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Wren Keturi: Shameful politics in Madison

For months on the campaign trail, Wisconsin voters heard a surprising amount of agreement between candidates. By election day, both parties had coalesced around a consensus on the most important issues facing Wisconsin families. Republican and Democratic candidates agreed that we need to fully fund public education, that we need affordable healthcare and protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and finally, that we need sustainable funding solutions for our transportation infrastructure. These issues and so many more, politicians promised, would be at the top of their to-do list in Madison.


How quickly all of that has gone out the window.

The Republican Assembly and Senate leadership have set their eyes on new goals — undermine the will of the voters and waste tax payer dollars on political schemes. On Dec. 5, just barely a month after election day, Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald passed unprecedented legislative changes meant to undermine the outcome of this election. Working behind closed doors and through the night, Republicans pushed through legislation aimed exclusively at expanding their own power. The legislation, if signed into law by outgoing Gov. Scott Walker, allows lawmakers to use tax-payer dollars to hire their own private attorneys to undermine the democratically-elected Attorney General, places new restrictions on in-person absentee voting, and limits the powers of incoming Gov. Tony Evers.

So much for schools, roads, and health care.

Last time I checked, the voters did not elect Speaker Vos and Senator Majority Leader Fitzgerald to be both Governor and Attorney General. And voters certainly never heard their representatives campaign on drastically undermining the outcome of this election. Elections have consequences, and this election certainly sent a signal that Wisconsin voters are ready for a new direction. And yet, both Vos and Fitzgerald have shown complete contempt for the will of the electorate.

Unfortunately, many of our representatives in the Chippewa Valley have already forgotten their campaign promises. Instead of finding common ground, it’s politics as usual and our representatives have played their part. It’s shameful and disappointing, especially because there was so much promise for compromise prior to the election.

And still, Wisconsin families must continue on with their lives. They must continue to send their kids to underfunded schools, drive to work on crumbling roads, and find ways to pay for health care. For Wisconsin families, their priorities have not changed. And despite the disappointing actions by our Republican representatives, we still must find ways to solve problems. If we are ever going to fix our roads and bridges, lower health care costs, and improve the quality of our schools, then we must stop playing political games and start working together. It’s time for lawmakers to get their priorities straight and get back to meaningful legislation, rather than partisan bickering. Wisconsin families cannot afford another year of political scheming and we certainly cannot wait for the next election and round of empty promises.


Jay Ambrose: Being reasonable about climate change

Be reasonable, for one thing, and that includes finding out more about the report, a 1,656-page offering of worst-case scenarios from the 60-member National Climate Assessment committee. It enlisted 300 scientists and others together for research, and 18 federal agencies reviewed its findings. Admittedly, that’s a lot of bureaucrats playing with a lot of words, leading to fear of mishmash having its way, but we do get interesting views of what unabated climate treachery could do.

The seas will continue to rise. More wildfires will come our way. Crops won’t bloom like they used to. Because of cows having fewer plants to chew, dairy products will decrease. Weather will behave fiercely. Blackouts will keep electricity at bay. Faced with flooding, infrastructure won’t hold up. Premature deaths will increase in the Midwest. Mental health will be affected.

The report’s preventive answer is to do something significant about lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Minus that, it warns, we will have to spend enormous sums of money adjusting to these calamities, and that’s why the economy will find its way to a ditch getting ever deeper.

Right off, however, we have a counter-assessment that the report’s estimates of the cost of all of this won’t be overwhelming relative to GDP growth. According to analyses in the Wall Street Journal, even small growth will compensate for the damage and adjustments, and I myself would add that, whatever the trepidations, government interventions deserve as much examination as the climate itself.

President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, for instance, was political power misused, a constitutionally questionable, crushingly expensive, unilaterally enacted scheme in which states could have their own laws destroyed as global warming got off very nearly scot-free.

Part of the problem was wanting to replace coal with heavily subsidized solar and wind power even though they are technologically unprepared for the task before them. They provide energy intermittently, when the sun shines and wind blows. Energy is needed around the clock.

Still, the United States leads all other countries in the world in reduced CO2 emissions, and guess why. Free enterprise has been replacing use of coal, which has lots of CO2, with use of natural gas, which is far cheaper and has far less CO2. The market said hot-diggity-dog and no government guidance was necessary. The thing is, it takes the whole world to reduce global warming and most of it is not trying.

Despite all the crying, screaming and despair when President Donald Trump announced he was pulling out of the international Paris Accord, only four or five of the 196 nations that signed the international agreement have done much of anything. Even if they did, the goals are so insignificant that little would be accomplished. Well, it’s a start, some say, and yes, it’s a start to evasive fraud as worldwide CO2 emissions have gone up by half in recent decades.

If you believe meaningful, definitive CO2 diminishment crucial to human flourishing, you also must believe in a carbon tax and in accompanying tax reductions to keep the economy purring (and the rioters at home). And, if you believe in then maintaining an industrialized society, you’ve got to subscribe to nuclear power because renewables are nowhere near ready and natural gas does in fact emit CO2.

Nuclear power, foolishly being pushed aside in Germany, which is consequently suffering, is getting safer and killed no one by way of radiation at Fukushima, for instance. While these plants are expensive, research and standardization could turn that around. Among those advocating nuclear power are pioneering climate change activist James Hanson, the Union of Concerned Scientists and researchers at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University. Nations dispensing with nuclear plants are paying the price.

Jay Ambrose


In 43 B.C., Roman statesman and scholar Marcus Tullius Cicero was slain at the order of the Second Triumvirate.

In 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

In 1842, the New York Philharmonic performed its first concert.

In 1909, chemist Leo H. Baekeland received a U.S. patent for Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic.

In 1941, Imperial Japan’s navy launched a pre-emptive attack on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, one of a series of raids in the Pacific. The United States declared war against Japan the next day.

In 1946, fire broke out at the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta; the blaze killed 119 people, including hotel founder W. Frank Winecoff.

In 1965, Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras I simultaneously lifted the mutual excommunications that had led to the split of their churches in 1054.

In 1972, America’s last moon mission to date was launched as Apollo 17 blasted off from Cape Canaveral. Imelda Marcos, wife of Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos, was stabbed and seriously wounded by an assailant who was shot dead by her bodyguards.

In 1985, retired Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart died in Hanover, N.H., at age 70.

In 1987, 43 people were killed after a gunman aboard a Pacific Southwest Airlines jetliner in California apparently opened fire on a fellow passenger, the pilots and himself, causing the plane to crash. Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev set foot on American soil for the first time, arriving for a Washington summit with President Ronald Reagan.

In 1993, gunman Colin Ferguson opened fire on a Long Island Rail Road commuter train, killing six people and wounding 19. Ferguson was later sentenced to a minimum of 200 years in prison.

In 1995, a 746-pound probe from the Galileo spacecraft hurtled into Jupiter’s atmosphere, sending back data to the mothership before it was presumably destroyed.

In 2004, Hamid Karzai was sworn in as Afghanistan’s first popularly elected president.

Carl P. Leubsdorf: Trump seeks to undo what Bush built

There was a certain irony in the fact that, on the weekend President George Bush died, the 45th president of the United States was attending an international conference where his principal efforts seemed aimed at key elements in the New World Order the 41st president sought to build.

While keeping a relatively low profile at the G-20 summit in Argentina in hopes of avoiding the gaffes that marked several prior international ventures, Trump did two things, both of which exemplified the contrast between his policies and those of the Bush presidency three decades ago: replacing the Western Hemispheric agreement that became known as NAFTA and seeking to redirect U.S. policy toward China.

Trump, who made it a presidential goal to scrap the “terrible” North American Free Trade Agreement, joined the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and the outgoing president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, in signing what he called the “groundbreaking” USMCA (the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement), really a modest revision some termed NAFTA 2.0.

Though signed under President Bill Clinton, the NAFTA agreement was very much the work of Bush and his predecessor, Ronald Reagan.

Then, Trump reached at least a short-term truce in the trade war he launched against China in pursuit of another of his signature initiatives, curbing the Asian power’s economic expansionism in the interest of an America First policy that is at sharp odds with the more cooperative global outlook of not only Bush but the other former presidents who joined in mourning him this week.

It was Bush who made certain the U.S.-China relationship continued and prospered after the Beijing government brutally quashed pro-democracy forces in Tiananmen Square.

Throughout this week, much has been written of the personal differences between the sometimes self-effacing, steady and experienced Bush, who guided the world through the tumultuous end of the Cold War, and the brusque, self-promotional governmental neophyte Trump, who makes a goal of disrupting existing norms.

But the policy differences Trump has instituted, especially in foreign policy, could well prove more consequential than the contrasts in their personal styles when he turns over the presidency to his inevitable successor, be he Democrat or Republican.

A lot will depend on whether, for example, the current cease-fire in the US.-China tariff war leads to a mutually beneficial agreement or whether, after the 90-day truce, it resumes to the detriment of the economies of both countries. Already, it seems, that concern is one reason the two sides stepped away last weekend from the economic abyss.

In a broader sense, U.S. relations with its longtime global allies — as well as with major rivals like Russia — may depend on the extent to which Trump succeeds in weakening three-quarters of a century’s U.S. military and economic ties with Western Europe as he pursues friendlier relations with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

In one area, Trump has already done substantial damage: abandoning the U.S. role established by prior presidents — be they more realistic or idealistic — as a beacon of democracy for nations around the world.

In refusing to condemn Putin, effusively praising other autocratic leaders, and giving the benefit of the doubt to Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad bin Salman in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Trump has conceded the moral high ground the United States has always occupied.

And his overall withdrawal from U.S. international primacy stands in abrupt contrast to the two signal acts of leadership for which George Bush’s presidency will most be remembered: presiding over the peaceful end of the Cold War and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union, and forming the global coalition that drove Iraq’s Saddam Hussein from Kuwait while avoiding the troubles that later bedeviled his presidential son.

Bush played a central role forging the 1990 reunification of Germany, an essential development that has led to three decades of European stability, after he showed on the day the infamous Berlin Wall fell that leadership does not always mean cheering your adversaries’ defeat.

Then, he used the relationships developed over two decades of international experience to build the multi-national alliance that achieved swift success, just seven months after Hussein seized his wealthy, oil-rich neighbor. Despite some domestic political demands to continue the military campaign into Iraq and overthrow Hussein, Bush stopped at the border, noting that’s what he promised his coalition partners.

A few years later, he joined with his national security adviser, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, in a book that warned how ousting the Iraqi leader would have made the United States “an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land” and “incurred incalculable human and political costs.” They seemed prescient, when precisely that happened after President George W. Bush overthrew Hussein.

It’s likely that neither the peaceful end of the Cold War nor the successful liberation of Kuwait would have been possible with the current chief executive’s mindset and style.

Carl Leubsdorf