Thursday, November 19, 2009

US Verses the World in Wind Power

I saw an article recently about the success of wind power in Spain. Made me wonder how we compare to other countries in terms of what percentage of our electricity comes from wind, but a quick Google search didn't turn up much of an answer. So, as usual, I collected the data and made myself a chart. Click on it for a larger version:

That's us in red, way down in fifteenth place, getting about 1.3% of our electric power from wind. Given all our big talk about investing in green energy, it's pretty darn disappointing.

The raw data is from the US Energy Information Administration. The EIA is a goldmine of information, and their online tools make it easy to pull the data you want into Excel. Well worth poking around their website a bit if you're into energy issues.

Don't Get Married in Texas...

...because it looks like Texas accidentally outlawed all marriages in its rush to keep those awful gays out. The anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment that Texas passed in 2005 says in part:

"This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

See the little itty-bitty problem with that? Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Democrat running for Texas AG, just pointed out that the current AG, Republican Greg Abbott, really screwed up when he approved the amendment wording.

Love it! Conservatives can't even try to legalize discrimination without shooting themselves in the foot. And even the freepers are debating this mess.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Democratic Party of Wisconsin History Project - DPW Membership Data 1998 to 2008

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is a membership organization, and membership dues are its single largest source of income. Thus, membership levels are an important indication of the health and vitality of the party, both at the county and state levels. Unfortunately, membership data is one of those things that tends to get lost when physical records are moved or computer systems are updated, so I've created a spreadsheet containing DPW membership by county from 1998 to 2008 and uploaded it to Google Docs.

Historical membership data like this is invaluable for determining the factors that drive party membership, evaluating membership building efforts, and holding party leaders accountable for their success or failure in building the party. Yet many county parties do not have accurate historical records because standard DPW membership reports only cover the prior two years, and older records are often lost when county party leadership changes. It also appears that much of the DPW's membership info prior to 1998, which is when the current membership database was developed, is inaccessible or missing.

For these reasons I've created a permanent depository for this data. If anybody has DPW statewide or county membership info prior to 1998, even if it's incomplete or fragmentary, please contact me ( and I'll add it to the database. It would be great to be able to look back over the years and see the broad trends and issues that have affected the Democratic party in Wisconsin.


Here are some notes on the data. They're included at the bottom of the spreadsheet, but they're hard to read online:

1. I have conflicting data for Menominee County for 2006. One source gives a partial year count of 3, while other sources do not show Menominee County as an active party unit after 2005.

2. Although listed separately in 2005, Waupaca and Waushara Counties were combined that year with a joint membership of 150.

3. The DPW incorrectly lists the 2005 membership total as 9116. This is a result of counting Waupaca and Waushara counties twice: As separate county parties and as a combined party unit.

4. Prior to 2003 there are discrepancies between the county membership sums and the official DPW totals, particularly in 2002 and 2001, as shown below. I can't resolve these differences with the data available to me.

Year - County total - DPW total - Difference

2002 ----- 8352 ----- 8594 ----- 242
2001 ----- 8262 ----- 8389 ----- 127
2000 ----- 7489 ----- 7495 ----- 6
1999 ----- 7410 ----- 7414 ----- 4
1998 ----- 7356 ----- 7362 ----- 6
1997 ----- 6097

5. DPW membership for other years:

Year - Membership
1972 --- 18,410
1967 --- ~8000
1964 --- ~27,000

(According to The history of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, 1949-1999, the huge drop between 1964 and 1967 was due to President Johnson's support for the Vietnam War)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Federal Stimulus Dollars - Wisconsin Ranks Dead Last!

Wisconsin, which historically has received far less back from the US Government than we've paid in federal taxes, is getting screwed once again by the federal stimulus program. We rank dead last, by a large margin, in terms of how many stimulus dollars we've received per unemployed citizen. The national average is roughly $9200, but Wisconsin has received only about a third of that. The map below, from News With Numbers, tells the story.

This information deserves a lot of attention, both from the media and from our elected leaders. The only way to get our fair share is to make lots of noise, so please spread it around!

Map - Wisconsin Unemployment by County

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This is the first fruit of an experiment to fully automate ReformDem maps. It's based on the work of Nathan Yau, who uses Python scripts to do all the heavy lifting for the choropleth maps on his very impressive blog, FlowingData.

Previously I've used a spreadsheet to calculate RGB color values for each county, and a paint program to manually apply them to a blank map. The results are nice, but it takes about half a day to make one map. If I can get the rest of the bugs worked out I should be able to make maps in a matter of minutes.

One interesting thing to notice in the map above is that Menominee County has one of the highest unemployment rates in Wisconsin. Menominee County is basically the Menominee Indian Reservation, and, as you can see from Nathan's national unemployment map, counties with high Native American populations also tend to have very high unemployment, and are among the poorest areas in the US.