Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Sconz moves to the Cap Times

January 18, 2012

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

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

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

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

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.


Rick Santorum made me $20

January 5, 2012

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.

The Sconz went to see Mitt Romney in Iowa

January 3, 2012

It didn’t occur to me until Sunday night, on the eve of a federal holiday that I didn’t know how to spend. “We should go to Iowa!” I told Mrs. Sconz.

Four years ago, pops and I went up to New Hampshire for a couple days of political tourism and caught a barroom speech from Dennis Kucinich and then snuck into the press section at a John Edwards event. We tried in vain to see McCain and Hillary. On the way back to New Jersey, we heard that Obama was up by 10 points in the polls.  So Hillary cried… and won. And John McCain beat a Masschusetts flip-flopper who once described himself as “more liberal than Ted Kennedy.”

Mitt Romney has since changed. In fact, his tour bus in Dubuque was adorned with three inspiring words: “Conservative. Businessman. Leader.”

Although Romney was the GOP candidate I was least interested in seeing (I was hoping for Perry or Bachmann), his event was an interesting political specimen. The crowd at the paper warehouse was about 150 strong, made up of what seemed to be mostly middle-aged and older white collar types. There was only a handful of young people in the audience.

Romney gave a better speech than I ever expected him to give. He and wife Ann are definitely on their A-game. His joke about Ann “falling on da butt in Dubuque” four years ago was probably too wholesome for the average Madisonian, but it was delightfully risqué for the Iowa Republican base. His only target was President Obama; he made no mention of other GOP candidates. We’ll see tonight whether that was a good calculation on his part.

Later, I was interviewed by a Fox TV station from Rockford,IL while eating lunch with Mrs. Sconz at an Italian restaurant in Dubuque. Here’s the video that includes a few seconds of expert analysis from “Political Tourist Jack Craven [sic].”

French offer solution to Nails’ Tales

December 29, 2011

Doug Moe thinks we ought to get rid of Nails’ Tales because it’s ugly. So does Citizen Dave. Truth be told, I never even noticed the damn thing. Mrs. Sconz apparently did. When I asked her what she thought of it, she responded, “I don’t know, it’s phallic. I don’t have a strong opinion on it either way.” Apparently she got the message the artist intended, according to Chris Rickert, who supports the monument.

“They didn’t say they wanted a phallus,” Lipski told me of the conversations he had with UW-Madison officials as he was coming up with ideas for the piece.

But they did want something with “power” and “dynamism,” he said. They wanted “if not something phallic, but something that was very male and dominant.”

I think we should keep it. Women are taking over college campuses and a giant penis in front of a football stadium is the best way to remind people that there is one domain in which men dominate.

Moe is not a philistine for opposing a seemingly ugly symbol of male virility, but he does lack a sense of history. As any student of architecture knows, many Parisians pushed for the demolition of the Eiffel Tower after it was showcased at the 1889 World Fair. Sure, they acknowledged that the tallest man-made structure at the time was impressive, but it obstructed the historic Paris skyline and served no practical purpose. The World Fair was over. What were they going to do? Keep the thing forever?

Landmarks don’t have to be pretty. All they have to do is have a story behind them. Lipski failed to do that. But that doesn’t mean somebody else, such as the UW Student Section, couldn’t come up with one for it. Perhaps with a profane chant.

Ron Paul’s big government position on right-to-work

December 29, 2011

To libertarians like Ron Paul, respect for private property and legal contracts is the only governance a society needs. For instance:

Should businesses be allowed to discriminate against customers based on race?

Of course. The owner is within his rights as a property owner to only admit his racial brethren, and for the government to require him to do otherwise is a violation of the holiest of a civilized society’s principles. Paul explains in his 2004 speech on the House floor decrying the Civil Rights Act of 1964:

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave the federal government unprecedented power over the hiring, employee relations, and customer service practices of every business in the country. The result was a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of free society.

Given that reasoning, shouldn’t we assume that Paul would also support the rights of businesses to enter into contracts with unions that require workers to pay union dues? From his website:

While Ron Paul supports the right of every American to join a private sector union if they wish, he believes, like most Americans, that forcing workers to pay union dues just to get or keep a job is wrong.

Unfortunately, over 75 years ago, the right to decide freely whether or not to join a labor union was taken away from American workers by Congress.

 Ron Paul’s exceptional record on Right to Work issues earned him the prestigious Everett Dirksen Award from the National Right to Work Committee.

At the very least, Paul’s position on right-to-work is anti-libertarian because it advocates the government outlaw a type of contract between individuals. To outlaw businesses from entering into certain contracts with unions is no different than outlawing sex contracts between a prostitute and a client or outlawing the sale of drugs, both positions that Paul vehemently opposes.

Feels good to be home: The Sconz is back!

December 29, 2011

I had a hell of a time blogging for Isthmus. It got me a lot of new readers and it provided me with great opportunities to do reporting that I otherwise might not have been able to do as a solo blogger, since many people –– sadly –– won’t talk to you unless you’re associated with an established old media entity.

But since I’m not doing full-time reporting anymore, it’s good to be back on a traditional blogging platform. It’s easier for me to update posts and it’s easier for readers to browse through multiple posts quickly. At Isthmus I practically felt guilty writing small posts because readers generally expect something substantial when they are forced to click on an article link.

So here goes!

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