Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jonah, Jonah, Jonah

I'm reading the paper this morning and Jonah Goldberg is commenting on the Colbert testimony.  Jonah proves once again that Republicans don't get it.  At one point he brings up the testimony of a professor who mentioned how illegal immigrants depress wages and  keep working conditions poor.  He then says that Colbert essentially called her a liar.  NO, Colbert essentially pointed out two things.  First that conservatives don't see this as a problem and second that they want to see depressed wages because it is good for the country.  Look at their immigration measures.  They are for a "guest worker" program.  Why is this so bad, it gives legal status they say.  Yes it does but it preserves the low wages, no benefits, send them back approach that we have now.  The whole point of the take our jobs program was to bring attention to the low wages aspect of farm work.  That part of the equation is not going to change.  Colbert pointed that out with his comment about creating vegetables that pick themselves.  No wages, no workers, American technology at its best.  We are in a race too the bottom.  The conservatives don't mind the illegal immigrants as long as they know their place.  They are against the minimum wage because it is inflationary, which is true, but without it these jobs would be paying by piece work or a couple of dollars an hour.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stephen Colbert at Congress

Colbert's testimony was right on and proved once again that Republicans are:
a. Ironically challenged and
b. Don't understand Colbert

What Stephen pointed out was how ridiculous the immigration argument in Congress has become and his character offered solutions that you would have expected to hear from the Republicans.  American business and farms employ the illegal immigrants at the same time as Americans won't do the work or if they do they are not very good at it (watch Colbert at the farm).  I watched much of the hearing and I especially like the charge that the President has left the borders open when the reality is that under this President deportations are up.  Raids on businesses are up.  Number of troops on the border is up.  Interdiction is up.  Everything that you hear is down is in fact up.  I don't get it.  So the Democrats bring Colbert to Congress.  The Republicans contend that he made a mockery of the hearing process.  How can you make a mockery out of something that was already a mockery.  In fact this whole legislative session has been a mockery.  Way to go Mr. Colbert.

Time to Release Pacur's Corporate Tax Records

I believe that it time for the people to join with the Democrats and demand that Pacur's tax records be released.  In most cases and for most candidates I would be as against this demand as the Republicans and Ron Johnson.  The difference in this case is that those records are relevant.  Mr. Johnson's entire campaign is based on that the crushing tax code is killing his and other businesses in the country.  He has disputed the government managed/ facilitated loans/ bonds/ grants as not being government supported.  If that were true anyone would be able to get a couple of points knocked off a business loan which is not the case.  We need to see these records so that we can determine how truthful these claims are.  I would hope that he has paid huge taxes because a majority of corporations pay little or no taxes.  Exxon a large company with record profits, headquartered in the US got a refund.  so if Pacur did pay a lot in taxes they must have done something wrong.  The tax code favors business the same way that it favors the wealthy.  By optimizing expenses, depreciation, and interest paid, you can reduce your income (profit) to such a low level that you pay very little in taxes.  This is not a bad thing but it is for someone trying to connect to people seeing 25% of their income taken for income taxes, 7.5% taken for Social Security, another 3% taken for Medicare, and then the State income tax.

Lawyers in Congress

Ron Johnson says the there is a majority of lawyers in the US senate and that would be fine if they had a lawsuit to settle.  Hey Ron, here's a government lesson for you.  Congress makes laws!  Lawyers argue the law.  It seems like a fit to me.  So if we elect Mr. Johnson he will have to rely on his high priced lawyers who have helped his business navigate through the laws all of these years to help him craft legislation.  This is so much better than keeping a senator in office who is a Rhodes scholar and lawyer who has specialized in constitutional law.  It is interesting how the tea baggers talk about restoring the Constitution but yet they are against anyone who is a constitutional lawyer.  Where were they when the constitution was being run over by George Bush (not a lawyer) and Dick Cheney (not a lawyer).  They were both businessmen and ran the country into the ground and abused their authority under the Constitution.  So Ron, how exactly is your business experience going to be different from theirs.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Healthcare and Ron Johnson

I just heard Ron Johnson's latest radio commercial on health care.  Once again it is full of lies and distortions.  You have the 2 women complaining that Sen. Feingold voted yes on health care and then one says that the worst part of it is that our rates are going to go up.  Really?  Didn't they go up before reform?  What in the bill was going to reduce the cost of insurance?  Nothing, the bill contains no cost controls other than for some things that have not started yet.  Those controls are standardizing records and allowing the poor into buying pools.  This may reduce our costs but not by much.  Ron Johnson should know this.  Currently my insurance is slated to go up 6.2% and they are hailing this as a great deal.  Yeah it's down from 20% a few years ago but it still way above the rate of inflation.  What exactly is Mr. Johnson's solution to this problem?  He would eliminate the reforms enacted.  How exactly is that going to help the people he says that he wants to serve?  Well first of all people with pre-existing conditions will either not be able to get insurance or it will be really expensive (the reform caps it at 3 times the normal rate).  Then the lifetime caps go back in place (2 million for a family, sounds like a lot, get sick and see).  We'll still have at least 50 million uninsured, but more every day as employers eliminate the employer based health care that we Americans love. 

I don't agree with the health care reforms because they don't go far enough.  But I'm not going to vote against Feingold on this vote because the alternative is disastrous.  I like the German system.  The Germans have been using single payer heavily regulated private insurance since 1890.  The same plan was proposed in this country at the same time.  Germany has had 3 times in their history where they could have got rid of the program and they have elected to keep it.  But we can't even talk about single payer.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Deja Vu

A new contract on America, hooray!  This promises to be better than the one in 1994.  We're going to cut taxes, eliminate Obamacare, cut spending.  Happy days are here again, just don't look at the details.  We're going to cut spending everywhere except defense, medicare, and social security.  Gee that doesn't leave much of the budget.  Maybe if we make that part of the budget zero we can cover the increase in defense and if there is any money left over we could give the richest 1% another couple of percent reduction in taxes.  The wealthy in this country are struggling so hard just to put food on the table that they can't even think about hiring anyone.  This plan is crazy.  If cutting taxes is so great why don't the Republicans join Alan Grayson in his plan to exempt the first $30,000 in income from taxes paid for by cutting defense 1%?  Why are we building a strike fighter plane when we have enemy that we can't defeat with existing aircraft?  We are told that if we would just make the tax cuts permanent everything will be ok.  We have had the tax cuts for 10 years and everything is not ok.  In fact everything fell apart under Bush.  You can't even blame Obama's spending.  It all happened before.  If those tax cuts didn't work may be we should have bigger tax cuts and revenue will magically appear.  Keep hoping.

Dane County Sheriff

I was reading the local paper Thursday and there was a great letter to the editor on the race for sheriff of our little county.  Like elsewhere in the country the county has fallen on hard times.  So, the sheriff race is going to turn on hiring more officers and giving those officers a raise.  The current sheriff is a Democrat, the challenger is endorsed by the Republicans (its a non-partisan office).  The incumbent has gone along with a hiring freeze and the pay reductions that the rest of the county employees took.  The challenger will hire 14 new deputies and has promised to increase wages.  This from a candidate who is backed by the Tea Party.  The party that is all about cutting taxes and spending.  Just how exactly are we going to pay for these people?  How do we fund pay raises?  What are we going to cut?  How much do we need to reduce other salaries to cover the raises in the sheriff's department?  Yes, the sheriff's race is only about running one department, but when you are advocating a large expansion of that department I believe that you better address the budget side.  By taking this tact you are not only running against the sheriff but also against the county executive.  I would hate to put someone in this position who has not thought out how to pay for his campaign promises.  He will need county board and county executive cooperation and I don't see that happening.

Government subsidies and Ron Johnson

Ron Johnson has staked his entire campaign on how government shouldn't be in the business of picking winners and losers and that government doesn't create jobs.  He has vehemently criticized Sen. Feingold for highlighting his government backed bonds.  He has an ad running where he points out that the news organizations have called on the Senator to quit using clips from their stories in his ad.  No one has disputed the accuracy of the report which contends that Pacur got a subsidy.  What Ron and maybe Russ should be acting for is a retraction from WKOW 27.  Either the report is accurate or it isn't.  Once a news report is broadcast it becomes public, otherwise the Daily Show, Colbert, Maddow,... wouldn't be able to do what they do.  Most people seem to think that Ron Johnson's business got government help.  I for one agree with Johnson that government helps business too much.  It is fine to have all of these programs but it would seem that only the connected get the help.

In today's Wisconsin State Journal Ron Johnson's campaign has come out and said that the candidate recognizes that government builds roads and provides infrastructure.  This statement is critical of his own campaign.  I guess that it is like government aid:  Projects that Ron Johnson deem worthy will get funded.  Sounds like picking winners and losers to me.  The realities of America today is that the Federal government pays for roads and other infrastructure and that Government in general provides aid through low interest loans, grants, bonds, tax deferment, ...  The choice for Wisconsin voters is who do you trust, a man who has benefited from government support but now abhors such programs or a man who has helped to create programs that help the average people and small business.  I prefer the latter, Sen. Feingold.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Health care

Today children can be covered under their parents plan to 26 and can't be denied with pre-existing conditions.  And no one can be dropped while sick.  This is great news right, wrong.  Sharon Angle, doesn't want to be paying for everyone.  She doesn't think that "austism" is a medical condition and should not be covered.  Hey tea baggers who are the death panel advocates now.  Everyone is excited about the pre-existing coverage but wait until you have to pay the bill.  The insurers can charge up to 3 times the rate of an un-surcharged policy.  Not a good thing and the buying pools will prove to be inadequate.  It's a start but we have a really long way to go.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Presidential visit

Get ready the conservatives heads are going to explode, President Obama is visiting the city of Madison Sept. 28.  We'll be hearing about how much it costs, who's paying, that it should come from the campaign,...  None of this should matter it is the President.  Except this President's opponents so hate him that they are unwilling to be in the same city/ state with him.

Great News

The removal of Calumet County's DA is going forward thanks to 2 brave women residing in the county.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sharia Law in the US

I'll admit watching the tea party patriots I have been mystified by the signs saying "no Sharia law in the US".  That is until I heard Newt Gingrich at the value voters summit.  I've been told that this is because President Obama is a secret Muslim.  First of all there is no evidence of this.  Beyond this Newt might have a point.  Over the past several years there has been a movement to codify the 10 Commandments into US law or people saying that they already are.  The reality is there are couple of commandments in the law (killing, stealing), but many others are nowhere to be seen (honor the mother and father, no Gods before me).  There seems to be immense confusion over sharia law, because for the most part it comes from the 10 Commandments and Leviticus.  That is right, the Christian God Law and the Muslim God Law are largely the same.  Enforcement is different since countries under Sharia law are operating like they did in the 12th century the punishments are like they were in the 12th century. 

I don't want to see any God based laws even if they are written by the Cafeteria Christians so that the good stuff is not in the law like women having their heads covered, modest dress, eating pork,...  The Taliban ran a country based on God's law and look at what a fun place that was/ is.  This is just such a non-issue in this country, but do a google search and you get 674,000 hits.  Does anyone really believe that we will see Sharia law here?

Open carry

So, some open carry supports were arrested at a Culver's.  Sounds like rights being trampled right?  Wrong.  The police responded to a call about guys with guns.  That establishes probable cause, which allows the police to ask for identification.  I think that they should have been charged with disorderly conduct instead of obstruction.  Other than that I'll side with the police on this one.

Calumet County DA

This is an incredible and unbelievable story out of rural Wisconsin.  Talk about a clear abuse of authority but yet there is nothing that the State can do without a complaint filled by someone in the county.  Lets hope that we get one so that he can be removed from office.

Super Salmon

I am amazed that given the problems that we have with invasive species that we would even think about allowing a genetically modified fish to be sold.  What they have done is genetically altered the Atlantic Salmon by adding genes from the Chinook Salmon and the Eelpout.  So you have created a fish that grows fast, but what else does it do.  If they get out and to open water what will they do.  We don't know, we don't know if this species is more aggressive, we don't know if it will out compete native fish.  What we do know is that it grows fast which implies that it eats more.  I don't care what the company tells you we humans have a pretty poor record of controlling wild animals.  The risk to the environment is too great to allow this fish to be grown.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Madison schools

As an observer from the rural part of Dane County, I have always been amazed at the perception that Madison's public schools are "bad". Once again we have had a couple of contradictory articles in the media. The first that Madison wants to stop their students from leaving through public school choice because it is a net loss in money needed to run the system. I fault the media and to a lesser extent the school board with a failure to dig at all and answer the question, why are they leaving? This of course generated multiple letters decrying how unfair it is that I will no longer be allowed to provide a better education for my child or that the schools are failing so people are voting with their feet and leaving. The first issue is easy to address, send your kid to private school. You want to take a stand fund it yourself. The other issue not so easy to address until today. New article, Madison schools tops in the state for National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists. Wow, and I was led to believe that they were awful. Doesn't make much sense. National Merit Scholars represent <1%>1% of its students qualifying. You could say that these students succeeded in the face of adversity or just imagine how many we would have if it was a good district. The first is plausible except it is exceedingly rare to have that percentage even in the best of the best private schools. The second is also unlikely for the same reason, and look at how well the districts that kids are transferring to did. No one from Mt. Horeb, Oregon, Cambridge, McFarland, Columbus public, Beaver Dam, or Janesville Parker. Only one from Waunakee and Marshall, 2 from Sun Prairie, 4 from Verona. Waunakee, Sun Prairie, and Verona are big supposedly excellent schools in the burbs and they are not even close to Madison (except LaFollete with only 1). McFarland is a smaller school with an excellent reputation and none. What then? This brings me to the last article, also printed today by Thomas Friedman where he contends that motivation is the problem, kids aren't willing to do the work. I think that he is on to something. I see it in hiring people to work in a cafe. First off the kids that are in the tops of their class aren't looking for jobs, so we're left hiring middle to lower level students. For the most part they don't work hard unless you are always in their face. When I started working most of the hires were the better students so those other kids just didn't get jobs. This generation more than any other expects that everything will be handed to them. They want to get paid big money and not do anything and that is just not how it works. The same in school you have to work to get to where you want to be. If that is college you have to earn the grades to get you there. Obviously some kids in Madison have figured that out and have done well.

I think that the schools need to challenge students before they get to high school. I think that we all know someone who never studied in high school and always got A's. The problem with that is that these same kids struggle in college, no concept of hard work. Teachers know if the kid is putting forth effort or just doing what is required for an A. Let teachers mark that work down especially in the early grades where grades don't matter (you're not trying to get into Harvard or MIT yet). The problem with this approach are the parents, they won't stand for Jonny or Suzy being marked down. It is a rare parent that will tell a teacher to mark down their child. I have done it more in the context of private schools (my kids were there because the public schools wouldn't push them to work harder or push them into a more challenging curriculm.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Senate races and the tea party

There are those that are dismissing the chances of Ms. O'Donnell of winning in Delaware, I'm not one of them. Sure she has made some outrageous comments ass have all of the other tea party candidates but that is why the voters like them. "They are just like me, they speaker their mind, and they tell the truth (even when they repeat the big lies) which is why I'll vote for them" is the common refrain from their supporters. Most people think that this is some tiny fringe element. I think that it is bigger than you think and is growing. I think that every one of those candidates has a chance at winning. If Carly Fiorina (a woman who fired 7,000 HP workers and ran the company into the ground) can push Barbra Boxer in a senate race anything is possible. Look at Wisconsin where it is a dead heat between Ron Johnson and Senator Feingold. The Senator has taken many votes that square with the tea party agenda but yet the race is a dead heat.

Rally on 10/30/10

The rallies to restore sanity and to keep fear alive should be incredible. I hope that they get the press coverage that Glenn Beck was able to summon, because these 2 rallies should be far superior or at least funny. A big round of applause to Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, Guests, and their Staff's for this idea.

Jon Stewart interview with Bill Clinton

Thursday night's interview with President Clinton once again show why the President gets it. He explained the issues in the economy, not in sound bites but in a reasoned manner. Then he explained why he is for health reform. The most astonishing number is that in 2009 (worst economic year ever) the health insurers made 29% more money. How can this be, they raised rates and dropped the sick patients. Pretty simple. When inflation was zero or negative these guys were able to make 29% more money. I'll admit that the health reform bill as passed will not solve this problem, because there is no provision to control costs, but everyone should agree that this system is screwed up and all that we hear about is a government takeover. As the President said "you can complain about a government takeover of health care but when you have the companies kicking people out who are winding up on medicaid you are getting a takeover".

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

overpaid workers and Wisconsin businesses

Once again a Wisconsin company (Harley Davidson) is threatening to leave if their employees don't accept wage reductions. What is interesting about Harley, Mercury Marine, and Wolf is that each of them make products that are not necessities and are generally sold to people in higher income brackets. The average person is not spending $20,000 on a motorcycle that is a pig on gas and can be used for maybe 5 months. Their sales are down due to a bad economy. If these wage concessions are granted will the price of a motorcycle drop? The price of motors at mercury didn't come down. The price of a Wolf stove isn't likely to come down. What this shows is that not even the rich are buying stuff. This is bad news for the country.

Koran burning

I have stayed away from this topic because I think that the Pastor is nuts. Sure he has a right to protest but the government has a responsibility to arrest him and his followers. How's this? The precedent was set with protests in the 1960's and most recently at the Republican National convention. The charge in these cases is inciting a riot or violence. We know that burning a Koran is going to incite violence. They should be arrested to save lives.

Government backed loans, loans, and grants

Ron Johnson wants us to understand that the help his business got was a loan. He also wants us to understand that this was not the Government picking winners and losers. Well, I for one don't understand the difference. Pacur was given a low interest government backed loan from a bank. This is different from a business loan from a bank in that if they defaulted the bank would be able to get some of the money from the government. A grant is a direct bailout, the government picking winners and losers. The way Mr. Johnson tells it anyone could have gotten this kind of deal. Except that isn't true. Only companies that are already established or led by the connected (Mr. Johnson was connected through his father in law) can get these deals. Give me $2 million dollars and I'll open a business.

So, we can say that he got government help but yet he has no problem criticizing Sen. Feingold for voting to give GM loans and grants to stay in business. This vote preserved a large American company that employed 10s of thousands of Americans. You can argue that these Americans were overpaid. He doesn't go there though. He just believes that we should have let them go.

There you have it the differences between funding sources and how Ron Johnson is playing with the facts. And I'll take a low interest loan to open a business.

P.S. Maybe Ron Johnson would be willing to release the salary structure at his company. Does he pay the so called living wage?

Ron Johnson again

Now the Democratic Party wants Ron Johnson to release the tax records for his business. Normally I would agree with Johnson that those records shouldn't be made public. The difference in this case is that Mr. Johnson is campaigning that taxes on his business are oppressive. Since his is one of the largest businesses in the State and there have been a number of articles published indicating that the majority of large businesses in the State pay little or no taxes, these records have become a campaign issue. The voters need to know how much he paid in taxes.

Scott Walker's new ad

Scott Walker has finally stepped out to take on Mark Neumann. I was so excited, we'll finally see the differences of the two front runners. The ad links Mark to speaker Pelosi. OK, lets forget that the speaker works on the National level and Governor is a State position. The premise of this link is that they both voted for a road construction package. Come on Scott, isn't road building a cornerstone of your campaign? Where do you think the money spent on road building comes from? Read close tea baggers, most road projects are a combination of Local, State, and Federal money. That is why Mayor Dave (addressing those that said the stimulus didn't work) said look around you that is all federal money. He is exactly right if you go to other States there are signs posted detailing the funding sources of public projects. Nice try Scott, I'm sure that it will work with your uninformed supporters but probably won't sway the informed fence sitters.