Monthly Archives: November 2014

Chinese bull-shopping

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bull chinaLast week’s U.S.-Chinese agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions will be the administration’s club to beat down objections that binding ourselves without action by China is senseless—not that any action would be sensible considering the decreasingly apparent carbon dioxide threat.

But oops! Reuters news service, no friend of global warming skeptics, pointed out the fallacy: The world’s leading CO2 emitter has committed to nothing that wasn’t expected to happen anyway, with or without a Chinese climate epiphany.

Dig down and you’ll even find indications (in the London Times and paywalled,) that more than a year ago, China anticipated bigger, earlier emission reductions than it supposedly agreed to last week.

How does this stray from the advertised purpose? By having nothing whatever to do with Chinese emissions. China “pledges” it might reach its emissions peak by 2030 and obtain about 20 percent of its electricity from non-fossil sources. (Read: nuclear.)   Meanwhile, Obama proposes steeper U.S. emission cuts than last summer’s 17 percent. Now he’s talking 28 percent by 2025.

Real dictators control China’s economy. Their new, fictional commitment is Obama’s excuse to behave the way they do, toward the U.S. economy.  China promises business as usual and the U.S. buckles down to strive harder than ever, in service to an imaginary cause.  The one thing you can rely on from this administration is hostility to America’s interests.

If you still can, laugh when the additional U.S. manufacturing activity transferred to China ensures their targets, however incidental, fall by the wayside.

Terra Incognita

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lightmatchIn these columns over the past several years, there have been more than a few examples of the Obama administration’s lawlessness causing us to reflect seriously on possibilities we would previously have been embarrassed to consider openly.

One of those was what might happen if this uniquely willful regime thought itself in danger of losing an election.  Perhaps a contrived national emergency and postponement of balloting until “stability” could be restored?

At this writing, congressional Democrats were embracing continued leadership by the same Reid-Pelosi crew who just marched them over a cliff, and the administration was lining up unilateral (and illegal) executive actions, so we may now conclude that the regime’s answer to voter rejection is not to preemptively suspend elections, but to disregard them after the fact.

Asserting federal control of the Internet under the guise of “net neutrality” is one of the pending actions and should provoke widespread opposition from both Left and Right. The more immediately offensive action—perhaps undertaken by the time you read this—will be executive amnesty for some five million aliens residing here illegally.

Like CO2 regulation having nothing to do with climate and ObamaCare having nothing to do with controlling health care costs, executive amnesty has nothing to do with integrating aliens—most of whom are already working here anyway—into the U.S. economy. Its whole purpose is to goad Republicans into impeachment proceedings the administration hopes to exploit in an orgy of race-baiting.

Speaker John Boehner, whose House would initiate any such proceedings, aptly described executive amnesty as “playing with matches,” evoking the image of an unbalanced child threatening to burn the house down for his own perverse gratification.

Welcome, friends, to terra incognita.  We’ll be trying to find our way out of it for two long and increasingly dangerous years.

The Stupidity of Jonathan Gruber

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Few things are more satisfying than the rough justice of a mortifying remark that validates the suspicion that advanced degrees are not necessarily reliable indicators of advanced intelligence.

With U.S. Supreme Court arguments upcoming on the question whether federal and state health insurance exchanges are synonymous, the discovery of contrary statements by ObamaCare architect and MIT Economist Jonathan Gruber are especially inconvenient for the administration and the premium subsidies that form the prop on which ObamaCare’s short-term survival depends.

The remarks are also especially hard to dismiss, given that a fourth instance of Gruber speaking publicly about deliberately deceiving the public over the health care legislation has now surfaced and even CNN couldn’t resist reporting it.

But we have to join with a few other commentators in believing Gruber’s initial remark about “the stupidity of the American voter”—pause for a moment to savor the irony—inadvertently spotlighted the precise opposite. Gruber’s remarks made it abundantly clear that he believed ObamaCare could never be enacted unless the administration lied to the public about its intentions and effects.  In other words, Gruber knew the American voter was too smart to buy what he was peddling.

And despite the lying, the public wasn’t deceived. Remember the massacre of Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections?  Gruber might better have marveled at the stupidity of congressional liberals.

The true stupidity of Jonathan Gruber lies in his presumptuousness.  Gruber thought—and might still think—he could gloat in public over his mendacity and pay no price for it.  Thanks to this pomposity, the price could very well include the collapse of his entire redistributionist enterprise, provided the Supreme Court finally decides there must be limits on the administration having it both ways.

A Return to Energy Sanity?

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The lampsAs the Soviet Bloc lumbered toward collapse it was remarked that once in a while, a blade of grass pokes up through the concrete.  Two blades of grass poked up on the energy front in Wisconsin in recent days.

Last week the Public Service Commission moved toward restoring energy sanity by approving a rate change requested by Wisconsin Public Service Corporation. The revision increases the fixed-cost component of energy bills—paying for poles, wires and upkeep—and reduces reliance on energy usage as the main source of utility revenues.

What this achieves, as Robert Seitz of the Wisconsin Utility Investors Association explains, is ending a backdoor subsidy paid by people of limited means to wealthy homeowners and developers.

Put more bluntly, the Commission has begun (two similar cases are pending,) to unravel a scam—like almost everything that happens in the insane world of green energy—operating at the expense of un-suspecting ratepayers; that is, operated by Barack Obama’s “One Percenter” campaign contributors.

Meanwhile, Brown County officials declared a local wind farm a public health risk, sticking their necks out on behalf of residents who have fled their homes to get relief from low-frequency noise caused by the turbines.

What happens next in Brown County is uncertain. What matters is that people in responsible positions are getting tired of playing along with the emperor who has no clothes.  Nothing fits that description so well as wind energy, a bill of goods sold as an environmental miracle cure but unable to function at all without continuous backup from the fossil-fueled generation it was supposed to displace.

All in all, a better week for grass than concrete.

Choices: The Left’s Worst Nightmare

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educationFortified by last Tuesday’s comprehensive victory, the Republican legislative majorities look poised to serve up a large helping of accountability to Wisconsin’s education system via open competition for student enrollments.

This is no surprise.  Limited expansion of school choice was enacted in the 2013 state budget bill, the principal GOP opponent of full-on expansion has since retired, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos was publicly looking forward to doing away with statewide enrollment caps 15 months ago.

Vos reiterated his longstanding intentions in a television appearance Sunday morning, saying he plans to move ahead with eliminating enrollment caps and allowing inclusion in parental choice for any school that’s willing to participate in statewide standardized testing.

We will extend the benefit of the doubt to host Mike Gousha and assume he felt obligated to play devil’s advocate.  Gousha asked Vos if there’s any evidence that students in choice programs perform any better than their conventional public school peers.

Well, yes there is, but that’s not the most relevant point.

The most relevant point is that in 21st century America, there’s no good reason to interfere with taxpaying parents sending their children to the school they choose.  There are, however, bad reasons for doing so, and despite the exemplary choice program in Milwaukee, the bad reasons have largely prevailed.  Until now.

Some schools will perform well; some won’t. To claim the certainty of some failures should foreclose the entire effort is a red herring, a spurious excuse to protect the status quo.  In truth, when students become customers rather than entitlements, every school will need to up its game.

Act 10 was the beginning of the end for the corrupt union monopoly in public education. With unlimited choice, Wisconsin will have moved well past the beginning.

A Call For Civility From the Journal Sentinel?

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Guest Column by George Mitchell

George Mitchell is an education and public policy consultant based in Milwaukee.

During the 2011 hysteria in Madison over Act 10 I sent an email to Journal Sentinel Managing Editor George Stanley. I observed to Stanley (and others) that opponents of Governor Scott Walker hurt their cause by resorting to thuggish behavior (death threats, nails in driveways, obscene graffiti, comparisons of Walker to Hitler, etc.).  Stanley responded that “both sides” were guilty.  When I asked, “Are you suggesting that the behavior of Walker supporters is comparable to that of his opponents?”  Stanley responded, in part, “I prefer honesty to bulls—.”  After I sought clarification of that comment, he wrote, “…[Y]ou’re just full of s—, that’s all I’m saying.”

Stanley wasn’t finished.  For good measure, he recommended I consider “turning honest…I like to think that every soul can be saved.”

This exchange came to mind as I read David Haynes’ Sunday Crossroads commentary, “A disagreeable state: Can Wisconsin citizens be civil again?”  Haynes, the Journal Sentinel’s editorial page editor, asked why liberals and conservatives “have to be so disagreeable” in discussing policy differences.  He suggested taking a “time out from demonizing one another to try to understand one another.”

There is much irony in such a theme being advanced by a leading editor at the Journal Sentinel. Apart from Stanley’s decidedly uncivil exchange with me, has Haynes not read some of the caustic emails Stanley sent this year to readers who objected to the paper’s John Doe coverage?

In light of its recent track record, the Journal Sentinel surely should think long and hard before casting aspersions about a lack of “civility.”  Indeed, the paper itself has contributed to the divisive climate that Haynes decries.

Nothing illustrates this better than the paper’s four-year stretch of reporting on John Doe investigations involving Governor Walker.  During that time the paper has trashed many principles of journalistic fairness.

For example, in the early years of the John Doe Journal Sentinel reporting relied heavily on sources who transmitted illegally leaked information.  Stories cast many individuals in a negative light, including people who were legally prohibited from comment.  The people portrayed unfavorably in the Journal Sentinel didn’t know who had spread negative information to the paper.  For legal and practical reasons, they could not effectively respond. Consequently, readers received a sliver of information — the opposite of transparency and balance (or journalistic “civility”).

The paper’s stream of damaging innuendo was a key ingredient of the decidedly uncivil stew that contaminated the recall election campaign that Walker faced in 2012.  Relying on Journal Sentinel coverage, Walker opponent Tom Barrett urged the Governor to “come clean.”  Following Walker’s recall election victory, Democratic Party Chair Mike Tate predicted that because of the John Doe Walker would see the “inside of a jail.”

Was there an overriding public purpose that justified setting aside the traditional journalistic principles of transparency, balance, and fairness? None whatsoever. To the contrary, relying on the unlawful release of selective information corrupted and eroded concepts central to our justice system.  This was anything but “civil.”

Fast forward to the current phase of the John Doe investigation, one premised on a “criminal theory” that is at direct odds with federal constitutional jurisprudence.  Haynes’ editorial board and Stanley’s newsroom are sympathetic to this theory.  The result? A series of articles and editorials that cast a dark cloud over activity that two judges have found to be legal.  The Journal Sentinel’s reporting and commentary have led several national media outlets to put Governor Scott Walker at the center of a “scandal.”  This dogged Walker throughout his successful re-election campaign.   Yet Haynes now positions himself apart from — and distinctly above — the rancor and divisiveness spawned in part by the Journal Sentinel.

Near the end of the recent campaign Haynes personally fell off the civility wagon.  A week prior to the election, an online media outlet (The Wisconsin Reporter) quoted a former longtime executive at Trek Bicycle Company as claiming Mary Burke had been fired from the firm.  A day later another former Trek executive effectively confirmed this story, thus exposing the media’s failure to examine thoroughly the portion of Burke’s resume central to her campaign.  Haynes responded with a lengthy editorial under the mantra “consider the source.”  Because the executives have conservative political leanings, the paper judged them suspect.  In an attempt to paper over its failure to vet Burke, Haynes and the Journal Sentinel effectively framed the news as a last-minute smear.

Haynes’ essay describes a time when “we [knew] and [understood] our fellow citizens better, and legislators of every stripe [got] to know one another.”  Set aside, for a moment, that this amounts to an airbrushing of actual history in Wisconsin and nationally.  To the extent Haynes is correct about bygone days, he also might have referenced an earlier era in Milwaukee journalism.  For example, I recall well the 1960s and 1970s, when I was a journalism student, a reporter, and later an official in state government.  The Milwaukee Journal of that period, led by editors such as the late Dick Leonard, was a model for the kind of discourse Haynes advocates.  Leonard would not have resorted to the kind of epithets that Stanley now throws around.

Stanley, Haynes, and other Journal Sentinel editors might consider some introspection.  Rather than blame readers who dispute the paper’s approach — a recurring Stanley posture — they should go “back to the future” (Haynes’ phrase) and consider how to restore a newspaper worthy of Dick Leonard’s stature.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece was originally sent to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board. They took a pass on running it.