The World According to Nick
Politics, News, Photography, and Triathlons... What don't I talk about?
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Newt Gingrich Fears the Radical Secular Atheist Islamists

Under normal circumstances, I'd actually look forward to Newt Gingrich running for President because it would give me lots of excuses to point out what an anti-intellectual political hack he has become. Unfortunately, I fear that there are actually a lot of people who would vote for him (my mother included). In the latest news leading to Newt officially announcing he's going to run is this speech he recently gave at a Texas church:

I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.

I'm trying to figure out what Newt was thinking when he wrote that speech. Perhaps, "I wonder how I can find some of the biggest political bogeymen with catchy phrases and combine them to save time". I read what Newt said, and laughed pretty hard. Exactly how can a country be both secular atheist (atheist meaning... you know... not believing that a god exists) and radically Islamist? Does Newt not realize that Islam is a religion? Sorry to break it to you Newt, but you can't be both atheist and Islamist. Pick the one you think will dominate the country for fear mongering purposes, and go with it. But you can't pick both.

Next thing you know, Newt will be blaming all the Radical Secular Atheist Islamists for making him cheat on his wives.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011
Prosser - Judicial Record Under Construction?

On Tuesday, Wisconsin citizens will be asked to vote in a Primary for, among other things, a seat on the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. Justice David Prosser is running for re-election in that election. As with any election, the television air waves are filled with commercials for various candidates, Prosser included. One of commercials that is on the most is one by the Wisconsin Club for Growth*.

In the ad, Justice Prosser is described as something of a "hang em high" judge, though they don't put it in those words. They certainly do talk a lot about his previous experience as a prosecutor, and how he is a friend of the police, and a friend of prosecutors. They talk a great deal about how he has put many people behind bars as a judge (despite the fact that it is in fact juries that do that). At the end of the ad, they point people to the web site for the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council (even though they weren't involved in the making of the ad).

Rick Esenberg has posted about the race, mostly to comment on Prosser's "honesty" regarding his conservative judicial philosophy. And while Rick certainly is very knowledgeable in the law, I can't say that Justice Prosser has made it easy on the general citizenry to judge his judicial philosophy. For instance, when examining his web site, his "Judicial Record" section is listed as Under Construction... two days before the primary (which is sad to say the least)! In fact, the only commercial he has created says really nothing about his philosophy, and only showcases very limited generalities about him and his past. And so, we have very little to judge him on except what others have said about him, because he hasn't said very much about himself at all.

And so we return to the Wisconsin Club for Growth ad. During most Supreme Court races, people tend to concentrate on how justices will treat certain types of laws, like those regarding abortion, health insurance, etc. People worry about a justice being too "activist"** (or not enough), but they forget another important role of the Supreme Court. The Wisconsin Supreme Court is the court of last resort for those in the criminal justice system. And while I certainly respect Justice Prosser's service as a prosecutor, that is a job he no longer holds. Instead, he chose to be a judge, which is supposed to mean that he is a neutral arbiter of the law. He is not supposed to be a friend of prosecutors, nor is he supposed to be a friend of the defense. And yet, we're being told to vote for Prosser because he will be friendly towards prosecutors, and this is extremely troubling.

Prosecutors generally enjoy absolute immunity regarding how they handle cases. Prosecutors withhold exculpatory evidence, while the police can stretch the truth in order to get a warrant, and generally suffer no consequences because of this immunity. There have been countless cases across this country where innocent people have suffered greatly because of evidence withheld, all because judges have been "friendly" towards prosecutors. After all, nobody wants to be described as being "soft on crime".

It is up to judges, whether those at the actual trial, or justices who review appeals (like Supreme Court justices) to not only examine the law, but also the trial evidence for these types of miscarriages. In Wisconsin, we elect our Supreme Court justices. And so, it is up to us, the voters, to decide what we want to prioritize as we go to the voting booth. In the last couple of years, the Tea Party movement has taken hold, and the people of this nation have closely examined the role of our government, and the privileges that both the executive branch of our government (and let's not forget that the police act in that capacity) have taken with us.

People are taking another close look at the Constitution and the rights which it describes for us. This not only includes the 1st and 2nd Amendments, but also the 4th and 5th Amendments, which are more closely tied to trial cases. And so as you go to the voting booth on Tuesday, it is your decision whether you want a judge to be a neutral arbiter of the law, or someone who will apparently be friendly towards prosecutors no matter what they have done.

For my part, I will not vote for someone who will not take the impartiality of judge's bench seriously. If David Prosser wanted to be responsible for putting people behind bars, he should have remained a prosecutor.

* I've tried to find an online version of the clip to include in the post, but I have been unable to. If you know of where I can find one, please email me the link.

** Activist Judge really only means a judge that has made a decision which I disagree with.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010
The True Test for Wisconsin Republicans

So over the next week, I figure I'll gradually write a few things as I absorb everything that happened last night (and may my liver forgive me). Some of this will come in the form of "reviewing the reviewers", as I try to explain the things that I know the major media pundits just don't get, as they attempt to explain things themselves. But I digress.

One of the interesting and somewhat surprising results from last night, given Wisconsin's more liberal leanings, is that this is the only state where Democrats lost the Governor, the full Legislature, and a Senate seat. Now, even though Congress is still divided amongst Republicans and Democrats, the State Legislature is fully controlled by Republicans and there is a Republican Governor at the helm.

Leading up to this election, there was a large wave of Tea Party anger regarding the size and scope of government spending. Much of this started brewing during the awful Bush years where Republicans had completely control of Congress, with a "Compassionate Conservative" as President. The Federal deficit soared under Bush, as did the scope of government (Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, Two Wars, etc.).

How will Wisconsin Republicans react to their newfound power? Will they act similarly to Bush and let things run away, or will they actually act to make meaningful, and responsible cuts to government? If history as a guide, Republicans will let their ambitions run away with them, and they'll hope they can spin it in two years. If they're actually capable of learning from history, they might actually make a change.

I hope for the latter, but fear the former is still more likely.

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Monday, November 01, 2010
Sensenbrenner and Ryan In Collusion With Gwen Moore?

According to the Sebring campaign (who is running against Gwen Moore), both Jim Sensenbrenner and Paul Ryan have an agreement with Gwen Moore not to endorse her opposition. According to Sebring, Sensenbrenner told him that personally at a local political event. When Sensenbrenner's campaign was asked to confirm this, he elaborated and said that there is an "unwritten rule" amongst all Wisconsin Congressmen to not endorse any candidate looking to unseat a sitting Congressional incumbent! Ryan's campaign also confirmed this agreement according to this post by the Republican Liberty Caucus. WTAQ in Green Bay also confirmed this arrangement as being in effect for other candidates as well.

So while Jim Sensenbrenner has no qualms taking sides in the Republican Primary for Governor for instance, endorsing Walker over Neumann, he refuses to endorse a member of his own party in a run against someone of the opposite party? I suppose I can't say I'm surprised at this attitude from a man who has been in Congress for as long as I've been alive. As if district gerrymandering weren't enough to keep their seats safe, they also refuse to campaign against each other? Is this what we think creates a healthy Democracy?

This type of arrangement by both Sensenbrenner and Ryan smell of arrogance, to say the least. It shows that they think that they are entitled to their Congressional seats, and that somehow having a vigorous reelection process is beneath them. As people continue to talk up Paul Ryan as a "rising star" in the Republican Party, I wonder if this is what they had in mind.

Consider all those who have gone to Tea Party rallies, and have been more than willing to vote out "bad" Republicans in primaries in favor of Republicans whom they think hold more conservative values. What does it say to them, that the two ranking Republicans won't even endorse a Republican against one of the most liberal members of Congress?

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Rebecca Kleefisch is Walker's Biden

Well, I think we all know why the Scott Walker campaign is trying to keep Rebecca Kleefisch out of the public eye as election day draws near. She can't help but say stupid stuff. And this time, she's gone beyond stupid, to insulting and dehuminizing... that is truly shameful. When speaking about gay marriage on a local radio show, she said (video below):

This is a slippery slope. In addition to that, at what point are we going to OK marrying inanimate objects? Can I marry this table or this, you know, clock? Can we marry dogs?

I've blogged several times about gay marriage, and the fact that I think we should allow it. There are so many laws written that depend on the concept of marriage (Social Security, Income Taxes, Insurance, etc) that denying gay marriage is unfair as a matter of equal protection under the law. However, there are a lot of people who disagree with me, and they have many reasons for doing so... many of them based on strongly held religious beliefs.

This crosses a line. Kleefisch seems to be saying that if you are gay, and have the audacity to want to marry your partner, that your partner is no different than a table, or an animal. Either way... your partner apparently stops being a human being. Marrying someone of your own gender is exactly the same as marrying a clock in her mind... which says more about her than about homosexuals. It dehumamizes homosexuals. I don't care what you say about gay marriage, that is not acceptable.

Sadly, there are probably plenty of people who heard about what she said and agree with it. I don't know what's more sad. I also have to wonder, why she's even talking about this? The Gay Marriage Amendment has already passed. This isn't even an issue in the state right now. Everyone is talking about the economy, so why is she talking about Gay Marriage? When she starts trying to "sell our state" to businesses, is this going to be front and center in her pitch?

Ben Collins, why did you drop out again?

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Friday, October 15, 2010
PolitiFact Needs to Get It's Facts Straight on Stimulus Statistics

PolitiFact Wisconsin has issued another "Pants on Fire" rating recently, this time to Republicans for their claim that Kagen's vote on the Stimulus cost Wisconsin 77,000 jobs. In short, if Republicans deserve a "Pants on Fire" rating for that, then every politician issuing statistics regarding the Stimulus deserve the same... including, and especially, Barack Obama. So why does PolitiFact think that the Republican claim is wrong? (Emphasis mine)

Kagen supported the $787 billion stimulus (although that estimate has since been boosted to $814 billion by the Congressional Budget Office). And Wisconsin has had a net loss of more than 77,000 jobs since the measure became law in February 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

When asked for facts to back up the stimulus claim in the ad, Tom Erickson, Midwest press secretary for the NRCC, provided the citation on the job-loss figures. But when we called and e-mailed asking for evidence that the lost jobs were a result of the stimulus, he did not reply.

Perhaps with good reason.

In logic class, this one falls under the category that correlation does not prove causation. Think of it this way: Incidents of drowning may go up at the beach at the same time ice cream sales rise. That doesn’t mean ice cream causes you to drown. It may just mean more people are at the beach.

Indeed, the consensus -- from several government and private-sector reports issued in 2010 -- is the stimulus has boosted employment. Directly and indirectly, the analysts conclude, the stimulus has created or saved more than 1 million, as many as 2.7 million, or even as many as 4.8 million jobs nationwide.

In Wisconsin, the federal government counted 16,348 jobs directly funded by the stimulus in the most recent quarter (April through June 2010) reviewed. In total, according to the state, the stimulus has created or retained 63,000 jobs in Wisconsin.

There is a lot of information, and some very important terms, in that section. First of all, the only definite statistic that we have is that Wisconsin has had a net loss of more than 77,000 jobs since the Stimulus became law. That is a measurable number... and the only truly measurable number that exists in that entire section. We can also know that the number of jobs lost is likely higher than that, since unemployment numbers only count those actively looking for work, and don't count the many people in every state who have dropped out of the workforce because conditions are so bad.

The PolitiFact tries to counter the Republican argument by saying that the Stimulus has either created or retained as many as 63,000 jobs. It should first be noted that the data collection around jobs that were "directly funded" by the stimulus was found to be incredibly fraudulent. Many jobs were double counted, many were counted in zip codes that didn't even exist, and many of the jobs that were counted as "saved" were never actually in any danger of being lost. In other words, they weren't "saved", but were merely "funded" by the stimulus. Put yet another way, they simply changed the accounting bucket that an existing job was paid with. That's not exactly "growth".

But even putting the fraudulent numbers aside, how does one prove or disprove that a job was "saved" by the stimulus? In fact, it's simply an excellent canard that was raised by the Obama Administration to cover for rising unemployment. Prior to the stimulus, the Obama Administration made specific claims about how unemployment would not go higher than 9%. When those numbers never came about, the phrase was magically changed from jobs "created" to "created or saved"... and then simply to "funded". The reason for the switch is because it was impossible to prove whether the stimulus actually created those jobs. And saying a job was saved is also impossible to prove or disprove. In essence, it allowed the Obama Administration to make the un-provable claim that things would have been worse (but we don't know by how much) were it not for the stimulus.

So while PolitiFact calls out the Republicans for not being able to say exactly which jobs were lost because of the Stimulus, the Obama Administration couldn't prove which jobs were actually created or saved by it either! It's also helpful to note that the CBO December report specifically says "it is impossible to determine how many of the reported jobs would have existed in the absence of the stimulus package." It's a claim that neither side can defend nor attack, so they both use it to their advantage. In reality, we don't have a clue, and neither Kagen, the Republicans, nor PolitiFact ought to use those numbers.

Surprisingly enough, PoltiFact's numbers actually get shakier from there. PolitiFact goes on to quote the CBO reporting which says that the stimulus may have created or saved as many as 4.7 million jobs nationwide! That's a lot of special adjectives couching a really big number... and there is a good reason for it. Once again, nobody knows! But in order to understand this, first we need to understand how the Congressional Budget Office works.

The Congressional Budget Office has long been considered a "neutral arbiter" and number cruncher for Congress. It is in charge of calculating the cost of bills proposed by Congress and reporting that back to the Legislature. For the most part, both Republicans and Democrats keep their hands off the CBO, and the CBO score is still considered the bench mark by which bills are measured. That's not to say that the numbers are accurate, but rather that they are mostly neutral of politics and as good as anyone thinks we can get.

When the Stimulus bill was being scored by the CBO, they essentially went to work created very complicated economic models looking at the current state of all legislation, the current state of the economy, leading indicators, and then using these models, came up with forecasts regarding how they thought the stimulus might affect the economy. This forecast was nothing more than an educated guess regarding the number of jobs they thought might be created, along with a multiplier claiming that every stimulus dollar spent would have a multiplicative effect in the economy. This multiplier was very heavily criticized. The Stimulus bill also required the Congress Budget Office to make quarterly reports back to Congress detailing the "progress" of the stimulus. This of course includes the infamous jobs numbers quoted by PolitiFact.

But exactly how does the Congressional Budget Office determine how many jobs were created after the fact? Well, as it turns out, they do it the exact same way they calculated their jobs estimate before the bill was passed. They simply take the amount of stimulus dollars that have been released out of the total allowed so far, and plug that back into the same model they used to create the estimate, and then say this is how many jobs should have been created based on the amount of money released so far. The CBO does not actually make any effort to determine if those jobs actually were created, or tries to determine if the models were actually accurate. In fact the Director of the Congressional Budget Office has come out specifically to say that the numbers don't actually correlate to reality, but that he is required by law to release the numbers anyway! (Emphasis mine)

Stimulus-boosters have basically ignored this. But the CBO, to its credit, has been fairly forthcoming about its methods and their limitations. In response to a question at a speech earlier this month, CBO director Doug Elmendorf laid out the CBO's methodology pretty clearly, describing the his office's frequent, legally-required stimulus reports as "repeating the same exercises we [already] did rather than an independent check on it." CBO tweaks its models on the input side, he says - adjusting, for example, how much money the government has spent. But the results the CBO reports—like the job creation figures—are simply a function of the inputs it records, not real-world counts.

Following up, the questioner asks for clarification: "If the stimulus bill did not do what it was originally forecast to do, then that would not have been detected by the subsequent analysis, right?" Elmendorf's response? "That's right. That's right."

In essence, both the CBO and the Whitehouse, which parrots that analysis (and PolitiFact also quotes), are simply saying those jobs actually were created because we hoped they would be! Hope and Change! In the end, the only independent statistic we have regarding the state of jobs is the one quoted by the Republicans. 77,000 have been lost in the State of Wisconsin since the stimulus bill passed.

So in the final analysis of the claim by stimulus proponents (and by extension PolitiFact) that the stimulus actually created jobs, we can make use of PolitiFact's "more direct formula" methodology and say that: Corrupt Statistics + Bad Statistical Methodology = Pants On Fire.

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Monday, October 04, 2010
Republicans Think Voters Are Too Stupid to Understand What They'll Do

At least, that's the argument that Patrick McIlheran makes in this blog post regarding why Republicans aren't talking about Paul Ryan's "Roadmap to America's Future"... and he seems to be OK with it. It's Republican Strategery, or something:

Don't sell the 434-point plan, argues Fred Barnes in Weekly Standard about Republican strategy in the upcoming elections. Sell the conservative candidates and reliable conservatism.

Barnes points out that this worked for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. His spending and tax cuts are popular in practice, but he didn't detail them before the election – so that Dems couldn't use them as specters. "Instead," Barnes writes, "he concentrated on Democratic governor Jon Corzine as the main issue - and won," by promising to be a better alternative.

John Boehner is all over this strategy as well. When asked what Republicans would cut when voted in, he said:

Let's not get to the potential solutions. When you start down that path, you just invite all kinds of problems.

In other words... point out how bad it is to have the White House and Congress controlled by one party, and how bad of a job they're doing, and promise to be different. Hmmm... where have I heard that before? Is this Republican "Hope and Change"? And remember, don't be specific about the changes that you'll make. Just promise to be better, and more conservative, just like you were in the first six years of the Bush Administration... when Republicans increased the size of the Federal Government to levels never before seen, increasing both the deficit and debt to record levels?  You'll forgive me if I'm not impressed by this bold plan for the election. You'll certainly forgive me for not calling Republicans "reliable" in their conservatism. We've been down this road before, and we didn't like who we got. That's why Republicans got booted out four years ago.

The whole argument about Democrats using "specifics" as a specter is even stranger to me. Have you not paid attention to the Tea Party? Patrick must, because he blogs about them quite often. Tea Partiers are demanding specifics! They're even going after long time Republicans because they aren't being small government enough, and aren't talking about specific changes. To suggest that voters will be scared away by these specifics is a claim that voters are too stupid to understand the implications of cuts in government. Republicans are now channeling Nancy Pelosi when she said during the Obama Care debate that "We need to pass the health care bill to find out what's in it."  Republicans are now saying to voters that you have to vote for them to find out what bills they'll pass. But the problem with that concept is that voters no longer trust Republicans to do what they promise. We are demanding specifics, because that's the only way they can be held accountable for their actions... or inactions.

Even Newt Gingrich, the "family values" Speaker who can't stay faithful to a wife to save his life, who loves bashing Democrats on their fiscal non-restraint can't bring himself to mention specifics:

Gingrich offered up this weak sauce: "I would start and I'd go through this budget pretty dramatically and I would eliminate a great deal of federal bureaucracy. I would reform unemployment compensation. I would reform workman's comp at the state level. I would have a very pro-jobs, very pro-savings, very pro-take-home-pay policy."

You may recall candidate Barack Obama's pledge to go through his budgets "line by line" to eliminate wasteful programs and enact a "net spending cut" while also lowering taxes of the middle classes and "reforming" various programs in ways that would magically reduce the deficit. We have seen how that movie played out.

The interview got worse. "Would you make cuts in Social Security and Medicare?" Lauer asked.

Gingrich: "No, no."

All of this seems to circle around the Republicans latest "Pledge to America", and speculation that Paul Ryan, author of the Roadmap to America's Future, was left out of it's drafting. I've blogged about my feelings regarding Paul Ryan many times, so I won't rehash them here. Ryan is now saying that he is playing a key role behind the scenes... almost like he's an Ace up the Republican sleeve. The leadership is promising, he claims, to honestly take this up after they're elected. And yet, the Pledge to America (downgraded from an actual Contract like last time because voters foolishly thought Contracts were legally binding) contains nothing of the Roadmap. In reality, it merely promises to rollback spending to the levels that existed before Democrats were voted in. You remember, don't you?  Those are the levels that were double what they had been before George W. Bush took office... which was when they got booted out the last time for spending too much.

And do you remember how Republicans cried over Obama Care, and how large the actual bill was? They claimed that with a document so large, people couldn't understand it. After all, the Constitution is small and succinct, and look at how successful it is! But when it came to their own Pledge to America, they created a 48 page when two pages would have worked just as well:

When you consider the title pages, table of contents, and other virtually blank pages, only half of the Pledge to America is devoted to text, which is set with big margins and lots of space between the lines. Since the text is repetitive and consists largely of rhetorical flourishes, the actual substance probably could have been boiled down to a single two-sided sheet. Think of it as a metaphor for the federal budget - or for Republican promises of fiscal restraint.

But at the end of the day, we're left with a single question. Are Republicans avoiding specifics now because they are simply hoping to ride a wave of voter anger into office, with no intention of following through? Or are they doing like they've always done and avoided specifics, but this time with the intent of doing what they've never done before, and actually attacking the size and scope of federal government? Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. And with that, I say that any voter would be insane to vote for a Republican who doesn't make concrete promises, and expects them to make concrete changes.

Republicans are now asking that we trust them to do the "right thing". How stupid do they think we are?

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Gov't Takeover of Health Care is Wrong Because It Shrinks Government Run Health Care!

So, Republicans are playing an interesting game this election season... and by game... they're trying to walk a very thin line. ObamaCare is pretty unpopular, and so the rhetoric right now is that government run health care is bad! The problem is... nobody wants to scare seniors into thinking that Medicare is in danger. In fact, we want to make sure that Medicare is protected... or even increased! Take for instance, this latest Ron Johnson ad:

According to the ad, Russ Feingold voted to have government take over your health care... which is bad. The government does a horrible job of managing health care according to the ad, with prices going up because of it. And not only that, Russ Feingold's vote took $500 million from Medicare!

Wait... huh? So it's both bad to have government run health care... and bad to decrease... ummm... government run health care?

This is a very dangerous game that Republicans are playing... and it's one that they go back and forth on depending on where they think the political winds are blowing. Sometimes Medicare is a nasty entitlment that has to be controlled, and sometimes we have to fight to protect our seniors. This is perhaps the strangest version of this game... to claim that government run health care is bad because it hurts government run health care. It's as if people think that Medicare is not a government program. But in reality, Republicans are deciding to punt on Medicare.

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Monday, September 13, 2010
Why I Don't Like Sheriff Clark

Put simply... politics. I've actually never understood why the County Sheriff position is a partisan race... and the way Sheriff Clark has behaved while in office makes me question the partisan nature of the office even more. It would seem that of all the elected offices in the State, and especially the County, Sheriff is one where politics should enter the least into it.

Sheriffs don't make law. Sheriffs should not enact "policy". They enforce the laws which are passed by the State Legislature, and ordinances passed by the County Board. In so far as any law enforcement agency must prioritize different enforcement efforts because of the realistic nature of budgets and resource constraints, politics should not enter into that equation.

What I have seen is a Sheriff who alienates his own deputies. I've seen a Sheriff who demands that everyone get new badges so they match his tattoo. Frankly, I find it troubling that he's spoken at Tea Party rallies. It's not about the fact that they're "Tea Party" rallies... it's that he's being that high profile at a political rally at all.  I know many will say that it's unfair to condemn a person who has to be elected, for appearing at a political event... and yet it's still troubling. I don't like the signal it sends out regarding his priorities, or how he will enforce the law.

Most importantly, I think Clarke has failed at earning the respect and cooperation of his peers in the Milwaukee area and deputies in his own department. While some may favor his style as some form of union busting, I think he has alienated so much of his staff, that it undermines his ability as a leader. Being hard nosed only works to a point, and I think he's long past the breaking point.

Now then, is Chris Moews the ideal replacement? Eh, who knows. But in this case, I'm willing to go with the devil I don't know, rather than the one I do. And since this is just a primary, I will have time to rethink my decision again and vote for Steven Duckhorn* (the Republican) come November.

* A Personal Note to Steve Duckhorn - 1997 called and said it's time to update your website. Also, Republicans can't pulled off the grizzly face look... ever.

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A Reminder on Sensenbrenner's "Fiscal Conservativism"

The Scott Walker campaign is prominently pushing an endorsement by Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner, attacking Mark Neumann's vote on a Transportation Bill, and calling Scott Walker "the true Conservative in the race". Of course, this is the same Jim Sensenbrenner that among other things, voted for the largest increase in the Medicare Entitlement since Medicare was first created, and also pushed (in a must pass Iraq War spending bill), a huge unfunded mandate on the states to change how Driver's Licenses are issued and tracked across states (in direct contradiction to a well established state police power). So I guess "fiscal conservative" is all relative.

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Thursday, September 09, 2010
I Don't Like Walker or Neumann... or Barrett

I've been fairly quiet on the Governor's race so far, mostly because I'm having a hard time grappling with the different sides and interests involved. As a Libertarian, I can only show a certain amount of interest in the race on the GOP side, because frankly, I've lost all faith in any Republican to make meaningful reform that will improve our state, or our nation... not that Democrats are any better. Don't get me wrong... on the fiscal side of things, Republicans talk a good game, but when it comes down to brass tacks, they always cheat on us, their constituents (and often times their wives, with other men).

So when examining the race between Walker and Neumann, it's hard for me to get excited. I certainly can't build up the frenzy that many of my Republican friends seem to have. To be honest, I'm struggling to even convince myself it's worth going to vote for one of them right now. Here's why:

Walker: My problem with Scott Walker started almost from the beginning. The state GOP anointed him as the candidate, pure and simple. He ran four years ago against Mark Green, and then stepped aside. Whether any actual deals were made behind closed doors or not, I believe he saw this action as justification for an unopposed run four years later. His attitude has always been, "I did the 'right thing' four years ago, and now it's my turn." You saw this in much of the early commentary, especially in Milwaukee, that treated any primary opponent as damaging to the party, and that Neumann needed to drop out to "save his reputation".  To put it simply, that attitude is insulting to the concept of a Democracy. The GOP participates in a Primary system, where candidates are chosen by voters. If they want to select their candidate through back room deals or Party Convention, then they should remove themselves from the primary system.

Putting Walker's hubris aside, I think he's a potentially weak candidate... something that people from Milwaukee don't, or can't see. Whether the perception is true or not, he stinks of Milwaukee politics. People in the Milwaukee area don't see this, because they deal with it constantly. They understand the City vs. the County. They understand the Board vs. the County Executive. But Walker get's beat up a lot, and a lot of it sticks. People outside of Milwaukee simply aren't aware of this nitty gritty and it leaves a lot of room for Barrett to come in later and hit Walker. Barrett of course stinks of Milwaukee just as much, but more on that in a minute.

And to be perfectly honest, I think Walker cared a lot more about playing politics as County Executive then he cared about trying to change anything. He was stubborn to a tee on absolutely everything in order to get good press with Milwaukee County conservatives, and as a result, had most everything he wanted overturned by the County Board. So while he was able to keep his image as a hardnosed fiscal conservative intact, the results were hardly fiscally conservative. Now then, the question becomes... had he been more flexible, is it possible that he would have been able to get some conservative results if he was willing to give on others? That's the rub... we'll never know. But it certainly doesn't help his image regarding management style.

Besides, people from "Up North" don't like Milwaukee. They think Milwaukee sucks up too much of their money, and is a drain on the state. Historically, anyone from Milwaukee has had a hard time at the state level for this reason. Pitting Milwaukee vs Milwaukee is risky which is what a Barrett vs Walker campaign would be for them. The "Up North" crowd is also not your typical conservative. Sure, they are good God fearing people that think that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and they like the concept of small government, as long as they still get their big fat farm subsidies. Walker may scare them in that latter regard.

Neumann: Honestly, I just can't get a bead on the guy. As a Libertarian, his comment at the State Democratic convention regarding campaign financing, and campaign speech pissed me off. His vote on the massive Transportation bill was shameful. His support for ethanol kills people. His business dealings are... well... they've been questioned and show a potential weakness their too. His record in an elected executive position is non-existent. But as an "Up Noth" conservative, I think he's stronger than Walker. His support for ethanol subsidies, while personally abhorrent, will be popular with the farmers. He also doesn't smell of Milwaukee. A Barrett vs Neumann campaign would be more classic for Wisconsin politics, and would, I believe, give Neumann an edge.

Everything Else is the Same: They both have the same bad views on gay marriage. They both have the same bad views on immigration. They both have the same bad views on all the things that Libertarians and Republicans typically clash heads on. So what I'm left with is a vote between a arrogant, stubborn County Executive, and a squirrely former Congressman... neither of whom I really like.

The Campaign: This is perhaps the biggest reason why I'm turned off regarding the whole GOP primary. As I discussed earlier, Walker came into the race thinking he deserved to win the primary without contention. Neumann, knowing he would get no support from the state GOP, did a lot of weird gimmicks early on, and ran some negative stuff against Walker.

Perhaps the funniest thing I see lately are all the conservatives saying that "they like Neumann, but won't vote for him because he went negative". This, as Walker runs ads against Neumann comparing him to Nancy Pelosi. Negative ads are relevant, and if you can't take the heat, you shouldn't be running. When it comes right down to it, people only complain about "dirty campaign tactics" when they're desperate, which is not good for Walker right now.

So in the end, I'll be using my option to vote in the open primary on the Democratic ticket, so that I can vote for Moews for County Sheriff (more on that in a later post), and Tim John for Governor (because I hate Barrett just as much).

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Jay Bullock is a Damn... Exaggerator

Jay Bullock has his panties in a twist, calling Scott Walker (or more accurately his communications director) a "damn liar", over emails sent by the Walker Campaign regarding jobs... the loss of jobs to be specific. In that email, the campaign says that Walker won't "sacrifice your job to score political points".  He then goes on to list how Scott Walker has sacrificed jobs in Milwaukee:

But here is a partial list of jobs that Walker has sacrificed in his time as Milwaukee County Executive:

  • All of the security guards at courthouses and other buildings
  • All housekeeping staff
  • All food service jobs
  • Most of the parks workers
  • Staff at BHD: nurses, CNAs, specialized therapists and doctors
  • Clerical staff who help the few remaining county workers get the job done
  • Highway workers
  • Firefighters at the airport
  • Economic Support staff (until the state takeover)
  • However many people lost their jobs when 20,000 of them had their transit routes cut off

That's a lot of jobs. But wait a second. Does that mean that the courthouses have no security at all? I can just take a gun in there right now and go crazy? Am I to assume that no county owned buildings are being cleaned? If I walk into one this morning, will trash be piled everywhere? Is food not being served anywhere? You mean county employees are starving?! And the parks... aren't being taken care of at all? You mean the Award Winning Milwaukee County Park system?!

Of course not... because those jobs were not lost! Union jobs were eliminated, and were replaced with non-union jobs from a private firm. For example, security at county facilities is now provided by G4S Wakenhut. Housekeeping was similarly privatized last year. And guess what... the companies hired to provide those services didn't have staff just sitting around waiting for work when they got hired. They actually had to go out and hire people to fill the new work they were contracted to do.

Now we can argue until we're blue in the face about whether it's better to have those jobs unionized, or not. We can argue ad nauseam regarding the higher cost of employing union workers because of steep medical benefits and pension plans. But the fact remains... those jobs still exist. People are still performing those duties. You may not like who is doing the work... but its getting done.

The fact is, this sort of debate is raging at all levels of government... especially in the federal government where employment is booming... to the detriment of the private sector.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Get Ready for Campaign Commercials

Yeah... they pretty much all sound like this:

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Thursday, February 18, 2010
Comparing the Candidates: Website Design Firms

In keeping with my promise to cover each of the candidates equally when examining an issue, today I'll take a look at the companies (and more specifically the locations of the companies) who have designed each of the campaign web sites for the governor's race.

Scott Walker:

WISN has already covered the fact that Scott Walker's site was designed by a firm in Ohio.  It's a nice site, though I have some minor issues with it. For one, the site improperly asks Twitter users for both their Twitter name and password in order to "Tweet for Scott Walker". This is highly insecure, and nobody should use this. The proper method would be to use OAuth, which allows users to Login into Twitter, and then authorize the campaign site to publish to Twitter with their name. The site also has users create user names and passwords, but has no SSL option. This is also insecure.

Tom Barrett:

Tom has just revealed his new website design. And guess what... it was designed by a firm in Boston! Kind of puts a little wrinkle in Tom's entire section he devotes to creating jobs in Wisconsin doesn't it?  What's the matter Tom, aren't there any qualified Wisconsin companies who can do website work for you?  Ironically enough, Liberty Concepts also lists the Wisconsin Democratic Party on it's portfolio as well. Apparently the entire Wisconsin Democratic block would rather create jobs out of state too.  I'm sure my friend Chris (Capper) will be sure to equally criticize Barrett for sending jobs out of Wisconsin.*

Mark Nuemann:

Mark Nuemann's website interesting enough says "Made in Wisconsin", although I couldn't easily find any details about which firm created the site. If you happen to know, be sure to drop a comment.


* I really don't give two figs about which design firm created the campaign's websites... except that this should expose a little hypocrisy among those who criticized Walker for going out of state. While I think there are plenty of quality design firms in the area (and I've worked with several), there are many reasons to go with one company over another.  These include cost, staff who may have worked with a company previously and have a relationship with them already, as well as a pre-existing platform that others may not offer.  In fact, the entire concept of laws that require that a certain amount of work, or products, be made in state, or in this country, goes against the very concepts of free markets and optimal utilization of resources... you know... good economics.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Comparing the Candidates - Government Reform

Being an uncommitted voter, I'm really going to take the time to investigate all the candidates' issues and policies as we come up to the election.  I'm going to make an effort (though I'll probably slip now and then) to only compare the candidates on different positions, instead of only talking about one candidate when they put out a press release.  Mark Neumann recently unveiled his "Strong Wisconsin Reform", so I thought I would take the time to compare that with what Scott Walker and Tom Barrett have proposed thus far.

Strong Wisconsin Reform

Mark's reform is summed up as part of a 5 Point plan.  Why 5 points?  Because 14 points is apparently too many to work, and 5 points fits on your hand. I really don't know.  The first thing I see as I read Mark's Five Point Plan is that it really boils down to "supporting someone else doing something".  He will "ask" the legislature to amend it's rules and require five days of public review before a vote on a bill.  He will personally promise to limit himself to two terms (I'll believe it when I see it) and support term limits if passed by the legislature.  He will support the concept of allowing ballot initiatives (more on that later).  Pretty much every point in his "reform plan" involves him saying "pretty please with cherries and sprinkles on top" to someone else.

I understand that this is a tough row to hoe.  As President Obama found out, you can promise the world as a candidate for an executive office, but you are often times hamstrung by what the legislature does.  After all, in our system of government, the legislature passes the laws and the executive (Governor in this case) is in charge of carrying them out.  With that said, there are certain things that an executive can do to reform government using the powers of his office.  Unfortunately, none of the things he mentions really fit that bill.  Moreover, none of these concepts are very new.  Not that they're all necessarily bad (a 5 day review period is generally good), but when you combine old ideas with a lack of a proactive plan, it leaves me pretty unimpressed.  Many of these ideas could be turned into a proactive plan.  For instance, a promise to veto any bill that has not had a 5 day review period would be a way for the governor to enforce certain ideas, instead of simply suggesting a rule change to the legislature.

Citizen referendums, though a popular idea among many, are simply a bad, bad idea.  Zach of Blogging Blue does a good job of covering the issue.  The primary problem with ballot initiatives can be seen in California.  In that state, people tend to create initiatives that require the legislature to do something (usually an expensive something), but don't include a way to pay for it.  The legislature is then bound to implement the ballot initiative, and also figure out a way to pay for it.  That is one of many reasons why California has a massive budget deficit.  Granted, California has one of the highest (if not the highest) percentage of public sector employees belonging to a union than any other state which probably causes more problems.  The salary and benefits of the unionized public sector vs. non-unionized public sector is insane.

Walker's Plan

Scott's reform doesn't have a fancy name, but it does have 5 points!  It must be good then.  Scott is a little more vague than Mark in how he'd carry out some of his reforms (which I didn't realize was possible), but all the things that Scott mentions are at least things a Governor can do.  Never once do I read "ask the legislature to".  That's a good thing, because it means that Scott can be directly held accountable for the things he says he'll do in office... and he can actually do them!

These things include using General Accepted Accounting Principles during budget creation, "stripping policy and pork" from the budget (I assume through judicious use of the line item veto, but I'd like to see that specifically mentioned), and the pledge to end raids on segregated funds.  I would simply like to see more details behind the concepts.  For instance:

Start the state budget at zero. Just because a government program has a vocal constituency and a high-priced lobbyist does not mean it should continue, let alone receive automatic funding increases. Every dollar spent should be scrutinized and justified, not simply given a blind percentage increase.

Well, how will it be scrutinized and how will it have to be justified?  I understand that websites and campaigns are bad platforms for delivering details, but come one... give me something.  It's way too easy to just say "we'll cut the pork" or "I'll go over the budget with a fine toothed comb".  Maybe the campaign could list a few examples from the current budget that Scott would have scrutinized and decided to veto, along with an explanation as to why.

Barrett's Plan

I'm not sure what Tom's plan is, or if he even has one. His website has nothing but his announcement to run for governor, and a place to send money.  He may not have a plan to reform government, or it could be that his plan will include a pledge to have cute kittens perform line item vetoes with ink stained paws.  We'll see, and I'll be sure to post about it when it appears.

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