Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Super Bowl Commercials

I had a real blast watching the Super Bowl commercials this year. As usual, it was the only time of year advertising agencies actually do their jobs and give us new commercials, and as usual, they don’t take the lesson that maybe they should put new ads in front of our eyes more often, instead of subjecting us to the same shit over and over, as if repetition alone would make us buy their product. But I’ll get off that soap box briefly to make an entirely different observation:

Did anybody else notice an interesting pattern with automobile ads? Foreign auto makers Audi, Mercedes and Hyundai all had great ads promoting – cars. Yes, cars. That thing that General Motors says there isn’t a market for. But yes, there IS a market, and these auto makers know that with GM, Ford, Chrysler and other American players getting out of the game, there’s going to be a much bigger market share – for them. And they’re trying to get in on it. So, their ads come (where else?) on the biggest ad market of them all: The Super Bowl.

Hyundai may have come up with the best of them, with Jason Bateman being an elevator conductor (as if they have those, anymore), announcing one bad thing after another with each descending floor. Near the bottom, is buying a new car, except the passengers announce that they used Hyundai’s Shopper Assurance app and website. Rest assured, that one is going to be shown over and over during baseball season. Because again, ad agencies think their job is done making new ads after the Super Bowl.

Toyota had two spots: One featured Toni Harris, the first woman ever to win a football scholarship. And the product they compared her to? The new Rav-4 hybrid. That’s right, a more electric SUV. Toyota realized that there is a market both for size AND fuel efficiency. And once again, it’s poising itself to corner the market when the next gas crisis hits.

The other Toyota spot advertised the return of the Toyota Supra. Discontinued after 1998, it’s making a return with some help from BMW. Why? To appeal to sportscar drivers who also want greater fuel efficiency. Fewer cars on the market means that a few people might want to opt for a sportier model out of what’s left. Toyota knows that many people would opt for quality and durability as well as flash.

Budweiser may have had the most ecologically friendly ads of the game, with at least three spots touting the fact that Budweiser is not made with corn syrup, long known to be an inferior source of bad sugars. But then they also came out with an ad that showed the Budweiser beer wagon, pulled by its iconic Clydesdales, through a field of windmills. A dalmatian riding atop, along with Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” playing in the background, helped emphasize the brewer’s point: that its product is now made with wind power. No market for ecologically friendly products like small cars, eh?

But the most interesting ad may have come from Kia. They spent their millions unveiling the new Kia Telluride, an SUV. And why is Kia, traditionally known for making small, affordable cars, suddenly interested in getting into the SUV market? The answer should be obvious: Because they expect GM to fail again. And that means the market will fall to those companies which remain. Kia feels its best move is to have its own SUV on the market, should GM shut down.

I don’t know if the Board of Directors at GM was paying attention to the Super Bowl this year, but if they were, they should be extremely nervous.

And they should bring back manufacture of cars, before it’s too late.



Saturday, January 12, 2019

Dude, Where's My Car?

It was reported awhile back that American car manufacturers, particularly GM, will be discontinuing the manufacture of cars to concentrate on SUV's. The reason, they say, is because there just isn't enough of a market for small cars. Fuel prices are low, and consumers simply want pickups and SUV's instead.

Bullshit. The executives are looking at projections based on stability. And historically, that has never, ever been the case. Sooner or later, something disrupts the oil supply, and gas prices shoot up. It's happened once or twice every decade in my lifetime. Apparently, being in a boardroom wipes an executive's memory.

We all remember what happened when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005. Fuel prices shot up. General Motors and other American vehicle manufacturers had backed themselves into a corner regarding the SUV back then, too. The result? Well, because New Orleans was an oil hub, and much of that surrounding area was responsible for fuel refinery, the gasoline supply was disrupted and fuel prices went way up. Consumers later accused the oil industry of price-gouging because they recorded record profits, but that was no conspiracy on the industry's part. Low supply, high demand, prices shoot up, scarcity forces overhead into being low. It's basic economics.

Toyota made a killing on the disaster because it had come out with one of the first hybrid cars, the Toyota Prius. Almost overnight, consumers backlogged orders on these little cars, and the waiting list stretched to over a year or more. GM and Ford had gambled on SUV's ruling forever - and lost.

Adding insult to injury was the decimation of one of the best electric cars ever made at the time: the EV-1. Consumers who drove it raved about it when it debuted in 1996. By 1999, it had a loyal following of fans who loved it. But the oil industry and the auto industry conspired to destroy this little upstart competitor, and succeeded. They managed to get the car offered only for lease, so consumers couldn't buy one. Then they dared complain about lack of demand, as if leasing a vehicle wasn't always a scam. They fought California's emissions standards tooth and toenail. And they argued, then as now, that there isn't a market for such small cars.

Well, consumers revolted, protested, raised a hue and cry over their soon-to-be lost electric cars, and even staged a mock funeral as a publicity stunt. It all went ignored, and the EV-1 was taken off the market, and the entire model was repossessed and crushed for recycling. Only a few collectors were allowed to keep them, and then only if key components were removed, rendering their engines dead.

Fuck you, GM.

In the late 60's and early 70's, when OPEC choked off the oil supply to the U.S. over the political crisis in Israel, the company that made the biggest killing was Volkswagen. Why? Because it manufactured the Beetle, a little fuel-efficient car that suddenly consumers demanded. GM, Ford, Chevrolet and Chrysler were all building over-sized sedans as their smallest vehicles. A car with six or eight cylinders was the industry standard. They were totally unprepared for a market that suddenly demanded fuel efficiency, and basic vehicles with little or no trunk space.

How many times must we see this happen before companies learn?

The gasoline crisis caused by Hurricane Katrina was barely past its heyday when the housing bubble collapsed in 2008, and the mismanagement of GM nearly destroyed the entire company. Uncle Sam had to bail it out, and even then many free-market economists argued against doing so. Had it kept the EV-1 in production, it would have made a killing, and been the most powerful auto-maker in the country, possibly the world! Over and over it has been proven that manufacture of small, fuel-efficient cars provided a hedge against the inevitable times of economic hardship and high fuel prices. That's why it has always been so very critical to keep those cars in production, even during times when they are produced at a slight loss.

Because at the drop of a hat, gas prices can suddenly go up, and then those little cars save the company's ass!

Now we're seeing this same mistake all over again. The Chevy Volt, a car which I desperately covet, is going off the market soon. (Fuck you again, GM!) While other companies are improving their electric and hybrid vehicles, and Tesla is proving that there is (and was!) a sustainable market, GM, Ford and others are hanging up their production of cars.

Okay, Chinese tariffs aren't helping. The inability to sell as much oil overseas is causing a glut of oil here at home. But all that does is force more oil down our throats at a time when we ought to be selling what's left of our tar sands and oil shale abroad. Driving SUV's is literally burning tomorrow to pay for today.

If only I could be assured that the low-fuel product I and so many others demand will be met with the supply we deserve.



Friday, September 28, 2018

Kavanaugh's Guilt

As an empiricist, I disapprove of jumping to conclusions, or judging someone without sufficient evidence.

At the judicial nomination hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, we got it. I will lay out my reasons for you, and then I think you'll agree that we have enough to prove without a reasonable doubt that Brett Kavanaugh is guilty of sexual assault, and attempted rape, against Christine Blasey Ford. Yes, everybody else is talking about this too, but I don't put something up on this blog unless it's something that I know nobody else is saying, and yet needs desperately to be said.

Christine Ford gave compelling testimony yesterday. She was terrified, and told a harrowing story of a sexual attack in her teenage years which left her convinced at the time that her life was in jeopardy. It's clear to me that she was assaulted, and the trauma it left on her life is well documented over the course of many years. She is a legitimate victim.

Now let's deal with the objections:

Could she be paid off to give damaging testimony? If so, that would have to be one whopper of a payout! For her to go through the kind of fish-bowl and death-threat nightmare that has been her life over the last two weeks? I don't know about you, but it would take at least several million to persuade me to go through something like that. But that much money leaves a green paper-trail, and Republicans have failed to produce one. With no evidence of a payout, the argument that she's being paid is worthless. And the testimony she gave is hardly concocted. No amount of payoff can go back in time years ago and make appointments with trauma therapists and tearful confessions to husbands. She WAS attacked!

The question is, by whom?

Brett Kavanaugh is the man Christine Ford directly names as the failed rapist. So the only defense Kavanaugh has to establish his innocence is, logically, to show that her attacker is actually someone else. Could this be a case of mistaken identity?

From the outset, I find this to be a stretch. Even with a classmate who looks similar, time spent in school familiarizes all classmates with those subtle differences in appearance, sound of voice, tallness, stoutness, hairstyle, freckles... We can all think of two of our own high school classmates who looked remarkably alike, and none of us would be fooled if we'd seen one of the two did something wild at a party. Add to this the memory-deepening aspect of trauma, where fear for one's life sears the event deeply into one's psyche so that it's impossible to forget the face that got right up in yours, the feel of the hand that covered your mouth, the subtleties like shape of nose, deepness of pores, smell of breath, etc. So no, mistaken identity does not seem like a credible hypothesis. And after the event, Brett and Christine would have occasionally seen each other in the hallways, in front of their lockers, between classes or even in class, and the occasional look, glance, or even simply not speaking to each other would confirm completely who the person was on that given night, drunk or not. No, Christine knows damned well it was Kavanaugh.

But let's shake this tree for all it's worth, shall we? Let's take the wildest conspiracy theory the ultra-Right-wingnuts can throw at us. The best of them is one put forth by Ed Whelan, the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center - a conservative think tank. Whelan claimed in a series of Tweets (now withdrawn) that Brett Kavanaugh and another classmate named Chris Garrett look remarkably alike, and that it was Garrett who likely hosted the party in question and probably attacked Christine Blasey Ford. Hey, I'm not afraid to show the images. Here are the high school photos of Kavanaugh and Garrett:

They look alike at first, until you look at them for a while and realize that they aren't so similar once you get to really know the faces. Add to that the 4 years or more spent around these two in high school and/or even junior high school to boot, and you know that there can be no mistaking one for the other, even with alcohol involved, especially given ultra-close face-to-face proximity.

Ed Whelan's wild hypothesis may have cost him his career, according to Politico. He has taken a "leave of absence" for posting this wild conspiracy theory which may have implicated an innocent man, namely Chris Garrett. Although he pulled up short of outright claiming that Garrett was the culprit, it was still an inexcusable publicity stunt, unworthy of any lawyer, and even if the EPPC doesn't fire him, he's likely to be disbarred.

That hasn't kept the ultra-Right from seizing this story and running with it. This particular conspiracy theory is currently being kept alive on a blog called the Gateway Pundit, whose tagline is: "We report the truth - and leave the Russian-collusion fairy tale to the Conspiracy media."

Um - yeah.

What really buries this is Kavanaugh himself. When asked if he would want the FBI to investigate this matter, he repeatedly dodged, and it was clear that the answer was no. He doesn't want the FBI to investigate. Were he innocent, and Garrett the actual culprit, the FBI would quickly establish this and exonerate Kavanaugh! Why in hell would he not want this? The answer should be obvious.

Lastly, there's Kavanaugh's testimony itself. His reaction was hot-headed, irrational, and belligerent. He said this was a revenge-play against President Trump, as if it weren't obvious that Samuel Alito never went through this particular ringer. At BEST, he is a man who can't keep his cool under fire and loses his temper in the spotlight. At worst (and I find this far more likely), he's trying to over-compensate with a Trump-like fire-and-brimstone response that plays to the base of the ultra-Right. Someone probably coached Kavanaugh to come out swinging like Clarence Thomas did after the testimony of Anita Hill. The difference this time is that Kavanaugh does not have (yes, I'll say it) the benefit of being black. Thus, his belligerence comes off as the desperation of a cornered bully instead of the protests of an innocent man.

Methinks the man doth protest too much.

During a tearful moment in which he described saying prayers with his 10 year-old daughter, he talked of his daughter saying, "We should pray for the woman," meaning Ford. Kavanaugh choked up when he said, "That's a lot of wisdom from a ten-year-old."

Yes it is! Because the look on his face when he told that story is what poker players would call a "tell!" It's a look I've seen on sexual predators before. (Don't ask me how I know, it's painful.) Kavanaugh was not solely choked up with paternal pride in a compassionate daughter. He was also emotionally overcome with the knowledge that, at some level, his daughter knows. Or will.

He did it, the fucking bastard!

No, that's not scientific. Yes, it's a subtlety that I'm basing a final judgment on. But it's the last reason I have after all the other evidence I've cited above has been weighed. The last nail in the coffin may be rusty, but so what?

The real issue is, therefore, not that he did it, but that he perjured the living hell out of himself afterward! He shat where he eats, and then dared to blame the Democrats for the stink at his meal! This disqualifies the son-of-a-bitch from sitting in judgment over a game show panel, much less the Supreme Court! I remember when perjuring was enough to get an impeachment vote on President Bill Clinton. Now, apparently, it's not enough to block one judge.

After this, if we can't even get two Republicans to abandon this asshole and vote him down, we deserve to lose our nation.



Thursday, September 27, 2018

Goodbye NFL

This is my announcement to the world, and to the NFL in particular:

I’m done with you.

Apparently, there’s a new rule that takes away a defensive player’s ability to do a clean hit on a quarterback. This robs the game of an essential element necessary to the suspense and combative nature of the game, and threatens to make the NFL into nothing more than a game of pitch-and-catch, where the game is no longer determined by the players’ abilities, but by the whims of the referees. No longer does a quarterback have to be naturally good at feeling pressure and escaping the pocket. Now, any accurate passer gets to be Aaron Rodgers, because the defensive line doesn’t get to play.

For me, that’s the last straw.

No, it’s not just seeing Clay Matthews make an outstanding play for which he gets flagged, although that’s a big part of it. The referees and owners have been ruining the game for quite some time, now. We tried to take it back somewhat, with things like instant replay and play-challenges taking the bad-call element away from the game, just a bit. But in the end, too many cooks spoiled the damned broth. Again.

And it’s the fans, too. It’s hard enough watching them dump their American flags, handed out to them on Veterans’ Day, on the dirty floors of the stands. It’s even harder to watch those two-faced fans bitch about Colin Kaepernick, as if he’d committed a worse sin than dehumanizing the athletes who literally sacrifice their bodies for their amusement. Fuck you redneck assholes.

It wasn’t enough that we have to be bombarded with ads regularly throughout, and even during, the game. It wasn’t enough that we had to endure constant pass interference calls on the innocent, and non-calls on the guilty. Now we have to watch the talented be handcuffed by new rules so that the less-talented can pretend to be a better quarterback.

Brett Favre, for all his problems, paid for his glory in hard-hits. So did Aaron Rodgers. All that sacrifice is worth shit now.

These hired mercenaries, paid millions to represent us in a pseudo-warfare of arbitrary municipal tribes, are paid to battle for our entertainment. We get to pretend that “we won!” if they win, as if we somehow did any of the work. Now, they’re required to practically play with NERF. What next? Boxing without punches?

I’m done. Fuck your hyper-commercialized shit-show. Fuck your Bud-vs.-Miller crap. Fuck your gas-guzzling trucks. Fuck your silly segues that try to insert your product into anything football-related. And fuck that damned Fox Sports robot that perpetuates the racist idea that these mostly black and all-too-human athletes are little more than performing androids!

I’m taking back three hours of my life every Sunday.

And poor Clay Matthews! He built a career on making exactly the sort of hits that they’ve now outlawed in the NFL. He can’t do what he’s been doing his whole life. He isn’t allowed to be good at his job anymore. Hell, he can’t even DO his job anymore. And he’s not alone in the League. Now he has to re-train his entire body, late in his career, to do something other than what he’s best at? Fuuuuuck that!

I can quit for free. Clay Matthews can’t. But even so, if I were him, I’d seriously consider retiring in protest. Hell, if Barry Sanders can do it at the top of his game, why not Clay?

Oh, I’ll still hope for the Packers to win. I’ll probably even attend more games at Lambeau. (One of the benefits of marrying the granddaughter of a former State Senator is getting the occasional Lambeau ticket.) But will I watch any more games on television? No. Will I be emotionally invested? Hell, no! I’m done.

Go Pack. May you win without me.

Meanwhile, I’m taking up watching more soccer. Madison has a new team. Minnesota United gives me a Midwest team to root for in MLS. The Milwaukee Wave is still the best deal in town. And there are plenty of teams to root for in Germany and the U.K. that don’t waste any of my time with nonsense ads which insult my intelligence.

No, my becoming a non-fan will not, by itself, bring down the NFL Empire. But at least I have the satisfaction of not taking it lying down.

And I’ll bet I won’t be alone.



Friday, September 14, 2018

The Rule Of Three

You don’t know what the “Rule of Three” is. I know, because I invented it, and I’m only just now about to tell you. Economists around the world may have another name for it, for all I know, but this is my name for it, and whatever its official name is, it’s a concept you need to know.
The Rule of Three pertains to the number of years it takes for any president’s economic policy to take effect. Got that?

Repeat after me: Three years. Roughly three years before any president’s economic policy is felt on the economy.

It’s a general rule, but one I’ve seen over and over again. Sometimes economic policy can have an immediate effect, such as Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package of 2009. That had a positive, if short-lived, effect. Or Donald Trump’s increased tariffs, which have had a negative impact on everyone except the steel industry. But even steel workers have not yet seen those increased profits become higher wages yet, so they’re about to go on strike – with Republican union-busters stacked in the House, Senate and White House. So that’s a negative impact on everybody.

But in general, three years is usually how long it takes. Jimmy Carter responded to, and fixed, the inflation crisis during the last two years of his presidency. The effect was felt in Reagan’s first year. Reagan took credit. The public, who didn’t know about the Rule of Three, lionized Reagan.

Clinton got credit for his economic policies, mostly because eight years made absolutely certain that nobody else could get credit.

What about Bush Jr.? His tax cuts and deregulation of the banks led to the housing bubble forming around 2005, roughly three years after implemented. But banks are crafty. They kept the bubble inflated long after it should have burst. Loans upon loans floated the bubble from 2005 well into 2006. Then Alan Greenspan orchestrated a number of privately-funded bailouts of banks in peril in ’06 and ’07, all the while preaching that the private industry needed no regulation. The fact that he implemented the regulation he said he didn’t need is one of the true ironies of history.

Obama’s policies halted the downward spiral in 2009, but a second planned economic stimulus was thwarted by Republicans after 2010. They knew about the Rule of Three, and reasoned, correctly, that if the economy took a downward turn by 2012, they could retake the White House. Throwing the entire public under the bus didn’t matter to them. But because the public wasn’t paying attention (like always), Republicans didn’t take any blame for deliberately slowing down the economy. The economy recovered, albeit slowly, mostly because the stalemate between Obama and Congress kept anything at all from happening, good or bad. By 2012, the sputtering economy had improved enough for Obama to win re-election, despite Republican efforts to ruin it.

Back to Trump: He is now implementing the worst economic policy in living memory, and this comes from economists on both sides of the political aisle. But the economy is still strong. Why? Again, the Rule of Three.

If you’re a farmer, or a Harley Davidson worker, or a GM employee, you’re feeling the pinch already. But if not, the rest of you will feel it later.

There’s an economic storm coming.

Will it hit by 2020? The Tariffs are causing problems already, but economists have differing opinions as to whether Trumponomics will hit most pocketbooks by then. I don’t wish hardship upon anyone. But Trump is bringing the hardship. It will hit anyway, so he might as well be the one to take the legitimate blame. But if the good economy he inherited from Obama remains resilient, in spite of his pulling the wires out of the controls and throwing sand into the gears, he might not get the blame until 2021, when it’s too late.

On the other hand, maybe if more people know about the Rule of Three, they will realize that Trump’s bad economic policies need to get voted out long before 2021.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Pending Doom Of Abortion

My original title for this post was, "What if the anti-abortion crowd actually wins?"

Then Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his pending retirement.

With two out of the last six presidential elections stolen, a stolen seat on the Supreme Court, and a 5-4 Citizens' United decision allowing the rich to spend at will leading up to all this, conservatives are about to steal one more. Heaven forbid, if Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies, this could become a loss for generations. The wall of church/state separation will be breached in a major way, and one can kiss women's rights, gay rights, voting rights and equal rights out the window.

Conservatives owe us all one year of leaving the court at 8 justices. But of course, they won't pay that debt. Not now.

One aspect of women's healthcare is about literally be against the law. Some women will turn to underground and less than sanitary sources for abortion. Others will turn to self-induced "coathanger abortions" which might go badly, resulting in internal bleeding or sepsis. Some women will certainly die.

But I argue that another consequential death will be Christianity in America.

Consider for a moment: Look what happened in Ireland. Abortion had been outlawed in that country since its inception, and the influence of the Catholic Church strengthened anti-abortion law in the mid 1980's. But over decades of suffering the consequences of their anti-abortion laws, the Irish attitude changed. By an overwhelming vote, the people of Ireland voted to legalize abortion in a country-wide referendum back on May 25. The Irish outlook changed because the harsh realities of outlawing abortion became too much for people to handle, and they rejected the religious right's arguments, and the Catholic Church with them. Ireland turned secular!

The same thing will happen in America.

In a way, it will be much like prohibition. In the 1920's, the religious-right campaigned strongly against the evils of liquor until they successfully got it banned. Then, several years later, after living with the devastating consequences of outlawing hooch, the American people realized their mistake, and quickly repealed the ban. Prohibition against abortion will work much the same way as prohibition against alcohol did. Today, there isn't a single hyper-conservative in the world who dares to suggest that alcohol be outlawed. Our nation learned its lesson the hard way!

Abortion is about to be moved into that same category.

In other words, Christians, beware what you wish for, you're about get it.

Think about it: With Roe v. Wade overturned, what leverage does the political right have on trying to force more Ayn-Rand disciples onto the Supreme Court? What reason do Evangelicals have for supporting the most un-Christian president (Trump, naturally) this nation has ever seen? What wedge issues does the Republican party have left except assault weapons or Euro-centric racism?

In fact, the consequences to of abortion being struck down are so severe to Christianity that my first draft of this blog entry actually argued that we might be better off doing a strategic retreat on the whole issue and letting reality slap the other side into submission. Naturally, my wife talked me off the ledge on that one. And the very next day, bam! Kennedy announced his retirement. I'm glad I didn't publish that blog post, and I'm ashamed that I ever considered advocating paving the road to freedom with the blood of the innocent. But on the flip side, we are so blind as a species that we don't tend to learn any other way but the hard way, and we never realize what we have until it's gone. I guess when one feels the tug-of-war being lost, the temptation is to suddenly let go of the rope to let the other guys fall on their asses. But that's all moot, now. We're about to lose, and the blood of the innocent is about to be shed anyway.

Jerry Falwell's Faustian bargain from decades ago linked the interests of the ultra-rich to the Christian culture-war. The result has been Christians joyously stomping on the rights of immigrant children and throwing our healthcare away, all while letting our healthy economy turn to complete shit through tariffs. For the sake of stopping abortion, Christians have been willing to vote for absolute monsters like Roy Moore and Donald Trump, and only when they are that monstrous does a Democrat stand a slim chance (and sometimes not even then).

Do Christians really think the next generation will turn out religious after all that?

Yes, the suffering that will follow abortion prohibition will be acute. But the silver lining of that cloud is that people will finally come to realize the fallacies of anti-abortion logic. With half the population getting the cold slap of reality across the face, this nation will have an Irish-like awakening!

In short, this is a loss, but not the loss. Not the end of the women's rights movement, but the beginning of its resurgence. In fact, it will probably be the major turning point in the culture war.

In the words of Rear Admiral John Paul Jones, we have not yet begun to fight!

So enjoy your Pyrrhic victory, Christians. When your religion is reduced to a tiny minority, and you stand in the charred ruins of its past glory, you'll at least be able to bask in the knowledge that you were able to elect a monster for a president and then outlaw abortion for a few nightmarish years.

I hope you'll think it was worth it.



Friday, June 22, 2018

Which Dem For Wisconsin Gov?

There's a plethora of candidates for governor of Wisconsin on the Democratic ticket in 2018. Although current polling shows Governor Walker up against every one of them, it's early in the game, and the Democratic primary isn't until August. That's plenty of time for someone to catch the blue wave. But who to support? Ten candidates will make the ballot, and of those ten, none are well known. Who the hell are these people?

To answer that, I thought I would take a look for you. And to save you all time, I'm listing them by order of the one's I was most impressed with - the ones I think stand the best chance at defeating Walker in November. Such a person would: 1) be from rural Wisconsin (there's a real anti-Milwaukee, anti-Madison vibe throughout the state), 2) be an exciting candidate who would really turn out the vote, and 3) be a person of integrity who stands up for the right issues.

Here's my ranking:

1.) Kelda Helen Roys. She's a former State Representative who presided over Wisconsin's 81st district (basically Sauk, WI) from 2009 to 2013, and served as minority chair in her final two years. Before that, she was Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin. Born in Marshfield and raised in Medford (although she did spend some time in Madison), she knows rural Wisconsin as well as anybody, and might therefore be seen by many as outside the Madison beltway. She wasn't really on anybody's radar until she did a campaign ad, and in an impromptu moment, breast-fed her baby on camera. It wasn't a Janet Jackson moment - she slid her baby under her pink sweater and fed her below the camera line (nothing to see here). But the ad went viral, and caught the attention of the national media. Now, both she and her baby are celebrities. She's an attorney who owns a real-estate start-up company, and has a fresh-faced prettiness that comes from being young and brilliant - Drew Barrymore with brains! If she were the candidate, the media would not be able to stop talking about her, even with millions of dollars flowing into negative campaign ads by the ultra-right. She didn't poll well this month, but her viral video isn't that old yet. There's plenty of time for her fame to translate itself into big numbers. She has the best chance of winning, hands-down.

2.) Mike McCabe. As a political reform activist, McCabe is a true outsider, somewhat in the same mold as Bob LaFollette or Bernie Sanders. He's an independent, but is running on the Democratic ticket. For 15 years, he was Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, and later founded Blue Jean Nation, a group of "commoners that strive to house the politically homeless." He has lived and worked in Madison for many years, but was born in Stoughton and was raised in Curtiss. He was once the communications director and legislative liason for Madison Public Schools. He has an astonishingly loyal and excited fan base, and possesses the charisma that could really give Walker some serious headaches.

3.) Mahlon Mitchell. Bold, black, and head of the State Firefighters' Union, Mahlon Mitchell is an exciting option. The one knock I have on him is that he's Milwaukee through-and-through, and while I personally like that, the rest of the state does not. Still, Walker is from Milwaukee too, and the idea of Wisconsin's first ever black governor might be an idea that will catch on and create enough media buzz to unhorse Walker in November.

4.) Tony Evers. Tony Evers has been the clear front-runner so far, garnering 25% of the most recent Marquette University poll, putting him in a double-digit lead over everyone else. If he gains much more steam, he could gain enough momentum to blow the field away and make nearly all of his opponents drop out early, thus giving him a clear financial advantage that other candidates wouldn't have when facing Walker. That having been said, he strikes me as being somewhat weak-sauce. He's never won an election for anything higher than State Superintendent. He is currently the Head of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, which isn't exactly dog-catcher, but it certainly isn't State Representative status. He's laid-back, unassuming, and he likes the image that presents. In short, he's boring. But even though he's anything but exciting, he's got an inside-track with the Teachers' Union, and this has powered his campaign so far. He's from Tomah, WI, and so is definitely not part of the Madison crowd, yet his teaching credentials make him a darling of those opposed to Act 10 on the liberal left. This may translate to him being the last man standing in August. The real question will be whether he has the charisma or fight to be able to stand strong against Walker in November. At this point, it doesn't look like that's so.

5.) Dana Wachs. He's an Eau Claire trial attorney with a long track record of defending the injured. While this might cause some to label him an "ambulance chaser," his clientele swears by him as a man who stood up for them in their time of need, and nothing endorses better than happy customers. He made news last year when a document from his campaign was leaked to the press. It categorized Wachs as having "progressive values without the veneer of a Milwaukee elitist or a Madison liberal." He was sharply criticized for this, but it happens to be true. With his reputation for being a fighter, he sounds to me like a good option.

Everyone else below this line qualifies as a long-shot, and ought not be taken seriously, in my opinion. But they will be on the ballot anyway, and I wish to be thorough and let others know why I discount their prospects.

6.) Josh Pade. Of the candidates who are left, Josh Pade of Kenosha is the most likable to me. He reminds me of former state senator (and my grandfather-in-law) Joe Andrea. He even looks a little bit like an Andrea relative! He's a lawyer who once worked for J. Crew clothing. He's totally off the radar of most people, but he's young (38) and talented. He announced his candidacy in April, and by June 1st, garnered the 2,000 signatures that ensured his place on the ballot, and qualified him for a speaking spot at the Democratic state convention that same night! (Damn, somebody out there likes him!) He seems to be in the race more to build a name for himself if he decides to run for future elections. The tactic may well work, but in this respect, he is no Joe Andrea, who never lost an election in his long political career. Something tells me, however, Josh Pade will win his next one.

7.) Matt Flynn. If the name sounds familiar, it's because Flynn was once the state's Democratic Party Chair, and a frequent guest on Sunday-morning talk shows. The problem? He's a Milwaukee attorney who has run for office four times and has never won. That's hardly a confidence-builder when considering who can beat Walker. Yet his name recognition keeps him on the map.

8.) Paul Soglin. He's the mayor of Madison, which makes him beltway all the way, and automatically puts him in a category that the Koch brothers can mis-characterize. He also lacks the charisma to really build a campaign. (Imagine Tom Barrett, but a bit duller.) He consistently polls at #2 behind Tony Evers, but that's all connections with little excitability.

9.) Kathleen Vinehout. This candidate truly scares me. She's somewhat moderate on the abortion issue, and has a positive review from the NRA, and while these things play well in rural Wisconsin, they won't get out the base. She's the only other woman running for governor, but lacks the star-power and excitability that Kelda Roys brings to the table.

10.) Maggie Turnbull. This spot belonged to Andy Gronik, who was an interesting candidate who had Crohn's disease. But he dropped out the very day I started writing this. So instead I'm putting in Independent candidate Maggie Turnbull. She's a scientist, astrobiologist, and pragmatist, and that automatically puts her in my good graces. If Kelda Roys weren't running, Maggie Turnbull might be my first choice. As it is, her good ideas make her a spoiler. But somebody, please, let me know when her book comes out!