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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Because it's the wrong question, that's why

by folkbum

The last couple of times I've posted about taxes, my conservative readers have asked a question in the comments that I have opted to ignore. They've also posed it on their own blogs, where I have continued to ignore it. But I doubt that my continued disengagement on the topic will stop them, so I may as well just lay out this once why I don't bother with it.

The most recent posing--and I mean that in more than one way--came attached to yesterday's quckie post:
How much is too much of someone's income to take [in taxes]? What should the top line total tax picture be in your mind?
Frequent commenter Sven, in response, rightly calls it a "silly question" and notes that the question is "predicated on the adolescent Randian notion that all taxes are theft." Worse, I think, is that it is a classic "gotcha" question--one designed to stop or derail conversation about important questions and instead put people on the spot so they can be criticized personally. It's a game, and a game that conservatives are particularly good at.

More importantly, though, that question is quite simply the wrong question to ask. Taxes are a means, not an end, and to consider only the means makes no sense. Let me make an analogy:

If you're just joining us, you may not know that I teach. But I do! When I sit down to plan a semester, a quarter, a unit, or even a single lesson, the first question I consider is not "How much homework should students do?" I think there are some pretty reasonable guidelines about homework we can all agree on--two hours is too much for a second-grader, ten minutes is not enough for a high schooler--but knowing an answer or even those parameters doesn't help me at all. No, the first thing I have to do is decide what I want I students to know or be able to do by the end of the process. Then I figure out the materials and activities to use to achieve that end, and somewhere near the end of the process, I can get a handle on how much of what we're doing can or should be done as homework.

You could also make a private-sector analogy: It's a pretty dumb thing to set a price point for your product or service before you've bothered to figure out what product or service you're going to sell.

The same holds true with governing. While we might be able to agree going in on some broad outlines about what kind of taxes are appropriate or not (like a top individual tax rate of 91% might be a little high--though, oddly enough, this country managed to have a massive post-war economic boom with exactly that rate in place), picking a number without first taking other steps is just stupid--no offense to Tim Rock, who answered that question yesterday as well as the last time it was asked.

Instead, the first task of governing is deciding what services ought to be offered. Lucky for us, we get to have a conversation about that sort of thing pretty often; it's called an election. We're doing one right now for president, for example. This is the time to set priorities and sort out what is and is not in the best interests of the governed based on their consent. (You'll recall that the last election featured a stunning loss for the crowd that wanted only to talk about that question of how high taxes should be.)

It's also important to have a conversation, after we've got a handle on what the government should be doing, about how the government should be paying for that. This is the part of the conversation that's often missing, though I have been suggesting for a long time that, at least here in Wisconsin, we should be talking about revenue sources and whether, for example, we should rely so heavily on the property tax. There is a collection of people as diverse as the Realtors and the teachers' union working as "The Wisconsin Way," trying to jump-start exactly that conversation; they are currently on tour talking to the public. (They will be in Waukesha November 8, and in Glendale November 27.)

Once we know what our priorities are, and what our revenue sources will be, we can set a level for taxes. If we provide more services, clearly the taxes will be higher--though, we hope, apportioned fairly. The process of setting priorities, that important first step, will help us in deciding what to not to fund if there is no way to do that fairly.

Opening the conversation with "How much in taxes is too much?" is to start at the end of what should be a longer process--and it shuts down that discussion instead of fostering it. This is the same reason I oppose such legislative idiocies as TABOR, tax "freezes," and revenue caps. More meaningful measures like pay-as-you-go rules or even, dare I say it, a balanced-budget amendment provide a much better legislative solution to out-of-control spending.

On a more specific note, when the MPS superintendent asked this week for a 16% jump in the Milwaukee tax levy, he did so by making clear exactly what services he wanted to pay for with that money--more math teachers, smaller class sizes, extracurriculars that will keep students in school, the return of art and music to high schools. People howling about MPS, like some in comments here at this blog, or in comments at jsonline or at any number of conservative blogs, want just to talk about the number, not the services forgone without the funds, or the services lost with any other cuts in MPS's billion-dollar budget. They're happy to play games over what's "fair" or "too much"--in other words, whine over the means--but not willing to take the time to talk about the ends.

That is why I ignore that question. When someone wants to engage me on a question of substance instead of trying to shut down the conversation, I'll happily play along. Until then, no.

Instead, maybe my conservative readers would rather take a shot at these questions, about ends, about MPS: If so many students are currently failing in a well-funded, well-organized, tightly-regulated school system staffed by generally very talented and compassionate teachers, what would you replace it with? What would you cut, change, rearrange, or do differently to achieve different results? If the superintendent's requests above aren't going to make a difference, what will?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

For Those of You Who Thought the Jackass Was Just the Symbol of the Democratic Party

By Keith Schmitz

Rudy Giuliani before the good folks in Londonberry, NH:
"This is the world we live in. It's not this happy, romantic-like world where we'll negotiate with this one, or we'll negotiate with that one and there will be no preconditions, and we'll invite (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad to the White House, we'll invite Osama (bin Laden) to the White House," Giuliani said.
"Hillary and Obama are kind of debating whether to invite them to the inauguration or the inaugural ball," he added.
We don't have to imagine what would happen if a Democrat or progressive said something as outrageous. There would be constant repetition by the "liberal media" to pound into people's heads how tasteless this remark is. There would be constant baying on rant radio to stampede the sheep. There would be a censure vote in Congress.

But then you got to wonder about the voters who have a psychological need to lap up this crap. In this world there is no such thing as self-control, but the political equivalent of road rage.

There is probably something else you probably won't hear much about. Rudy, who has rode for all its worth his questionable performance post 9/11 -- and leading up to it, built a lucrative consulting firm off of his so-called reputation. Turns out he is meshing his campaign with his business despite promises to uncouple.

Let's not hold our breath. Recall John Huang, the renegade donor to the Hillary Clinton campaign, running afoul of the law that made fodder for days of news coverage? Let's see if this story about Rudy makes it past Wednesday night -- if that long.

Earplugs in, please!

by folkbum

The I-don't-live-in-Milwaukee-but-I-still-want-to-tell-you-what-to-think crowd will be howling over this one today.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sad News

by folkbum

Mr Jay Bullock, we received your message and appreciate your taking the time to contact Campbell Soup Company to inquire about our Pace® Enchilada Sauce product. Unfortunately, this product is not currently available.

Tastes and preferences constantly change and there is only so much space on a supermarket shelf. Periodically, we look at the sales for our various products and are forced to make the difficult decision as to which products stay and which must be replaced.

Inquiries such as yours remind us that sales figures aren't the only measure of a product's value. Perhaps one day Pace® Enchilada Sauce product will make its way back to your grocer's shelf.

Thank you for visiting the Pace website.

Pace Web Team

So now I need a suitable replacement. Remember: 1. inexpensive 2. in a jar 3. tasty. Whaddya got?

Is more "responsibility" and "choice" the health care answer?

by folkbum

John Torinus, corporate muckity-muck and business columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, can barely set keys to keyboard without touting expanded consumer "choice" as at least a significant part of a health care reform plan that he would back. He does it again Sunday:
[U]nderlying medical costs are the primary issue, not access and who pays. As costs escalate, access disappears. If the mandated insurance [in his preferred reform plan] includes high deductibles, co-insurance, personal health accounts and proactive health management, costs will stabilize as policy holders take responsibility for their health and health costs.
The problem with health care, he repeatedly asserts, is that consumers have too much of it, spend too much on it. The more we empower consumers (and force them, through their pocketbooks) to be empowered, then they will spend less and costs will fall.

Someone needs to slip Torinus a copy of WPRI study of "choice" in Milwaukee schools that I wrote about last week. That study suggested that despite a multiplicity of educational options and a wealth of performance data available about the Milwaukee Public Schools, few parents bothered to make decisions about where to send their children to school based on those data.

Someone should also remind Torinus about all the great decisions homebuyers made over the last few years, with all the options and information available to them, they still chose ARMs and other risky loans and now we face record foreclosures. (We bought our house before the peak of the bubble; we saw what was out there and, thankfully, made a much wiser choice.)

I'm sure that it won't take much to come up with more examples of failures of the market in this way*, and, as more sensible conservative Rick Esenberg noted last week, health care is a different animal entirely: If a consumer makes a bad choice, we just can't let them get sick and die anyway. Lose your house? Hock the jewelry? Fall into a debt spiral with check-cashing joints? No problem (though I support the efforts to make the latter less likely). But die? Is that the America we want to be?

I don't think Torinus is heartless; I think he simply puts too much faith in markets in which success will prove elusive.

* Or, for that matter, market "successes" that are really dependent on government subsidy and interference. As fiercely as many conservatives and Republicans defend the market, they are usually more than willing to bend over backward to privilege their donors. Insurance companies come to mind.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

S-Chip off the Old Block

By Keith Schmitz

Bet a good number of the kids that would be covered by the expanded S-Chip health care program for children would be the sons and daughters of soldiers deployed in Iraq.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

When Will They Fix Foster Care?

by capper

The Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, the privatized foster care system overseen by the State, has been in the news a lot lately, and not for good things. Now in today's JSOnline is this story:

UPDATE: Infant death possible homicide

The death of a 5-month-old boy, who was left unsupervised with his mentally ill mother by a visitation worker employed by the state-run Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, is being investigated as a homicide, police said today.

The child died about half an hour after the visitation worker left the infant without supervision, police said. An autopsy was being performed Saturday to determine the cause of death.

The death is the latest in a series involving child welfare workers and comes on the heels of a state report released last month that accompanied a plan to beef up programs to keep children at risk of abuse or neglect safe, after a review of more than 600 active Milwaukee child welfare cases.
The review was ordered in May after the Journal Sentinel reported the suffocation death of a toddler, Alicia Burgess, who was left in her home by child welfare workers despite warnings by two doctors that the child and her brother were in danger. Raul Arteaga, 34, the boyfriend of Alicia's mother, is charged with first-degree reckless homicide.
In February the Journal Sentinel reported that a 7-month-old baby starved to death as child welfare workers regularly stopped by her Milwaukee home to check on an older child who had been abused. The bureau had been warned of concerns about the baby's health, but caseworkers reported that the parents refused to let them check on her conditions.
In the latest case, police said the 29-year-old mother lost custody of the infant in July because her mental illness interfered with her ability to care for the child. The baby was then placed in foster care. On October 19th, a niece of the woman was granted custody of the infant by Milwaukee County Children's court and the mother was granted visitation rights, police said. They said they did not know if the visits were supposed to be supervised or unsupervised.
Police gave this account of the events leading up to the baby's death:
The 24-year-old visitation worker picked the infant up from the niece's house at
9:45 a.m. Friday for a visit at the mother's apartment in the 2500 block of W. Wells St. that was to last from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. She told police that she was only supposed to supervise the mother's visit with the infant for the first half hour and the last half hour of the visit and left at 10:30 a.m.
At 10:45 a.m. a mental health social worker who knew the mother was having a visit with the child called to make sure it was going well and was told by the mother that everything was fine. That worker told police that she could hear the baby "cooing" in the background and that the mother was coherent.
At 11:10 a.m. the mother called the mental health worker back and said something
was wrong with the baby and the worker called 911.

Police said they did not know where the baby was when the fire department rescue
squad arrived, but that there was some water in the bathtub.

The mother told police that she overdosed on medications, passed out and indicated that she had left the baby in the bathtub.The mother, who police said suffers from an undisclosed mental illness, was being held at the Milwaukee Mental Health complex.

I understand, even though I disagree with, the right's desire to privatize anything and everything. The thought is that it would save money, although I have not seen any credible proof of this.

But even if this argument, some things should not be done with the bottom line being the driving concern. Some things, like taking care of our children. There is no way this child should have been left alone with this mother without knowing whether she was stable enough to care for the child. Apparently they knew she wasn't, or they would have someone staying for parts of the visits, or checking up on her.

UPDATE: In an update story, MSJ is reporting that the court ordered unsupervised visits. The still does not absolve the Bureau, as that the article also states that the workers never spoke with neighbors, who were aware of the situation. If they had done so, they would have been able to suspend visits and take the issue back to court.

At least there are some reason to hope. When I see stories like this one, I know not all is lost, and that some people still get it.

What Really Did Happen, Mr. Walker?

by capper

One thing that both sides of the blogosphere can agree on, even if for different reasons, is that the local media is less than ideal. A prime example is the coverage that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gave today to the Freddie Dudley incident. Freddie Dudley was an inmate at the Community Correctional Center (CCC), which is operated by Milwaukee County, specifically the House of Corrections (HOC). Dudley, instead of returning to CCC, called in to say he was working late, and then had someone sign his name on the list. Meanwhile, Dudley stayed out, partied, and ended up shooting another man to death. Scott Walker, Tosa Ranger, was quite irate and promised to look into it and hold the culprit(s) responsible.

In today's story, we find that Walker has found his scapegoats the bad officers. But, given that I worked for HOC a ways back, and still know people that worked there, I saw many red flags in this story. First, Walker only sent out a press release. This would indicate he didn't want to be asked a lot of questions. Press releases are usually only sent out on mundane matters, or on things that politicians want to avoid dealing with. He also sent out the release on a Friday afternoon, another sign of trying to avoid a lot of pesky questions.

The Tosa Ranger's press release only said that three officers were suspended with pay until they went before the Personnel Review Board for termination hearings. Two supervising officers are facing either demotion or suspension. The press release did not reveal what the allegations against the officers are, except for "not following 'established guidelines for situations such as this'". (SIDENOTE: How often does an inmate go AWOL and kill someone that they have established guidelines for this sort of thing?)

There are many things that the story didn't report. One, the CCC is adjacent to the Medical Examiner's Office. They are so close that guards have to escort inmate porters through the MEO to take out the garbage. CCC was formerly a medical hospital, and was not really designed to hold prisoners. Furthermore, the CCC is in terrible condition due to lack of maintenance. Due to the poor design and shotty maintenance, it is very hard to monitor inmates that are supposed to be there.

Another missing aspect, is that the officers at CCC and HOC have been working large amounts of overtime due to being overcrowded and understaffed. This dangerous condition is due in no small part to Walker's irresponsible budgeting decisions. As I have mentioned before, when people in any job, work 12-16 hour days, six or seven days a week, for several months, they are not going to be at peak performance. This is true for cops, deputies and corrections officers, who are needed to be at top performance, not only for their own safety, but for the safety of the community as a whole. I pointed this out when an inmate escaped from HOC this past summer.
Nowhere in the article is this even mentioned, much less how much fatigue may have played into these two incidents.

A few other tidbits that wouldn't be reported or even asked.

  • The members of the Personnel Review Board are all appointed by Walker. Does anyone wonder what the results of their reviews will be, regardless of the facts of the case.
  • Dudley not only had someone sign in for him, but the same person apparently slept in his bed, so that the body counts wouldn't be off (this came to me from some former coworkers who will remain nameless for obvious reasons).
  • Inmates at CCC aren't required to wear ID bracelets as are the inmates at HOC and the Milwaukee County Jail.
  • Why is Walker waiting for the officers to be (probably) fired before he orders a probe of the policies?
  • Why would he think that the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office would be able to do a fair and honest review of HOC's policies, given their working relationship?

I would also be remiss if I failed to mention that anyone that has worked in law enforcement or corrections would tell you that the evenings and nights are the busiest times, or power shifts. Walker wants to close the CCC and put all the inmates on GPS monitors. Given that Dudley shot the victim in the middle of the night, I guess Walker's plan would allow enforcement officers to know exactly where all these inmates are when they start shooting people.

I have two questions for Walker. The first is if he is taking this action against these officers? Is it to avoid the inevitable lawsuit from the victims family, or because he has an election coming up (if he ever decides if he is running)?

The second question is this: In his 2008 budget speech (pdf), Walker promised to deliver "Safety. Affordability. And Pride." When was he planning to start offering these things, and what has he been doing for the past five and a half years?

Friday, October 26, 2007

My New Crusade

by folkbum

How about something competely different? I'm looking for this stuff:

It used to be easily available at Pick-n-Save, but not in the last year or two. Then we could stock up at Target, but not anymore. Sentry's a blank, as well. Peapod is partnered with Roundy's, so I can't even have it delivered. I found one place online that would sell me a ginormous case wholesale, but that's impractical at the other end of the scale.

I know, I know, a good person would make his own enchilada sauce, but I learned about myself many years ago that I am a consumer, not a producer. More importantly, this sauce is inexpensive, comes in a jar so it's easy to save the leftovers, and it's quite tasty.

So I want to harness the power of the blog to track down where I can get my hands on some jars of Pace enchilada sauce. Any ideas?

EXTREMELY LATE UPDATE: I may have a winning replacement.

Paul's Pot

By Keith Schmitz

I love libertarians. When it gets down to politics they are the most fun to get into it. And for the most part they have an actual idea why they believe what they believe. There is a lovable innocence about them.

That's why Ron Paul is the most fun out of all of the fine folks running for president, certainly more than those cartoons from the 50's that he is debating with on the GOP side. He has the unpolitical knack of saying what's on our minds.

So now it comes out that campaign cash is flowing into Paul's pockets. He just wrapped up the last quarter with his campaign $5 million richer, no doubt some of that siphoned from the other GOP candidates. That will pay for $1.1 million worth of commercials in New Hampshire. Rudy Giuliani is yet to go on air.

He is polling fourth in some states primaries right now, and regardless how he actually does Paul has engendered enough of a following that he can continue to raise those irritating points about Iraq in debate after debate. He certainly is not running a spendthrift campaign.

With his viewpoints spoiling the party for his party, the GOP will no doubt rue Paul.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sykes berates bloggers: an annotated transcript

by bert

I am adding to Jay's take on today's tempest pitting Charlie Sykes against the blogger with the nom de plume Illusory Tenant. Jay's coverage doesn't need improving, but since I did listen, and in fact record, this part of the Sykes show, I'll add to his post with a transcript (and a rambling rant postscript). This is the part where Sykes takes on the entire species of lefty bloggers in SE Wisconsin.
[Responding to a caller who notes that Illusory Tenant is anonymous] and there are a number of these guys who go under names “capper”, "the other side", and then you have some guys who actually put their names on the websites who engage in this sort of thing as well. And we’ll see whether they respond to this.”

“And now The Left in Milwaukee is doing this and, you know what, I guess I’m fed up with up it. I am just sick and tired of it. I am just sick of tired of the free ride that the Bill Christoffersons, you know, the McCuigans and the other guys like that have gotten spreading this, and they never get called on it. They are not using the c word, I want to make it clear at this point, and I haven’t heard their comments on this. The only guy we know who is using this word is this guy illusory tenant, the bottom-dwelling, anonymous troll slug whose using this word, and some other guy on the other side is actually trying to defend him on this, but we’ll see whether this becomes acceptable."

My response is simply this list of relevant items:

1. If you do a google blog search you will instantly find many pages of posts by right-wing bloggers using the c-word, often preceded by the adjective “f-ing”, to refer to Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Cindy Sheehan. Try this at home.

2. I remember a show over the summer when Charlie discussed sex in bathroom stalls and took at least two callers who talked about the servicing they received there from anonymous females. That show's content may be more vanilla than the c-word, but it was brought to you by a fellow who then comes back and whines about how others are debasing the public discourse.

3. Yesterday Rush Limbaugh spent a lot of the show laughing about the brass balls he got as an award from some group of military types. Then, without my getting into it because you don't want to know, he made a connection, due to color, between roses and Hillary Clinton’s menstruation (“time of the month” was Rush’s terminology). Charlie says it's The Left who has no class.

4. Charlie just wrote a preachy book that tells us that if we get offended, we are supposed to just get over it. (I just plagiarized the Pundit Nation blog for that one).

The usual selective outrage--I'm over being surprised

by folkbum

One of my favorite new-ish bloggers, the Illusiory Tenant, did a Bad Thing: He referred to a less-favorite blogger, Jessica McBride, by a word that, this being a relatively family-friendly blog, I won't reprint. But it starts with c and rhymes with "front." To be clear, it was a Bad Thing to do, and I do not condone it or excuse it in any way. If IT were one of my students, he'd be in the office right now and I'd be on the phone with his mother. Enough other people have written well enough about why it's wrong that I don't need to cover it here.

The IT has proved to be one of the funniest bloggers around. (Read his comment to this post, for example; I wish I had half that wit.) And to see someone who can skewer with clever words opt for a blunt instrument like that particular slur is always a little sad. IT came around to an apology--which was indeed, truly warranted, since such an insult is just simply not appropriate. Michael Mathias, in a beautifully moving post (as usual), follows the trail back to what McBride said in the first place that led IT to comment, and considers that, perhaps, McBride should offer an apology of her own.

But what has me most intrigued in all of this is not the back-and-forthing among the bloggers as, in the end, it's a tempest in the proverbial teapot. No, what perked up my attention was word that Charlie Sykes ranted about this on-air. Hearing about IT's c-wording of McBride made me think of all the other Bad Things I've read in comments section around the Cheddarsphere, most of which never get apologized for at all. One in particular leapt to mind: When a local blogger referred to people he encounterd while shopping who were guilty of the crime of speaking Spanish nearby. That blogger used a different c-word to label his fellow shoppers, this word being not just a slur but also a breed of dog. (The details are here, courtesy of the Recess Supervisor.)

Although I did not listen to Charlie Sykes at the time--I can't listen to the radio at work and, given my borderline high blood pressure, if I could listen to something, I should listen to something less likely to kill me--but I would be willing to bet real money that Sykes said nothing about that blogger using that slur. Now, of course you can argue that since the Spanish-speaking shoppers are not personal friends of Sykes, he might have less of an interest in complaining about that slur. It may just be partisan, as Illusory Tenant is liberal and Sykes shares a conservative ideology with the blogger in question and would be less likely to criticize. It may be that Sykes didn't catch the racial slur, as it was in the comments of a post--but then again, so was IT's. All of these things are kind of reasonable explanations for why Sykes may not have gone after the racist comment and blogger.

But here's the kicker: That blogger has a place on Charlie Sykes's blogroll (something that cannot be said about even McBride herself!), one of the most coveted prizes among conservative Wisconsin bloggers. That blogger was on Sykes's blogroll when he made the comment. Having someone on your blogroll is never to be taken as a sign that you endorse everything that blogger says or does, no matter how stupid. But in this case, we have equivalent breeches of civil discourse, the only difference being that one victim has her own blog to fight back--and the voice of Wisconsin's biggest talker to defend her. If we're going to be outraged, we should be about both.

However, the silence over the one (McBride has him on her blogroll, too) is not surprising. The right has made an art of selective outrage. Consider the howls last week over Democratic Congressman Pete Stark's remarks that American men and women are dying in Iraq for the president's amusement; the outrage machine kicked into high gear and forced Stark to apologize. In the meantime, no one on the right seems to care about John Boehner's 4000-soldier "small price to pay" crack. That's just one example; the incomperable digby, in response to the Stark matter, says it all better than I can.

So do I think that Illusory Tenant was indeed wrong to do what he did? Yes. Did it rise to such a level that the outrage machine (excluding, of course, McBride who had every right to be upset) needed to hit its high gears again? Judging by the antecedents, no. That it did, though, doesn't suprise me anymore.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Nooooooo, really?

by folkbum

I could have saved WPRI all kinds of time and effort:
A study being released today suggests that school choice isn't a powerful tool for driving educational improvement in Milwaukee Public Schools. [. . .] The overall conclusion: Only 10% of MPS parents make school choices by a process that involves considering at least two schools and that brings academic performance data from a school into the choice.

"Given this number, it seems unlikely that MPS schools are feeling the pressure of a genuine educational marketplace," wrote the report's author, researcher David Dodenhoff.

Dodenhoff also concluded that parental involvement in MPS schools is low--he estimated that 34% of MPS parents could be considered "highly involved" in their children's schools.
Every quarter when I sit around during parent-teacher conferences amazed at how empty the building seems, I come to the same conclusion without needing a fancy study.

It always seemed disingenuous--if not outright mendacious--for "choice" proponents to tell us that giving parents the ability to opt more easily out of the public schools would improve the public schools' performance. Part of what has happened* is that many students whose parents are most likely to push them to achieve have left the district, leaving us with students whose parents are more likely to come to school to beat up other kids, if they come at all. Anyone who said that reducing the proportion of students with highly involved parents would make MPS better was either lying to themselves or to us.

MPS has been pushed--if not by vouchers specifically, then by desperation and need generally--to offer hundreds of different, often innovative programs for parents to choose from. But so what if the challenges that plague us as a city (not as a school district) don't get addressed? I don't care if I'm in an innovative school or in a traditonal one, this much is true: If just a few more of my students in any given class could have the kind of parental backing that is so important to student success, the culture and climate of my classes and the school could change in a positive direction.

The voucher program made that less likely, and look at where it has left Milwaukee.

* A significant other part of what has happened is that parents who would have chosen--and often did choose--religious schools anyway regardless of the availability of vouchers are now doing so with taxpayer money.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Paul Cesarz, Walker's Mini-Me

by capper

County Board Supervisor Paul Cesarz was elected during the first pension scandal. He was the one of the candidates that received backing from CRG (Corrupt Republican Goobers). He has a long history of backing all of Walker's inept decisions and schemes.

Now, you can almost make out Walker's hand going up Cesarz's backside as he comes out with his latest proposal as outlined in JSOnline's Newswatch. Cesarz is proposing to sell part of O'Donnell Park, and using the money from the sale to support the parks. That is kind of like selling the tires off your car to pay for an engine tune up.

Of course, Walker is supporting this maneuver. But this is the same guy that wants to all but give away a good chunk of the county grounds where the greenhouses are, to accompany all the rest of the county grounds which he has already sold off.

Walker's and Mini-Me's rationale for this is to boost the declining public funding that the parks are receiving. Apparently, they are hoping no one notices that they were the ones that have been continuously slashing the funding to the parks in the first place. Or that they were the ones that shot down three different referenda to propose ways to fund the parks.

Not only does Walker have to go, but he can take Mini-Me with him.

Additional reading

by folkbum

I've been working for the devil, too, remember? Here's two:Comments are wide open there (but you have to register) or express your displeasure here.

Scott Walker delivers the outrage--misdirected at Lena Taylor!

by folkbum

Last night I offered space on this blog for Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker to blast the crafters of the most recent budget compromise (likely to be approved later today) because that budget does not include a "fix" to the Milwaukee school voucher program's "funding flaw." Walker has been using State Senator Lena Taylor's support of one particular fix (meaning she didn't introduce a different one) to claim Taylor wants to screw Milwaukee somehow. (In the process, he's just being a big fat liar.)

When I wrote that last night, I noted that the (non?) campaign Walker Weekly would be hitting inboxes overnight, and maybe Walker would have taken the opportunity to do exactly what I offered him space here to do. Well, the Walker Weekly showed up, and what do we get?
Last Monday, Senator Lena Taylor voted for a budget that was bad for taxpayers, bad for the City of Milwaukee, and bad for Milwaukee County. Scott pushed for a NO vote - as did Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Still, Senator Taylor sided with Madison-interests before thinking about Milwaukee.
That's so laughable! Taylor has consistently supported measures aimed at helping Milwaukee and bringing more funds into Milwaukee for property tax relief throughout this budget process. She did so on the Joint Finance Committee, did so in the Senate's version of the budget. Republicans in both houses, but mostly the Assembly, advanced budgets and budget ideas that cut the state's support of Milwaukee and other Democratic areas back to bare bones. The Senate and the JFC (without a single GOP vote, mind you) included specific and directed property tax relief for this city. The Assembly had nothing.

Continuing to vote no on these budgets, as Scott Walker's former colleagues in the Republican-controlled Assembly have done (and which many will likely do today), would mean that Milwaukee property taxes would shoot up considerably to make up for what the state would not be providing in shared revenue, school aids, and other funds. Getting the budget done will keep Milwaukee property taxes lower, period--and Lena Taylor supports doing exactly that.

LATE UPDATE: From Taylor's press release about the budget, just for contrast:
Taylor noted that the budget agreement will provide child care options for low income families, grants for community policing and drug treatment, and over $17 million in high-poverty aid to the Milwaukee Public School System. It also includes over a million dollars for the youth apprenticeship program, and a guarantee of health care coverage to all Wisconsin kids.

“For the last year my colleagues and I have been fighting for these funds in the Joint Finance Committee and on the floor of the State Senate,” continued Taylor. “I’m proud that our efforts have yielded the results our community deserves.”

Taylor was particularly pleased by the strong support the budget shows for education around the state. In addition to the poverty aid, MPS schools will receive $10 million in math and science achievement grants, aimed at narrowing the achievement gap. The compromise also contains increases in financial aid for college, millions of dollars in research support for UWM, and funding for the beginning stages of a UWM School of Public Health.

Taylor also believes that the budget will give a much needed boost to the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS). In additional [sic] to an overall increase of 2.5% to transit aids, Taylor proposed a several-million dollar increase to the MCTS to avert potential service reductions and route cancellations. That proposal ultimately found its way into the Senate version of the bill, and finally the compromise version that passed the conference committee.

For these and other reasons, Sen. Taylor said she would be supporting the budget compromise today, and urged her colleagues to do the same.

“Certainly, there are some parts of this deal that I am disappointed about – especially the cuts to courts and shared revenue for our city,” concluded Taylor. “However, now is the time to pass a budget and move our community forward – this compromise does both."
Remember, apparently Scott Walker wants a no vote on this bill.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rules To Break

by capper

We all know that Charlie Sykes is a self-serving, pompous ass. We also know that he recently wrote a book that he is still trying to sell to the unsuspecting public, including linking to almost every review or column or posting that mentions his book.

One review that I don't think he will be posting is in the November 2007 issue of Milwaukee Magazine (sorry, it's not online yet, so I can't link to it either). The review is titled "RULES TO BREAK" and was written by Lisa Holewa. Here it is in its entirety:

Charlie Sykes' 50 Rules Kids Won't Learn In School is based on his list of 14 rules that took on a bizarre Internet life as an e-mail attributed to Bill Gates. The original 14 were thought-provoking, clever and mercifully brief. But the book...well, what's really the difference between Rule No. 1:"Life is not fair. Get used to it," and No. 12:"Humiliation is part of life. Deal with it," and No.22:"You are not a victim. So stop whining." Each rule is followed by a curmudgeonly lecture, and the effect is simply exhausting. When it appears Sykes had a secret that made it worth slogging through 150 pages-Rule No. 46:"Check the guinea pig in the basement"-it turns out it's just a reminder to call your grandmother. The book has some worthwhile insights, but feels so repetitive and tedious, numbingly self-centered and indulgent, that your want to remind Sykes of Rule No. 8:"Your navel is not that interesting.
Don't spend your life gazing at it."
And for those on the right that would blow off Milwaukee Magazine as part of the "liberal mainstream media", this is the same issue that has an entire story, not just a column, written by Jessica McBride.

Points To Ponder

by capper

Bush and his conservative allies were so dead set against the expansion of SCHIP, that they went to the level of maligning a brain-injured twelve year old boy and his family, even though the allegations were untrue. Bush vetoed the bill, saying that it was a "budget buster". But now we see Bush coming out and asking for another $46 billion (yes, billion, with a B) for the Iraq war. This is on top of the $150+ billion he has already asked for. When can we expect AFP (Agents for Profiteers) to organize a protest rally outside of the White House?

Speaking of AFP, the Recess Supervisor has an interesting post on AFP's latest stunt, giving stuffed pig dolls to state legislators. What really is interesting are the comments to the post, which indicate that the dolls were hand-delivered, by AFP personnel, in U.S. Post Office Envelopes, thereby wasting tax dollars. (Word of warning: I expect St. Fred to come and offer his "real debate" and "civility" in the comments. Do be careful not to get any of his mouth foam on your monitor.)

Remember when France elected Nicolas Sarkozy. The conservatives were dancing in the streets feeling as if this was validation of Bush and his wrong-headed foreign policy. I thought at the time it was just the usual hyperbole and desperate attempts at self-validation the right often exhibits. I was wrong. The guy really is like American conservatives, right down to his family values.

If ethanol gas is so much more expensive to make than ethanol-free gas, why is that gasoline up north, the kind without ethanol, is 15 cents more per gallon?

Hey, Walker and Mitchell: We're Waiting for Your Outrage

by folkbum

Now that a budget compromise has been worked out, we can see that the final plan lacks the Tom Barrett-Jason Fields "fix" to the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program "funding flaw." It seems there is something--the Milwaukee Public Schools must use part of the additional money the budget does aim their way to offset property taxes--but not what people like Scott Walker and George Mitchell so desperately want.

I know this, because Scott Walker has devoted two editions of his (non?) campaign's Walker Weekly to a non-vote in the Joint Finance Committee (yeah, their budget sure went places, ain'a?). You can find the gory details at this earlier post, if you want, but Walker is trying to blame Lena Taylor for not putting forward one particular fix to the flaw, when, in fact, she supported a different fix and more funds for MPS that not a single GOP member of the JFC voted for. Apparently, voting for more money for Milwaukee is, in Walker's mind, tantamount to betrayal. Taylor, by the way, is Walker's opponent, assuming he decides to run for re-election as Milwaukee County Executive.

George Mitchell, of School Choice Wisconsin fame, has carried Walker's Taylor-attack water on the blogs, including mine (see the comments to the post I linked above, for example). Mitchell has gone after Taylor and Pedro Colón (running for a city-wide office now and, therefore, a fancy new target) with incredible aggression. But Mitchell has not voiced a critique of his allies in the Republican-controlled Assembly who managed to pass a budget that lacks not only the Barrett-Fields "fix" but any "fix" at all! That makes me suspicious that, as with Walker, this is less about a "fix" than about Taylor.

The last comment Mitchell left here reads,
Jay, [y]ou imply above that this is about defeating Sen. Taylor. But, of course, if there is a school choice funding fix--my objective--it is a political win for her. Only if the budget includes no fix does she face political consequences.
It's now been about 72 hours since the announcement was made outlining the compromise bill. The Walker Weekly will show up in my inbox sometime overnight, so who knows, maybe Walker will rail against Doyle, Huebsch, and Robson for not including a "fix." The School Choice Wisconsin website is as-yet silent on the lack of a "fix"--Mitchell's "objective," remember.

So, to George Mitchell and Scott Walker, I offer up this space. Post a comment or email me with your outrage over this deal and those who brokered it--Lena Taylor and Pedro Colón had nothing to do with it!--and I will post it here for all to see. Whenever you're ready.

Doyle Still Winner in Budget Battle

by folkbum

I wrote a month ago that the Democrats seemed to be letting Governor Doyle take the glory on the budget negotiations. That turned out to be exactly what happened.

Consider, the Democrats aren't going to be losing the State Senate next year, and their odds of picking up the Assembly--absent a major Republican meltdown or some kinky redistricting--are relatively long. The legislative Democrats lose exactly zero by playing along with Governor Doyle's budget compromise. At worst, the legislative Dems can say they support Doyle and it's a great deal for the people, yadda yadda, even if the final plan lacks pretty much all of the legislative Dems' priorities.

Doyle, on the other hand, wins at every level. Doyle offered up a compromise; Doyle forced the legislature into a special session; Doyle gets pretty much all of his showpiece items (the Wisconsin Covenant, BadgerCare+, more UW funds). He looks like a winner in nearly every way. Even his one regret--that he couldn't get mandated autism coverage--was really a non-budget item and has a clear path in the Senate as soon as it's introduced.*

Legislative Republicans, however, are in it. They didn't get a budget that did what they promised--many in writing!--which was not to raise taxes or fees. Yes, they killed Healthy Wisconsin (for now), and they killed the hospital tax (which the hospitals supported). But they can't go back home and say they kept their promises if they vote for this budget. If they don't vote for it, then they're contrary ninnies who hate the children, kittens, and the elderly.

In the meantime, Doyle is perfectly positioned to be strong in his fight for the Holy Grail of Wisconsin Democratic politics: to be the first Democratic governor elected to a third term ever.

* The stupid thing about resistance to this mandate--resistance from legislators and heartless bloggers alike--is that catching and treating autism early saves tons of money later. What makes it a challenge is that insurance companies, whose lobbying cash flows freely in Madison, pay for the early detection and treatment, so they don't like the mandate. But the more expensive treatment later usually comes at taxpayer expense; you'd think legislators who hate paying for things with taxpayer money would be fighting each other to be the first in line behind Doyle's mandate.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Some Taxing Issues

by capper

There has been some interesting stories evolving around taxes lately.

First there was the AFP (almost a) rally yesterday in Madison. I won't go on to put my spin on the whole affair, because almost every other blogger has. I just wanted to point out one irony. Cory Liebmann at One Wisconsin has linked AFP to Big Oil. So the people that went on behalf of the AFP side of it, apparently have no issue that gas has more than doubled in price in the last few years, with their hard-earned money going to the fat cats of Big Oil, but don't want a few bucks extra on their tax bills. Apparently the issue is they don't mind spending the money, they just want it to go to their kind of people, not for the rest of the riff-raff, like the community in general.

Then, on a more local level, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has the story of a guy that escaped from the Community Correctional Center, and then, while on the lam, murdered someone. I would humbly remind the reader of what I have written in the past about the House of Correction, the staffing shortages, and how Scott Walker wants to make the situation even worse:

But even if one was prone to praise Walker for doing this, he takes away any benefits by making the county more unsafe. First he wants to close the Community Correctional Center, and place all the inmates currently on Huber, and give them GPS tracking devices. He rationalizes this as being money saving and that criminals don't need to be locked up at night. Ask any cop and they would tell you the time of the highest amount of crime is in the evening and at night, when these prisoners would have been behind bars.

Walker said that he doesn't care where the criminals sleep at night. The shooting happened at 2:45 a.m. Uh, Mr. Walker, I don't think that the criminals exactly sleep at night. But I bet the victim's family is still thankful that Walker, Tosa Danger, saved them a buck or two on taxes last year. (On a sidenote, Walker is now saying he wants a full investigation and find out who is responsible for this murderer to be on the street and make sure they are disciplined and/or laid off. I can save the taxpayers lots of time right now, if Mr. Walker would turn in his resignation.)

And finally, we have Mr. John Jazwiec, who is now asking for the police to drop the matter of his claim that his house was invaded by a giant, armed robber. It seems that Mr. Jazwiec had developed stage fright due to a giant rabbit. This is the same Mr. Jazwiec that was the right's poster boy for the "tax hell" which was Wisconsin, despite the fact that Jazwiec was trying to angle for his own bit of the public wealth through corporate welfare. So, if Jazzy Jazwiec is so unreliable now, regarding the safety of his own family, and with the safety of his neighbors, how can anyone really believe him to be reliable about anything else, like taxes? Or believe anyone who would use this guy to argue against the need to pay for the necessaary services that the government provides?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Conservative Blog Telephone Game

by folkbum

Over the weekend, Keith Schmitz wrote a long post that started in a great restaurant and ended with a cogent analysis of where Rudy Giuliani's campaign for president has gone off the rails. Well, not so much as gone off the rails as stalled in its tracks: Whatever actual success Rudy has had over the years has been subsumed in his insistence that his ability not to freak out in front of a camera on 9/11 makes him some kind of American hero.

Reality, of course, is not Rudy's friend: It is now clear that dozens, if not hundreds, of firefighters died becuase of Rudy's incompetence. Rudy credits 9/11 for his use of a treacly cell phone gag. Rudy supporters are doing "911" fundraisers (donations from which, to his credit, Rudy's trying to return). Rudy's made 9/11 his brand, which is offensive and denigrating to the day and the memory of those who died (including those who died because of his office's ineptitude).

Rudy is doing this not (solely) because Rudy is a bit of a tone-deaf idiot. He's doing this because the base that will be voting in the Republican primary eats it up--which is why, nationally, Rudy is leading big in the polls.

However, this post is not about Rudy, or even Republicans. This post is about right-wing bloggers, and what is clearly the bigger insult to 9/11 in their minds: A math error.

Here's how it went down. Keith's post included this:
[Rudy's] speeches have been diagnosed with being afflicted with 9/11 Tourette Syndrome, though lately Hillary Clinton Tourette Syndrome has crept into the spiel.

The answer in part lies in the fact that Rudy is desperate to become president, and he has to appeal to the base of the Republican base to get to the nomination.

In part this impugns on the people who are active in the Republican party who want to be treated like rubes. Yes, 9/11 was terrible, but 5,000 planes went up that day and 4997 planes landed, as have pretty much all the planes since 9/11.

Yes, there are people who want to kill around the world but there always have been people around the world who are so motivated. But it does us no good to be as irrational as they are. That to these old eyes looks like winning for the other side. [. . .]

This country is hungry for positive leadership, for vision and for our cities to be rebuilt. This is the type of boldness many of our Democratic leaders sad to say lack.

This is the type of leadership that a great country has, and Rudy could run on that if he didn’t have to cater to those in his party who spout macho but who cower in fear when they see someone in a turban get on their plane. Rudy could do this but his die has been cast and it would be tough to shift gears at this point.

This fear that politicians have ginned up through this decade has cost us and squandered opportunity in ways we have yet to appreciate.
You probably saw it right away, too, and the response in comments was quick: "4997? You count United 93 as a landing?" Keith, pretty quickly, responded with an "oops" and corrected himself. From there, it just got worse.

Aaron, whose comment that was, above, was first out of the gate with a lament that mostly mirrored--and preceded--the comment (thus preceding Keith's correction, too). But Aaron added, "In the effort to whitewash 9/11, do we really need to forget what actually happened?" I'm not convinced that there is anything in Keith's post to whitewash anything; I think his 5000 planes sentence was a bit clumsy, but if you kept reading, you could easily see that trying to forget or ignore (or "whitewash," even) what really happened on 9/11/01 was the last thing Keith was up to.

I made a comment to precisely that effect at Wiggy's place, when the Wigmaster joined the fray:
I remember when Jay Bullock thought it was unfair that I linked his blog with Cindy Sheehan and the Fighting Bob fest types. You're right Jay. You've got people writing on your blog right now that are writing things far wackier than anything Cindy Sheehan has said or done. No wonder Jay's fleeing to the Journal Sentinel.

Even more amazing, Schmitz must really think 9/11 wasn't a big deal because he can't even remember the number of planes.
The Wiggy Wiggy One is referring, I think, to this lovely moment, when he noted that I was depressed over thousands of war dead and that Cindy Sheehan was depressed because no one was paying attention to her anymore. You tell me if I was right to question that association. You can also tell me whether His Wigness is right to think that Keith feels that 9/11 "wasn't a big deal" based on What Keith Actually Wrote.

But Aaron and Jimmy the Wig are generally good-natured folk, and below the concern in Jim's post, there's an off-hand tone. But this is the Conservative Blog Telephone Game, remember. So the next post to pop up with outrage is from John McAdams, in a post titled Folkbum: 9/11 No Big Deal. Now, I can't prove that McAdams came to Keith's post from Wigderson's. But note that the post title "9/11 No Big Deal" plays on Wiggy's "wasn't a big deal" line. Also note that McAdams has responded to this blog only one other time ever, when he went after guest-poster Bryan Kennedy--after being alerted to Kennedy's post via Owen at Boots and Sabers. This suggests that McAdams doesn't really read this blog unless appropriately directed here first. Wigderson is on McAdams's blogroll; Aaron's Subject 2 Change is not. Anyway, here's McAdams:
That’s what being a liberal does to your mind. You not only label as “rubes” those people who care about 9/11, you assert that the murder of 3,000 Americans is no big deal! [. . .] And it can’t be that there is a real terrorist threat, or people who really want to kill Americans (an odd notion coming from folks who are constantly touting the death toll of American soldiers in Iraq). It’s all just the invention of those evil politicians.
In the process, McAdams quotes almost as much of Keith's post as I did--except for the paragraph where Keith explains that he thinks terrorism is a big deal! (The "people who want to kill us" one.) And McAdams seems to miss Rudy's creative campaigning:
Giuliani said the United States has disrupted 23 terrorist attacks against the United States since Sept. 11, 2001. That number seems high. Even if you count attacks that were disrupted in their infancy, there have not been more than a dozen that were targeting the United States. [. . .] A quick check of homeland security experts found some bafflement at the 23 number. Maybe Giuliani knows some things we don't, which would be surprising considering he has not held a public sector job since 2001. [...]

Another terrorism expert, speaking on anonymity, also said he was not confident in the idea of 23 thwarted terrorist attacks. He points out that President Bush declassified aspects of several thwarted terrorist plots in May, but mentioned only about a dozen. He notes that it would have been in the White House's best interest to discuss more if there were so many others.
No . . . no "invention" of "evil politicians" there! (There are more Giuliani falsehoods for your reading pleasure at that link.)

So the story so far: Keith complains that Giuliani can't talk about his real successes because he has to pander to a base than thrives on FUD. In the process, Keith misses a number, and, when caught, corrects himself. Wigderson uses it to take a good-natured potshot at me, and then McAdams is aghast! that Keith doesn't think 9/11 and terrorism is a big deal.

Enter the 800-pound gorilla:
John McAdams points out a local liberal blogger who seems to think that 911 was no big deal. [. . .] Read the whole thing. And the left still wonders why some of us don't think they take the threat of terrorism seriously enough.
Sykes clearly didn't read What Keith Actually Wrote, missing the whole "fear [. . .] has cost us and squandered opportunity" line, which suggests Keith wants to take terrorism more seriously than Rudy's attack-inflation (not to mention radio-non-replacement) business. The title of Sykes's post? "NO BIG DEAL?"

It wasn't long until 9/11 NO BIG DEAL? was showing up elsewhere, from people back to knocking the error that Keith had long before corrected--which should not be all that surprising from someone who thinks we need another 9/11 anyway.

Oh, and not a one of them addressed the substance of Keith's post. Purple monkey dishwasher.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Walker Is Either Incompetent or Corrupt

by capper

In this morning's paper, MSJ has a short story in their regional briefs, about the county board continuing to do their corrections to Walker's poorly thought out budget. The corrections made today kept Walker from breaking state laws by eliminating positions that the state has mandated by law. I am not defending the appropriateness of the state laws, but the fact is they exist. The short article also includes these two paragraphs:

Cynthia Archer, Walker's budget director, said she had been unaware of the state laws.

She said, however, that other staffers in those offices could be designated as deputies without having an extra job solely for deputy clerk or deputy register of deeds.

These two lines lead to several questions.

  1. If Cynthia Archer was not aware of the state laws, how can she make a statement regarding how the laws can be enforced?
  2. If Cynthia Archer is not aware of the laws, why is she the budget director?
  3. Why wasn't Walker aware of the state laws?
  4. Didn't Walker read the budget before signing off on it?
  5. Or did he want the illegal measures put in there on purpose, to take the heat off of himself, and on the County Board?
  6. Why is Walker continuously hiring people that cannot do their jobs?
  7. Is Walker really corrupt, or just that incompetent?

For another view on whether Walker is a liar, crooked or incompetent, the Brawler offers us his insight.

Scott Walker: Still a big fat liar

by folkbum

I subscribe to the Walker Weekly, for the entertainment value. But often the Milwaukee County Executive's email updates are not funny, but infuriating. The edition in my inbox this morning contained this paragraph (Walker's bold):
While School Choice is an important program for our community, two Milwaukee Democrats - including Senator Lena Taylor - are responsible for preventing a vote on the Barrett-Fields plan, which was put forward by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Democrat State Representative Jason Fields from the city's north side. While all 8 Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee stood prepared to back a motion that aimed to restructure the program's funding, Taylor and the other Milwaukee representative refused to introduce it. Ultimately, this will cost local taxpayers $22 million over the next two years.
This has come up before, and it became the subject of a hijacked comments thread at my jsonline blog. It was clear then that the Walker position on this was untrue. The Walker Weekly here continues to be drastically misleading, and the campaign's attempt to lay this in Lena Taylor's lap is just a lie.

Let's get this straight: While there was no vote in the Joint Finance Committee on the Barrett-Fields measure, there was indeed a vote on a measure to restructure the way the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program was paid for, which passed without a single Republican vote. That measure was what the Governor included in his February, 2007 version of the budget, and that measure was modeled exactly on what Tom Barrett asked for in 2006. (Barrett changed his mind in the intervening months between the Governor's budget address and the JFC's work.) That measure would have saved Milwaukee taxpayers nearly $20 million. Taylor's actions did not cost taxpayers $22 million--that is, in fact, a lie.

While Republicans now claim The Barrett-Fields proposal would have had their support (the evidence at the time was sketchy), we know now that it would only have had their support in lieu of some of the other JFC-passed school measures that also would have provided tax relief to the Milwaukee residents, like funds for targeted science and math instruction, that meant savings of many millions more. In other words, had Taylor introduced the Barrett-Fields measure instead of the Barrett-Doyle one, Milwaukee taxpayers would have lost out on additional tax relief as a result--Taylor saved us money there.

And, if there really were eight GOP members of the JFC ready to back Barret-Fields, why did none of those eight bother to introduce the measure themselves? If Walker can blame two Democratic members of the JFC, then surely he can also blame the eight Republicans who also sat idly by and watched the Democrats--without a single GOP vote!--pass a measure to save Milwaukee taxpayers money.

The Walker Weekly goes on to say, "We deserve a County Executive that understands our needs and sides with us - not the special interests in Madison." (I'm curious who that candidate would be, since Walker technically isn't in the race yet.) I don't know what "special interests" this means. It's pretty clear that Taylor was doing work to benefit the Milwaukee taxpayers she represents. The package that came out of the Joint Finance Committee not only included exactlly what Mayor Barrett asked for in 2006, but also additional relief that added up to more than the $22 miliion Walker now claims Taylor cost us. Taylor supported all of those provisions, and the GOP--Walker's former colleagues in the legislature--did not.

You know what that makes Scott Walker? A big fat liar.

(Also, I think it quite offensive that the Walker Weekly demands that working mother Taylor surrender her per diem while the budget remains unfinished. At a Milwaukee County Labor Council budget forum--attended by no Republicans, remember!--Taylor talked about how even on a state senator's salary it can be hard to pay for day care. I suppose Walker's not volunteering to babysit for free, is he?

Oh, and why isn't he demanding that his former Republican Assembly colleagues give up their per diems? After all, it's the Assembly that's holding up the budget!)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Socially Depressed

by capper

As some people might have figured out by reading my posts and my comments, I have a history of working in the human services field. I have worked in psychiatric hospitals, group homes, and social service agencies. I have worked in both the private and public sectors. I have worked with abused and neglected children, people with mental health issues, the developmentally delayed, and people with addictions. I have worked with clients as young as newborns (with cocaine in their systems) to geriatric patients.

So when I saw this article in yesterday's paper, I noticed that they listed social workers as being a career that suffers from the third highest degree of depression. (Here is the actual report that the article was based on.) That made me think about my experiences and of those people I have worked with, both clients and colleagues. I can understand how some social workers could be depressed. While working in foster care, I have seen things that have been done to a child that will haunt me the rest of my life. I have seen and experienced the stress of making decisions that someone else's life literally depends on, and second-guessing those decisions repeatedly. Fortunately for me, I had good teachers, bosses, and colleagues that helped me learn effective ways to cope with everything, and I am doing OK.

I could go on for days of the horrible conditions that I have seen people being forced to live in, about the delicate balance a social worker needs to try to meet the needs of the client, meet the bureaucratic regulations and paperwork, and not have enough time or resources to do the job as it really should be done. In last week's Shepherd Express, there is a story that touches on the resistance of the black community in dealing with mental illness, due to the stigma attached. That is true, but barely scratches the surface of the problems faced in all aspects of society, regardless of race, gender, age or socioeconomic background.

But what does depress me is while I am struggling to make my little corner of the world a better place (I learned long ago that I can't save the world by myself), taking on other people's problems and trying to help them through them, and trying to help them make the best life possible for themselves, all with very limited and insufficient resources, I also have to contend with people like Owen, James and others demanding that those resources be pared down even more, so that they can save $10 or $20 dollars a year.

So for those of you that are planning on going to this tax rally, to save your precious $20, please take a moment to think of those that need it more than you. For it is these people, the abused children, the mentally ill, the developmentally-delayed, and the elderly, that I will continue to struggle and fight for, in order to get them the help they need. And if that means we all have to cough up a few extra bucks, and the thought of that makes you upset, well, that's just too damn bad.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Off Base

By Keith Schmitz

While my wife and I were on holiday last weekend in New York we took the "recommendation" of Bill O'Reilly and went up to Harlem to have the Gospel Brunch at Sylvia's Restaurant. When we emerged from the Red Line subway 125th St. stop at 11:00 Syliva's was about to open and there was already a line formed of people waiting to get in the place.

Turns out Sylvia's is somewhat large and the initial crowd was quickly seated.

We enjoyed a brunch off a rather savory plate of chicken livers and home fries for my wife and I did the ribs, black eyed peas and mashed potatoes. Both worth coming back for some other time.

We also had the pleasure to meet the diminutive soft spoken powerhouse Sylvia Woods.

Our server told us about how Sylvia struggled through the rough days of the 60's and 70's in Harlem, started to really make it in the 80's and 90's with somewhat of a setback just following 9/11 -- as suffered by other New York restaurants. Sylvia nevertheless supplied the first responders down at Ground Zero with her fine food. Sylvia's, who had just arrived from church, has the expressed protection of the Muslin Brotherhood.

Our server also mentioned that Bill O'Reilly has been good for business. Hopefully some of his audience made it up to Sylvia's for an education.

What they would see would be the main street of Harlem, Lenox Ave going through the process of gentrification with everything from a Starbucks and an Office Depot on the way up to Adam Clayton Powell's old church St. Abyssinian.

About 20 years ago many of us smartly wouldn't have wanted to make that journey, and the menu at Sylvia's pretty much said so. Among the mostly white crowd at the restaurant I talked to a number of international travelers including Brits, Germans and Swedes who are not Bill O'Reilly fans to say the least, but said Sylvia's is prominently mentioned in their Fodor's and DK guidebooks.

The leadership of Rudy Giuliani had a lot to do with the second Harlem Renaissance and the revival of the rest New York City. You have may agreed with his efforts to bring investment into New York City but troubled with his policing methods. But there were many places that were not safe in the city, including Times Square. Since the 90's investment and tourists have poured back in the Big Apple.

So why are we not hearing about this from his campaign?

Instead, his speeches have been diagnosed with being afflicted with 9/11 Tourette Syndrome, though lately Hillary Clinton Tourette Syndrome has crept into the spiel.

The answer in part lies in the fact that Rudy is desperate to become president, and he has to appeal to the base of the Republican base to get to the nomination.

In part this impugns on the people who are active in the Republican party who want to be treated like rubes. Yes, 9/11 was terrible, but 5,000 planes went up that day and 4997 planes landed, as have pretty much all the planes since 9/11.

Yes, there are people who want to kill around the world but there always have been people around the world who are so motivated. But it does us no good to be as irrational as they are. That to these old eyes looks like winning for the other side.

Rudy's ploy is not without risks. As formidable as the clueless inside the beltway feel Rudy is on his 9/11 "leadership," his actions of not fixing the first responder radio problems -- based on cronyism -- and locating the emergency response center at the WTC -- out of vanity -- leaves Rudy quite vulnerable should he make it to the general election. And don't think the even more desperate candidates in the GOP would go to these soft white underbelly issues.

Furthermore that authoritarian GOP base is going to look quite small versus those more numerous other voters who will be more skeptical.

It's too bad. This country is hungry for positive leadership, for vision and for our cities to be rebuilt. This is the type of boldness many of our Democratic leaders sad to say lack.

This is the type of leadership that a great country has, and Rudy could run on that if he didn't have to cater to those in his party who spout macho but who cower in fear when they see someone in a turban get on their plane. Rudy could do this but his die has been cast and it would be tough to shift gears at this point.

This fear that politicians have ginned up through this decade has cost us and squandered opportunity in ways we have yet to appreciate.

Don't look at this being in anyway an endorsement of this campaign, certainly not this fear-based juggernaut that has been rumbling through the primaries. But I'm open to any one who can get things done without compromising our principles.

Run on your record Rudy. Don't run like a record.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Question Of The Day

by capper

Will the conservatives demand the same respect and adherence to the words of retired Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, as they demanded for General David Petraeus?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cry Me A River

by capper

UPDATE: Scott Walker is such a tease. From today's full version of the story, MSJ has this:
Walker said it would be unfair to presume he will run and get re-elected, so he wanted to restore the money for a possible successor.
It's really unfair to get a guy's hopes up like that, saying he might not run.

There is a new river in Milwaukee, and it is coming from the office of Milwaukee County Executioner Scott Walker. Walker, who has spent the last six years decimating almost every department and service in the county, somehow felt it OK to increase the budget for his office.

Today, the county board, which has spent the past week correcting most of Walker's short-sighted budget fiasco, continued with their Herculean efforts by eliminating the money Walker wanted to give to his own office.

It turns out that Walker and County Board Chairman Lee Holloway had a deal that they would leave each other's budgets alone. But by proving the adage "There is no honor among thieves", Walker reneged on his end of the deal, and cut the budget for the county board's operation costs. Holloway returned the favor by introducing the cut to the extra funding for Walker's office. It passed 7-0.

Walker, never one to admit to responsibility for his actions, blamed the board's action as retaliation for his not approving their pay raises This is even though the money he cut from the board had nothing to do with the pay raises, and the fact that he admitted he did have an understanding with Holloway not to touch the board's budget.

Al Gore's Press Conference in Palo Alto

By Keith Schmitz

My daughter and new son-in-law live in Palo Alto where Al Gore has an office. When word got out he was to be making an appearance, many places gave their employees the day off to come down and express their appreciation for Gore's honor. Here is Brian's blog from this afternoon:

After receiving the Tip from a friend the Kango Blogger news crew (3 people and one Digital SLR camera) traveled the 5 blocks to see if the tip was real.

With ~ 30+ news crews we figured that the former Vice President would soon be arriving. People from the community came out to catch a glimpse of Gore including some young children with signs.

For a few minutes we went down a hall labeled “Press” and were politely asked to leave.

But we heard a tip that he would be arriving on the other side of the building; this tip also proved true and we were able to catch a glimpse of Gore as we stepped out of his Mercedes sedan “Eco 10” (powered by bio-diesel)

The Vice President was very polite to the press, and to the locals who had come out to support him; he stayed briefly outside the Alliance for Climate Protection offices and shook the hands of the children and their parents and thanked them for their support.

The place was buzzing after Gore arrived; and we went down the hall to the press room, going to the back door entrance we were welcomed inside by the “Alliance for Climate Protection” staff (despite our lack of press badges), climbing some steps in the back of the room already crowded by 10-15 journalists) we waited for Al Gore to deliver his speech.

His spokesperson entered the room first saying that Mr. Gore would be coming in 2 minutes to give a short speech and that he would not be answering questions; when he arrived he was hailed by the sound of 60+ cameras snapping photo’s (which failed to cease throughout the five minute speech) and the glare of the lights.

First the former vice president acknowledged the Nobel Prize committee for selecting him the (shared) winner and announced that he would be donating the prize to combat the climate crisis; he also said that he would travel to accept the prize in person.

Then he spoke briefly about the continuing effects of global warming on the polar ice caps “polar scientists are now warning that at current rates the polar ice caps will be completely gone within 23 years” (or language very similar, this humble blogger is relying only on memory)

He then spoke from a place of his own passion delivering a call in the form of an African proverb

Gore said:

“There is an old African proverb, If you want to go fast; go alone, if you want to go far; go together we need to act both quickly and together if we are going to put an end to the climate crisis” (Again I quote from memory)

With that, he concluded the press conference and thanked everyone for coming.

As he walked out of the room he was met with shouts from the press “Mr. Vice President Do you plan to run for president after winning this award?… Mr Vice president!”

With that; he left the room and he went to a private meeting with members of the Alliance for Climate Protection.

His message was loud and clear it sends a strong message that this years’ Nobel Prize is awarded to Al Gore. The world’s most important institutions are recognizing the urgency of the problem that we all face, for my part; I hope that we are able to make the simple green choices that will make that difference.

Nobel Peace Prize Winner Al Gore

by folkbum

That sound you hear is ten thousand right wingnut heads exploding.

It will be followed in a few days by the sound of ten thousand left wingnuts crying in agony when he still refuses to run for president.

(Seriously, though, congrats to Gore.)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cancer Awareness Month

by capper

I meant to post this a few days ago, but it is still relevant today, so that is OK. This past Tuesday is my mother's birthday. She would have been 64 years old this year. She died in 1999, from breast cancer. She never smoked, and almost never drank alcohol. Another thing she didn't do was get regular exams. By the time the cancer was discovered, it was already spreading throughout her body.

Now, unless you have been living under a rock, almost everyone has been touched by breast cancer in one way or another. Maybe your mother, sister, wife, girlfriend, coworker, or for the gentler gender, you, has probably been diagnosed or knew someone who was diagnosed with cancer. Breast cancer is one of the most treatable kinds of cancer, but the odds are much greater, if it is caught early enough.

None of this is new to you, I'm sure. But, as it has been discussed at folkbum's and many other blogs on both sides of the political aisle, not everyone has health insurance, or can afford to see the doctor. When they do go, it is usually because they are already very sick, and by then, it may already be too late.

What I am asking of you, gentle reader, regardless of gender, age, or political persuasion, is simply to click on the link below, and then click on the button for a free mammogram for the poor and needy. Then safe the site to your favorites, so that you can do it everyday. It costs you nothing but a few seconds, and it may help save someone else's mother. (There are links at the site for other worthy causes, such as literacy, stray animals, etc.) It is something that my father and I have been doing daily for several years.

And if you are fortunate enough to have health insurance, please, please, make sure your loved one gets into the doctor's office for regular exams.

Here is the link for the The Breast Cancer Site:

Thank you.

Now, back to the bashing...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I watch too much television

by folkbum

I say this because when I read this headline:

Springfield chief candidate for job here

My first thought was this guy:

Could be worse. We could alse have Quimby running for mayor . . .

Walker: Starve the Beast, Starve the Beauty

by folkbum

One good thing that can be said about Scott Walker: Tosa Ranger is that he has a vision of what his job should be. That vision, however, conflicts with what I think most of Milwaukee County would want that job to be.

Today's story about Walker's budget plan sets up the competing visions--again:
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's proposed 2008 budget underfunds courts by more than $2 million, the county's chief judge said Tuesday.

Circuit Judge Kitty Brennan said she was dismayed by Walker's trims to court operations and charged that he put political considerations ahead of a legal obligation to fund the courts adequately. She commented during an appearance before the County Board's finance committee and in an interview.

"There's no explanation for why the county executive treats the courts with such disrespect," Brennan said. Walker's budget would abolish 18 court staff positions for 2008. [. . .]

Brennan said that Walker's demand for no increase in the property tax levy forces an annual rite of spring in which all county departments are given a target figure in June for their next year's budget requests. Butwhen Walker's version of the budget is introduced in September, the numbers are lowered, she said.

She called the procedure "goofball accounting" and said she was reconsidering her willingness to play along with the practice.

Though she complied with Walker's budget exercise and met with him about court needs, Walker's court clerk cuts were not discussed with her before Walker formally introduced his budget Sept. 27, Brennan told the board's finance committee.

The clerk reduction, if approved by the board, would force her to seek about 11 sheriff's deputies instead, she said. The clerks were authorized several years ago to provide lower-cost staff to manage juries in civil trials, Brennan said.
I elided a bit of the "he said" part of this "he said-she said" mess, but what Brennan hs done here is perfectly encapsulate the problem with Scott Walker: He has a blind obedience to one goal--no tax increases--and will do anything he can, even down to forcing our courts to spend more money on more expensive personnel in order to make his no tax-increase budget.

I think most of us (and, who knows, maybe I'm the crazy one for thinking this) think the County Executive's job is more than just drawing an arbitrary line in the sand and then refusing to cross it even in the face of necessity. There is little question that starving the beast--something like the inordinate pensions still being granted five-plus years into his administration--can provide relief for taxpayers feeling the squeeze. But Walker has moved on to starving the beauty, too: Capper has noted cuts to the parks; Gretchen Schuldt is following cuts to transit. And here we have cuts to, of all things, a cost-saving measure in our County Courthouse (which, as Jim Rowen notes, is in physical disrepair, too).

Nobody likes paying taxes. And, until this state collectively decides that it's going to stop relying primarily on the property tax to fund its schools, cities, and counties, paying taxes will remain acutely painful. But Walker's fix is no fix at all, and sooner or later an even larger bill will come due because of his negligence and idiotic obstinance today. Crumbling infrastructure and an anemic court system are not worth staying on his side of that arbitrary line.