Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pat Strachota's real conservatism.

Hi folks,

I've been irritable with Representative Strachota lately because of her votes to make it more difficult for rape victims to get emergency contraception -- something that seems completely indecent if not immoral to me.

But having said that, I'd like to highlight some good ideas she included in her response to the Governor's State of the State address. Specifically the following: [you can find her response here]
Tonight, the Governor outlined a capital gains reinvestment component in his economic development package that is almost identical to my bill, AB 671, which will allow individuals to reinvest their capital gains in Wisconsin businesses, tax free. Encouraging investment in our state’s up and coming new businesses is an important investment in our state’s economic future. As a result, our state will benefit in terms of job growth which will lead to increased future tax revenue.

Also included in the Governor’s address were proposals to give increased flexibility to the Act 255 Angel Investment Tax Credit program. Earlier today, the Assembly easily passed AB 557, which increases the amount of credits available, and AB 598 which makes several changes to increase the flexibility in the Angel program. Angel investing is the seed from which quality, high-paying jobs are grown and any improvements we can make to this highly successful program are ones I welcome.
This seems to me to be responsible manipulation of the tax code in a way that benefits Wisconsinites without simply padding the pockets of CEOs, CFO, and COOs -- in other words, conservatism without the neo-.

I know... if this keeps up, I'll have nothing to type about.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Privatizing education, one building at a time.

Hi folks,

If we continue to privatize education at this rate, we'll turn back the social progress clock to the 1600's -- when the Puritans still ran things.

That should make the neo-cons dizzy with joy.

Here's the latest:

Corporate sponsorship part of the education game

WEST BEND - Acuity Insurance Co.’s recent $525,000 purchase of naming rights for the West Bend High Schools Field House serves as part of a company wide commitment to education, says CEO Ben Salzmann.

The 83-year-old Sheboygan-based property and casualty insurer developed a plan of donating to education about three years ago, with the goal of helping a struggling state economy and in turn helping itself.

'We’re trying to build an environment where there isn’t such a brain drain out of the state of Wisconsin,' Salzmann said.

Taxpayers, he said, are paying too much to support education for people to graduate and leave the state.

So we stop the brain-drain by shifting the cost of education to an insurance company?



Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pat Strachota: a tax break that helps everyone?

Hi folks,

In the suspension-of-all-cynicism category, a vote from Rep. Strachota.

Tax break eyed for efficient appliances
Judith Davidoff1/15/2008 11:19 am


Lawton said the bill, which would not go into effect until at least April 2009, would save consumers money both at the store and on their utility bills, reduce harmful carbon emissions and stimulate the economy. She said the proposal has been received favorably by both the Sierra Club and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and has support from both sides of the aisle, with co-sponsors Rep. Pat Strachota, R-West Bend, and Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona.

Common sense sometimes blooms -- lambs lie down with lions and Pat Strachota votes for a cost effective and environmentally friendly tax break.

Okay, here's one moment of cynicism. Here's my jaundiced eye at work.

When the idea of a "free-market" is raised to the status of an ideological truth, human values get replaced by economic values -- and "goodness" gets replaced by "efficiency."

Everywhere you see this substitution is a symptom of an underlying worldview that reduces human beings to their, mere, economic value.

Think about it: at work, you're only "good" when you're "efficient".

Representative Strachota has often voted in patterns that suggest she believes in this weedy worldview and so, I have to assume she voted this way not because it was good for people, but because it was economically and financially more efficient for people.

But that's just me being cynical. I hope I'm wrong.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Solution: let's pave Washington County.

Hi folks,

Something for the scatter brained NIMBY's who turned out in a deluge last year to vote down a perfectly sensible referendum on farmland preservation.

What's ahead for use of land?

Washington County plans for 2035

Posted: Jan. 12, 2008

West Bend - Washington County will be home to 157,265 people by 2035 - nearly 39,800 more than lived here in 2000, regional and county planners forecast in a draft county land-use plan.

Remember, what this means is that those of us who live in the cities and villages of Washington County will subsidize sewer and water and electricity for all those new businesses and subdivisions -- our tax dollars will be drizzled out to finance more strip malls. Maybe that's more attractive to voters than financing our schools?

And so it goes.


Friday, January 11, 2008

The New Bush coins from the US Mint.

Hi folks,

Since it looks like they won't be able to raid Social Security or privatize the entire US Armed Forces, maybe this will work:


Wisconsin Tourism, Pat Strachota, and some funny numbers about Wisconsin's corporate tax "burden"

Hi folks,

One of our representatives, Pat Strachota, (the Smart One) was right to ask state tourism officials whether we needed to spend money re-branding Wisconsin. Tourism continues to be strong and seems to be improving. [My friends and relatives across America go ga-ga every Christmas when their cheese-baskets arrive. My friends from Chicago go into fits of ecstacy when I drag them down to Fleet to pick up salt for the water softener. They'll just stand there for hours looking at all the different kinds of manure scrapers.] People love Wisconsin. "You have friends in Wisconsin" and a nice Holstein, maybe a walleye, is all we need to bring in the tourists.

But, as usual, weird assumptions show up in Pat's comments which suggest she is operating under the influence of Chicago School Economics. Friends don't let their representatives vote drunk so, some coffee for Pat.

From GM Today: More than beer, brats and ‘Laverne & Shirley’

Tourism is a booming business in Wisconsin, bringing $12.83 billion to Wisconsin’s economy in 2006, an increase of more than a billion over the previous year, said state Rep. Pat Strachota (R-West Bend).

"Clearly, Wisconsin already has a great image that continues to attract visitors in record numbers, so what problem is creating a new brand going to solve?" she asked.

If a new image is sought to attract new and encourage existing businesses to expand, the state needs to focus on "reducing our over-burdensome business regulatory environment and high tax burden," she said.

The state also needs to focus on providing a highly skilled workforce, she added.

"These are the efforts that will pay off in an increase in high-paying jobs, which will in turn benefit our state’s economy," Strachota said.

Two things:

1) "reducing our over-burdensome business regulatory environment and high tax burden"??

Um, according to The Tax Foundation, not a social-justice-friendly group, Wisconsin ranks around 39th in the US in terms of it's Business Tax Climate (which cleverly includes, not merely business related taxes, but personal property taxes as well to bump up the numbers). When they limit their survey to corporate taxes, however, we're not even in the top-10.

Our anti-tax representatives like to complain that taxes are the problem when it comes to luring business to Wisconsin; but California, New York, New Jersey, Ohio and 10 other states are, supposedly, even worse for business than Wisconsin.

This doesn't make any sense. California and New York seem to be doing pretty well, thank you, business-wise. California, if it were a country, would be the 7th richest country in the world -- and with a "worse" business climate than Wisconsin's?

Makes you wonder whether these rankings, and the kind of political decisions they've been used to justify, um, mean anything.

I'm leaning toward "no."

2) Taxes, therefore, are not the only factor in a state's economic well-being -- not by a long shot. What is demonstrably linked with economic prosperity is a well educated workforce. That's the reason businesses move to any state. (Consider the Gehl Corporation's recent decision with regard to West Bend.)

So, Pat -- keep up the good work shepherding our taxes, but quit spending our money on training people for those manufacturing jobs that at are hemorrhaging to overseas markets (now that your economic assumptions are being swabbed into the petri dish of globalization). We need to educate people for jobs in America, not in India or China.


ps. BTW, I'm still waiting to hear why you voted against giving rape victims emergency contraception.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Science, Evolution and Creationism.

Hi folks,

Synchronicity is always timely.

In the wake of wondering what it means that you can run for President and not believe in science, a colleague just sent me a link for the latest National Academies of Science publication on science and religion in the classroom. The New York Times article noted:
"...this volume is unusual, people who worked on it say, because it is intended specifically for the lay public and because it devotes much of its space to explaining the differences between science and religion, and asserting that acceptance of evolution does not require abandoning belief in God."
The text itself, Science, Evolution and Creationism is available at the National Academies website. Click the link and you can read it online.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Picking over the bones in the Ziegler decision.

Hi folks,

It is much to Judge Ziegler's credit that she immediately -- well, as soon as the election was over -- accepted responsibility for her inaccurate "gut checks" regarding the rules of judicial conduct.

The now completed review of her case by 3 appellate court judges found that she violated those rules. The panel recommended a reprimand as the most appropriate disciplinary action.

The Capital Times, The Milwaukee Journal, and One Wisconsin Now do not think that's enough.

From The Capital Times:
The recommendation by a three-judge panel that Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler enjoy a meaningless reprimand for her gross and repeated ethical abuses is an insult to the people of Wisconsin and to the once good name of the state's highest court.


The Judicial Conduct Panel acknowledged that Ziegler had failed to live up to the most basic ethical responsibility of a jurist when she regularly handled cases involving a West Bend bank on the board of which her husband serves. "Given her knowledge of her husband's relationships with the bank, red flags of danger were prominently flying," the panel admitted in its opinion. "Justice Ziegler did not see them."
And so on -- all clearly true.

Unfortunately, you get a sense that some of these critics haven't read the actual, rather tightly-reasoned, findings of the panel, especially with regard to the available punishments. One of the most interesting aspects of the case is found in the panel's justification for recommending a reprimand rather than something more drastic. It's this [click here for the link]:
Second, the supreme court has made it clear that punishment is not a permissible consideration. In re Judicial Disciplinary Proceedings against Crawford, 2001 WI 96, ¶38, 245 Wis. 2d 373, 392, 629 N.W.2d 1, 10 (“Discipline is not intended to punish the judge.”).
So there you go. Now, whether this is fair or not is another question -- one the Supreme Court, and voters, and those who will appear before Judge Ziegler, will have to work through.

Here's what we do know: Judge Ziegler was willing to straddle the truth in order to get elected to the Supreme Court.

Is there reason to trust her future decisions when her past actions have set such a tone?

I guess we'll find out.


Sportsman's in West Bend is closing.

Hi folks,

Some old news: Sportsman's in West Bend is closing.

Here's what I'd like to know: why would Sportsman's even build a store in West Bend knowing that a massive Cabela's, with full county financial assistance, was going in a few miles down the road?

Anyway, here's the story:
Sportsman's Warehouse Inc. will close its West Bend store by late February. The management of the store at 840 W. Paradise Drive announced the closing to employees on Thursday, according to a closing notice filed with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. All 63 employees will be laid off starting on Feb. 27 with the rest shortly after that, CEO Stuart Utgaard said in the letter to the state Department of Workforce Development.
And so it goes.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The problem's not the government -- the problem is them what owns the government.

Hi folks,

I know that my friends over at Boots and Sabers and around the Conservative blogiverse, like the neocon elite whose interests they serve, believe that "the government" is the problem. They have chanted and intoned this mantra until it is now buried in their teeth -- like Strontium-90. That sting you feel when they bite at you is actually a kind of radiation burn from their own "nuke-ular" radicalism.

Metaphors. Hmm.

The problem, of course, isn't the government. The problem is them what own the government.

"We the people" used to be the owners. Alas, no more.

I hate to contradict Pogo, but I'm pretty sure that "they" is no longer "us".

So, want to know why our representatives in Washington vote as they do? in politics data

And here at home: The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Note to Iowa Voters: Huckabee doesn't believe in science.

Hi folks,

For my 20 regular readers and whoever drops in from Iowa, a reminder about Mr. Huckabee:

He believes the earth was created within the last few thousand years.

Normally, this isn't a problem. Lots of people believe six or more impossible things before breakfast... but they aren't trying to be President of the United States.

His religious views require him to disbelieve science in the case of human origins even though, in the rest of his life, he believes in scientific usefulness just like the rest of the post-enlightenment world. He believes the lights will go on when he flips the switch. He believes his car will run when he puts gas in it. He believes in aspirin. He believes in all the things that scientific method gives us good reasons to believe... except where his religious views contradict the evidence.

Christianity isn't the problem here. Plenty of Christians believe in science without damaging their compassion or their spiritual commitments. The Catholic Church has even apologized the Galileo and accepted that evolution is probably the origin of human beings physical existence.

It's only a narrow and cherry-picking version of Christianity that causes the problem.

Even inside his own Christianity, he's picked out one detail to accept as true, on the grounds that the Bible claims it's the literal word of God, while ignoring most of the really wacky stuff in Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers ... like killing people who wear cloth made from two kinds of thread. No, I'm not making that up.

Why the inconsistency? Because he can get away with it. Because it's winning him votes. Because our increasingly defunded education system has left something like 37% of Americans with the belief that, despite their belief in aspirin and the internal combustion engine, the world is 6 thousand, rather than 16 billion or so years old.

I'm sorry I don't have all the hilarious and disconcerting links tossed in tonight -- you can Google them up pretty easily -- but I have a terrible cold tonight and I can hardly see straight. :^)

This cold, as I'm sure Pastor Huckabee will agree, is caused by trolls living in my stomach.