On the Shadow Empire



Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

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235 Responses

  1. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    Twenty million dollars is a small price to pay to start the process of breaking the back of one of the few institutional supports w/ the ability to do a sufficient GOTV effort liberals actually have.

    In other words, if you can break the public-sector unions in a purple-ish state like Wisconsin, you can do it pretty much everywhere but the Northeast and West Coast.Report

  2. Avatar greginak says:

    Well its not exactly news that there is a strong push in conservative think tanks and politicians to get rid of unions. If you support Walker, and he wins, then that makes it safer or more likely other pols will go out of their way to get rid of unions. hell they might even say up front that is their goal and not make up stories about how its about the budget.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      > If you support Walker, and he wins, then that makes
      > it safer or more likely other pols will go out of their
      > way to get rid of unions.

      You’re going to have to do some heavier lifting there. That’s a pretty flimsy theory.

      Why does “what happens in Wisconsin” generalize to any other state? Do you really think Wisconsin’s voter behavior is going to be generalizable to anywhere else? Why do you think this?

      Or, alternatively, why do you think that someone *else* might think this, even if you yourself don’t?Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

        Basically, unless something sucessful happens, people are less likely to do it. For a non-political example, see the smartphone market before and after the iPod.

        Before now, attacking public sector unions directly was seen as something you didn’t do in moderate or even in some right-leaning states, because the CW was that it’d be going too far. In addition, prior to the last few years, unions had OK relationships with some state Republican parties.

        Now, this is a signal to conservative politicians in other states that they can do the same thing in their states without fear or reprisal.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          So your prediction is now that we will see a raft of these across the nation?Report

          • Avatar Kimmi says:

            my transportation is dead in the water. Corbett is essentially refusing to give a dime of the state’s money… This is not “killing the unions” so much as it is killing the cities and the poor.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              Clearly killing off the cities is an awesome idea, considering that’s where all the money is and all the people who buy your products.

              I guess we’re back to stupid Evil Overlords as the explanation.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                … the killing the cities line actually refers better to Ohio. And you might want to look at Cleveland before you say that’s where all the money is.

                Southern ohio is a farm state. it can go back to being west virginia without harming people… too much. dirt roads, gravel roads, yes…

                But the jobs’ll come to pittsburgh (or morgantown!)Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        Wisconsin makes a decent proxy for the Midwest in general. Minnesota, Michigan, all the way to Iowa, and Ohio, and nearly to Nebraska.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        What Walker did, try to get rid of public unions without talking about in his campaign, was done in other states. He was successful and although he got significant push back and lost control of the state senate that is clear sign that other govs can try the same deal. That doesn’t seem flimsy. Certainly if it worked in a blueish state and gov in reddish states have a big ol green light to try to get rid of public unions. Its the strategy that was successful so why wouldn’t other pols see it as a good template.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I would probably frame it this way, Pat:

        If Governor A does Thing Y that crosses Group M, and it destroys his career, Governors B-F definitely aren’t going to do Thing Y and are going to try like heck not to cross Group M if their political situation is remotely similar to Governor A’s (if Governor G is over some state where Group M is much weaker may have a different perspective).

        It’s not that Governor A surviving means that Governors B-F are going to do Thing Y. But it makes it a lot more likely that it won’t be impossible for Thing Y supporters to get some of them to try it. They had A’s back and they can help you, too. If Governor A fails, Governor D’s first thought will be “I don’t want to be Governor A.”

        The real question, to me, is why the other side didn’t seem to see it this way. I mean, Thing Y supporters might be wrong in their calculations and the anti-Y people right, but it’s definitely an asymmetry of perspective. Or was the money simply not there and they just had to forgo an excellent opportunity to send a message to Governors B-M on who not to mess with.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          If it costs $22 million dollars a throw, I think supporters of Thing Y might blanch a bit at the tag, as a “repeatable strategy”.

          Maybe this is one of those times when group-humanity-behaviors remains clouded to me.Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

            The Koch Brothers are worth somewhere between $20 and $50 billion depending on the report you look at. So, looking at the low end, spending $20 million is the equivalent to somebody making $50,000 dollars spending $50 bucks.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              I’d buy this as plausible if the Koch Brothers drove diamond-plated Mercedes or lived anywhere that looked anything like anywhere Trump lives.

              They don’t seem like the “toss money around ’cause I can” kinda folks.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Elected officials are their Mercedes and jet planes.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                no, that ain’t their style.
                tossing influence around? yeah.
                ruining people’s lives for a grudge? yup.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Ostentatious bling is for ghetto rubes. Now if you’re a billionaire and want to toss some money around, staging a hostile takeover of a Libertarian think tank might be interesting. Imagine being carried about on a palanquin by four sweating scholars, stripped to the waist. Now that, Patrick, would be worth the money.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            I always thought TPoSoE stood for Two Pieces of Sushi or Edamame.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            I think the goal is that they don’t have to spend $22m again. Cause when and if they get Governor D on board, Group M is now less likely to do again what they did here. Group M is now perceived as being very weak. If they try to lead, who will follow? Fewer people than before.

            It’s sort of like… it didn’t matter how much money was thrown against PPACA. If they could have killed it, they would have bought themselves another 15 years or so of nobody wanting to touch healthcare. It’s not just about winning this fight, but preventing future ones. (In the case of PPACA, of course, they lost.)Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              But given the supposedly existential threat here (if Tom’s correct), you’re going to have to spend the $22 million again. And again.

              PPACA, they lost. So they’re not going to fight it? I think it’s going to be a signature issue in November.

              If this isn’t an existential threat, then you didn’t need to spend the $22 million in the first place. Something just doesn’t add up.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I missed the part about existential threat. Whose existence is threatened? (Will respond when I better understand.)Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Either public sector unions are the backbone of Team Blue or they’re not. Or they aren’t the backbone, but they’re the right hand. Or something.

                If they’re important enough, this justifies spending a lot of money on a symbolic gesture on the odds that it might provide a crippling blow. Maybe.

                But then you’d see a lot more out-of-state money coming in from the out-of-state public sector unions, unless they’re stupid.

                So either the Shadow Empire is stupid, and massively over-spent, because Walker was likely to get re-elected, or because Team Blue didn’t really show up to the fight… or the Unions are stupid, because they backed off on the first domino of their existential threat, or both sides are stupid, or this turns into a game of…

                “I knew that you’d know that I knew that you knew”
                “… But I didn’t. I only knew that you knew that I knew.”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Since Reagan broke the PATCO strike, the public sector unions have been on the run, with a few exceptions, noted above.

                Once the union busters have cleaned house and replaced it with worthless political patronage hires, it will take two election cycles for the very reformers who wanted to bust the unions to decide they don’t like this sort of reform.

                Frinstance, here in Wisconsin, the previous governor, Doyle, famously outsourced the non-emergency transport services to some politically-connected outfit called Logisticare. Logisticare has screwed things up sixty ways from Sunday. The transport providers are now revolting. The services aren’t being provided. So who’s going to step in to deal with this situation? Someone like me, who’s already worked out an open source solution to managing this mess. It won’t cost the providers anything. They decide who takes which loads, based on profitability: how many miles are billable of the total miles on a trip.

                School districts want to be free of the unions. That’s great. When their schools start failing, they’ll go in search of qualified teachers. The true price tag will be shockingly high but there’s nothing they can do: corporations won’t move in to provide jobs when the stats show education is bad in a given area. Markets in action, folks.

                These anti-union dumbasses will have their prayers answered, in full and literally.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                haha! they don’t want no fucking market.
                the catholics never needed a profit to operate. public schools will lose out to the lowest bidder. which ain’t them!Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The Catholics are in pretty serious trouble, financially. What with the recession, Catholic schools have lost students and closed schools. Don’t count on the private sector to pick up the slack here. They can’t and they won’t.

                Citing “a decade-long decline in enrollment,” the Los Angeles archdiocese announced in October 2007 that it was closing Daniel Murphy High School. In 2008, the Diocese of San Bernardino closed Precious Blood School in Banning, which served students from pre-school to the eighth grade.

                According to the National Catholic Education Association, enrollment in U.S. Catholic elementary schools fell from 2,030,702 in 1997-98 to 1,647,959 in 2007-08. “Between the 2000 and the 2008 school years, there were 1,267 schools that closed (15.5%),” the NCEA reported. “The number of students declined by 382,125 (14.4 %). The most seriously impacted have been elementary schools.”Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Get real. No one is going to replace union teachers with political hires. Reagan didnt have political replacements, besides the PATCO strike was illegal so they got what they deserved.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Oh Scott. Of course those hires will revert to patronage. What makes you think they won’t? That’s right, they just won’t — on your say-so. Dream on.

                I’m not here to re-litigate the PATCO strike. This much seems clear, it was the beginning of the end for the public service unions, with the aforementioned exceptions of cops and fire fighters — coz they’re heroes and their unions are just great, nu?Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                What makes you say the new teachers, etc., will be political patronage jobs? Just b/c you say it will happen doesn’t make it so?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Scott, you poor naif, let me explain how this goes down. Who gets to hire teachers? Superintendents of school districts. Who manages these superintendents? The State Superintendent of Schools, a political appointment. What grounds do these state officials use for such hires? Maybe party affiliation? It’s awfully tough these days to get through the interview process. Sure helps to have made a political donation to the right party, coz federal campaign finance laws expose that sort of thing with a quick google. Conversely, a donation to the Wrong Party might, well, be a factor in consideration.

                Is any of this coming into focus? Do you think for one minute I’m going to play little stupid games with you about the reality of partisan politics and the ground rules for those games? I know what goes on in school boards, I’ve been on them.Report

              • Qualification is not the issue here at least not primarily. After appropriation of revenues (contracts) the next biggest arrow in a politicians quiver is hiring. Believe what you want.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Dear scott,
                what’s to say they’re gonna hire anyone at all?
                I contend in 50 years we won’t have a public school system for you to bitch about.

                And america will be a far poorer (3rd world) place because of it.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Assuming that the outlays were actually as different as being portrayed (Ward’s link suggests otherwise, but we’ll ignore that for now), somebody miscalculated. I mean, the possibilities are as follows:

                1) The money was necessary for the election to go Walker’s way. In which case, the unions miscalculated.

                2) The money wasn’t necessary for the election to go Walker’s way, but the symbolism of the money was (to convince Governor D to move forward). In which case, the unions miscalculated by giving Governor D less reason to fear them.

                3) The money and symbolism weren’t necessary because Walker was going to win and Governor D was going to do what Governor D was going to do anyway. In which case, the anti-union side miscalculated.

                I don’t know which of these is true, or it could be something else entirely (there was more parity than meets the eye, or the unions simply didn’t have the resources). But that’s the thinking involved, I believe.Report

              • Scott I’m not an expert on WI politics but here in PA patronage jobs/pay to play is real especially at the local level. I had a township employee tell me point blank (while in their official capacity in the township building) how to get hired. Its not pretty.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Anyone who wants to be a school teacher still has to be qualified to be a teacher. It is not as if Blaise could now go to a town in Wisc and say I want to teach and lay down a grand on the table. Though, I’m sure Blaise is qualified to be a teacher and I’m sure he has down so before given that he done everything else in life.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Some are more equal than others, Scott. The powers of patronage will immediately replace the power of the unions. It is inevitable.

                Back in the days of Huey Long, the governor of Louisiana, folks used to call him a dictator. But Louisiana’s constitution gave him immense powers of patronage, going back to the era of the French governors, who ruled in the name of the King but who were otherwise damned near kings themselves, for it was a long way back to France. The Code Napoleon they called it, eventually.

                When the state hires anyone, someone gets to pick through all the resumes. If that someone is a political appointee, his choices will reflect his mandate.

                The very fucking idea, that I’ve done everything in life. I was a qualified drill instructor and I’ve taught hundreds of people to write decent code over time. I wrote all my ex-wife’s papers in college for her undergraduate degree in Ed and two master’s degrees in Bilingual Special Ed and Community College Administration. I’ve served on the school board and the bilingual steering committees for U-46 and U-300 in Illinois. Yeah, I do know a thing or three about private and public education and how the works. I helped get the principal of my kids’ elementary school elected mayor. I’ve brought out vans full of usable schoolbooks from prosperous high schools to the impoverished high schools of the South Side of Chicago. I’ve built libraries and schools. I care about this shit.

                And you have the temerity to question me about the existence of political patronage in this wicked world. I got a great many school books sent from the USA to Guatemala in spare aircraft cargo capacity because I did some favours for some Guatemalan politicians who made sure my books didn’t get ripped off in customs. I don’t care about how amoral the politicians get. I don’t care about patronage. I just don’t live in some fairytale world where politics does not equate to power.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                I never said that political patronage doesn’t exist. I live is a southern state famous for it. I take issue with your fanciful suggestion that now that Scott “the merciless” Walker has broken the poor unions that all jobs are now going to be patronage jobs, as it isn’t so. So yes, other factors may now come into consideration when hiring but so what? Are those new considerations any worse than the considerations unions use when they are in charge of hiring?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I never said that political patronage doesn’t exist. I live is a southern state famous for it. I take issue with your fanciful suggestion that now that Scott “the merciless” Walker has broken the poor unions that all jobs are now going to be patronage jobs, as it isn’t so.

                Here’s what you did say:

                What makes you say the new teachers, etc., will be political patronage jobs? Just b/c you say it will happen doesn’t make it so?

                Doesn’t make it so. Don’t play tu-quoque with me. So what? you ask. I have a problem with political hiring. We had a bunch of it in Illinois. Led to a famous SCOTUS case called Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain says:

            Consider the old WWII joke about the Chinese waiter in the British officers club in the India-Burma-China theater. On the first day, the Chinese waiter brings the officers a copy of the paper reporting a Chinese-Japanese skirmish with 100 Chinese killed and 50 Japanese killed. The next day the waiter is smiling when he brings the paper, which reports the fight continuing, with 200 Chinese killed and 25 Japanese. The third day the waiter is absolutely beaming when he brings the paper, which reports 500 Chinese killed and 10 Japanese. When one of the British officers asks how he can be so happy as the casualty ratio tips further against the Chinese, the waiter responds, “Pretty soon, no more Japanese.”

            One of the goals inherent in being rich in the US has always been to never, ever, pay for services for the poor and working classes. Not necessarily a consciousness decision, it simply seems to come with the territory. The rich got the snot knocked out of them in the 1930s and 1940s, but the goal remained unchanged. Significant progress began again in the 1980s. For many of those involved, $22M is insignificant relative to their income. The important question, then, is not whether the cost-benefit analysis works out, but whether or not progress was made towards the goal. It doesn’t matter that the spending to avoid paying for services might costs more than the services themselves; the important thing is that they don’t have to pay for services for the poor and working classes.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              Hoovervilles provide a dramatic counter to your argument. The rich were scared in the 40’s. (and smarter than the current brood).Report

      • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

        “Fear will keep the local systems in line.”

        That money is about not letting liberals taste victory. They won a big presidential election and starting thinking they could win. Letting Walker go down would give liberals a win. The more wins they get the more they will push back and organize.

        It was worth the money to demoralize the opposition.Report

  3. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    The left is expending tons of cyberink [charts!] on this for the same reason. There was a principle at stake here that applies to most every state in the union—unfunded pension obligations as far as the calendar can see, the alliance of the public unions with one of the parties—no different than a crony capitalism where business special interests loot the public coffers and control the elections.

    [The rationale behind the 17th Amendment a century ago, BTW, making the Senate directly–democratly– elected instead of appointed by state legislatures presumably held captive by business special interests.]

    In case y’all missed it on the other thread, via InstaP:

    WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: “The American left as we have come to know it suffered a devastating blow in Wisconsin last night. . . . The public sector unions are critical to what remains of the American left. The power of the public service unions in Democratic politics pulls the entire party to the left and gives ideas that are important to the left an access to power that they would otherwise lack. But more important than that, they provide a kind of center to a movement that otherwise threatens to fragment into antagonistic cliques. . . . To the extent that these unions shape the Democratic agenda, Democrats aren’t just the party of government; they are the party of inefficient, expensive, unresponsive, bureaucratic government. . . . The left’s problem in Wisconsin wasn’t that the right had too much money. The left’s problem is that the left’s agenda didn’t have enough support from the public. Poll after poll after poll showed that the public didn’t share the left’s estimation of the Walker reforms. Many thought they were a pretty good idea; many others didn’t much like the reforms but didn’t think they were bad enough or important enough to justify a year of turmoil and a recall election.”


    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      > The public sector unions are critical to what
      > remains of the American left.

      I don’t buy this, Tom. This is like saying American corporate interests are critical to what remains of the GOP, and I don’t buy that either.

      They’re certainly *useful*, but if either of those organizations disappeared tomorrow as a political contributor, the ideas and the people with money would still be there.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        Pat, Mead is still nominally a Democrat, and is making a left/liberal distinction here, I think. The public sector unions are indeed the activist wing and many of the True Believer footsoldiers of the party. [Esp the teachers’ unions: teachers are greatly overrepresented as delegates to the Democratic National Convention.]

        Further, these unions are organized political manpower, hence the “backbone.” Unlike, say #Occupy, which is only good at littering, vandalism, rape, drum circles and other assorted disturbances of the peace.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          As opposed to our fine rural specimens, who seem to think that shooting up churches and burning peoples’ houses down counts as fine pranks.Report

  4. Avatar Kimmi says:

    *shrugs* Kochs do a ton of business in Wisconsin. Dont’ remember if they’re native there, and not sure it matters.

    I heard they got Walker elected to obtain nuclear power plants, and damn the consequences. The whole public employee thing was just an elaborately staged sideshow. (and this I hear from a guy who used to work for Gingrich! your mileage may vary).

    The Republicans, on a large scale, want to revert everything back to the Catholic/French model. “public” schools for their kids (the rich ones), and religious schools for everyone else. Religious schools where people can be taught incorrect biology, and morality and all of that.

    The rich love it, because it gives them yet another perk to staying in power (and they never wanted science anyhow, unless it would just make ’em richer. Just look at the South, or Africa, or the Cavaliers).

    The Jesus Freaks (TM) love it, because they get their power to inculcate kids back.Report

  5. Avatar wardsmith says:

    Well we know that unions spent $4Million just on the primary to this recall, so I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the graph is wrong, unless the union didn’t put another penny towards a Democrat.

    Fundamentally, and I believe the reason outside money came into THIS campaign and not for instance Ohio where virtually identical legislation was passed with nary a peep from the media is Wisconsin was emblematic especially considering they were the first to cave to collective bargaining for public employees, something I shouldn’t need to remind LoOG readers that LBJ himself said would be bad for the country.

    Why were the unions so miffed? It had nothing to do with collective bargaining and EVERYTHING to do with mandatory union deductions from paychecks. From the link above:
    Beil acknowledged that the state employees union has reduced somewhat its average dues amount and has seen between 25 percent and 40 percent — he won’t be more specific — of its members stop paying dues. Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      Those graphs are just on the ads, IIRC. Not on the signature drives and whatnot.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith says:

        Hmm, I don’t think they spent $4million gathering signatures. There were lots of op-eds at the time about teachers calling in “sick” to campaign and do signature drives, I’m sure they were paid by the state not the union. Nope the real problem for the unions was not collecting that loot, amazing how few union members want to voluntarily pay their dues.

        BTW, I forgot to compliment you on your new avatar Pat, looks good.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          Thanks, that’s from Will’s sidebar post the other day.

          At some point, I’m going to try that moustache.Report

          • Avatar wardsmith says:

            Looked around a bit and found this which shows total outlays at least according to the NYT. The 12:1 spending advantage seems to disappear although Walker and allies outspent Barrett and allies by 2.5:1 It also seems to lowball Barrett’s spending by about a million putting the total closer to 2:1, quite a difference from the oft-repeated 12:1

            And yes, if you can pull off that mustache you should.Report

        • Avatar Jeff says:

          Full disclosure: I’m nort a member of a union, but my wife recently became a Teamster.

          The Teamsters were able to bump pay considerably, even after taking dues into account. All union members get the benefits of that bump. And the dues pay for the next round, when the company (a lying, cheating sack of s**t — even the NLRB had to slap them once or twice), so why should all mnembers contribute toward the negotiating team?Report

    • “It had nothing to do with collective bargaining and EVERYTHING to do with mandatory union deductions from paychecks.”

      It’s not all black and white. It was at least a little bit about collective bargaining.Report

  6. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    I’d say it’s symbolic, but $22M is a lot for a symbolic victory.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      This is the part that doesn’t make sense to me.

      Unless you go back to the simplest explanation: “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” The Sunk Cost Fallacy crops up everywhere.Report

  7. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Although you might not live in Wisconsin, what happens there might have a direct effect on your business interests. So why wouldn’t “Houston homebuilder” Bob Perry be interested in having a friendly Governor in a state where he might very well want to do business and develop land in the future? Does Amway do business in Wisconsin? (Of course it does.) If so, wouldn’t someone who is probably still drawing money from it like former Amway CEO Dick DeVos care about what happens there? Et cetera.

    Maybe you think Walker has a political future other than serving out his terms in Wisconsin’s statehouse. A Federal future, to be specific. Maybe investing in that future now and winning puts you on the Platinum-Level Influence List should that series of events come to pass. Investing now and losing will be very quickly forgotten by all but the truest of the true believers, and they aren’t influencable anyway.

    More to the point and without implying the quasi-corruption inherent in large campaign contributions, I think you’re too easily dismissing the change-the-political-climate goals that Jesse, Greginak, and TVD have all referred to. Wisconsin may not directly affect issues in your own state, but particularly if you either have a national business agenda, or a personal desire to shift the position of the body politic as a whole, Wisconsin is a high-profile platform upon which to exert that effort.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      Can you change the political climate by spending $4 million dollars? Ten?

      Are you sure that you’re changing the *right* political climate, by dumping twenty mil on this? I mean, this is obviously going to give a huge boost to Team Blue’s rallying cry grab-bag prior to November. “Remember Wisconsin and those filthy Citizen’s United-enabled Corporate moneygrubbers and their 10x spending on an election that wasn’t even local?! We need more liberal judges on SCOTUS!”

      I mean, I’ve been watching this stuff go flying by on Facebook *already*.

      I guess that’s as plausible a theory as anything (nobody said that political animals were entirely rational actors).Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

        The problem is, um, that’s too difficult and complicated a rallying cry for a national election. It might work on liberal blogs filled up with people with too much free time like me, but to your average voter, they’re going to say, “what happened in Wisconsin and what is Citizens United?”

        Basically, that’s what AFP, Crossroads GPS, and every other political campaign in history counts on. You can do unpopular things, as long as it’s overly complicated and not easily digestible into a soundbite like, “government takeover” or “tax cuts for the rich.”Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          People around here don’t know the specifics of Citizen United (in fact, they have a profound misunderstanding of it, but I digress), but the words do mean something to them: Big, bad corporations buying off our elections. It’s a signature issue for the local Democrats, and CU is being mentioned a lot.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        So in the stanley cup finals tonight should the Kings not try to check the Devils hard because it might piss them off and fight harder. Sides fight hard to win, you don’t avoid fighting hard because your opponent might fight back. If unions get whacked it takes a lot of effort to get them back. So if Walker gets rid of them, then unions have to fight and struggle to get what they had back. R’s can fight that and very possibly prevent it.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Can you change the political climate by spending $4 million dollars? Ten?

        I dunno, exactly — but consider this: how much money did it take Swift Boat Veterans For Truth to torpedo the idea that a guy with two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star for combat activity is a legitimate war hero? (I believe the answer is in the neighborhood of ten million dollars, but can’t recall off the top of my head.)Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          While I am no fan of the Swift Boaters: they’re all liars, every one — I have my reservations about John Kerry. Kerry was what we used to call a Glory Hound or a Medal Detective.

          I knew two Glory Hounds. Both got killed in action and both took Americans down with them. One took a whole patrol down with him. Kerry and his brave little crew survived.

          Kerry was only in country four months. Kerry asked for and received an early discharge from the US Navy to run for Congress. Now there’s nothing particularly unusual about an early discharge for various reasons. I knew guys who got early discharges for a variety of reasons. But based on what the record shows, I have every reason to believe John Kerry was a Medal Detective, using every opportunity to fling himself into the action to fill up his medal rack, which he did with preternatural speed.

          Tell y’all right now, I wouldn’t want John Kerry in charge of the US military.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            I wasn’t addressing the merit of their shifting of the narrative, but rather their effectiveness in doing so and the expenses involved.

            Maybe there was merit to the defense of Governor Walker, too; maybe there is merit in the generally anti-union posture with which he has become identified. If not, then Pat’s response — that the money and the effort could backfire — seems somewhat more likely.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              I think the SBV crowd was successful precisely because Kerry comes across as kind of a dick. People were willing to believe he was one.

              If the guy could stand up in front of a mike and talk like Petraeus, it would have been a waste of money.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Yond’ Kerry has a lean and hungry look;
                He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

                Petraeus is a two-bit fart suppressor, he and Colin Powell both. Petraeus became the nation’s glory boy by sitting up there in the north of Iraq and blithely ignoring the Kurds ethnically cleansing the Arabs out of their AO. Colin Powell, that dirtbag, managed to suppress the My Lai massacre for a good long while and nobody would ever have found out about it if Seymour Hersh hadn’t stumbled onto Calley’s court martial.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Petraeus knows how to look like a steely-eyed commander on camera.

                Fart suppressor or no.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                He’s pretty well hated in military and intel circles after his Fart Suppression of the circumstances of the Heroic Death of Pat Tillman.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Not many people outside the State of Wisconsin understand why both the Democrat and the Republican were against the teachers’ unions in the previous election. If this was supposed to be a referendum on the unions’ strong-arming the school districts, we got one.

              For all the Happy Talk in national GOP circles and the equally-ignorant Democratic operators, few people inside the state knew the score. Doyle the Democrat had been an abomination, sloshing money around from fund to fund, taxing the living hell out of everything, with the assistance of the GOP-controlled State Senate, may I add — nobody comes out looking good here — well, Doyle took on the wrong crowd when he proposed an income tax on the One Percenters. The One Percenters in the Land o’ Cheese rose up in a fury and got Walker elected and they are not about to allow another Democrat to return to the policies of Doyle, not all of which are undone, some of which I’m personally lobbying the state to undo, a huge fucking rats’ nest of patronage outsourcing.Report

          • Avatar Jeff says:

            That doesn’t pertain — the “Honor Our Troops” crowd dishonored EVERY Puple Heart recipient, worthwhile or not, with their little stunt. It was realy quite amazing to see them spitting on vets (in a figurative sense) while claiming to be the Only True Patriots.Report

  8. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Occam’s razor works pretty well for me with this one; I’m not so sure there needs to be a complicated answer.

    I think it simply got a lot of press, especially in the right-based media. I think the recall battle has been a staple on FOX programming and talk shows for a while now. It was all reported in a constant, breathless, “this is the single defining moment of Democracy” kind of way. I don’t think it’s that surprising that people, even political pros, got carried away in all of the emotion and took it as such.

    Now, do I think that was $22 million well spent? No. Regardless of what pundits on either side have been saying, we’re talking about a pretty unusual set of circumstances taking place in a relatively small state. I don’t think this was ever anything but a local story that people inserted their larger narratives into.

    Do I think that $22 million changed the outcome of this election? No. That people re-elected the guy they just elected instead of the guy they just didn’t want to elect doesn’t seem particularly nefarious – in fact it doesn’t seem to need any explanation at all.

    But just because someone’s wasted some money doing some emotion-based shopping doesn’t mean there is a larger purpose hidden in the shadows.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      Also, really excellent post.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      This is kind of the best possible interpretation, methinks.

      Which means that the Clash of the Narratives is going to produce wildly oddball explanations, which is kind of reflected in the comments on the now-five posts on this topic, I think.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        When you think about it, it’s kind of amazing that this generated 5 posts. (Says one of the guys that wrote one.)Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        Reducing truth to a question of competing narratives has always been unsatisfactory to me. This election was not about nothing, it was not nothing.

        Now it could be that the forces remain in rough balance, that this election isn’t decisive. But the “existential threat” was to the public sector labor unions, as Wardsmith noted:

        Why were the unions so miffed? It had nothing to do with collective bargaining and EVERYTHING to do with mandatory union deductions from paychecks. From the link above:
        Beil acknowledged that the state employees union has reduced somewhat its average dues amount and has seen between 25 percent and 40 percent — he won’t be more specific — of its members stop paying dues.

        Lost 25-40% of its dues base. that’s a big deal all in itself.

        The union left just lost an existential battle, its very survival threatened. You can’t lose battles where your existence is threatened. Further, Dem pols like Andrew Cuomo are going in Walker’s direction [see HuffPo link above].

        That the status quo of underfunded pensions and perpetual raises for the public sector cannot continue is more than mere narrative: it’s a leading issue of the entire Western world and specifically America at the state level, where in many or most states, solvency is threatened by this runaway train.

        And contrary to popular assertion, Fox News does not control the world media narrative or political agenda. In fact, it was Wisconsin’s left who started this recall thing, not Bill O’Reilly.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

          contrary to popular assertion… it was Wisconsin’s left who started this recall thing, not Bill O’Reilly.

          I’m sorry, you’ll have to highlight where I said that?Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          > The union left just lost an existential battle, its very
          > survival threatened. You can’t lose battles where your
          > existence is threatened.

          Then how do you explain the “not showing up” part?

          Seriously, if this *is* an existential threat… dude, where were they? Is the Union machinery so blithering inept that they fail to see their own demise looming on the horizon like a giant killer robot?

          > Further, Dem pols like Andrew Cuomo are going
          > in Walker’s direction [see HuffPo link above].

          Well, now, hold on a second… if Dem pols like Cuomo are going in Walker’s direction… how can they do this if the Unions are the Backbone of the Party?

          > The public sector unions are indeed the activist wing
          > and many of the True Believer footsoldiers of the party.

          Okay, but… then… wait…

          How can Cuomo poop in their milk and expect to remain in the Party? Or is he just an opportunist and out for his own political career, or not a national party hack, or what?Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            Pat, I didn’t concede the left didn’t show up in WI. I noted the national money & support Dunkirked, and that was widely reported in the media.

            The “backbone” left in WI wore out the shoeleather and gave it hell. We could pull up some of the sobbing at the loss, but that would be spiking the football. For the right, this was not an existential battle and there would have been no tears at a loss. Real righties don’t cry.

            As for the future of the Dems, I dunno. I think the Obama-Pelosi left has scared people away from the Dems, and that there are plenty of Democrats—liberal, not left—who agree that the public union issue is a genuine problem, and I believe a strong majority of independents as well.

            Andrew Cuomo seems well-positioned as the Dem centrist candidate for 2016. I don’t know a lot about him, but I’m unsurprised to learn Bill Clinton likes him. A lot.


            Clinton also sang the praises of the current governor, calling his decision-making style one “that would work best for America.”

            “If you look at what Gov. Cuomo accomplished in his first few months in office, it’s incredible,” the former POTUS said.

            “He brought in a balanced budget, but didn’t try to break the public employees, like the governor of Wisconsin did. He was tough, but he brought everybody to the table. He asks, ‘Do we have a problem with poor people? Yes? Then what are we all going to do about it — together?’

            “That is the decision-making model that works best — and it would work best for America. And what’s frustrating in Washington, is that people argue, but they don’t reach consensus. Even a broken clock is right twice a day!”

            As you may know, this Republican is pretty soft on Bill Clinton. I can’t see how it’s possible to deny he was a pretty good president. As for Cuomo, I don’t know a lot about him, but give me a liberal rather than a leftist any day.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              Nobody from NY. The banksters have way too many favors with them.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              Clarification, got it.

              This makes some sense.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                PatC: It also tells Republican politicians not to fear going for it. Walker actually did better this time around with the issue at his back. And I’d think the Koches would rather invest in Walker the Idea for a handful of millions than say, Romney the Man in a billion-dollar election. I would. Lots more ideological bang for the buck.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Walker the Idea, perhaps. Walker the Man needs some good lawyers. Two will get you five Walker will be charged with felony obstruction and violation of campaign finance laws and is going to prison before his term is ended.

                It’s instructive to note nobody in this fracas has yet been convicted of a felony. They’ve all gone belly-up and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution. Things are not looking good for Walker just now.Report

  9. Avatar Citizen says:

    Industrial goods, instruments and machinery. Add what ever agriculture you wish. Follow the money as usual, you will find all you need. It rhymes with billions of loddars. There is chicken feed, and there is stuff you wanna control as overlord. Crush the unions for damn sure.Report

  10. Avatar MikeSchilling says:

    Think Spanish Civil War. The right-wing noise machine needed funds to field-test tactics they’ll be using for November’s election.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      The West watched the Spanish Civil War and knew it would have to fight the winner.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

      That’s something I did forget about in the overall analysis. If you’re already planning on spending $200 million to take out Obama, what’s another ten or fifteen million to make sure the Left doesn’t get a win beforehand?Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        If you’re already spending $200 million on Obama, why the hell do you bother with small potatoes in Wisconsin?

        You get Obama, you probably keep the House and why not spend that $22 million trying to up your chances at nabbing the Senate, which is looking worse for Team Red at the moment?Report

        • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

          You’re assuming there’s a finite, already specified pool of money being divvied up by someone who’s planning the entire campaign in advance.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          My guess is partly a narrative thing. Making sure you stamp down on the recall gives you added credibility going into November. Look how the media has latched onto the “trial balloon” narrative, despite the fact that it holds absolutely no water based on the polling data.Report

  11. Avatar M.A. says:

    This accounts for $10 million dollars collected by Walker’s campaign, and about $3 million dollars of Barrett’s.

    Walker had a 2-month fundraising lead in which his opponents weren’t allowed to fundraise (they weren’t allowed to fundraise until the petition was certified, he was allowed the moment one of his cronies filed a fake petition with 0 signatures).

    Walker had the advantage of being able to collect unlimited-amount donations from wealthy individuals while his opponents had a donation limit.

    The word you are looking for is “corruption.”Report

  12. Avatar Michael Drew says:


    Why are you being so pushy about the possible explanations being offered here as if we trying to predict whether this spending is going to take place, and you think it won’t, and you’re shooting down all the reasons people are giving for thinking it will? It did take place! It’s you who has the burden to show why these reasons are unreasonable, because of the very point you’re making: something has to explain $20 mil. $20 million bucks happens because of real interests, even if weirdly calculated by the interested.

    What have you got to explain reality here?


    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      He signed on to Tod’s reason: The reason is simply getting carried away.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Do you buy that?Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          Not really. I don’t buy “rational self-interest” either, though, unless we consider ideology or “Go Team!” to be defined as such.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            Go Team is what Tod & Pat are basically saying it’s about. If that’s what you think, I think you’re with them. See below & Burt’s comment above. Interests. Maybe not all perfectly rational, maybe not all “self”-only (as in purely pecuniary) – general political/policy interest is real and can go beyond just party ID and economic self-interest – but there are quite real interests here, beyind just team ID. Though there’s certainly some team ID.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              No, they’re saying that they got caught up on the moment. I’m saying they made a decision in favor of their favored team. Not caught up on the moment at all. More like making a non-self-interested $1000 donation to the alma mater’s athletics department. Calm and considered, though not remarkably rational in the objective sense of things.

              Of course, I say ideology or go team. These things are hard to separate. I don’t think that ideology is uninvolved. Rather, that it’s not necessarily self-interested ideology. Or a calculation thereof. Rather, “I don’t like this thing and will spend money trying to defeat it” rather than “We will spend $20m trying to defeat this thing and it should gets us over $20m in return over time,” like a rational investment.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Is this a What’s the Matter with Kansas argument? Because my Occam’s Razor on these things is that—aside from the union members in WI who had their oxen gored—people vote and work and give in politics because they believe it’s what’s best for the city, state, country.

                I don’t think there’s anything the matter with Kansans except them being good citizens.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Well…What’s the Matter with Kansas? has long, long been debunked as being junk social science, anyway. As in, the data actually belies the original question.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Good. I don’t think most Americans vote self-interest. I think they vote what they think is right, and what’s best for the country. Even the ones I disagree with.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                That’s not actually true…most Americans do vote self-interest. It’s just the Kansas argument didn’t look at who was voting for whom very well and just looked at the state like it was some sort of monolithic entity.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                To rebut What’s the Matter with Kansas, we’d have to redefine working class to include all the poor, which really doesn’t work out.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Did your analysis of the debunking include the author’s rebuttal?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Not really. Look, I’m in a Domestic Relationship with a farm girl, strongly Republican, did a couple years in the Air Force, came out to find her family’s farm had been repossessed and her mother and brother living in a pickup truck. She got them out of that situation, spent some time living rough in tent in a state park, supporting her mother with a brain tumour and a dyslexic brother with factory jobs.

                They moved up into the trailer park. Not down. Up.

                She informs my opinion of what happened not only in Kansas but elsewhere.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                More anecdata.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Yeah. Anecdata. Now I have a whole clan of these people in my life. I’ve now wrapped this little town of Augusta around me like a well-worn coat. I love this girl.

                Now you can sneer at me, or both of us, or her whole clan if you like. We aren’t anecdata. We’re real people. We live in Wisconsin. We talk about this stuff every day. We just got finished walking the dog, talking about it.

                So I’m not going to take your crap, Tom. What’s Wrong with Kansas is borne out in these people’s lives.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Nothing wrong with Kansas, Blaise. Nothing wrong with you. Anecdata argues the exception to create the rule. This is not proper argument or reasoning.

                I don’t know a single person here @ LoOG who isn’t in favor of society-gov’t assisting your girl’s family’s run of bad luck. Not a one of us is a Randian, not a humbug in the bunch. Best wishes for you and yours.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                They don’t want help. They want their dignity. They vote Republican, all of them. They think they’re working class. The only one who works — well, worked, now she’s back in college since she got laid off from her factory job, is my girlfriend.

                Don’t you fucking condescend to these people or to me, either. I respect these people’s opinions. Their bad luck revolved around Mom’s brain tumour, domestic violence and a barn fire which took out a whole herd of purebred Holstein cattle. And they just keep on soldiering on, the whole bunch of them, six siblings. And none of us can get Mom to collect her Social Security, that’s how seriously they’re opposed to government assistance.

                What’s Wrong with Kansas is embodied in these people. They aren’t voting in their own self-interest, yeah, seen from the outside these folks could use some assistance. They refuse it. I’ve been around enough poor people, all my life, when they lose their dignity, you might as well have killed them. Back when Johnson was trying to do something about poverty, the GOP made sure any assistance was only given in the context of complete destitution. You can wish us well, if you’d like. We don’t want the GOP’s crummy little handouts. We want a society which gives a shit about poor people but not at the cost of their dignity.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I should clarify, five of the six are working, but only my g/f and I are caring for her mom and brother.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Blaise, using these people to further your political rap is what’s not kosher here. They sound like great folks and mebbe you’ll learn something from them instead of being the great washer of the great unwashed.

                I’m not condescending to them or buying them as anecdata either. So stop fucking yelling at me.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Using these people to further my little political rap? The point was this: What’s the Matter with Kansas attempts to point out how working class conservatism has morphed into an advantage for the GOP. You came in here, flapping your little flippers and braying like a penguin about how America votes for what they think is right.

                These hard-core Republicans no longer believe government works on their behalf. It doesn’t. It only rewards the winners. If it gives any help to the little guy, it’s only on the basis of first humiliating them. When you want to whip up class envy, you don’t start by blaming the winners in society, you blame the people juuust a little farther up the food chain, like the union teachers. They get decent health coverage and retirement benefits and suchlike. They’re doing better than the poor jamoke who has to work two jobs and gets no benefits. Solution? Bust the unions. Take away their benefits. Happy now? So it seems.

                I don’t intend to change the way they think. I’m a strange bird to them. They like me. They respect what I’m doing in this situation because they don’t have the resources to care for Mom and the dyslexic brother, who we just got through his GED at the age of 30. If that’s washing the great unwashed, I was commanded by Jesus Christ to wash just such feet and that’s what I’m doing. It’s not what you’re doing.

                I’m not yelling at you. You’re the one who starts in with the Anecdota line, you’re getting what you handed out. What do you know about the working poor? You’re just a headhunter, a little remora clinging to the pale underbelly of this shark economy. I’ve dealt with people like you all my life and thank God I no longer have to.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                I don’t even know what your point is at this point, Blaise. Everybody shut up and listen to Blaise because he’s living with proud poor people who have experienced family tragedies and financial ruin but still vote Republican.

                A healthy majority of Wisconsin voters just gave Scott Walker a thumbs up to keep on doing what he’s doing was the topic. I guess the photo of Ming the Merciless is Scott Walker or Republicans in general.

                Well, I’ll tellya what, BP. Good on your proud family of Republicans and good on Scott Walker. And I won’t apologize for how I make a living—and neither did I put my autobio on the table as you have. It’s none of yr goddam business.

                [Been making more money playing the blues, actually. Here, this Saturday night. Good beer, no cover.]Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                What gave rise to the What’s the Matter with Kansas meme anyway? Nob thinks it’s junk sociology. Now I respect Nob, he’s a poli sci guy, knows a lot about this stuff. So I observe, “we’d have to redefine the poor to include the working class” which seemed reasonable enough to me, if not to you.

                So then Wardsmith, who has sorta earned my respect of late, an honest man, asks if I’d read the author’s rebuttal, which I presume he found linked off the Wikipedia page, because that’s where I found it. But I got a ways into it and realised maybe both Frank and Bartels were partly right. The working poor don’t consider themselves poor. So when he asked, I said, “Not really” because I have my own conclusions about why the GOP has made inroads into what was traditionally Democratic territory. And I said so, not to you, but to him.

                Since I first came here, I’ve met up with a fair number of Tea Party folks. I talked at length to them, got them to read and discuss John Stuart Mill over beers. It went on almost all that winter. I’ve said many times I’m disgusted with the Democrats: they pander to the poor. FDR never pandered to the poor, he was a patrician who loved the poor and they loved him. When he died, he was sincerely mourned by everyone but the people of his own patrician class. They hated him. They’d been hating him for years.

                How could the party of FDR fall into such disrepute with the very people who had once adored him? That’s the point of What’s the Matter with Kansas. The GOP is embarrassed by it because Frank is right. If the working class in the USA had any idea how they were only being led around by the nose, being told the unions were destroying this country, by a bunch of people who do not have their best interests in mind, they’d destroy the GOP. And that’s what the Tea Party is doing, just now. They are changing the GOP at a fundamental level, absolutely intent upon bringing down the very engine of progress which once lifted up their fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers.

                Populism is a tiger which has eaten every rider who tried to get aboard and it will eventually eat the GOP. The Democrats allowed themselves to be painted as ivory tower types. Once it was the Democrats who held the banner of populism but once the civil rights struggle and the Vietnam War were ended, their causes were finished. Since Reagan, the GOP has been indulging in little fantasies about how it will be Morning in America again. Well it won’t. They summoned up the demon of populism, now let them send it back to Hell again.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Love how this equates national political moneymen with the good, unassuming people of Kansas.

                Also love how you say you think people seek to influence politics with rightful civic-mindedness all the times that you don’t think they don’t, or alternatively, even less charitably (to you and by you), that everyone acts presumptively civically except specifically Wisconsin’s public employee union members (meaning my parents). There’s admirable room for flexibility in how to regard political agents nearer to or farther from your sympathies in all of that, I have to say, Tom. That is, I guess, unless it really is just the Cheeseheads who act self-interestedly. That does pin you down a mite more, I’ll admit.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Whatever, pal.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                In other words, “You nailed me.”Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                No, Michael, it means my eyes glaze over at your quibbling, esp when you get personal. You’ve become a black hole for enjoyable discussion.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Since you made mention of your personal enjoyment of this site earlier somewhere else, I’m going to go ahead and say this.

                I’ll speak for myself but I think others will agree; I’m not here to make this place enjoyable for you, Tom. I’m here to discuss things that matter a lot, or a little. If you end up enjoying it, great. I hope others find the site enjoyable as well. Everyone, though, is free to walk any time it’s not enjoyable.

                You, on the other hand, by having signed on as a contributor, I believe have agreed to do what you can to make it enjoyable for us, the readers. That you largely fail in the context of comments is perfectly acceptable. None of us are paying you, and, as mentioned, we can walk. As they say, it is what it is. But it is.Report

              • Avatar Bad-ass Motherfisher says:

                No, Michael, it means my eyes glaze over at your quibbling, esp when you get personal. You’ve become a black hole for enjoyable discussion.

                I consider myself a connoisseur of cheap irony, and this is like a night after hours at the Cheesecake Factory.Report

              • Avatar Bad-ass Motherfisher says:

                What gave rise to the What’s the Matter with Kansas meme anyway?

                Well, Blair, there was this book…Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                They made a decision in favor of their favored something, we can agree on that. But why is their team the Republican Party of Wisconsin or Scott Walker himself? Pat’s right that still needs explanation if you’re saying it wasn’t about getting whipped into blowing the battle in Wisconsin out of proportion, assuming that before 2010 Walker or the RPoW weren’t particularly their party, but rather the broader Republican Party or conservatism or pro-business politics or something. All of which can be determined by interests as much as by blind loyalty, and with that we are back to a debate I know we did once do up in a big way. Though I feel even better about saying donors on this scale choose teams based on interests as much as blind identification than I did in saying that people choose parties based on actual values (whether they’re screwing up the association of the value with the right party or not) as much as by blind identification or loyalty. People do tend to assume the party ID of their parents, but I think they also assess that in their early adulthood and choose again for themselves. Businesses and people making decisions about what to do with large sums of money I believe are more reflective still about how their decisions relate to what they’ve identified as their real interests.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I believe they made the calculation (not necessarily the correct one) that this battle had importance as it pertains to future battles. It’s also the battle that they can fight right now. The election isn’t until November and $20m is unlikely to be able to influence that one much (I am skeptical on how much it influenced this one, but I think they came to a different conclusion). So spend the money here and hope it helps Team Red score some touchdowns down the line.

                Not just winning at the ballotbox, but winning with legislation. Not just legislation of self-interest. Legislation of Beating The Other Guy and legislation of “this is how I think the world should be.”Report

              • Avatar Boegiboe says:

                I think this is real close to correct. I don’t know if I can get closer to correct, but I have gotten the feeling, living in the DC area, that a lot of money spent on politics bleeds off into efforts to get people to spend more money on politics. Figuring out how to get more consistent donations around the calendar year would fit with that, no?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Boegiboe, wasn’t a major contender for DC mayor torpedoed by the unions? Also


                I’m not sure everybody here is quite up to speed on this issue.Report

              • Avatar Boegiboe says:

                Tom, I can’t read what you linked. I get a big error message.Report

              • Avatar Boegiboe says:

                I’m still reading, but…can public school teachers get TENURE???Report

              • Avatar Boegiboe says:

                OK, I think I’ve got it (as well as I can)
                I was here in the DC area and heard the frequently reported statistics on how much better the kids were doing under Mayor Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. (I will say I admired her in every interview I heard)

                But, the “better” that the kids were doing was entirely judged under the Federal law that determines distribution of limited Federal funds. Education shouldn’t be this way. I failed to realize that the No Child Left Behind Act would leave the fewest children behind, but they would be left WAY behind.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Boeg, the Dems are going to have to solve education intramurally, IMO. Nixon going to China, that sort of thing. That many DemocratIC mayors have begun to roll up their sleeves is a good sign.

                That the teachers unions have such an inordinate amount of influence with the party, not so good. They represent a lot of boots on the ground.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                The Obama campaign put $25 million out on the winds in May, BTW. No discernible effect in the polls.


                Scott Walker seems to have brought more bang for the buck.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                I agree with everything in the first pararpah up until “Team Red.” They are not that literally obtuse in how they think about why they do what they do, not in the main (obviously, this is all somewhat fuzzy at the edges – there’s at least a little of ever everything).

                Obviously, winning with legislation, also with regulatory posture, is what it’s about. And no, not *just* legislation of self-interest. I’ve been conceding a degree of sincere ideological and just political interest all along, just not the Whole Enchilada. You’re the one who said you ‘don’t buy “rational self-interest” either, though, unless we consider ideology or “Go Team!” to be defined as such.’ That can only mean you’re saying it’s not at all about pecuniary or other direct self-interest; it’s only about ideology (which presumably can include, as Tom posits, civic belief about good policy i.e. school choice or etc. as well as something like just wanting conservatives in power for the sake of it, or social issues or what have you), or just partisanship. I don’t get what basis you claimed to have to reject direct pecuniary self-interest out of hand like that – I think a high bar for that needs to be set when the dollar amounts in question are what they are – but it seems that you’re no longer doing that.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                That can only mean you’re saying it’s not at all about pecuniary or other direct self-interest; it’s only about ideology (which presumably can include, as Tom posits, civic belief about good policy i.e. school choice or etc. as well as something like just wanting conservatives in power for the sake of it, or social issues or what have you), or just partisanship.

                The “not at all” is more than I was intending to say on that. Rather, that I don’t think it is most accurately looked at in those terms, or looked at primarily in those terms. I mean that I do not buy rational self-interest as the principal explanation.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                To be clear, when I said that $20 mil happens because of real interests, I didn’t mean that some of those aren’t ideological or political. But they need to add up to something real to the person making the decision if we’re talking about large enough amounts of money. And if they’re large enough and made by people who otherwise seem to act with material rationality in other dealings with sums of that amount (meaning perhaps excluding someone like Sheldon Adelson at this point in his life), I think a presumption that real material interests are a significant part of those real interests becomes more justified than not.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                And if they’re large enough and made by people who otherwise seem to act with material rationality in other dealings with sums of that amount (meaning perhaps excluding someone like Sheldon Adelson at this point in his life), I think a presumption that real material interests are a significant part of those real interests becomes more justified than not.

                Which is the difference between where you are coming from and where I am coming from on this matter.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Well, we have to assume some motivations drive actions, and you’ve conceded that interests broadly conceived drive these ones. I’ve conceded all of yours likely play a part. Why do you resist saying (really, presuming, which is weaker) material interests play a significant part in the constellation? Just the ‘significant’ part? I’m confused where your incredulity on this point comes from. That’s reasonable, if so. If not, I don’t get where you’re coming form.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                It might depend on how you define “significant.” I don’t know what part it makes. I know that sometimes people give money to campaigns for material reasons, but I don’t think that’s accurate as an automatic assumption. I think that one of the advantages of being rich is that you get to throw money around like this on things such as ideology and affiliation.

                Might it be significant here? Very well might be. I’m not denying it’s a factor. I just see other factors as likely being more important.

                Anyhow, the wife and I have seven hours in the car tomorrow to and from an obstetrical appointment, and I have laundry I need to fold, so my response time going forward will be limited.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                All good, Will.

                I’m not arguing for an automatic assumption that that’s the exclusive reason, I’m arguing that a presumption is reasonable that it is reasonable to suspect that material interest is a significant interest among the interests that drive large contributions. Obviously, there are exceptions, such as, I’d think, Foster Friess and Sheldon Adelson in this campaign.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                …but yes, it’s a combination of ideological, political, and “real” interests, some of which aren’t economically self-benefitting. It’s not that they expect that the individual expenditure will have positive yield, but that in aggregate, all of this kind of spending improves the business environment for them enough that they can benefit in the long run.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I think there is merit to the aggregate argument, and to clarify I think that team-picking is related to self-interest in the broad and the narrow. But I think these things can be and often are overwhelmed by, having picked a team or having a team picked for you*, getting fixed into those terms even apart from self-interest in the immediate or aggregate.

                * – Team, in this instance, is actually a little more complicated than Red/Blue, though in this case we are talking about the R/B.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      Just saw your response to Tod.

      So basically, you shoot down all these attempts to present possible rational reasons after asking for (presumably rational reasons), and then embrace pure emotionalism, after yourself saying, no those other rational, interest-based reasons aren’t reasonable enough, it has to be something that makes even more rational sense? Fair enough, I guess.

      I still think rich business men give that kind of cash out of at least some degree of rational self-interest.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        …such as basically all of what Burt said in his direct response to the OP. (sorry to have jumped the thread.) Not to Godwin the thread by maybe being using the word Koch – I’m not a Kochspiracy theorist, and I don;t hardly bring them up ever, but it’s a simply a fact that they are deeply pre-invested in this state with very real, not emotional, media-driven, or “carried away” interests. I mean, come on. There are interests at stake here.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:


      The whole point of the post was to see what others had as an explanation, and to see if it bent, broke, or made sense. Not pushing on it would be kind of rendering the whole exercise moot.

      Tod’s makes sense. Tom’s (amended) makes some sense – it is at least somewhat consistent at explaining what the anti-Walker crowd was doing (still doesn’t explain the expense on the pro-Walker side). The Sunk Cost Fallacy makes sense, which is basically what Will and Burt are saying; some combination of, “people miscalculated what was necessary to accomplish the goal”.

      Most of the other frames don’t make sense – to me. For example:

      “I still think rich business men give that kind of cash out of at least some degree of rational self-interest.”

      This is a reasonable hypothesis. So what’s their perceived rational self-interest here? Rich business men gave what looks like an awful lot of extra money to accomplish something that by the polling numbers they were likely to pull off anyway, even *without* any political machinations *or* spending an extra $30-10 million, depending upon which numbers you’re looking at. Are they just mis-perceivin’?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        1) The money was already being a-spended when the shape of the race came together. This money created the environment you’re saying should have prevented it from being spent, that’s first. So basically, to some extent, unless you know the timeflow of all this money much better than I, your last paragraph is false or at least undemonstrated.

        2) Insurance. They didn’t know any better than the rest of us that in this idiosyncratic one-off election scenario turnout efforts couldn’t and wouldn’t overcome the advantage that Walker had (that they helped him build). I think you’re suffering from acute outcome-awareness bias here.

        3. These types of arguments apply equally whatever their reasons for being interested in the outcome might be. If they just wanted Walker to win cuz Fox news likes him better or whatever, the numbers still said what they said, and so there’s still this question to answer (if you say it’s such vexing a question, which in 1 & 2 I show it really isn’t) why they’d give so much if the thing was foregone even in their minds. None of that even speaks to why they care in the first place, and isn’t any more explained by being motivated by whipped up partisan fervor.

        4. If you are saying it is – that shrewd businessmen would part with that kind of money just because they’re whipped into a fervor by national media (over whom maybe they have less than no influence, btw, but that’s a topic for a different day) and you’re saying it on the basis of POE based on eliminating previous interest-based explanations that just don’t quite make sense, then i think I can say that *that one doesn’t make any freaking sense at all, either!* (Can’t I?) I mean the rational explanations to date don’t work make because they don’t quite make enough sense, fair enough, but the irrational one, that makes perfect sense, it’s gotta be that one, because we all know how irrational people who’ve figured out how to make enough money to pump millions or at least 100Ks into a race in a state where you don’t live (oh but wait, where you do do business) tend to be! Right?

        No. Fail.Report

        • Avatar Plinko says:

          I don’t have much to add as I think MD’s 1&2 are quite strong. At the time the recall petition started, polling seemed to indicate broad dissatisfaction with Walker’s major initiatives and Democrats had already managed to win several state senate seats in recalls against sitting Republicans. All the passion and momentum seemed to be on the side of the protesters.

          With Wisconsin shaping up to be a big swing state and Walker being a cause celebre for movement conservatives, I can see how the Governor’s out of state backers mobilized to stop the bleeding – a loss would deal a serious blow to the momentum narrative they’d had going while a win gives them a great opportunity to dominate the national news during the doldrums leading up to the national party conventions.

          I think there’s also something of a dissatisfaction with Mitt among Tea Party types where they might want to send a message that they want to back candidates that are more reliably committed to their policy goals. If that gets the attention of team Mitt a little more, it might be well worth it.Report

  13. Avatar Scott Fields says:

    Pat –

    “I guess we’re back to stupid Evil Overlords as the explanation.”

    It seems you’re not buying that Sheldon Adelson and Richard DeVos are stupid. You say the Koch brothers don’t just throw money around. Doesn’t that suggest these big money folks thought long and hard about these donations and felt they were worth doing? Do you think these moguls were impulsive?Report

    • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

      Honestly, Scott, this post was more of a sounding board for what other people thought.

      What I think isn’t quite as “I’m stumped” as I implied in the OP. Will and I talked about stories in Vegas, I think there are stories involved here.

      I’m curious as to what *other* people think they are.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        I’m curious what you think they are.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          I think it’s pretty likely that the phenomenon is not explicable by a simple theory.

          Scott Walker is not General Klytus. There is no Ming the Merciless shadow empire behind him. Some wealthy donors gave money to the Walker anti-recall effort because they have a vested commercial interest in who is in charge in Wisconsin. Some gave because of Jaybird’s theory. Some gave for Tom’s reason. Some gave because they had dinner with someone who hit them up just at the time when they were predisposed to say yes. Some gave money to political action committees like the Americans for Prosperity… and the Americans for Prosperity have a board that decides how the money is spent and some members on that board voted to buy ads for Walker for all sorts of different reasons. Heck, I imagine there’s someone out there who gave money to the Americans for Prosperity and they’re currently peeved because they feel like their money was wasted.

          As you and Will point out elsewhere, the money doesn’t get spent in a single lump sum, and who decides what to donate to which channel is context-dependent and then that money works its way into the political campaigning system which in turn has an effect on who donates what in the next week, and so on. Ming did not overcompensate and decide to spend $22 million dollars because he really wanted to screw over the public sector unions. There is no “Ming”.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            Well, yeah. Multiple donors, multiple reasons.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            …Did anyone say otherwise? That Rich Unger Koch article is from February of last year. That’s about the general effort to pursue policies like this that Koch and ALEC have indeed pushed nationwide. This was about what’s the deal with all the money pumped into Wisconsin for just this one fight over such issues.

            I think your piece spoofs contentions that no one’s really making – but actually requests them in order to spoof them further in the comments. Seems like you just wanted to laugh at folks. We all could have agreed that various interests directed the various cash injections, I think.

            And that’s the only point really to be made – that real interests have to direct sums of this amount. Some of those interests can be ideological, but I think that’s a lot of weight for just ideological interest to carry, and it’s pretty reasonable to suspect and go looking for the more material reasons people might make such material contributions to a fight in a state where, as you point out, mostly they don’t personally live.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              > I think your piece spoofs contentions that no one’s
              > really making – but actually requests them in
              > order to spoof them further in the comments.

              More like, requests them to see if anyone offers them. Because I was interested to see if anyone would offer them, and attempt to defend them. Instead, everyone more or less took a thoughtful approach.

              Also, I’m actually curious if anyone had an explanation that went beyond theory and had other evidence to back it up. My explanation doesn’t have any data. There’s lots of ways to plausibly interpret what just happened in Wisconsin, but damned if I know for certain what actually just happened in Wisconsin.

              > Seems like you just wanted to laugh at folks.

              Give me a little charity. It’s threads like these where the back-and-forth in the comments is pretty interesting for the cross-over of thoughts between people who don’t normally agree on things. Around here, the opposite of groupthink.

              Somewhere else, yes, a post like this would probably be written just to be a baited trap. But I don’t blog somewhere else.Report

  14. Avatar Boegiboe says:

    How much of political donation goes to getting folks elected, and how much goes to getting more donations in the future?

    When a candidate gets more money than can be spent in an election, what rules determine how that money can be redirected?

    I’m tempted by a lot of suggestive questions at this point, but I think those two are neutral enough (and I don’t know how to answer them) and important enough to leave on their own.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Several years ago, I worked on a congressional campaign. We were getting all of this money from this other candidate. It’s been a while and I don’t remember what the laws were at the time (this was before McCain-Feingold) so I assume it was legal. But basically, we had a congressman in a ridiculously safe district who was sending out scare literature that the Democrats were going to steal the seat right out from under the GOP, so donate now! There was no chance of that happening. However, he got the money, passed it on to the party (or maybe it actually went directly to the party and was just earmarked with safe congressman’s name) and then got passed on to us, in a race that was an uphill battle.Report

  15. Avatar Jaybird says:

    There’s a rumor that Walker is now at the top of a very, very short list in the back pocket of Mittler Rommelney.

    Helping Walker win today might give you a 7-minute meeting in two years.Report

    • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

      Hrm; if this is the calculus it would also explain the Dem response, if they thought that they knew what the GOP thought they knew.

      I don’t see Walker as a uniting force that bumps your your chances to win the the general.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Really? He’s from “The Midwest” which is where the biggest battleground is going to be. He’s got national facetime already, he’s got a big win under his belt, and he’s proven that he can take it to the special interests.

        He went from dark horse VP pick to front-running VP pick in one day, if’n you ask me.Report

    • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark says:

      Yeah, a polarizing idealogue is just what Romney needs.Report

  16. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Well, there could be a ‘I cannot refuse a favor on my daughter’s wedding day’ aspect to the whole thing.Report

  17. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    I think the idea is that the election was a referendum on Walker’s policies, and thus of national significance. If these policies proved successful in the eyes of the voters of Wisconsin, then this could lead to similar policies being enacted in other states.Report

  18. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    In what sense does Americans for Prosperity have an “own state” that they’d ostensibly care about more than Wisconsin?Report

  19. Avatar J R in WV says:

    I sent some money to a candidate for state Senate, I’m not sure if he won or not, but Dems did retake control of the state Senate – this is a good thing, as it will require Gov. Walker of the dark side to actually govern in a bipartisan way.

    I am a liberal, ex-union member (retired, loving it!) and I try to contribute where a little bit will go a long way.

    I think it’s a shame that so many people forget where working people would be without unions – 80 hour work week, no toilets, miss a day sick and lose your job, these are just a few of the things unions have helped stop.

    If the right wing succeeds in getting rid of unions, we will see children working long hours, people injured and cast aside, 6 and 7 day work weeks, all the things that made 1890-1910 work such a horror story.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      Who says they haven’t succeeded? The right simply moved the factories to China and Palestine and everywhere else where kids (and Women!) could be forced to work for exceptionally low pay. They don’t hire men, ya ever notice? Men don’t bully as easy.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      Actually, OSHA and wage&hour laws have taken over that vital function from the unions, which is why they’ve become largely superfluous. [And why their memberships have cratered.]Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        OSHA is a toothless tiger. Thus far, they’ve secured 12 criminal convictions in the history of the agency.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          That’s a talking point. OSHA warns or fines offenders before somebody’s dead rather than seek convictions after the fact. A better method.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Please. OSHA is a fig leaf. It’s useless. Money wasted. It won’t enforce the law.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              Having worked on the floor of a slaughterhouse and a warehouse, I can assure everyone involved that – at least in one case – OSHA and the Food and Drug Administration do in fact have a huge impact in operating conditions.

              The FDA in particular had an on-site inspector, and with the wave of a hand he could (and did) halt all activity in the joint while he ran an inspection on a particular side o’ pork. Cal OSHA had no such representation, but here in CA at least Cal OSHA sets the rules and your insurance company enforces them.

              Because they will *not* cover a claim if you’re shown to be breaking safety regulations when your worker gets his foot amputated by a forklift, and then the company is up the creek.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                FDA? Perhaps you mean USDA. FDA only handles imports. OSHA sets the regs. Your own experience reveals they didn’t represent. They seldom do. As I’ve said, since its establishment, OSHA has only obtained a handful of convictions.

                I used to think as you do. OSHA regs, big deal. I’d done a lot of factory floor automation, all those OSHA mandated signs on the wall, we’ve all seen them. But it wasn’t until I got into claims processing when I discovered what a sham OSHA really is.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                USDA yes. Sorry; tired. Long week.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                That’s okay. It’s all of a piece, FDA / FSIS / USDA. I did some work in St Louis for USDA. They’re an astonishing bureaucracy. All the USDA folks in Washington seem to be in open warfare with their counterparts in St. Louis. I wound up architecting two separate Views against the same Controller and Model to keep both sides from throwing knives at each other.

                So I was doing some probability work related to workplace accidents. I’m not really as clued-in as I make myself sound from time to time around here, a great deal of what I do is take direction from quants and other sorts of much brighter people. I’m really more like a data sewage worker, building and cleaning the filters. Oh yeah, said one of the quants, you wouldn’t believe how little enforcement OSHA does in the workplace. I blinked and said, “but dude, I’ve done automation on factory floors for years, all those OSHA regs and stuff….”

                “Don’t you believe any of that.” he replied. “In all those years, did you ever actually see an OSHA inspector on the premises?”

                And I hadn’t. I mean, for years, not one.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                You know this reminds me of deja vu all over again.

                Blaise I respect that you respect regulation, but after that we agree to disagree. My problem with “regulation” as stated before is that rules get written but /real/ enforcement is noticeably lacking. Your statements merely underscore that fact. We have oodles of “regulations” for the stock market that have done us no good and are adding oodles more in the form of Dodd Frank, which will just turn the next disaster into a mega disaster. The words on the page are about as useful against bad actors as locks are against thieves. Regulation is not the panacea, in fact it is worse than snake oil because it lulls us into a false sense of security.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Oh absolutely. No question. There’s no need to repeal a law when you can just eliminate any enforcement thereof. Dodd-Frank is a sham. What’s needed in this wicked world is More Light.

                Our Lord observed: “Men love darkness rather than light for their deeds are evil.” I am all for the Free Market, insofar as it is genuinely free. It would be free if we could at least shed some light on it.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              Then by all means, Blaise let’s abolish OSHA, since it’s useless.

              Google “OSHA” and “fines.” Plenty of them just this year.

              The original point, if we may return to it, is that the gov’t has largely taken over the safety role from the unions. With union membership in the industrial sectors down to 20% or below, to actually prove your point y’d have to show how much safer union shops are than non-union shops.

              Certainly your objection has some currency: Slaughterhouses, I can see. To avoid epistemological war, I’ll stipulate the coal mines. And also why I used the word “largely,” contemplating there might be palpable exceptions. But the routine violations of reasonable safety precautions like the historic


              outrage are handled by OSHA—as there have been few if any repeats in recent memory, it has done its job well enough on the whole. Today, the Triangle Fire is a totem for the good old days of leftist activism, when there was genuine tragedy to be fixed, and moral self-admiration had some justification. Now it’s just a second-hand emotion, like a Civil War re-enactment.

              “The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition is an alliance of more than 200 organizations and individuals formed in 2008 to encourage and coordinate nationwide activities commemorating the centennial of the fire and to create a permanent public art memorial to honor its victims. The founding partners included Workers United, the New York City Fire Museum, New York University (the current owner of the building), Workmen’s Circle, Museum at Eldridge Street, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the Gotham Center for New York City History, the Bowery Poetry Club and others. Members of the Coalition include arts organizations, schools, workers’ rights groups, labor unions, human rights and women’s rights groups, ethnic organizations, historical preservation societies, activists, and scholars, as well as families of the victims and survivors.

              The Coalition grew out of a public art project called “Chalk” created by New York City filmmaker Ruth Sergel. Every year beginning in 2004, Sergel and volunteer artists went across New York City on the anniversary of the fire to inscribe in chalk the names, ages, and causes of death of the victims in front of their former homes, often including drawings of flowers, tombstones or a triangle.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The marvellous thing about debate online is the ability to quote. The original point was:

                If the right wing succeeds in getting rid of unions, we will see children working long hours, people injured and cast aside, 6 and 7 day work weeks, all the things that made 1890-1910 work such a horror story.

                Now OSHA has a mixed record on safety. It might be the go-to organisation for enforcement but I get to see the workplace injury numbers and they’re not very good. As Patrick and I were observing, it’s the insurance companies who are most interested in lowering workplace injuries and they do use OSHA regs as the lever to reduce them.

                Coal mines, since you bring it up, aren’t governed by OSHA. They’re under Bureau of Mines. Lots of workplaces aren’t regulated by OSHA. Bureau of Mines is particularly bad at enforcement: Sago Mine in particular reveals a filthy rats’ nest of political appointees.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                The original quote is indefensible hyperbole, the typical libel. The rest is, well, I’ll defer to PatC if we’re doing anecdata. I’ve met him and I know his real name. No offense.

                Also, his argument is convincing:

                here in CA at least Cal OSHA sets the rules and your insurance company enforces them.

                Because they will *not* cover a claim if you’re shown to be breaking safety regulations when your worker gets his foot amputated by a forklift, and then the company is up the creek.

                A solution even a libertarian could love.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Well, I think I made my own position clear enough: OSHA is not a substitute for union demands for workplace safety or anything else. It’s hardly a libel to observe the political process did not save the men in Sago Mine: it manifestly endangered them. Indeed, if the Libertarian rhetoric is to be believed, we should have no regulation of mines or workplaces at all, nor would workers even be insured against workplace injury.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                I can’t think of any libertarian principle that is violated on the basic premise of entering an insurance contract.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                ROFL! A Libertarian coal mine owner will studiously explain the risks of going down the shaft. He just doesn’t want anyone to make or enforce a law which says he has to mitigate those risks.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Blaise, coal mines were stipulated in yr favor. Focus, man, focus.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Tell you something about insurance companies. They don’t insure rocket launches and they don’t insure unsafe workplaces.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Oh hush, Duck. Nobody’s insuring satellites except Lloyd’s and a few strange animals who specialise to one-shot risk, but there’s no quant in the world who will touch it since the Law of Large Numbers won’t give you enough data.

                Let’s put it this way, you won’t get it from Allstate.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                ” there’s no quant in the world who will touch it since the Law of Large Numbers won’t give you enough data.”

                See this is one of those times where “be a huge asshole and if that doesn’t work be an even bigger asshole” isn’t going to suddenly make you know what you’re talking about. Your contention that insurance underwriters won’t deal with Big Expensive Things is not even a little bit correct.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The Law of Large Numbers only works when there’s enough evidence. Let’s just put it this way. You prove to me you know what the Law of Large Numbers is, and you can win the Internet.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                OSHA and MSHA are two sides of the same bad coin. I worked at the Sunshine Mine site of one of the biggest disasters in American mining. I can tell you something you will NEVER read in any official government report. MSHA was directly and unconscionably responsible for that disaster. What each and every report purposely fails to mention is what happened BEFORE the fire.

                MSHA decided that the walls were too warm underground (like where I worked on the 4800 level). Underground the side of the “cave” we’ll call it typically is sprayed with shotcrete, essentially concrete slurry that will set vertically. MSHA in their infinite wisdom MANDATED that Sunshine spray insulation on the side of the walls instead of shotcrete. The insulation of choice was polyurethane no doubt supplied by someone in cahoots with the government like Dow. At the time, Sunshine mine engineers told MSHA they didn’t like the idea of that insulation on the mine walls and were concerned about fire. MSHA said, “This insulation has been fire tested” and it had, horizontally. Unfortunately vertically the stuff went up like, well burn some plastic and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

                What killed everyone at the time was the toxic smoke, which came billowing out of the 10 foot diameter mine vent thick, acrid and black. Even on the surface people had trouble breathing. After the disaster, a whitewash investigation mentioned the insulation not at all (except on page 162 of the addendum). Even though copious amounts of something they KNEW was burnt polyurethane was found on the fan blades (pg 155), by 162 they were claiming the chemical signatures /could/ have been anything, including human excreta. Indeed the whole report closely resembled human excreta.

                And that Mr. Pascal is another in my long list of complaints against the government and regulators like MSHA, OSHA, SEC and the rest. When they’re doing good, that’s great, but when they screw up (and they ALWAYS screw up) they cover their asses like nobody’s business and are never held accountable, like bureaucrats since time immemorial.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The smoke that killed those men in the Sunshine Mine fire was being recirculated by the exhaust ventilation fans when a bulkhead collapsed.

                Now I won’t question your story, I never do of people who where there. What I do question is how that polyurethane was ever declared fire-retardant. Everyone on the planet knows polyurethane burns and releases horribly toxic smoke.

                I’m convinced MSHA is bought and paid for by mining concerns. Your story only makes me angrier about this sort of thing.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Pg 156 of the report was the closest they came to telling the truth:
                Sample No.6 (Lab. No. 39) was urethane foam which was partially charred.
                Examination shows (see supporting memos attached):
                (a)Foam was of the type (MDl) rccommended for use in mines by the Bureau.
                (b) Foam contained fire retardants.
                (c) The foam is coarse grained with enlarged cells, a type that
                would not pass the recommended Bureau of Mine’s fire penetration test.

                “MDI recommended”. Yup, they were recommending polyurethane foam with “fire retardants” to keep the fellers cooler underground. They /neglected/ to mention that there was a crew spraying the stuff with a large quantity of it in liquid form nearby. All of that got covered up, the Bureau of Mines was never sued, no one was fired, the dead were buried and that was that. The tiny bit of foam the report mentions around the bulkhead doors (think of refrigerator seals) is the only source, and there’s no way the couple of pounds there could have caused all the smoke. Nope twas a classic cover-up. As you said above, a little light here and there illuminates a lot, in those days it was impossible to get the word out, you didn’t even try. Everyone was in bed with everyone else.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Yeah, buddy. Fire retardant polyurethane. A contradiction in terms. A little chemistry, all polyurethanes begin life as an isocyanate — so we can be absolutely sure when it burns it will produce cyanide gas. A bad way to go, folks.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Wardsmith, that was 1972! And the similarity to Apollo 1’s velcro/oxygen conflagration is off the scale, a tragedy of hubris and stupidity more than criminality. Geez. Trolling the past for isolated incidents doth not a universal make, the case against anecdata.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Mining is a dark art, best understood by people who’ve done it. I’ve only been below ground four times but each time was a revelation. If miners ran mines and not pencil-necked bean counters in Carpet Land, things would be as they ought to be.

                How very often you’ve been resorting to that word “Anecdata”. It seems to crop up when something comes to light which might contract various Glittering Generalities of which you are particularly fond. Miners have been fucked over in this country and many others since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. They ought to be protected, not by bought and paid for bureaucrats but by their own leadership. They fought and died for their rights above ground in true class warfare and they were often attacked by government troops.

                Hubris and stupidity figure large in all such fuckups. They start with people who’ve never been down the shaft deciding things for the men who do.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Coal mining was stipulated, and now we’re back to 1972. Rock on. See you at the next Triangle Fire Memorial and we’ll get a nice self-righteous vicarious buzz. Bring your chalk!Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Well sure, I’m not really arguing with you, Tom. My cavilling and whining goes along these lines: Robert Fripp once said “Honour Necessity”. I guess, over the years of consulting, I have been invited into many odd corners of the workaday world. They bring me in to solve a problem. Generally speaking, I don’t know jack shit about what these people do. I start my first meeting with a standard little BlaiseP stump speech. Here is how it goes.

                “Every business is unique. You’re going to have to tell me everything before I can honestly say I know anything. Some of you have forgotten more than I’ll ever know about this problem. I must rely on you to judge what’s done here. I want one of you to be my point of contact, the one who has to deal with all the exceptions. That person will define the parameters for this system.”

                Those women who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire perished because management locked the fire doors. There was a solution in place. Someone overrode it. If there is to be any remembrance of those women, it ought to be this: those who have the problem ought to be at the heart of its solution. That’s why I believe in the trade union, not so much because I’m some goddamn socialist but because I believe in the working man. Top down solutions always fail because they never considered the opinions of the people who have the problems.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                I understand. A fire door is a human right because self-preservation is a natural right. But that the entire economic equation must be ordered toward trade unions so that the fire door is left unlocked is just the sort of top-down leftism [social planning] I’m fundamentally opposed to.

                Hey, I’m not a libertarian. I have no problem with an OSHA protecting human rights and keeping that door unlocked.

                “…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.

                I’m there, dude.Report

  20. Avatar Matt says:


    “16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state?owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state?owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).”

    Campaign donations were not about winning an election. It was about buying Walker’s support for your no-bid purchase of Wisconsin’s energy assets.Report

  21. Avatar Stuart Baur says:

    I will admit to not having read all of the comments Pat, so this may be either (a) redundant or (b) played out above. But here goes….

    From a national perspective, the issue was not union busting per se. It was that fiscally, Walker is a proxy for all that the moderately-to-far right conservative wing stand for. He came to office saying he was going to bust the unions yes, but more importantly that he was going to cut spending and balance the budget without raising taxes, and he ostensibly did this (busting the unions having been argued as a means to an end, not an end in and of itself – not that anyone should really believe that, but that’s another issue entirely). To that extent, he stands for everything the Right currently says they stand for. Were he to lose the recall, it would be cited as a categorical rejection of that entire line of fiscal policy, particularly given that it would (ostensibly) be the people who just recently voted him in that were now voting him out. If he wins, the victory will similarly be touted as an absolute reinforcement of the People’s desire for government to take these kinds of actions. Pair that with Wisconsin’s ‘purplish’ make-up, and the establishment right sees huge potential to use Wisconsin in rebutting Obama’s economic arguments on the road to November. In short, the specific circumstances of Walker’s policies and actions in Wisconsin made the recall election a perfect test case and proxy for the Presidential election. The great mystery to me is not that Walker raised $30m and that much of came from out of state, it’s that Barrett fared so poorly in fund raising. Perhaps the national Democratic crowd were wise enough to realize that in fact is WAS the same people who just elected him that were being asked to vote on the issue again and that the likelihood of success in getting Walker removed was slim. But from the Republican perspective, $20m to have a complete refutation of Obama’s economic policy served up by a left leaning state doesn’t seem like that bad of an investment.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      This is a really good comment. I think the ideological validation that this presents to the right is an understated factor. Whether they believe so purely out of self-interest or whether (they’ve convinced themselves that) they believe it’s for the public good, ideological validation does a better job of explaining to me why they’d put money in there than the off-chance that something happening in Wisconsin will spill over to their state (I’d be willing to bet that many of the out-of-state donors actually come from states that are already less public-sector-union-friendly than Wisconsin).Report

      • Avatar wardsmith says:

        What Will said Simon, plus one little factor that struck me as odd in this election. I kept hearing that the race was “too close to call”. Even the night of the election they kept saying that, at least while the polls were open. Once they closed, miraculously we heard that Walker had won by a rather stunning margin (for a race too close to call especially).

        I’m the suspicious type and I suspect that there was a lot more to those polls than we’re ever going to know. Like the DNC knew damn good and well their goose was cooked, but didn’t want to demoralize their base by allowing poll numbers that said there was no chance to stay in the news. Likewise I suspect news organizations who had other data preferred to quote the folks like PPP who even had Barret ahead by 2 points at the end. However, the DNC knows better, this ain’t their first rodeo and I strongly suspect they’re holding their powder for the big booms to come in the national election. Best not to blow your wad too early, safe that fire until you see the whites of their eyes and all that. Barret’s goose was cooked a long time ago and the /real/ politicos knew it, they just put on a brave place and hoped.Report

        • Avatar Plinko says:

          Actually, ward, from what I heard the night of the election, the race was deemed “too close to call” because of a very Dewey v. Truman” problem with the exit polling.

          The exit polls showed that people who called themselves union members were representing a higher portion of the turnout than expected (they went from 26% in 2010 to 33% in the recall according to the Journal-Sentinel), which caused the pollster models to lift Barret and close their projection of the vote totals a lot from the previous few days of polling because they were expecting Barrett to increase his share of the union vote in the recall election and put the race into “margin of error” territory.

          It turned out that those union voters ended up voting for Barrett at a slightly lower rate (61 vs 62) than they had and non-union votes increased their share, the more detailed exit polls showed that rather quickly and thus the race ended up called for Walker pretty early.Report