Friday, July 31, 2009

The Right Wing Strategy: Avoid Intelligent Debate

Think Progress has a piece about a leaked bit of information regarding the strategies of Americans for Prosperity and other right wing/Rebublican front groups.

It is rather telling, and includes this (emphasis theirs):

– Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”

– Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”

– Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”

My favorite is their plan on the third point: "Try to 'Rattle Him,' Not Have An Intelligent Debate."

I can think of quite a few bloggers and radio squawkers that demonstrate this point perfectly.

Revisiting The Question Of The County Executive Position

A couple of weeks ago, Lee Holloway made a suggestion about doing away with the position of Milwaukee County Executive, and replacing it with a position of county administrator.

At that time, I was opposed to the idea, and I still am.

However, I am a fair man, and wanted to share this snippet a friend had emailed to me. The passage is from Frank Zeidler:

This is a short quote from “A Liberal In City Government, My Experience as Mayor of Milwaukee” by Frank Zeidler

The continual scheming of many people in their own interest, coupled with a resentment toward being forced to pay for anything, especially government services for other people, is often an ingrained habit so that it becomes difficult to see the larger interrelationship of things

However under the American system the drive for ones own self interest is the primary motive of the social order, and this drive must now be modified by a system of taxation that takes care of the welfare problems created by the system and by the natural hardships of life itself as life matures.

I have described some of the strains and duties placed on the mayor in a city of some 750,000 people. Multiply these strains many times and one has some idea of the pressure of forces focused on the President of the United States. Is it possible that one person can fulfill this task and do it justice? I have often wondered.

What is needed for the top administrative job in the larger cities is a division of the work. The Mayor is a ceremonial officer, a political officer and administrative officer. It might be better for the American system to adopt some of the British municipal practices. The mayor may be a ceremonial officer and political leader. The administrative officer should be a full time civil service assistant. In every larger city the mayor should be reinforced by a manager to reduce the burden of the job.

Right Wingers Resort To Lies To Destroy Cap And Trade

From the AP:
A Washington grassroots lobbying firm has acknowledged forging anti-climate bill letters purporting to be from a local NAACP chapter and a Latino advocacy group to a Virginia lawmaker, and a congressional committee said it was launching an investigation.

The office of freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello discovered that a half-dozen letters it received had nearly identical language signed by a made-up person at Creciendo Juntos, the Latino group, and five fake members of the Albemarle-Charlottesville branch of the NAACP. The lobbying firm, Bonner & Associates, apologized to the groups.

The firm blamed the faked letters on a temporary employee who, it says, has been fired.

But one of the climate bill's primary sponsors, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said Friday that his Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming would investigate the matter.

"This fraud on Congress shows that some opponents of clean energy have resorted to forgery and theft to block progress," Markey said in a statement, calling it "an appalling abuse."

Of course, anyone that reads most of the right wing blogs or listens to right wing talk radio is not surprised that the right wing would lie about anything, if they thought there was money in it for them.

Bigotry FAIL

'Nuff said.

Clarke Wants More Recidivism From Criminals

In what could be categorized in the "Yeah. I don't get it either," slot, Milwaukee County David Clarke is at it again.

Now he wants to cut way back on the Community Justice Resource Center, a program that helps inmates from the House of Correction, or as Clarke calls it, Community Correctional Facility - South, be able to successfully reintegrate into the community. Or as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel put it in their article on Clarke's publicity stunt:
It provides help to about 400 inmates a year in applying for jobs, taking high school equivalency classes and doing community service projects. The sheriff said he could run the resource center for half the current cost and is calling for stricter accountability standards. He wants the program scaled back and limited to non-violent offenders, preferably those accused or convicted of minor crimes only.
Clarke says he wants to scale it back because there are too many "dangerous criminals" in the program that increase the risk to public safety, even though he couldn't cite one example of there being a problem.

Clarke is temporarily backing down from his plans, due to a lot of threats of contempt of court charges being thrown at him, and due to Chief Justice Jeffrey Kremers, who is a long time supporter of the program.

In the MJS article, Clarke tries to claim that the program isn't successful, but the fact come back to bite him in the rump:

Clarke said figures kept by his office show high recidivism rates for participants in the community program. Using samples of 100 people who completed the program each year, Clarke found 21% from 2008 had been convicted of new crimes, 18% from 2007 and 33% from 2006.

McNally said that was evidence of success, not failure. Many studies show 60% or more of inmates released directly to the community without supervision in community programs re-offend.

Apparently, Sheriff Clarke is afraid that if there isn't enough crime, he won't be able to do as much grandstanding.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Milwaukee County Gets Much Needed Help, Maybe More On The Way?

I have the details over at Milwaukee County First.

Does Walker Even Have A Chance Upstate?

Today I received this week's edition of the Iola Herald (which is really just another title now for the Waupaca Post, which is owned by Journal Communications, Inc.)

In the paper, they have an article about the Klement's Racing Sausages, who had made an appearance and helped with some fund raising up there.

Since the website didn't think it was worthy of putting online, I will have to transcribe it here:
Hot dogs invade Iola!

by Randy Rosenberger

IOLA - While making our way to the local IGA Foodliner in the bustling little community of Iola, we came upon an unusual sight o Saturday, July 11. No, not a classic or vintage auto, though we did feast our eyes on some real beauties, but a group of large sausages - a bunch of hot dogs!

On closer inspection of the surrounding scene, we found that our own Iola Living Assistance was hosting a brat fry at the IGA brat stand.

While observing these famous Klements' characters, we were amused at their antics in trying to attract customers to support the sponsors of the even, Iola Living Assistance. Great job, guys, for hosting such an amusing event amide the hustle and bustle of the Iola Old Car Show, where thousands of people were on hand to enjoy all that Iola has to offer to its guests and visitors.
Above the article is a picture, taken by Mr. Rosenberger, of the Klements brat, hot dog and polish sausage with a caption that read: "The Klements hot dogs helped attract customers to a local brat fry on July 11."

Now, I think everyone would admit that the Klements' racing sausages are famous statewide, if not throughout the Midwest. But if Mr. Rosenberger, the editor, and all the other people involved didn't catch on to the fact that the sausages are more than just mere hot dogs, what chance does a wiener like Scott Walker have in distinguishing himself in the outer parts of the state?

Another Defender Of The Sanctity Of Marriage

Just after I posted about the so-called defenders of marriage, comes another striking example of such bravery:
Asking for the forgiveness of his constituents and his wife, and a week to the hour after news first broke of his affair with a young legislative intern, state Sen. Paul Stanley announced Tuesday evening that he is resigning from the legislature on Aug. 10.

"I hope people will forgive me for what I have done. I want them to stay engaged in the process because I feel it's important. To Kristi: Honey, I apologize. I have asked for her forgiveness and she has forgiven me," Stanley told listeners of Ben Ferguson's evening news-talk show on Memphis' WREC-AM 600.

"It's difficult for us," he said. "My marriage may be a consequence of this, but I have got to use this in my life as something to move forward with and to create a better life."
This keeps happening, but Appling and her cohorts say we can't let homosexual couples get married because they're a threat to marriages somehow.

Yeah, I don't get it either.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

In The Defense Of Marriage?

Via Pundit Kitchen:

Nick Schweitzer has a solid hitting post about the conservatives hypocritical stance towards gay marriage, complete with a suggestion for punishment guidelines for adulterous people:

With that in mind, I would suggest that those people who commit adultery, and are found guilty of such in court, face the following punishment:

Their Marriage Shall Be Immediately Annulled and Adulterers Shall Be Forbidden From Marrying Again: Clearly, if it is dangerous to the institution of marriage that gay people ought not be allowed to marry, then adulterers should also not be allowed to marry again.

Adulterers Shall Lose Parental Rights to Their Children: Once again, if gay couples make unfit parents, then it is important to follow suit and enforce the same standard against adulterous people. After all, they would likely teach their children that what they did was acceptable, which would pass lessons onto the next generation that would further erode this important institution.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Real Scott Walker Sets Us Straight

Last week, Cory Liebmann and I both mentioned some peculiarities with Scott Walker's campaign finance report and what Walker is paying the hired help.

Well, the Real Scott Walker set us straight with this tweet:

Save The Farm and Fish Hatchery

There's a new post up on MCF's blogsite about the farm and fish hatchery located down by the House of Corrections, and why it the County again needs to move past short-sighted leaders like Walker and Clarke and keep it in business.

That's what anyone who puts Milwaukee County first would do.

Geek Humor

Monday, July 27, 2009

Letter From Grandma

Sent to me via email (from a neighbor and my dad):

Grandma is eighty-eight years old and still drives her own car. She writes:

Dear Grandson,

The other day I went up to our local Christian book store and saw a "Honk if you love Jesus” bumper sticker.

I was feeling particularly sassy that day because I had just come from a thrilling choir performance, followed by a thunderous prayer meeting.

So, I bought the sticker and put it on my bumper.

Boy, am I glad I did; what an uplifting experience that followed.

I was stopped at a red light at a busy intersection, just lost in thought about the Lord and how good he is, and I didn't notice that the light had changed.

It is a good thing someone else loves Jesus because if he hadn't honked, I'd never have noticed.

I found that lots of people love Jesus!

While I was sitting there, the guy behind started honking like crazy, and then he leaned out of his window and screamed, 'For the love of God!'

'Go! Go! Go! Jesus Christ, GO!'

What an exuberant cheerleader he was for Jesus!

Everyone started honking!

I just leaned out my window and started waving and smiling at all those loving people.

I even honked my horn a few times to share in the love!

There must have been a man from Florida back there because I heard him yelling something about a sunny beach.

I saw another guy waving in a funny way with only his middle finger stuck up in the air.

I asked your cousin Ricky in the back seat what that meant.

He said it was probably a Hawaiian good luck sign or something.

Well, I have never met anyone from Hawaii , so I leaned out the window and gave him the good luck sign right back.

Ricky burst out laughing.

Why even he was enjoying this religious experience!!

A couple of the people were so caught up in the joy of the moment that they got out of their cars and started walking towards me.

I bet they wanted to pray or ask what church I attended, but this is when I noticed the light had changed..

So, grinning, I waved at all my brothers and sisters, and drove on through the intersection.

I noticed that I was the only car that got through the intersection before the light changed again and felt kind of sad that I had to leave them after all the love we had shared.

So I slowed the car down, leaned out the window and gave them all the Hawaiian good luck sign one last time as I drove away. Praise the Lord for such wonderful folks!!

Will write again soon,

Love, Grandma

Follow Up On The Mysterious Expense Refund

Last night, I pointed out that one of the myriad of oddities from Scott Walker's campaign financial report was an inexplicable expense refund from the Journal Broadcast Group, to the tune of $15,000.

I put out some questions to those wiser and more more familiar with this area than I, and well, got back a couple of different answers.

One answer I heard was that it was money that was paid for ads on WTMJ that never aired. But as I pointed out last night, the order would have had to have been placed and money paid more than a year ago. It seems to me an awfully long time to wait to settle up, but maybe that's how it works.

Another answer I received, which kind of goes along with the first one, is that WTMJ did an internal audit and found that they were overcharging the candidates for airing their commercials, dating at least back as far 2006. Mark Green and Jim Doyle are also supposed to have received the same refunds, as well as other candidates for other offices.

I was also informed that these type of refunds aren't usually attributed to JBG directly, as that a media firm is the one that is usually the go-between for the campaign and JBG. The media firm buys the time, runs the ads and cuts the checks. Any expense refunds would likewise be channeled through the media firm.

It was speculated by one of my sources that JBG chose to make the refund directly due to its size.

Take what you will out of it, but at least it is some sort of answer. It would be nice if they had a note section to avoid all of this bother.

Just Listen To That Engine Purr

And I do mean purr.

From WSAW-TV in Wausau:

A curious kitten in Wisconsin found an unlikely way to travel more than 1,000 miles.

It apparently lived in the engine of a car for a week. Steve Johnson was the kitten's so called chauffeur. He believes the kitten crawled into the wheel well while he was at a grocery store in Indiana. He says a shopper told him a kitten was on his tire. But when Johnson checked, he didn't see anything. It wasn't until he stopped in Madison to get an oil change that he discovered the mini passenger under the hood.

"I opened the hood, all of a sudden I see a cat just sitting there, between the firewall and the engine block," says Brandon Stachowiak, Smart Motors.

"As I walked out to my vehicle, a customer came over and said, 'Don't start your engine,'" says Steve Johnson.

The kitten appeared to be fine. An animal adoption service is working with the Dane County Humane Society to eventually place the kitten up for adoption.

I wonder how many of its nine lives it used up in that trip.

Through The Looking Glass, or Looking Deeper Into Scott Walker's Campaign Finance Report

Last week, I discovered some oddities about Scott Walker's recently released campaign financial report. I wasn't the only one, as one of the oddities, his campaign manager apparently not getting paid by the campaign, was covered by Cory Liebmann at Eye on Wisconsin.

As bad as those things seemed though, they weren't nearly all there was as far as peculiarities go.

As Rob at Walker's Point blogsite points out, (plus being kind enough to download the entire report onto Scribs), one peculiarity is the fact that the Journal Broadcast Group is listed on page 460 as giving an expense refund of nearly $15,000 to the campaign. What makes it so odd is that in the report there is no listing of having paid the Journal Broadcast Group anything. Nor is there anything listed in the previous report.

I find it extremely hard to believe that the JBG held on to $15,000 for over a year without paying it back, or the campaign had not asked for it in that long. Especially considering that Walker is a distant third in the money race.

So where did that money come from? When and for what purpose did the campaign supposedly give it to JBG? Or is it something altogether different?

But there's more, gentle reader. With Walker, there always seems to be more.

As I was looking at the JBG mystery, I came across another peculiarity.

Michael Grebe, who Walker proudly announced earlier this year as his campaign chairman, gave Walker's campaign $5,000 on June 29, 2009 (page 381 on Walker' report for those that are following). Interestingly, on the very next day, June 30, is when it was reported that Walker named Grebe his campaign chair.

This is where it gets really odd. And very, very convoluted.

Grebe is the CEO of the Bradley Foundation. He is also on the advisory committee for the Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce and a Co-Chair of the Milwaukee 7.

Interestingly, Steven Smith is on the MMAC board as well as a member of the Milwaukee 7 board. Steven Smith is also the Chairman/CEO of Journal Communications (h/t to Tom Foley). Journal Communications is the parent company for Journal Broadcasting Group.

Also worth noting at this point is the fact that Scott Walker is also part of the MMAC and Milwaukee 7.

So, thus far, we know that Walker, Smith and Grebe already have tight relationships, and all three serve on at least two boards together. Grebe gives Walker a huge contribution, and is suddenly the campaign chair. On top of that, Smith, head of the largest paper in southeast Wisconsin, has one of his subsidiary groups give Walker's campaign an inexplicable campaign expense refund.

But there is still more.

As mentioned before, Grebe is the top banana at the Bradley Foundation. Also working at the Bradley Foundation is Janet Riordan, serving as their Director of Community Programs. Riordan is also Charlie Sykes' current wife.

It was recently reported on a different story, that Sykes, through his wife and other connections, is also pretty tight with Grebe and the Bradley foundation:

McBride, who had a talk show on WTMJ-AM (620), suggested that the chief could count on Sykes. Journal Communications owns both WTMJ and the Journal Sentinel.

"Sykes will probably never turn on you, not with his wife’s job, and not with the other ties he has to Bradley," she wrote. "If I was a betting person, I’d say that Sykes came up with the idea to bring (George) Kelling here in the first place."

Sykes’ wife, Janet Riordan, works for the conservative Bradley Foundation. That group paid Kelling and another consultant to oversee the search for a new MPD chief two years ago. Sykes did not return a message Friday.

Well, that certainly explains why Sykes has been repeatedly bemoaning the fact that Mark Neumann has entered the gubernatorial race, and has kept whining that Neumann should have ran against U.S. Senator Feingold again.

And Smith's role at Journal Communications would only emphasize Sykes' push for Walker, not to mention the excessively favorable reporting and editorials coming from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

It is also rather frightening to consider how much of the TV stations, radio stations and newspapers that Journal Communications own in this state. Will Neumann or Doyle or any of Walker's critics get any fair coverage? It seems unlikely.

Now, for all I know, all of this, including that mysterious expense refund, might be logically explained. However, the deeper one looks at what is going on behind the scenes, it seems more like a machination so devilish that Niccolo Machiavelli would be jealous. At the very best, it is a perfect example of how bad the "old boys network" can get.

Addendum: A follow up.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Your Privatized Tax Dollars At Work

Owen Robinson points out a story from up north in which a private agency put up new road signs that were terribly misspelled.

That reminded me that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had written a story about five months ago showing that the contracting out of producing these road signs was three times the cost than if they kept it in the public sector:

In one case, the Department of Transportation tripled its costs when it handed over the management of its road sign inventory to HNTB Corp. The department canceled that $165,000 contract in 2004 amid public criticism.

So much for the conservatives' favorite chant on how privatization saves us tax money.

Good Executive, Bad Executive

It was recently announced by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk that Dane County was able to secure a large state grant to help with their paratransit needs:
The state grant will help the county schedule and coordinate rides for those with special needs, help more people in need of transportation assistance, and be a one-stop shop for those in need of information and/or referrals for transportation programs.

The new state grant funded position will also oversee work by county purchase of service agencies to help people with disabilities better access public transit and accompany seniors on bus routes until riders are comfortable with taking transit. They will also help them with trip planning and safety awareness so they’re better able to use public transportation more independently.
On the other hand, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, who wants to be governor, recently announced that he wants to slash transit routes and raise fares, as well as slash services to the disabled and elderly.

I think I'm starting to feel county executive envy. Why can't we have a good one too?

Congratulations To Las Vegas Dan

Dan, a frequent reader, and new blogger, is taking on a worthier goal.

He's getting married today.

There is no word yet if the ceremony will be done by an Elvis impersonator.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Macho Man Twit Off

Cory Liebmann is having too much fun at Eye On Wisconsin. He is holding a contest of sorts between the two powerhouse Republican gubernatorial candidates, Mark Neumann and Scott Walker.

The original contest was about their use of Twitter as a campaign strategy. Frankly, the both stink at it. Neumann usually only gives a "good morning" tweet and that's it. Walker will tell you about the sandwich he ate or something like "boy, the sun is hot today."

Cory then expanded his contest to make it more appealing to the gun-carrying, animal-killing, Chuck Norris-idolizing right wingers by making it into a Macho Man Twit Off.

Unfortunately for the candidates, they're not too good at this either. Walker scored a low 40% on the hetero scale. I wonder how low it would have gone if not for the Harley. Neumann didn't even qualify on the meter. I guess this means they just lost the macho man, red-blooded American conservative voters.

For a fun note, Walker's Point, the blog that introduced us to the Stockholm Pride meter, ran CogDissidence through and it came in at a whopping 80%.

But that does not surprise me. Everyone knows that kings are supposed to be tough.

Well, I Hope He's Taking Notes

Although I will admit that it is a little disconcerting . I wonder if that is a violation of the labor contract, to be followed around like that all day and all night.

Why Would Anyone Equate Conservatives With Terrorists?

Earlier this year, the federal government came out with document advising law enforcement agencies to keep an eye on the more fringe right wing groups for possible regression into a terrorist sect. This caused the predictable faux outrage and consternation among conservatives nationwide.

How dare the feds for insinuating these sort of things!

After all, who could take anything scary or inappropriate from national squawking head, Pat Buchanan telling Todd "First Dude" Palin to go out and murder the father of his grandchild:
BUCHANAN: “Well, first, with regard to Levi, I think First Dude up there in Alaska, Todd Palin, ought to take Levi down to the creek and hold his head underwater until the thrashing stops.
I mean, that's an innocent statement, right? Who could misconstrue that?

Or on a local level, there is Frank J. Tamel, writing at the Conservative Hispanic that came out with this warm and fuzzy peace-loving post.

Crazy like a fox, Sarah Palin is not the quitter that some people think she is. She bought her license and armed herself to the teeth. She walked out of the Alaska Governor’s mansion to go donkey hunting where the donkeys roam; on the plains of the blue states in the lower forty-eight.

By shedding the encumbrances of governorship, she has freed herself to bag a few trophies. Look out, you donkeys; Sarah Palin is your worst nightmare. She will track you down, expose you in your lair, and take you out.

No, Sarah Palin hasn’t quit. She has just begun the hunt.

Can't you just feel the acceptance and tolerance from that?

Just makes you feel at peace knowing that all of these people want to go around carrying guns, because the other people are the scary ones.

While I did write this rather facetiously and tongue firmly in cheek, it is undeniable that there are some real psychos out there, regardless of political persuasion. What will keep me awake is knowing that there are some right wing nutters out there, probably with guns, and wondering if any of them were the 80+ people that have been trying to Google my home address (per Google Analytics).

"He has had the right to bear arms since he was 18"

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal comes a story of one of those so-called responsible CCW people, who allowed his 12 year old autistic son access to his handgun:

According to the police report, the boy found the .40 caliber Glock handgun on the center console. The gun went off. Police said the boy sustained a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head and died early Tuesday.

Rena Kopystenski said her son is a doting father who has been “destroyed” by the loss of his 5-year-old son.

Alex Kopystenski drove his injured son to Spring Valley Hospital. The boy was then taken to University Medical Center, where he died.

The Glock used in the shooting was registered to Alex Kopystenski, 31, of Las Vegas.

Kopystenski was arrested and charged with felony child endangerment late Monday. He was released on bail Tuesday from the Clark County Detention Center.

In the arrest report, police said a family friend, David Jones, was in the backseat when the shooting happened.

Jones told police that Alex Kopystenski often kept his handgun out and unsecured while at home and usually carried a gun on his person.

Jones also told police that the Glock had been sitting on the GMC’s center console before the shooting.

The dead boy's grandmother uses the classic defense that most gun nuts use:

Rena Kopystenski said Alex, a disc jockey who goes by the name DJ Lexo, had a lucrative career performing at nightclubs on the Strip and around the country. He carried a gun to protect himself, she said.

“He has had the right to bear arms since he was 18,” she said. “It’s an unfortunate situation the way society is today. People in the public eye need to protect themselves so much.”

The questions she never answered, as she kept making excuses for her irresponsible son, who should have been charged with Reckless Homicide, was this: Who's going to protect us from them? and Who was protecting her grandson?

County's Proposed Cuts To Homeless Draws More Outrage

Find the story on Milwaukee County First's blog page. MCF is that fine group of individuals and organizations that are joining to make sure our elected officials keep putting Milwaukee County first. (Yes, shameless plug, but that's what you do when you're the Chair of the group.)

Not Quite The Only One

Scott Walker, in his weekly abuse of taxpayer dollars, campaigning through his newsletter:
While I may be the only elected official in the state advocating for a plan that would eliminate my job, I think we must think seriously about ways to better serve the people - and not ways for the people to serve the government.
I know that to be a falsehood. I can think of at least a score of politicians off the top of my head that would like to see Walker selling fries in a fast food restaurant than to have another elected position.

And since when does cutting off all services serve the people?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Blogging With Sheriff David Clarke

Sheriff David Clarke has his very own blog now.

It's nothing too exciting. He's only done nine posts in the last five months. The posts consists of either self-aggrandizing ones, or ones blaming the press for something, or blaming the ACLU for something.

Like I said, nothing too exciting.

But there is one thing worth noting. Let's see if anyone can pick up on what it is. Here's a hint: All nine posts have this one quality worth noting.

Is It Walker Or Is It Spam?

Great, a new dilemma for anyone trying to follow Walker on Twitter. He apparently has picked up a spam generator on his Twitter account:

Now compare that to one of Walker's regular tweets:

See what I mean? You can hardly tell them apart!

Another Successful Government Run Health Care System

I had already told you how Scott Walker ran a successful version of a government run health care system called GAMP.

Today, I was reminded of another one: SeniorCare.

I was reminded when I received a notice that Senator Russ Feingold is urging the federal government to OK its extension:
U.S. Senator Russ Feingold spoke with Peter Orszag today to urge quick approval of the waiver application to extend Wisconsin’s SeniorCare program for an additional two years. SeniorCare, the popular prescription drug program, is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2009. After the phone conversation, Feingold released the following statement:

“I thanked Director Orszag for his work and that of his office to review Wisconsin’s application for the SeniorCare waiver. I reiterated how successful and popular SeniorCare is, and how it would save the government money – something to the tune of $55 million over five years. I also stated how pleased I was during the presidential campaign last year that then-Senator Obama publicly recognized SeniorCare as a great program that deserves to continue. Director Orszag was receptive, and I will continue to work with Governor Doyle, and other Wisconsin officials to ensure this successful program continues.”

In 2007, after months of effort, Senators Feingold and Kohl and helped secure a two-year extension of SeniorCare.
It's nice to see a Senator do something good for the people instead of his or her pocket book.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Money For Nothing, Consultants and Plane Rides For Free

Scott Walker, like every other politician, was required to file a campaign financial report earlier this week. Much like his budgets and his policies, this campaign financial report seemed to be more than a bit off in some regards.

Cory Liebmann beat me to the punch on one of the oddities, namely that RJ Johnson, the big time consultant to Walker's campaign, doesn't appear to be getting paid, nor is their an in kind contribution listed for him.

Along the same line as the Johnson missing entries are the entries for Keith Gilkes, who is listed as the Champion Group, LLC, but is really Walker's campaign manager. According to Walker's report, Gilkes only was paid $11,000 for his work. I find it hard to believe that Walker would get someone with that much experience to work that cheaply.

Another big thing is an entry dated June 27, 2009, for a payment of $3,841.49 to Terry Kohler for "Candidate Expenses - Travel." My first thought was that it may have been for the day that he made his multiple stop trip around the state making his official kick-off to his campaign. But that didn't make much sense. First of all, Walker's official kick-off was a couple of months earlier. On top of that, a charter jet, at the very least, still costs over $1,000 per hour. Since Walker was on the go for at least 10 or 12 hours, the cost should have been at least three times what the payment was for.

The other idea that occurred to me was the timing of the payment. June 27th was just two days before Newt Gingrich's appearance at a Walker fund raiser in Milwaukee. Could the payment be for flying Gingrich into town? But if that was they case, why was the payment made out to Kohler?

A quick Google search led me to an article from 1995, which starts out with this:

Just before Newt Gingrich became speaker of the House, he made a pilgrimage to Sheboygan, Wis. Why? Because Terry Kohler asked him.

"Terry and Mary Kohler are such old friends and have been so vital to what we've been doing that when they called, I couldn't turn them down," Gingrich remarked after delivering a December dinner speech to the Sheboygan Economic Club. "They've done so much over the years to make it possible for us to win this majority."

If Gingrich is fighting a Republican revolution, Terry Kohler -- son and grandson of Wisconsin governors and heir to one of the state's biggest financial empires -- is supplying the ammunition. A former Air Force pilot who now flies his own planes, a former politician who now finances others, the 60-year-old Kohler is the biggest individual contributor to Gingrich and his conservative causes.

Well, well. Kohler and Gingrich are old time buddies, and Kohler definitely holds some sway with Gingrich. (Money always seems to have that affect on Republicans.) It seems to me that it would be a rational guess that Kohler asked Gingrich to come up here to help Walker raise some cash, and that Walker's campaign reimbursed Kohler for the cost of flying Gingrich here and back to wherever he came from.

But then that leaves a couple, three unanswered question. Who paid for Walker's jetting around the state in a day on the day Walker officially launched his campaign? And why isn't it listed on his campaign's financial report?

And if the $3,800 was for the campaign kick-off trip around the state, why was it so cheap, and why isn't there an in kind contribution listed?

OK, one other question: When will the local daily paper and radio station pick up on any of this? (That answer will come later.)

The Reviews Are In: Walker Failed

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have been keeping at the silly proposal from Walker to dismantle the county government, ignoring the fact that it would take major changes in state law which are very unlikely to happen.

Today, the went to a number of the county's municipal mayors to get their opinion of Walker's suggestion. I guess the paper was trying to give Walker's folly some credibility. Unfortunately for Walker, it had a much different result.

Let's first look at what some of the mayor's had to say in their quotes (all emphasis mine):
Oak Creek Mayor Dick Bolender said he is open to cities taking over maintenance of county roads, calling S. 13th St., a county road that runs through Oak Creek, "the worst road in the state of Wisconsin."


Greenfield Mayor Michael Neitzke said that if cities receive the funding now given to the county, they could do a better job at tasks such as maintaining county roads. He noted that 19 cents of every $1 in property taxes paid by Greenfield residents goes to the county.

"Quite frankly, I'm not sure there is a good return on our investment to taxpayers," Neitzke said. "It's apparent that something needs to be done that's dramatic, and the old business-as-usual model, it seems pretty clear it isn't going to work."


"If elected governor, would (Walker) support adding thousands of jobs to the state's payroll, because that is what would have to be done under his proposal," McCue said in an e-mail.

"Why blow up one form of government only to turn around and create another one, i.e. parks and transit? I do not support unelected boards like MATC and MMSD having the authority to levy taxes, and I fear that is what could happen under his proposal."


Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor, who worked for the county for 29 years in labor relations and human resources, didn't endorse Walker's plan but said changes must be made.

"The municipalities and the county and the state, we're going to have to do something to save the county parks and the county trunk roads; they're in dismal condition," said Taylor, who advocated for more cooperation and intergovernmental agreements.

The significant thing about the mayors' complaints is that these are things that Walker is directly responsible for. As I've stated before, it is the County Board that is responsible for determining and setting policy, and it is Walker's job to administer the policies set forth by the board.

Given that all of these mayors are complaining about the condition of the county roads that go through their municipality, it is evident that Walker has failed to ensure that the County's infrastructure is in good repair, even though that is one of his duties.

That's not exactly something you want as a bullet point on your resume, especially if you are running for governor. I can't imagine a campaign slogan of "I couldn't do my job as county executive, so you should make me the governor," is going to catch on any time soon.

I also still don't understand how anyone can think that breaking the county up will save money. While it is true that there are duplication of services, instead of having one regional provider, like Walker wants to do for transit and the parks, there would be 19 separate entities doing the same things. And for each task, there would be nineteen new departments to oversee and perform the duties. Given that the county assumed many of the roles it now performs because it is less expensive and more cohesive than nineteen different groups doing it, I can only see the need for higher taxes grow massively.

But that's not all of the problems Walker gave himself today.


While running between meetings this morning, I caught Walker on Vicki McKenna's show. They started out touting Walker's plan to break up the county and disperse all these services into the smaller communities.

But then they started talking about school systems and what Walker would do if he could ever get to be governor. Walker said that his plan would be to offer incentives to communities to consolidate their school districts into larger ones, so that they could save money.

Of course, both of them kept prattling on, never once noticing the disconnect. On one hand, says break up larger units of governing bodies into smaller ones to save money. In the next breath, he is saying smaller governing bodies should be merged into larger ones to save money.


The third problem that arose for Walker today was the fact that his administrative staff had to scramble to try to explain the ever-shrinking budget deficit.

Steven Kreklow, Walker's number cruncher, was forced to admit that according to his calculations, the projected deficit is now down to $3.8 million. Remember, just three months ago, he was telling us that it was $14.9 million.

After the article was originally posted, MJS reporter Steve Schultze went back and added some spin from another one of Walker's aides, Fran Mclaughlin, who made a lame attempt to make the deficit more serious than it really is.

But the most telling part of the story, as is the norm for MJS articles about Walker, comes at the very end (again, emphasis mine):

The more modest shortfall number issued Wednesday was helped primarily by lower-than-expected health care costs. A report from county Controller Scott Manske estimated a year-end surplus of $5 million in the county's fringe benefit budget. However, some county departments were projecting larger potential shortfalls than earlier this year.

With all the ways that Walker has lied about this year's projected deficit, it should make any rational person question his claims of a $90 million dollar deficit for next year.

I'm just thankful for the fact that the County Board was able to restore some level of sanity to the budget. If Walker had gotten his way last year, we would be much worse off than we are now.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sheriff Clarke Is Lovin' Them Activist Judges

In today's local daily paper are two different stories with one common theme. That theme is that Sheriff David Clarke is found to be breaking the law, but doesn't face any consequences for his misdeeds.

The first story tells how Milwaukee County taxpayers dodged a big bullet when the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that even though Clarke violated basic human rights by keeping new inmates in filthy and inhumane conditions, there would be no fines handed down.

The other story deals with a lawsuit filed by Deputy Michael Schuh, who claimed that Clarke was targeting him due to an opinion piece Schuh had written. The U.S. Appellate Court ruled that Clarke had indeed put Schuh on foot patrol as retaliation, but that this was not a violation of Schuh's First Amendment rights of free speech. The Court did give him a bit of a verbal rebuke though:

While siding with Clarke on the legal issues, the appeals panel took a slap at the sheriff's response to Schuh's criticism.

"In our view, Sheriff Clarke's response was a childish and potentially harmful reprisal to a two-sentence statement, and we do not condone his conduct," the court wrote.

There was another part of the article that all bloggers and pundits should pay close heed to (emphasis mine):

Schuh's statement published in the Star was personal in motivation and context and did not meet the standard for protected speech by a public employee, "as a citizen speaking on a matter of public concern," the court found.

Van Hollen Must Read Illusory Tenant

I know that this is a bit dated, but I've been busy.

Wisconsin State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is following Illusory Tenant's sage legal advice and will be appealing the ruling that would allow the three deer killing thugs off of the felony charges:

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced today that the Wisconsin Department of Justice will be seeking appellate review of two decisions recently entered in Waupaca County Circuit Court.

Robby and Rory Kuenzi were charged with multiple counts of felony animal mistreatment stemming from allegedly corralling and running down deer while riding snowmobiles in the town of Lind.

Waupaca County Circuit Court Judge Kirk and Judge Hoffman dismissed the animal mistreatment charges against the brothers, concluding that because the District Attorney’s Office had also charged the defendants with hunting violations, the statutes precluded prosecution for animal mistreatment.

Van Hollen stated, “We intend to pursue an appeal of the judges’ decisions because we believe the court erred in its interpretation of the relevant statutes.”

For all of Van Hollen's faults, it's good to see he recognizes a superior legal mind when he sees it.

In related news, State Representative Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson) is proposing a bill to make it illegal to harass, threaten or kill wild animals with the use of a motor vehicle or boat:

In a statement, Jorgensen said it was necessary to close a loophole for "thrill kill" offenders after a series of incidents last winter. A Waupaca County judge last month dismissed felony charges of cruelty to animals against a man who was accused of running over and killing deer with his snowmobile in January. Similar charges are pending against two other men in the same incident in which four deer were found dead along a snowmobile trail south of Waupaca, and a fifth had to be euthanized.

"We may not be able to rid Wisconsin of these horrific crimes, but we can, however, look to the future by giving prosecutors the tools and the courts the flexibility to bring these violators to justice," Jorgensen's statement said.

The crime would be punishable with a Class I felony, which carries a penalty of up to three and a half years of probation or prison, a $10,000 fine and a mental health assessment. Those who commit such crimes using snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, motorboats or personal watercraft could have their registrations for such vehicles suspended or permanently revoked.

The bill also creates a mandatory reporting requirement for those who hit animals with off-road vehicles, Jorgensen said.

Earlier: State Representative Kaufert Stands Up For Justice

How Would They Feel If It Was About Gay Marriage?

This is good news:

The Senate on Wednesday rejected letting people carry hidden guns in 48 states if they have a concealed weapon permit in any one of them, a rare victory for gun control advocates in a Democratic-controlled Congress that has been friendly to the gun lobby.

Opponents said it would force states with tough concealed weapon permit restrictions to let in gun carriers from states that give permits to convicted criminals, minors and people with no firearms training.

For the right wingers that keep touting the importance of state sovereignty, this also should be good news. If a state chooses to have stricter gun laws, that should be respected by those coming to visit. To say otherwise would only show their hypocrisy.

But for those that I have seen that are upset by this showing of honoring state rights, I would challenge them with this: How do you think you would feel if the same proposal was offered, but switching honoring gay marriage for carrying a gun?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stark Contrasts Regarding Help For The Homeless

The nation is facing a grave economic crisis. Unemployment is hovering around 10%, and is expected to get worse before it gets better. People are losing their homes at a record pace. People find themselves homeless almost overnight.

It is rather revealing on how our elected officials, and wannabe elected officials, are responding to this crisis.

Governor Jim Doyle, who is expected to run again, just announced today that a large amount of stimulus money will be given to private agencies to help the homeless:
Governor Jim Doyle today announced awards totaling $6,395,897 to 88 organizations across Wisconsin for emergency shelter, homeless prevention, transitional housing and supportive service programs. Wisconsin Department of Commerce Secretary Richard J. Leinenkugel presented the awards on behalf of the Governor at the Wisconsin Conference on Homelessness in Middleton.

“These funds will help local agencies provide direct services to homeless persons and also help prevent people from becoming homeless,” Governor Doyle said. “During these tough economic times, it is especially vital that we come together to help one another and make this state a great place to live for all.”
Compare this to Scott Walker's response to the homeless situation, in which he does his best Marie Antoinette impersonation:
The county's Health and Human Services budget request would eliminate $1 million for homeless shelters, $2.4 million for elderly and disabled programs, $721,000 from programs for delinquents and nearly $300,000 from a burial program for low-income families.
As Dan Cody eloquently and accurately points out, Walker's attitude to the poor and the homeless "isn't just wrong, it's immoral."

It also highlights Walker's lack of leadership and vision when he not only refused to apply for stimulus dollars, but actively tried to sabotage the County Board's efforts to get some of the funding.

Mark Neumann, who just formally announced his candidacy a few weeks ago, has been mum so far on the subject. (In fact, I haven't heard of Neumann doing much of anything but issuing his daily "Good morning" tweet.)

Mark Todd, the undercovered Republican candidate in the gubernatorial race, shows the most sense and intelligence of the three:

Appleton businessman Mark Todd, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, also thinks the state should be more concerned about the problem. Last week, Todd was on Madison’s “Sly in the Morning” show on WTDY-AM talking about how he grew concerned about the problem after hearing of the June death of Dwayne Benjamin Warren outside the Capitol. Todd has since struck up friendships with some homeless men in downtown Madison.

“For me to be a leader of all I need to be a servant of all…I can help be a voice for a people that are in pain there right outside the Capitol,” Todd said in an interview with the Journal Sentinel. “You don’t understand their problems until you get to know them.”

It is rather telling that the long shot Republican candidate is the only one worth the time paying any attention to. Perhaps that is just another reason why the Republicans have been on such a steep slide from power for the past several years.

Scott Walker: Surrender Monkey

Since he took office, Scott Walker has been trying to abdicate his duties as much as he possibly can.

It started when he first wanted to spin off the parks and the transit system into their own district authorities.

When the House of Correction proved beyond his limited management skills, he again abdicated his responsibilities and foisted it off on the Sheriff's Office.

Earlier this year, Walker admitted that he wasn't able to properly manage the Income Maintenance program and called for the state to take it over.

Apparently, Walker is now ready to come to terms with his own Appomattox:

He said the state could take over administration of public assistance programs, social services for seniors and people with disabilities, and the courts. Cities and villages could take over maintenance of county roads, he said.

New, specialized districts could be formed to run transit, the parks, and the zoo and local cultural institutions, Walker said. The airport could be operated independently or through a transportation district, he said.

I congratulate Walker on finally admitting that he cannot do the job, and that Doyle and the state government are better managers than he is. We can only hope he finds the courage to take the next step and step down from office.

But this does raise a couple of questions.

One, if he wasn't to reduce duplicate services to save money, why is Walker talking about abolishing county government? This would leave almost twenty different communities trying to provide the same services in each of their own towns and villages. And because they are each individually smaller, except for the City of Milwaukee, it will be almost impossible for these small towns to pay for the necessary equipment and/or training. If Walker was genuinely serious about saving money and reducing duplication, he would be advocating for the county to absorb all of the municipalities. Of course, this will probably never work.

Secondly, can you imagine what Walker would do as governor? Would he finally call it too difficult for him, give up and turn over the controls to the Feds and President Obama?

I can already hear the noise as the heads of several right wing bloggers, squawkers and pundits explode at the concept of Obama running Wisconsin.

Holloway's Proposal Not Dead Yet

Lee Holloway's proposal to seek state permission to change the county executive position to a county administrator position was defeated in committee today, by a 2-3 vote.

I have been informed that the matter will still be brought up to the full County Board's attention on Thursday.

Hang on to your possessions. Keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times.

And enjoy your ride.

Monday, July 20, 2009

MJS: Five Days Late And A Viewpoint Short

Last Tuesday, I wrote about County Board Chairman Lee Holloway's proposal to do away with the position of county executive. At the time, I stated that I disagreed with that position. I still feel the same way.

The local paper finally caught up to me over the weekend. To make matters worse, they ended up putting in a couple of soundbites from local right wing front groups, but miss the group that actually puts Milwaukee County First.

And yet people still call the paper liberal. Go figure.

Bragging Rights?

Scott Walker is making a big deal out of his latest campaign financial statement, stating he raised $1.1 million in campaign funds. But is it really that big of a deal?
Walker, a Republican hoping to unseat the Democratic incumbent, raised $1.1 million and had that same amount on hand, according to a report filed Monday. Doyle raised $903,586 but had more than $2 million in his war chest.
Walker's been actively campaigning for years, including his illegally corporate-financed campaign bike ride, and was only able to raise a couple of hundred thousand more than a guy who hasn't even announced whether he is going to even run.

And if that wasn't enough, he is still third in the raise in regards to the overall size of campaign war chests.

Not exactly signs of a top contender.

MCF: Milwaukee County's Transit Troubles

New post up at Milwaukee County First's website. It's about the transit crisis and how to fix it.

Let's hope the politicians are paying attention.

Dish TV To Dish Out Money

All I can say to this is an emphatic, "Good!"

Wisconsin and 45 other states have obtained a settlement for nearly $6 million with Dish Network LLC, resolving allegations of deceptive and unfair sales practices.

As part of the agreement, Dish Network will also pay restitution to consumers and modify its marketing practices, according to a news release from Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.


A multistate investigation led to allegations that the satellite TV provider and its third-party retailers engaged in a number of illegal practices, including violation of do-not-call rules, failing to disclose all terms and conditions of customer agreements, charging customer credit cards without proper authorization and failing to accept responsibility for third-party retailers and installers.
We subscribed to their service for the northern castle because we are too far away from Green Bay and Wausau to get a reliable signal with our old antenna, and we wanted to at least be able to get the local news.

This spring, we started having problems getting a signal from the satellite, and of course, the signal we weren't getting was for the local TV stations.

Over a period of over a week, ending with the Independence Day weekend, I had to call them at least a half a dozen times to complain about it. The first time they said that they couldn't get anyone out until Monday. I told them that we weren't going to be there as we had to come back to Milwaukee. They said that I could call and make an appointment for when we knew we would be up there again.

I called Tuesday and said we would be there Friday and they said that they couldn't schedule something that far ahead and that I would have to call the day before, but that I couldn't call until I was up there because we had to go through some reset procedures first (even though we had just done those procedures the previous weekend.

The runaround continued. Each time I called, I got a different representative that told me different things. It was a line of sight issue. It was equipment problems. Back to the line of sight. They don't take care of line of sight problems. They do take care of line of sight issues. It was covered by our protection plan. It wasn't covered. It was partially covered. So on and so forth.

Finally, when the last person I spoke to said that they could have sent someone yet another thing, I finally snapped and said that I was done with them, and that when my contract expired, I would be dropping their box off at the local dealership.

Now I find out if they just agreed to pay up for their bad business practices. I don't know if I'll get any money from it, but if I do, I think I'll use it to invest in a long range antenna so I don't have to go through this noise anymore.

The saddest part is when we were up there this past weekend, not only did we still have problems with getting the local channels, but the other channels were all wall to wall SpongeBob SquarePants shows.

At least I caught up on some sleep.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Not A Smart Move

An off-duty HOC officer gets robbed at gunpoint and the thief takes his badge and ID card. The article says he was robbed as he was leaving a tavern.

I won't go into the obvious security threats, but I do have to ask a question: Why was the guard carrying his badge and ID in a bar? It's not like he was a cop or anything, so there is no law enforcement issues to contend with.

Friday, July 17, 2009

MCF On The Radio

Check out as kr and I talk about Milwaukee County First on the radio. We will be on Friday morning on WMCS 1290 AM with Joel McNally and Cassandra Cassandra.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Drinking Liberally: Milwaukee County First Edition

From the website for Milwaukee County First:

Milwaukee County First is a grassroots network of organizations and individuals from all walks of life, united to amplify their voices in the cause of stopping the decline of Milwaukee County, restoring its assets and services to their former first class status, and keeping Milwaukee County a place where people will want to work, to play, and to live.

Milwaukee County is a shadow of what it once was. Its parks, once a necklace of jewels, are now unkempt and overgrown. Its transit system, once a yardstick for the nation, is now fighting for its very survival. The social services and safety net that Milwaukee County once provided has been scaled down so much that the State of Wisconsin had to intervene to protect the most vulnerable of the county’s citizens. Its infrastructure is crumbling and years behind in necessary repairs.

The causes of this decline in Milwaukee County’s status are many, from the dire economic times we are in, to local leaders, past and present, who have put their self-interests before those of the people they serve. It is time, if not beyond time, for civic leaders to once again put the interests of Milwaukee County first. It is time to make Milwaukee County a first-class economic and social region for the State of Wisconsin and the entire Midwest. This is why residents from throughout Milwaukee County have come together to form Milwaukee County First.

Milwaukee County First is a registered 501(c)4 non-profit organization based in Milwaukee County.

Come and meet us Wednesday night, July 15, at Drinking Liberally. We will be at the Sugar Maple, located at 411 E. Lincoln Ave. tonight at 7 p.m.

Learn how you can help us help Milwaukee County, and let us know what issues you would like to see addressed.

See you there!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Should They Do Away With The Milwaukee County Executive Position?

Anyone that has been paying the least attention to Milwaukee County politics, or has been at least reading this humble blog, knows that the last County Executive as well as the current one, had been worse than disasters to the well-being of Milwaukee County and its citizens.

Tom Ament, for the majority of his career, was a big fish in a little pond at the courthouse, but in the public eye, he was usually noticed as much as your average potted plant. Then he and his crew came up with the pension scandal that got everyone's attention. It rightfully cost him his job, but unfortunately took a lot of good people down with him.

The pension scandal was bad in a multitude of ways. The most obvious was the financial burden it put on the county. But many people think that another consequence from the scandal was just as bad, if not even worse. Ament's scandal opened the door for Scott Walker to come in with the support of the misnamed Citizens for Responsible Government.

Since Walker won the recall election in 2002, he had been planning his perpetual run for governor, using Milwaukee County as nothing more than a stepping stone for his higher aspirations. Walker has regularly waged a war against the county's most vulnerable populations, the poor, the elderly, the disabled adults and the inner city in the hopes of gaining leverage for his campaign run.

During the course of his tenure, Walker has manipulated the system to ruin the transit system, the parks system, economic support programs and social support systems like mental health services.

Recently, he has gone to the point of abusing the powers of his office and stepping outside of his authority to do things like sabotage the county's chances to get federal stimulus money, raise taxes and/or create new taxes (even on toddlers), and sabotage and stall contract negotiations with the unions. He has done all of this just to look tough and to keep up his false portrayal as being a fiscal conservative.

During all of this, the Ament scandal and Walker's ineptitude, the County Board has continuously taken the brunt of the voter's anger. Several Supervisors lost their jobs due to the scandal, even though their worst sin was believing the stuff coming from the county executive's office. Now, every time one of Walker's grand schemes falls apart, as they ultimately do, they are the ones that get the angry phone calls. (Part of that might be because the County Board and their staff aren't rude to their callers, like the County Executive's staffers are.)

All of this takes a toll on people, which is why I found it shocking, but not surprising, that some supervisors are asking for the state to allow the county executive's position be abolished and replaced by a county administrator. In an upcoming session of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee is this item:
A resolution by Supervisors Holloway, Mayo, Broderick and Johnson, seeking legislation to amend Wisconsin Statutes to remove the requirement to elect a county executive in counties with a population of 500,000 or more and allow the appointment of a county administrator.
I can fully appreciate and empathize with their frustrations. They have to go in every day, day in and day out, and try to repair the damages cause by Ament and Walker. And the thanks that they receive is the local paper or the local radio squawkers railing against them and blaming them for what they are not responsible for. It's never fun to have to go and clean up other people's messes, but then to get abraded for someone else's misdeeds isn't fair.

But I don't believe that this is the proper course to take. Ament is gone from politics, no matter what he might think. Walker won't be in that office forever either.

Our system of government is based on checks and balances. While a smaller community might be able to get away without having that system, even the smallest towns still have a mayor to balance out the common council. And no one would ever imagine having a state without a governor to counter the state legislature. Or the federal government without the President to balance out the Congress. Just as the judicial branch is key, so is the executive branch.

Removing the voters' right to name their own executive in favor for an administrator that would be beholden to the County Board is not the solution.

One would think that after the struggle the County Board went through the last few years to just get the sales tax referendum on the ballot, that they would have a strong appreciation for the citizens to be able to exercise their right to have their voices heard. I think that it would be a grave mistake to take away that right now.

If they do not like what Walker is doing, and a growing number of people don't, then take actions to ensure that Walker, or whoever might hold that seat someday in the future, isn't able to just step over the lines and exceed their authority. Clearly define the role and powers of the county executive. And include steps that would allow the Board to take action if the County Executive were to practice such malfeasance again, such as an impeachment hearing.

Just don't take away our rights to vote for the person we want in that office. The County Executive should work with the County Board, but he or she should be answerable to the people as well.

Conservatives Want To Keep Your Taxes High

You cannot go a day without hearing some right wing politician, some right wing blogger, and/or some right wing radio squawker bombarding you with the same old, same old line of "Wisconsin is not business friendly because the taxes are so high."

They may be correct, but they are also continuously opposing any chances for our taxes to go down.

One of the biggest reasons taxes are so high in this country, according to some, it due to the benefits, like health care, that go to public employees. Almost every year, health care insurance rates go up many times the rate of inflation. Not only does this mean taxes go up and/or services get cut, but it also puts a real crimp in small businesses directly.

Small businesses often don't even offer health care insurance because it is so costly. And if they do, the premiums make it unaffordable for the employee.

Small Business Majority did an independent study and recently came out with the report. The results(pdf) were interesting and flew in the face of the standard right wing talking points:
Wisconsin’s small business owners overwhelmingly indicate that affordability is the barrier to providing health insurance. Where they do offer coverage, cost creates a significant struggle to continue to afford it, yet they feel a responsibility to provide coverage. They view lack of access to high-quality, affordable health insurance as a significant barrier to entrepreneurship; see reform as necessary and important to getting the economy back on track; and see themselves as part of the solution, working together with the federal government, insurers and providers.
• The number one concern for Wisconsin small businesses in healthcare reform is controlling costs, followed by having insurance that covers everybody and ensuring at least high-quality standard benefits.
• 85% of small businesses want to eliminate preexisting condition rules, and 75% see these rules as a barrier to starting a business.
• 84% of small businesses not offering health insurance say they can’t afford to, while 70% of those who do offer it say they’re really struggling to do so.
• 84% of small businesses support establishing a health insurance pool to create a marketplace where small businesses and individuals can choose their coverage. Only 11% oppose this proposal.
• 75% prefer having the choice of a private or public health insurance plan, with 14% preferring private only and 6% preferring only a public option.
• 72% say healthcare reform is important for getting the economy back on track.
• 67% say it’s important for individuals, employers, insurers, the government and healthcare providers to share the responsibility for making healthcare more affordable.
• 55% say their company has a responsibility to provide health coverage for its employees.
• 53% believe businesses that don’t offer health insurance should be required to pay something to cover their employees, although 32% say no contribution should be required. Of those who agree that employers should contribute, more than half believe it should be more than 5% of payroll.
Wisconsin’s small business owners are concerned about the cost of health coverage. They believe healthcare reform is necessary and are willing to participate as part of the solution. Access to affordable health insurance is currently a problem for most of them. A majority believe that in order to make healthcare more affordable, it is important to share the responsibility for financing among government, individuals, insurers, providers and employers. Small business owners support a variety of reform approaches that involve government action. These include eliminating preexisting health status in the provision of insurance and creating a large insurance exchange.
All in all, these are intuitively sensible findings. So if the Republicans are always claiming to be pro-business and anti-taxes, why do they continuously and religiously try to keep businesses at a disadvantage and keep all of our taxes up?

Keith Schmitz has more at folkbum's.

Milwaukee County Recognized For Outreach To Disadvantaged Business Enterprises

From the desk of County Board Chairman Lee Holloway:
Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway is congratulating the Director of Milwaukee County’s Office of Community Business Development Partners (CDBP) for receiving the 2009 FAA Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Advocate and Partner Award. The award was presented at the 25th Annual Airport Business Diversity Conference in Baltimore last month. The CBDP Office reports directly to the County Board of Supervisors.

Freida Webb, Director of the CBDP Office, accepted the award on behalf of Milwaukee County and General Mitchell International Airport (GMIA). The award recognizes excellence in meeting the letter, spirit and intent of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program in the past year. In particular, GMIA has consistently exceeded its DBE goal from 2001 to 2008. This outstanding history is largely attributed to careful attention to unbundling of large contracts to allow smaller DBE firms to bid as prime contractors. Milwaukee County has conducted extensive outreach to ensure inclusion of minority, women’s and contractor groups; professional consulting firms; and community organizations. Last year, GMIA achieved over 37% DBE participation, exceeding its goal by more than 12%.

“I commend Freida Webb and the entire team at the County Board’s Office of Community Business Development Partners,” Board Chairman Lee Holloway said. “This recognition is well-deserved. I appreciate all of Milwaukee County’s efforts to encourage disadvantaged businesses to participate in County contracting opportunities.”

A significant portion of this DBE achievement reflects race-neutral participation that was achieved beyond the DBE contract goals. In addition, GMIA’s race-neutral efforts have included proactive communication of opportunities to all eligible DBEs in Wisconsin who could perform the work elements required; active participation in networking events throughout Wisconsin and personal leadership within Milwaukee County to certify small, disadvantaged businesses.
That's got to be tough work, especially considering the way Scott Walker keeps chasing businesses away.

Let My Pupae Go!

Over the weekend, I told you about the beautiful gift that the Ladies of the Monarchs had given me. Overnight, Friday night, the first Monarch butterfly had emerged and left us. (I later found out that the first one was female.)

Last night, the second pupae started to get ready to emerge. I stayed up too late in hopes of seeing it emerge. I finally gave up and went to bed, resigned to missing. Much to our surprise, the butterfly was still encased in his chrysalis this morning. Like a nervous father-to-be, I kept pacing around waiting for it to happen. Then it started to get later in the morning and I had to get ready to go to work.

I kept checking in on the pupae, but when I was in the other room, it popped out. I came back and found it hanging from the branch, the moisture practically visible on its wings. Knowing better, I did not touch it, as not to harm the fragile wings of the butterfly, but just watched it with a silly grin on my face.

I only had a few more minutes before I had to leave, so I transported the port and the newly emerged butterfly outside where it could sun itself and where it could be free to fly when it was ready.

I went back in and finished throwing my lunch together and, on a spur, grabbed the camera on my way out. Unfortunately, the little guy (it was a male) was rather camera shy and did not want to cooperate with my efforts to take its picture. This was the only one where it wasn't facing me, with wings closed, making it almost invisible.

Now, my wife and I are going through empty nest syndrome. We never realized how excited we were to see this small miracle of nature until it was gone.

She now wants me to go back to the Ladies of the Butterflies to see if they would allow us this boon again. I'm just happy to share in it this little bit.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Is WIN About To Lose?

The ironically and misappropriately named Wisconsin Interests Now is the right wing version of ACORN, and has teamed up with equally ironically and misappropriately named Citizens for Responsible Government to launch a second recall effort against Governor Jim Doyle.

This foolishness has at best been met with a tepid response, if not spoken against by some leading conservative bloggers.

It appears that WIN/CRG is about to self-implode, which will only boost Governor Doyle's standings, and hurt Scott Walker's, given his close ties to CRG.

Zach has the details on their pending implosion.

How Tweet It Is

Well, it is yet to be seen if it is sweet or not, but for those that might care, I am now on Twitter.

(Curse you that are responsible for this!)

You can find me here.

Milwaukee County, Scott Walker And Government Run Health Care

Scott Walker gives a rather vague blurb on his campaign website about his views on health care:
We must make quality, affordable healthcare available to hardworking families, through market based solutions like competition, transparency, and tax incentives, not Canadian style programs that put bureaucrats in charge of your health care decisions. You should be able to choose your doctor, not have government make that decision for you.
Government’s role should be to provide a system of checks and balances and a safety net for those who need it, while encouraging competition and transparency to make the system less complicated and more manageable for consumers.
We must also ensure that there is one standard of care for everyone - regardless of age, income level, or location - and that people have the option of taking their healthcare plan with them when they change jobs or move.
I am more than a bit surprised and perplexed by his stance, especially his comment about "Canadian style programs that put bureaucrats in charge of your health care decisions." You see, for seven years, Scott Walker ran a Canadian style program that put bureaucrats in charge of a person's health care decisions.

The program was called the General Assistance Medical Program or GAMP for short. The best description I've found of GAMP, and the benefits it gave to its consumers and to the taxpayers, comes from The Commonwealth Fund (emphasis mine):
Wisconsin's General Assistance Medical Program (GAMP) provides health care coverage to indigent Milwaukee County residents who are not eligible for other forms of public coverage (such as Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program) and are not enrolled in private coverage. The county redesigned the GAMP program into a community-based primary care model in the late 1990s to achieve two interrelated goals: to provide increased primary care services, and to do so via community-based clinics. The new design was intended to improve effectiveness and efficiency of care. Prior to this, indigent patients relied on the emergency room of the county hospital, which created access barriers for enrollees and cost inefficiencies for the county. Under the redesigned model, GAMP enrollees select a participating clinic as their primary care provider, which is then responsible for providing and coordinating services. The clinic coordinates specialty care for the enrollee by working with specialists and hospitals that participate in the GAMP network. The program covered a total of 24,000 individuals in calendar year 2003, with some 10,000 to 12,000 individuals enrolled at any given time. All in all, GAMP estimated that it saved $4.2 million in 2000 (in comparison to the projected costs had the previous system remained in place). Administrators believe that inpatient and outpatient costs have been controlled largely through a Utilization Management program that ensures delivery of care in the appropriate settings and using appropriate resources.
In other words, the County designed and ran a health care system that limited people's choices by having to go through a community clinic first, and only if it was covered in the network. Yet, instead of leaving people without insurance and forcing them to go to hospital ERs, it saved $4.2 million. That's a big chunk of change for a relatively small amount of people.

Other descriptions of the program include the one from Milwaukee County itself and a report(pdf) from the state after the program just started. The County page calls the program as "nationally recognized." The state's report summarized the program with this sentence:
Inpatient hospital and specialty services constitute the majority of the GAMP budget
although, the program has successfully used primary care services provided in community based clinics and selective utilization management techniques to control and reduce inpatient and outpatient hospital costs over the last two years.
The only reason GAMP ended was because Governor Jim Doyle was able to expand BadgerCare to cover these individuals, taking the load of the county.

I wonder what it will do to Walker's base support when they find out he really is a socialist and ran a socialist health care program for most of his term as county executive.