Fact checking Wisconsin II (5×8 – 2/21/11)

The connection between student achievement and collective bargaining, a day in the life of a defense attorney, deep driveway thoughts, sign sense in St. Cloud, and Watson is coming for you.

It’s a company holiday today. But my wife is working and I don’t have anything else to do (other than shoveling) and a lot of other people are working, so maybe it’s worth feeding the blog beast today. We’ll see. We should at least have an open thread where you can share the most interesting stories you’ve read in the last 24 hours. For now, the “comments” section below will have to do.

So, here’s the Monday Morning Rouser:


If you enjoy good fact-checking, the Wisconsin Uprising is certainly providing plenty of opportunities. Over the weekend, for example, this ‘tweet’ seemed fairly popular:

Only 5 states don’t have bargaining rights for teachers & rank 44th,47th,48th,49th & 50th in ACT/SAT scores. Wisconsin ranks 2nd. #WIUnion

Angus Johnson at the blog, Student Activism, took a look at that and found the numbers come from a 1999 survey, and found the comparison to be weak. He writes:

State scores on the SAT and ACT are hard to compare directly, because there’s so much variation in how many students take the tests. In addition, I haven’t yet found a source that combines SAT and ACT scores into a composite ranking like the one in the tweet. Looking at charts for SAT and ACT results separately, however, here’s what I found:

Wisconsin ranks 3rd in the nation in SAT scores, but with a participation rate of just 4%. On the ACT, with a much more representative partcipation rate of 69%, it was tied for 17th. In comparison…

* Virginia was 34th on the SAT with 67% participation, 13th on the ACT with 22% participation.

* Texas was 45th on the SAT with 53% participation, 33rd on the ACT with 33% participation.

* Georgia was 48th on the SAT with 74% participation, 34th on the ACT with 44% participation.

* North Carolina was 38th on the SAT with 63% participation, 20th on the ACT with 16% participation.

* South Carolina was 49th on the SAT with 66% participation, 44th on the ACT with 52% participation.

The numbers still show Wisconsin has an edge, just not the edge the “tweet” said it had.

There’s a more interesting phenomenon: The willingness to pass along information without questioning it if it’s compatible with what someone wants to believe.

See more factoids being adopted as fact? Send them along.

Meanwhile, FoxNews featured the governor Wisconsin yesterday. Host Chris Wallace seemed a bit incredulous on why it’s come to this:

It’s hard for anyone who has business at the Capitol to get it done. This week is supposed to be — and will be — the annual lobbying day for people around Lake Superior. But, the Duluth News Tribune reports, it’ll be difficult to get much attention in Madison.

There is, however, the hint of a thaw in the frosty relations between the unions and the tea party. After Saturday’s competing rallies, the two sides retired to the bar, and united over beer, Reuters reports.


Not for the Monosyllabic, a blog written by an anonymous Minnesota attorney, raises an interesting question today: Are decks stacked — too stacked — against those charged with crimes? Are judges too favorable to prosecutors?

I’ve started to wonder if it might be better to switch sides. It’s got to be easier. They hold all the cards, they’ve got all the power and all the discretion. And they are on the “good” side, the side that everyone always supports. No one asks a prosecutor if they have “ethical issues” with their job or how they do what they do. No one asks a prosecutor if they have problems with their jobs because they “know everyone is guilty.” Not to mention the fact that they have much more resources than we do, so they can actually get stuff done. They have an entire police force as their investigators; they have city prosecutors and county attorneys to make distribute the cases amongst; they have support staff. Plus, there’s the other perks–not having to drive around for every court hearing; not having to haul around files from the office to the car to the courthouse and back again; having a place to store their stuff while they are in court (the county attorneys have their offices in the courthouse so they can keep their coats/extra files/lunch/etc in their office).

It’s a fine blog to learn about days in the life of a defense attorney.


Shoveling a foot or more of snow is a good time to reflect on life’s important questions. What else is there to do? Here’s one I had last evening. You know all of those surveys — like this one — that come out that show men don’t fully participate in household chores?

Why isn’t shoveling ever mentioned as a household chore?


For the record: Mrs. News Cut helped shovel. I folded laundry over the weekend.

That picture of a snowstorm at night isn’t that great, but I’m not a photographer of night snowstorms. Griff Wigley of Northfield is.


Should the government be telling cities how to make their road signs? It is, the St. Cloud Times reports. The Federal Highway Administration is considering deadlines for uniform guidelines for road signs. It includes replacing all street-name signs that are in uppercase letters with signs that are in uppercase and lowercase.

Part of this is our fault. We’ve gotten older and can’t see the way we once did. But “we have significant budget issues, and our priority is to make sure cops are on the streets,” said St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, who estimated the cost of complying with road sign regulations would run “several hundred thousand dollars.”


Last week’s story was a cutie, wasn’t it? A computer won the game show, Jeopardy. Now the reality. Watson is coming for your job, your high-paying job.


Americans celebrate the third Monday in February as President’s Day, continuing a tradition that began as an observance of George Washington’s birthday. Who is your favorite U.S. president of all time?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Could Mark Twain ever have predicted that words he used more than 120 years ago would create such a fire storm in 2011? Midmorning profiles educators with different approaches to teaching the classic.

Second hour: Despite the early snow melt, major flooding still appears likely for all major rivers in the Upper Midwest. Paul Huttner speaks about the flood forecast and the wild winter weather that’s gripped much of the nation.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Presidential historian Kathleen Dalton

Second hour: A BBC documentary about the Egyptian revolution.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Public employees and state budget shortfalls.

Second hour: NASCAR since Dale Earnhardt’s death.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – MPR’s Rupa Shenoy reports there are a number of areas with heavy concentrations of released sex offenders. What’s the effect of this in a neighborhood? Is it working well in places?

  • MR

    The most interesting story I’ve read is from the New York Review of Books about information, how we process information, and how we have an enormous amount of information but not necessarily a lot of meaning to attach to it.

  • Noelle

    I read a frightening piece linking the Koch brothers with what’s happening in Wisconsin right now:


  • Mary Turck
  • Margo French

    Bob…where did you get the updated info on SAT/ACT scores that rank WI as 3rd with 4% participation? I know where the 1999 report came from but I don’t see where you got your updated info. Please email me with the link. thanks.

  • Bob Collins

    The link was in the post.

  • Heather

    Angus Johnson has a new post, same topic, VERY interesting. Well worth clicking through the link in Bob’s post, and the link at the top of Angus’. Bob, you should read it! I’m also interested in your take on this:


  • Jamie

    Ugh. I could hardly stand to listen to that Fox interview with Walker. Chris Wallace did try to get him to stick to the union-busting topic, but eventually it devolved into typical Fox propaganda.

    Why is everyone interviewing Walker? I heard a news story from NPR this morning in which Walker had several sound bytes, and there were none from the other side except for a short one from a firefighter saying “we support the protesters” or something, which is so not the same thing. I can’t believe how so many news media outlets, including MPR, are making this sound like the protesters just don’t want to pay more for their health care and retirement plans, when the issue that has brought them to the capitol from the beginning has been the union busting.

  • Tom L

    If these union types gave a shit about equality, why aren’t they first demanding same pay for all the little people that work fast food, gas stations and retail? Do they refuse to shop on weekends and holidays as well? Real simple, extorted wages are only valuable if everyone else is underpaid and waiting on you on your glorious time off.