Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Help A High School Kid Graduate

I drove through a Taco Bell last night, which is not my usual habit, but I wanted an uncomplicated meal. After I placed my order, the friendly guy on the drive-through speaker asked me if I wanted to contribute $1.00 to help a high school child graduate.

I turned it down.

Don't get me wrong, 99.9% of the time I don't mind spending the extra buck for whatever charity just happens to surprise me at the drive through to rudely jack up my final total. I don't even mind having to write my name in felt-tip on some silly piece of paper so that one of the employees can stick it up with the thousand other names on pieces of paper all over the restaurant knowing full well that even in the unlikely event that someone reads it no one will suspect it was me and not the Eric who changed their oil last week. No, such shock-and-awe guerrilla tactics for philanthropy are among the things I'm willing to tolerate, and even go along with. What rubbed me the wrong way this time was the charity itself.

You see, the whole fight in Wisconsin politics right now is basically this: should schools be slashed in funding or not? The argument has been that greedy teachers are hoarding the money in the form of salaries, but if so, why are stores like Taco Bell playing the role of East Side beggar asking for a handout? Isn't slashing school funds working? Aren't those wonderful school vouchers bringing the costs down through competition?

Apparently not. And what's worse is, this particular Taco Bell was in Waukesha, which is contemplating changing its name to Scott Walkerville. I'll just bet nobody else who drove through, or even made contributions at, that drive through even made the simple connection that maybe Taco Bell wouldn't need to worry about our kid's education if our governor bothered to give a damn!

Okay, to be fair, maybe I'm assuming too much. Maybe helping a kid graduate means helping to buy the gown. Maybe it means paying for the ceremony. Maybe it helps to buy corrective lenses for the ones with dyslexia. Who knows? But more than likely, it's money needed to make up the huge gap which has been chopped out of the funds in education needed to ensure our nation's economic future.

Call me crazy, but I don't want our nation's fast food restaurants to be entrusted with funding our kids' educations.

I guess I refused to contribute, only because I didn't want to reward the behavior.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to Calculate WI Job Numbers

There’s a huge shift in the job numbers between what Scott Walker has recently published vs. earlier numbers.  Previously, the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that Wisconsin had lost about 30,000 jobs in 2011, more than any other U.S. State. Naturally, Barrett is shouting this from the rooftops.  Now, new BLS numbers are showing that 23,000 jobs were added in 2011. And, of course, Walker is beating that figure like a drum.  Quite a difference between the two numbers, isn’t there? WTF?!?! Anybody know what’s going on, here?

I do.

First, let’s understand, there are TWO kinds of surveys the BLS uses.  Monthly and quarterly.  Got that?  Monthly gave the negative job numbers, quarterly gave the positive ones.  Keep that in mind, because it’s important.

The previous numbers come from the monthly survey.  It polled some 1,400 employers in the state. In other words, an actual employer was contacted and asked how many jobs his/her business added or lost.  The quarterly numbers, showing much more positive results, was done by tabulating the unemployment insurance payouts of 160,000 employers. Unemployment insurance payments indicate, by deduction, whether jobs are being added or taken away based on how many are collecting unemployment over a given period.  So the more recent numbers are bigger, and thus presumably more accurate, but they rely on an indicator rather than direct numbers given by the employers themselves. They instead count the exact number of people collecting unemployment.  Also, it should be noted that big business owners favor Walker, and knowing that he was in trouble would likely cause them to fudge their numbers UP, if at all.  Instead, the numbers were abysmally LOW. Go figure.

Now, the trend regarding these two forms of job census-taking has always been that the monthly numbers are much lower than the quarterly ones.  Got that? Monthly = low, quarterly = high. This discrepancy comes from a number of different reasons. For example, not everyone looks upon collecting unemployment as an option. Many among the unemployed either consider it dishonorable or simply don’t bother to collect it. There may be college graduates living with parents, or those who live off the income of a spouse. So the numbers based on unemployment insurance always look better than the reality.

So if you’re Scott Walker, you know that these better numbers are out there, likely to come from the quarterly results.  The problem?  The numbers won’t be verified until June 28, and the recall vote takes place on June 5! So, what do you do? Why, you release the numbers BEFORE they’re verified, that’s what you do!

Illegal? No. Unusual? Fuck, yeah!

The Walker campaign is trying to say that releasing these numbers early wasn’t done to influence the election.

Riiiiiiight! And if you believe that one…

We can’t fault Walker for trying. Nearly all of us would have done the same in his position. What we CAN fault him for is campaigning on numbers which have not yet been verified. Numbers are fine, if they’re accurate. But these numbers are only preliminary! For this governor, however, accuracy is secondary to victory.

Will the numbers prove accurate after the recall is over and the dust settles? Well, based on past history of such polls, the numbers will probably show some positive job growth, but less than Walker is claiming. On top of that, the truth is obviously in between the monthly and quarterly results even after that point. In other words Wisconsin is almost certainly stagnant – few losses, but few gains, either. Walker isn’t sinking the state, but neither is he benefiting the state.  Wisconsin’s only doing okay. But it should be improving.

Upward trends are being seen in the preliminary numbers in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and nearly all other states. Wisconsin could be on board with this upward national trend, courtesy of Obama. It seems to me that Walker is in the way.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Top Ten Reasons Why Tom Barrett Is Awesome

Okay, as promised, it's time to deliver the pros for your hero and mine, Tom Barrett. I see a lot of "I Stand With Walker" signs and bumper stickers. I also see a lot of "Recall Walker" signs and bumper stickers, too.  But frankly, I don't see a lot of "Elect Barrett" signs or stickers. Beats the hell out of me as to why. Barrett's one hell of a gem! Have we forgotten all his positives? Apparently. Personally, I feel that the best endorsement I can give of the man is that I'm scared to lose him.  Seriously, he's been a damn fine mayor, and I'm terrified of who might wind up taking his place. Still, it'd be worth it to see him as governor. Best thing since sliced bread? No. He's the best thing since before sliced bread. How cool is Milwaukee's mayor? Let us count the ways:

10. He’s NOT in the back pocket of the unions. He jumped into the race only when the unions pressured him not to run so that they could ensure Kathleen Falk would win the  nomination. Way to go, Tom!

9. He didn’t declare his candidacy until the very day the recall became legitimate. In other words, he didn’t jump the gun out of partisan hatred. Boy, do we need some of that kind of attitude right now!

8. He puts himself in harm’s way to fight for the oppressed.  Remember when, in 2010, he saw a mugging take place outside State Fair Park?  He ran over and faced the mugger – unarmed!  The thug he faced down was carrying a pipe, and when it was over, Mayor Barrett suffered a head wound and a broken hand.  Walker calls himself “courageous” because he merely put his job on the line.  Barrett laid his very life down.  Whatever else you say about Barrett, you gotta admit, the man has BALLS!

7. Relating to the above, Barrett is humble! Any other politician would be beating the above act of heroism like a drum all the way to becoming the next president. Not Barrett! He barely even talks about it when asked directly about the incident. What a difference compared to Walker’s boundless narcissism!

6. Barrett held the line on property taxes, and actually lowered the property tax rate a bit. I know, I know, you’ve heard that Barrett raised taxes every year but one, right? Wrong. PolitiFact settled that one weeks ago. The actual taxes collected did increase over a span of several years, but only because the property values went up – which they’re supposed to if the Mayor is doing a good job!

5. Here’s a statistic for you: Under Mayor Barrett, crime rates have dropped like a lead zeppelin! When he became mayor in 2004, he inherited an awful police chief named Nan Hegarty, appointed to the post by then-Mayor John O. Norquist.  Somehow, Hegarty managed to be even worse than her predecessor, Art Jones (who was a racist incompetent, to put it mildly). Barrett had the city buy out the remainder of Hegarty’s contract, and then shell out even more money to lure Chief Edward Flynn to Milwaukee. Some critics said he was wasting money at the time, but you get what you pay for.  Flynn and Barrett brought crime in Milwaukee down 26.7% between 2007 and 2010 (according to police statistics). Based on numbers from the FBI’s table of offenses known to law enforcement, crime will be down in 2012 yet again from 2009 numbers. Good job, Tom!

4. Barrett may have the highest I.Q. of any politician in the Midwest! No joke!  He graduated from Marquette High School, then went on to achieve a B.A. in economics from UW-Madison in 1976, Magna Cum Laude! He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa (an academic honor society which only accepts straight-A students).  He achieved a J.D. (juris-doctorate) from UW Law School in 1980.  (Walker, by contrast, is a Marquette College drop-out.  Were he not in politics, he just might land a job at McDonald’s.)

3. Tom Barrett is a job creator! Yeah, yeah, you’ve probably been told about how many jobs the city of Milwaukee has lost.  But have you compared those job losses to the cuts that Walker imposed on the city as Governor?  If you subtract the teacher layoffs, public worker layoffs, and the (literally) derailing of the Milwaukee/Madison pre-bullet train, nearly all of the jobs lost in Milwaukee came straight from Walker’s desk, or came about due to the economic pressure placed on Milwaukee because of those cuts. A better way to evaluate Barrett is to ask if he’s been effective at luring businesses to Milwaukee.  The answer to that is an unqualified yes! He’s brought business to Milwaukee from Ingeteam, Helios, Talgo, C&D Technologies, Cargill, Palermo’s Pizza, the Ironhorse Hotel, and the Harley-Davidson Museum. (Which had nearly abandoned its plans in Milwaukee before Barrett got elected and brought Harley back to the bargaining table. Remember that?) The only non-Madison-induced failure under Barrett came from Frontier Airlines stabbing us all in the back by failing to keep its promises. But they lied to Walker, too (since he was county Exec at the time). The Menomonee Valley now supports some 4,000 jobs, where it previously held zero.

2. Want to see how Barrett’s done as mayor? Just drive through Milwaukee and LOOK.  The city just plain looks better! (And five bucks says most Waukesha politicos haven’t bothered to do this for a long while.) The aforementioned Menomonee Valley used to look like Beirut.  Now it looks like the perfect spot for a picnic!  The corridor between Miller Park and the Harley Museum, going past the Potowatomi Casino, looks great!  The bad neighborhoods surrounding Marquette and UWM are getting slowly beaten back.  Old train corridors have stopped being gang-havens and started being bike trails.  Riverwest is a great area for young college kids to live in again. Bay View is now probably the best place to live in the entire state.  Norquist really hated cars, and so let the budget for road and bridge repair go to hell.  Barrett turned that around.  Now the river crossings at McKinley, at State Street, and soon Wisconsin Avenue will be landmarks we can be proud of.  Been to Milwaukee’s riverfront lately?  An Edelweiss or Iroquois boat tour used to show the ugly side of Milwaukee.  Now it shows it’s best side! Milwaukee, you’re a much more handsome town to live in! Thanks, Tom!

1. He’s just a plain ol’ nice guy! He could be out there calling Walker a control-freak. (True.) He could also be out there calling him a mad extremist, a Tea-Party lemming, a fat-cat's scratching post, or a squeaky-wheel brat. (Also true.) In fact, he could legitimately call Walker all kinds of nasty names. Instead he’s saying that they’re both nice guys (!), but that Walker started an ideological civil war. (VERY true. No getting around that one!) That level of patience and forgiveness is reminiscent of our current President (and that’s a LOT of patience and forgiveness these days!).

In short, I shouldn't have to remind anyone about these virtues. I should also not have to sit in befuddled amazement as the governor who threw the entire state into near-revolt within two weeks of taking office actually leads in the polls, and actually gets an endorsement from the myopic editors at the Journal-Sentinel.

But now that I've said it, let's try not to forget it -- again. 


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Top Ten Reasons to Recall Scott Walker

Okay, the recall is underway, and everybody is hurling confusing accusations at each other.  Which way is up?  As usual, most people can’t tell, and so choose to rely on A.M. radio show hosts who are even more clueless than they are.  For now, according to the polls, it looks as though Scott Walker will survive the recall effort, and retain his office.  (Interesting.)  So, I thought now might be a good time to remind us all about why exactly we are bothering to spend all this money on removing this silly ass in the first place (tax money that will be wasted if we fail).  You’ll notice that I’m highlighting the fact that we can’t recall him for breaking the teachers unions.  That might just accidentally have been a positive thing – time will tell.  We have to remember that teachers unions have been BEGGING for their rights to be taken away for decades.  And as much as I support the teachers unions, I have to admit that they have been run by hordes of nincompoops who have deliberately protected incompetent teachers from the unemployment status they so richly deserved for decades.  Sooner or later, the spoiled brat has got to get spanked, and if he cries, too bad.  Still, while it’s fair that the blood-sucking insects finally got swatted, it’s unfortunate that Walker chose to swat them with a sledgehammer – one that hit us all in the foot.  THAT, we CAN recall him for.  Also, we have to remember that teachers need union representation – so long as it’s with new and better leaders.  I’m also not arguing that Walker should be removed for job losses.  Two years isn’t enough time to change a job market in a State, especially when national trends have a greater impact than State governments ever could.  (Sure, he’s claiming new numbers showing job gains, but just wait!  Republicans will almost certainly revert to the OLD State numbers when attacking Obama in November.  Just you watch!)  So, here’s the laundry list of Walker’s faults.  Remember, any ONE of these ten is more reason enough for him to be gone.  I’ve listed ten, and this is only the short-list.  Here it is:

10. First act of Walker: an end to the Milwaukee-to-Madison pre-bullet commuter train.  An immediate loss of thousands of jobs!  Penny-wise, but pound foolish!  Because as surely as death and taxes, America will someday soon have a network of transcontinental bullet trains.  The Milwaukee-Madison commuter would have set the stage to link Chicago with the Twin Cities and Seattle via Wisconsin.  These trains will now NEVER go through the Dairy State, choosing to go through Iowa instead.  This will cost all future Wisconsinites BILLIONS in jobs and tourism revenue, for countless generations.  Stupid, just stupid.  (Remember: State Senator George Petak of Racine was recalled for voting for the .01% tax levy that built Miller Park.  This wasted only the tiniest percent of money that Walker wasted with this one move alone!  If Petak is gone, Walker must be gone as well, especially if you live in Racine!)

9. Walker broke the teachers’ unions, not to improve education, but because he’s generally anti-union.  He proved this by trying to break the unions of police and firefighters as well.  Only when he saw that his ass was in deep shit unless he reneged on that point did he let police and firemen off the hook.  But he’d shown his hand as an irresponsible political ideologue.

8. Relating to the above, he attacked collective bargaining rights for ALL State workers.  What on earth did the doctors, nurses, policemen and firefighters ever do to offend anybody with their collective bargaining rights?

7. (This is the BIG one, I say.) After igniting the collective bargaining controversy, he could have separated the budget bill in question into two bills, one dealing with collective bargaining, the other dealing with the State budget, ON DAY ONE.  Instead, he let the State be divided into near-revolt status, and left it that way.  The only reason he did this was because he desired his will be absolute.  Only when the impasse dragged on for a second month did he finally divide the single bill into two bills and end the stalemate.  We still feel the sting of this needless partisan divide.  Even simple weddings or chats in bars now degenerate into all-out brawls over LOCAL political discussions!

6. He took federal money, meant to be paid to homeowners who had their mortgages foreclosed upon during the collapse of the housing crisis, and raided it, using it to bridge the State deficit instead.

5. Regarding the above raid on many of the neediest of his citizens, he actually dared to campaign on his deficit-reduction as a positive to his administration!  Seriously?!

4. Even though women’s reproductive healthcare has ALWAYS been the #1 way to ensure economic growth, he has attacked the funding for Planned Parenthood, putting anti-abortion ideology above economic common sense.  So much for jobs, jobs, jobs!

3. As shown by his own words and actions, Walker sees himself as the State’s C.E.O., and therefore supreme leader.  WRONG!  He was NOT elected as emperor!  He is not king, czar, dictator or any other sort of totalitarian despot!  Other people get their say-so, and if he can’t see it that way, he’s out on general democratic principle.

2. Walker is, without a doubt, a textbook control freak.  So if he wins, his megalomania condition will go from bad to unbelievably worse. It will be analogous to Hitler surviving the bomb blast.  There will be NO living with the bastard from then on!  If Big Brother arises, it might well be Scott Walker.

1. I hear he's a fan of Ted Nugent.

Next week: The top ten reasons Barrett would make the best governor in history.  (No, I'm not just using hyperbole!)