April Showers

We call last week “astounding.” How else to describe a run of seven days in which the President of the United States:

  • Proposed to limit the amount of the earnings Americans are permitted to save in an IRA or 401k, lest too many end up with “substantially more than is needed to fund reasonable levels of retirement saving.”
  • Responded in his familiar why-must-I-be-bothered-by-this manner to the massacre of innocent Americans—in Boston!—and 48 hours later,
  • Revealed what he does care about in an angry rant accusing his allies of political cowardice for rejecting his gun control bill and its real purpose: the political exploitation of crime-victim families.

Elsewhere:

  • Workers at the lower rungs of the entertainment industry saw Obamacare slash their incomes.
  • Obamacare’s chief Senate architect, Max Baucus (D) Montana, lectured Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius—that he sees a “huge train wreck” coming as the abominable health insurance takeover is implemented.
  • And political hit man David Axelrod test-drove Obama’s reflexive slander that the Boston murders might have been the work of presumably right-wing tax protesters.

Despite having amassed a sizeable re-election war chest, Monday Montana Senator Max Baucus joined a growing list of incumbent Democrat Senators to announce that they will not seek re-election next year.  It makes you wonder what they’re anticipating a repeat of 2010.

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Global Backtracking

National Review editor Rich Lowry wrote an insightful piece at the beginning of April, discussing something lots of northern hemisphere residents have picked up on intuitively: the lack of any detectable warming trend in the past, oh, 15 years.

We especially liked Lowry’s fifth paragraph from the end. There, recent NASA retiree James Hansen, who built a career asserting that coal-fired power plants cause global warming, speculates that they may also prevent it.

At Canada’s Financial Post, Larry Solomon observes, “The overwhelming consensus on global warming among journalists may be cracking.

Last Tuesday, Reuters News Service, a leading purveyor of alarmism, appeared to be tiptoeing into CYA mode by acknowledging that things aren’t playing out as predicted.

Of course, diners at the trough of taxpayer-funded global warming research are as adept at spotting genuinely worrisome trends as they are at fabricating imaginary ones.

Shaun Marcott of Oregon State University published a paper in Science last month claiming 20th century warming was unprecedented in 11,000 years. Then word got out that Marcott’s 2011 doctoral thesis based on the same data (collected by other researchers,) shows no 20th century warming spike.

Under scrutiny, Marcott admitted the spike materialized after he altered the time horizons for some of the data from those estimated by the people who gathered the data in the first place. He conceded his reconstruction of 20th century warming—the only new thing in his Science paper—was meaningless.

The fun has started.

UW Flunks Accounting

Call us cynical but if we were told an entity of government had managed to lose track of a billion dollars and it wasn’t a federal agency, we’d almost certainly guess it was some part of the education establishment. On Friday, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau confirmed our guess would have been right.

The bureau reported that the University of Wisconsin System, (which has been whining year after year about disastrous budget cuts and rattling its tin cup for tuition increases,) is running a surplus somewhat north of a billion dollars.

Applying the perverse logic of bureaucracies, it almost makes sense: After all, the UW System sits at the pinnacle of a sector that moans incessantly about the spending curbs it endures, while miraculously finding ways never to spend less in any year than it spent the year before. Anyone who’s ever been cut off in the middle of asking a pointed question at a school board budget hearing knows the routine.

But the UW’s real catastrophe is that the news arrives with a Republican Legislature, regarded with disdain by the leftist elites of Bascom Hill, in the midst of assembling a state budget for the next two years.

The top leaders in both houses on Friday described themselves as “outraged with the mishandling of taxpayer dollars and the pattern of incompetence shown by university system administrators.” They promised “at a minimum” to freeze tuition for the next two years.

We can’t recall any group of state legislators attributing, in writing, a “pattern of incompetence” to any part of the bureaucracy, no matter what they privately thought.

Bring plenty of popcorn for the budget debate.

A Tale of Two Sewers

Time was, a few decades ago, when the news media held governments accountable, maintaining a civil but adversarial relationship and informing the public when something smelled bad.

Not anymore. Now the media cover for governments when they do things that would have private sector individuals fearing fines or imprisonment.  Some examples:

Tuesday brought the State of the Tribes Address, wherein the chairman of the Lac Courte Oreilles Chippewa tore into the Legislature—his audience—over mining legislation the Bad River Chippewa fear will pollute their water, reports the Associated Press.

The A-P tells us the chairman wore a paper teardrop to symbolize the Bad River’s water. We assume it was a paper crocodile tear, since the Bad River Chippewa’s wastewater treatment plant is one of Wisconsin’s worst habitual polluters.

Another story told of iron-mining foes opening an Ashland office under the name of the Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin, to supplement the Bad River Band’s opposition.

The Public Radio reporter either didn’t check or decided not to tell us, but the organization with the new Ashland office actually is headquartered in a leafy enclave of Madison’s uber-Liberal west side, at the home address of the Wisconsin political director of the Sierra Club, who’s evidently more worried about pollution the mining law forbids than about the pollution being committed by the Bad River Band.

Meanwhile in Milwaukee, the rains came and the Metropolitan Sewage District, the only Wisconsin water polluter to rival Chippewa tribal government, started dumping millions of gallons of raw sewage into Lake Michigan.  What did the media say?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel helpfully announced the MMSD was “disinfecting” the sewage with chlorine before pumping it into the lake as part of its “emergency measures to prevent overflows.”  Yes, “prevent.”

Just wondering…Is chlorinating the lake in addition to assaulting it with sewage a good thing?

Bright Prospects in a Dark Age

Political analyst Charlie Cook says he’s pretty much a Democrat. He’s also a professional who tries to get things right.

In National Journal this week, Cook says Republicans have stronger prospects than Democrats in next year’s U.S. House races. Since his predictions usually come pretty close to reality, this is especially interesting right now, with the Obama White House dedicating maximum effort to flipping the House.

Some observations:

1) Cook’s analysis dismisses the argument raised by so-called good-government advocates whose prescriptions always seem to bring about a turn to the Left. The promotion of legislative redistricting done by purportedly non-partisan experts instead of elected lawmakers, runs afoul of Cook’s finding that congressional districts initially acquire their partisan identities not through gerrymandering, but because like-minded people congregate together.

2) No one with their wits about them—on the Left or the Right—can doubt the next few years will determine for a very long time what kind of country this is. The Republican House majority has been the last reliable line of defense for constitutional government. Cook’s analysis suggests there’s no excuse for timidity in that role.

3) Cook says one reason ticket-splitting has declined is that “As local print-news readership has declined precipitously in the Internet age, fewer voters are gaining exposure to individual candidates’ backgrounds and qualifications.” We disagree. For as long as we can remember, media coverage of congressional and state legislative campaigns has offered voters little except shallow accusations when it offers anything at all. A far likelier explanation is that voters on both sides of the partisan chasm realize every election is for all the marbles and act accordingly.

But all in all, an informative read from a serious pro.

Pondering the Supreme Court

With Justice Pat Roggensack’s April 2 re-election behind us, there’s time to contemplate what comes next for the state’s highest judicial authority.

Ed Fallone, this year’s failed liberal candidate, endlessly repeated the left-wing mantra that the court is “dysfunctional.” If untrue, the accusation is another example of left-wing deceit. If it is true then what?

The first step in repairing a dysfunctional organization is to look at who’s leading it. Here, that would be aggressively liberal Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Resurrecting the skills of 20th Century Kremlin-watchers to decipher media coverage that nearly always serves Abrahamson’s interests, one suspects she has done as much as anyone to propagate the image of a dysfunctional court. One might reasonably ask if, rather than manage the other six justices by exercising leadership, she has chosen to manipulate them with obscurely-sourced media attacks.

Abrahamson last won re-election running TV ads that called her “Wisconsin’s Chief”—not chief justice, “Wisconsin’s Chief.” She won’t face voters again until 2019. She’ll be 85.

Under Wisconsin’s constitution, the rank of chief justice is determined by seniority. Next in line is Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, a prospect to be regarded with sheer ecstasy by connoisseurs of dysfunction. The details of Bradley’s account of her 2011 altercation with Justice David Prosser have undergone so many revisions it’s almost possible to imagine her next claiming Prosser murdered her.

What to do? Bradley is up for re-election in 2015 and the constitution is amendable. First, we need a strong challenger to Bradley who is committed to applying the law. Secon, a constitutional amendment is necessary to make make the seven justices responsible for selecting the chief by a majority vote.

Red States, Blue States

With the whole country in the doldrums because of bad leadership at the national level, sometimes it’s easy to forget that some states are doing better than others, and we never tire of pointing out which states are which, and that Republican-led states doing better is no coincidence.

Last week the Capitol country-clubbers’ newspaper, The Hill, tried to make it seem like Texas Governor Rick Perry is in a jam for rejecting one of Obamacare’s offers of what we like to call “free heroin.” Somehow we doubt that Texas taxpayers will be upset.

By the way, their state anticipates a big budget surplus.

Things are a lot less sunny in California, where the City of Stockton has declared bankruptcy and is hoping to continue its well-established pattern of stiffing other creditors in order to keep paying off public employees and pensioners with the fat benefit packages that are at the root of the current mess.

Statewide, things aren’t much better. At the end of last month, the California State Auditor delivered word that the state has a negative net worth—the word “negative” being one of the bigger understatements we’ve seen in a long time.

The Sacramento Bee has it right even if it does state the case far too gently: If California was a private business it would exist only in memory. And that is a good thing to remember when anyone asks what’s the biggest difference between states led by Republicans and states led or should we say methodically ruined—by Democrats.