Another Data Point Musings on politics, economics, and political economy

5/21/2015

Oil Trains

Filed under: Global Warming — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 9:04 am

This is just a running list of items that I have found useful in my consideration of the “bomb trains” that are running through my town, and many others. I may organize it later.

Disingenuous efforts to tie rail safety to tar sands pipeline construction is a bait and switch.

While there has been an oil train boom, the oil riding the rails in the U.S. is almost exclusively light crude, not tar sands oil from Canada…

If we want to reduce the risks from oil trains, let’s fix the trains and toughen safety standards. Disingenuous efforts to tie rail safety to tar sands pipeline construction is a bait and switch. Foisting pipelines on Americans will lock the nation into increased reliance on tar sands oil and more climate-change pollution.

It does nothing to safeguard our communities.

How to Prevent an Oil Train Disaster

Require energy producers to remove more of the volatile gases that the oil contains when it comes out of the ground, before they load the crude into rail tankers.


4/23/2015

Sofia’s gonna run a 5k!

Filed under: Life — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 3:36 pm

A major goal of minr for the summer of 2015 is to get Sofia in shape for a 5k run.

It’s uphill, since Sofia’s running a lot slower this year than say, two years ago.

But, we’ll get it done.

Here’s our training route.

Join us! Greg@chojnacki.us


3/9/2015

This cracks me up

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 11:32 am

It’s wicked,but I had to share


2/21/2015

Right to the bottom

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 9:52 am

Following is a letter I wrote to my state representative, Rob Hutton. I encourage you to write to your state representatives to oppose so-called “right to work” legislation.

Rep. Hutton,

I am writing to you in opposition to the proposed legislation limiting union agreements in Wisconsin. It’s being touted as “right-to-work,” but I view it as “free-rider,” giving workers benefits they haven’t worked for.

While I’m mindful of the political benefits that might accrue to supporters of the legislation, as policy,  it is damaging to our state’s workers and economy.

Our state’s economy is already lagging behind our neighbors’ because of policies that serve ideological views, not economic realities.

Economists have shown:

  • “Free-rider” laws have no impact in boosting economic growth: research shows that there is no relationship between right-to-work laws and state unemployment rates, state per capita income, or state job growth.
  • “Free-rider” laws have no significant impact on attracting employers to a particular state; surveys of employers show that “right to work” is a minor or non-existent factor in location decisions, and that higher-wage, hi-tech firms in particular generally prefer free-bargaining states.
  • “Free-rider” laws lower wages—for both union and nonunion workers alike—by an average of $1,500 per year, after accounting for the cost of living in each state.
  • “Free-rider” laws also decrease the likelihood that employees get either health insurance or pensions through their jobs—again, for both union and nonunion workers.
  • By cutting wages, “Free-rider” laws threaten to undermine job growth by reducing the discretionary income people have to spend in the local retail, real estate, construction, and service industries. Every $1 million in wage cuts translates into an additional six jobs lost in the economy.

Lower wages, decreased demand for businesses’ products and services, less health care. These are not things Wisconsin needs today or for the future.

I believe that the intent to “fast-track” this legislation is tantamount to an admission that proper scrutiny of the legislation will reveal its unacceptably harmful effects. That alone should suggest to you that this is bad policy and bad governmental practice.

Opposition to this legislation will best serve the interests of your constituents and the state as a whole.

Thank you.

Greg Walz-Chojnacki
8007 Portland Ave.
Wauwatosa, WI 53213


2/17/2015

Doomed to repeat history?

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 11:26 am

“We are now facing a cut that will absolutely savage the infrastructure and quality of teaching and research to this university,” said John Sharpless, a Republican who is a history professor at the Madison campus. “What would be a shame for us in Wisconsin is if Scott leaves a wake of damage here on his way to the presidency.”

It would seem that Prof. Sharpless is a historian of ancient times. If he’d been paying attention to recent history, he’d know that Scott Walker always leaves a wake of damage.


2/2/2015

If it ain’t broke…

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 11:11 pm

We’re all familiar with the expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

It seems that Wisconsin’s government is controlled by people who have such ideological disdain for any public institutions that their approach is, “If it ain’t broke, break it.”

K-12 education? Break it.

Fair electoral system? Break it.

Supreme Court? Break it.

Wisconsin Retirement System? Break it. (You heard it here first.)

You couldn’t imagine a better example of this “philosophy” than the unprecedented damage Scott Walker proposes to inflict on the University of Wisconsin System.

We’re talking about an institution that is admired around the world. Obviously, much of the admiration is directed at the oldest campus, Madison, but the entire system offers first-class  — and often world-class — education to Wisconsin citizens at some of the lowest costs available in the nation.

This is an institution that doesn’t need repair.

Aside from ideological disdain for public institutions, there are two other reasons for this proposal:

  1. Tax cuts and refusals to take federal funds have combined to create a massive deficit, in large part because the tax cuts were a double-whammy: They directly reduced revenue to the state, and rather than enhancing the economy, they created anti-stimulus, dampening economic activity and further reducing revenues. Republican fiscal policy has ill served this state’s economy.
  2. Scott Walker can’t take responsible action to fix the deficit, because responsible solutions aren’t part of the extreme right-wing ideology on which he hopes to float his presidential aspirations.

Speaking of those aspirations, it’s clear that Walker is ready to sacrifice one of this state’s greatest legacies for the sake of his personal ambition. So yes, there are potential benefits to this proposal, but they are for Scott Walker, who wants to leave this state, not improve it.

Scott Walker’s proposal was not formulated to benefit the State of Wisconsin or its truly great public university system. It is designed to win the support of people who imagine that any public activity is a threat to their private interests — especially if it’s successful.

People who believe “if it ain’t broke, break it.”

 

 


1/25/2015

President Walker?

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 11:58 am

In today’s Journal Sentinel, Christian Schneider claimed that “liberals can’t fathom the idea that Walker could be a national candidate.”

I’m afraid Schneider is projecting his shallowness. We may have high principals and ideals but we’re not delusional.

  • Liberals have seen the election and re-election of a president who initiated the decline of the American middle class, Ronald Reagan
  • Liberals have seen the election and re-election of a president who made Americans culpable for the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, and who made us a nation of torturers, George W. Bush.

Other Americans saw this too, but perhaps haven’t yet appreciated  the enormity of those elections. But those of us who have, realize that a Walker presidency would mean further degradation of the principals of justice and fairness that had made the United States a beacon to the world.

So, we liberals don’t find the notion of a President Scott Walker unfathomable.

We find it appalling.


12/22/2014

Reaping the whirlwind

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 1:04 pm

I was saddened by the murders of two New York City police officers last week. While there’s much still to be learned about this event, it appears that the killer, though apparently deranged, was also motivated by a particular anger at police.

With the recent rash of publicized killings of black men by on-duty police, it’s hard not to worry that this terrible act will be repeated. Given the ridiculous availability of assault-style weapons & by which I mean firearms designed to kill humans in multiples & and the multitude of examples of persons and groups using violence as an alternative to (failed) political processes, I worry that there are people planning to conduct similar ambushes.

And the potential for political violence obviously extends beyond our inner cities. We have a class of media hate- and fear-mongers — and I see them particularly on the right & who are vigorously peddling fear and hatred of our own government.

The ordinary citizens who see themselves as represented by the Tea Party & as distinct from the Astro Turf Tea Party & are right to be angry: Their real income has declined, along with the economic prospects of their children.

But, as I’ve been saying for years, they are angry at the wrong people. Their real enemy are the oligarchs who have been amassing political and economic power since the time of Ronald Reagan, and the expense of most Americans.

My fear is that when these folks realize they’ve been played, their anger will increase exponentially & and they have guns, lots of guns.

Between the GOP degrading our electoral processes and the right-wing’s drumbeat of attacks on government, the extreme right wing is playing a dangerous game.


10/7/2014

Rights for citizens

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 9:46 am

I’ve said this before in a different context, but while I’m very happy for the couples who can marry because of the Supreme Court’s refusal to overrule the lower court in the matter of the constitutionality of state same-sex marriage bans, I remain disappointed that the people of Wisconsin haven’t spoken up for themselves in this matter.

I hope someday soon that’s rectified.


8/4/2014

The Big Lie(s)

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 9:11 pm

Uppity Wisconsin said it well yesterday, but they kind of buried it:

Walker, like so many — “conservatives” doesn’t seem to quite cover it — have been amazingly successful at tearing down their opponents with attacks designed to turn the opponents strengths into weaknesses.

The classic case is the “Swift-Boating” of John Kerry by people in service to an administration of draft dodgers.

Now we have Walker attacking Mary Burke by vilifying Trek for not paying income tax and for outsourcing.

While presumably this is something he’d applaud in other businesses, Walker needs to attack Mary Burke’s obvious strengths of competency and business acumen.

It was refreshing to see the normally supine Milwaukee Journal Sentinel give considerable space to a clarification of Burke’s and Trek’s record. Sadly he hasn’t received a “pants-on-fire” rating.

I don’t have an obvious answer to this stratagem, and I suppose if it were obvious, the body politic would have been inoculated against it some time ago.

But we’d all to well to anticipate its use against any progressive candidate we support. The key thing is that it is hard to imagine a bald-faced lie about our candidates’ strengths, but, given the current state of political reportage in this state and country, it’s likely to happen, and the lie told gets more attention an has a bigger impression that the refutation. We need to train ourselves to imagine what we are


Sick of Government? Vote!

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 2:11 pm

A lot of people, I fear, are inclined to stay home at election time because they are discontented with the way  government is operating, particularly at the Congressional level.

Not to be harsh, but one reason government is so dysfunctional is that too many people stayed at home at election time in November 2010.

A couple of important consequences of that, in Wisconsin and many other states, are:

  1. our legislature is dominated by ALEC toadies, who
  2. redrew the district voters in such a way that the majority is represented by minority elected officials. That is, while Democrats won the popular vote in Wisconsin, our congressional delegation is 5-3 Republican.

So we have a government that is unresponsive to majority rule, and has less and less incentive to strive for compromise policy. Consequently we frequently have NO policy.

The more people vote, the better government is. Period.

So…

Plan To VOTE!!!


6/20/2014

Human Rights and Democracy

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 7:15 am

I was very happy to learn about the court decision on the constitutionality  of Wisconsin’s gay marriage ban, but not completely.

I’d be much happier if the people of Wisconsin removed this stain on our constitution themselves.

It’s my suspicion that we have this in our constitution because its proponents were more passionate in their — what’s he right word, hatred, fear? — of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters than the rest of us had for protecting their rights.

Credit to the homophobes: They were better at getting out their voters than we were.

But shame on the rest of us for waiting to have a court do what we should have done — and still should do: ensure that all people in our state  have the same rights and opportunities as people who happen to represent a certain point of view in a certain election.


6/11/2014

A hidden message in Cantor’s defeat

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 12:10 pm

“Eric Cantor represents large corporations who want a never-ending supply of cheap, low-wage foreign labor,” Dave Brat said in his stump speech.

So, we’ve witnessed this political season’s shocker. What can we learn?

For me, Brat’s statement above — and his shocking victory over Eric Cantor — suggests an opportunity, though one that’s admittedly tricky to exploit.

It’s been my belief for some time that the dominant sentiment in the Tea Party is repressed economic anxiety. Of course, there’s economic anxiety all around. But on the right, it often finds expression in ways progressives rightfully find repugnant: anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-women’s rights — or crazy gun rights advocacy. But I contend this is the result of deft misdirection by the GOP, which now has found it’s got a tiger by the tail.

But Brat’s attack on “large corporations” also suggests a hope of finding common cause with many Tea Party adherents — if they can only be made to see that taxes, gays,  women, and black presidents aren’t their problem — their problem is the overwhelming economic and political power of the 0.1%.

We need to bear this in mind when confronted by Tea Party “hate.” It’s not hate, it’s really fear —  fear that we share, frankly. The better we get at turning the conversation in that direction, the more successful we progressives will be.

For more, read Ryan Lizza’s excellent piece on Brat in the New Yorker.


11/27/2013

Thanksgiving Dinner

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 2:24 pm

Just in time for those family gatherings, here are a couple of sources of info to have in your quiver should the conversation turn to politics:

Happy Thanksgiving!


11/26/2013

Don’t stun me, bro!

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 9:11 am

<rant>

So, when was the last time you were truly stunned? Did you enjoy it?

For me, stunned is what you are when you’re hit by a professional boxer, or in my case, when as a child you squeeze a roll of caps in a vise and they all explode at once.

I don’t want to be stunned by my computer screen, a new TV, a stereo system or a woman in a bikini. In fact,  several times a week I probably unconsciously but deliberately avoid being stunned  by slamming doors, people riding bicycles on sidewalks,  poor drivers, etc.

I’ve been stunned, and I don’t enjoy it. So if you’re trying to sell me something, don’t promise that it’ll stun me.

</rant>


11/2/2013

Enough!

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 9:15 am

There are two kinds of people who think assault weapons should be in the hands of civilians: Fools and madmen.

The fools think believe any amount of armament available to them are a) sufficient to protect them from an oppressive government and that it’s even a relevant concern in a democratic republic.

The madmen are be definition not to be trusted with instruments whose fundamental purpose is to kill human beings.

(By the way, these categories aren’t exclusive: There can be mad fools and foolish madmen.)

I, for one, think that when I go into a public place, say an airport, I shouldn’t be at risk of being shot to death by a mad fool with an assault rifle.

As this is becoming more common, I am NOT becoming more resigned to an America overwhelmed by gun violence. I am growing more and more furious at those who are promoting the ownership of these weapons, the people who are enriching themselves by the sale of these weapons, and the representatives who are enabling these outrages upon innocents.

We are hostages to a sophomoric interpretation of the second amendment, supported in large part by persons who, unhappy with the results of our political process, apparently feel compelled to arm themselves against some imagined government oppression – despite the fact that we live in a democracy.

A consequence of this view is that our society is being inundated with instruments that are specifically designed to kill human beings. We’ve seen these weapons fall into the hands of deranged persons who threaten peaceable, law-abiding citizens wherever they may be – in movie theaters, our places of worship or, most horribly, in our schools.

Greater issues may confront our nation, but none whose solution is so completely simple and obvious: Make the sale and ownership of such weapons illegal, buy the weapons back from those who are willing to comply with the law, and prosecute those who don’t.

This will only happen if Americans contact their legislators and insist that their freedom from fear trumps the fear of those foolish and/or crazy enough to own weapons whose purpose is to kill humans.

What are you waiting for? Contact your representative and say Enough!


9/30/2013

House Un-American Activities

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 9:43 pm

Why are we going to have a government shutdown, Daddy?

Because people who hate the healthcare reforms  of the Affordable Care Act think they can stop ACA by threatening a government shutdown. If that doesn’t work, they are planning to threaten the entire world economy by defaulting on U.S. government bonds, probably the foundation of the world economy.

But isn’t the ACA a law, enacted by the process defined in the U.S. Constitution?

Yes it is.

So, a majority people want the law? I mean, Congress enacted the ACA, President Obama signed it, and President Obama was re-elected.

Not only was ACA properly enacted as a law, and basically twice accepted by the American people, but it’s widely held that the bill will be good for all Americans, by ultimately reducing the costs of healthcare and creating a healthier citizenry.

So, how can a minority do this?

There are two answers (each with two parts):

    1. In the Senate, the Republicans have used an astonishingly high number of filibusters or filibuster threats to stop the rule of the majority.
    2. In the House of Representatives, a small number of radicals are holding other Republicans hostage by threatening their incumbency.
  1. (1b) is possible because of redistricting, which has
    1. created incumbents who are almost impossible to defeat, except in primaries by  more extreme candidates; and
    2. enabled Republicans to maintain control of legislatures at the state and federal level without a majority of votes.

But isn’t democracy supposed to be rule by the majority?

It’s the rule of the majority, and the rule of law, which at bottom is the U.S. Constitution (the law about making laws).

As it now stands, the Republican Party is thwarting the will of the majority – on a number of issues – and they are subverting the constitution – a characteristic of Republicans since at least Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal.

How can this happen?

Well, the watchdogs of democracy are now lapdogs. How many times did you see  the word filibuster in your newspaper? (Hint: It was a tiny fraction of the times Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wielded that weapon.)

But more importantly, many Americans are disinclined to believe just how bad the Republicans are. Many others take the frankly stupid view that “they all do it.” I won’t pretend that Democratic politicians are angels, but between the filibusters of Senate Republicans and the fiscal subversion of the House Republicans, we have an assault on our way of government that has no precedent in modern memory. Together with the warping effects of Republican gerrymandering, we have  a sick democracy on our hands.

Will everything be all right?

Not for some time, I’m afraid.


2/15/2013

Quick thought on the filibuster situation

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 5:14 pm

Like many I was distressed the the effort to reform the filibuster collapsed.

But now, with the Hagel filibuster, I’m beinning to see that this is going to be something that will really, really hurt the GOP in 2014.

So maybe Harry Reid was just giving the GOP enough rope to hang itself with.


1/29/2013

David Clark’s conservative utopia

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 1:49 pm

Is this what we’ve come to?

Since 1980, America’s Gross Domestic Product has risen from roughly $3.5 trillion to roughly $15 trillion.  On the other hand, Americans pay less in taxes than they have since the 1950s.

But according to Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clark, we need to arm ourselves, since we can’t afford sufficient law enforcement to respond to 911 calls.

Our national wealth has increased five-fold, but now we can’t afford cops?

Of course we can. One reason we don’t  is as most Americans’ wealth declines, they are reluctant to provide the necessary revenue (i.e., taxes). And those who have taken the lion’s share of  our increased national wealth largely feel they shouldn’t have to  accept a higher tax burden.

So, buy a gun, I guess.


1/27/2013

Dead-enders

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 5:13 pm

Abraham Lincoln wisely pointed out that you can’t fool all the people all the time, which explains the impending demise of the conservative revolution.

The conservative program of activating white voters out of fear of non-whites, patriarchists out of fear of abortion, and I-don’t-know-what out of fear of gays is at last  showing signs of terminal disintegration in our national elections.

Having lost its electoral advantages, the GOP is now desperately seeking to maintain its political advantages with measures at the state level that will utterly ruin the party for a generation. Republicans are attempting to distort elections through voter restrictions,  gerrymandering and even  a program to game the electoral vote. As people come to see how fundamentally un-democratic (small D) these measures are, voters will develop an abiding distrust of the party that has promoted them.

Ironically, the Republican attempt to reapportion the electoral vote could lead to greater democracy, by making people aware of both the troublesome nature of the electoral college and an elegant way to render it obsolete.

Anyone who wants to make the electoral vote process more democratic (again, small D) should look no further than the National Popular Vote movement, whose aim is to ensure that presidential elections can only be won by candidates who win the votes of most Americans. (You can get details at nationalpopularvote.com.)

If state Republican legislators are serious about democracy, they will join this movement, which will ensure that Wisconsin’s electoral votes go the person who wins the votes of the majority of all Americans, not to the person who wins in gerrymandered districts.

Conservatives have not been able to convince Americans of their failed ideas. If they attempt to retain political power by rigging elections, they will reap the whirlwind.

Don’t take it from me. Take it from the most famous Republican of them all.


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