Man MKE's blog

Taxing hybrids and electrics: WisDOT's proposal and the shunning of common sense

All ye need know about the current mindset of transportation planners in Wisconsin -- and the politicians who direct them -- is contained in a new radio feature that just aired on National Public Radio's "Here and Now" program, which focused on Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) proposals to raise new road construction revenues by creating new fees on hybrid and electric motor vehicles.

The program, reported from WUWM-FM News in Milwaukee, quoted Chris Eichman, who with his wife bought the first all-electric Nissan Leaf ever sold in Wisconsin two years ago. The Eichmans also own a Toyota Prius hybrid and are okay in concept with paying their fair share in gasoline taxes or alternative fees. But, said Eichman, "“A flat fee really doesn’t take into account that we chose these cars because they’re energy efficient and we purposely don’t drive as much,” he says. “And I don’t think it takes into account all the rest of people in the state who drive a standard car — or even the less efficient cars that just pollute more.”

Mark Gottlieb, WisDOT secretary, defended his proposal:

“So the hybrid owners ask me, ‘Well, I drive a hybrid car, you’re taking away all my incentive to do a good thing,'” he said at a Chamber of Commerce gathering in Milwaukee. “No we’re not, we’re not!”

CAVEAT EMPTOR: Wisconsin right wing moves from stealth candidates to stealth web sites, ads and "news"

Craven and sensationalist though it is, at least you can say the Drudge Report web site comes right at its readers and doesn't pretend to be anything but a collection of right-wing talking points. It's been that way since its inception in 1996, when the site hyped the Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton tryst from an initial news break right past impeachment.

With the Drudge Report, as with many right-wing trolling operations in the '90s and the following decade, at least what you saw is what you got. Such a quaint era, compared to our own.

Whether it's arrogant overreach or a sign that ordinary measures don't work, fakery and trickery have become increasingly manifest as tools commonly used by conservatives. What you see is what you don't get -- or, rather, what you don't see is what you do get.

The GOP noise machine early in this new century widely adopted an echo-chamber method of spreading malicious factoids, political memes and outright lies. A "leak" of information (actually, a suggestively edited accusation) would be circulated round-robin among conservative blogs, web sites, print media, TV operations like Fox's "O'Reilly Factor" and elsewhere until someone in the mainstream news media couldn't resist jumping in to make the meme seemingly respectable.

First outsourcing, then downsizing -- The Incredible Shrinking State of Wisconsin

Given the Wild Bunch that's now running Wisconsin state government, it's easy to fall into a dark, fearful and conspiratorial mood that their actions are spreading among us. So I was momentarily surprised to see what seemed like a gloating headline today on the intro page at the state's Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection web site. It reads:

Referendum open to downsize Wisconsin ...

Well! It was already clear that Team Walker and the repo-Ledge of GOP lawmakers are intent on further reducing the size of state government and sending most of those savings to their rich, fat-cat buddies in the form of tax cuts, as they consistently have in the past -- a sly form of upwards wealth redistribution. But this headline seemed to demonstrate just how openly crass our klepto-government was becoming.

But upon closer examination: Not so fast. The full headline was this: 

Referendum open to downsize Wisconsin cherry board

THE DAILY DYSFUNCTION: Of police overreach and mandatory ultrasounds

Welcome to another, not-really-daily edition of all the news that's hissy-fit to print. It might seem unkind to mention these disturbing accounts on Christmas Eve, but no Christian should forget the violence and mindlessness that followed the original Christmas. Evil does not rest, nor should we.

Cautionary Tale No. 1: At Salon.com, , an assistant professor at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, yesterday published a thorough examination (link below) of the Dontre Hamilton case, where a Milwaukee cop put 14 fatal shots into Hamilton, an unarmed black man with a history of mental illness. The Milwaukee County DA just ruled there was insufficient evidence to charge the ex-cop. The title os the Salon.com piece: “It may out-Ferguson Ferguson”: Why Milwaukee’s police violence will horrify you." Carriere provides a larger context of police racism in the city and compares it to the events in Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere. Forewarned is forearmed.

Restless Scott Walker considers sending force against any "unrest" from Milwaukee's black community over Dontre Hamilton

Milwaukee County Supervisor David Bowen

Gov. Scott Walker reportedly likes to think of himself as a Ronald Reagan Republican. However, Reagan was a political moderate compared to Walker's brand of far right-wing policymaking. It's increasingly evident Walker is much more of a Richard Nixon analog. Nixon, like Reagan, was a moderate compared to Walker's ideological stances on numerous policy issues. But in two overriding aspects, Walker and Nixon are almost political twins.

The first aspect is Walker's willingness to engage in evidently illegal activity. Both created secret communications systems and strived to hide the flow of campaign donations to their coffers. All of which led to felony convictions against Nixon staffers and Nixon's resignation, evading impeachment; and, in Walker's case, two John Doe investigations that already have resulted in criminal convictions among his Milwaukee County executive's staff.

Walker is so Nixonian in this regard that, when GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush recently announced he'd make public all emails from his tenure as Florida's governor, Walker declined to make a similar move, saying he didn't understand why any candidate would do that.

Saudi si, Cuba no: Scott Walker clears it all up for you

After joining in the all-but universal Republican cacaphony over President Obama's normalizing of diplomatic relations with Cuba, Gov. Scott Walker was asked by reporters whether it isn't inconsistent for the US to continue isolating Cuba while continuing normal relations with Saudi Arabia, a nation that arguably has equal or greater involvement with state-sponsored terrorism and human rights abuses. News reports described Walker as "reluctant" to say much about the Saudis or to declare whether he regards that oil-rich country as a free and open society.

The presidentially minded Walker cleared it all up in his usual, non-incisive, incomprehensible political-speak:

"They’re making a few moves right now, but those are things that could be easily altered, at least in terms of Cuba. In terms of Saudi Arabia ... those are things I guess folks at the federal level would ultimately have to comment on in terms of whether there’s consistency or not. The difference, I think, is Cuba, that’s a policy the U.S. has had for some time, where to change that, I think there has to be substantial change in terms of the positions that the Cuban government has."

Huh? Quick, get an English teacher on the horn to help parse Walker's word salad.

MARGINAL THINKING DEPT: Boo-hoo! Walker made state taxes fairer for everyone, insists apologist for the wealthy

Except for its Sunday edition, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is cutting in half the space it devotes to opinion, the most deleterious effect of which will be to reduce the number of independent community voices commenting on issues of the day. But one feature that won't be affected is a column by Christian Schneider, former conservative political operative who is the newspaper's most prolific, resident thinker.

"Thinker" might be putting it generously. Schneider seldom hits the mark, except in the narrow context of regurgitating right-wing talking points. He did it again in a recent column (linked below) complaining that politicians to his left unfairly paint Scott Walker's state income tax cuts as going mostly to the wealthiest ten percent or so among us. As, ahem, they indeed are.

Breaking no new conservative ground, the column wouldn't be worth reviewing except that it follows the right wing's increasing tendency to reveal what its policies really are all about -- not so much a matter of candor as of arrogance. In this case, Schneider says he is going to ignore the actual value of money -- what economists call the "marginal utility" of it -- and focus simply on tax rates. Which neatly demonstrates Benjamin Disraeli's 19th Century dictum that, "There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics." Schneider writes:

Minnesota expecting a state budget surplus of a billion dollars. Wrong-way Wisconsin GOP leadership expecting quite the opposite

Who's minding the store? In Wisconsin it's the supposedly ever-so fiscally prudent Republicans. In neighboring Minnesota it's those supposedly ever-so profligate spenders, the Democratic Farmer Labor Party (that state's equivalent of the national Democratic Party). And here's how things have worked out between the two states.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker and his GOP majority in the legislature are facing a projected state budget deficit of $2.2 billion, and possibly more, despite "balancing" the state budget during Walker's first term. Meanwhile, Minnesota's Democratic governor and legislature are looking forward to a $1 billion surplus. The  difference in fiscal obligations in the two states amounts to about $540 for every resident of Wisconsin. From the Twin Cities Daily Planet:

Released Thursday, the November Budget and Economic Forecast shows the state with a projected $1.037 billion available for the upcoming biennial state budget.

Wisconsin GOP's creative destruction set to proceed with "right to work for less" nonsense

So Republicans have dropped another bomb on Wisconsin. The first was when newly elected Gov. Scott Walker suddenly announced in 2011 that he would pursue a measure to grab back hundreds of millions of dollars in public worker compensation while enfeebling most public employee unions in the state. Now it's the turn of State Rep. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), who recently told the Associated Press that he expects to introduce a "right to work" bill.

This has been coming along ever since, in an unguarded moment, Walker was caught on video assuring billionaire businesswoman Diane Hendricks that her dream of Wisconsin as a right-to-work state only had to await his “divide and conquer” strategy. Now that it's clear Republicans will consider enacting such backward, noxious legislation, let's revisit the big, stinking, noxious hypocrisy underlying this particular GOP goal.

One newly invasive species the DNR certainly ought to add to its catalog

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has announced it is considering additions to its official list of invasive species, joining already listed flora and fauna such as the zebra mussel, which has been ravaging Lake Michigan's ecosystem.

I hereby nominate for the DNR's strongest consideration that horrendously destructive species whose formal scientific name is Kochtopus Plutarcha.

Kochtopus is a hugely ravenous, cold-blooded creature native to Kansas. The creature tends to remain close throughout its life to its litter mates, leaving slime trails wherever it journeys. Thanks to modern human technology, the organism has in recent decades spread widely across the US, displacing numerous competitors, especially Progressis Democraticus, a far more benign species that has the advantage of a larger brain and better long-range vision but less powerful mandibles and manipulators.

Thoughtout its life Kochtopus appears vaguely mammaliam in some respects but exhibits some characteristics most commonly of the genus that includes slime molds. It derives much of its sustenance from an uncanny ability to digest complex hydrocarbons including bitumen and petroleum. Its bodily wastes, heavy in pollutants, foul land, sea and air but also exude a hynotic odor that often attracts unwitting Homo Sapiens.

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