Monday, May 10, 2010

Spencer Black Retiring

I'm honored to say that Spencer Black has been my representative in the Assembly ever since we moved here twelve years ago. Spencer is a great guy, a true progressive, and a shining example of a truly dedicated and honest public servant. He's going to be be missed.

About a year ago I asked Spencer if he was going to run for Fred Risser's Senate seat should it open up. Spencer told me no, that he wanted to have more time to spend with his family, and that he was probably going to retire after this current session. I kept it quiet, partly because I didn't know if he wanted it public, but also because I was secretly hoping that he might change his mind. As good as Spencer has been in the Assembly, I think he would have been even better in the Senate! But it was not to be...

Best wishes to Spencer and his family. And if you do happen to read this, Spencer, please don't forget about the Democratic Party. We'd love to see you every now and then!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

MASSIVE Drop in Attendance at Madison Tea Party Compared to Last Year!

Actual photographic count shows that the 2010 Madison Tax Day Tea Party rally was only ONE-THIRD as big as 2009!

Despite the perfect weather, attendance at this year's Madison Tea Party was FAR lower than last year. Based on an actual photographic count, there were only 2,600 people at the event earlier today, compared to 8,000 in 2009. One-third the size of last year! This is a massive drop, and it indicates that both the size and the influence of the the Wisconsin Tea Party are rapidly declining.

Below is a picture showing the actual crowd count from today's Tea Party rally, with a red dot placed on every visible head. Click on it for a much larger image. It was taken at 12:15 PM, about 45 minutes into the rally, when the crowd was at its peak. There are 1,972 people visible in the picture, but the actual attendance was higher because some folks are obscured by other people or objects in front of them, and the picture cuts off the edge of the crowd, particularly on the left side. Perhaps somewhat generously I estimate that I missed one person for every two or three I counted, meaning that the actual crowd size was 2,600 to 3,000. I have similar pictures taken from other high vantage points around the event, and they are all consistent with this estimate. Public claims by Americans for Prosperity and other event sponsors that attendance was 12,000 are simply ludicrous, if not outright lies.

Much more to come from the Madison Tea Party, including some great pictures and audio. Stay tuned!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Tea Party Express Sponsor ResistNet Actually GOP Front Group

Why am I not surprised? I had never heard of ResistNet before I attended the Tea Party Express stop in Madison a few days ago, so I decided to check it out. Turns out that ResistNet was created, and is presumably controlled, by a GOP public relations firm called Shirley & Banister Public Affairs. SourceWatch has more details.

ResistNet's motto is "Home of the Patriotic Resistance." Seems like "Home of the Republican PR Operatives" would be a lot more accurate. Or maybe "Home of the uninformed teabaggers who are too dumb to figure out that they're being used."

To be fair, I should point out that the left also has its share of astroturf front groups, although they're not nearly as pervasive as those on the right. The Democratic and Republican Parties pretty much work from the same political playbook, but in this arena Republicans are much more successful. In part this is because Republicans and business interests simply have far more resources to throw at such efforts, but also because it's easier to manipulate the grassroots right, which is generally both less educated and less politically informed than the activist left.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Report and More Pictures from the Tea Party Express Stop in Madison

UPDATE: Somebody leaked a document to Politico which shows that the Tea Party Express is a pure astroturf operation created and run by Republican operatives through an outfit called Russo Marsh & Rogers. More and more it's looking like the entire Tea Party phenomena is just a very sophisticated PR campaign intended to help the Republican Party.

(Click any picture to enlarge)

Reform Dem attended the recent Tea Party Express stop in Madison so you wouldn't have to make small talk with folks like the women in the picture above! Despite the presence of a few crazies it was an interesting and entertaining experience. What it wasn't, despite the repeated refrain of the speakers, is grassroot. The event was very professionally run and produced. The very essence of astroturf, although the crowd seemed quite willing to ignore the evidence right in front of their faces. Ah, to be a teabagger and believe whatever I'm told...

Speaking of truth, it doesn't seem to be much of a requirement at Tea Party events. Some of the whoppers I heard from the speakers were truly amazing. Peter Cobb, the Wisconsin director of, kicked the evening off with, among other things, the most bizarre global warming diatribe I've ever heard. He claimed, as you would expect, that global warming is a hoax, then that carbon dioxide is actually a good thing because it's natural and helps plants grow, therefore environmentalists should support increased CO2 because they're opposed to erosion, which more plants would help to reduce, and if we get rid of the CO2 there will be too much oxygen anyway, so the real problem is that we need better science to find the truth. Whew! Maybe the real problems is that folks like Cobb shouldn't make shit up about subjects in which they're obviously clueless.

But the crowd loved it!

It's pretty obvious that the folks behind the Tea Party groups are worried about the reputation teabaggers have earned as nasty racist thugs. The theme that the Tea Party is a respectable nonviolent mainstream movement was hammered constantly. Did you know that it's actually impossible for a teabagger to be violent because the Tea Party is a human rights organization? I didn't either, but that's what they said, so it must be true.

Mark Neumann was up next, and I have to admit that for a wacky conservative he sure gives a good political speech. If he gets his campaign act together Neumann could potentially beat Scott Walker in the primary. Barrett is my guy, of course, but between Neumann and Walker I'd take the far more moderate Walker in a heartbeat. Following Neumann was Sarah Palin impersonator Rebecca Kleefisch, who is running for Lt. Governor. I have a previous post up about Kleefisch's rather despicable dog-whistle homophobia at the event, including audio of her entire speech, so I won't go into it here.

Then, finally, the main act arrived. The three big buses of the Tea Party Express!

The Tea Party Express is a conservative vaudeville act, a bunch of entertainers who speak, sing, and even dance a little, all while spouting Tea Party propaganda. Sounds corny, but they're quite talented and a lot of fun to watch, even if you don't agree with their extremist politics. The organizers obviously went to great lengths to make sure the Tea Party Express performers and staff are as diverse as possible. Gotta prove to the media that teabaggers aren't racists. Probably a third of the folks that got off those buses were black or brown, while the only person I saw in the crowd who wasn't pasty white was a Hmong guy trying to earn a little extra cash selling buttons.

The performer that the crowd seemed to like best was Polatik, a Mexican-American rapper. He really was quite good, despite some problems syncing with his background vocals. Wish I had audio of him to post, but I didn't have my recorder on. I cut out just after Polatik finished. It was getting late and I was thoroughly chilled by then. Here are some more pictures from the event, I apologize for not having more crowd and general shots, but most of the time it was just too dark to shoot without a flash. Enjoy!

Happy teabaggers! I blurred the face of the person in the center because he was clearly a minor.

One side...

And the other. Wonder if he knows that Rand was actually an atheist who practiced free love and once wrote "What are your masses but mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it?"

There's a popular misconception, which I once shared, that many teabaggers are moderates or disaffected Dems. Not true! In reality they're almost all extremely conservative, although many are so far to the right of the Republican Party that they label themselves as independents. Pollster has a good article examining this issue.

I certainly agree with the first part of this bumper sticker, and I understand the point of the second, but it sure is a xenophobic way to express it.

The Tea Party can complain all the want about being misrepresented as violent extremists, but as long as they condone signs such as this, and make claims, as one of the speakers at the event actually did, that "Obama is a domestic enemy," then they fully deserve that condemnation.

And why are all these folks so radicalized and disconnected from truth and reality?

Of course.

Dog-whistle Homophobia from GOP Lt. Governor Candidate Rebecca Kleefisch

Tea Party events seem to bring out the worst in some people, and GOP Lt. Governor candidate Rebecca Kleefisch is no exception. She used yesterday's Tea Party Express stop in Madison as an opportunity to serve up a little dog-whistle homophobia to a receptive crowd. Many folks probably missed her double entendre, but the social conservatives in the audience certainly didn't. Using sex education as an example of unwarranted government involvement in personal matters, Kleefisch said that she wanted her children to learn about the birds and the bees from her, not from "Jim Doyle and Mark Pocan."

Kleefisch will undoubtedly claim that she's simply using Mark Pocan as an example of a big bad Madison liberal, and that Pocan's sexual orientation has absolutely nothing to do with it. But given Kleefisch's background, and her knowledge of Wisconsin politics, she knew exactly how the social conservatives in the audience would interpret her words: Democrats have put gays in charge of sex ed so that they can corrupt your children. Be afraid, be very afraid.

UPDATE: I've uploaded an MP3 file of Kleefisch at the 3/6/10 Tea Party Express event. The comments I referred to above occur about three minutes into her speech. It's worth listening just to hear hear how well Kleefisch imitates Sarah Palin. Quite deliberate no doubt, and the teabaggers love it!

Oh, the Irony...

A picture from the Tea Party Express stop in Madison earlier this evening. You'd think they'd notice something like this.

More pictures and info from the Madison event later. Some pretty shocking stuff.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Terrence Wall: Teabagger?

Will Terrence Wall show up at the Tea Party Express Tour stop in Madison tonight? Wall has donated the use of one of his properties for the event, and it would be a perfect opportunity for him to start cozying up to the radical right.

Although being closely associated with an increasingly strident and violent fringe group like the Tea Party could hurt Wall in the general election against Russ Feingold, he has a much more immediate problem: Tommy Thompson. Current polling shows that if Thompson enters the race he'll crush Wall in the primary. How can Wall even the playing field? Perhaps by going the populist Tea Party route while painting Thompson as a corrupt Washington insider.

Will he or won't he? It will be very interesting to see if Wall takes the plunge tonight. At the very least, the fact that he's providing a free venue for the event shows that he's keeping all his teabagging options open.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Reform Passes House! World Doesn't End!

The problem with predicting the apocalypse should your political opponents pass a bill you don't like is that if they pass it, and if the world doesn't end, you look rather foolish.

The health care reform bill is a centrist measure which concedes almost nothing to progressives. Yet Republicans bet the farm on painting it a radical socialist attack on "The best health care system in the world", a high-risk gamble they now appear all but certain to lose. November is suddenly looking a better for Democrats.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Climate Change - Is Wisconsin Warming?

Is it getting warmer in Wisconsin? Given all the recent controversy over climate change, I thought it would be interesting to look at historical Wisconsin temperature data to see if there are any discernible trends. Although the continental US is warming significantly slower than most other temperate regions, we have good temperature records going back more than a hundred years, so if it is getting warmer in Wisconsin we should be able to see it.

And we can. The chart below shows the statewide average annual temperature since 1895, overlaid with a linear trend line. The increase is only about a degree, but it's quite clear.

(Click for larger chart)

Now, folks who don't believe in global warming will probably look at the chart above and say it doesn't prove anything. That the relatively small increase it shows could be due to the "heat island" effect, bad temperature stations, the sun, or perhaps even astrology, as the rather conservative South Dakota legislature seems to believe. But, with the exception of astrology, we have enough data to examine those possibilities. Climate models predict that human-caused temperature increases in Wisconsin should be seen mostly in the winter, but biased temperature measurements or changes in solar output should affect all four seasons more or less equally. As you can see from the next chart, almost all the warming in Wisconsin has indeed occurred during the winter, exactly as one would expect from anthropomorphic global warming.

(Click for larger chart)

While a one-degree increase in average yearly Wisconsin temperature over a hundred years isn't much, the three-degree winter increase, which has occurred mostly in the past thirty years, is a significant and noticeable change!

So, is this the final nail in the coffin of Wisconsin global warming deniers? Unfortunately, no. Their beliefs are based on ideology, not science or data. No amount of evidence will change their minds because they simply ignore or distort anything that doesn't fit their preconceived notions.

The data I used in the charts came from the Wisconsin State Climatology Office. It's a great resource for looking at local climate issues and concerns.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Conservative Economics Coming Home to Roost

The American dream is dying. Every year we have to work longer and harder for less and less. Except, of course, for the very wealthy. If you're one of the fortunate few at the peak of our socio-economic system, not only has your income increased significantly in recent years, but your federal tax rate has dropped almost in half. The charts below say it all:

This might be defensible if our economy was doing well, or, to use a Republican analogy, if a rising tide was indeed lifting all boats. Unfortunately, as the rich have become ever richer, the rest of us have not. Average income has been stagnant, despite significant increases in worker productivity.

These trends are the inevitable result of conservative policies designed to benefit business and the wealthy, and to weaken organized labor. Policies that began during the Reagan administration and reached fruition under George W. Bush. Policies that, unfortunately, have been aided and abetted by far too many "moderate" Democrats.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Bankers Love Them Some Teabaggers!

Teabaggers may not like bankers, but bankers sure do love teabaggers. Just look at the donations that poured in at the last minute to Scott Brown's campaign for US Senate in Massachusetts. Almost half a million bucks from the financial industry in less than a week! The big money folks think they can let the teabaggers do all the work, and then just buy out their candidates if it looks like they're going to win. Unfortunately, teabaggers, at least judging by the ones I've talked to, aren't smart enough to figure out that they're being taken advantage of.

While it'll be kind of fun watching teabaggers getting used and abused, the resulting damage will be considerable. The left and the populist right share a common concern about the abuse of corporate power, even if we prefer somewhat different solutions. Unfortunately, teabaggers are uniquely vulnerable to corporate manipulation, both because of their anti-intellectualism and because of their conservative/libertarian ideology. We've already seen several cases of the Republican establishment running roughshod over various teabag groups, with varying degrees of success, but the corporate boys are a hell of a lot better at this game than party operatives. The teabaggers aren't even going to know what hit them.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A New Approach for Democrats

Great humor from Liam Sullivan.

And the best comment from YouTube:
Democrats with Balls?  You're kidding right?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Supreme Court Opens Door to Foreign Influence in US Elections

In today's 5-4 Supreme Court decision on corporate election spending, conservatives once again showed that they're willing to sacrifice American sovereignty at the alter of corporate profits.

This risk is clearly noted in Justice Stevens' dissenting opinion:
"In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant. Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters."
Nonresidents are quite properly forbidden from spending money to influence US elections, but this decision opens the door to unlimited spending by foreign individuals, groups, and even governments. All they have to do is set up an American corporation or nonprofit, and use it to funnel as much money as they want into "independent expenditures". Perfectly legal. China doesn't have to bother with diplomacy anymore, now it can get what it wants by simply buying our elections.

It's the American way.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Pity the Poor Widdle Teabaggers...

Seems a few teabaggers are all bent out of shape because some cartoonist made fun of them. Mark Fiore does Flash-based animated cartoons from a liberal perspective, and last November he published the cartoon below, poking fun at teabaggers as dummies who are unwilling, or unable, to deal with complex policy debates.

Not exactly subtle, but it's clever and contains more than a grain of truth. Classic Fiore.

All was well until Bill O'Reilly noticed Fiore's cartoon. Then the wailing began. The left is trying to "...marginaliz[e] opposing views by any means necessary." Tea party members actually want polite and intelligent policy discussions, but those big bad leftist bullies, knowing they can't win a rational debate, actually sink to the level of ...political humor!

It might be easier to take the complaints from teabaggers seriously if O'Reilly's minions of hate weren't flooding Fiore with death threats, and if there weren't quite so many signs containing words like nazi, communist, socialist, and anti-Christ, at tea party events. It is rather difficult to contemplate having a thoughtful policy discussion with the guy in the picture below, who I met at the Madison tea party this past spring. Teabaggers may not like the scorn Fiore has heaped on them, but they've certainly worked extremely hard to earn it.

Don't want to be treated like an idiot? Try not acting like one.

See more pictures of considerate well-informed teabaggers at my post on the '09 Madison, Wisconsin tax-day tea party.