Tony Evers and the Supremes

Even for mere political reasons the 4–3 decision in favor of the so-called “lame duck” laws passed by the state Legislature should have been obvious.

It should have been obvious because the Legislature has passed so-called “lame duck” laws numerous previous times with no court challenges, as George Mitchell points out:

Credit Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson for knowing how to keep a secret.

We learned Friday that Abrahamson has watched quietly throughout her decades-long tenure as Wisconsin legislators acted, time and again in her opinion, outside the limits of the state’s constitution.

How else to understand her agreement with Justice Rebecca Dallet that:

The Legislature unconstitutionally met in an “extraordinary session” in December 2018 and…[i]n order to uphold the constitutionality of the December 2018 extraordinary session, the majority opinion subverts the plain text…of the Wisconsin Constitution.

By signing Dallet’s dissenting opinion, but adding no comment of her own, Abrahamson was spared the task of explaining the apparent illegitimacy — in her view — of extraordinary sessions held on many occasions during the last four decades.  (Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, first elected to the court in 1995, joined Abrahamson in concurring — without comment — in Dallet’s dissent.)

Former Democratic Assembly Speaker Tom Loftus recently wrote an op-ed in The Capital Times on the history and constitutional basis for extraordinary sessions.  He said, in part:

[T]he legislature is always in session. The reality of one continuous two- year session was formally acknowledged by a constitutional amendment ratified in April 1968: “Shall Article IV, Section 11 of the Constitution be amended to permit the Legislature to meet in regular session oftener than once in two years?” The amendment was ratified in a 670,757 to 267,997 vote.

The Legislature, under the Constitution, governs itself — setting its own rules of organization, procedures and calendar. So an extraordinary session is simply a floor period added to the dates adopted at the beginning of the two-year session, but, like a special session, it is restricted in subject matter.

Extraordinary sessions came to be part of the Legislature’s way of doing business when I was Assembly speaker and Tommy Thompson was minority leader. The leaders call the session dates and the subject.

The legal staff of the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau has addressed this issue on at least two occasions, once in the late 1990s and again earlier this year. Abrahamson and Bradley must have shuddered when reading the 1998 LRB report, but they kept their concerns to themselves all these years — until last Friday.

There is, of course, an alternative explanation. Both Abrahamson and Bradley never saw a problem with extraordinary sessions until one directly pitted a Republican legislature against a newly elected Democratic governor.  Their concurrence with Dallet’s dissent is a reminder of how Wisconsin’s high court has become, for the left, a venue for undoing lawful legislative action with which it disagrees.

As Justice Daniel Kelly seeks election to a full term next year, the long-term implications of Dallet’s outcome-driven dissent are clear. Had Justice-elect Brian Hagedorn not prevailed in the April 1 election, the left would be a single vote away from a Supreme Court willing to do its bidding.

Matt Kittle picks winners and losers, beginning with, well, the losers:

“The circuit court invaded the province of the Legislature in declaring the extraordinary session unconstitutional, enjoining enforcement of the three Acts, and vacating the 82 appointments. We vacate the circuit court’s order and remand the matter to the circuit court with directions to dismiss the League’s complaint,” asserts the majority opinion in the 4-3 decision, written by Justice Rebecca Grassl Bradley.

Surprising to some court watchers was the split decision, with all three liberal justices dissenting. In the deeply divided Badger State, such jurisprudence division has become par for the course on Wisconsin’s high court.

The majority opinion, however, is crisp and clean, and quickly dispatches a liberal legal argument that is tenuous at best.

“We hold that extraordinary sessions do not violate the Wisconsin Constitution because the text of our constitution directs the Legislature to meet at times as ‘provided by law,’” Bradley wrote. She pointed to statute that “provides the law giving the Legislature the discretion to construct its work schedule, including preserving times for it to meet in an extraordinary session.”

Democrats and their liberal allies were livid in early December when the Republican-led Legislature passed three bill packages, many of them measures limiting the power of then-incoming Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, both Democrats. The Legislature also signed off on scores of appointments to state boards and commissions. Outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed the bills into law. 

Democrats called it all a “power grab.” Republicans said they were merely trying to protect the government reforms they had put in place over the past eight years.

Evers clearly encouraged his left-wing partners to sue the Legislature. The League of Women Voters, Disability Rights Wisconsin, Black Leaders Organizing for Communities, and union leaders quickly complied.

The plaintiffs argued that extraordinary sessions are unconstitutional. Consequently, all legislation passed during the session is void and that the Senate’s confirmation of 82 gubernatorial appointees during the session was invalid.

Liberal Dane County Judge Richard Niess agreed. He sided with the League and temporarily blocked the laws from implementation. Niess also vacated all 82 appointments. The Evers administration hastily forced out some of the appointees, including Public Service Commission Chairwoman Ellen Nowak. Nowak, attempting to show up for work, was turned away on orders of the governor’s Department of Administration.

Niess’ ruling created confusion in its wake, principally begging the question: If the December extraordinary session was unconstitutional, aren’t all of the laws that came out of similar sessions over the past four decades or so unconstitutional? That would include the law that effectively built Milwaukee Fiserv Forum, where the Milwaukee Bucks play.

Even some critics of the laws from the session saw the plaintiffs’ legal argument as absurd.

The Legislature argued that extraordinary sessions conform with the Wisconsin Constitution and state statute. The First Branch can set up its calendar as it sees fit, in accordance with the constitution.

On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed with that legal argument.

“We are pleased by the Supreme Court’s common sense decision. The Court upheld a previously non-controversial legislative practice used by both parties for decades to enact some of the most important laws in the state,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said in a joint statement.

“This lawsuit, pursued by special interests and Governor Evers, has led to an unnecessary waste of taxpayer resources. We urge the governor to work with the Legislature instead of pursuing his political agenda through the courts,” the lawmakers concluded.

Here are the Winners and Losers of Friday’s Supreme Court Ruling.

WINNERS

  • The Republican-Controlled Legislature — The majority opinion is a clear victory for the Legislature’s majority. It upholds the scores of laws passed in the weeks before liberal candidate Tony Evers became Gov. Tony Evers, and before liberal attorney Josh Kaul became Attorney General Josh Kaul. It also fully restores to their posts good public servants, many of whom were used by Evers as political pawns in the legal battle.
  • The Wisconsin Constitution — Whether or not you like the legislation that came out of the extraordinary session, the Supreme Court ruling shows the Republican majority was well within its constitutional rights to meet and pass legislation. How did the court’s conservative majority arrive at that decision? The state constitution and laws clearly say so. More so, the court’s decision is an affirmation that the constitution is not to be trifled with, and that the founding document designates the Legislature as the First Branch for a reason. The Legislature makes the laws, and it does so on the schedule it sets.
  • The Taxpayer — While the left is apoplectic over the so-called “power grab” laws, several measures approved during the session do protect taxpayers. Many of the reform laws will limit bureaucratic power grabs and bring more oversight to executive branch policies that could be costly for business and average taxpayers alike.

LOSERS

  • The Lawsuit Happy Left — Will liberals ever learn? Doesn’t appear so. They sued over Act 10. They sued over redistricting. They sued over right-to-work. Their default position over the past eight-plus years it seems has been to file a lawsuit against any bill passed and signed by Republicans. Former Attorney General Brad Schimel used to joke that the way a bill became a law in Wisconsin during the Walker era was that the Republican-controlled Legislature passed it, Democrats quickly challenged it in a liberal Madison court where it was struck down, ultimately to be ruled constitutional by higher courts. Democrats and their liberal, grow-government allies have cost state taxpayers untold millions of dollars over the past eight years hoping to use activist courts to further their political agenda.
  •  Gov. Tony Evers — The Democrat lamented Friday’s ruling, calling it “all too predictable.” In a press release the governor said the decision is “based on a desired political outcome, not the plain meaning and text of the constitution.” As noted, the Wisconsin Constitution is crystal clear on the authority of the legislative branch. Evers and fellow liberals hoped to block legislation they didn’t like through a faulty interpretation of the law that didn’t hold water upon sober review. Sour grapes aside, Evers, his grow-government administration, and liberal policy defender Attorney General Josh Kaul do lose a great deal in this ruling. There is now a greater legislative check on potential abuses of the executive branch.
  • Supreme Court Minority – Again, the liberal justices on the state Supreme Court never cease to amaze. Long-time justices Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley have been particularly consistent in their defense of the political left at the expense of the constitution. Friday’s ruling is just the latest example. Written by the court’s newest liberal addition, Justice Rebecca Dallet, the dissenting opinion does some amazing jurisprudence gymnastics to arrive at its core belief — that the extraordinary session “subverts the plain text of Article IV, Section 11 of the Wisconsin Constitution.” Spoiler Alert: As the majority opinion notes, the session did no such thing.

Wait! There’s more, from Wisconsin Public Radio:

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a conservative advocacy group in a case that will shift oversight of some school policies from the state schools superintendent to the governor.

The court ruled 4-2 in the case that began when Gov. Tony Evers was state schools superintendent and former Gov. Scott Walker was in office.

In the case, then-superintendent Evers argued he did not need to get executive approval for rules he wrote for the state Department of Public Instruction, despite a state law called the REINS Act, which requires state agencies to get approval from the governor’s office and state Department of Administration, which is controlled by the governor.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed the lawsuit in 2017, arguing Evers, as superintendent, wasn’t following the law adopted that same year.

Evers argued the state schools superintendent is a publicly elected, rather than appointed, state officeholder with executive power, thereby allowing him to circumvent the REINS requirement.

The court rejected that argument.

The decision split along the court’s ideological lines, with conservatives writing the majority opinion.

“Article X, Section 1 vests supervision of public instruction, an executive function, in the (superintendent),” the opinion reads. “In contrast, when the (superintendent), through the (Department of Public Instruction), promulgates rules, the (superintendent) is exercising legislative power that comes not from the constitution but the legislature.”

Conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote a consenting opinion with the majority, but noted an area of disagreement.

“I join the opinion except for those portions espousing the ostensible importance and necessity of the legislature’s delegation of power to the administrative state,” Bradley wrote. “The concentration of power within an administrative leviathan clashes with the constitutional allocation of power among the elected and accountable branches of government at the expense of individual liberty.”

Justice Shirley Abrahamson withdrew from the case. Liberal Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Rebecca Dallet dissented, with Bradley writing the minority opinion. …

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty lauded the ruling Tuesday morning. The organization brought the case on behalf of a public school teacher, Kristi Koschkee, who said she was “thrilled” by the decision.

“As a public school teacher and taxpayer, I am thrilled that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has recognized that the Superintendent of Public Instruction must follow the law and allowed for greater oversight on the Department of Public Instruction, an agency that is notoriously hostile to K-12 education reform,” Koschkee said in a prepared statement.

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Presty the DJ for June 26

My German side should appreciate this: Today in 1870, Richard Wagner premiered “Die Valkyrie”:

Today in 1964, the Beatles released their album “A Hard Day’s Night”:

Today in 1975, Sonny and Cher decided they didn’t got you (that is, them) babe anymore — they divorced, which meant it was no longer true that …

(Interestingly, at least to me: Sonny and Cher revived their CBS-TV show after their divorce. Also, Cher did a touching eulogy at Sonny Bono’s funeral.)

Today in 1990, eight Kansas and Oklahoma radio stations decided to boycott singer KD Lang because she didn’t have a constant craving for meat, to the point she did an anti-meat ad:

Birthdays start with Billy Davis Jr. of the Fifth Dimension:

Jean Knight, who was dismissive of Mr. Big Stuff:

Rindy Ross, the B-minor-favoring singer of Quarterflash:

Negative news of the day

Yascha Mounk:

Americans often lament the rise of “extreme partisanship,” but this is a poor description of political reality: Far from increasing, Americans’ attachment to their political parties has considerably weakened over the past years. Liberals no longer strongly identify with the Democratic Party and conservatives no longer strongly identify with the Republican Party.

What is corroding American politics is, specifically, negative partisanship: Although most liberals feel conflicted about the Democratic Party, they really hate the Republican Party. And even though most conservatives feel conflicted about the Republican Party, they really hate the Democratic Party.

America’s political divisions are driven by hatred of an out-group rather than love of the in-group. The question is: why?

A new study, called “The Perception Gap,” helps provide an answer. More In Common, an advocacy organization devoted to countering extremism that previously published a viral report on America’s Hidden Tribes, set out to understand how political partisans see each other. Researchers asked Democrats to guess how Republicans would answer a range of political questions—and vice versa. (The survey was conducted among a sample of 2,100 US adults the week immediately following the 2018 midterm elections.) What they found is fascinating:  Americans’ mental image of the “other side” is a caricature.

According to the Democratic caricature, most Republicans stridently oppose immigration, hold deeply prejudiced views about religious minorities, and are blind to the existence of racism or sexism. Asked to guess what share of Republicans believe that immigration can strengthen America so long as it is “properly controlled,” for example, Democrats estimated about half; actually, nearly nine in ten agreed with this sentiment.

Democrats also estimated that four in ten Republicans believe that “many Muslims are good Americans,” and that only half recognize that “racism still exists in America.” In reality, those figures were two-thirds and four in five.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans are also prone to caricature Democrats. For example, Republicans approximated that only about half of Democrats are “proud to be American” despite the country’s problems. Actually, over four in five Democrats said they are. Similarly, Republicans guessed that fewer than four in ten Democrats reject the idea of open borders. Actually, seven in ten said they do.

If the reasons for mutual hatred are rooted as much in mutual misunderstanding as in genuine differences of values, that suggests Americans’ divisions should in principle be easy to remedy. It’s all just a matter of education.

Unfortunately, the Perception Gap study suggests that neither the media nor the universities are likely to remedy Americans’ inability to hear each other: It found that the best educated and most politically interested Americans are more likely to vilify their political adversaries than their less educated, less tuned-in peers.

Americans who rarely or never follow the news are surprisingly good at estimating the views of people with whom they disagree. On average, they misjudge the preferences of political adversaries by less than ten percent. Those who follow the news most of the time, by contrast, are terrible at understanding their adversaries. On average, they believe that the share of their political adversaries who endorse extreme views is about 30 percent higher than it is in reality.

Perhaps because institutions of higher learning tend to be dominated by liberals, Republicans who have gone to college are not more likely to caricature their ideological adversaries than those who dropped out of high school. But among Democrats, education seems to make the problem much worse. Democrats who have a high school degree suffer from a greater perception gap than those who don’t. Democrats who went to college harbor greater misunderstandings than those who didn’t. And those with a postgrad degree have a way more skewed view of Republicans than anybody else.

It is deeply worrying that Americans now have so little understanding of their political adversaries. It is downright disturbing that the very institutions that ought to help us become better informed may actually be deepening our mutual incomprehension.

What Trump has done

Victor Davis Hansen:

Donald Trump is many things. But one thing he is not is a defender of the 2009-2016 status quo and accepted progressive convention. Since 2017, everything has been in flux. Lots of past conventional assumptions of the Obama-Clinton-Romney-Bush generation were as unquestioned as they were suspect. No longer.

Everyone knew the Iran deal was a way for the mullahs to buy time and hoard their oil profits, to purchase or steal nuclear technology, to feign moderation, and to trade some hostages for millions in terrorist-seeding cash, and then in a few years spring an announcement that it had the bomb.

No one wished to say that. Trump did. He canceled the flawed deal without a second thought.

Iran is furious, but in a far weaker—and eroding—strategic position with no serious means of escaping devastating sanctions, general impoverishment, and social unrest. So a desperate Tehran knows that it must make some show of defiance. Yet it accepts that if it were to launch a missile at a U.S. ship, hijack an American boat, or shoot down an American plane, the ensuing tit-for-tat retaliation might target the point of Iranian origin (the port that launched the ship, the airbase from which the plane took off, the silo from which the missile was launched) rather than the mere point of contact—and signal a serial stand-off 10-1 disproportionate response to every Iranian attack without ever causing a Persian Gulf war.

Everyone realized the Paris Climate Accord was a way for elites to virtue signal their green bona fides while making no adjustments in their global managerial lifestyles—at best. At worst, it was a shake-down both to transfer assets from the industrialized West to the “developing world” and to dull Western competitiveness with ascending rivals like India and China. Not now. Trump withdrew from the agreement, met or exceeded the carbon emissions reductions of the deal anyway, and has never looked back at the flawed convention. The remaining signatories have little response to the U.S. departure, and none at all to de facto American compliance to their own targeted goals.

Rich NATO allies either could not or would not pay their promised defense commitments to the alliance. To embarrass them into doing so was seen as heretical. No more.

Trump jawboned and ranted about the asymmetries. And more nations are increasing rather than decreasing their defense budgets. The private consensus is that the NATO allies knew all along that they were exactly what Barack Obama once called “free riders” and justified that subsidization by ankle-biting the foreign policies of the United States—as if an uncouth America was lucky to underwrite such principled members. Again, no more fantasies.

China was fated to rule the world. Period. Whining about its systematic commercial cheating was supposedly merely delaying the inevitable or would have bad repercussions later on. Progressives knew the Communists put tens of thousands of people in camps, rounded up Muslims, and destroyed civil liberties, and yet in “woke” fashion tip-toed around criticizing the Other. Trump then destroyed the mirage of China as a Westernizing aspirant to the family of nations. In a protracted tariff struggle, there are lots of countries in Asia that could produce cheap goods as readily as China, but far fewer countries like the United States that have money to be siphoned off in mercantilist trade deals, or the technology to steal, or the preferred homes and universities in which to invest.

The Palestinians were canonized as permanent refugees. The U.S. embassy could never safely move to the Israeli capital in Jerusalem. The Golan Heights were Syrian. Only a two-state solution requiring Israel to give back all the strategic border land it inherited when its defeated enemies sought to destroy it in five prior losing wars would bring peace. Not now.

The Palestinians for the last 50 years were always about as much refugees as the East Prussian Germans or the Egyptian Jews and Greeks that were cleansed from their ancestral homelands in the Middle East in the same period of turbulence as the birth of Israel. “Occupied” land more likely conjures up Tibet and Cyprus not the West Bank, and persecuted Muslims are not found in Israel, but in China.

Suddenly Redeemable
An aging population, the veritable end to U.S. manufacturing and heavy industry, and an opioid epidemic meant that America needed to get used to stagnant 1 percent growth, a declining standard of living, a permanent large pool of the unemployed, an annual increasing labor non-participation rate, and a lasting rust belt of deplorables, irredeemables, clingers and “crazies” who needed to be analyzed by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. At best, a middle-aged deplorable was supposed to learn to code or relocate to the Texas fracking fields. Perhaps not now.

In the last 30 months, the question of the Rust Belt has been reframed to why, with a great workforce, cheap energy, good administrative talent, and a business-friendly administration, cannot the United States make more of what it needs? Why, if trade deficits are irrelevant, do Germany, China, Japan, and Mexico find them so unpleasant? If unfettered trade is so essential, why do so many of our enemies and friends insist that we almost alone trade “fairly,” while they trade freely and unfairly? Why do not Germany and China argue that their vast global account surpluses are largely irrelevant?

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) assured us that the world would be suffocating under greenhouse gases within 12 years. Doom-and-gloom prophecies of “peak” oil warned us that our oil reserves would dry up by the early 21st century. Former Vice President Al Gore warned us that our port cities would soon be underwater. Economists claimed Saudi Arabia or Russia would one day control the world by opening and closing their oil spigots. Not now.

Three million more barrels of American oil are being produced per day just since Trump took office. New pipelines will ensure that the United States is not just the world’s greatest producer of natural gas but perhaps its largest exporter as well.

Trump blew up those prognostications and replaced them with an optimistic agenda that the working- and middle classes deserve affordable energy, that the United States could produce fossil fuels more cleanly, wisely, and efficiently than the Middle East, and that ensuring increased energy could revive places in the United States that were supposedly fossilized and irrelevant. Normal is utilizing to the fullest extent a resource that can discourage military adventurism in the Middle East, provide jobs to the unemployed, and reduce the cost of living for the middle class; abnormal is listening to the progressive elite for whom spiking gasoline and power bills were a very minor nuisance.

Changing Roles
Open borders were our unspoken future. The best of the Chamber of Commerce Republicans felt that millions of illegal aliens might eventually break faith with the progressive party of entitlements; the worst of the open borders lot argued that cheap labor was more important than sovereignty and certainly more in their interests than any worry over the poor working classes of their own country. And so Republicans for the last 40 years joined progressives in ensuring that illegal immigration was mostly not measured, meritocratic, diverse, or lawful, but instead a means to serve a number of political agendas.

Most Americans demurred, but kept silent given the barrage of “racist,” “xenophobe,” and “nativist” cries that met any measured objection. Not so much now. Few any longer claim that the southern border is not being overrun, much less that allowing a non-diverse million illegal aliens in six months to flood into the United States without audit is proof that “diversity is our strength.”

The Republican Party’s prior role was to slow down the inevitable trajectory to European socialism, the end of American exceptionalism, and homogenized globalized culture. Losing nobly in national elections was one way of keeping one’s dignity, weepy wounded-fawn style, while the progressive historical arc kept bending to our collective future. Rolling one’s eyes on Sunday talk shows as a progressive outlined the next unhinged agenda was proof of tough resistance.

Like it or not, now lines are drawn. Trump so unhinged the Left that it finally tore off its occasional veneer of moderation, and showed us what progressives had in store for America.

On one side in 2020 is socialism, “Medicare for All,” wealth taxes, top income tax rates of 70 or 80 or 90 percent, a desire for a Supreme Court full of “wise Latinas” like Sonia Sotomayor, insidious curtailment of the First and Second Amendments, open borders, blanket amnesties, reparations, judges as progressive legislators, permissible infanticide, abolition of student debt, elimination of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau and the Electoral College, voting rights for 16-year-olds and felons, and free college tuition.

On the other side is free-market capitalism but within a framework of fair rather than unfettered international trade, a smaller administrative state, less taxation and regulation, constitutionalist judges, more gas and oil, record low unemployment, 3-4 percent economic growth, and pressure on colleges to honor the Bill of Rights.

The New, New Normal
The choices are at least starker now. The strategy is not, as in 2008 and 2012, to offer a moderate slow-down of progressivism, but rather a complete repudiation of it.

One way is to see this as a collision between Trump, the proverbial bull, and the administrative state as a targeted precious china shop—with all the inevitable nihilistic mix-up of horns, hooves, and flying porcelain shards. But quite another is to conclude that what we recently used to think was abjectly abnormal twenty years ago had become not just “normal,” but so orthodoxly normal that even suggesting it was not was judged to be heretical and deserving of censure and worse.

The current normal correctives were denounced as abnormal—as if living in a sovereign state with secure borders, assuming that the law was enforced equally among all Americans, demanding that citizenship was something more than mere residence, and remembering that successful Americans, not their government, built their own businesses and lives is now somehow aberrant or perverse.

Trump’s political problem, then, may be that the accelerating aberration of 2009-2016 was of such magnitude that normalcy is now seen as sacrilege.

Weaponizing the IRS, unleashing the FBI to spy on political enemies and to plot the removal of an elected president, politicizing the CIA to help to warp U.S. politics, allying the Justice Department with the Democratic National Committee, and reducing FISA courts to rubber stamps for pursuing administration enemies became the new normal. Calling all that a near coup was abnormal.

Let us hope that most Americans still prefer the abnormal remedy to the normal pathology.

Trump and the Times

James Freeman:

This column has been hoping for a few years that the discourse conducted by the President of the United States would always remain above that occurring in the pages of the New York Times. But such hopes seem unlikely to be fulfilled any time soon.

Times publisher A.G. Sulzbergerwrites in a Journal op-ed [Thursday] about the latest reckless rhetoric from Donald Trump:

First it was “the failing New York Times.” Then “fake news.” Then “enemy of the people.” President Trump’s escalating attacks on the New York Times have paralleled his broader barrage on American media. He’s gone from misrepresenting our business, to assaulting our integrity, to demonizing our journalists with a phrase that’s been used by generations of demagogues.

Now the president has escalated his attacks even further, accusing the Times of a crime so grave it is punishable by death.

On Saturday, Mr. Trump said the Times had committed “a virtual act of treason.” The charge, levied on Twitter , was in response to an article about American cyber incursions into the Russian electrical grid that his own aides had assured our reporters raised no national-security concerns…

Treason is the only crime explicitly defined in the U.S. Constitution. The Founding Fathers knew the word’s history as a weapon wielded by tyrants to justify the persecution and execution of enemies. They made its definition immutable—Article III reads: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort”—to ensure that it couldn’t be abused by politicians for self-serving attacks on rivals or critics. The crime is almost never prosecuted, but Mr. Trump has used the word dozens of times.

This column agrees with Mr. Sulzberger’s message and hopes it will be amplified and advanced by better messengers.

There also remains the hope that Mr. Sulzberger’s employees will consider living by the standards he demands of the President.

“Trump, Treasonous Traitor” was the headline on a Times column by Charles M. Blow in July of 2018. Wrote Mr. Blow:

Put aside whatever suspicions you may have about whether Donald Trump will be directly implicated in the Russia investigation.

Trump is right now, before our eyes and those of the world, committing an unbelievable and unforgivable crime against this country. It is his failure to defend.

The astounding argument was that even if the Russia collusion conspiracy theory fell apart—as it did eight months later with the completion of the Mueller report—it was still reasonable to accuse Mr. Trump of treason because his administration was insufficiently tough on Russia, in the estimation of Charles M. Blow. With sledgehammer subtlety, the Times columnist added that “America is being betrayed by its own president” and reiterated that “Trump is a traitor”.

Treason has been a recurring theme at the Times. “Already, Trump has flirted with treason,” wrote Timothy Egan shortly before Mr. Trump took office in January of 2017. By July of that year columnist Maureen Dowd seems to have concluded that the Trump administration had gone fully medieval:

Wicked siblings willing to do anything for power. Secret deals with sworn enemies. The shock of a dead body. A Wall. Foreign bawds, guns for hire, and snakes. Back-stabbing, betrayal and charges of treason. Little birds spying and tattling. A maniacal mad king and his court of scheming, self-absorbed princesses and princelings, swathed in the finest silk and the most brazen immorality, ruling with total disregard for the good of their people.

The night in Washington is dark and full of terrors. The Game of Trump has brought a pagan lawlessness never before seen in the capital.

Perhaps readers were gratified to see a Times columnist go on record against pagan lawlessness, but the talk of treason continued. “When the President Isn’t A Patriot,” read one 2017 Times headline. The story now appears online under the headline: “Odds Are, Russia Owns Trump.” “The Real Coup Plot Is Trump’s” was another 2017 Times doozy.

Times Columnist Paul Krugman has been peppering his screeds with treason references for years. But instead of simply assailing the President he prefers to accuse tens of millions of other Americans of being willing to sell out their country.

In a 2017 Times blog post entitled, “The New Climate Of Treason,” Mr. Krugman wrote that “essentially the whole GOP turns out to be OK with the moral equivalent of treason if it benefits their side in domestic politics.”

In another piece that year the Times fixture wrote that his partisan opponents appeared to be willing to betray their country not just for power, but for money as well. In “Judas, Tax Cuts and the Great Betrayal,” Mr. Krugman wrote that “almost an entire party appears to have decided that potential treason in the cause of tax cuts for the wealthy is no vice.”

By 2018, Mr. Krugman was so busy making separate accusations about the millions of Americans who disagree with him that he almost didn’t have room to include an allegation of treason. But he somehow managed to find the space:

For more than a generation, the Republican establishment was able to keep this bait-and-switch under control: racism was deployed to win elections, then was muted afterwards, partly to preserve plausible deniability, partly to focus on the real priority of enriching the one percent. But with Trump they lost control: the base wanted someone who was blatantly racist and wouldn’t pretend to be anything else. And that’s what they got, with corruption, incompetence, and treason on the side.

Treason on the side. Just a casual step across the line that the Times publisher rightly scores the President for crossing. Mr. Krugman has so thoroughly convinced himself of the wickedness of people who disagree with him that he now asserts that one of America’s two main political parties “will do anything, even betray the nation, in its pursuit of partisan advantage.”

Here’s hoping that both the President and the opinion writers at the New York Times will choose their words more carefully.

How to fix a bad budget

The first thing to do when commenting on finances is to get the numbers right.

So the MacIver Institute compares and contrasts:

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has released its summary comparing  Gov. Tony Evers’ 2019-21 budget proposal with the package passed by the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) last week. The Assembly also scheduled its budget floor vote for Tuesday, June 25. Take a look at the charts below, which compare the previous 2017-19 budget (also known as the “base”) with the Evers and JFC proposals. This post will become updated as more information is available.

Clearly the JFC budget, flawed as it is, is vastly preferable over Evers’ budget. However, the JFC’s budget still grossly overspends. There is no problem in this state that justifies the state budget’s increasing 5.6 percent (all funds) or 6 percent (general purpose revenue). This state is growing less than 0.4 percent per year in population, and the Consumer Price Index rose 1.9 percent in 2018, which means that costs of state government should not be increasing to the extent the JFC wants to spend, let alone Evers’ left-wing wish list.

Next, Ola Lisowski suggests budget fixes:

Last week, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) completed its work on the 2019-21 biennial budget, originally proposed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in February. The Assembly and Senate will vote on the document by the end of the month. While we’re all ready to swap our business suits for swim suits, Wisconsinites are relying on the Legislature to pass a responsible, taxpayer-friendly document. The following 10 ideas would improve the JFC budget.

1. REDUCE BONDING TO WALKER-ERA LEVELS.

The government shouldn’t be putting more expenditures on its credit card. Wisconsin has a strong economy that has led to impressive surplus revenue. If there is a need to increase spending, the state should pay for it directly and not increase borrowing.

2. GET RID OF THE MILEAGE MONITORING STUDY.

This is a Big Brother idea that should frighten every taxpayer. No one needs big government monitoring every mile they drive, every turn they make, like a big brother riding shotgun. This is the type of heavy-handed government oversight we don’t need or want. To make matters worse, the provision would allow the JFC, rather than the full Legislature, to approve this future taxing plan. That’s taxation without representation, and the entire Legislature should have to vote on an issue like this. And another thing – DOT has spent millions of dollars on various studies in the last 10 years. The audit told us what we need to know. Let’s stop wasting money on studies and implement real changes.

3. IMPROVE TRANSPORTATION WITHOUT REVENUE RAISERS.

The Legislature is clearly hell-bent on giving the DOT more money to “just fix it.” If lawmakers are determined to give DOT more of our hard-earned cash, they should couple the funding increase with simple ideas to make each project more accountable and cost-effective. Better data reporting is one option. Local governments should report how much road work they perform each year and how much money they spend doing it. Design-build contracts would also be a great start, and a pilot program is already included in the DOT package. Unfortunately, the pilot is limited to six projects, at $250 million total, to be completed by the end of 2025. The 2017 DOT audit recommended design-build contracts – so let’s go ahead and use them to their fullest ability rather than limiting them. The Legislature should consider pulling out the “pilot” part of this provision. The state’s gas tax could also be required to go only toward road construction or maintenance projects, to ensure it isn’t wasted on cosmetic changes or other costs only remotely related to actual road construction. Oversight of single-bid projects is also clearly needed. Since Craig Thompson was named DOT secretary-designee, the state has awarded 58 single-bid contracts worth $309 million.

4. END THE STEWARDSHIP PROGRAM.

This budget continues authorizing the Warren-Knowles Gaylord Stewardship Program through 2022, with spending allotments of $33 million per year, plus another $42.6 million in bonding authority. Total bonding authority is already over $1 billion. In 2019, the state has spent $81 million repaying debt for this public land grab. The program, which began in 1999, was originally authorized for 10 years, but is regularly renewed. We simply don’t need an expensive government program that buys and holds land while paying for it with a credit card.

5. CUT ALL PORK.

A biennial budget isn’t where the state should hand out pet projects for different lawmakers. The Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee budget, subject to approval by the full Legislature and the governor, includes $2 million to replace an underwater electric line to Washington Island. The earmark was requested by Sen. Andre Jacque (R-DePere)  and Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), and it forces state taxpayers to bail out a local electric cooperative.  The city of Kaukauna, home of Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke,  is poised to receive more than $1 million in a matching local bridge assistance program grant in 2019-20. Kaukauna Mayor Tony Penterman in a statement said a U.S. Coast Guard’s order demanding the lift bridge be operational by May 2021 put “local taxpayers on the hook for a hefty bill.” Now, state taxpayers are on the hook for Kaukauna’s old bridge. Marinette Marine, in Rep. John Nygren’s Assembly district, stands to receive $1 million, approved by the Finance Committee Nygren co-chairs. And the JFC budget includes $1 million for renovations to the Campground Shower Building at Yellowstone State Park in Lafayette County, in the district of Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), also a JFC member.

6. REQUIRE CHANGES IN THE CAPITAL BUDGET PROCESS.

Right now, entities like the University of Wisconsin System drive the process of setting prices for new buildings, submitting their own budgets and requests. There’s little to no oversight of the first ask and there is no incentive to keep costs low. In this case, taxpayers pay for state employees to lobby the state itself to ask for more taxpayer money. It’s tantamount to giving the System a blank check. We will never get cost-effective solutions under a process like this.

7. GET THE GOVERNMENT OUT OF BROADBAND.

This budget spends $44 million in federal dollars for broadband access grants. Broadband access is a robust industry with plenty of market players and plenty of private sector-led options. A competitive industry like this one doesn’t need state interference. Where the government enters, it will never, ever leave.

8. STOP ADDING AUDITORS TO SHAKE DOWN SMALL BUSINESS; SPEND MORE TIME AUDITING THE GOVERNMENT.

The budget is partially built on $137 million in new revenue that several dozen more auditors are expected to find. These are new government employees that will shake down small business owners. Those auditors should spend time auditing the government itself – we know how much waste was found in the DOT audit alone. Every last agency should be treated the same way.

9. PUT MORE MONEY INTO THE RAINY DAY FUND.

The economy is strong now, but a slowdown is inevitable. If we’re spending all this money, we need to make sure we aren’t put in a serious budget hole the next time we face a downturn. There’s a big spender in the East Wing now, and we shouldn’t be surprised to find that any new money the government gets will be spent faster than ever. Evers can’t do anything to the Budget Stabilization  or “rainy day” fund without legislative approval, so it would be a safe place to put surplus revenue.

10. CUT SPENDING WHEREVER YOU CAN.

JFC stripped approximately $5 billion in new spending proposed by Evers. That’s good news for taxpayers … until you realize it means JFC approved close to $2 billion in new spending. Very little of the new spending – such as the half-billion dollar increase to education – comes with oversight or accountability. Conservatives have said they want to pass a budget they can be proud of. In this light, it’s important to think back to the Walker years. The Republican’s first budget, for 2011-13, spent $64 billion across all funds. His last budget, for 2017-19, tipped the scales at $76 billion. Even with a conservative in office, government spending continually grew. That’s why it’s up to the conservatives in the state Capitol to keep holding the line.

My wish for this budget is that no one passes any budget. That would create a budget crisis in the minds of only those liberals and their apparatchiks in the news media. For the rest of us in the world of reality. state spending in the 2019–21 budget cycle would continue as it has in the 2017–19 budget cycle, which would not be a bad situation.

Presty the DJ for June 24

Proving that there is no accounting for taste, I present the number six song today in 1972:

Twenty years later, Billy Joel got an honorary diploma … from Hicksville High School in New York (where he attended but was one English credit short of graduating due to oversleeping the day of the final):

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for June 24”