The Sconz moves to the Cap Times

January 18, 2012 by

Dear Sconz Nation,

Yes, the old blog had only been back a couple weeks and it looks like I’m moving yet again. This time, to the Capital Times, where I’ll be covering local and state politics.

Independent blogging has been a great ride. The best thing I ever did was start this blog. The second best thing I ever did was tell people about it. Unfortunately, many of those people are no longer paying attention, since The Sconz got sidetracked by other jobs and projects in recent months. But I know I will gain them and many more back as readers now that I will be working full-time as a writer.

See you at!


Podcast: The Sconz makes another wager with Ron Paul nut

January 10, 2012 by

Talking with my libertarian friend, Patrick McEwen, about the impending New Hampshire primary results. I ask Patrick if he would like to suffer the same fate as our friend Sam Clegg, another Ron Paul fanatic who lost $20 to me after he promised me that Senor Pablo would finish in 1st or 2nd in the Iowa caucuses.

In addition, where does Ron Paul stand in a GOP race dominated by attacks against business and the free market? And although Paul has been criticized for newsletters that say controversial things about blacks, I wonder if it is not Asians who should feel more threatened by the movement Paul represents.

Click the button below to listen to the podcast:


Could freelance writers offer a promising future for unions?

January 10, 2012 by

I suspect not. The freelance market is fierce, and for a paper to be forced to bargain, a union would have to convince a widely-dispersed, unorganized group of individuals to join its cause. Currently, the National Writers Union (which is an affiliate of the United Auto Workers!) is only about 1,300 strong.

Let me explain:

Many papers, especially weeklies such as Isthmus, draw upon a large group of freelancers to produce regular articles. While it’s convenient for a paper to have a group of regular contributors whose work it can depend on, if the regular contributors demanded higher pay, the paper could probably function for a period of time with outside contributors, even if that meant a little extra work for editors or even lower quality. The damage would probably not equal that incurred by a factory if a large number of its workers walked out on the job.

As a result, the freelancers union advocates for its members differently than traditional unions. Whereas the chief goal for most unions is to bring collective bargaining to a workplace, the NWU is more of an advocacy organization that aids individual writers in understanding contracts, filing grievances against papers over backpay and providing health care options for freelancers.

Sound familiar? Wisconsin might give more money back to feds

January 10, 2012 by

Similar to the GOP’s denial of funds to Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, Walker seems to be putting federal money in jeopardy as a way to display contempt for White House policy.

Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to stop work on Wisconsin’s insurance exchanges, which are mandated by health care reform, is shortsighted and could give the federal government more influence over the state’s insurance market than it should have. Walker and state officials should reconsider their decision.

Walker said in December that the state would halt work on the online exchanges until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the health care law. The high court is considering a collection of lawsuits challenging the law; a decision is expected this summer.

 Interestingly, the health care exchanges are one of the least ideologically controversial aspects of Obama’s health reform law. Like much of “Obamacare,” the exchanges were originally thought up by conservatives. It’s entirely in line with Walker’s philosophy of using government to direct business to corporations. However, since Obama’s name is attached to the policy, the exchanges, like high-speed rail, will likely either die or be horribly mangled.

Madison Apartments Just Got Easier to Find

January 9, 2012 by

Finding a new apartment in Madison, especially a downtown Madison apartment, sucks. There’s really no other way to put it.

As if mid-August homelessness and the impossibility of getting security deposits back didn’t make the rental process bad enough, it’s also crazy frustrating to even find a downtown apartment to eventually lose your entire security deposit at in the first place.

The UW campus area housing site is a bear to use and rarely updated. Craigslist takes forever to sort through, doesn’t have much information, and is spammy. Those local apartment pamphlets you see on every street corner have websites but they’re impossible to use and also completely out-of-date. And there are so many landlords in Madison it makes it impossible to even know where to start.

Enter, a new site launched in January by UW-alumni with the mission to: “Put every apartment in Madison at your fingertips.”

Their idea is to finally combine all of Madison’s apartments on one website that is up-to-date and stupid simple and easy to use. Essentially, a search engine built just for downtown Madison apartments.

From their about us page:

We founded in January 2011 for a simple reason: apartment hunting in Madison just plain sucked.

As UW students and then recent graduates with more than 10 Madison apartment hunts between us, we had far too much experience with the typical Madison apartment search. The endless shuffling through of craigslist ads. The local apartment listing sites that felt like they were built in the 90’s (and last updated then too). And the eventual resignation to just walking around and looking for ‘For Rent’ signs.

We thought there had to be a better way to find a new place online.

So, if you’re currently in the process of looking for a new house or apartment in downtown Madison, or just curious to see the product of a Madison-based startup, check out their attempt at a solution.


No Mitch Henck, Obama and Santorum don’t hate gays equally

January 8, 2012 by

Throughout American history, civil rights for various groups, from women to blacks to gays, have come slowly and painfully. Typically, the movement begins with a small group in favor of expanding rights, a small group that is hostile to that expansion, and a small group that is ambivalent. In time, the last group gradually shifts to support the newer vision of social justice. That is what we see in President Obama’s support of gay rights. Barney Frank explains:

“My own view is that I look at President Obama’s record, he was probably inclined to think that same-sex marriage was legitimate, but as a candidate for president in 2008 that would have been an unwise thing to say,” Mr. Frank said. “And I don’t mean that he’s being hypocritical. I mean that if you live in a democratic society, it is a mix of what you think the voters want and what you think is doable.”

Liberals and conservatives alike enjoy pointing out that the president’s position on gay marriage is no different than Rick Santorum’s. Conservative(ish) Madison radio host Mitch Henck made this point over and over again the other day, feigning puzzlement at the gay community’s hostility to Santorum’s candidacy. Even if we disregarded the major gay rights initiatives Obama has championed, including domestic partnerships for federal employees, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and a proactive campaign for gay rights abroad, there’s a major difference between Santorum and Obama on gay marriage.

Essentially, Obama is to gays what JFK and LBJ were to blacks in the early 60’s. He is trying to find a why to support the progressive definition of gay rights without losing an election. Santorum, very simply, is to gays what Strom Thurmond was to blacks. Not only is he viciously opposed to any recognition of gay partnerships, but he believes the law should reflect the view that homosexuality is immoral, just as Thurmond believed integration to be immoral.

Want to know why Progressive Dane is struggling?

January 7, 2012 by

Take a look at Progressive Dane’s Twitter account. The average high school cheerleader has more followers than the political party that once held a plurality of seats on the Madison Common Council. It is currently following three accounts and has 90 followers.

In PD’s defense, its Facebook page has attracted much more attention, with over 500 “likes.”  PD co-Chair Mike Johnson says overhauling social media is a priority for the coming year.

That priority should have been set much earlier. As a result of PD’s neglect of social media, it missed an epic opportunity to gain party members during the winter protests, when seemingly every state progressive who wasn’t out in the streets was glued to the #wiunion updates on Twitter. Putting that hashtag at the end of all of my tweets gained me many times more followers and readers than PD’s entire current following. Especially the younger crowd on campus.

The irony is that the leaders of PD are Johnson, a young guy who knows about this stuff, and Brenda Konkel, a prolific blogger.

The Dane Dems Twitter account is equally wretched. They have the exact same number of followers as PD! However, their laziness is more excusable, since the Dems have a statewide organization that keeps fans in the loop.

Throughout the battle for labor rights, many criticized the Democrats for running lackluster campaigns devoid of the progressive passion that defined the winter protests. If Progressive Dane had been front-and-center of that effort on social media, it would probably have a larger crop of young, energetic members.

Actually, America is just like Poland

January 7, 2012 by

So says a Polish correspondent reporting on the Iowa caucuses, says my friend Patrick McEwen. The same reporter I overheard talking to a former state senator at a Mitt Romney rally struck up a conversation with Patrick at a caucus in Davenport. According to Patrick –– an avid Ron Paul supporter –– the reporter said the campaigns had taught him one thing about America:

“Except for Ron Paul, your politicians say nothing when they speak –– just like in Poland.”


Rick Santorum made me $20

January 5, 2012 by

A while ago I bet my friend Sam Clegg that Ron Paul would not finish in first or second place in the Iowa Caucuses. As the caucuses approached, I became resigned that that was $20 I was going to lose. However, when Tuesday finally arrived, I began to hold out hope for Santorum. Bachmann, Perry and Gingrich had become lost causes, and conservative voters were desperate for an alternative to Romney.

Thank you, Rick Santorum.

Iowa Evangelicals vote for a Mormon and a Catholic

January 4, 2012 by

A generation ago, Iowa Evangelicals would have regarded last night’s results as a sad display of spiritual decay in the GOP. A Mormon beats a Catholic by 8 votes, followed by a social libertarian who rarely ever mentions God? Results like that would have infuriated Pat Robertson in 1980.

The acceptance of Mormons and Catholics by Evangelicals is NOT an indication that religion is no longer important in politics, or that religious voters prefer to keep Christianity out of politics. What it shows is simply that the religious right has puts its differences with Mormons, Catholics and Jews aside while it takes on its biggest enemy: American secularism.

Christianity teaches us that there is only one way to God, and yet, as we have seen in recent decades, some of the most prolific promoters of that message are willing to make alliances with supposed heathens and heretics to achieve a common goal.

For instance:

The Evangelical movement sees the Israeli Jewish population as a protector of the Holy Land from Muslims, which is curious, since it seems nearly impossible that Muslims could do worse than kill the supposed son of God himself.

Similarly, the Evangelical right has warmed considerably to Catholics, such as Rick Santorum. Sure, some might regard the Pope as the anti-Christ, but he’s still a hell of a lot better than Planned Parenthood.

Evangelicals are probably more reluctant to elect a Mormon, but at the end of the day, there are only a handful of states that have a cultural and political character more friendly to conservative Christians than Utah. A pro-life Mormon beats the hell out of a pro-choice Muslim, which is apparently the status quo.