Friday, November 22, 2013

Latest job numbers show Walker's policies are slowing us down

Second quarter 2013's numbers demonstrate a 40 percent slowdown compared to Doyle

The finer points:
  • Latest job numbers show WI produced less than 2,000 jobs per month
  • Comparing Walker's job numbers (to former Gov. Jim Doyle's) demonstrates a dramatic shift and a slower pace in job creation

Wisconsin’s latest quarterly employment data was recently released, and the results aren’t good.

For the second quarter of this year (PDF), the state saw a yearly growth (from June 2012 to June 2013) of 23,968 jobs, or less than two thousand jobs created per month.

While growth of any kind is good, the numbers represent a painful slowdown for the state. For comparison, Wisconsin saw 37,959 jobs in the previous year (June 2011 to June 2012) and 39,909 jobs in the year before that (June 2010 to June 2011).

That 39,909 jobs number from June 2010 to 2011 comes from the last year of Gov. Jim Doyle’s final budget. Comparing Gov. Doyle’s totals to current Gov. Scott Walker’s current year numbers, we see a 39.9 percent slower job growth comparison.

In other words, Gov. Walker’s job performance is performing at three-fifths the pace compared to numbers we saw during the last year of Jim Doyle’s final budget.

Here’s another way to compare: let’s pretend job numbers are similar to driving on the interstate highway system. If Gov. Doyle was driving on the Marquette Interchange in Milwaukee at 65 MPH, Walker would be driving 39 MPH.

It’s disappointing to say the least that this slowdown is occurring. What’s more troubling, however, is that Walker’s supporters continue to believe that his policies are “working.” They are not, and it’s time the people of Wisconsin start realizing the truth.

Monday, November 18, 2013

WI murders involving guns rise after first year of concealed carry

Murder rates increase in spite of promises of lower crime

The finer points:
  • One year after concealed carry passed, Wisconsin's murder rates increased by more than 26 percent (from 2011 to 2012)
  • Murder rates involving guns increased by more than 34 percent

Last week, I discussed at great lengths how murder and crime rates in general had gone up in Wisconsin, despite 2012 being the first full year of concealed carrying licenses being granted to citizens.

It was once posited by pro-carry Wisconsinites in the lead-up to the bill being signed into law in 2011 that concealed carry would make the state safer. Indeed, Gov. Scott Walker himself said that, “By signing concealed carry into law, we are making Wisconsin safer for all responsible, law abiding citizens.”

And while one year of evidence shouldn’t determine definitively whether the law succeeded in reaching those ends or not, the first year has nevertheless shown some worrisome trends.

From 2011 to 2012 many things changed for the worse. As I pointed on Thursday, the violent crime rate (per 100,000) in Wisconsin increased by more than 18 percent. Murder and aggravated assault rates also went up, by 26 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

The rise wasn’t just in the urban areas, either. When you subtract Milwaukee from the equation, the murder rate in Wisconsin increased from 2011 to 2012 by more than 60 percent.

The City of Madison’s murder rate actually went down from year-to-year, decreasing by 63 percent. This was in spite of warnings by gun activists that our “no guns allowed on premises” signs would lead to more robberies (which also saw its rate decrease by more than 12 percent in the city).

After I published my post, I got to thinking: what about guns specifically? That is, with crimes involving guns, specifically murders, did Wisconsin see any changes?

It should be noted that I had never set out to prove that Wisconsin was more violent under concealed carry -- my intention, rather, was to show that concealed carry had failed to make the state safer, at least in its first year.

Still, curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to look into these numbers as well. What I found was that the number of murders committed through the aid of guns increased at a rate that was even higher than the state’s “general-murder” totals.

That is, homicides through gun usage went up, and at a higher rate than I reported last week for homicides overall.

While the murder rate per 100,000 in Wisconsin went up by 26.8 percent, the murder rate for homicides involving guns went up by 34.7 percent.

To compare, murders that didn’t involve a gun at all only went up by about 15.7 percent per 100,000 citizens statewide.

That means that homicides involving a gun increased at a rate that was twice the rate that murders without a gun went up by.

To be fair, this is only one year of data, and the rate increases could be due to some unseen variable.

Still, it’s troubling to see murder rates increase when we were told the concealed carry law would make the state safer. The rate of murders through the usage of guns went up significantly higher than murder without guns, and no amount of spinning by gun advocates can change that fact.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wisconsin's first year of concealed carry yields worrisome results

Data not definitive, but is the state heading in the wrong direction?

The finer points:
  • Wisconsin's murder rate shoots up from 2011 to 2012
  • Gun advocates previous claims of concealed carry making us safer comes into question

On November 1, 2011, Wisconsin officially became the 49th state to legalize concealed carry.

That means that the year 2012 was the first full year that concealed carry was the law in Wisconsin, where citizens could legally, with a permit, carry guns and other weapons on their persons.

Prior to the concealed carry law being enacted, I wrote a blog post on the necessity of stronger regulations, specifically to the training that goes into obtaining a license:
An argument often made in the gun debate is that more guns make people safer. While the evidence suggests that, at the very least, gun ownership doesn't equate violence, it's tough to assume guns necessarily make us safer on their own. These guns are heavily regulated, whether concealed or not, tracked to ensure that the people who use them are found immediately following their use. Guns are safer, it seems, with stronger regulations attached to them.
Two years have passed since concealed carry became law, and we now have a full year of evidence to compare records with. So, did concealed carry make Wisconsin safer?

The answer? There’s nothing in the statistical analysis that can be definitive. There’s no strong evidence, one way or another, that can link concealed carry to a rise or fall in crime rates. Correlation doesn’t imply causation, and it’s much too soon to be making any generalization in one way or another based on the new law on its own.

But it’s interesting to note one aspect of the statistics, available through the FBI website: crime in Wisconsin actually went up, statewide. And it’s not only in Milwaukee, but in the state at-large as well.

Violent crime in Wisconsin in 2011 was at 236.914 incidents per 100,000 citizens. In 2012, that rate increased to 280.525 per 100,000, an increase of 18.4 percent.

The rates of murders and aggravated assaults also increased in the state from year-to-year, by 26.8 percent and 29.1 percent, respectively.

Milwaukee continues to be the city with the most murders in the state, and notably crime has increased there as well. Indeed, Forbes recently named Milwaukee the tenth most dangerous city in the nation (among cities with populations exceeding 200,000, excluding Chicago because they collect records differently).

But homicides in Milwaukee climbed only slightly as compared to the state as-a-whole, by 6.7 percent. That means that, although Milwaukee still has the highest homicide rate in the state, the murder rate climbed faster outside of its jurisdiction (the rest of the state) than it did inside.

Indeed, if you subtract the population of Milwaukee and its murders for the years of 2011 and 2012, Wisconsin saw its homicide rate shoot up, increasing its rate of murder per 100,000 by more than 60 percent.

Like I said before, none of this data can definitively tell us whether concealed carry had an adverse or positive affect on crime in Wisconsin. More years of evidence is needed before such a conclusion can be reached.

Still, it’s interesting to look at this data and wonder, which direction is Wisconsin heading in? If this year’s data is any indicator of what the future holds, the promise of “less crime under concealed carry” seems to be a floundering one.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day, 2013

Veterans deserve our utmost respect and appreciation. They deserve thunderous applause, standing ovations, and more for what they’ve done.

They are given this day of commemoration to recognize their valor -- but a day isn’t enough. Veterans deserve our praise on this and every day of the calendar year.

You’ve likely read many status updates, Facebook “shares” and Twitter “retweets” regarding this year’s Veterans Day. These sentiments deserve to be spread as far as they can go across the net, for without the sacrifices given selflessly by our servicemembers, we could not enjoy the many freedoms and benefits that we hold today.

Criticism of how our society functions, its role in our lives, and our nation’s role in global activities will undoubtedly continue. Those criticisms deserve to be heard, and should righteously be made. There are wars and events we don’t necessarily need to intervene in militarily, and it is our duty as citizens to debate the merits of our involvement in conflicts as they arise.

With that said, the veterans of our wars deserve to be commended, regardless of where they served. It wasn’t their decision to fight overseas in this conflict or that one; they served regardless of where the nation’s geopolitical stance was.

They didn’t sign up to fight; they signed up to defend. They signed up because of a strong sense of duty, towards keeping our nation safe, and for that we must show our immense gratitude.

It takes a special kind of person to dedicate a portion of their lifetime so that others can live ordinary, free lives. For that, we should dedicate our lives to ensuring our veterans know that we don’t take them for granted, that we understand what they’ve given so that we can pursue our happiness. We cannot thank them enough for what they’ve done.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Dialogue over insensitive school mascot names shouldn't require a signature threshold

Race-based mascot names should be discussed openly, whether 1,000 or just 1 believes so

Acts of racism and discrimination don’t require anyone’s approval for them to be racist and discriminatory.

Yet, the Republican-led State Senate just passed a law that would require signatures totaling 10 percent of a school’s enrollment to begin the process of determining whether a mascot name is offensive.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Candidate bashing won't get Democrats anywhere

Debate is good, but opposition based on false premises and biases leads to more problems

The finer points:
  • Candidates deserve scrutiny, no matter who they are.
  • But candidate bashing without context won't net a positive impact.
  • Weighing the benefits/imperfections of a candidate is worth pursuing; but "put-downs" will only serve the interests of opponents to progressive ideals.

For the past few weeks, I’ve witnessed several sites and other media outlets taking part in criticisms against Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke. And most of them have come from a strange source: the progressive wing of the Democratic Party itself, who worry about Burke’s credentials as a liberal.

These criticisms have perplexed me, and I have often engaged those who have made such statements to explain themselves a bit more.

I won’t go into the details, of who said what and so forth -- it doesn’t really matter. It’s wrong to expect everyone to accept Burke as the de facto nominee, and I’ve never demanded that of anyone in these conversations.

If someone has a problem with her, they should bring it up, and be able to rationalize themselves in a way that produces a logical argument for opposing her.

And at times, individuals have brought up good points that some could justly be critical of. No candidate will ever be perfect, and we shouldn’t expect that of Burke or anyone else, but these issues are necessary to address nonetheless.

Bringing up these issues allows us to have an internal debate, and to rationalize whether Burke’s imperfections are worth digging into deeper, or whether they can be overlooked.

But at other times, I’ve seen downright bashing of Burke, of comments whose sole purpose were only to blatantly downgrade her as a negligible candidate, with hopes that another, more progressive option would be taking her place.

I worry over such commentary. Democrats are, after all, looking for a candidate who is for environmental safeguards, for promoting public education, for defending a woman’s health decisions and access to care, for electoral and redistricting reform, and for advancing the conditions of the working class in Wisconsin.

These ideals exemplify what the candidacy of Mary Burke is about. On all of these issues, and more, Burke has stated her beliefs -- and they are squarely on the progressive side of things.

Some have concerns over Burke's desire to be cooperative, to listen to the other sides of arguments, and to make "no promises" when it comes to the campaign itself. Nobody is "wrong" for bringing these issues to light.

Yet to degrade Mary Burke over other aspects of her campaign (whether they are non-issues or imaginary beliefs that the candidate holds) creates more problems for ourselves -- and only serves the interests of our opponents.

A rational debate over Burke’s credentials is necessary. We wouldn’t be doing any good for ourselves or for the state of Wisconsin if we allowed ourselves to blindly accept any candidate without first questioning him or her.

Some of the commentary about Burke is belittling, distasteful, and hurtful towards our goals. A discussion, as I’ve already stated, is fine -- but creating a discourse out of commentaries that serve only to bring a candidate down, through unfair comparisons or straw-man arguments, won’t help create a better candidate, whether it is Burke or somebody else.

Let’s have debates, argue on the merits of the candidates’ stances, and even get mad at one another from time-to-time. Let’s also remember: we don’t move forward through unnecessary bashing of any potential nominee. Mary Burke deserves both our scrutiny and our respect, as does any other candidate considering a run for governor on the Democratic ticket.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Despite gun advocates' claims, Chicago is NOT the "murder capital of the U.S."

Murder rates indicate Chicago is a safer city than several other cities

The finer points:
  • Chicago is not the “murder capital” of the country
  • Many other metropolitan areas, with looser gun laws, have much higher murder rates than Chicago
  • Gun advocates are wrong to correlate murders with restrictions on gun ownership

Several media outlets have recently dubbed Chicago the newest “murder capital of the U.S.” after it surpassed New York as having the most murders in the nation this past year.

Many have used this new moniker as justification to blast Chicago’s strict gun laws. They ask, how can the “murder capital” defend laws that aren’t preventing violence?

Their prescription: strip the regulations on guns, and crime will decrease.
To gun rights advocates, the city provides stark evidence that even some of the toughest restrictions fail to make places safer. “The gun laws in Chicago only restrict the law-abiding citizens and they’ve essentially made the citizens prey,” said Richard A. Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association.
But that argument overlooks several significant variables. For starters, calling Chicago the most murderous city in America is a mistake. It’s not even one of the ten most-dangerous cities in the country. While Chicago may have the most murders of any jurisdiction, without context the ranking of “murder capital of the U.S.” is a misnomer.