Thursday, December 30, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
The Legal Watchdog blog looks at a terrible decision from the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in which it upheld an order for a 17-year-old to register as as sex offender, even though he committed no sex crime. The youth forced another 17-year-old to accompany him to collect a debt. This was enough to convict him of falsely imprisoning a minor, which the Wisconsin legislature has defined as a sex crime.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
In campaigning to become Wisconsin's next governor, Scott Walker promised to usher in a new era of austerity in state government. But one of his first decisions suggests his determination to make the "haves" in state government more like the "have-nots" elsewhere stops at his own door — his own car door, to be precise.
Isthmus has learned that Walker plans to spend significantly more than his predecessor, Gov. Jim Doyle, on his personal state vehicle.
According to Emily Winecke, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Division of Administration, which maintains the state's vehicle fleet, the state has signed a 60-day lease on a 2011 GMC Yukon XL for Walker's use, from the car rental company Enterprise.
"This vehicle," says Winecke, "was selected by the governor-elect's security detail so that all members of [his] family could travel together in one vehicle." She explains that the costs "include" a $1,596.50 monthly rental fee for up to 3,000 miles per month, plus 20 cents per mile beyond that.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Johnson told WisPolitics Tuesday he has the same concerns about the treaty that others are now expressing: that it ties the nation’s defense missile system to a reduction in nuclear arms.Ugh.
The Senate voted 67-28 to advance the treaty.
“I’m concerned about anything in this lame-duck session that is just being rammed through without adequate debate, without proper hearings,” Johnson said.
While acknowledging the treaty has received a fair amount of hearings and debate, Johnson said he was concerned about other issues the Senate has taken up in the lame-duck session.
MORE: For more on why opposing the START treaty was a bone-headed idea from the beginning, here's Fred Kaplan.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
The American Interest is blogging the Civil War by linking to daily "updates" from the archives of newspapers as they were published 150 years ago. For example: on the morning of December 29th, 2010 AI will feature several articles and op-eds that were published on December 29th, 1860 and so forth.
Very cool stuff. Very cool project.
Monday, December 13, 2010
The Brookings Inst. has yet another report detailing the impending death of the traditional American Suburb today.
There's a ton of socio-economic repercussions to the phenomenon and the Gawker summary does a very fine and succinct job at getting to the heart of the matter:
Now let's look at the long-term political ramifications for a second.
The smartest, most educated young suburbanites are fleeing for big cities. Naturally. Didn't you? They're leaving behind their parents, who make up that hefty chunk of soon-to-retire boomers. It was inevitable that the suburbs would become more racially integrated, albeit slowly; but economic integration is happening faster than many suburban residents would probably prefer, thanks in part to the real estate market collapse which left lots and lots of suburban cookie-cutter development dream homes available at prices far, far lower than their developers had initially hoped.
So while young, mostly white suburban kids race to the cities and price out the original residents there, many of those urban minorities may find the suburbs to be more inviting and economically viable. Gentrification and degentrification—demographic groups passing each other on the highway into the city, heading in opposite directions. While bright young things head for NYC, LA, Chicago, and San Francisco, the Sun Belt and its massive tracts of sprawl stand ready, willing and able to absorb the displaced, once-urban masses of the working class. It's as if, over the course of a generation, the stereotypical growing-up experiences of White Suburban Americans and Minority Urban Americans will totally trade places. The only difference being that now the cities will get the government money and attention they've always deserved, and the suburbs will slowly wilt into sprawling, neglected slums.
Suburbs have long been strongholds for conservative voters for obvious reasons, but where are these conservative voters going to flee to once their suburbs become more racially integrated and economically diverse? They're probably not going to rush back into the new urban areas, where costs of living and, yes, taxes will be higher... so, where does that leave them?
Let's look at an unlikely hypothetical, worst-case-scenario, wherein , say, 15 years from now Waukesha Co. has ceased to be the center of the state's conservative base. Where did the voters go? Here are five possibilities ... see if you can guess the common theme that unites them all.
1.) The Exurbs
Walworth, Jefferson and Dodge counties start to see a small growth in communities of Waukesha transplants that are now willing to trade in a 30-45 minute commute for a 60-75 minute drive as long as it means a quieter life away from the riffraff.2.) Lower population Suburban counties.
This has already started to happen in St. Croix, Polk and Pierce counties which are effectively exurbs of the Twin Cities.
Washington county, we're looking at you. Slinger and West Bend will get larger and everyone will have a lot more friends in Allenton. Washington county is already fertile Republican territory but it's far less populated than the other collar counties around Milwaukee.3.) "Unurban" cities like Fond du Lac, Appleton, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Wausau and, yes, Oshkosh.
I'm calling them "unurban" cities because even though they look like suburbs in many ways, the fact that they are not supported by a neighboring urban center dramatically changes the local culture, economy and politics. Fondy's a bit different because it's close enough to Milwaukee to justify the commute, but, by and large, it's still its own little place.4.) Rural Wisconsin
I hope this is self-explanatory.5.) Other States
Let's face it, the people who will be leaving will be old. It'll either be time to go off to that great retirement home in Boca or Scottsdale.What do all of these have in common? Ideological diffusion. The demise of the suburbs basically creates a diaspora among the conservative community. Now, some might say, "That's great, now the message will reach new ears, etc." Except it doesn't really work like that. At the end of the day, conservatives simply become more spread out and elections quickly begin to reflect that phenomenon.
So what does all of this have to do with high speed rail? Conservatism needs suburbia to flourish. It's doesn't need academia or a media machine or conferences or all the sexy stuff that gets loudmouths on TV -- it needs an environment in which to ingrain itself into every aspect of life and suburbia is custom made for cultivating conservatism. It's no accident that the trajectory of the modern conservative movement follows a similar arc to that of the contemporary suburb. Once the suburb starts to become replaced by a slum, conservatism will begin its death throes.
That's where high speed rail comes in to play. HSR basically allows suburbanites the chance to live an urban life in terms of employment and recreation while building a home away from the bustle of the city. It allows the "smartest, most educated young suburbanites" to live in a place that is familiar to them while still pursuing ambitions that suburbs often don't allow. It's not uncommon for people to take a 30-60 minute El ride clear across Chicago for whatever reason and think nothing of it ... that's an urban convenience the suburbs need desperately in order to attract the kind of people who will be making the economy work in the 21st century.
I'm not saying that not having HSR will kill off the suburbs. An aging population, the housing bubble, long commutes, expensive gas and dozens of other things will do just fine, thank you -- but HSR can help save it by opening the suburbs up to a new market: young folks who want urban lives between 8 AM and 8 PM Monday through Friday, but don't want to pay for the cover charge for living in the city limits. As it currently stands, the hassle of living in the burbs far outweighs the hassle of living in the city and when suburbs continue to isolate themselves by declining mass transport services -- especially during rough economic times -- they create a recipe ripe for isolation and, eventually, ghettoization.
I'm sure actually conservatives will roll their eyes at this argument and go on about the intellectual merits of their philosophy (while at the same time preaching a gospel of anti-intellectualism, go figure), but the fact of the matter is that most voters chose how they vote based on their own personal life experiences, not how they rationalize the merits of one policy or another, and nothing creates conservative voters like suburban life. Killing the suburbs will essentially be killing off conservatism.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I'm not going to pretend for a moment that I have any clue as to the machinations of internal GOP politics, but I do know a good knifing when I see one and Reince Priebus may have just committed one of the most flagrant backstabbings I've seen in a very long time.
Look back just two short years ago. When Michael Steele was elected chair of the GOP with Priebus as his manager, we here in Wisconsin were treated to gushing fluff pieces on how Steele and Priebus were the Republican ebony and ivory ready to bring the party back to glory. Here the MJS from February of 2009:
The two did not know each other well when Priebus endorsed Steele for RNC chairman last fall. But there was "an instantaneous click," said Steele, who said he saw Priebus as someone who shared an interest in modernizing the party and shared the experience of promoting Republicans in a state where Democrats had the upper hand.
Priebus ended up managing Steele's underdog campaign for the chairmanship.
It's easy to see why Priebus thought Michael Steele was such a potent political force. After all, this was the guy who thought it would be a great idea to have Mike Tyson be one of his surrogates on the campaign trail when he ran for the Senate.
By April of that year there were already questions about Steele's ability to manage party funds, but Priebus was out there shilling for his guy:
And that was merely the beginning of a long string of gaffes that rapidly diminished the stature of both the chair and the RNC. Now Priebus is saying things like:
Randy Pullen, the RNC's elected treasurer, former RNC General Counsel David Norcross and three other former top RNC officers have presented Mr. Steele with a resolution, calling for a new set of checks and balances on the chairman's power to dole out money.
The powers include new controls on awarding contracts and spending money on outside legal and other services.
Mr. Steele could not be reached, and a spokesman for the RNC chairman declined to comment on the move.
The resolution prompted a top Steele supporter to issue a scathing attack against Mr. Pullen and his allies after they had asked Mr. Steele to support the "good governance" resolution at a special meeting of the full national committee set for next month. The party spent about $300 million in last year's elections.
"I urge you to reject this hostile attempt to embarrass and neuter the chairman of the RNC," Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus wrote in an e-mail to the 168-member national committee.And that was just the beginning of a long sting of events for which Steel would gain his notoriety during which time Priebus was notably silent in his criticism of his boss while he retained the position of top party counsel and closest advisor to Steele.
But in a video message accompanying an e-mail Priebus sent to RNC members, the Wisconsin lawyer said: “I don’t believe we can win the presidency without a highly functional RNC, and unfortunately we don’t have that today.”Which begs the question: Why didn't you do implement these policies when you had the chance as a member of the leadership of the party?
As I said earlier, I don't know a damn thing about Republican intramural skirmishes, but this is still pretty low. I don't expect much loyalty from politicians, but the I do think there is something to be said about the appearance of loyalty, and this act has none to mention.
Steele's been awful and a ham sandwich can likely do a better job running the party -- no one's going to disagree with that. There's clearly a sense that Steele's time as chair represents a massive missed opportunity, both financially and in terms of party growth, at the GOP. But what's the sense of rewarding the people who brought the party Michael Steele in the first place, especially after such a shameless act of treachery?
When Steele took over the RNC there were huge lay-offs of leftover from the old regime. Priebus comments criticizing the management of the RNC are the first he has uttered in since the beginning of Steele's chairmanship. If he couldn't manage to correct the course of the U.S.S. Michael Steele how the hell is he going to manage the rest of the party?
The Recess Supervisor praises Priebus' ambition and compares the move favorably in relation to the House Dems keeping Nancy Pelosi -- but aren't both moves really just the same thing?
Monday, December 6, 2010
The dude in the video is named Mark Jungwirth. He's an Oshkosh resident in his mid/late 20s and the ringleader of "We Are Change" Oshkosh -- a consortium of conspiracy theorists who live in an alternate reality populated by black helicopters and tin foil hats. These guys seem to think that the official or authoritative explanation to anything is reason enough to consider that account misleading and deceptive. As a result, their ranks are filled with 9/11 truthers, global warming deniers, Federal Reserve nonsensers, FEMA intern camps (seriously) warners, to name just a few of the numerous conspiracy theories to which these dudes subscribe.
Now, as a general rule, folks with such a tenuous grasp on reality tend to be hypersensitive to any real or merely perceived affront to their "rights." Unfortunately, these folks also tend to be poorly informed as to what exactly constitutes those "rights" and generally stick to an interpretation of the law that -- not surprisingly -- conforms quite conveniently to whatever their current situation or whim happens to be.
Take, for example, Mr. Jungwirth's trip to the bank. Not once does it occur to this young man that maybe ... maybe ... video-tapping in a bank is not kosher for reasons that should be rather obvious. Unfortunately, those reasons, obvious as they may be, become completely oblivious to Jungwirth the instant he detects a potential infringement on his rights and is faced with a potential opportunity to embarrass an institution with more power than he has.
"Why should that [i.e. filming the fingerprinting] be a problem?" he says in the video. "That really doesn't make any sense to me at all."
There's actually a lot going on here that make the elements of this situation the perfect ingredients for a total epistemological meltdown of Jungwirth's fragile worldview.
First, is the fingerprinting, which, of course is only done in police states. Second is the anti-video policy of the bank, which is clearly designed to censor the truth from the masses. Third, we're talking about a bank here -- or at least a credit union -- a powerful institution that unquestionably has it's greedy hands on the levers of power. I'm sure there's some Federal Reserve angle that fits in this milieu as well...
All that aside Jungwirth procedes to tell a strange version of his encounter prior to showing the clip from inside the building. He claims that the woman at the credit union -- who is justifiably pissed off at his little stunt -- called the place a "federal building" (1:30) when she quite clearly calls the credit union a "financial" (industry shorthand for a "financial institution" or "financial building"-- at around 6:10).
Jungwirth then explains that he was told exactly why he's being fingerprinted, noting that it's through a program called "Operation ID." While anything with the word "operation" certainly may have a sinister connotation to it, in this case it just a program that police forces around the country have been running for private citizens and small business for almost 30 years now to curtail property loss from theft. The program works substantially differently in a financial institution because the property in these places is usually just cash, hence the fingerprinting.
Jungwirth, however, freely admits in the video that he has no idea what Operation ID because he hasn't even bothered to do any fact-checking before taking to his vlog. Why bother to look for reasonable answers when one can portray one's self a persecuted champion of truth!
This brings us to the overarching problem of this incident: the credit union Jungwirth is patronizing is a private institution. It's not a government entity -- municipal, state, federal or otherwise. They are comlpetely within their rights to set up as many surveillance cameras as they want to on their property. They can demand that patrons not film on the their premises. If they wanted to require a fingerprint and a stool sample in order to withdraw money, that's they're call. It's probably a poor business decision, but very liberty that Jungwirth claims to be fighting for allows the credit union to operate in this fashion.
Jungwirth literally conjures up a completely new conspiracy theory out of nowhere and doesn't even bother to check the facts -- or his own video evidence -- before disseminating this sorted tale over the internets.
This is how conspiracy theories start in the far reaches of the fever swamps of the lunatic fringe. If you look at the comments section of the YouTube page, a poor soul from the credit union took it upon himself to try to explain just why Jungwirth is batshit insane. Unfortunately there's really no other recourse for the credit union to take against the action of a poorly informed, aggressively ignorant, belligerent asshole.
Personally, my favorite part of the video is when Jungwirth sells out the friend who accompanied him to the bank by essentially calling him a giant pussy for wanting to bail on the guerrilla filming session and then uses this as his excuse for not delivering the really important part of the discussion with the branch manager. "Oh, yeah, we would have totally gotten this awesome footage if only my cameraman wasn't such a giant gaping vagina!" Way to rally the troops...
There's a wealth of idiocy at We Are Change - Oshkosh's YouTube page. My personal favorite video can be found here. If you'd like to see Jungwirth interview Joe the Plumber (seriously) go here -- it's a real merge of the minds. Here's Jungwirth waxing ignorant on foreign affairs.
I honestly can't wait to see what this guy will do next.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
A couple of years ago, shortly after a tough year for the state GOP, Owen Robinson decided that he would take a page from Grover Norquist's playbook and circulate a "no new taxes" pledge among state legislators. Numerous GOP elected officials took the bait. Here's the key passage:
I am asking each of you to pledge that you will not vote for a budget that includes any tax increases or any fee increases that aren’t directly related to the cost of delivering the service. If this leads to no budget being passed any time soon, then so be it. The Republican Party should be proud to be the party that obstructs tax and fee increases - especially on people who are already overburdened by the cost of their government.Emphasis in the original. You can read the whole text of the pledge here.
But now that Scott Walker is about to inherit the Governor's mansion and the GOP control both houses of the legislatures, conservatives are quickly realizing that their rhetoric is not compatible with the fiscal reality. Here's Robinson yesterday:
I’m not philosophically opposed to ["hiking the sales tax from 5 percent to 7 or 7.5 percent"]. The nice part of the sales tax is that it is collected from more people thus broadening the tax base. It is also something that people have some control over paying. If I can’t afford the sales tax right now, I can reduce my spending. The down side is that people get used to it, so it’s usually less painful for politicians to raise it.
BUT, or shall I say BUT... the only way I could support this is if the other taxes are cut to offset the increase in the sales tax AND overall taxation and spending are decreased. Tax shifts virtually never work because the politicians always neglect the other side of the equation. Increasing the sales tax can only be done as part of an overhaul of our system of taxation.
The sales tax is in no way, shape or form "directly related to the cost of delivering a service" ... any service.
Almost four years ago Robinson thought so little of taxes he thought a government shut down was preferable to any increase and that GOP legislators should be proud of "obstructionism," but now that Republicans have to contend with the problem he's no longer "philosophically opposed" to the idea of some forms of tax increases now that Scott Walker & Co. have to deal with the problem.
Way to show some iron-spined resolve...
This is as craven a flip flop as they come. Robinson appends his blog post by declaring his sudden bout of tax flexibility as merely a "theoretical discussion," but this is nonsense. His pledge is clear in no uncertain terms, but these days Robinson's all about the ifs, buts, BUTs, maybes, possiblies, etc.
I hope the absurdity in calling this a tax "shift" rather than a "raise" is blatantly apparent to everyone watching this debacle. The GOP isn't even three weeks away from its electoral victory and they are already abandoning the uncompromising rhetoric that got them back in power in favor of equivocating blather they mocked democrats for just a few weeks ago. It should be a blast watching them actually try to govern.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
If Ron Johnson expects to be taken seriously, he needs to decline the health care plan given to members of the United State Senate by the federal government. He's a millionaire, after all, and should have no problem finding his own private insurance plan.
But at the end of the day this is only one insurance plan. Symbolic -- yes, but hardly a sufficient sample size to make a difference in either the federal deficit. Johnson may be just one person, but he's also now in charge of an office that can be staffed with between 40-50 people. If Johnson is serious about the dangers of "government-run health care" he should require his employees to find their own private health insurance carriers.
There's really no way around this. It wasn't just "Obamacare" that Johnson railed against during the campaign -- it was "government-run health care" and as such Johnson owes it to the voters to deliver. Right now Johnson is a member of the minority party without any seniority, so it's not like he's got a lot of clout in the Senate. He's pretty much limited to symbolic gestures, and by declining the health care plans offered to all federal employees is really the only tool he has to make any dent in the deficit and/or statement about the virtues of "free market health care."
This isn't just a silly request coming from an opposition nutter. Two of Johnson's colleagues in the House are declining their health care plans, while another seems to not understand just what it was he campaigned against. The only way Johnson can credibly distinguish himself between the two is if he rejects the Senate's health care plan and mandates his staff find private insurers.
Let's be clear about this: even if Johnson himself declines the perk, it will essentially be meaningless unless his staff is required to do the same. Senators don't work alone and a lion's share of the actual day-to-day duties of any federal office are completed by the staff. They are just as much representatives of their employer as they are of the people they work for and they should be held to the same ideological standard.
Russ Feingold held his staffers to much stricter standards with regards to gifts from lobbyists than any other congressman during his 18 years in office because campaign finance reform was his pet issue. Since Johnson felt so passionately about the value of private health insurance, he should feel obligated to act in a similar manner. This isn't about policy: it's about holding one's self to a higher standard, and, frankly, given Johnson's apocalyptic rhetoric on the evils of "government-run health care," he has no choice but eliminate every last trace of it from his office.
Anything less will look hypocritical.
(The same goes for rest of the newly elected GOPers who won their elections from Scott Walker to the lowliest state Assembly person. It's not enough for just you to decline what you've been shrieking against, but you also have to deny the same perk to your staffers. This is, after all, the world you've wanted.)
MORE: And no sooner did I speak than did PPP [via M] field a poll yielding the same results:
Most Americans think incoming Congressmen who campaigned against the health care bill should put their money where their mouth is and decline government provided health care now that they're in office. Only 33% think they should accept the health care they get for being a member of Congress while 53% think they should decline it and 15% have no opinion.Remember: we're asking incoming GOP congressmen to not only refuse the health care plan for themselves, but also for their staffers. Here are the crosstabs:
PPP Poll on Incoming GOP Congressmen Refusing Federal Health Care Plans
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Once in Office, Ron Johnson's Speeches will Consist Entirely of Him Reading Extended Passages from "The Protestant Work Ethic"
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Johnson, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, said his opposition to embryonic stem cell research is dictated mainly by economics. The federal government needs to cut $1.5 trillion from its budget, he said, so it makes sense to achieve those cuts by eliminating unpopular programs.NIH has earmarked $126 million for human embryonic stem cell research in 2011, a chunk of which would flow back to Wisconsin. Johnson's going to need to make lot more hard decisions if he's going to significantly cut the deficit.
If there's a program "that's morally objectionable to a high percentage of the American public, that's probably something we shouldn't spend money on," Johnson said.
The most interesting aspect of this statement is that it couches what is clearly a moral judgment in economic terms so not to appear like a raving religious fanatic whilst simultaneously appealing to raving religious fanatics. A "high percentage of the American public" is another way of saying "not a majority."
Not that any of this should come as any surprise.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Of course not.
Said candidate is none other than Rev. David King, the Republican Party's choice to be the next Secretary of State. Here's an excerpt from a seven year-old MJS article:
For two years starting at the age of 9, Mr. King says, he was sexually abused by several men. He didn't tell his parents. He started smoking marijuana and crack. He fathered four children by two women. He would later write, "I was full of darkness."In one respect this is a very positive story of personal redemption, a spiritual rags-to-riches story. But it's also remarkable that such a troubled past and history of institutionalization seems to have been ignored by one of the major political parties.
Then his brother John died of a heart attack during a basketball game at age 24. Then Mr. King's wife left.
That was how Mr. King came to be on the bridge early Jan. 4, 1992. He was crying. When he looked into the water, he saw faces: his four daughters. He could not take his own life.
Instead, he took a bus to the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex and checked himself in. After he left, he went to church. On New Year's Eve, 1993, Mr. King, who had become a church deacon, asked God to forgive him. A few months later, Mr. King preached his first sermon.
There's a ton to be said about King's campaign. He's running on expanding the scope of the SoS office to include mentoring troubled youth and funneling state funds to his "God Squad" organization to help accomplish this feat -- a conflict of interest to which King seems oblivious.
King is also a frequent speaker at Tea Party rallies that claim to not allow candidates to speak. He ran for state Senate in 2008 as a Democrat -- an association with the enemy that seemed to doom Dick Leinenkugel's brief run for U.S. Senate earlier this year. A number of his community outreach programs have folded over the years and his "God Squad" organization is still pending its tax-exempt status almost four years after it began -- a combination that reeks of financial incompetence (at best) or malfeasance (at worse). He also seems to lack the first clue as to what the Secretary of State actually does.
It all begs the question: what makes David King so special? The answer has many facets that involve race, minority outreach, the homogeneity of the GOP and other uncomfortable issues, but it's a discussion worth having.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
The two seem to think that Scott Walker's win in last night's GOP primary was the result of how kick-ass talk radio is:
If a county was within the sound of Milwaukee talk radio’s voice, it voted Walker overwhelmingly. This is the power of ideas, well expressed.Perhaps, though saying thoughts on Milwaukee-area talk radio are "well expressed" is an arguable point on it's best day.
In this claim, Sykes and McIlheran have neglected to ask themselves perhaps the most interesting question about last night's election results: was Walker's win over Nuemann because of or in spite of his last minute deluge of attack ads/mailers against Nuemann?
Walker has been the recipient of nearly daily tongue baths from likes of Sykes and Mark Belling for years now and yet despite the near constant adulation Walker still felt it necessary to devote an absurd portion of his war chest to merely winning a primary most people thought he was a lock to win months, even weeks, ago. That should actually suggest that talk radio probably isn't as powerful as some talk radio host would have their listeners -- or local newspaper columnists -- believe.
But lets look at this another way: If talk radio is the reason for Walker's win in the GOP primary -- how is Walker supposed to win the Gubernatorial race when a proxy unavailable to a large segment of the state promotes his message better than his own campaign?
Regardless of how one looks at talk radio's influence, Scott Walker begins the general election in a significantly weaker position than he had anticipated and the only person who can fix that problem is Scott Walker. Sykes may have taken Walker (and Rebbecca Kleefisch and Ron Johnson) this far, but now his preferred candidates are on their own.
Monday, September 13, 2010
They really shouldn't be. The outcomes of just about every primary aren't in much doubt, but the details are still fascinating to pour over.
First off, we've got Ron Johnson ready to cruise to an easy victory over Dave Westlake, who has become something of the Tea Party candidate that many people thought Johnson was going to be. RJ, on the other hand, has morphed into a traditional party establishment candidate. The only real question will be how much Johnson wins by. Given the money Johnson's dumped into TV time there's really no reason why he shouldn't win by 60+ points.
Moving on we have the races for Lt. Governor. The Democrats seemed to have settled on Tom Nelson over scrappy insurgent Henry Sanders. And the Republicans? Good Question! On the one hand there's a handsome state assemblyman who has a track record of winning in a largely Democratic district in Brett Davis. But, on the other hand, there's a Charlie Sykes' henchman with no experience in elected office, so you can plainly see this is a really hard decision for Republicans to make...
Then there's the GOP gubernatorial primary. Scott Walker will probably win on Tuesday, but he apparently won't be winning by enough to make anyone happy, so he's going to be walking away with a few bruises that navel gazers such as myself will discuss ad nauseum for several weeks. The big question is whether Walker will use the occasion to retool his campaign -- as even some Republicans have suggested -- or if he will continue on his merry way.
If Walker pulls out the Nancy Pelosi comparisons against his Republican opponent, we can only guess what murderous 20th century dictator he's got lined up to endorse Tom Barrett.
Last, but certainly not least, is the race for the 8th CD GOP nomination, which really has been nothing short of a shitshow. Honestly, I think this race is cursed -- one of the former candidates, after all, dropped out of the race only to promptly commit suicide earlier this summer. The establishment candidate, Reid Ribble, seems to be plagued by questions about his residency and the publication of Spanish language version of his website ... by his own party. Terri McCormick is still batshit insane and apparently believes she's on a book tour. Roger Roth hasn't been able to get much traction (and may actually be suffering from the moderate legacy of his uncle, who occupied the seat for most of the '80s and '90s). Ribble will probably pull this off, but the race has been emblematic of the GOP's issues in the 8th CD. There's really no reason it shouldn't be in Republican hands, but the party just can't seem to get it's shit together to actually do anything about it.
So there you have it. There are national primaries too -- including a scorcher in Delaware that has parallels to the Alaska Senate and South Carolina gubernatorial races (and about a dozen others), but the races in Wisconsin are far more ... sane.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
DiGaudio, as you may recall, threw one of the Cheddarsphere's epic temper tantrums on election night '08 over in the comments section at Boots and Sabres. Some of the highlights included repeated denunciations of his American citizenship as well as his desire to assassinate then President-elect Obama. He even added this astonishing claim:
I don’t hope for [Obama's] success. In fact, I seriously hope this country gets attacked by terrorists over and over again and every possible bad thing that can happen does happen ... to people like you.His behavior was so over the top that Team Robinson told him to toss off.
And toss off DiGauido did, retreating back to his own blog, the now defunct Texas Hold'em Blogger, where he continued to take a shit with his clothes on, posting an upside down American flag with assorted other rantings before finally deleting the entire blog and starting a new one.
DiGaudio walked back some of his statements, but it wasn't the first time he's gone off the deep end, which begs the meta-question: is bragging about bloggers' endorsements wise? Or better yet: what does hyping bloggers' endorsements tell us about the candidate?
Sure, I guess, but endorsements are only as valuable as the credibility of the endorser. In this case, I find it hard to understand why anyone would want to be associated with someone whose sole claim to notoriety is a proclivity for cataclysmic melt downs.
Kleefisch is being backed by a number of people who occasionally have interesting things to say and appear to be influential in certain circles, but DiGaudio's inclusion into that mix diminishes everyone.
Then there's the small matter of a blog called "The Right Choice" -- which consists of exactly ten posts and hasn't been updated since May. That really only barely qualifies as a blog and certainly isn't anything to brag about. God only knows what that's all about.
By the way, Brett Davis appears to be carpet bombing Oshkosh cable TV with ads this weekend.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
At this weekend's Sheboygan Freedom Rally, Dick Morris demonstrated why he's America's favorite visitor-of-prostitutes/FOX News contributor:
Nationally known multi-faceted political commentator/analyst/writer Dick Morris dove right into the Wisconsin scene. “For Russ Feingold to pose as a moderate, as an independent…my goodness, it shows how far we’ve come when Russ Feingold tries to dress up like us. But that act of transvestitism [sic.] is going a little far even for Greenwich Village and San Francisco – or Madison.”No need for dog whistles with that statement.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Thursday, September 2, 2010
1.) Avoid the press as much as possible.
2.) Meet only with friendly audiences.
3.) Spend a shitload on TV (and, later, direct mail):
Johnson has spent $4 million on broadcast TV in the state compared to $1.4 million for Feingold, according to figures obtained from CMAG, a northern Virginia firm that tracks television advertising.
The numbers refer to ads aired this year in the state’s five TV markets: Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, La Crosse/Eau Claire and Wausau/Rhinelander. They do not include radio or cable television spots.
The spending gap grows a bit bigger (to more than 3-1) when you include the $300,000 spent on TV recently by American Action Network, a national conservative group that has run an ad attacking Feingold for voting for the stimulus plan.
In the interview, Johnson made reference to Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn. In paraphraising Wynn's feelings about business, Johnson said, "His point is...the climate for business investment is far more certain in communist China than it is in the U.S. here."Followed by another absurd walk-back:
As the Johnson interview began to make the rounds on talk shows and Democratic partisans, campaign spokeswoman Sara Sendek issued this statement: "We unequivocally reject any notion that Ron Johnson ever said or implied that communist China is better for business."
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
It's one thing to flip-flop on the issues.
But who's ever heard of a candidate rewriting his own company history?
That's exactly what U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson did last week.
For nearly nine years, his plastics company has carried this online description of its beginning:
"Founded in 1977, Pacur occupies a facility constructed specifically for sheet extrusion, which provides polyester and polypropylene sheet and rollstock to converters, distributors, and end users," said the website for the Oshkosh-based factory.
But that changed on Wednesday.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
"Tax-free bonds allow a borrower to borrow at a lower rate," said Andrew Reschovsky, a professor of applied economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "That's a subsidy from normal borrowing."
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
In an interview with WKOW-TV, Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson (R) blasted government subsidies.Never ever ... for ever never?
Said Johnson: "I'm in business. I have never lobbied for some special treatment or for a government payment.... When you subsidize things...it doesn't work through the free market system very well."
However, it turns out Johnson actually received a $2.5 million government subsidized loan to expand his company back in 1985.Get ready for a lot of parsing between what counts as a "subsidy" and a "subsidized loan" ... and a relentless barrage of well-deserved attack ads from Feingold.
This is about as flagrant a lie as one is going to find in politics and since Johnson has based a large swathe of his campaign on the evils of government spending -- in particular the dozens of press releases detailing the so-called pork in the stimulus bill -- this should cripple his credibility.
I don't expect too many deathbed conversions to Dave Westlake's campaign, but wouldn't be surprised if a few intellectually honest conservatives advocated as much in the face of this absurdity.
MORE: And here we go:
Campaign spokeswoman Sara Sendek says the bond in question wasn't special treatment or a subsidy, but a loan that was paid back in full.Bullshit. If Johnson were to acting in accord to his "free market"/Ayn Rand rhetoric, he would have gone to a bank for the loan and paid off the interest. Instead, he went to the government because:
In the 1980s the company expanded through the help of a $2.5 million government bond issued by the city of Oshkosh - a bond that charged below-market interest rates.In case you missed it, Johnson's campaign apparently made no mention of paying off the equivalent interest.
Late this afternoon the Johnson campaign sent a one-sentence response to our story, saying the sort of bond issued by Oshkosh is neither special treatment nor a government payment or subsidy.
They also say the loan was paid back in full.
So much for "free market principles"...
EVEN MORE: Here's the Memeorandum thread.
MORE STILL: The MJS points out that not only has Johnson been caught with his hands in the cookie jar, but his campaign's initial response to the matter has also been demonstrably false:
In a statement issued Wednesday, Johnson's campaign said, "An industrial revenue bond is neither special treatment nor a government payment or subsidy. It is a loan and was paid back in full."
Got that? RJ.com calls it a "loan" (as did several of the news organizations featured above). But:
An industrial revenue bond is a tax-exempt bond normally issued by a governmental body for a project. The City of Oshkosh was not making a loan; a bank or other lender would buy the bonds from Pacur and resell them to investors. Pacur would then have been responsible to pay back the bonds' principal amount, plus interest.But at a lower rate of interest than he would have received from a private bank. That's good business, but completely contrary to his campaign message.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Oshkosh's latest attempt at rebranding itself has brought on the usual griping in the NW comment section, angst from elsewhere and some good-natured ribbing.
Companies rebrand themselves all the time and, like it or not, cities now have to market themselves in similar ways. (Hell, individuals now have to market themselves like businesses these days.) Oshkosh was long overdue for a marketing revamp and this explanation as to why is about as good as it gets:
Hielsberg said On the Water, while accurate, does not distinguish Oshkosh from any of the myriad other cities in Wisconsin that are also on the water. She described the old slogan as describing an attribute of the community, but not what can set Oshkosh apart from others.Cities have been branding themselves for centuries now (a fact Ron Johnson recently learned with his inaccurate Greenland comments), and it's an almost essential process these days. Milwaukee recently redubbed itself the City of Festivals, a far more inviting and all-encompassing moniker than the Brew Town or Beer City nicknames of old, which made it sound like a destination for drunks and little more. There's no reason why Oshkosh shouldn't update it's profile to the rest of the world.
The name itself -- Wisconsin's Event City -- is undoubtedly the source of a lot of the consternation over the rebranding process. It's so simple that most people probably look at it and think to themselves, "Well, I could have come up with that --- where's my $40,000!" Alas, it's not that easy. In fact, the brand's simplicity is good thing and the city should be very happy the results, which are infinitely more agreeable than the disastrous rebranding effort by the state Department of Tourism last year.
The best part about any rebranding effort is that it's as much about a city's aspirations as it is about the image a city wants to project to the world -- and offering to be a hospitable destination to the rest of the state is not a bad niche to fill.
Monday, August 23, 2010
After "Inglorious Basterds," I thought it was gonna take a lot to get me out of acting retirement. Because how are you going to top working for Quentin Tarantino alongside Brad Pitt? But ["Piranha 3D" director] Alex Aja, in his very charming French way, said to me, "I have written a part for you: I want you to be the wet T-shirt contest host." And I said, "OK, what time do you need me?" So I went to Lake Havasu, and it was like being in the middle of a bizarre frat party: it was 500 people, 300 of them in bikinis, all of them in incredible shape. It was ridiculous. I was on a raft hosing down breasts for two days. After the first day, I called up Tarantino and said, "I think I found a director I like working with more than you."
Sunday, August 22, 2010
First, here's the promotional infomercial that bounced around the internet prior to the event. Yes, infomercial: it's almost 20 minutes long. When I first saw it a month ago I thought I was going to watch 30 seconds of it, roll my eyes and then move on to something else; but, alas, I ended up watching the whole damn thing. Go ahead and try watching it: if you make it passed the first minute, you'll be sucked in for the long haul.
Next, and for a little historical perspective, here's a story from Vice Magazine chronicling the 2007 Gathering.
Lastly, is the phenomenal photography of Nate Smith, who went above and beyond the anthropological call of duty in documenting this year's event:
A general overview.
Portraits of Juggaloes.
Comedy at the Gathering.
The Miss Juggalette Contest & Juggalettes baring their breasts.
The art of nonverbal Juggalo communication.
The story of the Method Man and Redman set.
Midget wrestling at the Gathering.
An account of the infamous Tila Tequila set.
"The Michael Jackson Moonwalk BBQ Blowout Pajama Jam"
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Yes, the "pattern developing here" is the rapid spread of mass paranoia fueled by right wing opportunists with no more hope at public office, but who still have a raging hard-on for public limelight and the money to fuel their self-involved vanity projects.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Here's a helpful video detailing why Johnson is wrong on the sunspots theory:
Monday, August 16, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Pacur started with just one customer, Curwood, a company co-founded by Johnson’s father-in-law, Howard Curler.That probably sounds pretty innocuous, maybe even a little cute: a brash start-up valiantly trying to make it in this crazy world, the old man chipping in to help out ... but that's really not an accurate way of looking at things.
Curwood is actually a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bemis Corp. and has been since 1965, twelve years before Johnson started Pacur. In other words, his father-in-law wasn't just helping out Pacur by throwing some business its way, this was a corporate giant (that made almost $5 billion last year and has been a publicly-traded company since the early 1970s) granting a lucrative subcontract to a company with no prior track record for delivery.
Those kinds of business relationships only come about through crazy connections and in this case the connections were familial.
Apparently, Bemis has remained Pacur's largest customer ever since.
This isn't a small detail. It's probably a lot easier to secure a loan for manufacturing capital when you can explain to the loan officer at the bank that your small business is guaranteed a fat contract from a local supplier once it gets up and running. It may very well be the reason why Pacur even exists in the first place.
I don't want to begrudge Pacur its success -- cashing in on family connections is just smart business -- but it is not, repeat, not an example of the "free market" principles that Johnson extols continuously on the campaign trail. I'm sure that Pacur provided Bemis with a quality product, but I sincerely doubt they have faced much competition. Let's face it: Curwood was never going to pull the plug on a contract co-owned by the owner's son and son-in-law. When a person or company is all but guaranteed a significant portion of it's annual income regardless of performance, well, that sounds an awful lot like welfare.
Johnson may rail against government handouts and sing the praises of Ayn Rand, but his career in business is an illustrative example of how even "Free Markets" are never actually completely "free." Even if we lived in a laissez faire paradise without any government regulation or taxes, we still would never live in a completely "free market." Had I produced a product for Bemis of higher quality and at half the cost, would anyone believe I would have stood a chance of competing for Pacur's contract with Curwood? Of course not: the livelihoods of the owner's son, daughter and grandchildren depended on money moving from Bemis through Curwood and to Pacur.
No wonder Johnson is such a big proponent of the "free market" -- it's been competition "free" for most of his career.
In a sense, Johnson owes much of his good fortune to a form of private sector welfare. Yes, Pacur has other clients, but a big part of business is building a foundation from which to work on, and that was essentially provided for Johnson by virtue of his family connections. Had he not married into the Curler family Johnson might still be keeping the books at a class ring-making company instead of becoming the President of a plastics manufacturing company.
The other angle to this story involves is the extent of Bemis' partnership with Pacur over the years. Part of the persona that Johnson is selling to voters is that of the savvy business leader who knows how to create manufacturing jobs. That may be true, but if Bemis is responsible for 50%, 60%, 75% of Pacur's business, then Johnson really hasn't been responsible for growing a business so much as that business is essentially a glorified subsidiary of Bemis.
In a recent TV spot Johnson tried to frame the Senate race as a common sense businessman with 30+ years of creating jobs vs. a career politician. It's easy to critique the "career politician's" record because Feingold's made thousands of votes in the last 20 years, so perhaps we should start giving Pacur the same level of scrutiny?
I don't doubt that Johnson is a hard worker, but his business history simply does not jive with his Randian conception of the economy. Johnson has been the recipient of numerous enormous breaks that a vast majority of people don't get in their careers and to pretend like he's some kind of economic ubermensch who will led us to prosperity through the sheer force of his own will to power is ridiculous.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
So says Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back producer/second unit director Gary Kurtz:
“We had an outline [For Return of the Jedi] and George changed everything in it,” Kurtz said. “Instead of bittersweet and poignant he wanted a euphoric ending with everybody happy. The original idea was that they would recover [the kidnapped] Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base. George then decided he didn’t want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason.”It's actually a really informative story about the movies' "forgotten man."
Friday, August 13, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Making a web video out of the incident that looks like it was made by shitty break dancing teen melodramas: dick move.
[We almost forgot about this recurring feature and seems as good a time as any to resurrect it.]
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
It is speculated that Wilson first entered politics as a teenager by running a campaign against his next-door neighbor, city council incumbent Charles Hazard. When Wilson was 13, his 14-year old dog entered Hazard's yard. Hazard retaliated by mixing crushed glass into the dog's food, causing fatal internal bleeding. Being a farmer's son, Wilson was able to get a driving permit at age 13, which enabled him to drive 96 voters, mainly black citizens from poor neighborhoods, to the polls. As they left the car, it is speculated that he told each of them that he didn't want to influence their vote, but that the incumbent Hazard had purposely killed his dog. After Hazard was defeated by a margin of 16 votes, Wilson went to his house to tell him he shouldn't poison any more dogs. Wilson cited this as "the day [he] fell in love with America."It's actually a very touching story, one the demonstrates perfectly the ability of the weakest among us to triumph over the strongest in a democracy ... with the help of a little hustle, of course.
Somehow, I don't think this will turn out nearly as charmingly.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Yeah, that family moving out of the house and hitting the road in search of greener pastures in the stock footage at 0:06 and 0:20 are actors(!) who emote and pantomime gestures so as to convey a message to an audience. They're not real people. They aren't moving. They're probably not even related.
In fact, they're not even playing people from Wisconsin. As the trailer rides off into the ominous future ahead, it has what appears to be a Michigan license plate:
Here's something for the sake of the comparison:
And the Wisconsin plate we all know and live with:
So, Ron Johnson's actors (a.) are just as real as the name tag he's devoting so much energy critiquing, and (b.) aren't even playing characters from Wisconsin.
Thank you very much, talk radio, for finding an utterly meaningless issue to obsess over. And kudos to the the Johnson campaign for being big enough to let small, non-issues like this slide.
Oh, my bad ...
MORE: Lest the point we're trying to make above isn't clear enough, let's remove any tone of irony from what we're trying to say: it doesn't matter at all the Johnson used actors in his commercials. In fact, it matters as little as there being a lack of person to correspond to a name written on a prop used in Feingold's ad. The average TV-viewer is smart enough to know that sometimes fake things are intended to represent real things without necessarily having spent a semester studying the theory of mimesis.
There's really just no sense in complaining about either issue above. I'm sure the Johnson campaign will counter by saying that it's an indication of just how little Feingold cares about jobs, but only the simplest fool would believe such an incredible pile of bullshit.
Unfortunately, Wisconsin's talk radio clique and the Johnson campaign really don't think very much of voters. This is not a new problem among conservatives, nor do I expect it to end any time soon.