Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The True Potential Of Genetic Engineering

(Ben, This is for you!)
LAZARO CARDENAS, Mexico (AP) -- Soldiers trying to seize control of one Mexico's top drug-producing regions found the countryside teeming with a new hybrid marijuana plant that can be cultivated year-round and cannot be killed with pesticides.


"These plants have been genetically improved," he told a handful of journalists allowed to accompany soldiers on a daylong raid of some 70 marijuana fields. "Before we could cut the plant and destroy it, but this plant will come back to life unless it's taken out by the roots..."
The technology to add novel genes to plants is fairly well established, and it's not terribly expensive or difficult to set up a lab that can do so. Which raises some interesting questions about the future of the "war on drugs." If the genes for psychoactive drugs were to be transferred from the original plant species to other common plants, it would be nearly impossible to control the production of those drugs.

This would not only increase drug availability, it also would tend to undercut the drug rings that are dependent on tightly controlling drug production and transport in order to make their money. Another interesting implication is that the option for governments to legalize (and tax) drugs like marijuana may be closing. If virtually any plant in your yard could produce THC, the main psychoactive component of marijuana, you're probably not going to be as willing to go out and pay for it.

I should qualify this by saying that it takes several genes to make THC, and I suspect most other plant-based psychoactive drugs are similarly genetically complex. So it won't be trivial to transfer them to other plants. But it can and will be done eventually, and we would be foolish not to plan for that.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

First '08 Presidential Straw Poll of Wisconsin Progressives!

OK, this isn't exactly scientific, but it certainly is interesting. I'm one of the leaders of Democracy for Wisconsin, and we just conducted two straw polls on potential '08 Democratic Presidential candidates. One poll was taken at our last monthly meeting in Madison, and the other was an online poll for members of our Yahoo discussion group. Here are the results:

Tom Vilsack1123.7%
Bill Richardson0000%
Barack Obama841222.2%
John Kerry0000%
Mike Gravel0000%
Al Gore9132240.7%
John Edwards671324.1%
Christopher Dodd0000%
Hillary Clinton0000%
Wesley Clark0111.9%
Joe Biden0223.7%
Evan Bayh1011.9%
Write In (Barbara Boxer)1011.9%

I suspected that Gore would do well in our poll based on a very surprising (to me anyway) DailyKos straw poll from a couple of weeks ago where Gore just completely blew away the competition. When Gore wasn't included there was essentially a three way tie between Obama, Edwards, and Clark. (You may have to vote in the DailyKos polls to see the results). Clark did poorly in our poll, but Obama and Edwards were pretty close.

Democracy for Wisconsin grew out of the volunteer base of Howard Dean's presidential run, so that will give you an idea of our general political leanings, although the group has broadened considerably since '04. We're pretty representative of the progressive left, and our Yahoo group has members from all over the state, although Madison is overrepresented as you would expect.

The Iraq Trap

Politics, like chess, is a game where skillful maneuvering often determines the difference between success and failure. I believe that President Bush is setting a deadly trap for Democrats with his push for more troops in Iraq, and that Senator Reid is one of the few Dems who has recognized the danger and is responding appropriately.

The key to understanding the trap is to recognize that although Democrats can cut off funding for additional troops, Bush can still send them to Iraq anyway. As Commander-in-Chief he doesn't need Democratic permission to do so, nor does he need extra appropriations to get them there, only to supply and equip them once they arrive.

By simply sending more troops to Iraq, despite the objections of Democrats, Bush can change the entire debate from the wisdom of the war itself to the question of who does and doesn't support our troops. The American public may not support the war, but they will not stand for anything that's seen as hurting our troops. Bush can drive a wedge between Democrats in Congress, who will have no choice but to bow to his demands for extra war spending to prevent the inevitable shortages of supplies and equipment, and the antiwar left which will be furious at the Democratic Party for voting to enlarge the war.

In this sort of situation Bush wins no matter what we do. Not only does he get exactly what he wants in terms of the war, he also splits the Democratic Party right down the middle in the process. The only practical way out of this trap is to support Bush's call for more troops, but to make such support conditional on a hard deadline to withdraw from Iraq. A poison pill of sorts. That way Democrats can appeal to both the public's desire to support the troops, and to get the hell out of Iraq as quickly as possible.

Harry Reid appears to have spotted this trap and recognized what we must do to avoid it. He says that he'd go along with an increase in troops if it's part of a program to get out of Iraq "by this time next year." But Reid's position is opposed by many other Democrats, and he's being savaged by much of the progressive and antiwar left.

If we fight this battle on Bush's terms then he will win, no matter what we do. And if Republicans successfully portray Dems as failing to support our troops, or as being responsible for "losing" Iraq, then the political damage to the left will likely last for decades, as it did after Vietnam.

I'm an antiwar activist, and I don't want this war to continue for another second. But this is a lot bigger than the war in Iraq, and the outcome may well determine who will control American foreign policy for a generation. We must succeed, and supporting Reid's position, no matter how distasteful, is the only practical way to do so.

(I wrote this as a post on DailyKos. It's a condensed and focussed version of a previous post here on my blog.)

Monday, December 18, 2006

This is What Democracy Looks Like! (In Iraq)

Sorry I've been on a bit of an Iraq war kick lately. I was on the streets protesting this war before it started in '03, and I've been involved in many antiwar efforts since.

Anyway, this graph from a recent GAO report shows the monthly number of attacks by insurgents in Iraq from the start of the war up until last August. Even a Republican (well, most of them anyway) could tell that this is not exactly indicative of a successful war effort.

(Click on image to get a larger version)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

"Victory In Iraq"

Lots happening on the "Victory in Iraq" front. Fred Barnes has an article in the Weekly Standard claiming that Bush has decided to throw out the Iraq Study Group Report and instead use a plan (pdf) drawn up by the American Enterprise Institute that calls for drastically increased troop levels in Iraq for the foreseeable future, as well as massive reconstruction aid. Here's the AEI summary of their plan:
    • We must change our focus from training Iraqi soldiers to securing the Iraqi population and containing the rising violence. Securing the population has never been the primary mission of the U.S. military effort in Iraq, and now it must become the first priority.
    • We must send more American combat forces into Iraq and especially into Baghdad to support this operation. A surge of seven Army brigades and Marine regiments [an additional 30,000 combat troops] to support clear-and-hold operations starting in the Spring of 2007 is necessary, possible, and will be sufficient.
    • These forces, partnered with Iraqi units, will clear critical Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shi’a neighborhoods, primarily on the west side of the city.
    • After the neighborhoods have been cleared, U.S. soldiers and marines, again partnered with Iraqis, will remain behind to maintain security.
    • As security is established, reconstruction aid will help to reestablish normal life and, working through Iraqi officials, will strengthen Iraqi local government
The costs? Again, from the AEI summary:
    • The ground forces must accept longer tours for several years. National Guard units will have to accept increased deployments during this period.
    • Equipment shortages must be overcome by transferring equipment from non-deploying active duty, National Guard, and reserve units to those about to deploy. Military industry must be mobilized to provide replacement equipment sets urgently.
    • The president must request a dramatic increase in reconstruction aid for Iraq. Responsibility and accountability for reconstruction must be assigned to established agencies. The president must insist upon the completion of reconstruction projects. The president should also request a dramatic increase in CERP funds.
    • The president must request a substantial increase in ground forces end strength. This increase is vital to sustaining the morale of the combat forces by ensuring that relief is on the way. The president must issue a personal call for young Americans to volunteer to fight in the decisive conflict of this age.
Although not mentioned in the summary, the body of the report admits that American casualties will be much higher, at least in the short to medium term. As is usual for the right they never mention Iraqi casualties, military or civilian, as a cost.

And here's the money quote:
Victory in Iraq is still possible at an acceptable level of effort. We must adopt a new approach to the war and implement it quickly and decisively... Failure in Iraq today will require far greater sacrifices tomorrow in far more desperate circumstances. Committing to victory now will demonstrate America's strength to our friends and enemies around the world.
This would have been a credible and realistic plan three years ago. But Iraq is a disaster, and we no longer have the ability to send 30,000 extra combat troops to Iraq indefinitely. Nor do we have the equipment to supply and support them, and robbing what little is left from the Guard and Reserve isn't going to be enough.

Not that these problems are likely to stop Bush is he's made up his mind. The question is, what do we do about it. Democrats could cut off money for the deployment, but Bush would likely use our troops as pawns by sending them to Iraq anyway, and then blaming Democrats for the inevitable shortages of supplies and equipment. The American public may not support the war, but they will not stand for anything that's seen as hurting our troops. If Republicans successfully portray Dems as not supporting our troops, or having "lost" Iraq, then we're going to be in a much worse position in the long run. The political winners in this fight are going to determine the direction of American foreign policy for a generation.

It looks to me like Harry Reid has already spotted this trap and figured out how to avoid it. He says that he'd go along with an increase in troops if it's part of a program to get out of Iraq "by this time next year." Sort of telling Bush that we'll give him a blank check for one more year, but this is the last chance and if it doesn't work (and it won't) we're taking our ball and going home.

It's unfortunate that this war has to be prolonged another second, but in a constitutional pissing match Bush will win unless we play smart and tough. We can't afford to lose.

It's the American Way...

According to NPR, The Golden State Fence Company, which built parts of the border fence between San Diego and Mexico that keeps illegal aliens our of our country, was just fined five million bucks ... for hiring illegal aliens!

If you've followed this issue you know that prosecution of businesses for hiring illegals is extraordinarily rare. We keep rounding up Mexicans and throwing them back across the border like so much human garbage, but we never touch the fine upstanding American businessmen who are busy making money off all that cheap illegal labor. Seems kind of ass-backwards.

I've always believed that the only practical way to reduce illegal immigration, if that's what you really want to do, is to go after employers. Throw a few thousand rich white guys in jail and that would end the problem practically overnight. Not that our political system, controlled by many of those same rich white guys, would ever have the balls to do so.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Baiji Is Gone

This is rather sad. The Baiji, also known as the Chinese or Yangtze River Dolphin, is extinct. This is the first known species of cetacean (whales, dolphins and porpoises) to go extinct in recorded history, and its demise was directly caused by humans, and therefore completely avoidable.

The Baiji looked kind of like a small Bottlenose dolphin (think Flipper) with a longer snout. It lived in the Yangtze River system in China, which suffers from intense development pressure. I read somewhere that nearly fifteen percent of the world's population lives along the Yangtze. Dams and other changes to the natural river flow damaged the Baiji's habitat, overfishing reduced its food supplies, and poaching, pollution, and collisions with ships did the rest.

Losing any species is unfortunate, but losing a large and relatively intelligent mammal is particularly bad. There are three remaining species of river dolphins, and I hope that the extinction of the baiji will prompt more efforts to protect them.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Body Counts

There's a front-page DailyKos post about the apparent return of body counts as a metric of our success in Iraq. In a press conference a couple of days ago Bush said:
Our commanders report that the enemy has also suffered. Offensive operations by Iraqi and coalition forces against terrorists and insurgents and death squad leaders have yielded positive results. In the months of October, November, and the first week of December, we have killed or captured nearly 5,900 of the enemy.

I'm old enough to remember listening to the Vietnam war body count on the nightly TV news, and even as boy I knew enough to realize that if were really killing Viet Cong at that rate the war would have ended long before. So either we were killing civilians and counting them as enemy soldiers, or the government was just making shit up. Turns out both were true back then, and probably still are.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Another One Bites the Dust!

We won another one! Yesterday there was a special runoff election in Texas' 23rd Congressional District. The polls said that Republican incumbent Henry Bonilla was going to beat Democratic challenger Ciro Rodriguez by four or five points. Well, the polls were dead wrong, and Rodriguez won by nearly 9%!

To be fair, it looks like there was internal polling showing the race tilting in our favor, and the DCCC poured in money at the end while the NRCC didn't. But it's still a very nice early Christmas present for Democrats.

This odd runoff election was due to the redistricting mess started by Texas Republicans after they took over the state legislature in 2002. Earlier this year the US Supreme Court declared the 23rd Congressional District unconstitutional because it violated the Voting Rights Act, and the courts redrew it as a much more Democratic district. The courts also ordered a multiparty primary on November 7th, to be followed by a runoff on December 12th if no candidate received at least 50% in the primary.

Another Republican attempt to play dirty comes back to bite them.


If you're a Queen fan, here's an interesting tidbit. If you play the chorus to "Another One Bites the Dust" backwards it pretty clearly says "It's fun to smoke marijuana." This is an unintended case of backmasked vocals, but it's still kind of fun.

Milwaukee Median Family Income Only 56% of Madison's

This is kind of shocking. According to a press release from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance the median family income (which means that half of families earn more than this amount and half earn less) in Milwaukee is only $35,765, compared to $64,264 in Madison. Now, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance is essentially a bunch of corporate Republicans, so you have to make allowances for that, but if the numbers are anywhere close to the truth that's a mighty big difference. Here's a quote from a story about these findings in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Madison has some "built-in advantages," such as the major research center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and that it's the state capital, said Ryan Parsons, a research associate for the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

"But I think what Milwaukee needs to do if it wants to regain some of that balance that was lost in the last 50 years is more of a focus on education and retaining good college graduates," Parsons said. "One of the reasons Madison has such an edge over Milwaukee is having people who can fill high-tech science research jobs. A lot of that work force is missing from a city like Milwaukee."
Nice that they recognize that education is a big piece of this puzzle, but as always the question is what are we going to do about it, and who's going to pay for it. Seems to me that if our corporate citizens are so concerned about education they should be more than willing to raise Wisconsin business taxes, which are among the lowest in the nation, so that we can improve things.

Somehow I suspect that's not the message Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance is trying to get across.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Is This a Problem?

WASHINGTON, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Among the 1,000 people who work in the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, only 33 are Arabic speakers and only six speak the language fluently, according to the Iraq Study Group report released on Wednesday.


Reminds me of an old joke:

What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual.

What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual.

What do you call someone who speaks one language? An American!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Huffington Post Gets It Wrong!

You've probably all seen the Huffington Post article claiming that none of the incoming Republicans members of Congress have served in the military. It's a great little article, but unfortunately it's also wrong.

The Huffington Post article lists twelve incoming Republican freshmen, and indeed none of them have served. But there are actually thirteen. One is missing. He's Vern Buchanan (FL-13), who served six years in the Michigan Air National Guard...

FL-13 is the seat previously held by Katherine Harris that is still in dispute because there were so many undervotes in areas that voted Democratic. So there's a reasonable chance that there'll be a new election in that district, and that Buchanan will never take office. But unless and until that happens it is incorrect to claim that none of the new Republicans have served.

It's important to me that we on the left are honest and truthful, even if the results aren't always to our liking.


Just in case you're wondering, five freshmen Dems out of a class of 41 have served in the military:

Phil Hare (IL-17)
Tim Walz (MN-01)
Joseph A. Sestak Jr. (PA-07)
Patrick Murphy (PA-08)
Chris Carney (PA-10)

And that's a lot better ratio than the Republicans, even if you do count Buchanan...

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Iraq Study Group In Cartoons

Many political cartoons are visual editorials, and some of the most concise commentary on the Iraq Study Group is found in such cartoons. These first three are good examples. They present very differing views of the ISG, but all are common perspectives seen in the MSM. Click on any cartoon for a larger version.

The cartoon above is from Steve Bell at the Guardian (UK). I don't usually like Bell's artistic style, but this one is a classic! (Thanks Don!)

And here are a couple more that are kind of fun. I particularly like the final one. I believe it's a deliberate parody of a widely circulated picture that shows George Bush looking at an upside down children's book during a school visit. The picture was photoshopped, but it was a pretty good job and fooled a lot of people, aided of course by the general perception that Bush is a moron. Snopes has the details.

You can find most of these cartoons and a whole lot more at Daryl Cagle's Professional Cartoonists Index. It's a fantastic site, so check it out!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pictures and Graphics On My Blog

I've traditionally placed pictures and graphics at the beginning of my posts, but in the future I'm going to put them in the body of the post. It seems some blog aggregators, like Leftyblogs, choke on images and truncate the text of a post where they hit an image. So if there's an image at the top of the post all they capture from the RSS or Atom feed is the title. Not good.

Listen to John Nichols Speak at DFW-Madison

John Nichols gave one heck of a talk at the Madison Democracy for Wisconsin meeting Wednesday night. The talk (mp3 format) is here, and the Q&A that followed is here. His subject was the 2006 elections, but as usual with John he ranged far and wide, but always came back to why we won, and what we need to do to keep winning.

John's talk is about forty minutes long, and the Q&A is about the same. If you're interested in Wisconsin races, John gets into that at about twenty-four minutes into the talk. Both files are fairly large, about 14MB, but they should stream in most browsers.

John believes that groups like Democracy for Wisconsin are critical to future Democratic success. DFW grew out of Howard Dean's presidential campaign, and reflects both Dean's basic political values and his desire to reform and rebuild the Democratic Party. We have a very active chapter here in Madison, and we usually have great guest speakers at our meetings. We always meet at 7 PM on the first Wednesday of the month at the Madison Main Library downtown. Watch this page for upcoming events. If you want to see the sort of things we do, and the type of speakers we attract, check our past events page.

Chickenhawk Slapdown

I love to debate, and I'll take on almost anybody. Here's an exchange that I had with a reader who came to my blog from a link on Boots and Sabers. He objected to a recent post in which I called Jonah Goldberg a chickenhawk, so we had it out in the comments.

I've pulled out the best parts here. There was also a third person commenting, which is why there are a few non sequiturs, but you can click on the link above to see the entire exchange. Notice that I never called Chris a chickenhawk, and I wouldn't do so because I respect his military service. But that didn't stop me from going after his defense of Goldberg and his own position on the war in Iraq.


Chris said...
Since it seems you believe you have to have military service before you are allowed to have an opinion on wars or military matters

May I be so bold to ask you the question I ask every Dem who throws out the Chickenhawk charge.

Have you served in the military? I couldn't find it anywhere here, not that I looked all that hard. But I need to know since you used the line "a right-wing chickenhawk who has never served in the military and has no clue what war is like"

I am just trying to find out what makes you more knowledgeable than Mr Goldberg?


Russell Wallace said...
Nope, I haven't served in the military, Chris, but what makes me more knowledgeable than Mr. Goldberg is that I was right about the war in Iraq, and he (and presumably you) were wrong. Kind of simple, really.

Just so we're on the same wavelength, here's the definition of chickenhawk from Wikipedia:
"Chickenhawk is an epithet used in United States politics to criticize a politician, bureaucrat, or commentator who votes for war, supports war, commands a war, or develops war policy, but has not personally served in the military. Generally, it is not a label applied to essentially "dovish" leaders who support defensive wars, "humanitarian interventions," or UN operations."
If you feel I've used the term incorrectly in regard to Mr. Goldberg please feel free to point out my error.

Chris said...
First just for the record I have never read Free Republic in my life.

I am sorry I have to throw the bullshit flag on any lib who has no military service but then tries to use that same lack of service to deny Conservative the right to voice their opinion on a War or Military matters

The whole Chickenhawk concept is lame that if you support Military action you must enlist and fight or you will be labeled a fraud by the left.

Wars are fought by a very small percentage of Americas population even in World War 2 a war where were fighting for our survival as a nation only 12% of the population wore a military uniform And they had to use a Military draft to get a large number of them.

The Chickenhawk Charge is just an attempt to shout down conservative supporters of the war I was just recently called a chickenhawk not because I didn't serve because I have but because I have not reenlisted to fight in this war.

You have no more insight into the Military or what war is like than Jonah Goldberg. But until you are willing to put on a military uniform yourself you should lay off the calling others who have no service cowards or chickenhawk.

They have just as much right to their views on the War as you do.

Whats next if you were in the Military but not in a combat unit will you be a Chickenhawk since you didn't actually fight? Do you understand how small the actual percentage of the population that actually sees combat? Where do you draw the line with who gets an opinion.

As I stated before the Chickenhawk charges are nothing more then the typical Liberal tactic of shouting down those they disagree with, you know that tactic it is all the rage on Liberal Universities lately The only free speech you on the left believe in is your own.

Sorry that go so long winded.

well Tim was I well behaved enough for you?

Russell Wallace said...
Hi Chris, I take it you agree that I applied the term chickenhawk correctly to Mr. Goldberg. Glad we got that settled. And I never said you were a freeper, only that I find them entertaining.

You need to realize that it's not just the military service angle that has resulted in the widespread acceptance and use of the term chickenhawk. It's the broader idea that conservatives as a group are unwilling to make any of the sacrifices necessary to support the war you all so desperately wanted.

Dead soldiers? Hide the caskets and for God's sake don't go to a funeral if you're the President. Injured and sick vets? Deny them services and cut their benefits. Three hundred billion dollars? Cut taxes and borrow every penny so the war won't become unpopular.

Notice a pattern?

If you support a war you have to be willing to pay the price. While that price is indeed different for all of us, as you've stated, it must still be paid by everyone.

This is a matter of fundamental moral and fiscal responsibility, and conservatives have utterly failed in this solemn obligation to our country.

So excuse me if I have a hard time taking conservatives seriously when they whine about being called chickenhawks. Actions speak louder than words.

Chris said...
nice try Russ but please dont put words in my mouth I do not agree with you on Jonah being a chickenhawk

but I will stop there since I know it is a waste of time

You and Tim enjoy having stabbed American in the back for a second time. Revile in our defeat you sure worked hard enough for it, you should enjoy the results of all your hard work.

Russell Wallace said...
Actually Chris, it's you and your fellow conservatives who have destroyed our international credibility, run our military into the ground, and buried us under a mountain of debt. You're the ones who have stabbed America in the back.

You still can't admit you were wrong, so instead of trying to actually deal with the mess you made, you spend all your time trying to blame the left for your own failures.

You started the war in Iraq, and you ran it exactly the way you wanted to. It's a fucking disaster, and you have no one to blame but yourselves.

So start acting like a grownup and take some responsibility for the consequences of your decisions.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Big Brother Is Listening...

"A recent court ruling in a case against the Genovese crime family revealed that the FBI has the ability from a remote location to activate a cell phone and turn its microphone into a listening device that transmits to an FBI listening post, a method known as a "roving bug." Experts say the only way to defeat it is to remove the cell phone battery." - ABC News
Whenever I run into a conservative who isn't worried about the erosion of our civil liberties under George Bush, I ask them if they're still going to be as comfortable when it's President Hillary deciding who gets wiretapped without a warrant and thrown in jail without a trial.

Sure makes them think hard.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Walrus Man Is Gone!

John Bolton has resigned! The most prominent symbol of the Bush administration's cockiness and contempt for the international community has been taken down, thanks to the Democratic victory in November!

Bolton, who received a recess appointment from Bush in 2005 to be the US Representative to the United Nations, had to be confirmed by the Senate to continue in that position, and there was no way in hell that was going to happen. But whatever you think about Bolton you have to admit he was always entertaining. We're gonna miss you, John!

In memory of Bolton I present I Am the Walrus from The Beatles. It seems a very fitting requiem because this song from their psychedelic period makes about as much sense as the Bush administration's foreign policy.

(lyrics from

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly.
I'm crying.

Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come.
Corporation tee-shirt, stupid bloody Tuesday.
Man, you been a naughty boy, you let your face grow long.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen, I am the walrus,
coo coo coochoo

Mister City P'liceman sitting
Pretty little p'licemen in a row.
See how they fly like Lucy in the Sky, see how they run.
I'm crying. I'm cry------------ing,
I'm crying. I'm cry------------ing.

Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog's eye.
Crabalocker fishwife, pornographic priestess,
Boy, you been a naughty girl you let your Knickers down.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen, I am the walrus,
kookoo kachoo

Sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun.
If the sun don't come, you get a tan
From standing in the English rain.
I am the eggmen, they are the eggmen, I am the walrus,
kookoo kachoo kookoo kachoo

Expert texpert choking smokers,
Don't you think the joker laughs at you? (ho ho ho, he, he he, ha, ha, ha)
See how they smile like pigs in a sty, see how they snied.
I'm crying.

Semolina pilchard, climbing up the Eiffel Tower.
Element'ry penguin singing Hari Krishna.
Man, you should have seen them Kicking Edgar Allan Poe.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen, I am the walrus,
kookoo kachoo kookoo kachoo kookoo kachoo kookoo kachoo kookoo kachoo
(rhythmical speaking along with juba's).
Juba juba juba, juba, juba, juba, juba, juba, juba juba. Juba juba.....

Monday, December 04, 2006

I Love Wisconsin Winters...

I Found this on Boots and Sabers, and it was just too funny not to bring over to our side of the political world. Jed and Owen may be wild and crazy conservatives, but they have to live through Wisconsin winters just like we do. Be sure to check out their blog to see how the other side thinks.

Jonah Goldberg: We're Losing In Iraq Because We Haven't Killed Enough Civilians

This is one reason I think neoconservatives are disgusting. Jonah Goldberg, a right-wing chickenhawk who has never served in the military and has no clue what war is like, has a column in yesterday's State Journal in which he says that a big reason we're losing in Iraq is that we haven't killed enough Iraqi civilians. And in the very same sentence he says that the other part of the problem is that we haven't been willing to sacrifice enough American lives and treasure:

But it now seems that the light footprint hasn't made enough of an impression on Iraqi soil or Iraqi society. By trying to inflict as little collateral damage as possible, by trying to fight a war on the cheap, we inadvertently emboldened our enemies by what appeared to be a lack of will.

If he wasn't such a coward Jonah would be in Iraq doing his bit for this bloody war he wanted so badly instead of writing columns calling for others to make sacrifices he isn't willing to make himself.

Typical conservative prick.

(Sorry, but the link to Goldberg's article doesn't go to the State Journal because I couldn't find it on their website even though it was in the print version)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Nekkid at the Airport

If you liked the idea of X-ray glasses when you were a kid then you'll love this! X-ray backscatter machines can see right through clothes, as the image above rather graphically illustrates. And they're coming soon to an airport near you!

The lovely model in the picture above is Susan Hallowell, the director of the Transportation Security Administration's security laboratory. I guess she figured that showing us how she looks without her clothes would make everyone else feel better about getting the same treatment when they fly. Not sure it's working...

X-ray backscatter can detect objects that would otherwise be missed in a regular security check using a metal detector. For example, there are ceramic knives that are better than the best steel knives, and it's certainly possible to make a gun using ceramics that wouldn't contain any metal. Most explosives are also nonmetallic.

Of course the big problem with all this, in addition to the privacy issues, is that we're still fighting the last war. No terrorist worth his salt would now try to hijack a plane with a knife or even a gun. If they did they'd be quite literally torn to pieces by the other passengers. You stand a much better chance of surviving a knife wound, or even a gunshot, than you do of hitting a building at 500 miles an hour. And it's still far easier to put a bomb in your luggage than to carry it on. Until that loophole is fixed, better X-ray machines for passengers are a questionable use of resources.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

GM To Introduce Plug-In Hybrid SUV!

OK, so this doesn't have much to do with politics, but it fits with my interests in technology and environmental issues:

Next year General Motors will introduce plug-in hybrid version of the Saturn Vue sport-utility vehicle. A plug-in hybrid lets you charge its batteries by plugging it into a regular electrical outlet overnight. For short trips, like city commuting, a plug-in hybrid uses little or no gas. It gives you all the environmental and cost advantages of a true electric car for shorter trips, while still having a gas engine for longer trips.

Most American made hybrids are crap, and I don't know if the Saturn Vue will be any better. The Japanese have nearly a decade's head start on the technology, so the real importance of GM's move is that it puts pressure on Toyota and Honda to make plug-in versions of their own hybrids. Both manufacturers have been resisting calls to do so, claiming there's no market for plug-in hybrids.

Toyota could produce plug-in hybrids quickly and with minimal R&D and production costs if it wanted to. The design of current Toyota hybrids lends itself to this because most of the necessary pieces are already there. You can actually covert a Toyota Prius into a plug-in hybrid yourself, but it's technically demanding. There are also after-market conversion kits and services, but they're not cheap.

Unfortunately the technology Honda uses it its hybrids can't be easily modified to work as a plug-in, so it'll take Honda a lot longer to get into this market.

We're starting to think about replacing our trusty old Honda Civic, but we're going to wait until we can get a good plug-in hybrid. I suggest you do the same when it comes time to get a new car.

The best place to learn more about plug-in hybrids is CalCars, which is "a group of entrepreneurs, environmentalists, engineers and other citizens working to spur adoption of efficient, non-polluting automotive technologies." It's a good organization doing important work.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

These eight rules (and my title) are from a post by Chris Bowers at They're very similar to some ideas I've been working on, so I thought I'd throw them out for discussion. There's a lot of wisdom here. My own political and philosophical journey parallels Chris', and we've reached many of the same conclusions:
1. The Democratic Party is the primary vessel of the progressive coalition. It is impossible to enact real change without an electoral apparatus within your movement. In a two-party system, it is thus necessary to adopt one of the two parties as the electoral vessel of your coalition.

2. Within the coalition, intra-party democracy must always be adhered to. All party nominees must be determined by an elective primary open to all registered members of the party in the relevant district. The winner of the primary must always be supported by all members of the party apparatus, and all rank and file members should vote for the nominee (especially those who voted in the primary).

3. Party elections should be fair and open to all members of the party, and no one should ever be forced or muscled off of a ballot for a party office or nomination for public office.

4. There are no litmus tests to join the coalition. No one has to read or sign off on any document stating support for a particular policy. If someone wants to join, registering as a Democrat should be the only requirement.

5. Under no circumstances should any member of the party apparatus support any member of any opposing coalition, (in other words, any other political party).

6. Outside of issues relating to corruption, Democrats must never criticize each other in the same manner that Republicans criticize Democrats.

7. No Democrat should ever publicly call any Democrat unelectable, or publicly rank candidates based on perceived electability.

8. Don't expect the party to change on it's own. Be prepared and willing to change it yourself.

I fully agree with number one. From a historical and practical standpoint third parties are not a viable route to political power. They serve an important and necessary role in our democracy, but they can't succeed electorally except in very limited circumstances. If you want to make a real difference in politics you need to be involved in a major party.

Party elections and primaries should be open, as per rules two and three, but I have some real reservations about the idea that all party members must support the party's nominee under all circumstances, as stated in rule five. You don't give up your brain or your morals when you join a political party.

Political or philosophical litmus tests are usually used simply to preserve the power of the establishment, and can strangle a party, so I like rule four.

Rules six and seven forbid criticism of your own candidates, and although that may make sense from a strictly pragmatic standpoint, I think Chris draws this a bit too broadly in a couple of ways. First, he needs to distinguish criticism intended to be kept within the party from that intended for public consumption. For example, in 2004 I severely criticized John Kerry to other Democrats, but I also put on my smiley face and did hundreds of doors for him. My reservations about Kerry were far less important than my desire to get rid of Bush.

There are also instances where a party's candidate may damage the party's other candidates or even the party itself. I'm not going to keep my mouth shut in cases like that.

Rule number eight. If you know me, you know that this is one I preach all the time. It bugs the hell out of me when people sit around and complain that the Democratic Party is evil or useless, yet refuse to get involved and work to change it. But these same people claim to believe in democracy and the power of the people to change the world.

The Democratic Party (at least in Wisconsin) is a pure democracy with a ten dollar admission fee. Anybody can become a member, and every member gets to vote and can run for party office. I'm the poster child for this; an outside reformer/agitator who ran against an establishment candidate to be a vice chair in my county party ... and won convincingly. It can be done. All it takes are good people willing to do it.

So, what do you think?

When Are Tax Cuts Not Really Tax Cuts?

Republicans love to talk about Bush's tax cuts, and how they've jump started the economy. Besides the obvious point that the economy is only really improving for those at the top, they overlook one very critical fact. Bush's tax cuts aren't really tax cuts at all, because Republicans have borrowed all the money to pay for them. At best they can be described as tax deferments, and actually they're deferred tax increases because all that borrowed money will have to be paid back with interest.

Classical Republican economics.

(Based on an idea from this post at Lawyers, Guns and Money)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The End of the Democratic Agenda?

Joe Lieberman recently hired Marshall Wittman, a high-powered and well connected aid with strong ties to John McCain, leading to speculation that Lieberman may be considering running as McCain's VP on a fusion ticket. Hard to tell how this might play out in '08, but everyone seems to be overlooking the fact that that in the shorter term this could determine the success or failure of the entire Democratic agenda.

Control of the Senate depends on Joe Lieberman. He's refused to rule out changing parties and becoming a Republican, and doing so would take control of the Senate away from the Democrats. But Lieberman knows that Democrats are likely to pick up additional Senate seats in '08, regardless of overall political trends, because Republicans will be defending 21 seats, many of them freshman, verses only 12 for Democrats. If Lieberman defected, or just stirred up a lot of trouble, he'd pay the price in two years.

But if Lieberman is thinking of being McCain's VP all bets are off. The constraints are gone, or at least vastly different. My guess is that he would remain a Dem, because a fusion ticket needs members from both main parties, but that he would constantly try to screw up the Democratic agenda in order to prove his "independence".

And there won't be a damn thing Democrats can do about it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Who the Heck Is Steny Hoyer?

(Hint: He's not the one with the green head)

About a month ago one of my contacts who has the proverbial "Friends In High Places" in Washington DC told me that Steny Hoyer was going to be the next majority leader if Democrats took control of the House of Representatives. Despite all the fuss in the media and on the blogs about the race between Hoyer and John Murtha, the insiders knew all along what the outcome was going to be, and the results of the leadership election, 149-86 in Hoyer's favor, shows that it was never even a contest.

So who is Steny Hoyer?

He's a moderate on most issues, but hawkish on foreign policy. A nice guy, liked by most of his colleagues, but also a consummate political hack. A man who puts process and relationships ahead of values and ideology. A man of great ambition and questionable loyalty. As majority leader he could be a huge asset to speaker Pelosi, or he could sabotage her and undercut the Democratic agenda. Hard to say which way he'll go.

The best info I've seen on Hoyer is a Washington Monthly profile article that was published ... about a month ago:
If Hoyer, 67, appears to have an extra spring in his step lately, there’s a good reason. As the number-two Democrat in the House, he’ll likely become majority leader if Democrats win control this November.

Since entering Congress in 1981, Hoyer has forged an identity as a centrist, particularly on foreign-policy issues, that has helped make him the leadership’s unofficial liaison to the Blue Dog Democrats—a group of the caucus’s more conservative members—but has at times created tension with the more liberal Pelosi. On the day last December that she publicly backed a call from Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) for withdrawal from Iraq, Hoyer released a statement declaring that such a policy “could lead to disaster.” And earlier that year, he angered the leader by supporting a bill being pushed by the credit-card industry designed to make it harder for people to declare bankruptcy.
Not so good. But here's where Hoyer could really help:
This conservatism has not won him friends among liberal bloggers—who argue that Democrats should have the courage of their convictions on basic issues of war and peace and economic fairness. But if Democrats do indeed retake power next year, keeping the party united will be crucial to many of the tasks that they’ll confront—from working to fix disastrous Republican legislation to conducting the vigorous oversight of the Bush administration that has been all but non-existent over the last six years. Because many of the House’s more conservative Democrats—not to mention its Republicans—simply trust Hoyer more than they do Pelosi, he stands to play a crucial role in holding the often fractious party together, and in working with the GOP, where possible, to pass legislation and hold the president accountable.
On the other hand...
It’s less Hoyer’s centrism that may cause problems for Democrats, and more what might be called his establishmentarianism. [...] In some ways, a leader with a healthy respect for Congress’s traditional procedures would be a breath of fresh air after the last decade, in which Reps Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and Tom DeLay (R-Texas) rode roughshod over almost a century of established legislative norms. But the flip side of Hoyer’s obsession with process and old-fashioned relationship building is a reluctance to think strategically about changing the ways that Washington operates—even when doing so would benefit Democrats. Over the last year and a half, Hoyer—a protégé of Tony Coelho, the former California congressman who revolutionized Democratic fundraising in the 1980s—has led an aggressive effort to raise money from K Street lobbyists. Even more important, he has seemed unwilling to fundamentally rethink the unhealthy relationship between lobbyists and legislators that currently drives our political system. If Democrats are not only to regain power, but to maintain it and govern in a fairer and more responsive fashion, they’ll need to unite behind root-and-branch reform. But the evidence suggests that Hoyer lacks the political vision, and the will, to do so.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Our Liberal Media At Work

From Media Matters:

Democrats take control of both the US House and Senate, and this is the cover Time Magazine runs (Click on the images for slightly larger versions):

In 1994 Republicans took control of both the US House and Senate, and this is the Time cover from back then:

(The donkey with his eyeballs popping out as the elephant squashes him is a really nice touch, don't you think.)

Nothing like fair and balanced.

Who and Where?

Read this passage and see if you can figure out where it took place and who the people involved are. I've changed a few details that would give it away immediately:
"They really tried to break us down. The first night they put the temperature so high that a woman--one of the other inmates--had a seizure. The second night they made it freezing and took away many of our blankets. We didn't have access to the cots so we had to sleep on a concrete floor. When we would finally fall asleep the guards would come and yell `Are you --------? Are you so and so?' One of the [prisoners] had a fractured wrist from [getting arrested]. She had a cast on and when she would fall asleep the guard would kick the cast to wake her up. She was in a lot of pain."
Abu Ghraib? Gitmo? Obviously the prisoners must be terror suspects or threats to national security to get treated that way.

Here's a clue: these prisoners were considered so dangerous that their bail was set at nearly a million dollars each. Keep in mind that rape and murder suspects usually have bail set around a hundred thousand dollars.

Figured it out yet? This took place a couple of days ago. The place is Houston Texas. And those dangerous prisoners? Janitors who made the mistake of staging a nonviolent protest to demand better pay and benefits in one of the most Republican cities in the US. Here's the entire statement from Denise Solís, a SEIU organizer who participated in the protest and was arrested with the rest of the group:
"I'm from Texas and I helped organize the union here in Houston. For methe janitors' struggle is very personal. Coming back to Texas is likecoming home. We wanted to peacefully occupy the intersection downtownto make a statement to the city: `Houston can't go on like this, withso many living in poverty.'

We sat down in the intersection and the horses came immediately. It was really violent. They arrested us, and when we got to jail, we were pretty beat up. Not all of us got the medical attention we needed. The worst was a protester named Julia, who is severely diabetic. We kept telling the guards about her condition but they only gave her a piece of candy. During roll call, she started to complain about light-headedness. Finally she just collapsed unconscious on the floor. It was like she just dropped dead. The guard saw it but just kept going through the roll. Susan ran over there and took her pulse while the other inmates were yelling for help, saying we need to call somebody. The medical team strolled over, taking their own sweet time. She was unconscious for like 4 or 5 minutes.

They really tried to break us down. The first night they put the temperature so high that a woman--one of the other inmates--had a seizure. The second night they made it freezing and took away many of our blankets. We didn't have access to the cots so we had to sleep on a concrete floor. When we would finally fall asleep the guards would come and yell `Are you Anna Denise Solís? Are you so and so?' One of the protesters had a fractured wrist from the horses. She had a cast on and when she would fall asleep the guard would kick the cast to wake her up. She was in a lot of pain.

The guards would tell us: `This is what you get for protesting.' One of them said, `Who gives a shit about janitors making 5 dollars an hour? Lots of people make that much.' The other inmates--there were a lot of prostitutes in there--said that they had never seen the jail this bad. The guards told them: `We're trying to teach the protesters a lesson.' Nobody was getting out of jail because the processing was so slow. They would tell the prostitutes that everything is the protesters' fault. They were trying to turn everybody against each other.

I felt like I was in some Third World jail, not in America. One of the guards called us `whores' and if we talked back, we didn't get any lunch. We didn't even have the basic necessities. It felt like a police state, like marshal law, nobody had rights. Some of us had been arrested in other cities, and it was never this bad before.

They tried to break us down, to dehumanize us. But we were stronger. We made friends with the other inmates and we organized them. The prostitutes felt a lot of solidarity with us. All of us together told stories, and played games like telephone and charades. We even did stand-up comedy monologues about what was happening to us and we all laughed. One woman--a woman of deep faith--gave a sermon that was both funny and deadly serious. We showed them that we weren't afraid. We did it all together. Now we're ready to fight on for basic American rights like the freedom of speech and the right to protest."
Welcome to George Bush's America.

More information at the SEIU Houston Justice for Janitors website.

UPDATE 11/20/06: Looks like the janitors and SEIU won! From a SEIU email:
What a difference a day makes! We have reached a tentative agreement for a 3 year contract for janitors.

Wages: $1.15 increase the first year, $1.00 the second year, and $.50 the third year.

Health Care: The third year is when single payer health insurance will kick in and janitors will pay $20 per month into that plan. It is a plan designed and managed by SEIU and we are hoping to get all of our members nationwide on this plan.

Vacation: Two weeks paid vacation per year

Holidays: 6 paid Holidays

Hours: 1st year everyone must work a minimum of 4 hours a day, 2nd year everyone must work a minimum of 5 hours per day, 3rd year everyone must work a minimum of 6 hours per day.

Protection: We have a grievance procedure in place. We have protection for all of the striking workers to get their jobs back with no discipline, We have a disciplinary proceedure in place so that no one can be illegally fired for no reason any more.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Marriage Amendment Side Effects May Include...

Republicans thought of the marriage amendment as a miracle drug that would pull their electoral asses out of the fire. Unfortunately (for them) the side effect of increased swing voter turnout often proved deadly in this strongly Democratic year.

But there's another interesting side effect that I haven't seen discussed anywhere. The marriage amendment is going to increase state taxes.


By passing the amendment Wisconsin effectively reduced the potential labor pool for state jobs. Gays, lesbians, and unmarried couples will tend to go elsewhere, either into the private sector, which can still offer domestic partner benefits, or out of state.

When you cut supply, prices go up. That's basic economics, and it's just as true for labor as it is for material goods. The effect will be gradual and hard to measure, but it will happen. And the money the state potentially saves by not offering domestic partner benefits will not make up for the higher salaries necessary to attract and retain workers.

So the next time you run into someone who supported the amendment, be sure to thank them for voting to raise their own taxes.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Righty 'Toons

In case you haven't noticed, I like editorial cartoons. In a single glance a good cartoon can convey complex ideas that would take paragraphs to explain. And cartoons are a valuable tool to reach people who are otherwise very unlikely to engage in politics.

Usually I present cartoons with a left or centrist point of view, but there are a number of cartoonists, a few of them quite good, on the right side of the political spectrum. Their work represents a very different point of view, and I thought it would be interesting to show some examples because they give us a window into the conservative mind.

This set of cartoons is about the elections. The bitterness is obvious, but they express true and deep fears about the new direction America is going.

For more check out these sites: (great site, not just righty cartoons)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Jessica McBride Likes Me!!!

This is a little weird.

Jessica McBride, the wicked witch of the Midwest, wrote a rather complimentary piece about my analysis of the AG race. Of course she used it as a chance to take some cheap shots at Kathleen Falk. And to give props to her husband, Republican primary AG candidate Paul Bucher. But overall it was ... pretty nice!

I guess I'm just not being mean enough to Republicans. I promise I'll try harder!

Seriously, although I'm about as partisan as they come, the whole point of the analysis I do is to find the truth, and the truth doesn't take sides.

My goal is to understand why we win or lose so that we can do a better job in future elections. I also want to get this information out to the progressive base because the better informed we are the more powerful we become. And I want to dispel some of the unjustifiable opinions that are floating around, because they tend to lead us into intellectual dead ends that damage the progressive movement.

And finally, I hope that this my work will put some pressure on the MSM to do a better job of election analysis down the road. Because the job they're doing now, as a general rule, sucks.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Friday, November 10, 2006

Why Kathleen Falk REALLY Lost

There's been a lot of speculation, much of it wrong, about why Kathleen Falk lost the Attorney General's race to JB Van Hollen. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." So join me to look at the facts in this race, and learn, to the extent possible, the truth about why this was the only statewide race we lost in Wisconsin this election cycle.

This was a Democratic wave election, and every statewide Democrat seemed to benefit except for Kathleen Falk. She significantly underperformed Jim Doyle, and that's what cost her the race. Doyle received 7.3% more votes than Falk did. Had she been able to perform just one percentage point better she would have won the election. Here are the four main theories I've seen given to explain why Falk wasn't able to pick up those votes:

1. The "Blame Madison First" crowd, which includes a significant faction within the Democratic Party, claims that Falk lost because liberal Dane County (Madison) voters were mad she beat Lautenschlager in the primary, and withheld their votes to get even. This article in the Capital Times makes a slightly broader version of this claim: "Although Falk tried to reach out to Lautenschlager's supporters after the primary, Tuesday's results indicated that many of them did not come back to her."

2. A favorite among progressive bloggers is the belief that Falk lost because she didn't have a strong and consistent message, while Van Hollen did. To quote Folkbum, "The campaigns that won here in Wisconsin on Tuesday were the ones with the clear, unambiguous, crystalized messages... JB Van Hollen ran on a single clear message ... I want to fight crime! I'll get the terrorists! I'll clear out the illegal immigrants!" In Effect made a similar point.

3. The far left favors the "Doyle is so corrupt that voters wanted an AG who will keep an eye on him" theory. See this post from The Nate Report for example. Perhaps this will give away my own ideological leanings, but my belief that Falk wouldn't be able to effectively police Doyle was one of the biggest reasons why I supported Lautenschlager in the primary.

4. Kathleen Falk and her supporters complain that Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce simply bought the race with several million dollars of attack ads. This is a rather ironic claim since, as I showed here and here, the only reason Falk was even in this race was because she bought her primary victory over Peg Lautenschlager.

So let's look at the data and sort out these somewhat conflicting claims. You can click on any of the maps to get larger versions.

This map shows Falk's underperformance relative to Doyle. As you can see, there's a strong and fairly clear pattern, and this pattern is the clue we need to solve the mystery. But what can we determine from this?

It's certainly clear from the map above that Falk didn't lose because of Dane County, which doesn't stand out as being significantly worse than the rest of the state. In fact, Falk underperformed similarly in both Dane County and Milwaukee County despite losing the primary in Dane County by 20% and winning it in Milwaukee County by 13%. And the pair of maps below shows that bad feelings from the primary race had little to do with the general election. Falk's underperformance is on the left, and the primary election results are on the right. Very different patterns, as you can see.

So we can safely lay to rest the idea that Falk's loss had anything much to do with her nasty primary battle against Peg Lautenschlager. The Democratic base was indeed mad at Falk, Doyle, and the Dem Party establishment for deposing Lautenschlager in the primary, but they still turned out and voted for Falk in the general election.

The next thing to check is if Falk's underperformance compared to Doyle matches with her overall electoral performance. Maybe some voters just didn't vote for the downticket races. But the map below shows it's more complicated that that.

Once again, the map on the left shows Falk's underperformance compared to Doyle, but this time the map on the right shows the AG general election results. They're closer, but still not really a match. I'm not going to bore you with the details, but I also compared Falk's underperformance to the results of the Governor's and the '04 Presidential race, and neither matched very well.

Which finally brings me to the meat of the issue. The thing that correlated most closely with the pattern of Falk's underperformance is Wisconsin TV media markets. This final (I promise!) map again shows Falk's underperformance, but also includes the media markets:

The markets are:
1. Duluth/Superior
2. Wausau/Rhinelander
3. Green Bay/Appleton
4. Minneapolis/St. Paul
5. La Crosse/Eau Claire
6. Madison
7. Milwaukee

Look at, #4 on the map, the Minneapolis/St. Paul market. Three out of the four counties where Falk actually overperformed Doyle are in this market. What's unusual about this market is that Wisconsin campaigns rarely advertise here because it's very expensive and reaches few Wisconsin voters. So it provides us a "pristine" model of what happens when voters don't see TV ads. The fact that Falk did so well there shows that in the absence of TV ads she was quite capable of matching Doyle almost vote for vote. Notice that this also tends to weigh strongly against the theory that voters supported Van Hollen because they wanted an AG to keep an eye on Doyle.

But voters in all the other media markets were inundated with attack ads against Falk from both Van Hollen and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC). Negative ads are designed to suppress votes, and that's exactly what they did.

But there's still one more piece of the puzzle that I need your help to solve. Check out the La Crosse/Eau Claire market, #5 on the map. Falk's performance wasn't great there, but it was still significantly better than in any of the other remaining markets. Had Falk done this well across the state she would have won. My guess is that either Van Hollen or WMC didn't advertise in that market. If you live in that area please leave a comment and let me know what ads you saw and on which stations.

But what about the message theory? I just don't have enough information to make a good judgment on this one, although it's clearly secondary to the attack ads. But my gut feeling is that Van Hollen gained some additional advantage from his strong and consistent message, and this contributed to his significant overperformance compared to GOP Gubernatorial candidate Mark Green.

There are some anomalies in the maps that I can't explain, such as Shawano and Sauk Counties. If you have any idea what was different about these counties, or any of the others that didn't fit the general pattern, please let me know in the comments.

The results of this election don't bode well for Kathleen Falk's political future. Rightly or wrongly she'll get the blame for costing us the AG's race in what should have been a Democratic sweep. But perhaps even more important is that WMC has shown they don't like Falk, and will go to the mat to keep her out of statewide office. To have any chance of success at running for AG or Governor in the future Falk would probably have to make a deal with WMC, which would mean selling out on her progressive history and values.

The involvement of WMC in this race is one of the reasons I've always felt, and still do, that Peg Lautenschlager would have been a stronger candidate than Falk in the general election. I may be wrong, but I think WMC would have had a much harder time demonizing Lautenschlager, if they had chosen to get involved at all. But this is just speculation.

I've shown pretty conclusively that Falk's loss wasn't due to her divisive primary battle or to voters wanting an AG to keep an eye on Doyle. Turns out the insiders are probably pretty much correct when they say that WMC bought the election. Which seems almost like cosmic justice given that Falk used exactly the same technique to win the primary.

Live by the sword, die by the sword...

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Doyle Vs. Green

(Click on map for larger image)

Nothing terribly surprising to me here other than Doyle's overall strength. But there are a couple of things I'm going to look at when I get a chance. I've mapped out the '02 results, and I'll correlate them with the '06 results to see how individual counties are trending. Also, I want to look at the marriage amendment and try to tease out the truth about how it impacted the Governor's race. Everybody's speculating, but nobody seems to have any hard data to back it up...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Most Homophobic County in Wisconsin

Yesterday Wisconsin overwhelmingly voted for a broadly drawn state constitutional amendment that bans both gay marriage and anything "substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals", meaning civil unions and possibly even domestic partner benefits. The results were 1,259,489 (59.4%) in favor of the amendment, and 860,996 (40.6%) opposed.

(Click on map for larger version)

Red is support for the marriage amendment, blue is opposition. And the single most homophobic county in Wisconsin is ... Florence County! That's right, Florence County, in northeast Wisconsin, wins the prize as the very worst of the worst, a true bastion of hate and intolerance. Although, as you can see from the map, the competition was mighty tough, with a half-dozen other counties close behind.

Only Dane County voted to oppose the amendment, although La Crosse County was evenly split, and Iowa, Eau Claire, Portage, and Menominee Counties weren't too bad. Sadly, Milwaukee County supported the amendment 55% to 45%.

The CNN exit poll had some interesting results. The cross-tabs show that support for the amendment was most strongly correlated with church attendance, ideology, and support for George Bush. Democrats opposed the amendment 65% to 35%, and Republicans supported it 84% to 16%. Independents split right down the middle.

The results in Milwaukee County are explained at least in part by the fact that support depends on race, with blacks significantly more likely to favor of the amendment than whites, although, strangely enough, CNN has deleted that data from the poll. It was there last night, but now it's gone.

The lone bright spot in all this is that support depended strongly on age ranging from 40% for people under 30 to 67% among people 59 and older. Which means that in twenty years or so we might actually have a shot at overturning this disaster...

Lots of Good WI Election Analysis Coming Soon...

It takes me a while to crunch the numbers, but I'm working on posts on the marriage amendment, the governor's and AG's races, and the senate and assembly. Check back in just a bit...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday 'Toons - Special Election Edition!

Some make you laugh. Some make you cry. I hope they all make you think.


I was a Dean supporter in '04, and when he lost the primary I worked hard for Kerry. But I never really liked Kerry all that much, although I think he would have been a quite capable President. Of course the bar is set pretty low in that regard right now.

So I'm not terribly upset that Kerry shot himself in the foot with his latest verbal gaff. On the other hand, we do need to keep this in perspective...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

WI Attorney General's Race is Tight!

*** UPDATED 11/2/06 ***
Here's a look at the poll numbers in the Wisconsin Attorney General's race:

10/16WPR/St Norbert44%38%
10/23WI Realtors Assoc35%42%
10/30UW Badger Poll44%*39%*


*Likely voters

(If you know of other polls please post them in the comments)

There are still a lot of undecideds in this race, but unlike in the WI Governor's race (see my analysis here) they aren't likely to break really strongly for either candidate. Still, Van Hollen will probably pick up more undecideds than Falk, and this could give him a net gain of a few percent.

Given that, and the historical Republican GOTV advantage, this is a really tight race with no clear leader. Every single vote is going to count. If you haven't yet volunteered to help with GOTV efforts do it NOW! Contact the Democratic Party of Wisconsin at (608) 255-5172.

WI Governor's Race - Doyle in Trouble?

The latest polls in the Wisconsin Governors race are all over the map, from showing the race tied (Zogby, 10/27) to Doyle up by 14% (University of Wisconsin, 10/26). A better and more realistic measure is the average of several polls, and does exactly that for almost every race they track. As shown in the chart below, the average of the last five polls shows Doyle ahead by 4%: 48% to 44% with 8% undecided (third party supporters are listed as undecided in this breakdown).

While a 4% lead for Doyle is probably pretty close to the truth, this may not be enough for Doyle to win on November 7th due to two factors. The first is that undecideds tend to break two-thirds for the challenger, which would give Green a net 3% boost. Even though some of the undecideds are third party supporters this doesn't help Doyle because most of those are probably Green Party voters.

The other factor is GOTV. Republicans have a better GOTV machine in Wisconsin (and nationally) than Democrats. This typically gives Republican candidates a one to two percent boost on election day.

Put those together and Doyle could be in trouble. On the other hand, Democrats may be more motivated to vote this year than usual, which might help offset Republican GOTV efforts. On the other other hand, the gay marriage and death penalty ballot questions were put there specifically to pull out right-wing voters

So it looks like this election will come down to the wire, and every vote is going to count. If you haven't volunteered to help with GOTV efforts you need to do so. Contact the Democratic Party of Wisconsin at (608) 255-5172. Do it NOW!

Monday, October 30, 2006

"We've Never Been Stay the Course..."

They think we're stupid. The really scary thing is that they might just be right.

IMHO this video from thesilentpatriot is the best version out there. Short and to the point, it would be a great TV ad. Far superior to the DLC's version.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tell us how you REALLY feel, Bill...

"The Democratic Party can burn in hell for all I care. I think the Democratic Party is the enemy of democracy in America, and that no good can come realistically from within the Democratic Party." - Bill Lueders, Isthmus News Editor (Isthmus is a respected Madison weekly paper) Quote from the Capital Times, 10/23/06.

Judging by his comments you might think Bill Lueders is a Limbaugh lovin' Bush backin' rabid right-wing loony. But you'd be wrong. Quite the opposite.

Sadly, I think Bill is going to be waiting a mighty long time for the great third party messiah to arise and carry him off to the ideological promised land. But at least his faith in political miracles gives him a convenient excuse not to try to reform the Democratic party, and to disparage those who do.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006

Turnout vs. Age: Who's gonna vote on November 7th?

I recently needed to know US voter turnout rates verses age for an analysis I did of Governor Doyle's popularity. A quick web search turned up answers that were all over the map, with few people citing their sources or giving historical information. So I decided to do the research myself and make it available to my many loyal readers. I'm also going to post it on Daily Kos, just to get a little more exposure...

Follow me down for some useful and interesting information on trends in US voter turnout verses age over the last thirty years.

(Click on chart for larger version)

The chart above uses information from the US Census Bureau as published in its Statistical Abstracts for 1988, 1992, and 2006. It covers only presidential years, although I may also do midterms in the future. It would be interesting to see if midterms follow the same age patterns as presidential years.

A couple of things are obvious from the data. The older you are the more likely you are to vote, and this is a very strong effect. The 65+ crowd is 1.6 times more likely to vote than those 24 or under. And while overall voter turnout started trending upward in 2000, young voters have increased their turnout more than any other group, by nearly 50% in the 18-20 year old group.

The table below combines the voting rates above with population data also from the 2006 Statistical Abstract to calculate what percentage of 2004 voters were represented by each age group. As you can see, older groups are the dominant voters in the US, with a solid majority of votes coming from those 45 and over, and about 3/4 of the total votes from people over 35.

(Click on table for larger version)

Caveats: While the Statical Abstracts are great information sources, you have to keep in mind that they are the result of surveys, and have the same flaws as all surveys. For example, the 2006 Statistical Abstract reports a 4% larger voter turnout in 2004 than there actually was. Also, I ran into obvious typographical errors in the Statistical Abstracts when I was doing my research, so it's wise to cross check data whenever possible.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

What's the Purpose of the Democratic Party?

This isn't a rhetorical question. There are many differing viewpoints, and the answer has some pretty profound implications. I've come to believe that the lack of consensus on the purpose of the Democratic Party is one of the largest barriers that prevents us from having a unified and successful long-term approach to politics. Follow along while explore I this issue and (hopefully) present an answer you'll find intriguing.

I'm a vice-chair in my county Democratic Party here in Wisconsin. We've been trying to update our mission statement, and it's been a lot more difficult than I anticipated. The problem is that nobody agrees on what our purpose is. The "traditionalists" are focussed on elections, and argue that our job is solely to elect more Democrats. The "progressive newbies" (I tend towards this category) want us to focus more on values and issues as a way to build the party. The "sages" believe that both elections and issues are important, and want some sort of middle ground, but don't seem to be able to define what it should be.

(If any of my friends on the board are reading this, I know I'm simplifying a complex discussion. Please forgive me)

We don't agree on our purpose, so we can't agree on our priorities. Sound familiar? This debate plays out in one form or another in almost every discussion about the Democratic Party. We pretty much all want the same basic things, but our differing backgrounds and expectations keep us from reaching the common ground we need to succeed.

Just in case you don't realize this, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is different from most state parties in that it's a membership organization. Although membership is open to anyone, you have to pay yearly dues to be a Party member. But once you've joined you get to vote directly for your county Party leaders, and you can become a delegate to the state convention to vote for state Party leaders.

I've thought about this problem from many different angles, and for me it always comes back to the reasons that most people join the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in the first place. It usually isn't to elect Democratic candidates. If that's their priority they just get involved with individual campaigns. And it usually isn't issues, because there are issue groups that are far more active and involved in any given issue than the Party could ever be.

It almost always comes down to the big picture. The common values that we share as Democrats. And the belief that through joining the Party, they can advance those values. So with that in mind here's my definition of the purpose of the Democratic Party:

The purpose of the Democratic party is to turn the views and values of its members into public policy.

This simple definition encompasses both elections and issues without elevating one above the other. It's provides a framework to weigh all Party activities against our long-term goals as expressed by our members in our platform and resolutions. And it provides the flexibility to evolve and change tactics as necessary to reach those goals.

So chew on that, and let me know what you think...