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Laws that make the state look foolish PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 23 August 2017 16:22

Eating Irish butter is a greater threat to Wisconsin residents than living in apartments that don’t have fire sprinklers.
    Goofy as it is, that’s one conclusion that can be drawn from the fact that the Walker administration was laying plans to get rid of a regulation requiring apartment buildings to have fire sprinklers at about the same time it was in court defending a law that makes it illegal to sell imported butter from grass-fed cows.
    Gov. Scott Walker has campaigned as a big foe of regulations that businesses don’t like, and in 2011 he pushed for and signed legislation that prevented state agencies from drafting regulations more stringent than rules set by state laws.
      A state lawyer recently determined that a state regulation requiring new apartment buildings with three to 20 units to have fire sprinklers can’t be enforced because it conflicts with that 2011 legislation.
    Walker’s Department of Safety and Professional Services then planned to scrap the sprinkler requirement, which has been on the books for seven years, but after criticism from firefighters that move is apparently on hold.
    Meanwhile, an attorney from the state Department of Justice was in Ozaukee Circuit Court last week fighting a lawsuit by a Grafton business owner seeking to overturn the butter law.
    The law, which prohibits the sale of butter that is not graded by a panel of experts based on 32 criteria, is a ridiculous restriction on commerce that deserves to be repealed rather than defended.
    Kathleen McGlone wants to sell Kerrygold Irish butter in her Slow Pokes Local Food store in Grafton, but could be fined $1,000 and jailed for six months if she does because it’s not graded by the Wisconsin butter panel.
    Kerrygold, pricey but prized for its taste as well as its cachet as a butter made from the milk of cows claimed to be free of growth hormones and antibiotics, is sold legally in every state except Wisconsin.
    It is so much in demand that the plaintiffs in the Ozaukee County lawsuit include a Cedar Grove woman suing for the right to buy it. Wisconsin residents living near Illinois, Minnesota or Iowa are said to cross state borders in considerable numbers expressly to buy Kerrygold.
    This sounds like a bit of a throwback to the so-called “oleo wars” when legions of Wisconsin residents became smugglers to bring butter-colored oleomargarine across the state line.
    Yellow margarine prohibition was in effect in the state from 1925 to 1964—evidence that America’s Dairyland has a powerful dairy lobby bent on making sure Wisconsin takes care of its own. People who wanted to eat margarine had to either buy it in a white form in a soft plastic container that came with a capsule of dye that could be kneaded into the gelatinous mass or sneak in butter-colored sticks of margarine from more enlightened states.
    To this day, it is illegal in Wisconsin to serve margarine of any color in restaurants unless a customer requests it and to serve it in state institutions, including state university cafeterias.
    Wisconsin has some legislative work to do, not lawmaking, but lawtaking—taking foolish or harmful laws out of the statute books. At the top of the list are the butter-grading law, the vestiges of the margarine law and the law that prohibits the enforcement of proven, common-sense fire safety measures.

No words for a chilling picture PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 16 August 2017 16:51

It was an image so utterly chilling that it might have been spawned by a nightmare, and in a way it was.
    A young man, face set as though in thrall of some powerful force, marched at the head of a group with his left hand gripping a torch and his right hand raised in a perfect Nazi salute, as were the hands of the men around him.
    It was a photograph that could have been made 80 years ago in Germany when Nazi youth paraded in a show of allegiance to their fuhrer, Adolph Hitler, but it wasn’t. The picture was taken Friday night, August 11, 2017, in the United States, and was published Monday in the New York Times.
    The photo was of a neo-Nazi parade through the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville. The march was a prelude to the white nationalist rally on Saturday at which a civil rights advocate was killed and many others injured by a Nazi sympathizer who drove his car into a crowd in an act of terrorism.
    A photo of neo-Nazis rendering Hitler salutes while marching in America should be disturbing to every American, but who cannot empathize especially with the emotions it must engender in those who experienced World War II?
    The citizen soldiers who served in that war, some with us as our most venerated veterans and others gone but remembered for standing up for their country in its most perilous moments, fought against the armies of the man idolized by the Charlottesville nationalists for writing the “blood and soil” messages they now chant in support of white supremacy, anti-Semitism and militant nationalism.
    That history of service and sacrifice in defense of American ideals of freedom and equality should have weighed heavily on President Donald Trump when he responded Saturday to the domestic terrorism in Virginia. Yet there was no sign in his statement of any understanding of the affront and threat by the Charlottesville nationalist rally to the values that generations of Americans have defended.
    The president’s statement mentioned a display of “violence on many sides, on many sides,” but there was no condemnation, not even criticism, of those who fomented the violence by flaunting Nazi symbols and mouthing anti-Semitic chants.
    The Charlottesville events called for the president to assert the moral leadership his office demands by reminding the country and the world of the ideals America represents and condemning those who attack them.
    That did not happen. The president who is famous for his vicious, hair-trigger Twitter attacks on anyone who criticizes him could not muster the will to even point a finger at the white nationalists espousing values that would be more at home in a Nazi regime than in the American democracy.
    It is hard not to give credence to the critics who blamed Trump’s reticence on a desire to placate the white supremacist groups that supported his election. One of the internet voices of those groups, the website The Daily Stormer (named after a virulently racist German tabloid called The Stormtrooper), praised Trump’s response as “really, really good. God bless him.”
    Criticism, rather than praise, rained down on the president’s statement from members of Congress of both parties. This included two eloquently cutting sentences from Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah: “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”
    In a damage control effort two days after the terror attack, following meetings with advisers, the president said in remarks at the White House that racism is evil and the KKK, Neo-Nazis and white supremacists are “criminals and thugs.”
    The tardy words were welcome, but probably not as memorable as what he did not say in the aftermath of the Charlottesville terror.
    And certainly they won’t be remembered for as long as will that haunting photograph of the modern equivalent of Hitler disciples marching in Virginia.

Wisconsin has to make this risky bet PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 09 August 2017 17:28

The governor and a coterie of state officials are on their way to the Potawatami Casino craps table to place a $3 billion bet with taxpayers’ money.
    That’s not literally true, but casino gambling is an apt metaphor for the enormous bet the state government is placing on Foxconn Electronics.
    The bet is indeed for $3 billion and the money is coming from Wisconsin taxpayers. Citizens are putting it up in the form of tax exemptions for the company and payoffs in cash directly from their pockets. The odds of winning may be better than craps, but the bet is still risky.
    Nonetheless, this bet should be made. Wisconsin has to roll the dice.
    It has to precisely because the stakes are so high. As they say about big-bucks lotteries, you can’t win if you don’t buy a ticket. The state is buying a ticket because the payoff if Foxconn keeps its promise to build a mega manufacturing facility in southeast Wisconsin is expected to be tens of thousands of jobs at Foxconn and businesses that will grow to support the Chinese electronics maker.
    The stakes aren’t just economic; they’re cultural as well. Wisconsin is a long-suffering casualty of the rust-belt wars, its economy and its society depleted by the wholesale loss of manufacturing jobs. You can see the battle scars in Port Washington in the acres of abandoned manufacturing plants.
    The loss of these jobs was more than an economic blow. It was also a blow to the esteem of workers for whom skilled blue-collar employment was a marker of success that meant home ownership, college educations for their children and status as contributing members of their communities.
    The Foxconn initiative can help restore the vitality of blue-collar employment by providing jobs making not widgets that rust, but liquid crystal display panels for computers and TVs, with the high-tech training that goes with them. Other electronics companies could well follow.
    The bet is worth making, but state senators and representatives who are being asked to pass legislation enabling the Foxconn deal better be going into it with their eyes open. First, they need to assume that the payoff has been exaggerated.
    That’s a safe assumption because it was announced in Washington with unrestrained hyperbole by the exaggerator in chief, President Donald Trump, and  Gov. Scott Walker, a re-election candidate desperate for a bragging right after falling far short of his job-creation campaign promises, and by Foxconn’s CEO, who was motivated to make extravagant promises to drive up state incentives.
    Still, even if only a significant part of what has been ballyhooed—13,000 Foxconn jobs with an annual payroll of $700 million, 22,000 more jobs at supporting companies, 10,000 construction jobs for four years building a plant three times the size of the Pentagon—comes to pass, it could be worth the gifts the state is offering.
    Legislators need to understand, however, that  realizing the potential benefits is not as easy as simply giving away money. The Foxconn initiative adds new urgency to the state government’s stumbling attempts to fund road building and maintenance. Imagine the transportation needs  of a manufacturing campus that will cover more than a square mile of land somewhere near Kenosha and Racine.
    The deal also should push legislators to reverse their shortsighted effort to progressively squeeze state funding for the University of Wisconsin System. UW campuses are going to need resources to turn out more mechanical, industrial and electrical engineers to meet the needs of Foxconn and other high-tech manufacturers.
    And most important, the Legislature must not cave on environmental protection standards. Already there is talk from the governor’s office of exempting Foxconn from providing environmental impact statements and relaxing other regulations that protect the state’s water, air and land. These resources should not be on the bargaining table. A gift of $3 billion is enough. Giving away some of the health of the state’s environment is too much.
    However it goes, Wisconsin’s Foxconn bet will be risky, but state elected officials need to work to improve the odds.
    Then roll the dice.

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