Nature and Society

by Mimi Wuest

Capitalism is not an inherently greedy and exploitative system.  I imagine that at some time in the future, capitalism will have evolved into a system that combines profit-making with sustainability.  But in its present form, capitalism closely resembles the Spanish Conquistadors with their philosophy of plundering and pillaging.

Any system with concentrated power and wealth requires checks and balances to avoid excesses.  That is where regulations come in, regulations that require extraction companies to clean up toxic spills and to reclaim the land when they abandon operations.  Safety regulations that protect workers and the surrounding communities.  Environmental regulations that insure both national parks and natural resources will be preserved for the future.  Regulations to protect clean air and water.

Under our current Capitalism-on-Steroids system, regulations are being removed and corporate growth will be basically unchecked.  And after a few years of life without regulations, we may have compromised the environment beyond what we can reclaim.  Sadly, the same can be said of our educational system and our health care.

As we all remember from high school civics class, our government is designed to function with each branch providing a check or balance for the other branches.  Alas, this protection, too, is being eroded.  The executive branch (the Presidency) and the legislative branch (the Congress) are in lock step and together they are creating a Supreme Court in their own image.  We may soon have a government that is out of control, serving only a select segment of our population and basically ignoring the needs of average Americans.

It is like a slow motion coupe, taking place in such a tedious way that most Americans won’t even notice.  Behind a screen of sensational tweets, the underpinnings of Democracy are being whittled away.  While we gawk and marvel at the battles of small minds in the administration, something much more sinister is going on.  It is becoming more difficult to vote.  It is more difficult to afford a college education.  Wages stay low, preventing people from rising out of poverty and keeping the middle class stressed and over-worked.

Together, these underhanded dealings will make it easier for a powerful few to make our decisions for us.  While we are distracted by tweets about dangerous aliens or dangerous Arabs or dangerous Russians, Democracy is under attack.  Just as there may be no repairing damage to our environment if regulations are abandoned, we may find that Democracy has been replaced by an Aristocracy, a government of the wealthy and powerful, and there may be no going back.

If we don’t find a way to slap some regulations and some checks on this greedy stampede, it may leave us in the dust.

Trumps turned swamp into toilet

by Dave Wester

Originally published at The Wisconsin State Journal

For decades the federal government had only occasional scandals. Since conservatives took over in 2016, we’ve experienced a virtual blizzard of scandals. We’ve seen porn stars, nepotism, racism and wealthy Cabinet members who rip off taxpayers with $31,000 dining sets, $43,000 unnecessary phone booths and exorbitant travel expenses.
We have an unqualified education secretary who fails to visit poorly performing schools, and a tax cut for the rich coupled with a trillion-dollar spending spree leading to an increase in the national debt. The president has refused to condemn Russia for election meddling, and his family has suspicious relationships with Russian officials.

The Trump administration can be described in one word: Stormy.

President Donald Trump’s tariff policies threaten to increase the cost of farmers’ equipment (steel) and shrink their markets for cheese and corn in Mexico, and soybeans and pork in China. The proposed tariffs have caused erratic swings in the stock market.
Failing to criticize Trump, conservatives wallow in the gutter with him. We desperately need a Congress that is willing to put ethics and country over party. Draining the swamp is no longer appropriate. It’s time to flush the toilet.
Think about that before November when you pull the lever.

Give your vote to a good Board candidate

By Nick Kelly, Baraboo, WI

We are in big trouble at the Sauk County Board.  The most distinct problem is that of Chairman Marty Kreuger who has created his own brand of chaos and mis-management. And he has his minions who willingly do his bidding.

But there are some very decent honest Board members who are frustrated with the stranglehold that exists.

And there is an election coming up on April 3 where you can help choose qualified members for the next Board.

Here’s  a listing of my favorite candidates:

District 2, Tom Kriegl; District 3, Charles Whitsell; District 4, Pat Rago; District 5, Robert Newport; District 6, John Dietz; District 11, Glen Johnson; District 13, Kristin White Eagle; District 14, Shane Gibson; District 15, Peter Vedro; District 16, John Miller; District 17, Tim Rippen; District 18, Scott Von Asten; District 19, Bryant Hazard; District 20, Matt Joyce; District 22, Jean Berlin; District 23, Kevin Lins; District 24, Dave Riek; District 25, Sandy Vieth; District 26, LaNell Jaquish; District 27, Scott Alexander; District 28, Bill Hambrecht and finally District 42, Valerie McAuliffe.

Vote for these Sauk County Board members on April 3.

Protecting nature

By James Malmberg

Our forefathers felt strongly that nature needed protection from development.  Had they not, the Grand Canyon, Smokey Mountain National Park, the Florida Everglades, Devils Lake State Park are a examples of areas that could have disappeared through habitat destruction with their beauty gone forever.

Today, greed is stealing nature from our kids and grandkids and beyond.  Once 100,000 acres of wetlands that have been removed from protection are developed, they are gone…forever.  The reason given for removing the protection is that it will make homes cheaper.  In other words, the wild life and beauty of nature will be destroyed so we can buy cheaper houses.  Future generations are being robbed but those in power don’t care.  After all, the profit motive is more important than habitat destruction.

Perhaps remembering a Cree proverb will put home buyers and developer’s greed in perspective.  It says, “Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can’t eat money.”

Guns and violence

By Sam Pocernich

In February Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Governor Scott Walker, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and Speaker Robin Vos urging them to pass bills related to guns and violence.

According to the Cap Times on February 20th 2018, ‘Vos dismissed the move as a media stunt, arguing Democrats could have called him personally if they were serious. “This is all about politics, and I think it’s really sad and it’s really cynical because they are preying on the fears of some Wisconsinites and asking it for their own political purposes, “ Vos said.’

Then the Republicans shot down a background checks bill. Representative Kathleen Bernier, a Republican, said she didn’t necessarily disagree with the proposal but she objected to the process by which the Democrats brought the bill to the floor.

So our legislators are not voting on the issues per se, but they are voting based on how they feel. If this is what passes for leadership in Wisconsin, then fill in the blank.

We already know Congress and the White House are dysfunctional. If we can’t start by cleaning up our own state this year, then we certainly get what we deserve and demanded.

Speak softly, but carry a big stick

By Peter J. Vedro, Sauk County Board Supervisor, District 15, Baraboo

Although Theodore Roosevelt advised, “Speak softly, but carry a big stick,” the time has come to use that stick — and that stick is your vote. For too long, the Sauk County Board has been, by design, a rubber stamp to chair Marty Krueger. By filling vacancies on the board, assigning committee memberships and determining major personnel choices of senior administrators, he has been able to rule as an unquestionable county executive rather than one of 31.

In January, he along with the Executive and Legislative Committee, enabled by the co-opted interim corporation counsel, denied you your statutory right to have a Citizens Advisory Referendum placed on the April 3 ballot, seeking your voice on ending the corrupt practice of gerrymandering. And now, Krueger wishes to combine the two major committees of Finance and Personnel and have his vice-chair appointed to run it.

This must be stopped; and the only people who can do that are you — the Sauk County voters. Your individual vote is critical. If you, like many of us, are fed up with the lack of democratic process, your vote is essential to a new beginning for Sauk County governance.

Vote on February 20

by William Dagnon

Sticker image with USA flag and text "I Voted"“…perhaps our most essential freedom is the ability to participate in government.” Alex Marshall

We are free to govern ourselves! Our founders realized we didn’t need a king, emperor, or strong man to rule over us; therefore, all citizens have a grave responsibility to actively participate in our self-government.

February 20th is the Wisconsin Supreme Court primary election, all citizens need to ask of the candidates:

Do you support the:

Wisconsin Constitution’s requirement that we provide free and uniform public schools for all children?

Wisconsin Constitution’s requirement that our state protect Wisconsin waters under the public trust doctrine?

State government’s obligation to protect and facilitate every citizen’s freedom to vote and have their vote count?

Freedom of local, democratically elected government officials to determine their local government?

Freedom of citizens to form associations to advocate for fair wages, hours, working conditions of their employers?

Rights of human beings over that of corporations and wealth?

And your own questions about your government protecting your freedom & rights.

Do your duty as an American citizen. Learn about the candidates for Supreme Court, research their qualifications and views, decide on who will best uphold our American values and vote on February 20th.

The greatest threat

by Dave Wester

The greatest threat to the United States is our conservative Congress.

We know that Russia interfered with our 2016 presidential election.  Several members of President Trump’s campaign have admitted to, or been indicted on, charges involving Russian contacts.  The Trump campaign may have colluded with Russia.

Conservatives, who used to accuse liberals of being soft on Russia, are not only ignoring Russian involvement but are trying to stop Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.  What are they covering up, and why?

Greedy conservatives ignore Trump’s sins—lying, racism, harassment of women, failure to acknowledge Russian involvement, etc.—because they are making money.  They ignore the facts that the United States was recovering from the Great Recession long before Trump took office, and that stock markets around the world are doing better than ours.

We must restore our system of checks and balances.  Our conservative Congress has been derelict in its duty to check our apparently unbalanced president. We need a more mature president than one who claims, “My button is bigger than your button,” and “I am a very stable genius.”

Now it is the conservative swamp that needs to be drained.  We can do it in November.

The GOP tax bill

by Allegra Zick

Persons of middle and lower incomes are in for a big disappointment because of the provisions in the tax bill fabricated by the GOP without input from Democrats.  Only those of wealth, including Trump will benefit. The tax cuts to the wealthy will add $1.5 trillion to the federal budget that will mean cuts, cuts, and more cuts. Where once the GOP had an aversion to debt, now they see it as an opportunity to roll back Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, not recognizing that workers have paid into those programs with every paycheck. Another onerous and damaging provision calls for the tuition assistance for graduate assistants to be taxed as income. This will ensure that advanced degrees become exclusive for the very rich who do not need assistance to finance their education. It will worsen the already significant racial disparities and be a direct shameful attack on student loan borrowers. Universities will be hampered from having the researchers who will develop ways to better the health and welfare for all. Even employers who care about a well-trained workforce will find their employer-provided aid would become taxable. Why are GOP legislators at war against educators? Could it be because most vote Democrat?

The Republican tax bill

by Allegra Zick

To quote Bernie Sanders, “At a time of massive inequality, this budget provides $1.9 trillion in tax breaks for the top 1%. This is not a bad budget bill, it is a horrific bill.” Why? Over the next decade $1 trillion is cut from Medicaid  and $47.3 billion from Medicare. Only Republicans supported it.  Tammy Baldwin’s and Sanders’ proposed amendments were blocked by the Republicans who did not want it exposed that the tax bill benefited the Koch brothers, Donald Trump, and their billionaire friends. Baldwin’s amendment to prevent increasing the deficit in order to fund tax cuts for millionaire and billionaires was also blocked. This budget will cut health care, food stamps, the earned –income credit, child tax credit, supplemental security for disabled and children, and Pell grants for education harming the most vulnerable, and working families will pay in order to keep taxes low for the 1% for the next ten years.

There will be stunning cuts to everything outside of the military, not seen since the time of Herbert Hoover which includes services that contribute to our safety, health, environmental and water and sewage protections, medical research, modern infrastructure, and education.