Checking in on Scott Walker’s Foxconn Experiment
This week in the laboratories of democracy.
By Charles P. Pierce February 1, 2018
(Permanent Musical Accompaniment To This Post)
Being our semi-regular weekly survey of what’s goin’ down in the several states where, as we know, the real work of governmentin’ gets done and where the sun is rising over that little Minnesota town.
Now that the holidays are far, far behind us, it’s time for the shenanigans and the chicanery to really get rolling in the lands beyond the Beltway. State legislatures are back in action, and that means laughs for all. Anyway, we begin in Wisconsin, where the deal to bring the Foxconn plant to Racine Count is beginning to look like a poke that sleeps at least a dozen pigs. For example, Foxconn is a very thirsty corporation. From The Chicago Tribune:
“Foxconn Technology Group is seeking an air emissions permit and the right to tap 7 million gallons of water a day from Lake Michigan, an early glimpse at the regulatory requirements the company faces in Wisconsin. The city of Racine asked the state Department of Natural Resources for permission Monday to divert water from the lake primarily to serve the planned display panel factory and campus, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.”
This has some local people wondering (again) how big a bag of magic beans was purchased from Foxconn by Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage this Midwest subsidiary. After all, there can’t have been too many places where the company could draw seven million gallons of fresh water per day. He wasn’t bidding against, for example, Utah. Plus, Foxconn still faces the hurdle of passing whatever state environmental regulations Walker and his pet legislature accidentally have left in place.
“Foxconn must acquire permits for air, wastewater and storm water. State legislation that gave Foxconn $3 billion in incentives also exempted the company from other environmental requirements, such as disturbing wetlands and building in stream beds. The filing indicates that Foxconn will begin with the construction and assembly of flat-panel displays, such as televisions. Then it will continue with a fabrication plant and glass manufacturing plant. Company officials hope to have the flat-panel plant operational by next January. Foxconn said the plant will emit nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, which contribute to ozone pollution. Ozone exposure can reduce lung function, cause aggravated asthma and other [lung] diseases.”
The usual corporate pinky-swearing is underway.
“The company said it will use environmentally friendly design features at the Mount Pleasant location and will work to reduce carbon emissions.”
My guess is that the latter “work” will fail and that Foxconn will feel sad about that for approximately 11 seconds.
We keep going north to Alaska—we go north, the rush is on—and we find ourselves in Wasilla. We look around for rampaging Palins and, finding none, we discover that the invaluable Mudflats blog has discovered another specimen of local fauna who’s worth looking at:
“Senator David Wilson (R-Wasilla) was outed on the AK Landmine for committing a weird and distasteful display of vulgarity and all-around inappropriate creepiness to a well-respected high-level staffer. We’ll call her Ann Smith [not her name]. The bottom line is that Wilson was trying to get a listen to a House Majority meeting happening behind closed doors. Ann Smith stood in front of the door and told the Senator nuh-uh. Because she was doing her job. Wilson, not to be dissuaded, got in her face, and alluded to the fact he was going to record the meeting on his phone, and acted like he was going to take a picture up her skirt. He held his arm down, with the phone camera pointed where it shouldn’t have been, and got about a foot away from her at the hem level of her skirt.”
All together now, class. “Ooh, ick!” Not only that, but Wilson got himself filmed being skeevy by some local television crews. Undaunted by his previous stupidity, Wilson called a press conference and…well, you know what’s coming by now.
“It was basically David Wilson, all alone just puttin’ himself out there in front of the cameras, denying the whole thing ever happened, calling the victim a liar, the media sitting in the room fake news, and demanding the resignation of Smith’s boss. It was like Trump-lite holding a press conference without a handler. Things were said that shouldn’t have been said, and the whole thing was a slow-motion train wreck… Come on, people. I mean, who are you going to believe, the guy inviting every media outlet to come watch him say, “LIAR!” or the multiple witnesses/reporters on the scene, and the security tape from the Capitol police…”
“Those of us at Wilson’s press availability were a bit gob-smacked that Wilson was delusional/foolish enough to deny repeatedly that the incident had occurred when it was ON TAPE. And we wondered if there would be any repercussions for his rambling accusations, victim blaming, and calling everyone “fake news.””
It’s on tape, dude. How many Wasilla politicians act stupidly on TV? All of them, Katie.
Let us shake the mud of Wasilla off our shoes and go as fast as we can to Kentucky, where a local assistant police chief had become quite skilled at saying the quiet parts out loud. Really loud. From ABC News:
“The Facebook messages of concern, which accompanied the letter O’Connell sent to Evans, occurred from September to October 2016, O’Connell said. In the Facebook messages, Shaw and the recruit discussed a scenario for the recruit’s training in which he had to write a paper on the “right thing to do” if he were to come across three juveniles who were smoking marijuana, O’Connell wrote. The recruit appears to have come to Shaw for advice, telling him, “I’m so confused about this paper,” in the message, dated Oct. 5, 2016. “F— the right thing,” Shaw allegedly wrote. “If black shoot them.” Shaw allegedly made other “racially threatening statements,” which included instructions on “how to handle the juveniles’ parents,” according to the letter. “…if mom is hot then f— her,” Shaw allegedly wrote. “…if dad is hot then handcuff him and make him s— my d—.” Shaw allegedly continued, “Unless daddy is black…Then shoot him…”
As The Louisville Courier-Journal reports, Shaw and his lawyer don’t understand why people don’t have a sense of humor about this stuff anymore.
“In the messages he said he’s going to change the name of his dog, Tiger, because it’s a n—– name and joked about a photo of graffiti that shows the Bugs Bunny character Elmer Fudd standing in front of a sign that says “Negro Season.” Shaw’s lawyer said he was just “playing.””
And they fired him. Can you believe it? And this wasn’t even About Race because nothing ever is About Race.
From there, we scoot on up to Pennsylvania, where some serious lawlessness has broken out. You may recall that, the other day, a state court threw out Pennsylvania’s egregiously gerrymandered electoral map and demanded the legislature draw one up that didn’t quite so closely resemble Frank Luntz’s conception of Disney World. You might believe that’s the end of it, but you have reckoned without the thoroughgoing contempt that modern Republicans have for the law, from the legislative chambers in Harrisburg all the way up to the chambers of the United States Supreme Court. As to the first, from The Philadelphia Inquirer:
“Last week, the state high court ruled that Pennsylvania’s congressional map was the product of unconstitutional gerrymandering and ordered the General Assembly to submit files “that contain the current boundaries of all Pennsylvania municipalities and precincts” by noon Wednesday. In a letter to the court, Scarnati’s lawyers said he would not do so, repeating an argument they have made in the petition to the U.S. Supreme Court: The state court is overstepping its authority. “In light of the unconstitutionality of the Court’s Orders and the Court’s plain intent to usurp the General Assembly’s constitutionally delegated role of drafting Pennsylvania’s congressional districting plan, Sen. Scarnati will not be turning over any data identified in the Court’s Orders,” the lawyers wrote. While Scarnati’s lawyers said in a footnote that the senator does not actually have the requested data, the refusal signals that Scarnati will not comply with any future requests that could help the court draw its own map, said Drew Crompton, Senate Republicans’ top lawyer.”
Now, if you’re some poor sap who’s fighting, say, a water rights case, and the court tells you to turn over some data, and you refuse, you go to jail until you do. Unfortunately for us all, Scarnati may be acting in this lawless fashion because he has some lawless high-level back-up he can count on. From the L.A. Times:
“Last week Pennsylvania’s high court struck down the state’s election districts on the grounds they were drawn to give the GOP a 13-5 majority of its seats in the House of Representatives. Unlike other recent rulings, the state justices said they based their ruling solely on the state’s constitution. Usually, the U.S. Supreme Court has no grounds for reviewing a state court ruling that is based on state law.”
“Usually” is not a word that has much meaning in our current political moment.
“The Pennsylvania decision, if it stands, could be significant in November when Democrats hope for big gains in Congress. The state justices ordered a new election map to be drawn in the month ahead, and legal experts predicted it could shift two or three seats toward the Democrats. Late last week, the leaders of Pennsylvania’s legislature filed an emergency appeal with Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. seeking an order by Jan. 31 that would block the Pennsylvania ruling. They said it conflicted with a provision in the U.S. Constitution that says members of the House will be elected under rules “prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.” As precedent, their lawyers cited the Bush vs. Gore ruling in 2000 in which the justices overruled the Florida Supreme Court and ended a manual recount of thousands of paper card ballots. Alito, who reviews emergency appeals from Pennsylvania and two other states, could have denied the appeal if he thought it had no chance of being granted. But late in the day Monday, he asked for a response by Feb. 4 from the League of Women Voters. His action suggests that he believes there is some prospect that a majority of his colleagues may grant the appeal.”
Ah, The Great Malignancy rears its head again, despite the fact that, in 2000, the Supreme Court made clear that Bush v. Gore applied only to the process of making George W. Bush the president of the United States and that it had no precedential value. As Scott Lemieux points out, the sudden reappearance of Zombie Rehnquist on the scene is extremely ominous.
And we conclude, as is our wont, in the great state of Oklahoma, where Blog Official Saloon Pianist Friedman Of The Plains brings us the saga of yet another innovation of the 19th century that has found a home among the Sooners. From The Oklahoma Policy Institute:
“Heartbreaking stories of Oklahomans incarcerated for failure to pay their court costs have appeared everywhere from Oklahoma Watch to the New York Times, but we haven’t had a great understanding of just how many defendants are affected. A new OK Policy analysis of court records in five counties* shows that the number of people who are affected is staggering: In one county, as many as two in three criminal cases result in an arrest warrant for failure to pay at some point. It’s yet more evidence that the excessive fines and fees imposed on criminal defendants are creating enormous hardship for the people who can least afford it.”
And why is this occurring? Because god forbid anyone propose that Oklahomans tax themselves—or their energy industries—to pay for little things like the upkeep of local judiciaries.
“Courts and law enforcement agencies are ever more reliant on the money they collect due to declines in state funding. They devote a great deal of resources to pursuing, arresting, incarcerating, and adjudicating people who have failed to pay the outlandish sums that are demanded of them. The available evidence suggests that this is a losing financial proposition for the agencies involved, who end up spending more trying to collect debt than they gain in revenue.”
If you choose not to help fund your courts, you don’t live in a self-governing republic any more.