carving out special favors that aren’t available for any business too small to scare Springfield by threatening to flee.

The remedy might seem straightforward: Tax and regulate less, and say hello to new employers and taxpayers. Unless, that is, the struggle itself is an illusion. After all, Illinois is ruled by the same machine Democrats who served up Barack Obama, and those big enough to play might view oppressive taxes and regulation as just more opportunities for deal-cutting.

Maybe they’re struggling, or maybe they like it this way.

The Second Front

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Stop Global WarmingA government setting out to render the populace fearful of opposing or even questioning its actions may ponder various methods of instilling that fear, but will find none more efficient than to seize control of two things: access to health care and consumption of energy.

A dimwit might regard it as coincidence that controlling those two things happens to be the highest priority openly pursued by the Obama administration.

The colossal health care failure of the past six weeks has the earmarks of government’s familiar custom of “failing upward,” in which the unvarying explanation for something not working is that it needs to be done more intensively.

Even if much of the coverage appears designed to serve “the incompetence defense”—steering attention toward the idiotic web site and away from the horrors awaiting health-care consumers who get past the technological moat—that’s being covered exhaustively.

Covered barely at all was the November 1 executive order directing the Environmental Protection Agency to “prepare the nation” to manage the stresses of global warming.

The hyper-efficient EPA managed to announce its “adaptation plan” the very same day.

Reading these documents is mental torture. In summary, they falsely assert that a climate that’s been measurably benign of late is really the opposite, and go on to say forestalling prospective weather crises may require “additional control measures” over energy production.

Inexpensive energy has been a key ingredient of American prosperity.  Prosperous people are harder to push around than people who worry about keeping warm in the winter and whose mobility is restricted by energy costs.

The Obama EPA has spent five years aggressively regulating so as to reduce energy options and drive up prices.  Now they’re telling us a lot more is coming.

Draw your own conclusions.

Out of ideas? Try a smear.

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elections 2014 postIt speaks volumes about the quality of intellect at Wisconsin’s bigger newspapers that if you’re looking for thoughtful editorial comment, your best bet is the Beloit Daily News.

Though we disagree with much of what the Beloit editors wrote last Wednesday about voter ID laws, they shot the lights out with one, penetrating insight:  Even if you didn’t suspect a single instance of fraud in any Wisconsin election, it would be unexceptional to ask that voters show they’re really who they say they are.

We’ve maintained there’s no such thing as an innocent reason to oppose objectively sound practice. Formalistic procedures are necessary, not because we assume nefarious acts are being committed but because of the immense value in being able to confidently assume they are not.

Civil society is strengthened by confidence that elections are honestly conducted and reflect a true result. It’s weakened—perhaps too mild a word—when responsible officials assuring us that all is well haven’t a straightforward answer to the question of how they know.

And that doesn’t begin to address the damage to public confidence when some of those same public officials—and private-sector opinion leaders—attack ballot-security advocates even as recent elections have been followed by multiple convictions for organized, assembly-line voter fraud.

But in Beloit, at least they try, in contrast with bigger, more sophisticated locales where the first reflex is to crank up the smear machine, equating ballot security with racism, as if the right to vote is too precious be sullied by the defense of it.

Were the setup less vile, we could almost see ironic humor in the Journal-Sentinel’s concluding line about “equal protection under the law to exercise the right to vote.”

Where in Hell is equal protection if your vote is nullified by fraud?

The same, only worse

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keeprightIt seems reasonable to assume the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s hand-picking of Mary Burke as its 2014 challenger to Governor Walker is the result of a well thought-out plan to deliver a nominee who could not be painted as more of the same. Conventional wisdom being that “another Dane County Liberal” is automatically at a disadvantage.

We’d credit such reasoning as fundamentally sound, but there’s a glaring problem with the execution: The Democrats reasoned, they focus-grouped, they compiled the details and assembled a police-artist sketch of what their ideal candidate would look like, and came up with…another Dane County Liberal.

Aside from her home address and past political affiliations, probably nothing has made this so plainly obvious as Burke’s double-talk about mining in northern Wisconsin, the issue we raised recently about her regarding natural resources as so precious that it might be a mistake to use them as, um…resources.

But this past week may be an even more defining one for Burke and her campaign. If there’s anything more dangerous than a Dane County Liberal to the freedom and material well-being of Wisconsin residents, it’s an Obama Liberal, and it turns out the Burke campaign is busily bulking up with them.

This is good news-bad news. It will be impossible to hide what animates the Burke agenda: statist collectivism, taxpayer dollars flushed down the drain of green-energy boondoggles, political payoffs to favored victim groups. But these people have built successful careers by convincing voters that the thing standing right before their eyes, isn’t. They’ve made a science of deception.

Early Republican efforts to remind voters of Burke’s role in the Doyle administration seemed to make sense. Now, the new lineup of campaign operatives suggests a Burke administration might make the Doyle years look good by comparison.

DPI Unplugged

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The lampsThe education establishment’s hostility toward families freely choosing where their kids go to school is so amply demonstrated that it seems almost pointless remarking about it—that is, until someone presents new and bulletproof evidence to enlighten the people who still believe school district budgets are designed “for the children.”

Last week the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, in conjunction with the Education Action Group, released a new study detailing how the education establishment—eloquently named “The Blob” by Bill Bennett—has worked to sabotage Wisconsin’s school voucher program, actively opposing the policy direction set by the Walker administration and the Legislature.

The report reminds us how the elected Superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), Tony Evers, openly exhorted local school officials to fight voucher expansion. It spells out how Evers’ agency has harassed voucher-participant schools, for instance by rigging testing requirements to pin public school problems on the voucher schools that are trying to fix them.

It’s no accident that the state superintendent’s position has become the private fiefdom of the politically-correct, leftist, edu-blob. Candidates run in the misleadingly-labeled nonpartisan spring election, a low-turnout affair susceptible to teacher union manipulation. And conservatives have understandably had difficulty fielding credible candidates, who realize winning the election would condemn them to four years of backstabbing and slander from an army of underlings bent on protecting the status quo like termites protecting their mound.

Barring a miracle, thoughts of reforming the Department of Public Instruction are pointless daydreams.  The realistic path to better public schools is further choice expansion so the DPI eventually achieves the irrelevancy it so richly deserves.