Cougar closeup

By Art G. (originally posted to Flickr as Those Eyes) [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s start with two items of good news:

Two recent cougar sightings in Northern Wisconsin have been confirmed. This is good news because we need more non-human predators in the state.

A Minnesota newspaper reports that a fracking sand mine in western Wisconsin was closed by Trempealeau County for dumping polluted water into an unlined pond. In the article we learn that the city of Independence had failed to issue the proper permits.  In exchange for obtaining the land for mining, the Star Tribune reports, the city of Independence received 15 cents for every ton of mined sand. Such “collaboration” between private and public entities really ought to be illegal, don’t you think? Fortunately, we in Wisconsin are blessed with intrepid government accountability which quickly put a stop to the unregulated mining.

Now for the bad news:

Some Wisconsinites are not in favor of government accountability, at least when it tries to hold them accountable. State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (extremely R-Rochester) wants to overhaul the state’s Government Accountability Board because despite its non-partisan arrangement and despite it being a national model of functional democracy, Vos seems to want an accountability board that is more accountable and responsive to . . . well, him and his political friends.  Vos reportedly said yesterday,

“I promise you that two years from now when we’re sitting here the GAB will not be in the current format that it is currently put together. It is dysfunctional, it is unresponsive and it is totally undemocratic.”

GAB was created only seven years ago, and Vos has no idea how he would change it besides getting rid of its director, Kevin Kennedy, an “embarrassment” according to Vos. GAB has been involved with the latest John Doe investigation, thus drawing the ire of Republicans. Vos and Senate leader Scott Fitzgerald also objected to a GAB ballot change this year. But Republican criticism of GAB is old news. Back in 2011, then-Assembly speaker Jeff Fitzgerald wanted to change GAB by making it, as Republicans came to power, more partisan. GAB remains a nonpartisan irritant for our ruling Republicans, and so therefore it must be “totally undemocratic.”

One incident that was rather undemocratic was the barring of the Wisconsin Reporter website from the Mary Burke rally in Madison attended by First Lady Michelle Obama. Wisconsin Reporter and the other Franklin Center family of “watchdogs” may not be the most  transparent and journalistically sound of news gathering organizations, but WR is credentialed, it says, to cover the Capitol and so should be allowed access to Democratic events to practice its brand of journalism. If Fox News can do it, so can they.

Also apparently undemocratic, according to the state’s Department of Workforce Development, is a raise in the minimum wage. When Wisconsin Jobs Now and some minimally employed Wisconsinites asked the state to determine if the state’s $7.25 per hour minimum is indeed, as state law requires, a living wage, the DWD wrote back saying,

“The department has determined that there is no reasonable cause to believe that the wages paid to the complainants are not a living wage.”

This seems like an unreasonable response, so I went online to the MIT Living Wage calculator and discovered that for a single adult in Wisconsin a living wage is $8.87 an hour. If the adult is responsible for raising a child, the living wage is $19.95 an hour. If the adult must raise three children, the living wage is $34.60.  Two adults with a child must each earn $17. 31 an hour to be earning a living wage. Perhaps the DWD does not regard the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a reasonable source. (“Wait. Doesn’t Noam Chomsky teach there?”)

Wisconsin Jobs Now pointed out that the DWD response was not just unreasonable, it was downright “incredibly ignorant and willfully obtuse.” Ignorance and obtuseness, willful or not, are now in vogue and in power.

But let’s end with some good news:

On the subject of cougars, no one has yet proposed a cougar-hunting season.

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