Thursday, December 06, 2007

In Effect Heading Into Semi-Retirement

I started this blog back in January 2006 largely as an intellectual outlet that I was missing since leaving grad school. And I've enjoyed having the ability to delve into a wide variety of topics a little beyond the surface, which is different than grad school where there's a deep focus on a few topics.

But after just under 800 posts, I'm feeling the urge to return to looking into fewer topics more deeply, so I've decided to head back to grad school to continue pursuing a Ph.D. in History starting next month.

I intend to continue working full-time, which puts me on the 8-10 year plan for completion, but taking it slow will be good for me. My first tour in grad school was marked by dissertation topic changes every few weeks, sometimes every few days, which is probably why this blog was such a nice fit for me at the time. This time around I plan to be the tortoise rather than the hare.

I will continue following the cheddarsphere on a regular basis as a commenter. And, if the urge strikes me, I may toss up the occasional post, particularly as the election season heats up next year.

Until then, take care, Happy Holidays, and thanks for reading.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Sheriff Clarke Almost Gets to Ride to the Rescue

Conservative talk radio and the right side of the blogosphere have been all over the Walid Shoebat controversy. And just as Sheriff David Clarke was poised to ride in to save the day by offering up county deputies to help provide security for the event, UWM pulled the rug out by reducing the fee charged to the Conservative Union to $500.

According to the Journal Sentinel: "Clarke said he offered to provide his own officers for free in the hopes that UWM officials would change course."

I hope Clarke realizes that those officers are neither his nor would they be free.


Packers-Cowboys Recap

Well, I was a few off in my prediction. That usually doesn't happen. Usually I'm much further off.

At any rate, now we get to hear the "it was just against Aaron Rodgers" line until the playoffs, which is a bit of a stretch. The fact is Rodgers played significantly better than Favre, who finished 5-14 (just 35%) for 56 yards, o TDs, and 2 INTs. If Favre continued in the game, about the best he could expect would be to finish with Rodgers stat line of 18-26 (69%) for 201 yards, 1 TD, and 0 INTs.

And while Favre is quite capable of playing a good enough game to beat the Cowboys and stat lines don't tell the whole story, the fact is last night Favre didn't play well enough and the stats are indicative of the fact that Rodgers played better.

To be honest, while this may not have won them the game, Cris Collinsworth was right that the Packers' coaching staff made a mistake by kicking a field goal on 4th and 1 from the Dallas 35 with just over 5 minutes left in the game. If you're facing just about any offense in the NFC North that move probably would be just fine, but not the high-powered Cowboy offense, which also just so happens to have a RB who specializes in grinding out the clock.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Packers-Cowboys Prediction

I can understand why many of the folks in Burlington want the Packers to win and Tony Romo to have a good game, but the only hope the Packers have for victory tonight is to knock Romo off his game.

Coming off his roller-coaster year in 2006, the Burlington native has been remarkably consistent this year, which is something I've greatly appreciated having him on my fantasy team (I also had him last year, and I wasn't as appreciative).

The only game that Romo bombed this year was at Buffalo when he threw five picks and lost a fumble. The Cowboys managed to pull out a victory at the end, but the same wouldn't happen against the Packers, even playing in Dallas.

If they can stifle Romo, the Packers shouldn't have too much trouble handling the Dallas running game. While Marion Barber -- also on my fantasy team -- is one of my favorite backs to watch with his bruising running style, he's not exactly a game-changing back in the same way as Adrian Peterson or Brian Westbrook. As more of a pound-you-into-submission back, Barber's value really comes in the red zone and when the Cowboys have a lead heading into the 4th quarter; if the Packers can control Romo, they'll control both of those things.

All that said, my prediction is for a 34-24 Cowboy victory as long as Romo accounts for two or fewer more turnovers than Favre. If he has at least three more than Favre, I'll give the edge to the Packers, 31-27, but that margin would increase with the turnover margin over Favre.

Either way, it should be a good one. My condolences to those living outside of the Green Bay or Milwaukee area markets who don't have a dish on the side of their house. Time to find a friend who does or saddle up to the bar.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Debating Coexistence

I'm glad Mike Plaisted wrote this post regarding the COEXIST debate, since it more or less covers my thoughts on the topic, especially this part (emphasis mine):
The bottom line on this whole imbroglio is that Sykes, McMahon and all their various defenders are, shockingly, against coexistence. "...there are some things – evils -- that we cannot simply ‘coexist with.’ These would include Communism and Nazism," writes Sykes. Fine, and the COEXIST sticker implies nothing like that.... To these deluded few, Islam - the faith of billions that happens to include a small minority of violent nut-bags - is the enemy.
To be sure, violence is hardly an issue that's unique to Islam. Religion, in fact, has been long used as a means for justifying violence, just as it's been long used to justify peace.

When the idea of "positive Christianity" developed in Nazi Germany as a means for justifying the extermination of the Jewish population, for instance, mainstream Christian churches rightly denounced it in the name of peaceful coexistence with Judaism.

And contrary to the claims that calls for coexistence ignore terrorism perpetrated in the name of Islam by a small and shrinking percentage of the world's 1.5 billion Muslims, the COEXIST message -- originally created for a museum in Israel -- is as much intended for those Muslims who support violence as it is for the many more peaceful followers of Islam and the followers of the other religions whose symbols are depicted in it.

That doesn't mean, of course, that the COEXIST message should be the sole or even primary means for combating terrorism; no one has suggested that.

But the message is helpful in that it serves as a reminder of the ultimate goal in combating terrorism and other violence perpetrated in the name of religious faith.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dems Are Making Scott Walker Soft?

Brian Fraley thinks that the Milwaukee County Board overrode almost every budget veto made by Scott Walker because Walker wasn't tough enough.

According to Fraley, "someone seems to have told Scott to extend an olive branch to the County Board with the hopes that this soft approach would curry their favor. All it did was empower them. They viewed his passivity as a weakness, and they successfully thwarted much of his agenda this budget cycle."

Who could that "someone" be? Fraley suggests the culprit a few paragraphs earlier: "Perhaps this failure is a result of some of the personnel Scott has himself empowered. While they may be good, decent individuals, he has life-long partisan democrats, bureaucrats, and liberals in many key leadership positions on his staff and throughout his Administration."

Of course, Fraley offers no examples in the post of how Walker "extend[ed] an olive branch to the County Board" during the latest budget cycle. And Fraley conveniently ignores the fact that last year, when Walker took a hard-line approach by vetoing the entire budget -- declaring, with his hands metaphorically thrown it the air, "It's their budget now" -- he essentially came away with the same thing as he did this time around: nothing.

The fact is that the board has enough votes to override Walker on just about every point of the budget, and over the years Walker's incessantly combative relationship with the board hasn't exactly endeared him to a large percentage of supervisors. While he doesn't need to be drinking buddies with anyone on the board, a respectful working relationship between the executive and the board is clearly in the best interest of the county; and hitting the talk radio circuit at every chance to bash the supervisors isn't the most effective way to forge respect.

But even more fundamental than that is Walker's unwillingness and inability to engage in meaningful budget dialogue with the board as a result of his zero-tax increase campaign pledge, which he'll almost surely make again when he officially declares his re-election bid for next year.

Walker isn't extending any olive branches when it comes to the budget. To be sure, he can't sit down at a table with supervisors to negotiate because starting and ending at zero provides him with nothing of substance to invest in a compromise.

But Fraley, ever the political consultant, is attempting the trick of making a weakness (Walker can't compromise) into a strength (Walker shouldn't compromise) by claiming it's not that Walker's approach was too rigid, it's that it was too soft.

And that line about liberal moles in the Walker administration who are causing the softness? Just pure rhetorical gold.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Scott Walker's Annual Rite of Passing the Buck

Mid-November is here, which means a few things.

Football games are starting to have "playoff implications." I'm sick of raking. Thanksgiving is surprisingly close (it seems to sneak up on me more each year). And Scott Walker is about the demonstrate his penchant for negotiation by vetoing the county budget back to his original proposal.

Last year was the best. Rather than use a veto pen, Walker pulled out his veto grenade and tried to blow up the entire budget. The County Board tossed the grenade right back in a 14-5 override of that super-sized veto, leading Walker to declare in seemingly helpless fashion: "It's their budget now."

In reality, though, the veto grenade didn't remove Walker's responsibility for the annual county budget; rather, it just eliminated any opportunity he had to work with the board on any of the finer points in his budget, such as modernizing the county pool system.

This year isn't going to be any different. The County Board passed its version of this year's budget by the same 14-5 veto-proof margin, and Walker has indicated that he would use the pen, not the grenade this time, to bring the board's proposed 3.7 percent tax increase -- or $6.16 on the average annual property tax bill in the county -- down to zero in order to maintain his no-tax increase campaign pledge.

But due to this pledge, there really isn't much difference between Walker's veto pen and his veto grenade. Walker's starting and ending point is zero, which allows for no middle ground.

Granted, there's nothing that requires the board to negotiate with Walker, but at least none of them made a pledge that constrains their ability to even discuss a compromise. If Walker could come to the table with a few good faith concessions, perhaps that could enhance his ability to press to retain some other areas of his budget.

Instead, just as the uncompromising pledges took the ability to strike a deal away from dozens of legislators in the latest state budget cycle, Walker's pledge removes any chance he would have to push for his positions at the negotiating table; after all, he can't expect to get anything if there's nothing he's willing to give.

And it's one thing when a handful of legislators aren't around to deal; it's a little more conspicuous when the executive is absent from the table.

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 08, 2007

You Get What You (Don't) Pay For

The Journal Sentinel is reporting this morning on the planned start of BadgerCare Plus, which will provide health coverage access to every kid and many parents in the state beginning in February of next year.

According to the article:
The state expects to pay for the expansion primarily from streamlining state programs; expanding the use of health maintenance organizations; and the premiums and co-pays paid by families.
I hate to be the contrarian -- after all, ensuring every kid and most parents in the state have access to health coverage is a really good thing -- but the total expense of the program isn't included in the direct cost.

To be sure, estimates are that by 2009 the BadgerCare Plus program will cover 12,700 more children and 13,400 more adults* than under the existing BadgerCare system. A positive development, yes, but also one that means 26,100 more people* will be contributing to low reimbursement levels that result in significant cost shifting to private payers in the system.

If only there was a corresponding plan to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates...oh, right, that one had the mistake of including the word "tax" in it, so it just must be bad.

* The adult estimate was made prior to dropping childless adults from the original proposal, so the figure may be a bit inflated.

Labels: ,