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.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
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.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
Thursday, August 5, 2010
One gets the idea that this format is probably going to be a recurring theme throughout the rest of the campaign, a sort of periodic bulletin of good press clippings. The email arrived during a 48-72 hour window where there seemed like a flurry of Johnson media coverage. At the time it seemed like the beginning of a change to a more aggressive press strategy, but the days since seem to suggest otherwise.
It is, however, August; and nothing happens in August.
Ron Johnson for U.S. Senate News (Email #12)
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
So it came as little surprise when I saw this today on Ron Johnson's Facebook page (click on the images to embiggen):
The post linked to this page on RJ's website:
First of all, I think it's amusing that Johnson's campaign cited a program in Washington state and claims that it's not "getting the job done for Wisconsin families."
Well, of course not. Nor is any federal money going to the Pacific Northwest.
The example cited obviously comes from McCain's report -- it's ranked #1 on the list. One can reasonably assume that tomorrow's example of wasteful spending will be "Dance Draw" interactive dance software development (it's #2 from McCain's study). On Friday plan on learning all about the Northshore connector between PNC Park, Hienz Field and a casino in Pittsburgh (#3).
SPOILER ALERT: #100 is a student alcohol consumption study at Columbia University.
The point is this: Johnson can moan about any one of the stimulus projects, but what he owes voters are examples of which projects in Wisconsin he believes are pork and how much money he wants sent back to Washington. There have been over $3.6 billion in stimulus funds awarded to Wisconsin: how much of that would Johnson like us to give back?
Let's put it another way: the four area codes that comprise the city of Oshkosh (54901-4) have been allotted $63,335,832 in stimulus funds according to Recovery.gov -- which projects should the people of Oshkosh go without?
I bring this up because over a year ago there was much ado about a stimulus project here in Oshkosh that involved a parking lot just off Main Street. At the time Mayor Esslinger was a member of a very vocal minority who opposed the project. Most people in town supported it, including the Main Street business owners whom would be inconvenienced by a few months of construction and most of the local business community. Johnson's voice was nowhere to be heard. In fact, Johnson appears to have had nothing to say in public about government spending until he helped organize the Oshkosh Tea Party in October of Last year. Seeing that Johnson dropped his Tea Party association entirely after discovering the Tea Party is actually a lunatic fringe, one has to wonder how long his devotion to spending cuts would last in Washington?
So, again, which programs should we get rid of? What programs are essentially a waste of tax-payer money?
Can we start of this list with the obviously politically motivated "report" that the Johnson campaign is now using as a talking point?
Here's the McCain/Coburn report:
McCain/Coburn Stimulus Report
What a fucking ego trip this ad is.
This is the only "serious" candidate in Wisconsin with the gall to film a Fourth of July parade to make it look like the entire town of Waupaca has come out to celebrate Terri McCormick.
The GOP primary can't come fast enough.
Final Grade: D
By the way, doesn't the still look like something out of the Zapruder film?
Sunday, August 1, 2010
In fact, Murray very explicitly advocates for a first and second class way to realize one's full potential. Here's a review from the
Johnson said he believes that concern stems from a misinterpretation of the book’s message. As a business leader, Johnson said he focused on the book’s argument that every student does not need to go to college to be successful.
“I don”t believe there's a first and second class way to realize your full potential. I think all efforts have value, all professions,” he said.
The book has many flaws, like the fact that the "four simple truths" descriptor is inaccurate. Murray actually offers one simple truth, one tautology, and two opinions (one somewhat legitimate, one not). The one (very) simple truth is that "ability varies," by which Murray means intelligence, or I.Q. All reasonable people acknowledge this; the question is how it varies, and what that variance means. The tautology is that "half of the children are below average," an odd statement to offer as evidence in support of Murray's main subject: educability, which is an absolute quality -- not, like below-averageness, a relative one. Basically, Murray believes that (coincidentally!) half of all children are more or less uneducable in the traditional sense and thus need to be identified as such via mandatory first grade I.Q. testing so they can be shunted off into vocational education programs for their own good. This is absurd and immoral, for reasons too numerous to recount here.I recommend reading the whole piece. The author is positively exasperated by the fact that he has to take the time to swat down Murray unspeakably facile arguments.
That's not how Johnson read the book:
The message Johnson said he took from “Real Education,” and wanted to share with Oshkosh, was that vocational training and skilled work through local manufacturers are no less important than university-track careers.
“We need to stop denigrating the trades,” he said.
I don't think anyone would disagree with this last line, but that's exactly what would happen if Murray had his way. Colleges would be reserved for students who are deemed intellectually capable while trade schools would be left as places where people go to learn the menial skills they will spend the rest of their lives using. The social ramifications of this hierarchy are repugnant.
You can read excerpts of the book here, if you'd like. To Murray's credit, he is not a vague, cryptic or evasive writer whatsoever. In fact, his bluntness is one of the reasons his work is as widely known and controversial as it is. It's extremely difficult to "misinterpret" Charles Murray's work.
But let's take a step back and look at Murray's big picture argument. Nearly every argument Murray has made ends the same way: government would be better off not being involved in activity X. In fact, Murray's song and dance is so routine it's almost like he starts with a conclusion and merely finds evidence, however scant, to support it.
"Real Education" is no different. Murray wants government out of the education business and he's constructed an elaborate argument that conveniently points to that conclusion. That's the real objective of Murray's work. This isn't how education policy should be conducted.