Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Barrett trailing? Ehhh, not so fast my friend!

And PPP has followed up the Senate poll I quoted yesterday with their governor poll that was taken from the same callers. And gee, what a surprise, it favors the Republicans .

The telling numbers here (in addition to the ridiculous age 30-45 crosstab), are the stats when broken down by ideology. Barrett leads Walker by 17 (!) points among moderates and 18 against Neumann. The only thing giving the GOP the alleged lead is the big number of conservatives vs. liberals (40 vs. 19). Now do you think a state that went 56-43 for Obama has conservatives make up 40% of the population and outnnumber liberals 2 to 1? COME ON.

Let's adjust that poll to a more realistic Wisconsin ideology figure of 25% liberal, 40% moderate, and 35% conservative (I'm being generous to the Sykes party, cause I'm a nice guy). Run those same voter-preference-by-ideology percentages again, and here's what you get.

Barrett 40.3%
Neumann 38.0%
Undecided 21.70%

Walker 41.70%
Barrett 41.65%
Undecided 16.65%

Little different story, now isn't it? It really is a statistical dead heat, which means Barrett has to win by grabbing about half of the remaining undecideds, especially the moderate undecideds, and having liberals turn out (he leads by 65% over both challengers there).

But you can bet that won't be mentioned in the JS or the other lazy mainstream publications. But since we know how to crunch numbers and know real Wisconsinites (which ain't people with landlines lounging at home on a beautiful Summer weekend), we know better.

And with that last sentence in mind, to the Terrace I go! And to Summerfest for the Hold Steady tomorrow. Good time to be a Cheesehead.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Feingold in trouble? Not exactly

I just posted this at (tremendous site) in the wake of the PPP poll that has Ron Johnson within 2 points of Russ Feingold.

"Interesting numbers in that PPP poll in Wisconsin that only has Feingold +2. Then you read closer and see why.

On Ron Johnson: "62% have no opinion of him."

Remember Nate (Silver)'s article a couple of months back that indicated a generic Republican does better than a real one? Yup. Too bad Johnson can't win an election hiding from people and only giving interviews to Milwaukee-area angry-man radio.

And 40% conservatives in the pool compared to 19% liberal? Respondents voted 48-47 for MCCAIN in the last election? In a state that went 56-43 Obama. 6% ages 18-29 but 69% ages 46+? MAJOR FAIL.

Last point, Feingold won his race in 2004 by 300,000 voted more than Kerry. You think those 300,000 are going to vote for a millionaire that looks like Mr. Burns? Yeah, riiiiight.

I stick with my pick of Feingold by 10. But if it wastes GOP money on this race and encourages Dems to come out in the Fall and keeps the Governorship and Legslature in Dem hands, I'll take that meme of "Feingold in trouble" for now."

EDIT- And one last great stat from that poll. Feingold's approval/ disapproval is 32-46 for people 30-45. I'm in the 30-45 age range. Most of my friends are in the 30-45 age range. That polling is a JOKE, as most of them approve of Feingold much more than they approve of Obama. They must have been solely calling land lines in the 262 to get that result.

The media is trying so hard to make these elections seem like they're leaning Republican- lot more ratings in close elections with story lines. It'll be fun seeing them have to change their tune by September and October, very similar to how they tried so badly to make Obama-McCain seem competitive, just so you'd keep watching. Always follow the $$$, folks.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tailgating with libertarians

It's been a busy time in the Funhouse, between trips to Milwaukee for Saturday's festivities and witnessing a YoGo masterpiece at Miller Park on Thursday. But fortunately, I didn't come upon Libertarian Party registrants when I was in the Yount Lot, like Mitchell Bard did this weekend. Fortunately, Mitch stymied this guy with reality, which tends to stymie the average Libertarian when it comes to economics.

These Libertarians like to wear a lot of three-pointed hats and talk about the Founders, but conveniently forget the most relevant of the Fedealist Papers, #51, especially the part where Madison says "if men were angels, no government would be necessary." Men are far from angels, especially when they have huge amounts of money and monopolistic control over resources, and that part means libertarians fall far short of any type realistic solutions to economic problems in the 21st Century. But since they do want to legalize it, allow beer on Sunday in all places (you hear me, Indiana?), and remove fundies from the political sphere, they still can give a worthwhile contribution.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Random crazy guy thoughts

Here's a few items recently that grabbed my attention.

1. I'll lead you off with a great article re-produced in the Wisconsin State Journal from talk show host Michael Smerconish , which illustrates how far TV has fallen in discussion of issues. As Smerconish brings up, sensible and decent does not move the ratings meter, so you get people like Michelle (Batshit) Bachmann getting face time over people who have a clue. And if Minnesotans come to their senses and vote that crazy woman out, you can bet she's getting a high-paid gig at Fox as some kind of "voice of conservative women" (regardless of how bullshit a rep she is of that demographic). It really seems that being respectful, moral (not religious, moral) and adult doesn't get you rewarded much in these days, and it's a significant reason why it feels like our country's decline is continuing. We have to stop it, and get some real standards.

2. Good article in the Journal-Sentinel this week on the lack of college grads in the Milwaukee area . Of course, one big reason is that angry-man radio is the image of Milwaukee to much of the rest of the state, and no one with any game wants to live around a bunch of mediocre trash like that when they can go somewhere else that doesn't have the garbage spewing itself about. But one other reason why was illustrated this week, where the Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commissions put the brakes on Glorioso Bakery's placs for the former Brady Street Pharmacy. Did they do it because Glorioso's didn't have the money to afford the building? No. Did they do it because a bakery's out of touch with the neighborhood? No. They didn't like a couple of details on the building's facade, and wanted it changed to things like vines on the front.

With all due respect, these Historic Preservation Commissions need to get a fucking life. The default position of these boards should be to allow things in your neighborhood unless it is an eyesore or the tenants are sketchy. They should not be micromanaging a good business possibility out of existence. Do you think vacant storefronts look better than an open business that may not fit your every image? The same crap happened with the busybodied, big fish, small pond thinkers who wanted to throw their weight around in Madison to try to shoot down the Edgewater development because it wasn't with the character of the dumps that are up and down Langdon Street. Look, I think there is an oversight function where planning and looks should be considered for a proposed development, but if it isn't absurd, BE AN ADULT AND LET GO. You are not an expert or a designer, you just serve on a city commission.

3. On a sad and somewhat related topic, MPS is planning to lay off nearly 500 teachers in their district as state aid cutbacks, lower attendance, and high benefit costs take their toll. As a former teacher myself, I know how important it is to keep competent folks in the classroom, and it is sick when people who do good deeds have to be laid off due to society's lack of desire to invest in solving serious problems. But MPS is also a classic example of what goes wrong when special interests care more about themselves than the product they are supposed to deliver. The MTEA consistently seems to try to maintain the status quo of the seniority system and their good health benefits, but this effort ends up being at the detriment of quality new teachers whose new ideas are needed to keep innovation moving in the classrooms. Likewise, MPS has always been willing to hire and pay for administration that tries to justify the schools' performance to overseers and taxpayers, but often at the expense of the real goal: DELIVERING QUALITY EDUCATION. An MPS teacher told me last weekend that the protective seniority system and clueless administration makes a tough situation all the more dispiriting.

A good solution to this problem? Obviously city takeover of the district is needed, as MPS' fate and the city's is intertwined, and the fates of tens of thousands of Milwaukee students can no longer be left up to a self-interested administration and board who compromises other city and social goals to justify their own existence. Yes Milwaukee, you are different than other cities, and need to have your schools treated differently as well. My second reform would be to have the layoff procedures go through the individual schools, with principals being allowed to veto up to a certain amount of seniority-based layoffs. This can also put pressure on some of the dead wood to take a hike, as the guilt and suspicions would grow among the teaching cohorts. Both of these items would probably lead to better results in the classroom- and if you aren't taking action in schools to improve classroom results, what are you doing them for?

4. Lastly, as the Gulf Oil spill continues to flow, and Milwaukee County's Behavior Health Division is damned by state inspectors for allowing an unacceptable situation to continue, the mentality of "government is the problem" proves to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. And it is not by chance. When you denigrate a job and the people who work it, how can you attract high-quality talent for those possible, and how can you possibly be surprised that the folks put in charge of it are hacks that end up asleep at the switch for things that anyone with an ounce of competence would deal with. Then again, folks like Scott Walker, George Bush, Paul Ryan and many of these other snake oil salesmen have never had a real job outside of politics or Daddy's business, so they don't know how to hire for productivity, or have an idea what good results look like. The success of these political d-bags depends on GOVERNMENT FAILING, and they don't care about the consequences of that result, as long as they can smugly smile and say it somehow proves them right.

50 years ago, most of us had higher standards in what we wanted out of our services, and wanted this country to succeed, even if it meant that we would be wrong in the long-term. Instead, the idiot-logues just want to get elected, and more importantly GET PAID. And that's exactly why they have to be crushed and put in the swamp in the next few months.

Personally, I would much rather excel than necessarily win, and I don't know why that feels like a minority opinion, but it sure seems that way. That must be reversed, or this state and this country is as done as the Brewers' chances to contend this year.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Paradox of government- listening to the squeaky, whiny wheels

Was at an interesting seminar today. It went over ways that government agencies can improve the outcomes of public input on projects. To the presenter's credit, he mentioned that many public meetings serve no purpose and only get in the way of good implementation and progress on projects.

Let's take a step back on this. One of the huge differences between the public and private sectors is that the public sector has to care what the average citizen thinks about a new initiative, strategy, or project. It's their tax dollars, their elected officials, and therefore their right to demand details and information. The same is certainly not true in the corporate sector, where businesses only have to please their owner and shareholders, and can say the hell with anyone else. This accountability is a huge reason why I favor the public sector over the privates when it comes to providing needed services to maintain a decent quality of life, because the private sector has no reason to listen or care about what effect their actions have on other citizens in their community or society at large - it's all about the Benjamins to them. And a recent poll agrees, as it finds citizens have high standards for the job they think government, and they have a near-record low approval rating of 22% for government because it has not done enough to solve our problems (with big business even lower, at 19%)

Where the public sector frequently fails to get the job done on putting in changes is because of this country's propensity to give political power to loud, organized groups that can focus on an issue. The average everyday citizen has no time or interest to take 3 hours out of their week to attend a public meeting, but you can bet a lobbying group can. So can the average couch-potato daytime talk show listener with no life to speak of. Those people get the ear of legislators, public officials, and media, and get a disproportionate amount of influence. Plus, it's a lot easier to be angry than to be accepting of a solution, or to even have an idea of any solution that works. This is what talk radio feeds on - lots of button-pushing, not a lot of answers. And the reason is because pushing buttons are where the ratings (and therefore the money) is at.

Not surprisingly, this is how issues with huge public support, like the need to modify our broken, growth-stunting health care system, don't get fixed as quickly or nearly as much as most citizens demand that it should, because the Silent Majority does not get the mike. One way that governments could reduce items like the farce that became the health care debate is to have a clear, concise story explaining the problem (i.e. rising health care costs with no requirement to serve citizens), and the reasons why government should act to reduce the problem (i.e. allow for more citizen choice in providers, better business growth by containing health costs, reducing the debt citizens have to go into to get care, better health outcomes due to regular check-ups, etc.) The Obama Administration should have predicted the lies and deceptions that were going to result, and had their story out ahead of it. Instead, they were surprised by the "death panel" and "socialism" lies about their plan, and had to explain it away after the horse was out of the barn, when they could have gone straight to the people ahead of the charges, and moot their impacts.

Now, that being said, governments also have to understand that citizen are by nature lazy and selfish. They think a government agency "listening" to them is a government agency agreeing with them. It is not. Government officials should take care to explain to citizens that they hear the concern they may have, but they will not choose that course of action because of x, y, and z. Now, they'd better have that reason lined up and have developed and communicated it to the public ahead of time, because citizens are rightfully confused and often honked off when something comes out of nowhere and is thrown in front of them. This can be done through direct contact such as mailings and other informative documents, not just through public meetings (would you waste your Wednesday night after work to find out where the new highway might go? I prefer to try out a solid cold one and some good sports over that, and I'm someone who knows and cares about this stuff!).

If government officials take those steps, they have every right to tell a citizen who complains "You never told us about this!", "Well, we mailed this, we went to the media here, we had this hearing there, we had more public outreach here, you had your chance to be heard." It's why the BS from the GOP about how the health care bill was "rammed through" was and is such a disgusting lie. The issue had been debated for 9 months and the various bills had been online for several weeks. If you didn't know about what was in it and what was being discussed, that's a YOU PROBLEM. One great thing and at the same time bad thing about American democracy is that we expect that citizens should be heard at every step of the process, regardless of how little expertise, understanding, and small-picture outlook a few vocal citizens may have.

And talk radio has only served to increase this dysfunctional system, because they try to tell these "everyday citizens" they have "common sense" when unlike the majority of us, they have time during the day to be duped by that ranting claptrap, and those shut-ins have no idea (or don't care) on the overall effect of a certain policy on the outside world. They also deride "elitism" when expertise in a given area should be a demand, and not a detriment to an official's competence. The elites should be educating the citizenry on areas that they know more about, and explaining it in plain, everyday language that allows citizens the chance to identify why the government is choosing a certain plan of action. But if citizens choose to ignore this outreach, I don't understand how that is a failure of government.

Angry-man radio is really the worst of the self-esteem movement, because it blames the listener's personal shortcomings and failures on symboiic and unseen forces that allow citizens to not take responsibility in solving the big problems that need to dealt with. As noted in the article on today's low faith in institutions, "On a psychological level, people are less likely to take responsibility for things these days," said Lou Manza, professor of psychology at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa. "So if something goes wrong, it's somebody else's fault and somebody has to fix it." Talk radio empowers citizens in false ways through manufactured outrage and slashing at windmills, instead of giving true empowerment by expanding citizens' understanding of the world, and giving them the chance to use that knowledge to improve thier lives. Government can do this empowering too, but media doesn't get readership and ratings by talking about good things, so it makes competent, intelligent outreach all the more crucial for agencies and legislators to undertake.

Once governments realize the balancing act where citizen concerns should be listened to and taken into account, but are not the be all and end all of policymaking, they will function more smoothly, and the citizenry will believe in them more. But if they allow other parties to take control of the agenda and change the issues, government will not only have to settle for sub-optimal outcomes, it will play into the hands of those who think government cannot function, and reduce confidence. We're at a key breaking point in this country, where we either wrestle control away from the corporate state, or give it up forever. Good, respectful outreach combined with tough love is going to have to be the way that government, and by extension, the people, can triumph. If they have the guts to.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


RIP, Mr. Hopper. A difference-maker of high-quality taste, indeed.