Saturday, January 31, 2009
Coincidentally, in this week's copy of the Iola Herald, one of the local newspapers that I subscribe to, reports that people went to the town meeting asking for sharpshooters for the same reason.
This irks me on several levels.
First of all is the emotional level. I have already spoken about how my wife and I enjoy watching the deer up north by our castle, and have come to see them almost as pets.
Another is the seeming contradictions of reports. This past fall, there were repeated reports of grumpy hunters complaining that there weren't many deer and that the herd has gotten too small. Now they're complaining that there are too many deer and that they are becoming a nuisance. Which one is it? It can't be both, and the fawns don't drop until June, so there was no sudden population explosion.
But this also strikes me as one of those situations where if you have a hammer, every problem is a nail. When my grandfather passed away four years ago, a couple of friends gave me a hydrangea as a memorial. We took the plant up north, and to make a long story short, eventually planted it in our backyard, near the marsh, where deer tend to pass through. Unfortunately, we did not know at the time that deer find young hydrangea sprouts to be a rare delicacy.
But instead of wanting to shoot the deer, we explored options. The first thing we did was sprinkle cayenne pepper around the plant. Animals don't like the smell or the taste and will avoid it at all costs. (Mix a little cayenne pepper with your birdseed and it will keep the squirrels and raccoons away out of your bird feeders.)
We then explored our options, including various deer repellents and other methods. We settled on a deer fence which is nothing more than a very fine mesh made out of black plastic. We put in some stakes around the plant and wrapped the meshing around the stakes, and Whallah! (oops, sorry, wrong blog). I mean Voila! No more deer using our plant as a salad bar. The mesh is so fine that it does very little to impact the view of the flowers in the summer.
As for the deer poop, that is laughable. Deer scat is pellet form and we almost never see any. We have a bigger problems with the turkeys crapping all over or people letting their dogs run free and not cleaning up after them.
Another common complaint is deer-auto collisions. While sometimes such accidents are unavoidable, as my friend Billiam pointed out a while ago in the comments of one of my earlier posts. But all I know is that I have gone up there for over thirty years with increasing frequency and I have never hit a deer. Of course, I pay attention and I don't go 60 mph down a country road when I know that the deer are more likely to be on the move.
As an interesting side story, a young couple who live near the northern castle, had gone fishing in the Hayward area and killed one of the biggest black bears in state history. They killed it when it ran into the side of their truck while they were driving. And black bears don't have the numbers that deer do, which proves that sometimes the stats don't mean much.
To further show how dumb the culling idea is, even though they set out bait, blocked off the streets and endured the protests, they only managed to kill three of them. That tells me that either the problem isn't as bad as some hot heads would have you believe, or that the deer are actually smarter than the hunters.
I personally would go with both theories as being true.
Last week, there was a story of a couple, Clint and Kelly Snider, who were arrested a second time for running a meth lab in the same home with their kids. Of course, the let mom out on only a $1,000 bond.
Then a couple days of go, another couple, Russell Wozniak and Jennifer Schick, were arrested after their two-year old daughter was found wandering the streets, wearing only her pajamas. When comes tracked the trail back to the home, they found the house to be filthy with garbage and rotting food, and of course, drugs.
But the prize for the biggest detriment to the human race goes to Raymond Knez, Jr. Good old Raymond, either very hungover, or still drunk from the night before, took the family's two dogs and four cats and shot them dead, in front of his six kids.
And if traumatizing the kids by shooting their pets in front of them wasn't enough:
Sometime after the kids started getting up for school Wednesday morning, she says Knez shot 4 cats and 2 dogs. Deputies say Knez rounded up the 6 animals and killed them execution-style, in front of his kids. They say this is one of the worst cases of animal abuse they can remember.
"The manner that he was holding some of the animals as well as him pursuing them in different areas of the house and cornering them and then discharging the firearm," says Capt. Eugene Gutsch, with the Chippewa Co. Sheriff’s Dept. "The children, a total of 6, were present in the residence when this was occurring."
Adcock says the kids, all between 10 and 14 years old, were scared and crying but Knez just lost it. She says he isn’t a bad guy and told the kids not to say anything at school so he wouldn't get in trouble. One of the children, an 11-year-old girl, stayed home and the first deputy on-scene found her home alone.
"One of the reasons the girl did stay home was to clean up the mess,” Gutsch says. “There is an indication that there were dead animals in the residence. There was blood and things in the residence.”
Unbelievably, the let this clown out on only a thousand dollar bond.
But remember, the right wing Posse Comatose will tell you it's only the inner city black kids that are thugs and a danger to society.
Friday, January 30, 2009
He understated the shamefulness of these people, by a large margin.
It also came out the other day that the bailout money given to the banks was not only used to pad their own wallets, but was also used to try to keep average, everyday workers from having any kind of decent life.
Via Open Left, we can learn that Bank of America Corp and AIG, to just name two, used their bailout money to hire consultants and lobbyists in an effort to prevent workers from receiving decent pay or minimal benefits, like health insurance or paid sick days:
Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community's top legislative priority.
Participants on the October 17 call -- including at least one representative from another bailout recipient, AIG -- were urged to persuade their clients to send "large contributions" to groups working against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans, who could help block passage of the bill.
...Donations of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to Republican senatorial campaigns were needed, they argued..."If a retailer has not gotten involved in this, if he has not spent money on this election, if he has not sent money to [former Sen.] Norm Coleman and all these other guys, they should be shot. They should be thrown out their goddamn jobs," Marcus declared.
Yet it is the conservatives that believe that not only should these rights be denied to workers, but that the stimulus money should go to giving tax breaks. I'm sorry, but I have a hard time worrying about people that receive $18 billion dollars of our tax money as a bonus, or gouge us at the pump for $45 billion profits. Let them pay some taxes on the largess that they got at our expense.
It's time we all stand up again and speak with one voice to support the Employee Free Choice Act.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Today's story deals with an agreement between the BMCW and Children's Rights, the advocacy group that had filed the federal lawsuit against the state regarding the Milwaukee County Child Welfare System.
On the surface, it looks wonderful. It would make one think that after the horrific murder of Christopher L. Thomas, Jr., the BMCW has finally recognized the error of their ways and mean to fix the system. That's how it appears anyway.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), JSOnline also includes this pdf of the actual agreement. When compared to the article, and using my knowledge of the system based on the years I used to work there, it becomes depressingly apparent that my previous cynicism was not in vain.
Mr. Stephenson first points out some of the statistics regarding BMCW's performance versus the expectations, noting that the Bureau has failed in most of these benchmarks.
Mr. Stephenson also correctly notes that the numbers regarding children being abused in foster care don't apply to the kids that are in relative care, under Kinship Care, like Christopher and his sister were. This is significant as that most of the children that are under the Bureau's supervision are in Kinship Care, and the relatives are not licensed, and thus are not under the same kind of scrutiny as a licensed home. If the BMCW is failing to meet their goal in protecting the safety of kids in the homes that they watch, how much worse is in the homes that they don't keep an eye on as closely?
The article then has a list of bullet points that are supposed to be key stipulations by the BMCW. But are they really that much of a change?
The first point is to increase the number of foster homes from less than 700 to 875. Even if the BMCW manages to meet that goal, it is still about 40% of the homes that they had inherited from Milwaukee County ten years ago. And even then, we were running into shortages of homes.
The second bullet is:
Assess placements and services needed by children in state custody and develop a foster home recruitment and retention plan.
This plan, according to Children's Rights, must include specific strategies to increase support for foster parents at all stages of recruitment, licensing and placement of children in their homes.
Two things on this one. One is that the BMCW was supposed to be doing the assessments all along. That is a prerequisite to writing a court report, so that the court would know what conditions to set on the parents before a return home of the child would even be considered. I don't want to know how the BMCW were making recommendations if they did not know what the needs were int he first place. The other thing about this is that according to the pdf, the plan includes hiring an outside consultant, agreed upon by both parties of the lawsuit, to come in and do a study with recommendations. There is no word on how this will be paid for. Will they raise taxes, or will they cut services somewhere else in the system?
The next point is:
Add staff to help quicken placement of children in permanent families.
The bureau must create new "relative coordinator" positions to support unlicensed providers of kinship care and create new "permanency consultant" positions to expedite the placement of children with families. A total of 11 new positions would be created.
Again, this is something we had under the old system. Each unit had a long term case planner and the licensing unit also checked on the relative placements, whether they were licensed or not. But I doubt the addition of 11 workers for 2600+ children is going to make that much of a difference. And again, there is no word on how these extra workers are going to be funded.
The fourth point is:
Improve mental health assessment and crisis services for children.
The bureau must make sure that all children entering foster care receive initial health screenings, including mental health assessments and follow-up services.
See what I wrote under the second point. The same thing applies to this. It should have been done even before a Court Order was issued.
The last point was to improve training, but no specifics were given.
I also noticed in the pdf of the agreement that there are actually going to be two different consultants hired to improve different sections of the Bureau, one on how to do assessments and another on how to recruit and keep foster homes. This along with the dozen or so new workers will need to be paid for somehow, but no word on how. I am concerned that they will cut services back even further, which will defeat whatever gains they were trying to make.
But the most alarming thing about the actual agreement is that the language contained in it. There is a lot of phrases to the effect of "The Bureau will continue to do this," or "The Bureau will continue to do that." To continue does not mean changing anything, which means that the entire system will continue to be dysfunctional.
If they really were intent on making improvements, they should start with a top to bottom analysis of the system, and finding ways to streamline it. This would make it less cumbersome on the case workers, which in turn would allow them to go out into the field and actually do their jobs. Furthermore, there is no detail on how they will work on enhancing the monitoring of the private agencies that are contracted to the Bureau to provide case management.
The Bureau already has Program Evaluation Managers, or PEMs that are supposed to be monitoring these cases on a consistent basis. Christopher Thomas and his sister had one, but we know what happened there, don't we? So did the other 20 children that have died while under the BMCW's supervision. If that doesn't set off alarms and red flags to these people, I don't know what would.
One can only hope that with the removal of Denise Revels Robinson, and the actions of certain state legislators (this does not include Alberta Darling, who is as much of the problem as anyone) that real change will be coming to the foster care system. But based on what I've seen so far, I won't be holding my breath.
Walker does more flips than an Olympic gymnast team.
On December 5th, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker was all for federal aid, even with a local match required, as evidenced by his application for federal dollars for his rapid transit buses.
On January 6th, he was vehemently opposed to any federal stimulus dollars. Why? Because he felt that one shouldn't put the money in the hands of government and because there would be a local match required.
Today, he is again for receiving federal monies, especially for the transit system he allowed to be driven into the ground. The real kicker is this (emphasis mine):
Walker said the potential for southeastern Wisconsin to get up to $57 million in federal stimulus aid for new buses or other transit projects was welcome news.Other transit projects? Does this mean is now OK with light rail after all these years of refusing to use the $91.5 million dollars because Mayor Tom Barrett wanted to use some for that very purpose?
So, for light rail, he's now for it after he was against it? And for federal aid, he was for it before he was against it before he was for it again?
A while ago, Dan Cody was trying to come up with a slogan for Walker's gubernatorial campaign. May I now humbly suggest Walker's World of Weasel Waffles?
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
The County Board has been taking a lot of flak from that story, especially from the right wing squawkers, like Sykes and Wagner, the sensationalistic local TV news, and the Posse Comatose.
However, there has been a barrage of good news coming from the County Board today, although something tells me that the above-named usual suspects won't be giving these stories quite the same level of attention that they did before.
First off the bat is that Supervisor Elizabeth Coggs has already made good on her promise to reimburse the County for her trip to D.C. Unfortunately for Coggs, I don't know if that will do a lot to relieve the desperate outrage from the Walker-backers.
Secondly, Supervisor Chris Larson announced that he is working on drafting legislation that would tighten the reins on this kind of spending. Some of the requirements could include prior approval of the spending by the Board's Finance and Audit Committee.
I have two suggestions for Mr. Larson on his plan. One is do not have the F & A Committee do the reviews. I suggest this for a couple of reasons that are interlinked. The Chair of this committee is currently Supervisor Coggs. If this trip had been approved by her, the uproar would have much more severe. Secondly, it is never a good idea to have an entity police itself. Look, where it got the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare.
My second suggestion is that this plan also encompass the County Executive's Office. Walker has repeatedly displayed a willingness to abuse County resources for his own political gain. He needs a check on his abuse of power as much as anyone.
The third and most uplifting story coming out of the Courthouse today is that the Health and Human Needs Committee voted overwhelmingly to not approve Walker's inane plan to privatize the call center. I have repeatedly pointed out that Walker's mentality of "Screw the Poor" was a bad idea.
The call center will be of increasing importance as more and more people are being laid off from their jobs. They will need assistance with getting heat for their homes, food on their tables and health care for their children. Walker's intentional neglect of fulfilling his duties by filling these positions is a pure and simple dereliction of duty and in direct violation of the oath he took last year when he was re-elected.
Walker's willful negligence is also having other ramifications. He issued an emergency order to transfer a number of workers to the call center (still not filling it) which has left other area in the economic support department short-handed, delaying those services. He has also ordered mandatory overtime for all economic support workers to help make up for the gigantic backlog. To add to the fun, the paper also reports this:
The county has additional motivation to make sure people who qualify for benefits get them, county Corporation Counsel William Domina said. A federal lawsuit claiming 13 people were unfairly denied benefits because of county service backlogs has been granted class-action status, meaning the case was vastly broadened in scope to include anyone with the problem.
"We have to figure out a way to serve them, not just because it's the right thing to do, which is your concern as supervisors, but also because it's the legal thing to do," Domina said.
In other words, Walker, in an effort to garner political and financial favors for his perpetual run for governor, has delayed services to more and more people, has stuck the county with a large overtime bill, and has opened the county for what could easily end up being a multimillion dollar lawsuit. To add insult to injury, his privatization plan would not have saved the taxpayers one dime in taxes.
To show you how fuzzy his logic really is, look at what Cory Hoze, the director of DHHS, who had the unenviable job of trying to sell this pile of odorous dreck, had to say:
Hoze said the privatization plan would mean about 25,000 calls a month could be answered - more than double the number now answered. A study last year found only about one in 10 calls got answered.Walker added his two cents:
Walker has argued that with his privatization plan, more employees - most of them getting paid less than county workers - could be assigned to the call center. About two dozen employees from Impact, a local social service agency, would answer call center phones and 13 UWM workers would confirm benefit eligibility.Now, I attended the budget hearing in November. I know that Walker's plan would have cost the same as having 30 county workers, who could answer the phone AND work the computers. Walker's plan would have allowed more phone calls to be answered, but less questions to be answered and less services to be actually provided. In plain speak, he would have charged us the same, but given us less than half of the service. If he was in the private sector, and he tried to pull a stunt like that, he would have ended up being one of the people trying to call the public assistance center.
The Health and Human Needs committee not only rejected Walker's foolishness, but also put the pressure on him by issuing a plea to Walker to take emergency steps to add more workers to the call center. (I like Supervisor Dimitrijevic's chutzpah by wanting to issue an County Board order to fill the spots and do what Walker should have done over a year ago. Too bad they don't have the authority. The County would be much, much better off if we had that kind of leadership, instead of what we got now.)
Now the ball is in Walker's court. He can do the right thing, finally, and fill those spots to ensure that the people that need these services are getting them, instead of a busy signal, or a glorified receptionist taking their name and number and telling them that someone will call them back someday.
Or he can keep on doing what he has been doing, and continue to abdicate his responsibilities and ignore the oath he took, like he did with his passive aggressive posturing with the federal stimulus money (which just was passed by the House of Representatives today). In that case, I only have one question: Is it April yet?
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Anyway, back to the article...
Clarke starts out claiming that Senator Lena Taylor is all wrong when she advocates for alternatives to incarceration for non-violent criminals. Clarke wants all criminals, from jaywalkers to murders, locked up. Unfortunately for Clarke, real correctional specialists disagree with him. They point out that if alternatives to incarceration aren't found, soon, the correctional system could be unsustainable in ten years.
Clarke then makes the assertion that while corrections is indeed expensive, it is not as expensive as educating people. Unfortunately, he offers no proof to his claim, which makes one believe that he is auditioning for a talk radio show, and is just making stuff up as he goes along.
On the other hand, Michael Rosen, who does offer facts to support his assertions show that the truth is directly opposite of Clarke's baseless claims. While correctional services are increasing exponentially, the costs going towards higher education is steadily declining.
Next we find that Clarke has jumped the shark with his thinking. He makes the proposal that the government should take the stimulus money and spend it all on updating existing prisons and building new ones. He then wants to take all of these brand new and/or refurbished, state of the art, facilities, and give them to the private agencies. His irrational rationale is that the reason that corrections is so expensive is that it is staff by public sector workers.
Again, he gets it all wrong. The Corrections Project has done a comprehensive study of privatization of prisons and found the plan to be lacking:
Some claim that private prisons really don't save money, but like any for-profit business, attempt to maximize their own profit. This results in a reduction of essential services within the prison -- from medical care, food and clothing to staff costs and security -- at the endangerment of the public, the inmates and the staff.And that is not all:
Other critiques are concerned with the power and influence of for-profit prisons. At a time when much of public discourse is questioning the war-on-crime and the war-on-drugs being fought as wars, critics claim that the incentive of profit skews public discourse away from reasoned debate about viable solutions to social problems.
And finally, grasping the demographic make-up of today's prisons in the US and the history that's produced this make-up (roughly 50% African-American, 35% Latino and 15% White), the privatization of prisons threatens to re-institute a link between race and commerce that has not been seen since the 1800's.
Although the predominant myths about PRIVATIZATION (whether of prisons or anything else) claim that privatization means tax savings for the public, it actually costs us more. Even though on paper a private agency or corporation may present a lower figure to do the same job, once that money has been taken out of the public's hands, it no longer remains ours.As you can see, what Clarke is proposing would actually harm the taxpayers more than help them.
In the public sector, tax money tends to make more of itself, meaning that each public dollar paid through one social service will spend itself four to eight times more elsewhere within the public sector. Once public money goes into private hands however, that money stays there and is gone for good. This is especially true if we consider that privatization corporations are usually given handsome tax breaks and "incentives," in the form of what some people call "corporate welfare," which means we are even less likely to see that money again.
And finally, if we remember that the people who privatize are generally wealthy, this reminds us of an old story where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer -- where the hard earned tax money from each of us is funneled into the hands of the wealthy few for their own personal gain. While we each like to think we don't live in a society like that, today this is justified to us through the myth that "free markets" are the same thing as democracy; that if everything is privatized and ruled by the law of the dollar then democracy will be ensured.
Add this to the fact that prisons do not make us safer and are by far the most expensive way of dealing with what we call "crime," we suffer other costs as well. Social costs of broken families and communities -- of both victims and perpetrators; hidden financial costs like paying for the foster care of prisoners' children; what we will only pay again when a prisoner re-emerges more desperate, addicted, uneducated and disenfranchised than they went in; the vengeance our society seeks through prisons and punishment will cost us twice the price of ensuring true equality, opportunity and social health at the roots of our society.
The PRIVATIZATION OF PRISONS is but one case in which a few people exploit our society's larger problems for their own gain, at a cost we all bare and get little in return.
Meanwhile, what about those dastardly public sector workers? What are they doing? Well, they've been advocating, successfully, to have the law changed regarding John Doe investigations. This would streamline the system and prevent a lot of frivolous lawsuits. In other words, it would save the taxpayers money. Imagine that.
In summary, what David Clarke is telling us is that, just a few weeks into it, Clarke realizes that he is in way over his head when it comes to running a correctional facility, like the House of Corrections. He is willing to screw the taxpayers, just to get out of running it. Meanwhile, the people he is fighting with, and accusing to be more expensive than they're worth, are actually doing constructive things that will save the taxpayers' money.
In the most recent budget, the County Board allowed Scott Walker to abdicate his duties regarding the HOC and put it under Clarke's jurisdiction. While the move to do so makes sense, in a general fashion, I think that the Board should reverse that decision and take HOC back away from the Sheriff's Office. At least until we get a Sheriff that is willing and capable of doing the job and doing it correctly.
You see, Walker's already been known for using County resources and County staff to go campaigning around the state during the time he is supposed to be working as County Executive.
By making this stink about the supervisors, he has inadvertently kept himself from using the same campaign strategy this year.
After all, the economy won't be much better by summer, when he likes to take his Harley riding around the state in an effort to try to get some name recognition outside of southeast Wisconsin.
For him to do so would be hypocritical, and he wouldn't do something like that, would he?
I only pointed out the high volume of money being recouped three months ago.
Oh, and by the way, Cindy retired last month, due to health-related reasons. Mr. Fiscally Responsible, aka Scott Walker, never bother having anyone train under her so that I level of recoupement and diligence could be maintained.
Remember that when your taxes go up, but you get even less services next year.
And good luck to Cindy.
Monday, January 26, 2009
As was to be expected, the radio squawkers had a field day with it, as did their Posse Comatose, aka the right wing echo chamber. I heard and/or read comments on how these two women should be run out of office, they were morally reprehensible, that this was criminal, and other similar comments.
Today, Bice offers another piece beating the dead horse by showing that they booked their trips two days after the election. However, this story included another traveler - Republican Gerard Randall, who was one of Walker's favorite's until Walker lost Randall's job along with the jobs training program to the city.
The squawks of indignation were still there, albeit not as loud or as shrill as they were on Friday.
Also today, the two Supervisors issued a press release, admitting that this was poorly thought through and a mistake, and that they would be paying the County back for all the expenditures, even though they actually did do work on behalf of the County.
Now, while I agree with the general consensus that what these two Supervisors did showed, at the very least, poor judgment and questionable decision making, I was slightly taken aback by the level of vehemence and outrage that was spewing forth. After all, the trip was only seeming to add up to about $4,000. And on top of that, they did do work on behalf of the County, bringing in new potential funding sources to help prevent kids from entering the child welfare system, or giving kids aging out of the system the skills needed to succeed in life.
So, while Walker is calling the Supervisors' trip to Washington as "mind-boggling," what is even more mind boggling is that he is the one that, in 2005, using county tax dollars, on county time, using county staff, started that year's phase of his perpetual run for governor, which cost tens of thousands of dollars of tax payers money.
I don't recall any of the right wing squawkers or the Posse Comatose raising an eyebrow at that. In fact, if I recall correctly, they defended it.
And there is always the millions of dollars Walker has either squandered or is trying to squander with things like the ill-advised move of BHD to the dilapidated St. Michael's Hospital, the increased tax levies that the cities are forced to impose to pay for the cops' overtime, as they are sitting with mentally ill people due to the shortage of beds at BHD from all of Walker's budget cuts, or sabotaging County services just to pander to potential campaign donors but not saving any taxpayer dollars.
And who can forget that, while people are getting laid off in droves, Walker decided that he was willing to sacrifice their livelihoods and their families of his political posturing. That alone could cost the County $4oo million or more. That alone is 100,000 times the money squandered by the two Supervisors, with nothing to show for it.
The other thing that I find bemusing about this story is the timing of it. The Charlene Hardin story took months to come out. The government, on any level, is notorious for dragging their feet in releasing any type of information, but somehow Bice got his hands on it in less than a week.
Now, it is perfectly plausible that Bice and/or one of the editors at the paper, on the heels of the Hardin story, felt that there was a chance someone would do exactly what Clark and Coggs did do, so they were waiting to see if there was a gotcha moment.
However, I do not think that might be the most likely scenario. I think it to me much more plausible that Bice was tipped off by someone, either in Walker's administration, or one of Walker's allies on the County Board that tipped Bice off and made the documents available to him in such an expedient manner. Walker has done things like that in the past, such as when he held on to the infamous tape of the sleeping worker at the Courthouse, or the way he scapegoated officers at the HOC when they were having all of those problems down there.
And Walker would definitely have the motivation to do something like this. He is already past the time he was expected to be announcing his next phase in his perpetual run for governor, but there apparently a growing movement to start a recall against Walker (even though that couldn't happen until April) including yet another website to which I was alerted this weekend.
I think people are getting upset with the state of the County, and that the refusal to even ask for the stimulus money from the feds was just another abdication of his duties. And as we have seen on how the electorate turned their backs on the Republican Party due to being snubbed by them in times of disaster, like Hurricane Katrina, I think people are starting to see that Walker holds the same values as the Bush Republicans do. And if it comes to their livelihoods and their families' well being, or Walker's political aspirations, I think we know which one the voters are more likely to go with.
Iraq is stable enough to allow the roughly 22,000 U.S. Marines there to withdraw, the service's top general said Friday.
"The time is right for Marines in general terms to leave Iraq," said Marine Corps Commandant .
This is good news. Now, maybe, we can start going after the people that caused 9/11.
But, it strikes me that just a week ago, even has Bush was about to be relieved of his duties as POTUS, we were being warned that pulling out of Iraq would be too dangerous.
It either means that Obama is the deity that the right keep insisting that he is, and was able to change Iraq around in four days, or that Bush was lying. Again.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Before I get going, I first one to thank Bill for the invite to join him in the cheap seats. It took me a while to finally post because I didn't want to give Bill's more conservative readers a culture shock right off the bat. I'll save that for later. Now on to the show...
There was an article in this morning's edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that discussed some of the issues that soon-to-be-married couples are facing due to the crappy economy. As I read the article, it only made me shake my head to wonder if this country will survive. Here is some of which I speak (emphasis mine):
Many of the couples at the wedding show were looking forward to their big day with a budget in mind.
WTF? Butterflies because they're "part of the theme?" Doves? Helicopters? Do these people have a grasp on what life and marriage is all about?
"We've scaled back big time," said Christina Rome, a 29-year-old bride-to-be, as she and fiancé Aaron Williamson, 37, perused the booths of area businesses specializing in wedding gowns, cakes, flowers and honeymoons.
"Our companies didn't give bonuses this year," Rome said.
"And who wants to start off a marriage in debt?" added Williamson. The Wauwatosa couple said they plan to pay cash for their June wedding, now budgeted at $5,000 to $7,000, including butterflies shipped on dry ice to be released after the ceremony. The butterflies are a couple-hundred-dollar splurge Rome said she's not willing to sacrifice because they're part of the theme.[...]
Couples on a budget aren't necessarily giving up on fairytale weddings.
"We have to have doves," said groom-to-be Eric Ortiz, 25, of Madison. "It's for peace and love. And I want to have a helicopter to fly around in, too."
Yes, he was serious, though his betrothed, Crystal Leas, 30, of Milwaukee isn't quite on board with the helicopter idea.
It reminded me of a conversation I had with some friends a few weeks ago. One friend told me about her niece, who was married in 2007. She married some guy in Texas that works for a defense contractor (which his father owns) and they had a full blown wedding that ran in the tens of thousands of dollars. They got divorced in 2008.
Another friend told me about his brother's wedding, which had cost in the neighborhood of $20k. The marriage lasted about two and a half years.
On the other hand, my wife and I got married for under $3,000, most of which was the hall rental and the catering. We organized it on the fly, as that it was an emotional time for us. There was only 50 people, and we had the ceremony in the reception hall, with the reception dinner following the ceremony immediately. All of the flowers, except the bouquets, were plastic ones that we picked up on sale. The trellis we got married under was ten bucks. The party favors were made by one of my adopted moms. The other adopted mom took the video for us. The photographer was 20 disposable cameras we left on the tables (most of the pictures were good, but some full moons did get in there). The organist and band was my best man's sound system and a bunch of CDs. (Anyone want a CD with the Bridal March on it?)
My wife and I just celebrated our ninth anniversary in October, and are still going strong, despite facing many adversities.
The thing is: We knew what was important. It wasn't having a fairy tale wedding. It wasn't putting on airs or trying to impress people. The important thing was that we loved each other, and wanted to make a formal pledge to each other, and that we meant that pledge.
I think it is the same mentality demonstrated by the people in the article that has our nation and our economy in the dire straits that we find ourselves. It doesn't matter whether you drive an old Toyota or a BMW, as long as your car is safe and reliable, and you know how to drive it.
It doesn't matter if you live in a mobile home, an apartment or a McMansion. It is only a building. It is the people inside of it that makes it a home.
It is all just pretentiousness and doesn't mean a damn thing in the grand scope of life. It just makes one look greedy and selfish and a pompous ass.
Our values have gotten all screwed up, where they think money, or at least the pretense of having money, is the key to success. People have to stop caring about what the Joneses have and trying to keep up with them. In fact, the Joneses also need to get their heads screwed on right and realize what is important. And they need to do it pretty damn soon, before they take us all down the drain with them.
Friday, January 23, 2009
That was two and a half months ago. Since then, there hasn't been a peep from the state legislature or from the governor's office about this. That is more than a bit disappointing.
One would think that this would be a no-brainer for them.
According to the Quality of Life Alliance, their would be a significant cut in property tax:
Home Value Property Tax
Not only would it allow people to save on their property tax, it would keep the transit system viable. Without that, the transit system is due to be slashed by one third next year. That will only add more devastation to the local economy when people can't get to work, when employers' can't get their workers in to make their product or to provide their service.
It would also preserve our parks as well as help maintain EMS services countywide.
The question is not can we afford the sales tax. The question is can we afford not having it?
Please contact your state Representative and Senator, as well as Governor Doyle, and tell them that they need to take the steps needed for us to start to help ourselves.
Scott Walker still wants to give income tax cuts to people that don't even have jobs with income that could be taxed.
Meanwhile, what do the people that got the Bush era tax cuts do to show how they create jobs? Well, of course, give themselves huge bonuses, even while their company flounders. Said benefits include a $87,000 rug as part of a $1.2 million dollar office renovation.
That's sure to help produce jobs, eh?
MAL Contends has more.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I, along with most other people, think that Scott Walker is dead wrong with his position on the stimulus package. Most recently, I pointed out the flaws in this train of thought on Monday, when I discussed some of the flaws in their reasoning. In that post, I also cited a post by Aaron M. Rodriguez, writing at the Hispanic Conservative.
Mr. Rodriguez responded, by again trying to help Walker in denying reality.
Walker's argument, and that of his supporters is that it is wrong to create jobs, but would rather see income taxes get cut. Again. That is purely nonsensical.
In case they haven't noticed, you cannot go a day without reading story after story with hundreds if not thousands or tens of thousands of people getting laid off, businesses closing, etc. What good does an income tax cut do for a person who has no income to tax?
I cannot understand how one can worry about how much they might or might not be getting taxed, if they can't even find a job to get an income to tax. Hence, the priority should be first about creating jobs for people to start worrying about tax rates.
Oh, they'll come out with that malarkey of trickle-down economics and how putting more money into the pockets of businessmen and businesswomen will allow them to create more jobs. But again, they will ignore that we just got rid of a presidential administration that did just that, but the jobs never came. In fact, there is more unemployment now, than there has been in generations. So much so that some states are having difficulty in coming up with the money to pay all of the unemployment compensation claims.
Mr. Rodriguez also points out how Walker said that he doesn't want strings attached. But that didn't seem to bother Walker when he wanted to apply for federal funding for his rapid transit buses:
The Milwaukee County Board has agreed with County Executive Scott Walker’s plan to hire consultants to help develop an application seeking federal funds for a $40 million rapid bus transit system.
Walker’s 2009 budget contains a $50,000 request to bring in transportation specialists to fine-tune the proposal that will be sent to the federal government’s Very Small Starts transit aid program.
Walker said the county could receive up to 80 percent of the capital costs of starting the 12-mile bus rapid transit line that is proposed to run along Fond du Lac and National avenues from Midtown Center to downtown Milwaukee. It would then go to Woods Veterans Center near Miller Park and State Fair Park.
And while I applaud Walker for finally taking this small step towards fixing the transit system that he allowed to fall into such dire shape, it really is a matter of too little too late.
Mr. Rodriguez also makes it a point to emphasize that Walker did not say he would absolutely refuse any federal stimulus money. But if he doesn't ask for it, or at least notify the feds what is needed, that is just a passive-aggressive way of refusing the money.
But the thing that was most alarming about Mr. Rodriguez's op-ed piece was this total disconnect from reality:
It is the responsibility of local officials to run a tight ship and guard against wasteful spending. Walker's willingness to reject federal aid when strings are attached, and yet accept it when they exclude wasteful spending proves that he is a good guardian and a wise county executive.I'm sorry, Mr. Rodriguez, but I disagree. Walker is most definitely planning on running for governor, hence his attendance at the Republican Governors Convention and his political posturing.
Meanwhile, Walker has given us:
- A transit system that is in dire straights and about to collapse,
- A mental health system that was allowed to fall apart until the local paper carried a year long series about it,
- Repeated proposals to put the mental health complex in the old St. Michaels Hospital, even though that would be more dangerous and more expensive than building a new one,
- A correctional system with budget busting overtime expenses and very poor safety,
- A proposal to provide less services to the poor without saving anything on taxes, but it did cost the County at least one valuable contract, maybe more.
Saying he would refuse federal aid if there were strings attached right after asking for it, arguing for tax breaks that wouldn't help people get jobs so that they could even have an income to tax, and letting his responsibilities fall to the wayside in favor of political aspirations is not signs of responsibility. They are signs of hypocrisy.
I can understand that, and I respect their religious beliefs that I am not going to pick a fight about abortion vs. women's rights.
But I still cannot understand on how they can be so fervent in their hatred of abortion, but be so willing to abandon them after they're born, especially if it means raising taxes for health care or foster care.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Today's newspaper highlights and reinforces my opinion. Crocker Stephenson again reports about another tragic death that occurred under the less than watchful eye of the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare. The story is about a seven-month-old, little, baby girl who was allowed to starve to death by her own mother, who was too busy feeding her gambling addiction, among other things.
Notable parts from the story include:
A Milwaukee mother of five, who police say spent hundreds of dollars a month on gambling, was charged Tuesday with allowing her 7-month-old daughter to starve to death in 2006.
Layunnia Lewis perished even as child welfare workers repeatedly visited the family's filthy, roach-infested home to check on an abused older sibling, according to investigative reports.
And though various agencies were attempting to provide Layunnia with medical and safety services, it does not appear welfare workers involved with the older sibling's case were even aware of those efforts.
"At the heart of the circumstances that impeded the effectiveness of intervention in this child's case is a failure by the agencies involved to share information both within organizations and between organizations," according to a report by the Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership Council's Independent Review Panel."Little was known of the full history of this family to most of those involved," the report says
This tragic story displays that the way the system is designed is where the true dysfunction lies.
Although the hospital workers reported to child welfare authorities that Cole was heard threatening to beat her other children, and that both parents showed up at the hospital drunk, the safety services were terminated at the parents' request about two weeks after Layunnia was released from the hospital.
Meanwhile, in the months leading up to Layunnia's death, child welfare caseworkers and a therapist made regular visits to her home to check on her 9-year-old brother, who was being monitored under a court order.
The brother's caseworker last visited the home Oct. 30. One month later, Layunnia was dead.
"For reasons not clear to the panel," the independent review panel wrote, "for some portion of time that the safety services case was open, neither the ongoing worker nor the safety service worker knew of their co-worker's involvement with the family."
When I worked for Milwaukee County as a child welfare worker, the entire program was done by the County. Investigations, on-going case management, adoption studies, and foster home licensing was all done by the County. Because it was all done by one agency, there was a high level of communication going on. If the foster home licensing worker came to check to make sure that the home was still following guidelines and requirements, and found something wrong, the case manager was notified, and appropriate action was taken, including removing the children from harm's way. Likewise, if the case manager saw problems, and had to remove the kids, the licensing worker was notified immediately, and necessary actions were taken to either correct the problem or to revoke their license.
Now, under the BMCW, all of these duties can be done by various different agencies. Furthermore, the way the BMCW has been structured, it actually hinders communication between these agencies and between the workers. The right hand literally doesn't know what the left one is doing.
Another problem with the system is how they decide to track and organize cases. Under the old system, the cases were organized by the family, with the mother being the main case. She would then be assigned a number for administrative purposes. All of her children were given the same number with an alphabetical suffix to reflect the order of their birth. For example, if a case was opened for a mother, it could receive a number like 123456. If said mother had multiple children, they would have case numbers 123456A, 123456B, 123456C and so on.
Under the Bureau, it goes by the child. The computer system was supposed to keep track of the names via a data base, and put members of the family in the same caseload, but the programming did not work. There were many times when a single family could have numerous case numbers and different workers scattered throughout the system, with the workers not even knowing that the other cases existed.
Instead of a system that has all of its different functions working together for a common cause, the design of the system, including breaking it into parts for privatization purposes, as caused an atmosphere of isolation and competition. Instead of working together to protect children, you have several agencies working against each other, in hopes to get a bigger part of the pie. The result is more needless and senseless deaths of the most vulnerable of our community.
I also feel that I should add that the County had workers with a wide range of experience to draw upon. When I first started, there were workers that had decades of experience that they were more than willing to share with the newer workers. Now, you have young people just getting out of school. With the exception of a handful of people, there is not many people in that system that have more than five years of experience. This includes the supervisors.
To add to the sick joke that child welfare in Milwaukee County has become, the review panel comes out with some vague and meaningless recommendations:
The review panel's report contains a host of recommendations, including improvements to the safety service program, beefing up coordination among service providers, educating caseworkers about medically fragile infants and encouraging the Visiting Nurses Association to develop a written protocol.These are the same things that they come up with every time a child dies, but nothing ever really changes. That is because the system is designed to have these flaws.
The only way that these calamities will be stopped, or at least minimized, is if the whole damn system is finally revamped into a more cohesive, cooperative model. A first good step would be to have the useless lumps on the review board, like State Senator Alberta Darling, step down so that people who genuinely care about the welfare of Milwaukee's children can do the work needed. That will help for the nonce, but the only real effective solution would be for the state legislature and Governor Jim Doyle to get off their rumps and undo the damage that was started ten years ago, by that legislature and Tommy Thompson.
But I would be remiss if I did not point out a few things.
First, Patrick Dorwin is to be congratulated for taking the high road, even though many of his commenters were unable to follow him. Sean Hackbarth also was honestly critical, but in a way that could not be found offensive.
Unfortunately, too many could not even bring themselves up to the level of just being snarky or petty, but went way beyond the pale.
One example of the baser posts comes from Jib, who manages to use over the top rhetoric, but also heresy. And I thought the left were supposed to be the Godless ones. Other bizarre writings was another BBA contributor that forgot to take his meds and Tom McMahon, who apparently is ready to impeach Obama. Why is not clear, unless it's for being black or something.
The creme de la scum though goes to Peter DiGaudio. Peter put up three posts yesterday that goes beyond disgusting. First he repeats some of the same insane and irresponsible rhetoric that caused him to have a shit fit and blow up his last blog:
Say “Sieg Heil” to the nice people. Something right out of Nazi Germany, the former Soviet Union, Cuber, Venezuela, the NorKorComs, just about any totalitarian state you can name.
You vill bow down and vership Dear Leader and you vill like it.
Sorry. Not me. Not. My. President. I don’t want a seat at His table. I don’t want Him to succeed, because if He succeeds, America fails.
And yes, I still as ashamed on this country as I was on the night of the anointment in November.
Not satisfied that he proved himself an ass, he comes up with another violation of Godwin's law, including comparing people's support for Obama as a Nazi pledge. His third post shows he has lost all touch of reality as he blasphemously uses God's name in vain as he goes on his paranoid ravings.
Some of my friends have tried to even defend this chump, and have called him bright and thought provoking. But there is no way to defend this over-the-top line of BS. And unfortunately, he will only continue, despite what anyone might say to him. It is extremely hard to talk reason to an irrational mind.
I am afraid I arrived late, so I missed out on the good food, but I did get to see Interpol drag George W. Bush off to stand trial before the World Court. Well, OK, it was really an actor that was leaving, but I can have my fantasies too, you know.
As always, it was a pleasure to see our gracious host, Jason Haas, as well as my good friends, Zach, Greg and Jay. Team Maverick, that dashing young duo, were there as well. It is always a pleasure to see them.
The night did hold two more special treats for me. Nick came out with his wonderful S.O., the (much) young(er) and better looking Ally*. I made sure he didn't leave disappointed by giving him a thorough thrashing.
I also got to, for the first time, meet an old friend, the ever elusive Tim Rock. It was nice to finally meet him.
*For the readers that like to make assumptions, it is an inside joke. You really had to be there.
Since she was told Jan. 8 that her nomination papers did not have enough valid signatures to get on this spring's election ballot, Milwaukee School Board member Charlene Hardin has been scarce around the MPS central office. How scarce? We're keeping score. She missed two meetings she was supposed to be at Tuesday night, the finance committee and a full board meeting that ended with agreement to extend Superintendent William Andrekopoulos' contract.
So, the current tally since Jan. 8:
Number of meetings of the board or committees Hardin is a member of: 5
Number of meetings she was at: 0
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
Last week, a couple or three right wing bloggers tried to rally the troops on behalf of the myopic Scott Walker and his foolish decision regarding the stimulus package that will be coming soon after Obama's inauguration. Keep in mind that due to his foolhardy stance, even his own allies are throwing him under the bus.
Apparently, judging from what I've seen thus far, the turnout was less than stimulating itself. I've only seen a few pieces of writing coming out in Walker's favor. One was an anonymous blogger who was more concerned with her photoshop skills and bumper sticker logic. (The Chief has a response to that which uses stronger language and is more direct.) Another was Patrick McIlheran offering another nonsensical, based in fantasy, loose with the facts piece. The third was from Aaron M. Rodriguez, writing for the Hispanic Conservative, who spent most of his time trying to distort a column by Eugene Kane.
The funniest part of Mr. Rodriguez's piece comes at the end:
It is unfortunate that the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has become a bully pulpit for liberals like Kane to air their libelous attacks. Eugene Kane owes Scott Walker a personal apology. Columnists have no business using a trusted media source to make character attacks on public officials especially if they don’t have factual support.I don't know which is funnier. That he is calling the MJS a liberal bastion, or that there's no facts showing Walker dead wrong on the issue.
Mr. Rodriguez also cites Walker's op ed piece from two Sundays ago, in which Walker was trying to defend his poor decision making and arguing that tax cuts were the way to go:
The real way to stimulate the economy is not to put more money into the hands of the government but into the hands of the people. For months, I have called for tax cuts to get this economy going again.Would someone please cue Walker in on the fact that this is not a period of peace with Obama walking into not one, but two, wars that Bush started?
Unlike infrastructure projects that take months - if not years - to have an impact, tax cuts can go into effect immediately. This will truly stimulate the economy.
[...]And it worked for President Ronald Reagan. In 1983, the year that the Reagan tax cuts went into effect, the national economy started the largest peacetime economic boom in American history. During this time, 5 million new businesses and 20 million new jobs were created. Tax reductions led to economic prosperity.
To further deflate Walker's argument and to highlight that his position is nothing more than a poorly thought out attempt at grandstanding, it was reported over the weekend that even conservative economists are supporting the Democratic stimulus plan. Included among these is Martin Feldstein, Reagan's top economic advisor. You know, the guy that came up with the plan that Republicans forever hold so dear.
Anyway, from the article:
Even Martin Feldstein, a professor of economics at Harvard University who served as chief economic advisor to President Reagan and is considered the dean of the country's conservative economists, has expressed support for a stimulus plan.The article also goes on to explain why this is so:
"Countering a deep economic recession requires an increase in government spending to offset the sharp decline in consumer outlays and business investment that is now underway," Feldstein wrote in the Wall Street Journal last month. "Without that rise in government spending, the economic downturn would be deeper and longer."
But so far, Republicans have not demanded new tax cuts. For one thing, although permanent tax cuts can foster long-term growth, in the short term most economists agree they create less economic demand -- that is, they are less "stimulative" -- than direct government spending.If I may remind the gentle reader, this has been argued before both here and at Michael Rosen's blog.
Economists explain the spending-versus-tax-cut debate this way: When the government spends $1 to buy an item or a service, economic output (or gross domestic product) goes up by $1. Then it goes up a bit more because whoever gets that $1 spends at least part of it buying supplies or paying workers, who in turn use it for food, gas or medical care. So $1 of direct government spending becomes roughly $1.57 of GDP, according to projections by economic advisors to President-elect Barack Obama.
Tax cuts work differently. If a person gets a tax cut of $1, there is no guarantee he or she will spend it, so it has no immediate effect on GDP. And the worse the economy and the greater the fear of bad times ahead, the more likely they are to hold on to that dollar.
Obama's advisors assume that the $275 billion in tax cuts in the stimulus proposal would have no effect on GDP for the first quarter after the plan is passed. After that, they expect taxpayers and businesses would begin to spend the money they save from taxes. Their models suggest that a $1 tax cut would eventually produce 99 cents worth of demand within two years.
Not only are Walker's allies throwing him under the bus, but now the people that he claims to emulate are backing the bus up for another go at him.
Can you say Weasel Fritters?
Although Bill is conservative, he is a good friend of mine, and he would always give food for thought, even when we disagreed.
Another conservative blog that appears to have gone by the wayside is the Crocodile Cage. I enjoyed debating with Reaganite, and miss his insight.
I hope both of these gentlemen are in good health and all is well with them.
Unfortunately, their absences leave the Cheddarsphere a duller place.
Unfortunately for them, Phelony Jones, neo-gunophile, is just giddy about getting her new shotgun. (I still don't understand that. It's like getting giddy about a new shovel or rake. It's just a tool, people!)
The distasteful but honest title of her piece on her piece is:
What a wonderful time. I got to catch up on a lot of missed sleep and a lot of missed reading. It snowed almost the entire day Saturday, but it was a gentle snow and the trees were something like out of a magazine.
But the best part of the weekend was the look on my wife's face, when on Saturday night, we were graced with a visit of the king of the woods, a beautiful eight point buck that we've come to know as "Bambi". Her joy was radiant, and it is still with her a full 48 hours later. Just seeing her that happy made the weekend worthwhile.
It was such a relief to know that all of our favorites survived crazy drivers, gun-wielding thugs, and assholes with snowmobiles.
And just as good, no garages collapsed, no pipes froze and no trees fell on us. All in all, it was just about perfect.
I mentioned this last week, but this month's Drinking Liberally will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, instead of the usual Wednesday.
It looks like a whole bevy of the more famous bloggers will be there, including the incomparable Jay Bullock, the dashing young Maverick, and a cast of thousands (well, at least handfuls) will also be on hand.
Our gracious host, Jason Haas, has all the details.
Come join us ring out the end of an error. Remember, word has it W. himself will be there to drown his sorrows, so leave the pretzels at home.
Oh, January 7, the ran this story highlighting the problems that the arrogant and hapless Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is creating at the House of Corrections by leaving staff to thin and spread out, creating a risk to safety and security at that institution.
I remember it because I wrote this post on the very same day, reflecting the story.
As I sat down this morning for my morning coffee and a quick breakfast, I noticed that there was a story about HOC in the morning paper. As I read it, I quickly realized that it was the exact same story as two weeks ago. In fact, if you go to JSOnline and click on the story, it comes up to the same story I wrote about two weeks ago. Same URL and everything.
Now, to be perfectly honest, I don't remember if this story was in the paper two weeks ago, and my copy of said issue is well on its way to being recycled. But whether it ran two weeks ago or not, it still raises some interesting questions.
If it did run two weeks ago, as I think it did, then why are they running it again? Slow news day?
If it didn't run two weeks ago, why not? It was clearly set to go, so why did they hold it for that long? Were they waiting for a slow news day? I don't know if I would qualify this as a slow news time, with all the saturation of tomorrow's historic inauguration, the Superbowl contenders being determined, Packer's news, MLK day, police shootings, etc. So why the delay?
Or was it that they felt the need to respond to this post, which I wrote last Friday, which told of events that weren't in their article, and that they haven't covered at all? I would think that the people in Milwaukee County, especially those in Franklin, where the House of Correction is located, would want to know that the local lock up is still having major problems, again due to poor management.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
How much you want to bet that Elliot Stearn wishes he had this program?
Friday, January 16, 2009
Borkowski told me that while he has no confidence in the current administration, he is not so sure that Clarke will actually improve things. He described the switch as being a panacea to the HOC's woes, but thinks it could turn out to be more of a placebo.Supervisor Borkowski was absolutely correct to have reservations about adding HOC to Clarke's fiefdom.
Borkowski goes on to point out that there might be some strife at the HOC between the COs and the Sheriff. One must concur when they think of all the lawsuits that were filed by the deputies' union. Clarke lost almost every one of them to boot.
After all, Clarke has shown himself to be a rather poor example of a law enforcement officer, what with him helping drunk drivers out of snowbanks, and not even realizing they were drunk, despite the open intoxicants in the car. Furthermore, Clarke proved himself unable to properly run the Milwaukee County Jail.
We also had a pretty good indicator a couple of weeks ago, when the story broke that Clarke was willing to sacrifice safety and security to preserve a couple of bucks. More on this later.
I heard a story yesterday of problems already coming to dangerous levels at HOC. I called Kevin Schoofs, president of Local 567, the union local for correction officers, to see if the stories I had heard were real.
Schoofs told me that Clarke started out on the right foot at the HOC. He immediately issued orders for an increase in security as soon as the County Board gave him control of the HOC. One of the orders was that all inmates had to be escorted anytime they left the dorm. Previously, some inmates were allowed to go to various places, like to the health center or to work in the kitchens without an escort. This gave inmates too much leeway and allowed them the opportunity to cause all sorts of mischief.
The second order from Clarke was to have all non-security staff enter through the front of the building and go through a screening. This cut down greatly on the amount of contraband that was finding its way into the HOC.
But then as soon as the new year started, Clarke went crazy on a power trip, like he did with the deputies.
Anyone that works in correction has to be certified in jailer's training. To be a deputy, you have to go through the same type of training, but to a higher degree of intensity and knowledge. Clarke apparently forgot the most basic tenets of the training. Those tenets are basically you can do almost anything you want, but the things that you never, ever do is mess with the inmate's food, recreation, visits and mail. If you deprive the inmates any one or combination of these things, without a good cause, you are only setting yourself up to have to deal with a riot.
Inmates sit around most of the day, bored out of their skulls. The only things they really have to look forward to, besides their release dates, are meals, chances for contact with the outside world and a chance to work of some energy.
It didn't take Clarke to screw all of these things up.
This past Saturday, there were two near riots, both surrounding the food. In an effort to save money, Clarke told Aramark, the private company that Walker sold the food services to, to cut back on the servings and to trim corners wherever possible.
Saturday morning, the inmates were given a cold breakfast which consists of one carton of milk, one bowl of cereal and a piece of fruit. The milk they served on Saturday was several days past the expiration date. The inmates became understandably upset and started to pour the milk all over the floor of the dining hall. To make matters worse, it was also reported that the hard boiled eggs were anything but. The officer that was working said that the whites of some of the eggs were still translucent.
Saturday night led to more problems.
Most lunches and suppers at HOC consist of the same cold meal, a sandwich made with generic meat, a piece of fruit and watered down iced tea of some sort of Kool Aid. Once every three days or so, the inmates were treated to a warm lunch that consisted of usually a slice of turkey, mashed potatoes, a vegetable and even sometimes a small piece of cake. Clarke ordered the portions reduced to save money.
The resulting mayhem was so severe that the CO that was monitoring the dining hall, felt it necessary to leave the room and lock the inmates in until enough help arrived. The CO that did this is a well-seasoned officer who had been working there before I started there in 2001. This officer knew his job very well. If he felt that the situation was so dangerous that he had to leave the room, you can safely bet that things were really, really bad.
The staffing cuts mentioned earlier are also making things more dangerous. Sometimes, there are not enough officers available to deal with the incident. One such time was just last week when three separate fights broke out at the same time in one dorm. The officer working that dorm called for assistance on the radio, but when the officers finally were able to respond, there wasn't enough officers to deal with that many combatants. The officers were forced to wait several minutes until enough security showed up. (In the end they ended up putting 11 people in isolation and one was taken to the health center to have his wounds attended to before putting him in isolation.
On another occasion there was only one sergeant to deal with all 30 dorms.
Furthermore, in an effort to save money, if an officer is on vacation or calls in sick, Clarke will not allow someone else to come in to fill that spot. He pulls other officers off of their posts to cover the empty assignment. Due to this policy, the inmates are no longer getting recreation to burn off their energy. The mail is delivered only sporadically. Visitations with their families or with their lawyers are often delayed or postponed altogether because there is no officer to escort them.
Schoofs found out that Clarke's reasoning for cutting back on over time isn't necessarily to save money. It is because the officers' union won a complaint that was filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. The management of HOC, under Ron Malone, the previous superintendent, would frequently deny officers a chance to take their CTO (compensatory time off - or accrued overtime). They did this to try to save on overtime, but the U.S. Department of Labor pointed out that this was illegal. The federal law clearly states that the officers are to be allowed to take there CTO, even if it means overtime is generated. I'm sure it's purely coincidental, but Clarke's new rules came out almost immediately after the ruling came down.
By cutting staff, Clarke is trying to avoid this ruling, despite the fact that he is jeopardizing security and safety.
Schoofs said that he knows that they will have a long way to go to deal with Clarke. By having the sergeants fill in for COs, Clarke is violating civil service codes and the labor contract. Furthermore, as the union goes through the long process of grievance hearing after grievance hearing, Clarke will continue to issues orders like this, regardless of the consequences.
As we have seen with his interactions with the Sheriff Deputies Association, Clarke will not pay attention until he finds himself in court. And of course, all this dinking around and the court proceedings are not free. And this doesn't go into all the costs related to workman's comp, and the inevitable lawsuits as inmates and officers are hurt, due to Clarke's short-sightedness and overinflated ego.
In other words, to save a little money here and there, it is going to cost the County tax payers a lot more later. Meanwhile, more officers are going to get hurt and more money will be spent after all on the overtime that Clarke is trying to avoid.
And then there is the money that will have to be spent hiring a new superintendent and other administrative staff personnel when the County Board takes the HOC away from Clarke due to his incompetence.
I still believe that the merger of HOC and the Sheriff's Office is a good idea. It should save money and streamline the whole justice system. Unfortunately, the timing of it just doesn't make it work while we have someone like Clarke trying to run the show. This is simply because he just doesn't have a clue on what he is doing.