On American Kindness: Redux

[The wrenching verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial this past Friday may have been the legally-correct result, but the conclusion is inescapable that the whole situation was a senseless waste caused by a clueless teenager, carrying an assault weapon with no idea as to the potential consequences of his actions, who traveled from his home in Illinois to a Wisconsin city where he had no valid business.  On Sunday, we had the senseless tragedy in Waukesha caused by the apparently random act of a man, reported by The New York Times to have “a long, violent criminal history,” who was out of jail on bail that the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office now states was set “inappropriately low.” The families of those killed and injured in Kenosha and Waukesha should be giving thanks this week instead of grappling with unfathomable loss.  Although there is no solace for these families, when considering these tragedies I thought of an experience I described in these pages in February, 2019.  While there is so much in our current national and global situation to concern us, perhaps the help TLOML and I received on a dangerously cold night — from an elderly African American gentleman who, demographically, probably voted for President Joe Biden and from young Caucasian auto mechanics, at least one of whom, demographically, probably voted for former President Donald Trump — offers some consolation, at least for those not gripped by the deepest despair, that most of our people have good in them.  May you and your loved ones, as well as those from afar who have found refuge within our nation, have a warm and healthy Holiday.]

Over the weekend, we were in Milwaukee for a family gathering, and our fairly new Prius was struck, opening a gash on the left rear side that we were pretty sure when we discovered it was at an angle such that wind shear would cause some of the rear fender to rip off if we tried to drive back to Madison without having it attended to.  (No note was left.)  From an engine standpoint, the car was completely drivable.  We were able to make an appointment at a nearby service center (more on the shop below), and at a few minutes past 5 on a Friday night, set off to drive about 4 miles in significant winds and bitter, bitter cold with the dark coming on.

We didn’t make it.  About half way to the shop, we heard a bang and realized that part of the fender had flipped back due to the wind.  We pulled over in the now almost-dark to retrieve what had come loose, cars moving around us, fairly concerned about what we were going to do.

A van slowly pulled up behind us and stopped.  Its motor kept running, its headlights stayed on, and its emergency flashers came on.  An African-American gentleman, in his mid-50’s – warm, friendly, reassuring — got out of the van, came up, and — with cars continuously going by us and in temperatures and wind cold enough to numb your bare hands in a couple of minutes — helped us put the pieces temporarily back in place, and with duct tape he provided, we got the fender patched sufficiently so we could finish the drive.  Then we exchanged names, we thanked him – I don’t think it was possible for us to thank him profusely enough – shook hands, and … he bid us good night, and went on his way.

Got to the service center.  The shop is for engine repair, not body work, but the rep and a couple of the technicians came over and when they heard that our goal was simply to make the car secure enough to get back to Madison, they said they thought they could attach a couple of fasteners that would hold the left rear together, and told us to go to dinner (we had family with us in another car) and come back in about an hour. 

When we got back, the car looked like it had a few stitches, and was clearly sturdy enough for us to get it home.  We asked what we owed; we heard:  One of the guys had some time.  No charge.  Glad we could help.

For those of us that tend to focus on the seemingly paralyzing political acrimony we have at home and the serious issues we face here and internationally, it’s good to recall:  There exists, as there always has, a good will, a kindness, a generosity of deed and spirit in America.

A Summer Town Hall

We have spent a week in central Wisconsin virtually every August for more than 30 years.  At this time of year, I would submit that the weather in this part of this state is unsurpassed.  Although our political views and those of many of the Wisconsinites that live north of us have diverged ever more widely over the decades, such differences are easily avoided when all can share lakes, sun, and refreshers in congenial – and numerous 😉 – watering holes.

That said, we recently happened upon a town hall meeting conducted on a very pleasant day by a Republican Wisconsin Congressman in the park pavilion of a small community.  The gathering provided insight into both Republican political messaging and the startlingly different concerns of citizens sharing the same state and nation.

The format was customary:  the Congressman spoke first, followed by a question-and-answer period.  Although he is a member of a House committee responsible for immigration issues, I was nonetheless surprised to see how much time and emphasis was placed on border issues.  The Representative made notable reference to the drugs coming across the border, leaving the incorrect impression while not specifically stating that a significant number of those crossing the border are drug runners.  Fear of illegals played well with the crowd, and is clearly a theme that Republicans intend to use with their base nationwide.  What surprised me a bit was how deeply the message seemed to resonate in central Wisconsin.  This is an area of a northern state hardly overrun with illegal aliens.  What’s more, TLOML, whose family had a cottage in the area in the 1950s and 1960s, well recalls Mexican migrants who picked pickles here in those years in sufficient numbers to support Spanish food markets and Spanish movie nights.  Nevertheless, the attendees at the town hall – who, judging by their appearance, are old enough to remember those days of migrant labor – nevertheless seemed suitably worried about the prospect of brown peril at our southern border.  The Congressman was asked whether any of the illegals being processed by the Biden Administration came north, and he said they did, but — clearly experiencing a pang of candor — couldn’t bring himself to claim that he was aware of any illegals processed by the Biden Administration who had come to Wisconsin

The Congressman also mentioned in passing that there was a rumor that the Biden Administration supported teaching “Critical Race Theory” (a teaching based on the premise that race is a social construct) in public schools (although the Administration has specifically separated itself from the concept), stated that he opposed it, and declared that America was “not a racist society,” citing a Hmong family he knew that had made a good life in Wisconsin.  The total number of African Americans we have seen in our decades of coming to the area can be counted on the fingers of both hands.  Issues of African American depravation in Wisconsin’s two major metro areas are not part of the central Wisconsin experience.  The Representative’s declarations nonetheless earned appreciative nods from the crowd.  He observed that Democrats want to defund the police – which, admittedly, some do – while failing to mention that President Joe Biden unequivocally opposes defunding the police. 

At the same time, the Congressman avoided an overtly partisan tone when discussing the President – unlike the contentious approach of better-know Republicans playing for the camera.  Faced with a direct question regarding the legality of the 2020 presidential election, and while expressing some vague reservations about voting in Milwaukee County, he did not claim that either the Wisconsin or federal election was stolen from former President Donald Trump (clearly the sentiment of the questioner).  While expressing concerns about how the Administration’s and Congressional Democrats’ spending proposals could add to inflation – misgivings I share – he was careful to place a fair part of his inflation concern at the foot of the Federal Reserve Bank.

The question-and-answer period was both illuminating and at times, disconcerting.  There was marked unease about the Biden Administration proposal to eliminate the “stepped up basis” in willed property that legatees currently receive under federal tax law – obviously pertinent to a community in which the predominant value of many estates is appreciated farm land (and a valid point that will make me reflect).  The Representative understandably pledged to oppose the measure.  There was a appreciable attendee support for the bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill, particularly as regards expanded broadband access.  The Congressman indicated that he generally supported the bill (since then, Mr. Trump has expressed his opposition to the bill; it would be instructive to learn whether the Congressman has changed his position).  There was criticism of the Administration’s abandonment of the Hyde Amendment (which prohibits the expenditure of public funds for abortions).  The Representative pledged to oppose abortion rights.  In response to a question we didn’t catch, he vowed to vote against any measure limiting the Second Amendment – hardly a surprising response in the middle of a hunting state in which a gun is considered a tool.  

At the same time, a notable number of questions dealt with local issues clearly outside the Congressman’s job description, such as concerns some citizens had with solar farm development next to their properties.  (Admitting the need to address Climate Change, one could sympathize with the questioners, but their grievance seemed best directed to town, county, and state officials, not the federal government.)  Most unsettling:  the citizen that asked what the CIA was doing about the UFO threat.  While at this point my visceral association with Republicans is at a pretty low ebb, I have to admit that at that moment, I identified with the Congressman:  How is he going to handle this one without either justifying the question or insulting this guy?  I should have realized that anybody that reaches Congress is a professional at dealing with absurdities by inoffensive means:  the Representative indicated that he didn’t have much familiarity with the issue, and invited the voter to provide his UFO information to the Representative’s staff for his later review.

The Representative did not discuss COVID vaccines; for a Republican facing what was undoubtedly a vaccine-skeptical crowd, undoubtedly the wisest political course.  There was nary a question about the Capitol riot or foreign policy; unfortunately, when surrounded by Wisconsin cornfields, it is easy to overlook that threats to our system of government presented by seditionists and malign foreign powers are, like objects in a vehicle’s side mirror, closer than they appear.

There is a book report feeling to this note, but the town hall was a new lesson in American democracy for this citizen. In a phrase most closely associated with the late former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, Jr., “All politics is local.”  I suspect a town hall conducted by a Democratic Representative would offer similar doses of manipulation and pandering.  While there was a sense of dignity to it, of Norman Rockwell, at the same time the session made one wonder whether the man in the well-known Rockwell town hall drawing was rising to ask whether the road in front of his farm really needed to be expanded from one to two lanes; and how a nation can proceed when so many of its citizens are too determined to largely denounce its past, while as many others are too determined to tenaciously cling to it.

Foxconned

This week, a close friend forwarded me the March 2nd Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) article, linked below, which recounts various initiatives that Foxconn Technology Group has announced over the last several years that it would undertake in the state of Wisconsin.  The title for this post was the title of his email; it was too good not to repeat here.

What came to mind as I read the piece was the picture of the June, 2018, groundbreaking of what was then promised to be a major Foxconn manufacturing facility based in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, that would provide thousands of jobs, depicting Republicans then-President Donald Trump, then-WI Gov. Scott Walker, and then-Speaker of U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan, wielding shovels and grinning broadly.

Mr. Ryan is, of course, gone, now a member of the Board of Directors of Fox Corporation (the owner of Fox News Channel), a guest lecturer at the University of Notre Dame, and otherwise living the life of an undoubtedly well-compensated Republican frat boy.

Mr. Walker, is, of course, gone, now the president of Young America’s Foundation, a conservative youth organization listing Stephen Miller (yes, that Stephen Miller) as an alumnus, which reportedly counts among its donors the Koch Brothers and members of the DeVos family.

Mr. Trump is, of course, gone.  We know where he is.

The homes in Mount Pleasant displaced for the project and their owners, are, of course, also gone.

What remains are vacant buildings and holes in the ground as empty as Foxconn’s promises.

I suggested to a Trump/Walker supporter I know well, at some point before the pandemic hit – probably in the summer of 2019, when the grand designs promised by Foxconn and Republican politicians were already clearly unraveling — that the last we’d see of Foxconn in this state was Election Day, 2020.  He completely disagreed.  We did agree – amicably, now a rarity between citizens of contrary political views – that there was no need to debate; time would bear out which of us was correct.

I could send him a link to this WPR article, but won’t.  He would undoubtedly respond that I have been proven wrong – that Foxconn is still in Wisconsin – but more importantly, since he is a fine man, I don’t want to risk hearing him say how wonderful it will be when our state is the epicenter of the world’s production of electric vehicles.  

https://www.wpr.org/failed-partnerships-and-vacant-buildings-foxconns-wisconsin-commitment-remains-standstill

A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part X

I ventured some time ago that President Trump’s most critical foreign policy flaw is that he knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing: that his focus on trade, his harping on perceived underpayments by NATO allies, etc., etc., betrays his own preoccupation with money and finance that has frequently hampered his understanding of and ability to effectively deal with global leaders, who generally think in terms of power. I would pose that the President’s chief substantive and political defect during the COVID crisis has proven to be the same: his visceral fixation with the virus’ effects on the state of the U.S. economy, which – arguably because his perception of Americans’ priorities is colored by his own – he sees as the proxy for his electoral prospects. He doesn’t understand that the vast majority of Americans of all political stripes place the highest value on the health and wellbeing of their families, friends, neighbors and themselves; that they view money not as an end but as a means to secure their higher priorities. Since the Coronavirus provides a particularly acute instance in which wellbeing and money can by some measures be considered at odds, it has caused Mr. Trump to be uncharacteristically tone deaf even with his base. Most tragically, his initial and continuing denials of the realities of the virus – reportedly due to his fear of the effect on the economy – has arguably resulted in greater illness and loss of life (and, ironically, damage to the economy) than would have occurred had he acted promptly, decisively, and consistently. At the time this is typed, the New York Times is reporting upon an internal CDC document projecting that virus-related deaths will increase from their current level of 1,750 a day to 3,000 a day by June 1. Even from a purely the political perspective, Mr. Trump’s uncertainty, inconsistency, pettiness and unreasoned behavior (the comment about disinfectant injection being the most disconcerting) has made plain to a wider swath of Americans – perhaps an electorally determinative swath — that he is at least a bit unstable, that his values are different from theirs, and – most crucially — that he cares more about himself than he does about them. I’ve seen various scholars grasping for American historical parallels to the bootless manner in which Mr. Trump has approached the COVID crisis. To me the most apt is obvious: Herbert Hoover, who proved unable to effectively deal with an economic depression engulfing his people — the closest an American President has heretofore come to the apocryphal account of Emperor Nero, said to have fiddled while Rome burned.

The Foxconn saga in southeast Wisconsin provides its own Coronavirus-related kaleidoscope. It is undisputed that the project is now a drastically-scaled back version of that proposed with such fanfare by Mr. Trump, then-WI Gov. (Republican) Scott Walker and then-Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (Republican) Paul Ryan in June, 2018. It seems not unreasonable to assume, given a March Wall Street Journal report that Foxconn’s net profit had fallen 24% in Q4 2019 even before Coronavirus effects and an April Reuters report that its 2020 Q1 revenue was 12% below its comparable 2019 totals, that the company wishes to tap funding sources and perhaps reassess its investments. In light of the Wisconsin’s project’s underperformance, I had wondered whether Foxconn might attempt to take the political sting out of its shortcomings by blaming the virus. The company is apparently taking a different tack: below is a link to an April 9, 2020, CNBC piece indicating that Foxconn has filed paperwork with the state asserting that it has met its contractual hiring targets, perhaps entitling it to incentives approximating $50 million. The piece further indicates that the Administration of WI Gov. Tony Evers is studying Foxconn’s filing, but even if Foxconn is accurate and is entitled to the contractual benefits, the 550 jobs Foxconn claims to have created are reported to be a quarter of those it originally promised by this juncture. This seemingly creates a political optics problem for Republicans: a financially-strapped company seeking millions in incentives for a dramatically-reduced project from a state currently receiving ten times its 2019 unemployment claims while reasonably anticipating declining tax revenues. Foxconn is presumably aware of this; the final (at least as of now) pattern to its kaleidoscope: Medtronic and Foxconn are allegedly partnering to make ventilators at the Wisconsin facility. If brought to fruition, this welcome news and will put a positive face on the project; whether this is any more than talk remains, like other representations related to this Wisconsin facility, to be seen.

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/09/foxconn-says-it-met-hiring-targets-in-wisconsin-now-it-wants-its-money.html

Costco has recently announced that it will not let customers into its stores unless they are wearing masks. This has provoked an emotional negative response from what is obviously a tiny segment of Costco customers, who have been reported as tweeting comments such as, “Im [sic] a free citizen of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA I will not comply with your mask rule! My body, my choice!” While the overall level of American mental acuity may be enhanced if, as we confront a highly contagious and dangerous disease, Charles Darwin’s principle of Natural Selection manifests itself within this segment of our populace as well as within the segment carrying assault weapons while demonstrating in and about state legislatures, one cannot help but fear for all lives endangered by such capricious behavior.

We consider the CDC projection a warning: Don’t get bored, or complacent. Keep your guard up.

Stay safe.

A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part VI

As millions of people lose their jobs – and for many, their employment-based health insurance as well – it may, for a pivotal segment of our electorate, transform government-run Medicare for All from a “socialist” idea into a preferred policy position. Depending upon how the COVID crisis evolves in the coming months, finessing any such transition in voter sentiment could present a challenge for President Trump and Republicans. It might, ironically, also present a challenge for former Vice President Joe Biden if U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders presses Mr. Biden too overtly to embrace it. I would submit – and hope that Mr. Sanders will recognize — that even if Mr. Biden simply maintains his call for a “Public Option” to augment the Affordable Care Act, the pandemic’s impression upon the American psyche will, for good or ill, probably tilt public sentiment and selection toward a government-operated health care system.

Despite last week’s verbal skirmishes between President Trump and state Governors, and irrespective of any White House guidelines guiding states as to how to ease Coronavirus prevention behaviors and reopen businesses, I agree with those that suggest that the economy is going to open up slowly no matter what the President declares or state governments implement. The United States is a consumer-driven economy. Drawing upon the basics of the project planning methodologies in which I was tutored at times during my days in corporate America [my primary tutors being among those that follow these pages  ;)], I would offer that consumers have “Needs,” “Should [Have]s,” and “Nice [to Have]s.” Food, prescription drugs, ATM cash, doctor visits, and car repairs all are or can be Needs; these have continued through the crisis. Visits to close family, barber/hair stylists, and dental hygienists seem among the “Shoulds” to which most of our people are likely to more readily return when the economy reopens. But until there is an effective way to identify disease trends and hotspots, and/or a widely-administered effective vaccine, how enthusiastically will they engage in Niceties? If during May, our citizens can return to favorite restaurants, how many will? If youth activities officially open, how many will allow their children to participate? How likely are most to quickly return to the mall rather than buy online?

That said, I’m of two minds regarding WI Gov. Tony Evers’ recent extension of his Executive “Safer at Home” Order through the Memorial Day Weekend. Assuming that the surge of Wisconsin’s new cases will have passed by Memorial Day, Gov. Evers is commendably attempting to avoid a resurgence of the Coronavirus in the state by limiting the increased human interaction that accompanies the Holiday. On the other hand, the Memorial Day weekend is a pillar of revenue generation for much of the state. At the time this is typed, approximately 75% of the state’s 4000+ reported cases are in Milwaukee, Dane (Madison, for those that read these pages from outside the state), and the counties in proximity to Milwaukee County. Waushara County – in the middle of the state, where we spend one of our favorite weeks of the year every August – has two reported cases. Although Milwaukee area and Dane County residents (as well as Illinois residents from in and around Chicago) – likely transmitters of the Coronavirus – provide much of their tourism revenue, upstate financially-strapped communities and small business owners – for whom all have sympathy — may wish to ignore the danger. Mr. Evers may be inviting civil disobedience by being perceived to have prematurely imposed a quarantine on a majority of the state’s counties that (1) need the money and (2) have thus far experienced few COVID consequences. While extending his original order into May was a necessary step, it might ultimately prove to have been wiser for him to have taken the approach of NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo: extend the quarantine to May 15, and let the data existing in early May inform further extensions that might have included Memorial Day.

Speaking of Gov. Cuomo: although later last week, Mr. Trump in effect backtracked on his earlier declaration that the President’s authority to address a crisis such as a pandemic is “total,” since he is clearly nettled by both Mr. Cuomo’s proactive leadership during the crisis and the generally positive response Mr. Cuomo’s efforts have received, there seems no small irony that in No. 67 of The Federalist, Andrew Hamilton (writing as “Publius”), advocating for adoption of the Constitution, sought to reassure Americans leery of the danger of a monarchial presidency by declaring that under the Constitution, the President’s power would be akin to “[t]he authorities of a magistrate, in few instances greater, in some instances less, than those of a governor of New York …” [Emphasis Added]

We consider Friday, March 13, to mark the beginning of our self-isolation, since it was the first night that we didn’t go out to dinner as we normally would because of Coronavirus uncertainty. We both woke up on April 13 feeling … the blahs. Whether our doldrums arose from a letdown after Easter, or because it coincidentally marked the end of our first month in self-quarantine, the feelings were unmistakable. Our virus-related behavior changes are no longer arrestingly novel, merely humdrum. Perhaps you are feeling or will feel the same. We are resolving to keep at it. If you are among the fortunate experiencing no virus symptoms, it seems likely that the safeguards you’ve been employing have been working. It seems reasonable to suggest that getting through the remaining period of this crisis – no matter how long that might be – may depend upon your diligence and constancy. If you’re getting restless and assessing your odds of surviving a COVID-19 infection, you might find the recent Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal articles linked below – although much of what is related in couched in qualifiers — sobering antidotes for cabin fever.

https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2020-04-10/coronavirus-infection-can-do-lasting-damage-to-the-heart-liver

https://www.wsj.com/articles/coronavirus-ravages-the-lungs-it-also-affects-the-brain-11586896119

Stay safe.

A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part I: A Postscript … Expanded

In the above Postscript published Tuesday, I noted de facto Democrat Judge Jill Karofsky’s victory over de facto Republican Justice Daniel Kelly, and commented that Ms. Karofsky’s 10-point margin of victory over Mr. Kelly was particularly impressive “… given what I understand was a depressed turnout in Milwaukee County.”

Although I have been writing in these pages for quite a while, I’m still not sure whether anyone but me can readily view entered comments. Soon after the post, a close friend questioned my implication that the Milwaukee County voter turnout was depressed by the Republican-dominated Wisconsin Legislature’s insistence on holding the April 7 election notwithstanding pandemic fears and the grossly reduced number of Milwaukee city polling places. He noted that the Karofsky/Kelly Milwaukee County vote total (which approximated 200,000) was higher than the Milwaukee County vote total in the 2019 Wisconsin Supreme Court race between de facto Republican Brian Hagedorn and de facto Democrat Lisa Neubauer (which approximated 150,000), won by now-Justice Hagedorn by .5%. There are no pure apples-to-apples comparisons — the Karofsky/Kelly ballot included a Democratic Presidential primary not on the Hagedorn/Neubauer ballot, and the Karofsky/Kelly total was roughly half that of the Milwaukee County turnout in the 2018 Gubernatorial contest between current WI Gov. Tony Evers and then-WI Gov. Scott Walker – but the 2019 Hagedorn/Neubauer Milwaukee County vote total – a quarter less than the corresponding Karofsky/Kelly county vote total – is certainly an objective indication that the Republican action did not depress last week’s Milwaukee County voter turnout to any significant degree. Our friend added: “I know that the argument is that Republicans are trying to suppress the vote. Either they’re not very good at it or that is not what is going on. Data doesn’t seem to support the suppression theory.” [Someone very close to me asserts that just because the Karofsky/Kelly numbers weren’t down compared to similar races doesn’t mean that the Republicans’ action didn’t suppress voter turnout in the City of Milwaukee. I intend to leave this debate to them ;)].

The reference to actual Milwaukee County vote totals was a valuable reminder for me: all news sources, either intentionally or unconsciously, emphasize those facts that they consider the most important. After seeing any number of reports about an impending depressed Milwaukee turnout and the indisputably grossly reduced number of polling sites in the city itself, I assumed that the Karofsky/Kelly Milwaukee County vote total clearly lagged the County’s totals in the most comparable state contests – which, no matter which side of the suppression debate you take, it did not. In an editorial published on the evening of April 14, The Wall Street Journal observed, “Republicans may have disenfranchised many of their own voters, who tend to be older and perhaps feared voting in person if they hadn’t requested an absentee ballot.” Without regard to political persuasion, if one believes that the Republicans were trying to manipulate the election process for Justice Kelly’s benefit – which I do – one cannot help but conclude that they were, indeed, not very good at it.

The exchange arising from the Postscript was in another way an excellent reminder for me that I fear is too easily overlooked in today’s partisan environment: it is as important to safeguard the voting rights of those with whom we disagree as it is to safeguard the franchise for those with whom we agree. Although it’s a particularly keen irony if Wisconsin Republicans’ efforts did ultimately significantly depress their own supporters’ vote in last week’s election, any suppression should be abhorred in a true democracy.

The Wall Street Journal said nothing significant in its editorial that our friend hadn’t noted during the day’s exchanges.  Some of us retirees really get into this stuff.    🙂

Stay safe.

A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part I: A Postscript

[I had no intent to post today, but given the outcome of the Wisconsin Supreme Court race announced last evening, cannot resist  🙂 ]

As part of the above-referenced post on April 6, I indicated the following about the Wisconsin Supreme Court race between incumbent [de facto Republican] Justice Daniel Kelly and challenger [de facto Democrat] Judge Jill Karofsky:

“The currently-projected outcome [of the election] is obviously devastating for Ms. Karofsky, who perhaps anticipated victory at the end of January because a contested Democratic presidential primary would have brought thousands of liberal-leaning voters to the polls. Now – and this ranks among the observations I have made in these pages that I would most like to see proven wrong – she will probably lose, a political victim of the Coronavirus.”

It is hard to overstate my pleasure at noting that I was proven wrong – in a result announced yesterday, Judge Karofsky defeated Justice Kelly – and will thus succeed him on the Wisconsin Supreme Court – by a margin I have seen reported at 55.3% to 44.7%.

I consider Ms. Karofsky’s margin of victory as shocking at the outcome. Two years ago, Democratic WI Gov. Tony Evers defeated former Republican WI Gov. Scott Walker by a little more than 1%. Since President Trump has made “Republican” synonymous with “Trump,” the size of Ms. Karofsky’s win over Mr. Kelly – even more impressive than it otherwise would have been, given what I understand was a depressed turnout in Milwaukee County, the largest Democratic stronghold in the state — would seemingly send an ominous signal to the President and his campaign cohort regarding the President’s current standing in a swing state integral to his re-election prospects.

Hopefully, the Karofsky – Kelly result actually reflects current Wisconsin sentiment toward both Mr. Trump and the partisan Wisconsin Republican legislature, although – as the late Marquette basketball coaching legend Al McGuire would say – the November election is still an eon of time away. There is certainly NO room for complacency; this result will cause Wisconsin Republicans to redouble their efforts for November. Even so, and despite the health challenges confronting us across the nation, Wisconsin moderates as well as its liberals should be allowed a moment to savor Judge Karofsky’s victory.

A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part I

In recent days, a number of friends from outside Wisconsin have asked: Why is my state continuing with its scheduled election despite the danger posed to voters’ health by the Coronavirus?

Wisconsin is again, sadly, a political epicenter in what should be entirely considered a health crisis. WI Gov. Tony Evers has asked the Wisconsin Legislature to postpone the election scheduled for April 7, citing the danger to citizens and election workers involved in having large numbers of citizens assemble at voting places (the number of sites reduced due to so many long-serving senior-aged poll workers’ understandable withdrawals to avoid the crowds) during the week that on April 5 Trump Administration Surgeon General Jerome Adams called “… the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives.” The Wisconsin Legislature has refused to postpone the election. The reason is simple: Republican Wisconsin Supreme Court Candidate Daniel Kelly, recently cited in these pages as hosting a fund raiser at a gun range the day after five people were killed in a shooting at the Molson Coors Headquarters in Milwaukee, is, due to what will probably be a depressed turnout, likely to defeat Democratic Wisconsin Supreme Court Candidate Jill Karofsky if the election is held as scheduled. Ms. Karofsky’s electoral chances are arguably enhanced if the election is delayed, thereby affording a greater number of Wisconsinites the opportunity to cast ballots. (Note: through no partisan fault, Wisconsin voting authorities have had trouble accommodating a recent understandably-unanticipated surge of absentee ballot requests). The currently-projected outcome is obviously devastating for Ms. Karofsky, who perhaps anticipated victory at the end of January because a contested Democratic presidential primary would have brought thousands of liberal-leaning voters to the polls. Now – and this ranks among the observations I have made in these pages that I would most like to see proven wrong – she will probably lose, a political victim of the Coronavirus.

My answer to the friends that have inquired, and speaking as one who is pleased to acknowledge that he supported former Wisconsin Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson in each of Mr. Thompson’s Gubernatorial runs: current Wisconsin Republican lawmakers are in large measure venomous, vindictive, self-righteous and small-minded – but a gussied-up partisan rabble. They must have their way. Their behavior makes manifest that only winning – not electoral fairness, not their citizens’ health — matters to them. Under these circumstances, I find the prospect of Ms. Karofsky’s defeat disheartening … but it is what it is. One can only feel embarrassed at the state’s decline from one of congenial feeling and forward thinking.

Kelly Gun Range Fundraiser the Day after Brewery Shooting

I mentioned last Friday that I wouldn’t be posting for a bit, but this piece was called to my attention and is worth abandoning my indication. Attached is a link to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article reporting upon a campaign fundraiser run by Republican Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly the day after five of our people were killed in a shooting at the Molson Coors Headquarters in Milwaukee. This is in a sense a useless post, since I’m fairly confident that no Wisconsin voter that supported former WI Gov. Scott Walker or his agenda reads these pages … but I don’t know how to reconcile in my head the level of wanton insensitivity Mr. Kelly is reported to have exhibited here.

https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/daniel-bice/2020/03/02/justice-dan-kelly-held-fundraiser-gun-range-day-after-molson-coors-shooting/4929200002/

Contrasting Matt Bevin and Roy Moore with … Foxconn

Liberal talking heads are currently reveling in Kentucky Democratic Governor-Elect Andy Beshear’s apparent (albeit narrow) victory over KY Republican Governor Matt Bevin. While I understand a certain amount of liberal chortling – President Trump held a big rally in Kentucky the night before the election, unwisely declaring that the outcome would be a referendum on him — Gov. Bevin’s electoral weakness in a solid Republican state, although particularly heartening to a couple of readers of these pages literally or viscerally closer to the Bluegrass State than I am, was seemingly due to local issues related to his abrasive manner and the state’s public teachers’ organized and spirited opposition. I don’t think any pundit is opining that even a centrist Democratic presidential nominee can win Kentucky’s Electoral College votes in 2020. Likewise, Alabama voters’ narrow 2017 selection of U.S. AL Sen. Doug Jones over former AL Chief Judge Roy Moore – the latter then facing multiple credible accusations of sexual misconduct – seems an understandable idiosyncratic result in an otherwise-solidly Republican state. As with Kentucky, I doubt any commentator considers Sen. Jones’ election a harbinger of electoral risk for any Republican presidential nominee in Alabama in 2020.

That said, Wisconsin’s 2020 Electoral College votes could in part hinge on a local issue because it is the rare local issue that can be tied directly to Mr. Trump. As most are well aware, in late June, 2018, to significant fanfare, Mr. Trump, together with Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou and such Republican luminaries as then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan and then-WI Gov. Scott Walker, broke ground for a Foxconn manufacturing plant in Mount Pleasant, WI, in the Racine/Kenosha southeastern corner of the state between Chicago and Milwaukee. Mr. Trump offered lengthy remarks at the ceremony (more on that below). Below this paragraph are links to three articles respectively published in July, September, and October of 2019, recounting: that Foxconn has reduced the number of jobs it projects for the facility from 13,000 to 1,500; that Foxconn has canceled the announced 20 million-square foot manufacturing facility while instead breaking ground on a 1 million-square-foot facility [with its announced operation commencement date to be at or about the time of the 2020 presidential election (wink, wink)]; that the implementation of Foxconn “Innovation Centers” around the state, projected to provide hundreds of sophisticated jobs, has been suspended; claims that Foxconn has a history of delivering a fraction of its promises and that the Mount Pleasant project is a “snow job”; and displacement of hundreds of homeowners allegedly “railroaded” by local governmental deceit.

https://www.theverge.com/2019/7/10/20689021/foxconn-wisconsin-governor-jobs-tony-evers-manufacturing

https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2019/09/owners-near-foxconn-say-they-were-misled-now-their-homes-are-gone/

https://www.theverge.com/2019/10/23/20929453/foxconn-innovation-centers-on-hold-wisconsin-mount-pleasant-trump-deal

On July 31, 2019, the W.E. Upjohn Institute issued a report, “Costs and Benefits of a Revised Foxconn Project,” in response to a request by the Wisconsin Department of Administration. A link to the report is below. The Upjohn analyst, Timothy Bartik, makes clear in the report that neither he nor Upjohn was compensated for the analysis. He indicates:  that even a reduced Foxconn arrangement that follows the credit rates of the original arrangement would result in incentives to Foxconn in the range of $100K to $200K a job, compared with average U.S. incentives to prospective employers of $24K a job; that the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s report that the project would fiscally break even in 2042-43 was “incomplete and overly optimistic”; and that “the Foxconn deals are far greater than … the [recent] Amazon deals in New York or Virginia.”  Mr. Bartik concludes:

“The most important conclusion of this analysis is that … a revised Foxconn incentive contract, which offers similar credit rates to the original contract, has … incentives [that] are so costly per job that it is hard to see how likely benefits will offset these costs.”

https://research.upjohn.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1244&context=reports

A link to the transcript of the June, 2018, Mount Pleasant groundbreaking ceremony attended by Messrs. Trump, Gou, Walker, and Ryan is included below (given what has transpired, it is not tinged, but rather drips, with irony).

Amongst his remarks, the President declared:

“Moments ago, we broke ground on a plant that will provide jobs for much more than 13,000 Wisconsin workers.”

“Terry [Gou] is a friend of mine and I recommended Wisconsin, in this case… this was something that just seemed right.”

“I said, ‘Terry, this place is such a great place.’ … And I said to Terry, ‘This would be an incredible place.’”

“So I had this incredible company going to invest someplace in the world — not [in the U.S.] necessarily. And I will tell you they wouldn’t have done it here, except that I became President …. And I immediately thought of the state of Wisconsin.”

Mr. Walker chimed in: “Well, thanks, Mr. President. As you mentioned, you got the ball rolling …. And we couldn’t be more proud to have [Foxconn] … in the state of Wisconsin.”

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-foxconn-facility/

Given this apparently undisputable Foxconn fiasco, it would seem that any Democratic Presidential nominee should, by merely uttering, “Foxconn,” whenever entering Wisconsin, easily carry the state against Mr. Trump. It will obviously not be that simple.

An irrelevant but irresistible aside: in the transcript of the groundbreaking ceremony, one finds that the President also declared: “I just realized the other day, they told me — when we won the state of Wisconsin, it hadn’t been won by a Republican since [President] Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952. Did you know that? And I won Wisconsin. And I like Wisconsin a lot, but we won Wisconsin. And Ronald Reagan — remember, Wisconsin was the state that Ronald Reagan did not win. And that was in 1952. [My emphasis].” (In fact, Mr. Eisenhower won Wisconsin again in 1956; Republican President Richard Nixon won Wisconsin in 1960 (in a losing effort), 1968, and 1972; and – certainly not least – Republican President Reagan carried Wisconsin in both 1980 and 1984.) The description of Mr. Trump coming to mind is that attributed to and never denied by former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson …