Monday, February 21, 2011

Last Call

Nate Silver throws the little red challenge baggie on Rasmussen's poll showing a plurality of Americans back Gov. Scott Walker over the unionized state employees.

According to the firm’s statement of question wording, these were the first four questions Rasmussen asked in the poll:
1: How closely have you followed news reports about the Wisconsin governor’s effort to limit collective bargaining rights for most state employees?
2: Does the average public employee in your state earn more than the average private sector worker in your state, less than the average private sector worker in your state, or do they earn about the same amount?
3: Should teachers, firemen and policemen be allowed to go on strike?
4: In the dispute between the governor and the union workers, do you agree more with the governor or the union for teachers and other state employees?
There is nothing wrong with the first question, which simply asks people whether they have been following events in Madison. But the second and third questions are arguably problematic.

You think, Nate?

Naturally the poll finds a 48%-38% plurality in favor of Walker.  Nate goes on to explain that the third question is especially thorny because in a great many states, police and firefighters are not allowed to strike, and in the case of Walker's proposal, they are also exempt from the collective bargaining limitations that would be imposed on teachers.

As far as the second question goes, well:

In fact, according to an analysis by USA Today, state employees earn about 5 percent less than comparable employees in the private sector, on average, although federal employees receive significantly (20 percent) more.

Naturally, the Rasmussen survey participants got that wrong too.

Thirty-six percent (36%) of all voters say that in their state the average public employee earns more than the average private sector worker. Twenty-one percent (21%) say the government employee earns less, while 20% think their pay is about the same. Twenty-three percent (23%) are not sure. 

It's not quite "So how long have you been beating your wife, anyway?" on the loaded question scale, but Rasmussen was definitely putting their thumb on the scale.   Nate's advice:

Because of the problems with question design, my advice would be simply to disregard the Rasmussen Reports poll, and to view their work with extreme skepticism going forward.

Little chance of that.   Meanwhile, there's word that Wisconsin Republicans are withering under the harsh spotlights.

The proposal, written by Sen. Dale Schultz and first floated in the Republican caucus early last week, calls for most collective bargaining rights of public-employee unions to be eliminated—per Mr. Walker's bill—but then reinstated in 2013, said Mr. Schultz's chief of staff Todd Allbaugh.

"Dale is committed to find a way to preserve collective bargaining in the future," said Mr. Allbaugh in a telephone interview.

Maybe the fact that people are taking a closer look at what's really in Scott Walker's budget has something to do with it.

I'd Say This Was The Pot Calling The Kettle Black, But That Would Insulting Pots, Kettle, And Black

El Rushbo, still keeping it classy.

Michelle Obama is taking heat from talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh after a report in the Vail Daily that she consumed a not-so-healthy-meal of ribs for dinner while on a recent visit to the Colorado resort, the latest example of conservative angst directed at the first lady's healthy-eating initiative.

"The problem is, and dare I say this, it doesn't look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutritionary, dietary advice," Limbaugh said Monday on his radio program. "And then we hear that she's out eating ribs at 1,500 calories a serving with 141 grams of fat per serving."

"She is a hypocrite," Limbaugh continued. "Leaders are supposed to be leaders. If we are supposed to go out and eat nothing, if we are supposed to eat roots, berries, and tree bark, show us how."

The Vail Daily reported Sunday Mrs. Obama dined at the restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail Village, ordering "a pickled pumpkin salad with arugula and a braised ancho-chile short rib with hominy wild mushrooms and sautéed kale." The first family, minus the president, went to Colorado for a long weekend of skiing.

I'm going to say "Not only was she on vacation, she worked it off skiing" which is more physical exercise than the Oxycontinfather ever gets in his chair all day, but to me that just seems like common sense to most Americans.  You know, diet and exercise.

Well, minus the Americans with the irrational hatred towards the First Lady, at any rate.  Kinda weird, I don't remember this kind of thing happening four years ago.

Said it before, I'll say it again, not all Obama Derangement Syndrome is directed at the President.

Resistance Is Feudal

So let's talk about Feudalism and crony capitalism, and the state of Wisconsin.  Ed At Gin and Tacos:

The lion's share of attention regarding Scott Walker's legislative proposal has been paid to the effort to revoke Wisconsin public employees' collective bargaining rights, but the 144-page bill (more reliable link here) is a far more exhaustive and inclusive list of the fundamentals of Republican politics in the 21st Century. Not many people have the time to plow through the whole bill but those who do will be rewarded with plenty of gems like this:
16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state−owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).
If this isn't the best summary of the goals of modern conservatism, I don't know what is. It's like a highlight reel of all of the tomahawk dunks of neo-Gilded Age corporatism: privatization, no-bid contracts, deregulation, and naked cronyism. Extra bonus points for the explicit effort to legally redefine the term "public interest" as "whatever the energy industry lobbyists we appoint to these unelected bureaucratic positions say it is."

This is good old fashioned crony capitalism at its finest, folks.  And Scott Walker's budget proposal is full of stuff like this. For those of you scoring at home, Walker's budget proposal is for no-bid contracts for whatever he wants to sell the plants for to the energy lobby.

In case it isn't clear where the naked cronyism comes in, remember which large, politically active private interest loves buying up power plants and already has considerable interests in Wisconsin. Then consider their demonstrated eagerness to help Mr. Walker get elected and bus in carpetbaggers to have a sad little pro-Mubarak style "rally" in his honor. There are dots to be connected here, but doing so might not be in the public interest.

This is what feudalism really is, folks.  Scott Walker is eliminating democracy for the corporate interests he truly serves.  That's how it works.  Meanwhile, he's up there squawking about how very undemocratic it is to protest against him as a state employee because of the taxpayers, all the while he's planning to screw Wisconsin taxpayers out of money by selling power plants for a song.

Funny how that works.

Gold Rush, Part 19

Gold is back above $1,400 an ounce on tensions in North Africa and the Middle East, not to mention the Euro getting pounded.

Spot gold rose as high as $1,403.38 an ounce and was bid at $1,401.30 an ounce at 1240 GMT, against $1,388.58 late in New York on Friday. U.S. gold futures for April delivery rose $13.60 an ounce to $1,402.10, having peaked at $1,404.30.

Gold priced in euros hit its highest since January 18 at 1,025.85 euros an ounce, and sterling-priced gold its highest since January 14 at 865.33 pounds an ounce.

"There is no doubt that the recent move higher across the precious metals reflects a degree of safe-haven buying as a result of the unrest in the Middle East," said Daniel Major, an analyst at RBS Global Banking & Markets.

"If (buying) is not through the exchange-traded funds or a clear change in the net long on Comex, it is most likely to be through the physical market -- coin and small bar buying, and I potentially wouldn't rule out larger purchases by high net worth individuals on the back of the unrest we're seeing," he added.

On the other hand, unlike three months ago there really are signs of inflation, at least at the commodity level.  If gold tops $1,500 things could get really weird for a while.  The real precious metal action these days is in silver, hitting $33.50.

We'll see where this is going.

Epic Fail: Mommy Dearest

FEBRUARY 17--A Pennsylvania woman is facing a child endangerment charge after a photo emerged online showing her posing next to her child, who was duct-taped to a chair, with tape over her mouth.
While the image appeared last week on, the site blurred out the faces of the smiling woman and the bound child, leaving them virtually unidentifiable to law enforcement.  That is until suspect Caira Ferguson, 21, approached police herself. She claimed that the person who leaked the photo--a copy of which she actually gave to cops--was also purportedly guilty of stealing her identity.

Thank God this woman wasn't bright enough to  see the flaw in her "master" plan.  Which leads me to yet another interesting article, which links to a study that suggests criminals are most often not as smart as their legal fellow citizens. There is a great deal of information about how the less you know the more likely you are to think you know it all.  Thank you, Captain Obvious.

Egyptian Protest Starts As Facebook Event

Instructions for the protest were clearly disseminated on Facebook: Stand 5 feet apart, so as not to break Egyptian laws against public demonstration; be absolutely silent; no signs; wear black, as determined in an online vote; stand on the banks of the river or sea for one hour only, then walk away.

No one yet knew who had organized this protest against police brutality. There were five Facebook page administrators, tech-savvy activists who didn't really know each other. They had communicated almost exclusively over Google's e-mail system, which doesn't allow outsiders to trace communications back to a specific computer's IP address.

What they did is described in detail in the article on CNN, but the point is that  through safe and private communication, a peaceful protest was launched.  Facebook is one of few places with the scope to unite so many people, and it's such an unusual method that there was no way to squash it. 

The power of communication, free speech and passion is sometimes all you need. 

Dinner With Schmucks

I'm not really sure what's more frightening, the Creation Museum itself, the idea of date night at the Creation Museum, or the idea of the Creation Museum rejecting a same-sex couple at date night.  But Barefoot and Progressive's Joe Sonka hit one out of the park with this one.

A Date Night event at the Creation Museum in Petersburg was disrupted when a same-sex couple was denied entry.

While accounts differ, what is clear is that a man who planned to enter the Feb. 11 event with a male friend was told the two would not be allowed to enter. Additionally, they did not receive a refund of the $71.90 cost for the two tickets they had purchased online.

"On the website, there was no mention of sexual orientation," said Jonathan Meador, who was involved in the situation.

Mark Looy, chief communications officer for the Creation Museum, said it was clear from the promotional material that the event was for heterosexual couples only.

The event included dinner, a talk from museum founder Ken Ham about love and the Biblical view of marriage and musical performances.

"The message was one of Christian marriage, which the Bible teaches is between a man and a woman," Looy said.

Meador attended the event with a female guest and a third man, who told security guards he was waiting for his date.

By Meador's account, when the male friend informed security personnel that the friend was also male they were told they would not be allowed to enter.

Meador and his date were allowed in.

And then it got nuts from there.  The museum is saying one thing,  Joe Sonka is saying another, and if anything the CM guys got punked.  Hard.  I laughed for a good five minutes.

Date Night at the Creation Museum.  I can hardly breathe.

Shutdown Countdown, Part 9

Republicans would probably have a much easier time convincing the country that their goal is not to shut the government down if they had, as Chuck Schumer said yesterday, actually taken the option off the table a month ago when asked.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York criticized Republican demands to cut spending in a short-term spending resolution that would continue funding the government while negotiations persist on a longer-term plan.

Appearing Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," Schumer said compromise is necessary to avoid a government shutdown that will be bad for everyone.

"Here's the bottom line: we have said shutdown is off the table," Schumer said. "Speaker (John) Boehner, (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell, other Republican leaders have not taken it off the table when asked and there are lots of people on the hard right clamoring for a shutdown."  

Of course, they would also have a much easier time convincing the country that they don't want to shut down the government if, you know, they didn't want to actually shut down the government.  And passing a spending bill that cuts $61 billion from this year's budget and would cost thousands of jobs isn't exactly convincing people that the Republicans are even interested in compromise.  Wisely, Democrats are saying that they're ready to negotiate.

With 12 days left, the clock is ticking.  It seems pretty clear to me that there's a large percentage of House Republicans that are willing to turn John "Orange Julius" Boehner into Newt "Back of Air Force One" Gingrich.  I used to think that the GOP leadership would have gotten their house in order.  But the inmates are truly running this asylum now.

Zero To $3.5 Million In 17 Days

That's the kind of fundraising acceleration performance you can expect when you drive The All-New Reince Priebus.

The Republican National Committee raised $5.7 million in January, and new Chairman Reince Priebus said Sunday that $3.5 million of the total came in after his election Jan. 14.

“We owe a lot of our success to major donors who helped us reach 180 percent of our monthly major donor goal, and we were able to accomplish that in the last two weeks of January,” Priebus said in a statement. “I am thankful for the outpouring of support I’ve seen over the past month, from both long-time and first-time donors, but we have a lot of work to do.”

Priebus has been working to restore confidence among major donors and dig out from under the debt created during the 2010 election cycle. The RNC had $21.4 million in debt and only $2.1 million on hand by the end of the month, according to disclosure forms filed Sunday to the Federal Election Commission.

Because the RNC is still receiving bills from vendors, Priebus said he expects the committee’s debt to be more than $22 million, including $15 million in loans and more than $7 million to vendors.

The Democratic National Committee, meanwhile, raised $7.2 million in January and had $16.8 million in debt, including $15 million in loans taken out during the 2010 election cycle. It had $9.1 million on hand.

Granted, it's hard to do worse than Michael Steele did when your job consists of "Be Republican and have wealthy donors throw money at you without screwing things up" and as far as I can tell for the last month Priebus has completely stayed out of the news as far as "stupid controversies" go.  Already he's a success.

Meanwhile, it's interesting to note that in a post-Citizens United world, both the RNC and DNC are struggling badly with fundraising, are having to take out big loans, and have amassed some $35 million plus in debt between them.

Big donors don't have to deal with either anymore.  They can give directly to candidates now and can give as much as they want to in the final days of elections.  Both sides racked up quite a bit of debt during the 2008 elections too, but not quite as much as 2010, and 2008 was a Presidential election year to boot.

2012 is going to be pretty scary for both organizations, I think.


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