Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Teen Activists, Consumers, and Voters key to gun laws...and change!

On guns...
"Yea, I'm more hopeful about gun control than I have been in a long time because the most powerful stakeholder in the American economy is the consumer .... and It seems the consumer is getting angry about this, and teens were the most important consumer in the world, because we wear their clothes, we take their cues in terms of media, what phones we want, what restaurants are cool, what vacation spots we want to go to. They are the tip of spear." - Professor Scott Galloway
I thought the quote above and the video clip below touched on new territory, that was exciting and so potentially powerful. And it could change the nations political dynamics...soon.

For decades, Republicans believed the longer a person experienced the harsh realities of life, the more conservative they would become. Of course that was ridiculous. Republicans believed that teens were too young to vote, naive, and weren't getting the kind of civic lessons they needed to become "real American." So Republican states now require a civics test to graduate. Big mistake. Curriculum changes already emphasized American history. That said, students were now arming themselves to be adept political realists and activists, hell bent on changing society for the better.

If you have the time, check out Professor Scott Galloway's interpretation of the events surrounding mass shootings and what he sees as a time for real change: 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Paul Ryan distances himself from Humanity.

I hate to overuse this, but it works to set up this post...I recently tweeted this about the 2nd Amendment.

If you've noticed, Republicans are always protecting their supposed constitutional right to buy or not buy things, like big gulps, pigtail light bulbs, bump stocks, contraceptives, wedding cakes...etc.

All's well, Paul Ryan Defends doing nothing, and Buying Assault Weapons:  It would be easy to called Ryan a soulless ghoul...okay, I'm going to reign it in a little. But really, how can anyone act like he does, so cold, calculating, untethered to real world suffering? Maybe he's proving that someone can act out and become that greedy fictional character in an Ayn Rand novel? Note to Ryan: There are now an additional 17 people who's rights have been denied, forever:
Ryan: "We shouldn't be banning guns from law abiding what we want to do is protect peoples rights while making sure people who should not get guns do not get guns."
How has that worked so far? 

The Real Second Amendment Argument Ryan avoids...: I was fascinated by MSNBC's legal chief Ari Melber's piece on the Second Amendment that clearly exposes the vacuousness and mindlessness of just spewing out that old line, "we're protecting our Second Amendment right to bear arms." Melber has never been one to step out on a limb with a controversial opinion, so this means something. A must see:

Scott Walker's desperate, cynical, poll based reelection Hail Mary!!!

Scott Walker's sudden whiplash inducing support of the ACA's marketplace is a shocking admission he's been wrong and knows it. But what's worse is Walker's desperate out-of-character scheme based solely on high priority polling data showing how badly Republican have abandoned their voters biggest concerns.

Can it get any clearer than this. JR Ross explained why Walker flip flopped, so even low information "Stand with Walker" voters will get it; it's about polling demographics that contradicts the extreme GOP agenda. JS:
Ross: "Those suburban women we were care is their number one issue. If you look at some of the things that Walker proposed, a lot of them check boxes of demographics that they need come November...the rural economic development fund, that was a nod to rural voters who are going, 'hey, where's mine, we're worried up here when Foxconn gets $4.5 billion...One person told me that Republican got convinced because it's all polling. They saw what was going on out there, and they realized they needed to do something like this, and that helped to push this through."

Need more proof?

Walker Supports...and wants to kill the ObamaCare Marketplaces? Having it Both Ways: The Journal Sentinel headline reflects down-the-rabbit-hole politics, and how bad Walker wants it:

Gov. Scott Walker signed a $200 million bill Tuesday to stabilize Obamacare markets in Wisconsin even as state Attorney General Brad Schimel sued seeking to block the entire law. The GOP governor — a longtime critic of the Affordable Care Act — has emphasized:
“Our Health Care Stability Plan is our solution to Washington’s failure; we want to provide health care stability and lower premiums for Wisconsin." 
Not only does Walker not mean what he's saying, but apparently, the changes Republicans pushed through in Congress didn't just weaken the health care law, they made it "no longer constitutional." 
But Schimel, also a Republican, received Walker's sign-off to move this week in a different direction, leading a group of 20 states who are suing to block Obamacare entirely. Though Republicans in Congress failed to repeal the law last year, Schimel argues that they made enough changes that the law is no longer constitutional.
The reason?
In a 2012 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate in Obamacare by saying Congress had the authority to impose a tax on consumers who don't purchase health insurance. Last year, Congress and President Donald Trump eliminated the tax.

Schimel's lawsuit argues that because the tax has been dropped, the individual mandate to buy health insurance and, with it, the entire law are no longer constitutional.
It's the old Republican ploy; create a problem, then find away to avoid solving it.

Fitting perfectly in with the theme here, check out the latest from Brian Strassburg:

Business Tax Cuts Raising Homeowner Taxes, plus Trump Trade Reform makes for "Tough Economy" and possible Lowest Net Farm Income since 2006!

Scott Walker's version of success with better times ahead is basically wishful thinking that passes as Bizarro World truth...and that's never good, as you can see by their code...

The Trump economy, and ongoing trade talks, have been a big help...?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture projected the country's net farm income to be $59.5 billion in 2018, a 6.7 percent decrease from 2017's forecast … the fifth year of lower income levels after a record high in 2013 (Obama) at $123.8 billion. If the forecast is accurate, this year will have the lowest U.S. net farm income since 2006.

Paul Mitchell, professor of agricultural at the UW Madison, said “There's uncertainty about trade and that creates some issues." Darin Von Ruden, president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union …  said he’s also heard stories of lenders making exceptions due to the tough economy.
Yes, these little comments have a tendency to slip out from time to time.

Walker, Tax Cutting Governor? Sorry, Wisconsin's Open for Business, not You:

JS: Larry Squires annual property tax bill in December (went) up nearly 14 percent, an increase of more than $260. “I definitely wasn’t happy about it,” Squires said. Neither were many of Manawa's roughly 1,300 residents.

Mayor John Smith said a key reason: Property taxes on the largest employer in town, Sturm Foods, went down … by nearly $10 million last year. “The rest of us taxpayers are going to pay the penalty,” Squires said. Sturm Foods employs nearly as many people as there are city residents. 

In Manawa, where "It's very much a trickle-down effect,” said O’Brien, whose personal property taxes went up by more than $500. “Ultimately it trickles down to the taxpayers."
Corporate Personhood devoid of Social Responsibility: Yup, we’re so grateful to be in their presence, we'll let them take money from our schools:
Manawa had to refund Sturm more than $100,000 for taxes the company asserted it overpaid. The Manawa School District also had to reimburse Sturm more than $83,000 as a result of the settlement, according to Carmen O'Brien, the district’s business manager.
The GOP tips "balance" to Business: None of this is new, Democrats have been saying this for years. But Republicans have re-framed their arguments to mean liberals are anti-business.  
Manufacturers in Wisconsin have erased at least $150 million in taxable value on their plants over the last five years, a USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin analysis has found.

One paper company cut its taxable value by more than $13 million in the Fox Valley and central and northern Wisconsin. Another paper company won a big tax cut and then announced plans to shut down local plants and cut hundreds of jobs. The efforts by manufacturers parallel those of big-box retailers. 

Such action often means homeowners and other property owners have to pay more as local governments seek to make up for the lost tax revenue … 136 companies obtained reduced assessments around the state between 2012 and 2016. Among the largest losers:

Manufacturers in Milwaukee County reduced their assessed values by more than $18 million, the most of any county. Outagamie County is losing $14.5 million. Brown County lost more than $11 million, while Sheboygan County lost $7 million and Manitowoc County lost $4.7 million. Oneida County lost nearly $4.5 million and Marathon County lost more than $2.5 million in taxable property. Expera Specialty Solutions secured one of the biggest cuts … of its paper mills in Kaukauna, De Pere, Mosinee and Rhinelander by a combined $13.6 million.

Small towns may feel the effects more acutely than bigger cities …

The Trump Republicans!

It still feels weird when I find myself nodding in agreement watching staunch conservatives like Jennifer Rubin, David Jolly, Nicolle Wallace, Steve Schmidt, Michael Steele, and Max Boot. I have to pretend they're incredibly articulate and blunt liberals. Did I just say a blunt liberal? They're as rare as a complete sentence spilling out of Trump's mouth.
Here's one of the best description yet of the floundering Trump Republicans:
Washington Post, Max Boot editorial: I’m used to being vilified by the far left as a bloodthirsty neocon warmonger for the Original Sin of having supported the invasion of Iraq along with 72 percent of the American public. It has been a little more surprising to be simultaneously vilified by the far right as a dangerous left-winger. David Horowitz’s FrontPage magazine accused me of going “full leftist” for acknowledging that racism and sexism remain pervasive problems. Breitbart called me, with ironic quotation marks, the “Washington Post’s ostensibly new ‘conservative’ columnist,” because, among other sins, I support gun control and immigration. American Greatness wrote that I am a “soulless, craven opportunist” whose “brain is broken,” because I compared President Trump’s indifference to the 2016 Russian election assault to a president ignoring 9/11. For the same offense, Jack Posobiec — an Internet troll notorious for pushing the theory that Hillary Clinton was running a child-sex ring out of a Washington pizza parlor — said I was “sick” and a “Russian propagandist.” In the Orwellian language of the far right, someone who wants to combat Russian aggression is a “Russian propagandist,” whereas someone who echoes Russian propaganda is putting “America first.”

In the past I would have been indignant at such attacks and eager to assert my conservative credentials. Being conservative used to be central to my identity. But now, frankly, I don’t give a damn. I prefer to think of myself as a classical liberal, because “conservative” has become practically synonymous with “Trump lackey.”

Richard Brookhiser, a longtime stalwart at National Review, summed up the Trump effect: “Now the religious Right adores a thrice-married cad and casual liar. But it is not alone. Cultural critics who deplored academic fads and slipshod aesthetics explicate a man who has never read a book, not even the ones he has signed. . . . Straussians, after leaving the cave, find themselves in Mar-a-Lago. Econocons put their money on a serial bankrupt.”

Principled conservatism continues to exist ... I remember as a high school student in the 1980s attending a lecture at UCLA by William F. Buckley Jr. I was dazzled by his erudition, wit and oratorical skill. Today, young conservatives flock to the boorish and racist performance art of Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter. The Conservative Political Action Conference couldn’t find room for critics of Trump, save for the brave and booed Mona Charen, but it did showcase French fascist scion Marion Maréchal-Le Pen.

The career of Dinesh D’Souza is indicative of the downward trajectory of conservatism. He made his name with a well-regarded 1991 book denouncing political correctness and championing liberal education. Then he wrote a widely panned 1995 book claiming that racism was no more, and it was all downhill from there. In 2014 he pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws. Now, as the Daily Beast notes, he has become a conspiratorial crank who has suggested that the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville was staged by liberals, that Barack Obama is a “gay Muslim” and Michelle Obama is a man and that Adolf Hitler, who sent 50,000 homosexuals to prison, “was NOT anti-gay.” He managed to sink even lower last week by mocking stunned Parkland school-shooting survivors after the Florida legislature defeated a bill to ban assault weapons: “Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs.” It is hard to imagine anything more cruel and heartless, but for a bottom-feeder like D’Souza it’s all in a day’s work. As he wrote in his 2002 book “Letters to a Young Conservative,” “One way to be effective as a conservative is to figure out what annoys and disturbs liberals the most, and then keep doing it.”
That, in a nutshell, is the credo of today’s high-profile conservatives: Say anything to “trigger” the “libtards” and “snowflakes.” The dumber and more offensive, the better. Whatever it takes to get on (and stay on) Fox News and land the next book contract! Coulter’s book titles have gone from accusing Bill Clinton of “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” to accusing all liberals of “Treason,” of being “Godless” and even “Demonic.” Her latest assault on the public’s intelligence was called “In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!”

If this is what mainstream conservatism has become — and it is — count me out.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Scott Walker's High Speed Rail/Mass Transit House of Cards falling down...surprised?

Say, can we have a do-over on this?

Walker to Cost State Millions, Again: We could have had a high speed rail line between Milwaukee and Chicago funded by our own federal tax dollars. We are now talking about state tax dollars paying for a much slower version of mass transit:
Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Dave Ross said the state is looking at increasing grants to develop pilot programs for mass transit in southeastern Wisconsin ... tasked by Gov. Scott Walker to develop a plan to transport workers in Milwaukee to the Racine and Kenosha area ... it underscores the importance of this issue to ensure that we are meeting the region's workforce need," said state DOT Public Affairs Director Becky Kikkert
Remember, Back on July 30, 2011, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote this:
Wisconsin taxpayers could wind up paying more to keep existing passenger train service from Milwaukee to Chicago than they would have paid to run new high-speed rail service from Milwaukee to Madison, according to a Journal Sentinel analysis of state figures.
 ...and now we are.

Walker Minnesota's Killed High Speed Plans...
GOP legislators halt Minnesota-Wisconsin high-speed rail study...Critics say exploring route from Twin Cities to Milwaukee is pointless. In December Republicans Rep. Paul Torkelson and Sen. Scott Newman objected to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) accepting federal grant money to complete the study — largely because Wisconsin opposes high-speed rail ... work on the study has stopped after just over $1 million in state and federal money had already been spent on it.

The United States has no true high-speed rail service. A report by the Midwest High Speed Rail Association attributes this to a lack of funding, the difficulty of getting state, local and municipal governments to agree on a plan, and outdated safety regulations and infrastructure.
Superior Loses Out Again: Poor Superior. I found Transportation Sec. Ross' recent comment especially outrageous, after Democrats were pummeled for supporting the high speed rail plans. The DOT is now promising a pilot program in Southeastern Wisconsin, instead of Northwestern Wisconsin:
"What we need to do is make some really wise investments to move people to training and to work," said Ross. "Our goal in coming up with that plan is so we can roll that very same plan throughout the rest of the state." Ross made the comments before northern Wisconsin leaders in Madison during the annual grassroots lobbying event Superior Days. Superior Mayor Jim Paine and city officials want the DOT to fund a pilot program to pay for expanded bus routes between Superior and Duluth.
Superior, along with Duluth, are desperate to get their economies working together again. But they may not be getting that pilot program from Walker after-all. On top of that, Trump has flipped around the federal funding formula, from 80 percent to just 20 percent. That's a problem:
The Northern Lights Express would run along existing BNSF railway track from the Twin Cities to Hinckley, Minnesota, at which point it would cross the border into Wisconsin and stop in Superior and Duluth. Superior Planning and Ports Director Jason Serck said that passenger rail could boost the city’s economy ... the prospect of a 90-mph train whistling into a stop in downtown Superior before bending across the Grassy Point Bridge and heading to the Duluth Depot. That means securing federal funding expected to cover 80 percent of the total project development cost, estimated at between $500 million and $600 million.
High Speed Rail was the Game Changer...oh well: Never one to look ahead, Scott Walker appealed to his low information voting based by trashing high speed rail:

The new governor - who railed in his campaign about the "boondoggle" that would bring $810 million in federal money for the rail project (wants to) stop the rail line, intended ultimately to link Chicago and Minneapolis (That means the state would lose) $82 million for upgrades to the current Milwaukee-to-Chicago train service that would have been covered as part of the rail funding). 

To opt out of the project would be like Wisconsin opting out of the interstate highway system in the 1950s. 

 Wispolitics: Transportation advocates, workers and state leaders released a report today entitled “The Economic Impacts of High Speed Rail: Transforming the Midwest” showing that expanding passenger train service in Wisconsin and the Midwest can create 103,000 jobs and $13.8 billion of economic activity in the region. “The communities I represent rely on a freight rail network that provides an essential connection for rural manufacturers that support thousands of jobs,” said Rep. Fred Clark (D-Baraboo). “Communities like Wisconsin Dells and Portage would benefit directly and immediately from an enhancement of our passenger rail system. 

Jsonline: Walker turned down $810 million for upgrading rail in Wisconsin, with only a small percentage of maintenance costs shared by the state. Walker has said he doesn't want the state to pay $7.5 million a year in operating costs. A state transportation official has said federal aid could cover as much as 90% of that amount, as it does with the Hiawatha. 
Walker Spent a lot of taxpayer money to give up $810 million. What a Deal: Walker and the Republican legislature made their point, believe this or not, by actually walking away from the $300 million already spent on bring high speed rail to Wisconsin. From Upfront with Mike Gousha (goo-shay):
Fitzgerald: "If we have to pull the plug, it would once again demonstrate how wasteful how some of these stimulus dollars are..."