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Reposted from WI Budget Project by ruleoflaw Editor's Note: Until you read this and visit the links, don't talk about Wisconsin's budget. -- ruleoflaw

Wisconsin Budget Committee Waits for New Revenue Estimates, Despite Other Options

The Wisconsin budget process came to a halt this week, and the surprising hiatus in Joint Finance Committee deliberations brings to mind the Samuel Beckett play Waiting for Godot.  In this case, the “good dough” awaited by the JFC is a higher estimate of tax collections that might be issued by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau sometime next week. Let’s hope that the committee’s wait isn't in vain, like the long wait for Godot.  

It has already been a week since JFC last met, which is very unusual at this point in the budget process, and the next meeting won’t be held until  Tuesday, May 5th.  That’s disappointing because the delay is likely to compress the decision-making process, despite the fact that there are good alternatives for freeing up needed revenue without raising taxes.

<!--more--> On the plus side, it has been encouraging that key GOP legislators have said that they would like to undo some of the deep cuts in the Governor’s budget, thereby making budget changes that polling shows have strong public support.  However, Republican leaders have suggested that increases in funding for K-12 education and the UW budget are contingent upon a significant increase in state revenue projections.  That substantially undermines the prospects for budget improvements because it’s unlikely that an increase in projected revenue growth will be large enough to undo much of the severe damage that will result from the cuts proposed by the Governor.

There is no need for state legislators to make their plans for easing the budget cuts wholly dependent upon a substantial upturn in projected revenue. By realigning budget priorities, Wisconsin can invest in the building blocks of a strong economy without raising taxes. We've published a detailed plan that shows how Wisconsin could and should be making better budget choices. We've also released a shorter summary of that plan.

Now we've also put forth a short video that shows how Wisconsin can establish a budget that invests in our long-term prosperity and ensures that our state will continue to be a great place to live, work, and do business.  

The current halt in the budget process underscores the importance of having a robust debate about the full range of budget options, rather than relying solely on a possible increase in revenue projections.  


Reposted from Heywaitaminute by Heywaitaminute
Caricature of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
(Wisconsinites see much deeper deficits. The Press has a duty to broadcast these to the nation.)

A recent puff-piece suggested Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, the white-bread Republican candidate in all but name for the 2016 presidential election, has hit a few bumps in the road during his “Not-Campaigning Campaign Tour.”

“Scott Walker's Style Concerns Some Republicans,” a recent NBC News story, did a disservice to readers by failing to expose the darker, fundamentally dysfunctional nature of Walker's problems.

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Reposted from Readers and Book Lovers by ruleoflaw

You have no one but you to blame
if you cannot hear the sky.
When the air is jelled and cloying,
the phone book will not open.
Soil packs too hard for fingernails,
too soft for pails and shovels.
The tap that drips on Franklin street
melts through to rot the roof ribs.

Old though I am, the pail still feeds
my appetite for blather.
Over the highest hill in town
still higher clouds will hover.
What I know of my own shadow
burns into my shoulder blades.
What I refuse to see flays me,
with darkness I make of myself.


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Reposted from bearsguy by PvtJarHead

Undeclared Presidential Candidate Scott Walker has claimed a "Partisan Witch Hunt" in relation to the past and present John Doe Investigations. SKW has spent Hundreds of Thousands of $$ in his defense and has claimed no wrongdoing. SKW has avoided any Real questions with respect to the issue, So I have taken it upon myself to single out 1 National Media figure to ask a very simple question, And I chose Martha Raddatz, Simply because when she did interview Scott Walker on ABC, She wasn't intimidated and pressed him and the result was as expected, Walker's response, Avoidance!!
So Martha, A simple question to ask can go as follows,
Gov. Walker, You claim a "witch hunt" in regards to this John Doe Investigation that has been plaguing your Campaign. If you have nothing too Hide, And have done Nothing Illegal, Then why don't you approach the Republican Prosecutor, Francis Schmitz, And through Legal means, Request the Sealed Documents related to the Currently stalled John Doe investigation be released to the National Media for review, And for the Public to view, IF as you state, Nothing Illegal has been perpetrated by You and Your campaign during the Recall election? Gov. Walker, Please proceed with your response!!

Reposted from lufthase by lufthase

First-term Assembly Rep. Romaine Quinn (R-Rice lake) took his first substantive policy stand in Madison last week, and --at least on the surface-- it seems not terrible. Quinn wants to spare the state's 13 two-year UW-Colleges from the proposed $300 million cut to the UW System.

This would be outstanding! The UW-Colleges provide a relatively low-cost option for students to obtain credits towards a bachelor's degree, often while living at home, before transferring to a four-year campus. They have a guaranteed transfer program that allows students to know ahead of time how their courses will apply towards degrees at the four-year UW campus of their choice. With their emphasis on affordability and access, the UW-Colleges are already operating on extremely tight budgets and any further cuts would be very difficult to manage. Here are Quinn's own words on the matter:

“These [two-year] campuses already operate at a highly efficient level, and do not have the tools to absorb budgetary changes like our 4 year campuses do; their funding levels should remain steady.”
However, instead of actually restoring funding to the UW-Colleges, Quinn's plan just shifts their share of the cuts back onto the four-year campuses. Rather than providing real relief, he pits one campus against another and paints the four-year schools into a slightly tighter corner.
"All the arguments you hear about the big four years, whether it’s trimming salaries or talking about tenure, those solutions just aren’t applicable to these two-year schools and we need to recognize that," Quinn said.
Not incidentally, Quinn's district is home to one of the two-year campuses he wants to spare, but not any of the four-year schools.

Fully funding the UW-Colleges is a worthwhile and laudable priority, and it would only require $10 to $12 million over the next two years. That's less than 0.018% of the total state budget. Using WIGOP's own logic, Quinn should be able to find those funds.

Roll back one of Walker's many tax cuts by some infinitesimally small amount. Add a few cents to the price of a pack of cigarettes. Scale back Walker's entourage. Make a couple fewer WEDC grants. Go back to last year's Per Diem rates. Maybe ask DOJ to stop racking up frivolous legal bills prosecuting Solidarity Singers or defending unconstitutional stuff. Don't just grandstand. Be creative. Make one of those "tough choices" everybody campaigns on. You don't even have to take the Medicaid money for this one.

Consider contacting Rep. Quinn or your state legislators and tell him you support fully funding the UW-Colleges, but doing so shouldn't come at the expense of other UW campuses.

[Tip of the hat to Wisconsin Soapbox, who does an excellent job covering the UW-Colleges and public education in general.]

Reposted from Laura Clawson by ruleoflaw
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at CPAC 2013.
Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker knows he's outmatched in the early stages of the Republican primary. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also has the executive experience that often plays well in presidential races. He's raising a lot more money than Walker. And he knows a lot more about policy than Walker. So Walker's campaign is laying the groundwork for less-than-impressive fundraising numbers by talking about his long game. Walker, they say, is content to go slow and steady and peak when it counts:
Advisers said that Mr. Walker, conceding that he has no hope of raising more than Mr. Bush this spring and summer, is devoting considerable time instead to addressing a weakness that could derail him with a single gaffe no matter how much some donors love him: his lack of depth on issues facing a president, especially national security. He is attending near daily policy briefings and crafting Wisconsin’s next state budget, while his team is quietly recruiting volunteer fund-raisers, known as bundlers. They now number about 50 in 30 states — a shadow corps ready to compete with Mr. Bush as soon as Mr. Walker officially announces his candidacy, which will likely be in June.

At the same time, Mr. Walker — who enthusiastically enjoys fund-raising, his advisers say — is personally courting megadonors like Todd Ricketts, who will back Mr. Walker if he runs, and David H. and Charles G. Koch, the conservative billionaires, according to the advisers and donors, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to maintain their access to confidential campaign planning. Several top-tier Republican donors joined Mr. Walker for a dinner last week at the Ricketts apartment in Time Warner Center in Manhattan, including David Koch; Mr. Ricketts and his father, Joe; the investor Roger Hertog; and the supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis.

So ... the plan is to cram like it's the night before the final of a class he skipped all semester, hoping in the mean time to avoid saying anything too stupid publicly, and try to lock down a couple really rich people to bankroll a super PAC. Got it.

But it makes you wonder: Does this make a sadder statement about Scott Walker, about the Republican field, or about the state of American electoral politics? Because it could work! "Suck up to a billionaire and study up on your CliffsNotes" is a strategy that could propel someone to a major party presidential nomination.

Reposted from Scout Finch by DownstateDemocrat
Billboard featuring Officer Pablo Torres
Too soon? Officer Pablo Torres may yet face charges.
Kenosha, Wisconsin police officer Pablo Torres was involved in two shootings in only 10 days. One involved a mentally distressed veteran who was threatening suicide and one happened while Torres tried to arrest a 26-year-old man wanted for parole violation:
Police say the Vietnam veteran had a knife in each hand and Torres shot the man when he made a threatening gesture. The man survived the shooting. His wife spoke off-camera after the incident — saying she told police her husband suffered from post-traumatic stress.

“I was screaming, ‘My husband is a veteran, don’t hurt my husband.’ They knew he had a mental problem; he was not out to hurt them, he was only out to hurt himself,” said the wife.

Torres went on leave while the state Department of Justice investigated the shooting. During that investigation, Torres returned to work ten days later. Then on March 14th, his first day back, Torres shot and killed Aaron Siler at the end of a high-speed chase. Police say Siler “brandished a weapon” prompting Torres to shoot.

Now, only weeks after the shooting of Aaron Siler, with an investigation into the shooting still underway, the Kenosha Police Association has erected a billboard thanking the community for its support, with a photo of none other than Officer Pablo Torres. Friends and family of Siler are upset:
“I have to see this billboard every time I have to come into town with his smiling face on it,” Willie said.

Willie is a close friend of Aaron Siler’s mom.

“I felt like they were saying thank you for killing Aaron,” Willie said.

Willie says she had to call Siler’s mom to tell her about the billboard.

“She just starts sobbing. You know, why are they doing this to us?” Willie said.

Couldn't the Kenosha Police Association find a better way to thank the community for their support? As Kathy Willie points out, the Department of Justice investigation into the fatal shooting of Aaron Siler has not even been completed and charges may still be filed against him.

Officer Torres' record is a mixed bag of commendations and reprimands, including nine complaints of excessive force.

See's report on the billboard here.

Reposted from Laura Clawson by DownstateDemocrat
Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker addresses his supporters at a rally on election night in Milwaukee, Wisconsin November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Sara Stathas (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) - RTR4CVJ0
Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI)
It takes some chutzpah to run for president when you've faced major investigations into your fundraising practices, but Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's chutzpah doesn't stop at running for president under those circumstances. Over the weekend, Walker lashed out at the investigations into his and his aides' practices, characterizing them as "largely a political witch hunt":
"I said even if you're a liberal Democrat, you should look at (the raids) and be frightened to think that if the government can do that against people of one political persuasion, they can do it against anybody, and more often than not we need protection against the government itself," Walker told the radio station.
The first "political witch hunt," as Walker would put it, or "John Doe investigation," as the law would put it, yielded six convictions, including a Walker appointee convicted of embezzlement and aides convicted of doing political work for Walker while on government payroll. The second investigation, into whether Walker and his campaign staff illegally coordinated with conservative organizations, is ongoing, and while it may never yield convictions, it potentially exposes a lot of shady activity from the Walker camp. In any case, when you've had aides and appointees convicted, it takes some serious nerve to claim to be the victim of a witch hunt.

The prosecutors involved are not letting Walker have the last word:

"His description of the investigation as a 'political witch hunt' is offensive when he knows that the investigation was authorized by a bipartisan group of judges and is directed by a Republican special prosecutor appointed at the request of a bipartisan group of district attorneys," [special prosecutor Francis] Schmitz's statement said.

He called Walker's comments inaccurate but didn't detail why.

"I invite the governor to join me in seeking judicial approval to lawfully release information now under seal which would be responsive to the allegations that have been made," his statement said. "Such information, when lawfully released, will show that these recent allegations are patently false."

In short, put up or shut up. Let us go public with what we've got, and then the public can assess whether you're innocent or guilty, or technically innocent but really sleazy. Walker, of course, is not interested in having more information released.
Reposted from behind blue eyes by ruleoflaw

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Reposted from Daily Kos by ruleoflaw
Artist rendering of California's high speed train
In the United States the definition of high-speed rail ranges from 90 mph to 150 mph. The average speed of the the fastest train currently running in the United States, the Acela Express, is 68 mph. While the Acela Express is capable of higher speeds, and while it does run at 150 mph on segments of its run, its speed is woefully lacking when compared to other countries.

Japan this week tested a new maglev train with a top speed of 374 mph. That is more than double the speed that is considered high speed—150 mph—in the United States.

Shortly after Scott Walker took the governor's office in Wisconsin, he killed the proposed Madison to Milwaukee section of high-speed rail, which eventually would have been a part of a line that connected Chicago to Minneapolis. That line would have been completed two years ago. And while this was a short-sighted political move, this is not a post written to slam Walker, as you can read below the fold.

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Reposted from Daily Kos by ruleoflaw
Rep. Gwen Moore and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Rep. Gwen Moore
House and Senate conferees are meeting to reconcile the two chambers' budgets, and one Democratic member, Rep. Gwen Moore (WI-04) has one mission.
"Not to cut anymore out of SNAP," the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, she told ThinkProgress. "Not to block grant it. Not to block grant Medicaid." Protect Pell Grants and other safety net programs from cuts. "I think that if we could get away with those things, it would be a good day. […] What we suspect…is that the House Republicans and Senate Republicans will get together and come up with a package of their agreements, and Democrats will be excluded from that conversation," she said.

But there are still ways she plans to flex some power. Both the House and Senate Republican budgets proposed block-granting SNAP, which would give states a fixed amount of money to administer the program and result in an estimated $125 billion cut, or more than a third of the program. The idea came up again in the first committee meeting. "There were extensive conversations in the House budget committee about giving states more flexibility with SNAP," Moore noted. "We know that is proxy language for wanting to turn SNAP into a block grant, which would be absolutely catastrophic."

But Democrats aren't prepared to let them mess with the program. Moore even mentioned her opposition to SNAP cuts as one of the few specific items in her opening remarks. "If they try to use the budget reconciliation process to cut SNAP," which would expedite any changes by only requiring a simple majority to approve them, "they'll open up the Farm Bill and literally be opening up a can of worms in terms of the other provisions," she promised. Such a move would put far more than just food stamps on the table, also including provisions for farms and agriculture. "That would be very different."

Whatever Republicans in the conference committee try to do, they won't be doing in secret thanks to the commitment of Democrats like Moore who will shine a light on the process. The conference report this committee ends up with won't be legally binding, but it will be a guide to the appropriators, and if the Republicans command massive cuts, the appropriations committees will have some cover to try to enact them. A Democrat or two willing to play hardball—like threatening the parts of the Farm Bill Republicans and Republican voters like—does give the minority some power here. Remembering that the next election is just next year—and reminding Republicans of that—is a good policy, too.

Sat Apr 25, 2015 at 07:13 PM PDT

Beethoven Mushroom Soup Sonata

by ruleoflaw

Reposted from ruleoflaw by ruleoflaw

For this recipe, you will need:

1 precisely-tuned concert grand piano
1 Daniel Barenboim

(The first two ingredients may be substituted with any Barenboim recording that includes Beethoven/Moonlight Sonata (No. 14 in C#), Appasionata Sonata (No. 23 in F minor, Opus 57), and Pathétique Sonata (No. 8 in C minor, Opus 13).

2 tablespoons olive oil (You can substitute butter or margarine)
2 to 4 cloves garlic, to taste, smashed with the side of a chef's knife.
1 tablespoon Penzey's Bavarian Seasoning mix*.
8 ounces of Crimini Mushrooms
2 leeks
2 cups of fresh potatoes, peeled and diced (substitute frozen American fries)
4 cups mushroom broth (substitute vegetable  or chicken stock)
1 cup white wine
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard, Dusseldorf style (substitute Dijon style)
1 cup plain yogurt (substitute sour cream or vegan sour supreme)

* - The link isn't meant to be a plug for Penzey's, it's simply for your convenience. if you choose to use your own seasonings, the Bavarian mix includes crushed brown mustard, rosemary, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and sage in proportions that only the Penzey's folks know.

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