Friday, February 09, 2007

A Message From the President

So by now, you have probably read the article about who I am. I figured I should at least say something before I fold up shop here at the blog. There’s been a lot of speculation about my identity and motives for a while, so I should set some of it straight.

First of all, I wanted to address the whole issue of anonymity. I can completely understand people who are skeptical of writers who write with pseudonyms. They shouldn’t have to use a fake name if they didn’t have anything to hide, right?

It killed me all along not to be able to use my own name – although when I started this thing, I honestly never thought anyone would read it and it wouldn’t even matter. I just started doing it to make myself and a couple of friends laugh. I never expected it to get the attention it did. I can see where people in the capitol would be anxious if a staffer was somehow dishing out gossip or inside secrets, but I never did that. I was just a guy with opinions, and I shared them – hopefully in a way that entertained on occasion.

If people are looking for insider dirt or a “look at me, I work in the Capitol because I can name some Assembly members” attitude, those blogs exist. I wanted to be more than that, because I thought I could actually shed some light on some issues, rather than just taking shots. When I did criticize someone, I always provided substantiation in the form of a link or citation. I always operated on the assumption that I could be outed the very next day, and that I should be proud of what I posted. My position on some of the people I criticized has even shifted, in some cases.

Secondly, people are asking me whether all the stuff on the site is true. Sadly, yes. I never did mention my son, as that would make it so completely obvious who I was. But as you can see, I briefly retired during the period he was born, just to have some time off to get ready. The stress from being chased down by reporters didn’t help, either.

Finally, I wanted to thank all the people that knew who I was and kept it to themselves. You are all truly great friends, and provided me with a lot of feedback, information, and criticism. I especially want to thank the people who kept being accused of being me, who held strong and didn’t give it up. I also want to apologize to the people to whom I had to deny it was me. I hope you all understand. Your check is in the mail.

So I’m on to write for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. I’m working on some big things for the website, so I hope you’ll all follow me there. It is a great organization – providing commentary, reports, and the Wisconsin Interest Magazine. Hopefully, you all keep checking out the changes that will be going on over at http://www.wpri.org/ in the future. There may not be as many posts about Jim Doyle's body waxing, but hopefully I can provide some commentary on issues of the day that entertain.

So that’s it. I’ll miss doing the blog. I can’t believe anyone cared about 90% of what I had to say, but I appreciate it. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to have people linking to, discussing, and quoting stuff that I wrote. I have pretty much gone two years without getting any sleep, and that makes it all worth it.

-Chris

UPDATE: I just filmed an interview with Channel 27 here in Madison. Fat-apalooza will commence at 6 PM. I think they're putting it on the web, too.

Oh, and another thing - I was the one who came up with the term "Frankenstein Veto." That is all.

UPDATE UPDATE: WKOW has the video of my fat melon on their site. I honestly don't even know what my quote means - and I keep looking to the left because one of their reporters was walking out of a door on the set.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bad Timing

I'm applying for a new life insurance policy (my wife is insisting I get it - which should worry me significantly), and last night I had my over-the-phone health check. It's the thorough interview where they ask you if you've ever had gingivitis, grown an extra head, sykydive while using an intravenous drug, or whatever. They asked me if I drank heavily, if I did heroin, and if I used marijuana. That took me all the way to Tuesday of this week.

Anyway, they were asking me if I had any of these horrible diseases and I kept saying my health was clean as a whistle. In the middle of these questions, though, I started coughing and couldn't stop. This angered me, as with every cough, I could see my premium going up. "Cough" CHING! "Cough." CHING! They probably think they're getting some dying guy who just lied to them on every question. I can't wait to see my first bill now. I'll probably be paying more Courtney Love.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Frankenstein Follies

Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's office sent me this clever re-working of some of Doyle's comments. It's illustrative of the ridiculous ways that Wisconsin governors can use the budget as a word puzzle and enact laws that the legislature never intended.

Quick Question

I was thinking about the word "ruthless." What is "ruth," and why are you such a bastard if you don't have any of it? I think the world needs more ruth.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Historic Super Bowl: Woman Starts First Game at Quarterback



Other observations:

80% of Super Bowl ads now feature talking animals. It's advertising gold.

Doritos reminds us what a historic event this is for African-Americans - then urges them to buy their chips.

People under 25 years old likely have no idea why Prince is famous. That being said, his halftime show was spectacular. Was that a Foo Fighters song?

With the Bears loss, Brett Favre retains the deed to the City of Chicago. He owns you guys.

Jim Sorgi: Super Bowl Champion.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Obama's Biggest Skeptics

In watching video of Charlie Sykes' television show from last week, one thing in particular struck me during the discussion of Barack Obama. In the reading I've done, there seems to be one group that is most skeptical of Obama's chances of being elected President. That group?

African-Americans.

Ask white people whether they think Obama can be elected president or not, and you'll get an almost unanimous, "well... yeah - he can." Whether he actually will, or whether they would vote for him is a different story - for instance, I think he can be elected, but I'd never vote for him.

Take, for example, this Washington Post article, which talks about the tenuous line Obama has to walk with black voters. If he does the things necessary to become President, he has to take positions that risk alienating the African-American vote. If he adheres to philosophies of his South Side Chicago constituency, he'd be seen as too liberal, and therefore lose the support of valuable moderate voters.

Even if he were able to walk that tenuous line, blacks still seem to be skeptical of Obama's electability. African-Americans may not believe America has progressed to the point where they would elect a fellow African-American. I strongly disagree with this sentiment - all Colin Powell would have to do is wave his finger and it would send flocks of white people to the polls as if they were giving away free John Mayer albums.

The more cynical interpretation of this sentiment would be to say that blacks don't want to believe that America would vote for a black president. If there could be an African-American president, would white people think that racism is now no longer a problem? Would blacks worry that white people would wash their hands of issues of racial equality once they elected a black president, as if everything's on an even plane now? Wasn't electing TWO Palmer brothers within two years of each other enough?

On a somewhat related topic, I enjoyed this column by Peter Beinart of the New Republic on the root of Obama's popularity (free registration required). I think he gets it right.

100% of the research for this post was drawn from the song "Black Republican" by Nas and Jay-Z.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tobacco Trickle-Down

With all of the juicy topics regarding Governor Doyle's proposed cigarette tax (his flip-flop on raising the tax, whether the money will be used for health care, using taxes to regulate behavior of a legal product, etc.), it's no wonder most discussions of the plan fall into those categories.

However, despite what Doyle would have you believe, there are more people affected by the proposal than just the consumers paying the tax. Doyle's logic: people who purchase cigarettes will be the ones paying the tax, and will be the ones that need the health care in the future - plus, the higher taxes will convince more people to stop smoking, as lighting up will become cost prohibitive.

Forgotten in that whole equation is the fact that people who buy cigarettes have to get them from somewhere. They buy them from grocery stores, gas stations, and bars, all of whom make money off their sale.

In 2003, the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services reported that 387.6 million packs of cigarettes were smoked in the state. For argument's sake, let's say the average cost per pack was $1.50 (not counting the 77 cent state tax). That comes to $581 million in sales made by businesses in 2003 (a rough estimate, to be sure).

Let's say Doyle's program is wildly succesful and results in a dramatic 50% drop in cigarette consumption. Those are sales that are going to have to be made up by those grocery stores and mom and pop gas stations. Since you're smart, you may have already figured out how a small grocery store would make up the lost revenue from declining cigarette sales. They, of course, would raise prices on everything else: jelly would be a nickel more, diapers would go up a dime. So in essence, depressing sales of cigarettes (still a legal product), just pops prices up elsewhere. So it ends up being a tax on everyone, regardless of their smoking habits.

Additionally, as long as cigarette sales via internet are still legal, you can expect a huge jump in those sales in Wisconsin - especially since they are exempt from the tax. This would further damage local businesses, and not do anything to really keep cigarette consumption down. According to tobaccofreekids.org, internet sales accounted for 14% of the total tobacco market in 2005, and the trend is growing.

Another portion of Doyle's plan is confusing. If he's so convinced of the evils of tobacco companies, why does the State of Wisconsin Investment Board invest so heavily in them? According to the 2005 schedule of investments, the State retirement fund holds the following stocks:

British American Tobacco: 1.2 million shares, worth $23 million
Imperial Tobacco Group: 955,000 shares, worth $25.7 million
Japan Tobacco: 572 shares, worth $7.6 million

And those are just the ones with the words "Tobacco" in their names. Surely, there are many more that are subsidiaries of other companies.

What Doyle is doing, in essence, is taking on the tobacco companies, which state retirees have a financial interest in seeing do well. In fact, their retirement funds depend on it. Wouldn't the unions have a problem with this?

Finally, few people are pointing out that an increase on the cigarette tax is about as regressive as a sales tax can get. The poor and minorities buy cigarettes at a disproportionately higher level, so it really is a tax increase on those groups.

An excellent summary of tobacco use and taxes can be found in this Legislative Fiscal Bureau paper. It includes this interesting tidbit that explains how the Native American tribes figured into the current sales tax configuration:

The tax on cigarettes was converted from an occupational tax to an excise tax in 1983. This change allowed the state to impose the tax on sales of cigarettes made by Native Americans to non-Native Americans on reservations. Currently, the state has agreements with most Native American tribes through which Native American retailers purchase and sell only stamped (taxed) cigarettes. The state then provides a refund to the tribes of 70% of the tax paid on sales to non-Native Americans and 100% of the tax paid on sales to Native Americans (federal law prohibits states from imposing a cigarette tax on sales by Native Americans to Native Americans on reservations). The refund provision was enacted to encourage Native American retailers to sell only stamped cigarettes. Previously, unstamped cigarettes were sold on reservations, which raised concern regarding competition and the administration and collection of taxes for sales to non-Native Americans. The refund provision was enacted as part of the 1983-85 biennial budget.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Note On Tonight's "24"

I admit that I personally have never tried the famous "steal a suspected terrorist's cell phone from his pocket, then three minutes later try to sneak it back into his pocket" maneuver, but I can't imagine it has a high success rate.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Crazy Candidates' Free Press Pass

At times, I like to point out examples of bad or slanted reporting in the local news media. This isn't because I'm particularly mean, I just think sometimes I can provide perspective on issues that you don't normally see covered by reporters. However, I have found an issue that has caused me to sympathize with local media. That is; how do you cover candidates that are completely crazy?

I'm not talking "crazy" in the sense of "I disagree with every word they say," kind of crazy. Take the mayoral race here in Madison as a prime example. Will Sandstrom is once again running for mayor, and he is completely nuts. Seriously - somewhere there is an empty bed at a mental health facility crying out for him. During mayoral candidate debates, he is prone to long diatribes about his mother contracting gangrene, his father cooking moonshine, kids calling him "China Boy" growing up, his time dodging bullets in a Russian prison, and how he coined the term "Fish and Wildlife."

A 2003 State Journal piece on Sandstrom contained this gem:
In 1970, he tried to run for governor, insisting the Mafia had stolen the nation and was prolonging the Vietnam War to protect its drug trade. But when he tried to deliver nominating petitions, he said, he was arrested at the state Capitol for an outstanding parking ticket. He was disqualified over questions about nominating petitions, news accounts say.
In a recent question posed by The Isthmus regarding public financing of the Overture Center, Sandstrom accused Mayor Dave Cieslewicz of funneling "millions" of dollars to the Mafia. At a 2003 debate, he brought up nude swimming, Bing Crosby and Argentina's economic crisis, and called his opponents "boobs."

In 2003, Sandstrom caused a stir when he warned of the dangers of Mexican and Chinese immigration, and the increase in crime that would result. The Capital Times printed a feature where candidates were allowed to question each other on whatever issue they saw fit. Candidate Bert Zipperer, who listed race relations as his "number one" issue for Madison, asked the following question, and received this response from Sandstrom. Seriously.

Zipperer's Question:

Research done by a professor at UW-Green Bay has identified the nation from which the most undocumented workers in Wisconsin come from. That nation is Canada. Do you believe that we can create a community where all groups, including our Canadian brothers and sisters, are valued for their contributions?

Sandstrom's Response:

We need not buy into some Green Bay-New York City professor's schmaltzy spin. In the 1950s I heard a New York City "wolf authority" professor state, "In winter wolves do not murder Bambi and Daisy, the deer, but rather dig through snow to eat frozen grasshoppers." That professor was "hopping on grass." I agree that many illegal immigrants come both by Mexico and Canada. But their contributions are needed desperately in their homelands. It is morally wrong that both America and Europe entice and steal people of value from their homelands and allow very low wage labor illegals to bust unions and take jobs from American citizens.

The hard part for the media is to figure out how to cover fringe candidates like this. The State Journal can't just introduce him as "Will Sandstrom, crazy person," even though anyone who has heard him speak for more than a minute knows this is the case. The paper can't pretend like it's taking sides in its non-editorial coverage of the race, so it has to present him as a viable candidate.

On the other hand, when the paper does cover a nutjob like Sandstrom, it's a complete waste of everyone's time, not to mention valuable column inches (Madison Magazine agrees).Plus, anyone who knows anything about the mayoral race knows that Sandstrom is a crazy person, so the paper loses a little credibility when they try to cover him in a serious way. We know he's nuts, and we know the reporter knows he's nuts, so why can't the paper just say so?

Take the article that appeared in the State Journal about Sandstrom today. The worst the article could say about Sandstrom was that Bert Zipperer thought he was a racist. If you oppose spending 80% of the city's budget on race relations programs, Zipperer likely thinks you are a racist, so is this really a damning charge?

In 2003, the State Journal published a brief "pros and cons" section about the mayoral candidates. For Sandstrom, they wrote:
* Will Sandstrom. Well educated and boldly speaks his mind, and has appealing property tax cut theme. But he lacks name recognition and executive experience, and ethnic comments have drawn boos.
Oh yeah, that and he's F'ING INSANE! They forgot that part.

I do think the local papers have tried their best to strike a balance with crazy candidates. Often times, they are only casually mentioned in their coverage of debates. But rarely are they covered in the negative light that they deserve. Often times, they are handed the attention they seek, which just promotes more and more non-serious candidates in the future.

Mostly, I blame the good government crowd. They demand that all these wierdos be allowed to participate in debates, when it's the public that suffers the most. People that go to a debate to hear Ray Allen, Dave Cieslewicz and Peter Munoz discuss relevant issues instead have to suffer through a half hour of Will Sandstrom's take on how Russian prostitution is Madison's number one issue. And everyone will sit politely, squirming in their seats until he's done, and pretend like it never happened. And we're all poorer as a result.

UPDATE: Here's the audio from a 2003 debate where Sandstrom goes on a legendary diatribe that is somehow supposed to explain why he should be mayor of Madison, Wisconsin. The question was about garbage collection or something, and he went on for two minutes about being embarrassed to walk around with his mother because she had gangrene. When he finished, the look on Paul Soglin's face was classic, as he actually had to try to answer the question without laughing.

Representin' the Fo' One Fo'

A buddy of mine was watching some community access television last week, and saw an interview with Milwaukee rappers "Ghetto F.A.B." Apparently these young gentlemen decided to come to Madison to film a video for their song "Club Whistle/S.Y.A.D." The group, who lovingly termed Milwaukee's north side "Chocolate Heaven," filmed the video at the Blue Velvet with some of Wisconsin's most disease-free young ladies. Here it is, with language you can usually expect from big-time rappers like Ghetto F.A.B.



I can hear the director now: "Please, no pouring Hamm's on the bitches."