Friday, January 27, 2012

Scott Walker's Non-Denial Denial in the John Doe Investigation

Here's Scott Walker answering questions about the John Doe investigation today. Note the carefully chosen language:
"I think it's very clear when all of this is done, no matter how much time it takes, and again my campaign has been involved with cooperating with them for more than a year, I have every confidence that when this is completed, people will see that our integrity remains intact," Walker said.
Emphasis added, of course.

You know what words I didn't read? I did not participate in any illegal campaigning on taxpayer time, or I did not coordinate any illegal campaign activities while county executive, or I unequivocally reject as false any accusations that I abused my previous office, etc. Instead, Walker answers with a response that was obviously clearly by his counsel.

There are some other gems in the piece, at least one of which is obscured by the secretive nature inherent to John Doe investigations. Like this one:

Walker declined to answer a question about whether he or his attorney had been contacted by investigators. By contrast, he said last week that he had not yet talked with anyone in Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm's office.

"I have not, and I certainly would be willing if they asked me to in the future," Walker told the Journal Sentinel last week.


Walker said if he had been aware of any other county employees doing political work with county resources on county time, he would have acted the same way he acted in the Wink matter.

"If we had known about anyone else, we would have taken the same action," Walker said.

Asked about the proximity of his office to space occupied by Kelly Rindfleisch, his then-deputy chief of staff in 2010, and whether he knew what Rindfleisch was doing, Walker declined to comment, saying he wanted to abide by the rules of the John Doe probe and not provide details publicly.
If Walker hasn't been contacted by the investigators, then I don't think he is necessarily bound by the same gag order that prevents those involved in the proceeding to keep quiet. I'm not sure about that, but it does seem to follow. If it is true, he's either lying about not being contacted by the investigators or really doesn't want to have to answer any questions about Rindfleisch at all.

Seeing as his closest associates are the one being served with subpoenas these days, it should be clear by now that Walker is a possible, if not probable, target of the investigation. It's a Little Big Horn strategy that can only really point to one individual. Walker's words today are the first public sigh that I've seen that he knows he's in a ton of legal trouble. It's usually the first sign of someone who is going to be in a lot of trouble in the near future. Maybe that has something to do with Darlene Wink's agreement to cooperate in the investigation.

As for Brett Davis -- his words today seem to have marked himself as impending roadkill. He gave the only answer worse than a non-denial denial: he gave a "no comment." That's never a good sign.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Attacks on Charles Franklin are Baseless and Need to Stop

The recent attacks against Charles Franklin's poll for Marquette Law School are beyond idiotic. They're so stupid that I'm actually embarrassed for the people making them as they have revealed themselves to be so filled with rage at Scott Walker that any deviation from their own worldview appears to be reason enough to lash out at the messenger.

Perhaps the silliest attack is that Franklin is himself a conservative, and thus has a motive to skew his polls as such, based solely on two pieces of evidence: he conducted the poll for Marquette Law School (an institution so conservative that it employs noted reactionary Russ Feingold) and that he once conducted a poll for WPRI. If this were true, then Franklin would also be a flaming liberal because he sold, of which he was a co-founder, to the Huffington Post. He can't be both.

The second criticism has been about the ideological weights of the sample used for the poll, which runs something like this:

Conservative = 41.6%
Moderate = 32.5%
Liberal = 20.7%

Liberals are whining -- and there really is no other word for it -- that this weighing system is unfair. It's not just fair, it's reality. The most recent Gallup poll of American ideological identity ran this way:

Conservative = 41%
Moderate = 36%
Liberal = 21%

Which looks an awful lot like the sample Franklin took. Last October, when Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, surveyed the state it used the following sample:

Very/Somewhat Conservative = 42%
Moderate = 30%
Very/Somewhat Liberal = 19%

There was no outcry then. You can find four other recent polls conducted by PPP in Wisconsin with the exact same weights here, here, here, and here. In fact, it appears that PPP always uses those weights when polling Wisconsin. I would post the ideological breakdown of the St. Norbert's poll from November that concluded 58% of Wisconsinites wanted to recall Walker, but they didn't even publish how they weighed their sample. We could go on and on and on like this, pulling out examples from just about every pollster whose done work in Wisconsin in recent years, but the the weights really aren't going to change all that much because they're consistent with industry practice.

Charles Franklin's academic credentials are damn near unimpeachable. He's one of the world's foremost authorities on polling and he didn't get that reputation by being a partisan hack -- he earned it by being a scientist and as such he's all about the data. In recent years he's gone out of his way to explain the science in terms the public can understand. Franklin is exactly what the creators of the Wisconsin Idea had in mind when they came up with the concept. Accusing him of slanting his polls to conform with the supposed ideology of his temporary employer strain credulity and betrays the fact that the accuser doesn't understand much about polling.

Polls are both tools and weapons. The folks who are criticizing Franklin only seem to understand the latter. It's one thing to rip on a poll like Rasumussen for it's consistent "house effect," but to essentially accuse Charles Franklin of fraud -- which is exactly what his detractors are doing -- is asinine. If Wisconsin progressives want any prayer of recalling Scott Walker they are going to have accept uncomfortable realities on occasion. Franklin's poll has one simple findings: there's still a lot of work to do. If the left is going to attack any messenger who brings them this news in the future, they should give up right now because they will fail.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

Enter The Chief's Recall Total Pool

The rules are simple:
  • Estimate the total number of signatures United Wisconsin will submit to the GAB tomorrow in the comments section below. Forecast any of the individual races or go for the grand total.
  • The winner gets a limerick composed in their honor written by yours truly.
The Chief's official guess is 789,623 for Walker. 532,687 for Kleefisch. 22,777 for Moulton. 23,337 for Wangaard.  23,783 for Galloway. 25,448 for Fitzgerald. That's a grand total of  1,417,655.

How did we arrive at our guess? The Dems passed along that they are in possession of over 3000 pounds of signatures in a fund-raising plea today. I assume that's for everyone: Walker, Kleefisch and the four senators.

If we assume that each petition was printed out on twenty pound bond paper, which is standard for copying paper, then the Recall Effort will have collected no less than 295,857 sheets of paper -- presuming that one ream (or 500 pieces) weighs 5.07 pounds.

And this is where things start to get dicey. Some petitions have enough room for five signatures, some ten. Assuming each petition is filled out completely (an extreme unlikelihood), that gives us a window between 1,479,285 -- hypothetically more than enough to initiate recalls for all six targets -- and almost three million.

If the drive does exceed our expectations -- and here we're just talking about the Walker drive -- these are a few important milestones:
  • 1,004,303 -- The number of people who voted for Tom Barrett in 2010.
  • 1,080,480 -- 50% of voters who voted in 2010
  • 1,128,159 -- The number of people who voted for Scott Walker in 2010.
We'll explain how we arrives at our numbers on Wednesday. Spoiler Alert: it was mostly guessing.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ron Johnson's Misguided Obsession with Domestic Oil Production

When Ron Johnson was running for office in 2010 he made one of his first policy gaffes came when he made comments that could be interpreted that he supported potential oil drilling in the Great Lakes. This was right around the time it was revealed that Johnson owned six figures worth of stock in BP, stock he promised to eventually sell, a promise he ultimately reneged on, then sorta followed through with following the election when he sold of his entire stock portfolio. Last May Johnson voted against a bill that would have stripped oil companies of several billion dollars worth of government subsidies, which Johnson has routinely opposed on principle.

The moral of the story is that Johnson's relationship with the oil industry is checkered, at best.

Most of this oil business happened during the early months of summer 2010, when no one was paying attention, and as a result domestic drilling never really become much of an issue. Since Johnson took office, however, he's made it a point to champion domestic oil production in most of communiques with the masses. It's not terribly surprising since it's been a pet cause among conservatives for the last decade, and it might be seem odd coming from Johnson given his political past with the issue and the fact that he has no expertise with the matter at all, so why does Johnson appear to be making domestic drilling his issue de jour?

First of all, Johnson's drilling agenda is about five years old. He accuses the President of "limiting energy development" in the U.S. in his column in yesterday's Wall Street Journal and adds:
The administration has squandered billions of dollars on politically connected, green-energy boondoggle projects, while at the same time maintaining a de facto moratorium on off-shore drilling, and dragging its feet on granting permits for other energy utilization projects such as the Keystone XL Pipeline and restricting and limiting leases for offshore energy production. Republicans could propose a plan to utilize crucial domestic resources, including oil, natural gas and coal, to produce energy and create jobs.
(For the record, Obama has actually pledged to to increase lease sales both off-shore and in Alaska.)

He elaborated on that thought in an interview with Newsmax today:
Johnson accused Democrats of being beholden to extreme environmentalists in their rejection of both drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas.

Alaskans want drilling and their view about their own environment is more important than those of people in California, New York or Massachusetts, he said, declaring: “If Alaskans want to drill in ANWR, we should let Alaskans drill in ANWR.”

The pipeline will be built unless Obama declares it against the national interest, Johnson said. “If you take a look at the 20,000 jobs the construction would create; you take a look at the $20 billion in private sector investment; you take a look at the hundreds of thousands of jobs that would be created long-term; and the impact on our energy prices, I think it will be very difficult for President Obama to make that determination.”
So Johnson domestic oil production plan revolves around three different elements: off-shore drilling, drilling in ANWR and the Keystone pipeline. 

But let's take a look a what is actually happening to oil production in the United States, which has actually increased since Obama entered the White House:

So far from "limiting" oil production, it's actually picked up and without drilling in environmentally sensitive areas. Last year, for the first time in six decades, the U.S. became an oil exporter. All of this has happened despite the disruption in off-shore drilling Johnson decries.

This has occurred largely because of drilling in the Bakken Oil Formation in North Dakota. The discovery and subsequent exploitation of this cache has completely transformed the way we think about energy in America. The USGS estimates that there are "only" 896 million barrels of oil under ANWR, but there are 18 billion barrels in the Bakken. That's just recoverable oil using today's extraction technology, the estimate has actually been growing as the technology is reconfigured to meet the needs of the location. The estimates of the total oil in the formation range from 167-503 billion barrels.

There really is no comparison between the reserves in ANWR compared to those in the Bakken.

The oil in the Bakken formation is one of the big reasons green tech firms are dropping like flies these days. Most of these firms were founded prior to 2008 when Bakken oil boom began and acquired much of their seed capital from investors expecting sky-rocketing gas prices in the years ahead. That's not going to happen now. This poses a huge problem for environmentalists who can no longer lean on the "energy independence" and/or "national security" aspects of green energy promotion, which tended to be their strongest arguments.

If conservatives were smart that would drop ANWR all together on focus on Bakken because vigorous development of that formation is going to happen regardless of who's in power. It's an easy win. To an extent Republicans are kind of doing this by harping on the Keystone pipeline, but why ditch a perfectly good talking point when it's still moving voters, right?

During his first year in office Johnson has tried -- without any success whatsoever -- to find an issue that he can latch onto and call his own. He's tried to become a point man on the deficit, on regulations (and specifically banking regulations) and even on senate procedure, but has failed to find a cause that can separate him from the rest of the pack. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Johnson has eventually made his way to energy. If energy isn't your cup of tea, don't worry: Johnson will likely be opining on another completely unrelated topic in about six weeks or so.

This is becoming one of the most fundamental problems of Johnson's tenure: his impatience with the issues. There's very little doubt Johnson believes he has the answer to all that ails Washington, but in attempting to be a master of all issues he's become an expert in none of them. Instead of adopting a cause and sticking with it for the long haul, Johnson seems to be test-driving as many as he can handle in order to find the one issue where others will actually follow his lead. This why Johnson fills his op-ed pieces with shallow discussions of between 5 and 12 issues when he really should be focusing on just one.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ron Johnson unveils another Doomed Initiative called "America's Choice"

Oh, Lord. Fresh off the heels of a disastrous first year in the U.S. Senate, Ron Johnson decided to kick off his second year in office with a plan to transform Congress into a partisan Thunderdome spectacle designed solely to "highlight the differences" between the two parties. Seriously, those are his exact words.

Here he is in today's Wall Street Journal:
Americans are frustrated over Washington's inability to address our nation's economic and fiscal problems. That's why I have been working with a growing group of senators and House members to develop a plan that can build public support for solutions. It's called "America's Choice."
One quickly discovers that Johnson and his team spent more time working on the branding of this "plan" than on the plan itself. 
America's Choice seeks to highlight the differences between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party led by President Obama.
If the entire piece can be reduced to one sentence, here it is. This plan does not appear to advance an policy goals, has no ambitions to put people back to work and is not supported by any data, but is designed to embarrass the President during a re-election. The only good thing about this plan so far is the brazen transparency of it all.
It could do so over the coming months by presenting to the country, through a series of votes in the House of Representatives, the battle between those who believe in broadest terms in limited government and freedom and those who promote government control and dependency. 
Could do so? It doesn't sound like Johnson thinks enough of his niftily-named plan to actually think it will have any hope of doing so, but then again his plan calls for votes in a House of Congress to which he does not belong. Why Johnson is asking the House of Representative to carry the water when he is a member of the Senate is a bit ridiculous, but not entirely inconsistent with Johnson's M.O. Johnson does subscribe to the inane belief that a supermajority is required to get anything done in the Senate, a tenet that runs counter to his consistent whining that the Senate never gets enough done and this very plan. Go figure.
What are the choices these votes could present? Growing government spending and debt or growing the private sector and reducing government. Limiting energy development or using America's energy resources. Punishing success or pro-growth tax reform. A government takeover of health care or repealing ObamaCare and replacing it with patient-centered, free-market reforms.
Blah blah blah... We've heard this all before: the Manichean worldview of government coming from Johnson is as unproductive as it is tiresome.
The alternatives are stark. President Obama's faith in government is so strong that he has increased its size to 24% of gross domestic product from 21%, and increased our nation's debt by over $4 trillion. Republicans, on the other hand, believe long-term self-sustaining jobs are created in the private sector—that government cannot tax, spend and borrow our nation to prosperity.
Just because Johnson and his Republican cohorts keep saying it, doesn't mean it's true:
And on taxes, Obama's lowered those too.
Will green energy power America's future? The administration has squandered billions of dollars on politically connected, green-energy boondoggle projects, while at the same time maintaining a de facto moratorium on off-shore drilling, and dragging its feet on granting permits for other energy utilization projects such as the Keystone XL Pipeline and restricting and limiting leases for offshore energy production. Republicans could propose a plan to utilize crucial domestic resources, including oil, natural gas and coal, to produce energy and create jobs. 
To be fair, the green jobs initiative has been something of a bust, but it should be noted that it does conform to Johnson earlier demand for "using America's energy resources." Clearly, Johnson was only talking about fossil fuels.

The problem with the green jobs initiative has been the recent oil boom in North Dakota, which has kept oil prices down in the U.S. below the point where spending on green tech -- much of which is still in the expensive R&D phase -- is profitale. Last year the U.S. became an oil exporting country for the first time in over 60 years. The fact is that we are developing our oil resources here in the United States, as fast as humanly possible. Johnson is still speaking the coded GOP language calling for drilling in ANWR and off the shore of Florida even though, at the moment and like the green tech industry, neither of those are necessary.
Regulatory overreach in this administration has been breathtaking. Executive agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Labor have been in hyper-drive, adding to the already job-crushing $1.75 trillion annual cost, according to the Small Business Administration, of federal regulatory compliance. Republicans could propose a regulatory moratorium to give businesses a chance to recover, and then enact real reform to achieve common-sense regulatory balance.
 Another series of rote talking points Johnson includes in everything he does...
President Obama has launched a divisive campaign pitting one group of Americans against another. 
Which is exactly what this "America's Choice" plan seems to aspire to do. You remember that "plan," don't you? The one Johnson opened up his op-ed piece discussing, but hasn't talked about since, even though we're now half way through the piece? Yeah, that one.
Yet 10% of Americans already pay 70% of all income taxes. 
And here's Ron Johnson, once again, valiantly sticking his neck out for the upper marginal income earners. This is a mathematical reality of a progressive tax system. We've discussed this before here and here.
Increasing the tax burden on that group is counterproductive. Sowing class division is an act of political cynicism producing terrible economic consequences. Significant pro-growth tax reform is the better path to build our economy and create jobs. 
It'd be great if Johnson used this incredibly value space in a national newspaper to outline such a tax plan, but instead we get an electioneering strategy.

The next part just rags on Obamacare:
Government takeover of our health-care system has been a liberal-progressive dream for decades. President Obama and Democrats in Congress passed the partisan Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It neither protects patients, nor does it make health care more affordable. But it will lead to a government takeover of one-sixth of our economy, and it will blow a hole in an already horribly broken budget.

Republicans are united in our commitment to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with patient-centered reforms. Malpractice tort reform, health savings account expansion, insurance purchase across state lines, reduction of government mandates, and equalized tax treatment of insurance premiums are some of the key changes we will propose to the country. 
Now back to "America's Choice:"
America's Choice would clearly present two different visions of the country's future—one represented by the Republican Party and the other represented by the Democratic Party and its leader, President Obama. Once Congress returns from recess later this month, the Republican majority in the House could focus on one major area of domestic policy at a time. For example, February could be used to debate, craft and pass an energy utilization policy. 
It should be clear by now that Johnson is using his word count to propose a plan that he has not discussed with any other members of Congress. Johnson doesn't offer much in the way of detail because Johnson is completely oblivious to the fact that this is an election year for everyone in Washington except for himself (and 65 colleagues in the Senate). It's every man for himself.
When the House debates and passes an agenda item, Republican senators, candidates and conservative groups could concentrate on the same issue, using the same powerful facts and figures to inform and persuade the American public. Coordinating our focused efforts improves our ability to compete with the presidential bully pulpit and counteract media outlets that often work to marginalize us. 
This would have been sage advice ... about 20 years ago. This is actually what the conservative movement does extremely well. The only thing this paragraph goes to show is that Johnson doesn't get invited to the important meetings.

In 2011, President Obama stopped running the country and started running his re-election campaign. In his cynical attempt to divert attention away from his record by dividing us, Republicans have been put on defense. The America's Choice agenda would put us on offense.

If done well, we just might put enough pressure on Senate Democrats and the president to actually pass legislation that will begin to solve our problems. If not, Republicans will have provided Americans with a clear choice in November.
Again, in the end it's all about politics.

This op-ed just continues to drive home what a lousy Senator Johnson is. This plan is nothing more than branding, an empty catch phrase that has no details to consider carefully, no support from his colleagues and nothing to offer his constituents. There's a complete lack of focus on the issues -- Johnson mentions about eight of them during the course of his word limit and they seem to roll of the pen like poll-tested talking point rather than actionable items.

Expect "America's Choice" to wither on the vine until being blown away by a stiff autumn wind. This will be yet another one of Johnson's fail attempts to do his job.

MORE: It's been about 36 hours since Johnson's op-ed dropped and so far it's gotten very little traction. Only one of Johnson's senate colleagues has publicly signed on to the program and largely because it "was his idea first." Jennifer Rubin, WaPo's conservative blogger had this to say about the proposal:
Johnson’s very public style of marketing legislation, he conceded, is not how government usually operates. To someone coming from the private sector, however, as he did, “it is obvious” that lawmakers have to development a coherent message and sell their ideas to the public. At the very least, Johnson’s goal is to line up with that of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.): Lay out a vision, explain it to voters and contrast it with the president’s.
That's about as delicate a way a sympathetic journalist can possibly say, "this guy doesn't know what the hell's going on in Washington."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Does Tommy Thompson work for a Private Equity Firm that uses an Off Shore Tax Shelter?

Wow, could we possibly hear any more about private equity than we have this last week?

Of course, we can!

It probably will come as little surprise that Tommy Thompson has dabbled in the Private Equity business. He joined the Boston-based  Peak Ridge Capital Group in 2010. It looks like PRCG was so happy to have Thompson aboard that they created an office in Madison, but the Wisconsin branch office isn't nearly as interesting as the one in Hamilton, Bermuda, which is well-known as a popular tax haven.

Unfortunately, PE firms are notorious for their lack of transparency. They are, after all, private firms and don't usually have to file SEC papers and what have you (there are exceptions). I actually had a monster of a time just trying to find which companies were in Peak Ridge's portfolio and no luck trying to find where they are incorporated. They seem to have registered with the Massachusetts Secretary of Commonwealth, but did so in 2007, seven years after they were founded.

Anyway, most Caribbean tax shelters have a couple of rules for using their countries to hide revenue from Uncle Sam. The first is that the business has to establish a physical presence on the island, usually in the form of a P.O. Box. The second, and I'm told this rule varies from island to island, is that the company must hold at least one board of directors meeting on the island every year. Both are true of Bermuda. The take-away here is that firms don't set up offices in Bermuda unless they're doing business in Bermuda, and the only businesses in Bermuda are wearing kick-ass shorts once a year and sheltering taxes.

This is probably one of those things more respectable people should look into.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Walkergate Update

Bottom line: worst than anyone anticipated, even Walker's most vehement detractors.

Allow Jake and Zach to take of the details, but here are the take-away points from the allegations:
  • Veterans were (allegedly) defrauded for a very small amount of money (relatively speaking).
  • Children were preyed upon by an (alleged) sexual predator.
  • Scott Walker apparently never learned that "it's not the crime, it's the cover-up" and continues to twist his involvement in ways that would make a contortionist blush.
All of this dropped while Walker was in DC giving a speech at a conservative "think tank" this morning.

I recommend taking a look at Jake's very serious reading of the complaint. It's absolutely devastating. These are the kinds of allegations that keep high-rolling lawyers well-fed for years.

If Ever there were a Statement that Screamed "Fact Check Me!" -- it's this One

Before we end up with one of these "half true" rulings from the Journal-Sentinel, let's parse what was said:
Johnson said the United States has created a "very compassionate society," but in Wisconsin that same compassion has created a welfare state that encourages people not to work.

"A family unit can't survive on $22,000, but after they receive all of their government entitlements they receive more than $62,000," he said. "We have a safety net for the poor, but not for those who are out there working."
This seems to suggest that a family of (no size given) is eligible for $62,000 worth of state aide. Notice how Johnson says "receive," not "earn" or "make" or ""acquire."

But much of this is undoubtedly the cost of programs like BadgerCare, which could be expensive if the recipient is ill, but that isn't money a recipient is "receiving," per se: it's a service deemed to have a certain value. Johnson makes it sound like poor folks making $22,000 a year are being given an additional 200% pay raise -- in cash -- just for sitting on their assess. This is almost certainly not true.

Furthermore, I'm not sure where Johnson thinks his hypothetical family's initial $22,000 came from. He seems to think one can just acquire it by doing nothing. In actuality, if a person working for the federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) 40 hours a week all 52 weeks a year, the kind of real lazy bum who didn't take any vacation time, that person would make exactly $15,080. He'd have to work another 636 hours worth of overtime (at $10.88 an hour) to reach the $22,000 threshold.

That translates into just over a 52 hour work week every week of the year without any time off just so that they can reach an income Johnson seems to believe materializes out of nowhere.

Levity (this Blog could use some)

First, the local/instant YouTube classic almost eight years in the making:

And secondly, action from the Texas 5A Division II high school championship at Cowboys Stadium:
There's actually another angle from which the above splendor can be seen. I encourage you all to check it out.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Don't Buy Scott Walker's Chest-Pounding over the New Shopko Merger Jobs

There's some good news for folks in Green Bay tonight, as giant area retailer Shopko is creating about 120 new job via a merger. The news is so good that Gov. Walker's team is all over it with a press release:
MADISON—Governor Scott Walker today announced that Shopko will commence a corporate expansion project with assistance from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) that will result in the creation of more than 120 new positions at its corporate headquarters in Green Bay.

"My number one priority is helping Wisconsin businesses create jobs," Governor Walker said. "I am pleased we were able to work with Shopko to support their expansion and ensure it will take place in Wisconsin."

“We appreciate the WEDC working with us to support our growth and bring new, good paying jobs to Wisconsin,” commented Paul Jones, President and CEO of Shopko.

Founded in 1963 and headquartered in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Shopko is a $2 billion retailer that operates 149 stores in 13 states throughout the Midwest, Mountain and Pacific Northwest regions. The company announced today a merger that will result in a significant investment in Wisconsin and creation of new positions at its corporate headquarters in Green Bay. The creation of more than 120 new jobs will be assisted with an award of up to $2 million in Economic Development Tax Credits administered by the WEDC.
That's lovely. $2 million can pay salary and benefits to between 15-20 low to mid-level executives for about a year. But, really, how did those jobs end up here? Here's a more plausible explanation:
Over the past two years, Shopko has purchased seven stores from Pamida and successfully transitioned them to the Shopko Hometown format. These locations have delivered an improved customer experience and have seen a significant increase in store traffic, sales and profitability, the release stated.

Once Pamida’s chain-wide conversions are complete, the company plans to accelerate the addition of new Shopko Hometown stores in the second half of 2012 and into 2013, Burns said.

Both companies are owned by affiliates of Sun Capital Partners, Inc. a private investment firm focused on leverage buyouts, equity, debt, and other investments in market-leading companies.
Pamida has been owned by Shopko since 1999, and for the last six years they have both been owned by the same private equity firm who finally decided to reduce redundancies, increase shareholder value and all that jazz. Actually, Sun Cap looks like they started the merger process, or at least investigating the viability of a merger, two years ago, before Walker was in office or WEDC even existed.

Why this merger is getting tax credits might be an interesting issue to discuss. Shopko has twice the revenues of Pamida and it's almost always the case that the smaller guy has to pack his bags and move to the bigger kid's backyard during a merger. I'm not sure how floating $2 million Shopko's way does anything to create jobs that weren't already coming here. $2 million is 0.1% of Shopko's annual revenue, so it's really nothing to them; in fact, it's such a negligible pittance that Shopko didn't even mention WEDC's involvement in their press release on the merger. The $2 million Walker gave Shopko is little more than a gift basket from the neighborhood association's welcome wagon.

Without knowing much more about the deal itself or WEDC's involvement, I can only comment on what it looks like from the outside and, frankly, it looks pretty weak. The tax credits appear to be something WEDC floated Shopko's way solely for the sake of being able to claim that they are involved in job growth here in Wisconsin even though the state probably did absolutely nothing to bring those jobs here. That's one expensive press release.

If that's the case, then Walker et al. are incompetent at either 1.) messaging that they missed a golden opportunity to tell everyone that the economy is looking up and that jobs are coming back to Wisconsin without state government involvement (something I'm routinely told conservatives are quite fond of); or 2.) job creation that they can't count on private businesses to extol the Administration's leadership and/or policies without having to pay them.

Taking credit for something he had nothing to do with is quickly becoming a Scott Walker calling card. Lately we've had his heroic "expansion" of Family Care and now his fiat creation of jobs in Green Bay -- Walker truly seems adept at nothing than his own self-promotion.

It's a good thing that good jobs are coming to Green Bay and, yes, those jobs should be counted toward Walker's promise of 250,000 new jobs in the state by the end of his term; but Walker shouldn't pound his chest too much because he likely didn't do much -- if anything -- to bring them here.

MORE: Jake reminds us all of the eerily similar Spectrum Brands incident from not too long ago.

Did Rush Limbaugh Really just Accuse the GOP of Rigging Last Night's Caucus for Romney?

Is there any other way to read this?
RUSH: I can't tell you the number of people -- and I stayed up all the way until they found the votes.  My gosh, I thought I was watching the Democrats last night.  Ninety-nine percent of the votes in and they can't find the votes from two counties.  They couldn't find 'em.  They didn't know where the guy who had the votes was, and everybody knew what was going on.  At this point Santorum held, what was it, an 18-vote lead.  Everybody knew that what was going on here was a way to find a victory for Romney.  So fine, the total number of votes doesn't really matter.  Santorum won last night.  I mean that's the bottom line here.
That's pretty serious accusation to just shrug off with ""Pffffft, whatever!" or, excuse me, a "so, fine."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Genuinely Idiotic Defense of Ron Paul

Ahead of tonight's Iowa caucuses, Jonathan Krause does a characteristically lazy job of explaining his support for Ron Paul:
I had someone ask me recently what is the appeal of Ron Paul as a Presidential candidate.  Paul heads into the Iowa Caucuses tonight neck-and-neck with Mitt Romney for the lead in the polls--despite getting ZERO attention from the cable news networks.  I gave that person my new answer to explain Ron Paul: He is Barack Obama for people who actually know something about politics.  By that, I mean that when Ron Paul speaks everybody is able to hear what they want to hear.
Saying that the appeal to both Obama and Ron Paul are based on their Rorschach-test-personalities is asinine. In terms of policies, both candidates ran campaigns that jived with their legislative records and were very specific about what kinds of goals they hoped to achieve while in the White House. The appeal of each candidate lies mostly in the presentation of their personalities. In 2008 Obama painted a portrait of the future that promised to unify the country and move passed the contentious years of the Bush Administration, and he did it with soaring rhetoric. Since the mid 1970s Ron Paul has waded into the fever swamps of some of the worst elements of American politics in order to grow a movement based on apocalyptic fear and resentment.

But just what the hell does "when Ron Paul speaks everybody is able to hear what they want to hear." mean? Here Krause's weak explanation:
For those of us Deficit Hawks we hear him talk about reducing government spending and balancing the books (the only candidate to do so in the 2008 campaign).
Paul is noted for being a "deficit hawl" only by accident. What he does want to is cut government spending, not on fiscal grounds, but on ideological grounds. One former congressional budget expert gave his budget plan a solid F for missing the entire point of budget "balancing" altogether:
Paul says he wants to eliminate the income, estate and capital gains taxes. That would be fine if he also at least mentioned in passing that he'll also need to eliminate almost everything the federal government does to prevent the deficit and debt from rising. He doesn't.
The unfortunate thing about this analysis is that it underestimates Paul's inclination eliminating the Federal government, of which he has claimed up to 80% is "technically unconstitutional."
Those opposed to expansion of government hear him talk about limiting Federal powers to those only contained within the Constitution.  
See above. Paul's "interpretation" of the Constitution is something of a joke in the legal community, where it is widely considered to be so narrow and arbitrary so as to be only useful to militia members and "sovereign citizens" acting as pro se council.

Krause is also tacticly adopting the classic "state's rights" argument here, which historically speaking, has been fraught with contradictions at best, and malicious intent at worse
The anti-war crowd hears him talk about bring the troops home immediately.  
Nope. Paul's appeal is strictly to isolationism, which another contradiction of Paul's brand of Libertarianism that exposes a nasty and ugly xenophobia while simultaneously betraying an apparent hatred for "free markets" on a global scale. Paul is titanically out of his element on foreign policy.
The Occupy crowd hears him talking about doing away with the Federal Reserve and breaking down the big banks.  
This statement betrays the fact that Krause knows nothing about banking. Paul is dead set against breaking up big banks. He's against bail-outs, which would lead to mergers that would actually increase the size of some banks given another situation like the meltdown of September 2008. Paul's opposition to the Fed would actually make banks more powerful.
The potheads hear him talk about ending the war on drugs.  Gay rights activists hear him say he doesn't care who gets married to whom. The Tea Party hears him talk about doing away with the IRS.  
Again, see the above discussion re: budget-cutting. 
Even the anti-Semites hear him talking about ending unquestioned support for Israel.  
I don't even know where to begin discussing this line. We can argue about the policies and merits of all of the groups mentioned above, but anti-Semites have no value whatsoever. Krause wants to treat them like just another constituency. This is deplorable.

But Krause's arrant slip is telling: Paul's brand Libertarianism is really nothing more than an aggressive version of post-modernism tied up in "conservative" packaging. Paul goes beyond just telling crowds that they can live better with less government, he tells them that whatever they think about very important concepts like morality, justice, ethics, etc. -- they're right. Everyone's right in Paul's Libertarianism because everyone is an individual. This has horrible consequences that allows some of the worse elements of society to justify racism and other truly contemptible notions. 
Like the Apostles who spoke in tongues in the Bible--everyone hears Ron Paul talking their language.
And that language is relativism. That's the big picture point Krause is missing here. Ron Paul is the great 21st century evangelist of conservative relativism.

Krause continues:
But by being everyone's candidate, Ron Paul is no one's candidate.  
Well, if that's not the stupidest and most meaningless thing I've read in a long time, than I don't know what is.

Now, the next part is such a blatant tautology that it defies my already exceedingly low expectations: 
Even if he was elected by some major miracle, he would have ZERO political base in Washington.  As other pundits have pointed out, there is no "Ron Paul Caucus" in Congress.  Outside of the deficit reduction idea, he would have no chance of passing any of the other legislative ideas he proposes--and Washington would be plunged into even deeper gridlock.

Got that? A victory for Ron Paul would mean chaos in Washington. It would mean that all the things Paul stands for would never have any hope of actually being realized. It would mean absolutely zero progress for all of his causes. It's a Catch-22 that all Libertarians must reconcile before placing their votes with Paul. Krause has spilled the beans here: a vote for Paul does nothing.

But that's not going to stop Krause from voting for him: 
I voted for Ron Paul in 2008 as a form of protest against two other candidates who were only talking about new ways to spend even more money we don't have.  If he somehow was the GOP candidate in November, I'll be writing in Paul Ryan on my ballot--as a form of protest against two candidates who have no ability to lead a country.
See, Krause will be voting for the guy he has just has no possible chance to effectively lead the country to protest the blah blah blah. Now recall Krause's introduction to his post: "Ron Paul: He is Barack Obama for people who actually know something about politics."

Does this kind of reasoning sound like Krause knows the first damn thing about politics?

Or anything, for that matter?

Ron Paul appeals to folks like Jonathan Krause because Paul's message is simple: you know better than anyone else how to live your life. That's fine up until a point where the individual must function with others. This is the point where many Ron Paul supporters struggle in life and the frustration from that struggle results in a lot of resentment. Ron Paul provides these people with justification for that resentment and an alternative to the status quo. That's the central message people hear when they listen to Paul, not his stand on the War on Drugs or the Fed.

This is a major part of the reason Paul appeals to conspiracy theorists: Paul's message validates what they believe. It's also one of Paul's major selling points to Krause, who isn't a conspiracy theorist (so far as I know), but does not let his ignorance of any subject get in the way of proclaiming his expertise. Not so long ago, conservatives railed against this kind of relativism. Now they celebrate it.

MORE: Boy, did I fuck up the landing on this one. See the comments below for more.