Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Looks like the economy keeps improving in "tax hell" Wisconsin, as the recent state unemployment figures show that the state added a seasonally-adjusted 16,000+ jobs last month, and 71 of 72 Wisconsin counties had drops in their unemployment rate in April. Wisconsin now sits at 8.5% unemployment, which ain't great, but is also 1.4% below the national rate. No doubt, things are looking up, despite what GOP operatives in media and politics ar trying to tell you, and it kind of puts the lie to the argument that higher taxes will be a job-killer. Amazing how hard work and an educated work force counteracts much of that.

And the state wisely responded to an originally misleading headline in the Journal-Sentinel that indicted health care reform would raise state costs between 2014 and 2018. As the state wisely followed up, this reform will mean the feds will take much of the state's coverage, and save hundreds of millions of dollars compared to how it would have worked under the status quo (and comparing to the status quo should always be the first test when you make a decision, the failure of the status quo is why health care needed and still needs to be changed). This is an extremely helpful development, as total expenses for the state's Department of Health Services had to be increased by $2.3 billion in this most recent budget, and is now responsible for more general funds than the UW System . And even with those increases, the state still had to cut $600 million from Medicaid, with more reductions possible.

Wisconsin has been almost punished by being responsible to tis citizens, and while it means we have low levels of poverty, it also means that other states have been able to slide by with low insured rates (I'm looking at you, Confederacy)and make all of us pay for their laziness in proving security to its citizens. This is unsustainable, and it's about time the feds cover all of its states, instead of disproportionately helping the slackers. It may also allow our state to maintain its commitments to public education, roads, and other necessities, which are the things that make this place so great. Of course if we had national health care, this state burden on health assistance would largely go away. Hmmmm...

The spill continues in the Gulf, and Obama is heading dangerously to "Bush in Katrina" type paralysis. He isn't there, especially since this was a private-sector screw-up that had no forewarning (Katrina was neither), but in trusting a corporation to "fix it and do the right thing", oil keeps washing up onshore and the disaster continues with no major action from the White House. This is an unacceptable result, and since it goes beyond a simple loss of oil revenues for BP (with many other economic sectors being affected), it is well past time for the feds to jump in, tell BP "You fucked up, we're fixing it," and put all resources into it. You cannot trust corporations to do anything out of altruism, and between the TARP, health care reform, and this, Obama has not been willing to punish those who have hurt this nation. It's not like they're going to help him back, so these crooks need to be told to fuck off, NOW.

Oh, and Obama may also want to get rid of the Bush appointees who, instead of doing their jobs regulating oil operations in the Gulf, were watching porn, doing meth, and backscratching their way into lucrative oil-company jobs. The damage from that administration contuinues, and I worry that it might keep this recovery from being stronger in 2010 than it should. More than I ever, I believe that November 2, 2004 was a much bigger tragedy to this country than 9/11, 2001, because it allowed THOSE PEOPLE to make the appointments. The meltdowns that have happened in the years since are no accident, especially when you hire cronies, porn addicts and meth heads for big-time, serious jobs. Republican "governance" at its finest.

Friday, May 21, 2010

May I have Summer?

Taking a relaxing Friday night with a smashing Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold and getting ready to watch the Brewers get back on the losing track in the Twin Cities. A few thoughts.

1. It's quite sad to see the media try to present this case that the Democrats are in big danger of getting swept out in November. Last Tuesday was the most recent example, when I saw Howard Fineman and Mrs. Alan Greenspan try to say that somehow the Dems winning another special election was a sign of voter discontent with their policies. I understand that close elections drive up ratings, but what the primaries this week showed again is that people are tired of inside baseball types from Washington, and DEMAND RESULTS. Does anyone seriously think that the Republicans are the ones that'll solve these problems, especially when they seem to lack any solution other than "cut and whine." The real lesson the be learned from recent weeks is that if you're straight with the public, have solutions that have some base in reality, and don't sell out to insiders and corporations, you will have better chances of success in November.

2. And people have been given plenty of reason to vote against corporates. The most recent of this is BP's cover-up and minimization of this disaster in the Gulf. It is a criminal act of willing negligence, and Uncle Sam needs to step in and say "You obviously don't want to do what it takes, so we will." Trusting corporations to do the right thing leads to a lot of disappointment, and Obama and co. need to demand more, or finish the job themselves (even if they didn't cause it, and aren't on the inside of it). The only way you change corporate acts is to change the incentives- like higher fines, tougher enforcement of regs, and higher cap. gains. Take away the bonuses from hoarding, cheating and gambling, and the bad behavior magically will go away.

3. Noticed that one of Scott Walker's staffers quit after being caught posting blogger comments on the taxpayer dime . Not that any of this should surprise people, since the Walker campaign and his "grassroots support" is clearly nothing more than AstroTurf from WMC and Sykes and co. But the sloppiness of the move is stunning. You can have the computer you're posting from tracked anywhere, and especially by a public agency. I respect my employer enough not to post on this from my work, as they don't deserve to get lumped in with my rantings. I understand that Winkie was able to pull a nice paycheck for doing nothing but spreading propaganda, but at least have a modicom of common sense when you do such a sleazy job.

4. Great Taste of the Midwest tix are in hand, and less than 3 months away. Gotta get to work on my previews....maybe with the 85-90 degree weather we got coming in the next week.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Who to boycott?

Seems like there have been quite a few candidates for me to try to avoid, given how poorly a lot of corporate and political citizens have been acting. Here's a short list.

1. Johnsonville Brats- "But Jake, Johnsonville's as Wisconsin as they come, and you do like to grill brats." Both true, but Johnsonville had their CEOs serve on the Board of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce when WMC went out of their way to promote incompetent corporatist shills Michael Gableman and Annette Ziegler to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. They chose their profits over decency, so I'll choose a Wisconsin brat company that understands why this state is such a great place. (although it does seem that Johnsonville is no longer on WMC's inner circle , so I may have to consider hanging out with them again.)

2. Harley-Davidson- Not that I'd ever get a motorcycle, but they're just the latest example of a company choosing shareholder value over manufacturing a quality product with appropriately-compensated workers. And you can now add Rockwell Automotion to that list, as apparently killer profits just aren't good enough for them.

Of course, it's no shock that other companies are trying to follow the cue of Mercury Marine, and bilk the state and local communities out of millions of dollars of giveaways just so they can keep their business around for a few more years (and who cares if they break their promises to governments and unions as long as the check clears, eh Mercury?) . The extra taxes that have to be made up by residents (you know, many of whom WORK AT YOUR PLANT)? Meh, as long as the stockholders are happy, right? These folks need to have their bluffs called, and tariffs raised, to lessen the leverage that these companies try to pull. Free trade doesn't give gains to the countries with stronger work standards and higher standard of living, it only works between countries that operate on relatively equal terms (i.e. U.S. and Canada or Europe). Terms of trade has been poorly neglected, and is still something that needs major reforming in this country

3.Wal-Mart- If they choose to pay their employees minimum wage and pass the health-care costs onto the general taxpayer, while driving out American manufacturing in the name of savings a couple of dollars, I choose to shop somewhere else. Sure, that means Shopko or Target, which isn't exactly small-time, but keeping the money in a Midwestern corporation beats Arkansas.

4. Arizona- And I was thinking of heading back there at some point to see my college buddy Scott. But not if you allow those people to pass that law. Jeez, even John McCain has turned into a race-baiting bunch of senility. Here's a deal, I'll come back down there when you choose to join the 21st Century...or even reach the 1990s.

5. Leinenkugel's- And I enjoy my beers from Wisconsin. I just waited 2 1/2 hours to pull tickets to Great Taste of the Midwest yesterday morning (fuck yeah I did! 4 years in a row for me now). But as this Facebook group notes, it's nothing personal, just business, Dicky. Or, you could come to your senses and abandon this fruitless endeavor, since Feingold is gonna stomp whoever runs against him by 8-10 points.

There are a couple of other ones on the firing line. I could screw over a Bank of America, Chase, or Citi, since I hold credit card accounts with all of them, but I figure it's better to hold a balance, switch cards at a moment's notice, and make them waste plenty of time and resources dealing with my piddly account. Another nice protest move (albeit a small one) I've pulled is to hold off on my end-of-the-quarter payments into the first week of the next month, since it won't show up as revenue till the next quarter. I figure if a few thousand had the same idea as me, it could do enough to make a notice in their next earnings announcement (since that's all that matters to those banks anyway).

Another move I've started to take up is to have larger-than-needed numbers of checks written on my home bank (another former WMC groupie). A low balance + many transactions + no loans = more cost than revenue for the bank to service me. Gotta get them before they get me.

Lastly, BP could go on the list, given their sloppiness and deception about the oil spill. But I scam 10-20 cents a gallon off of them due to my Roundy's card, and get free Brewer tickets with enough fill-ups, so again, it costs them more to deal with me and put on that Brewer promotion than for me to not use them at all.

Any other suggestions for which man to stick it to?