The Velcro president

Former Wisconsin Gov. Anthony Earl was occasionally referred to in the media as the “Velcro governor” — everything bad that happened during his term stuck to him.

The contrast was to both Ronald Reagan, referred to as the Teflon president, and Earl’s successor, Tommy Thompson, once called in print “Teflon Tommy,” where nothing bad ever stuck to them.

Michael Goodwin suggests that Barack Obama is the federal alternative to Earl, except that Obama got reelected and Earl did not:

Chalk it up to karma, fate or bad luck. Whatever you call it, the Ebola scare is proof that Bad Things Happen to Bad Presidents.

The morphing of what is a single case into near panic is, according to medical experts, unwarranted. They point out that, so far, one person from Liberia died in a Texas hospital and two nurses who treated him got sick. Period, end of panic.

In rational and medical terms, they may be right. But their calculations omit another factor. It’s the X factor.

In this case, X stands for trust.

President Obama has spent six years squandering it, and the administration’s confusion, contradictions and mistakes on Ebola fit the pattern. This is how he rolls.

Don’t worry, there’s no chance of an outbreak, they said. Then it was, Oops, we must rethink all procedures for handling cases. Then there was no worry about a “wide” outbreak, yet quarantines for lots of people.

The irrational fear of an alien pathogen is fueled by rational suspicion of an incompetent and dishonest government. How did the so-called experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention give Nurse No. 2 permission to travel by air, even though she had a mild fever?

That’s a great question — if only the CDC would answer it. “I have not seen the transcript of the conversation,” was Director Thomas Frieden’s lame answer.

Meanwhile, the most obvious move, a travel ban from affected countries, is rejected with unpersuasive claims about the need to get aid workers to Africa. It looks and smells like political correctness searching for logic.

There isn’t any logic, so bet your hazmat suit a ban will happen soon. It’ll be one way for the new Ebola czar to make a mark.

But it will take a miracle worker to restore Barack Obama’s credibility. While there are many things to say about his tenure, the one thing you cannot say is that the nation trusts him.

Poll after poll, on subject after subject, show a collapse. Consistently now, a majority of Americans say Obama is not trustworthy. Most think he’s a failure, many say he is incompetent and the vast bulk — 70 percent in some cases — says his key policies are wrong for America.

He is so unpopular that members of his own party don’t want to be seen with him, lest his failures spawn a political plague.

Against that backdrop, any emergency will cause the national yips. The rise of the Islamic State and its beheadings of two Americans did it, and now Ebola is doing it.

As “Ghostbusters” asked, who you gonna call? Certainly not this White House.

Credibility is like a reservoir or a bank account. You make deposits in good times so you can make withdrawals when you need them.

Obama never made the deposits. It’s been all downhill since Day One. He blames others for failures, and when cornered or ambitious, reaches for a lie. Routinely.

The claim that “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” is a defining example, but hardly the only one. Don’t forget “shovel-ready jobs” to justify a trillion-dollar boondoggle. Or there’s “not a smidgen” of corruption at the IRS. And Benghazi was caused by an anti-Muslim video.

His lies are legion and now he’s like the boy who cried wolf. When he makes a national appeal on Ebola, the trust tank is empty.

Maybe, though, “karma, fate or bad luck” is punishing not Obama, but this country for having a majority of voters stupid or unwise enough to vote for Obama twice.


Burke vs. “commerce”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel must have had to swallow hard to interrupt its Mary Burke cheerleading to report this:

Mary Burke’s predecessor as chief of the state Department of Commerce had a three-word description of her performance back in 2006:

“She’s a disaster,” Cory Nettles told a top aide to Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle on Sept. 3, 2006.

Nettles, who was Doyle’s commerce secretary from 2003 to 2005, said Wednesday that he doesn’t recall sending the email to Aaron Olver, his former adviser at the agency, or calling Burke a “disaster.”

Nettles said the note does not represent his current view of Burke’s two-plus years running the commerce agency. The email was provided via an open records request.

“Let me be clear, I have a lot of respect for Mary Burke,” Nettles said Thursday. He has not endorsed in the race between Burke, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, and Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Nettles included the remark when forwarding an email from John Torinus, the former chief executive officer of Serigraph Inc., a printing company.

Torinus was describing his frustration with Burke after sitting down with her in connection with a meeting of the Milwaukee 7 regional economic development group in 2006. Torinus had wanted the state to pump money into a biotech project and a printing center.

“She sees a continuing need to have a war chest to help individual companies for political reasons, but doesn’t really believe that many of these projects are justified,” Torinus wrote Nettles.

Reached ahead of a speech in Madison on Thursday, Burke told Journal Sentinel reporter Jason Stein that she had acted properly in her role as secretary and didn’t see anything in the email that showed otherwise. She was first shown the email after a meeting with Journal Sentinel editors and reporters Wednesday.

“My reaction is that I will continue to make the choices that I believe are in the best interests of moving Wisconsin’s economy forward and making wise use of taxpayer dollars,” she said. She added that the email didn’t suggest anything untoward: “I didn’t see anything in what I reviewed indicating that at all.”

Furthermore, Burke said that Nettles’ email to Olver didn’t contradict her previous statement that there wasn’t significant infighting or strong tensions at the commerce department during her tenure.

She made that comment late last month after a top official at Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. denounced the way the agency is run, saying in emails that another leader — a former top aide to Walker — is causing WEDC “lasting harm.”

Walker and lawmakers created the WEDC in 2011 as a replacement to the Department of Commerce.

Who cares whether or not there was “significant infighting or strong tensions” at the Commerce Department? The question is whether it did what it was supposed to do under Burke. Remember this report?

Shortly before announcing her resignation as Wisconsin’s secretary of commerce, Mary Burke issued a harsh criticism of her agency…The Commerce Department, which ought to be among the state’s most influential economic players, has sat on the sidelines while other states vie to recruit new businesses, she said…”We are not out there selling the state and attracting the companies,” Burke said late last month, echoing private-sector criticism.

The answer lies in the fact that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett proposed a substantial revamping of state business efforts. That’s not all Burke’s fault, but it does suggest that Burke didn’t do anything to improve Commerce while she was there. Which apparently was Doyle’s opinion of Burke’s work too.

If we are supposed to judge Walker on the state’s economy now (using federal numbers that, flawed though they are by undercounting unemployment, are still used by everyone), we should judge Burke on the state’s economy then — to be precise, 42nd in job growth, 45th in wage growth, 46th in personal income growth, and 47th in business establishment growth. Those numbers, by the way, are before the 2008 recession, which makes them even worse in retrospect.

We continue to hear nothing about how Burke would improve the state’s business climate, other than chopping 120,000 jobs.


134,000 > (–47,413)

The Wisconsin Reporter reports:

If next month’s gubernatorial election really is all about jobs, then the latest employment figures — released less than three weeks before election day — allow Gov. Scott Walker to answer the criticisms of his opponent and the left at large with a definitive statement: I got your jobs right here.

Wisconsin’s private sector added 8,400 jobs last month, according to data from the state Department of Workforce Development and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While the latest data suggest Wisconsin’s economy appears to have added 134,000 jobs since December 2010, the message Republicans drove home again Thursday is the employment figures are a hell of a lot better than the jobs hemorrhaging under Walker’s predecessor, Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle. Burke, as Walker’s campaign is quick to point out, served as Doyle’s secretary of commerce for nearly three years. …

Walker’s campaign pointed to the workforce development data, underscoring September’s strengths:

  • Last month marked the biggest gains in private sector jobs since September 2003.
  • September’s 8,400 private sector jobs are the second biggest upswing since 1994.
    • Key for manufacturing-rich Wisconsin, manufacturers added about 10,000 jobs between September 2013 and last month.
    • Year over year, the private sector added 37,000 jobs.
  • The 134,000 jobs created since December 2010 are more than the total number of jobs Wisconsin businesses added during the Doyle administration.

That’s an understatement. During Doyle’s two terms in office, Wisconsin’s private sector shed a total of 47,413 jobs. In the Democrat’s first four years, the Badger State economy added 86,530 jobs, more than 23,000 less than the job gains during Walker’s first term, through September. Of course, Doyle’s second term included one of the worst recessions in modern history, which didn’t help his total jobs count. The state’s economy lost 133,000 jobs during Doyle’s final term. …

Taken with other economic gauges, the latest jobs report offers some signs of at least steady growth ahead. September’s unemployment rate dipped to 5.5 percent, down from 5.7 percent in August and 6.6 percent in September 2013. The rate is the lowest it has been since October 2008.

According to DWD, initial weekly unemployment insurance claims for the first 40 weeks of 2014 dropped to the lowest point since 2000, and the annual average weekly claims are at their lowest levels since 2000.

State revenue collections were also $55.3 million higher than projections for the first quarter of the current fiscal year, according to the Department of Revenue. …

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate was one of the few partisans on the left to even mention the latest jobs data. Well, sort of.

The only reference Tate made of September’s numbers was in ridiculing the measurement behind them.

“There is only one set of jobs data that matters, the quarterly numbers, and those jobs figures show Wisconsin ranked dead last in the Midwest under Scott Walker,” Tate said, not telling the truth.

The Democrats last-in-the-Midwest talking point, repeated ad nauseum by Burke, has recently been debunked.

That 134,000 is slightly more than half of Walker’s 250,000-jobs pledge. On the other hand, 134,000 is nearly three times more than 47,416 … or would be if 47,416 was a positive number. But 47,416 is a negative number. I suppose Democrats could claim that since Walker took office the state has gained a net of less than 90,000 jobs (134,000 minus 47,416), but that would require Democrats to admit what a disaster Doyle was. And who was Doyle’s secretary of commerce?

However, this election is not about jobs. Mary Burke’s complete platform is expressed in four words: “I’m not Scott Walker.”


Oregon’s present, Wisconsin’s future

Jim Geraghty observes Oregon, a “progressive” state run by Democrats since forever, with Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber favored for reelection over Republican Dennis Richardson despite scandals involving Kitzhaber’s fiancée, Cylvia Hayes:

Greetings from Portland, Oregon — the state with the most egregiously failing Obamacare exchange in the country, now set to reelect the governor whose administration oversaw that disaster and wasted all that money. …

Richardson probably has to try to make the most of the stories surrounding Hayes, as it’s undoubtedly the biggest news to come out of the Oregon governor’s mansion in years. But the more salacious aspects probably generate some sympathy for Governor Kitzhaber; his fiancée hid a criminal past from him.

But it seems like relatively small potatoes compared to a state exchange site that never worked properly, never enrolled a single citizen online (everything had to be done with pen-and-paper), and cost, oh, $305 million.

And the bad news for Oregon’s attempt at health insurance just keeps piling up.

A Klamath Falls woman who applied for health coverage through Cover Oregon says the insurance exchange mailed her the personal information of other applicants.

Ann Migliaccio told The Associated Press that she received documents last week containing the names and birth dates of two applicants from Hillsboro. She says the documents did not include Social Security numbers.

This is the 18th low-level security breach in the past six months, Cover Oregon officials said. They say the information inadvertently shared in these breaches included addresses, names, dates of birth and internal Cover Oregon IDs, but no Social Security numbers.

And piling up:

More than 12,000 people who purchased policies through Cover Oregon could owe money at tax time because of errors in tax credits issued by the health exchange.

The figure is updated from an estimate of about 800 people that exchange officials shared with the Legislature last month, only to realize they’d got it wrong.

A more recent internal staff estimate released under Oregon Public Records Law found errors in 12,772 policies, or 38 percent of those who received tax credits.

Portland intrigues me. If you are one of those despairing conservatives who thinks that the United States of America is caught in an inescapable whirlpool of progressive-driven decline, our future is probably going to look something like Portland.

And at first glance — or at least a visit, the progressive utopia of Portland has its upsides. The ludicrously restrictive zoning laws kept farmland close to the city, so there’s always plenty of locally-grown food, produce, and so on for the run-amok foodie culture. There’s plenty of green space and parks. (Our old friend Mark Hemingway wrote one of the definitive takedowns of modern Portland.)

But the upshot of Oregon’s failed insurance exchange, and the seeming lack of any lasting public outrage, is the confirmation that a key element of modern progressivism is never, ever, ever getting upset about government spending if it’s done with the right intentions.

What’s revealing is how “progressive” does not necessarily mean “follows politics or news coverage of government at any level.” There’s a lot of “set it and forget it” Leftism going around. Because you would figure that any self-designated True Believer in the Power of Government to Improve People’s Lives would be breathing fire over something like this. Because all Cover Oregon’s debacle did was make a lot of money for Oracle, and whoever got the contract for those silly singing television commercials. Think about it — big, incompetent government, paying a fortune to a big, incompetent or insufficiently-competent corporate contractor, and most of the lefties in Oregon yawn or just shake their head in mild disapproval.

The formula here — a governing class, cozy with certain big, corporate contractors, coupled with a tuned-out electorate that reflexively elects and reelects the proper names from the progressive class — turns representative government into a giant con. The funny thing is that the stereotypical leftist from, say, the 1960s was extremely suspicious of the government, but that suspicion focused upon the military, the “military-industrial complex”, the intelligence agencies, the police . . . the spiritual and ideological children of those 1960s liberals walk around with enormous faith that the government knows what it is doing and it can be trusted with ever-more amounts of tax money.

Isn’t there any suspicion left over for state health and human services and insurance administrators? Any anger to spare for governors remaining oblivious at best to serious problems within their administration?

Some of these folks can summon skepticism about childhood vaccines, but not the Obamacare insurance mandate.

This is why you should vote for no Democrat Nov. 4. Democrats obviously don’t believe in competent government. The Doyle administration, and before that the Tony Earl administration (which ran Wisconsin so well that Wisconsin was the last state in the U.S. to recover from the early 1980s recession) is proof.


Presty the DJ for Oct. 19

We begin with one of the stranger episodes of live radio, Arthur Godfrey’s on-air firing of one of his singers today in 1953:

The number one song today in 1959 was customized for sales in 28 markets, including BuffaloChicagoClevelandDenverDetroitNew OrleansNew YorkPittsburgh and San Francisco:

The number one British album today in 1967 was not the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”; it was the soundtrack to “The Sound of Music,” two years after the movie was released, on the soundtracks’ 137th week on the charts:

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Presty the DJ for Oct. 18

The number one song today in 1969:

Britain’s number one single today in 1979 probably would have gotten no American notice had it not been for the beginning of MTV a year later:

The number one album today in 1986 was Huey Lewis and the News’ “Fore”:

The City of Los Angeles declared today in 1990 “Rocky Horror Picture Show Day” in honor of the movie’s 15th anniversary, so …

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Yost vs. Yost

The World Series begins next week with a most unexpected American League representative, the Kansas City Royals.

The Royals’ manager is former Brewer player and manager Ned Yost, about whom the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes:

The Royals, who hadn’t been to the postseason since 1985, are managed by Ned Yost, who was fired by the Brewers with 12 games remaining in the 2008 season after a two-week slide threatened their playoff status. One of Yost’s coaches is Dale Sveum, who replaced him as Brewers’ manager in ’08 and led the club to the NL wild-card berth.

After the long wait to return to the playoffs, the wild-card Royals are 8–0 in the postseason, making Yost the first manager in MLB history to win his first eight playoff games. So, we can safely say he has landed safely on his feet six years after being canned by the Brewers.

Yost has been criticized for ignoring analytics and supposed “proper” strategies by relying extensively on bunting, stealing bases and other unconventional methods of managing. But he certainly is getting the last laugh at this point with a team that is very strong defensively, has an impenetrable bullpen and is getting clutch hitting from several budding young stars.

The first three hitters in the Royals’ batting order started their big-league careers with the Brewers. Shortstop Alcides Escobar, the leadoff hitter, and No. 3 hitter Lorenzo Cain — the MVP of the ALCS sweep — were sent to Kansas City in December 2010 in the trade for Zack Greinke. The Royals also acquired starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi, now with Tampa Bay, and reliever Jeremy Jeffress, who resurfaced in Milwaukee this season and pitched very well down the stretch.

The Royals’ No. 2 hitter, rightfielder Nori Aoki, was traded to KC last winter for reliever Will Smith, a swap that worked out well for both clubs.

Many Brewers fans, still agitated by the team’s late-season collapse that knocked the team from the playoff picture, have sent me messages saying Milwaukee obviously was fleeced in those deals. Of course, few of them complained when Greinke helped the Brewers win a franchise-record 96 games in 2011 and come within two victories of the World Series.

This ignited an online and Facebook debate over the supposed proper managerial style — Yost’s apparent favor of bunting and stolen bases vs. the Brewers’ swing-for-the-fences style that worked until, well, it didn’t in the last six weeks of the season.

You’d think there would have been more of a debate over the merits of the aforementioned trades of Escobar, Aoki and Cain than over managerial styles, about which more momentarily. Without Greinke, the Brewers would not have won the National League Central in 2011. Smith did pitch well for the Brewers until he flamed out from overuse, but trading Aoki created a hole in the outfield that the Brewers plugged with Khris Davis, who predictably flamed out and is unlikely to have close to the career Aoki had with the Brewers. Instead of Escobar, the Brewers have Jean Segura, who has hit well for one-half of his two seasons as a starter. Given the horrible tragedy of his son’s death during the season, perhaps Segura’s future shouldn’t be judged by this season.

Aoki was a leadoff hitter, more in the style of getting on base than as a speed merchant on the bases, with the Brewers. Where did the Brewers’ lineup have problems all season? Leadoff, and whoever is the regular leadoff hitter gets the most plate appearances of any position in the batting order. (Which is why some teams put their best hitter for average — think Wade Boggs in his heyday — in the leadoff spot instead of their fastest offensive player — think Carlos Gomez — particularly if said speed demon lacks a good on-base percentage.)

Yost became the Brewers’ manager because he was a Braves coach, and the Braves were quite successful when Yost was a coach, though perhaps not because Yost was a coach. Yost was believed to be good with young players, but got fired because the Brewers believed Yost didn’t have what it took to stop the Brewers’ slide of the time. Sveum, his replacement, went 7–5, which is only one game better than .500, but the Brewers got into the playoffs.

If Yost’s Royals win the World Series, it won’t be the last time a supposed retread found success in Kansas City. The Yankees fired manager Dick Howser after one season and 103 wins because Howser committed the unpardonable sins of standing up to owner George Steinbrenner and getting swept by the Royals in the 1980 American League Championship Series. Howser’s Royals teams had two second-place finishes, two first-place finishes, and the 1985 World Series championship, thanks to …

(I had to throw that in to rib my late friend Frank the St. Louis-area native and huge Cardinal fan. A joke from beyond about playing tuba will probably follow.)

Howser’s Royals defeated the Cardinals, managed by Whitey Herzog, who previously managed, yes, the Royals. Herzog’s Cardinals teams were based on pitching, speed and defense, in large part because of the home-run-unfriendly Royals Stadium and previous Busch Stadium. That may be what Yost is doing with the Royals, and if so Yost deserves praise for tailoring his team to the place in which half their games are played.

Some argue that the Royals are in the World Series despite Yost, not because of him (largely because of a bad pitching move in the wild-card game that the Royals managed to overcome), but they are in the World Series and the other 14 AL teams, plus all NL teams except San Francisco, will be watching the World Series at home. It is possible that Yost learned not just what to do, but what not to do from his Brewers experience.

Miller Park is apparently considered pretty home run-friendly, and perhaps the Brewers are tailored for Miller Park too. Earl Weaver eschewed the bunt, the hit-and-run and stolen bases (his rationale was that “your most precious possessions are your 27 outs”) and won a bigger percentage of games than Herzog (.583, an average of 94 per season, to Herzog’s .532, an average of 86 per season). That’s not to say Weaver’s or Herzog’s methods are necessarily preferable. There is a difference between managing in the regular season, when you’ll face good and bad teams and not every game means as much (Weaver basically said only one-third of games really count, because every team wins at least one-third of its games and every team loses at least one-third of its games), and managing in the postseason, where runs probably will be at a premium because the pitching is better and every game does count.

The idea that the Brewers should have played more small ball is based on the fact that swinging for the fences stopped working, not out of evidence that small ball would have worked. One of the Brewers’ best fundamental hitters is Jonathan Lucroy, but he’s also one of the Brewers’ best hitters. What would be the value of Lucroy’s giving up his at-bat to move a batter along, particularly if the hitters who follow him fail to deliver? We also saw enough base-running misadventures to make fans question whether more running would have led to more stolen bases, or more outs. I’m not sure the Brewers necessarily need more team speed, but they certainly do need better base-runners.

Instead of blaming manager Ron Roenicke for his team’s failure to play small ball, the blame should be placed with general manager Doug Melvin for putting together a lineup too reliant on the home run and lacking offensive balance, ability in fundamentals, and ability in defense. The Brewers need to have more high-on-base-percentage hitters (which the Angels had when Roenicke was their bench coach) so that when the big sticks connect, more runs come in. (That’s particularly true when your lineup includes someone like Mark Reynolds.) Unless their offensive imbalance is rectified (which would allow them to play small ball when needed), 2015 won’t be any better than 2014, and could end up with significantly more losses.