Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Let's Be Careful Out There

I will be going traveling today, and then starting a long weekend, so obviously, blogging will be light, if at all.

If you are going out tonight to celebrate the New Year, don't drink and drive. If you think you might be drinking, take advantage of the bus system.

Two Fine Candidates

My good friend, ZachWisniewski, is the author of Blogging Blue and my comrade in blogs over at Whallah! where we counter the lies and hypocrisies of the local right wing media. I am pleased to see that he is running for a seat on the South Milwaukee School Board.

Zach has a strong sense of economics and fiscal constraint, which is tempered with his passion for children and having a strong community. You can learn more about Zach at his campaign website.

Another blogger, Janet Evans, the author of the CommunityNow blog In The Race and of Righty Blog, has also announced that she is running for a seat on the Franklin School Board.

Even though Janet is a conservative, I still feel that she is a strong candidate. If you peruse her community-based site, you will see she has been a regular follower of the school board meetings and has a keen interest in Franklin.

Our mutual friend, Greg Kowalski, had the honor and privilege of being the one to make the announcement of Janet's candidacy. He told her story quite eloquently, and it displays why Janet would make a great candidate:

Since Janet’s papers had already been submitted, and she already attends most School Board meetings, she didn’t really have any burning questions for Dave Szychlinski or Dr. Steve Patz, who were running the session. Most of the questions presented were concerns from one attendee regarding time commitment - - how many emails and phone calls does a Board Member receive, how long meetings last, and how long does it take to learn the ropes, so to speak. She quoted Mr. Szychlinski as saying that being a School Board member was “a fun job” and believes he glossed over the responsibilities.

Janet said that after spending the past year attending meetings and following this School Board before and after the last election, if she had been telling the group “What Does It Take To Be A Board Member?” she would have said, "If you run for this position, you had better be committed to representing every student…and every taxpayer. You had better plan on listening and communicating. You had better plan on being committed to the job, and you had better plan on thinking carefully about everything that comes before you. Because in the end, you want the students to achieve and succeed, and it’s the citizens who will pay for it, and it’s you who will be held accountable, especially if you fail. This is a serious job."

I believe that both Zach and Janet, with their knowledge and their compassion, would both make excellent choices for the respective communities, and I give them my most heartfelt endorsements.

I have reason to believe that there will also be at least a third blogger announcing in the near future, but I am not at liberty to speak more of it at this time.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

When The Music Stopped...

I know he is on his way out, thank God, finally, at last, but this is just too funny to pass up:

I can't stop laughing at the look on his face. It looks like he just soiled himself.

Conservatives Agendas Are Pro-Crime?

The two absolute most favorite talking points from any conservative candidate, no matter what the office may be, are being tough on crime and cutting taxes. However, those two agendas are at an apparent conflict with each other.

Whenever a conservative politician decides what programs get cut when they reduce spending to pay for their tax cuts, their first choice, without fail, are social programs. Especially those that are meant for the poor, kids, or poor kids.

Conservative radio squawkers and their echo chamber blogging buddies follow that meme. They ridicule midnight basketball. They complain about MPS spending money on things like iPods, in an effort to get kids to school. They call these type of programs "feel good" wastes of tax dollars, that could be put to greater use, like building unneeded and unwanted freeways and shopping centers.

But now a new report on homicide rates show that this is not the case. The report shows that the rate of homicides among black teens and young adults is jumping at an alarming rate. The report goes on to examine why this is:

"In Milwaukee, you have a fairly substantial black underclass," [James Alan] Fox (coauthor of the report) said. "Milwaukee and other cities . . . like Baltimore and Houston are feeling the effects of a reduction in support programs for youth and also a reduction in some of the support for police from Washington."

The reallocation of federal resources toward combating terrorism after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has meant less money for fighting street crime, Fox said.

"The shift over to homeland security is leaving hometown security wanting in more high-crime neighborhoods," he said. "While we're protecting our economic centers and transportation hubs, we shouldn't be ignoring high-crime areas where gangs are active and at-risk youth are seduced by what gangs can offer them: the thrills, the status, the opportunity for advancement."

Even Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn agrees:

"Crime reduction isn't just smart tactics," Flynn said. "Crime reduction requires a stable, visible police presence, and it requires investments in young people.

"We had an effect this year, and we feel good about it, but we're not going to have a long-term effect on the crime rate if there are no options for young people."

Flynn was praised by conservatives when he was hired for his tough on crime attitude and felt that he would do a lot to help clean up crime in Milwaukee. How much do you want to bet that they will not hesitate to through him under the bus for that comment?

It really shouldn't be necessary to point this out, but I will. These programs that are aimed at the teens and young adults, with the goal of keeping them in school and to give them alternatives than running the streets and joining gangs, are a lot cheaper than incarcerating the same people for years or decades after they kills someone.

Mmmm. Saving money and preventing crime via social programs. That sounds good to me. Too bad that doesn't fit into the conservatives' fear and smear tactics, eh?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Minneapolis, Wisconsin

JSOnline has a fluffy piece about another bureaucratic flub, in which the state's new website for campaign finance information has the Capitol building superimposed on the skyline of Minneapolis.

But it turns out to be much, much more of an outrage. From Dan Cody:
For all the recent negative publicity that MPS has received because they SPENT $20,000 ON IPODS!! you’d think a million dollars for a web site with slightly more functionality than my weblog would raise a few eyebrows. Maybe the media couldn’t think of a catchy enough headline for that story. Who knows.

Secondly, if we’re going to be spending that kind of money on a information portal to serve the people of Wisconsin, why the heck isn’t the contract going to one of the many many qualified companies here in Wisconsin to do the work? Off the top of my head I can name at least five companies here in Milwaukee alone who could do the work faster, better and you better believe it: cheaper.

Instead, we’re paying some obscure company from Connecticut a million dollars to develop a mediocre web site that they’re apparently so dedicated to they don’t even bother to use the right stock images for something as simple as the header graphic. Hardly the kind of behavior that instills confidence in the final product or justifies the mammoth price tag, isn’t it?

Read the rest here. It is the height of being cognitive and dissedent, and explains why he has a gagillion readers, and I have 6.4.

The Year In Review

I wasn't originally going to do one of these posts. That was until I found this:

Tip of the Crown to Ol' Broad.

The Paws That Refreshes

Did I ever mention that I'm a sucker for beagles?

And if the snow ever gets you down, remember, there are some who really, really enjoy it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Scott Walker Ruined My Christmas

For the one or two of you out there that aren't already aware of it, my name is Chris Liebenthal. I am a social worker for Milwaukee County, working with disabled adults. For the moment, anyway. And no, I am not eligible for the pension enhancers or life long health care benefits. Those were ended before I was hired by the County.

I have repeated argued against Scott Walker's policies and budget proposals, not because of my job, but because I have often thought they were short-sighted and felt that they would often end up in disastrous results. Unfortunately, I have always been proven correct.

One of the most recent subjects that I have been critical of was Walker's willful failure to fully staff the public assistance call center, like I did here, here and here. The call center had been fully funded to have a staffing of 25 workers, yet Walker has refused to fill those positions. In fact, they are usually running at about one quarter to one third of full capability.

Walker's argument was to save money by not paying those "expensive" workers. Yet, even though Walker has willfully failed to fill 717 positions countywide, he still had a deficit in the millions of dollars. He has yet to explain where all that money went.

Furthermore, there is now a federal lawsuit against the County for failure to provide necessary services to Milwaukee's most needy. On top of that, the State of Wisconsin has refused to give a multimillion dollar contract for job training programming to Milwaukee County due to its inability to handle the call center or the food share program.

Now, you can imagine my dismay on Christmas morning, as I anticipated family and friends coming over for a dinner that I was going to prepare, to bring in the morning paper and seeing, on the front page, an article reporting that the State is now considering taking away money that would directly affect my job:

Milwaukee County officials are pleading with the state not to trim major contracts for programs that help the poor, elderly and disabled.

State leaders say bungling by the county in running its public assistance call center and food share program put them on alert and led to a denial of a related $2.4 million job training grant. The state also is considering shifting at least part of the contract for operating an expanded Family Care program to a private vendor. The program provides community-based services to seniors and people with disabilities.

My heart just dropped. As I read, it got worse (emphasis mine):

The ongoing struggle by the county on how to improve service at the call center was a key area of concern, he said. Short staffing at the center for more than a year has led to thousands of unanswered calls from poor residents on applying for or renewing food and child care aid.

A federal lawsuit against the state and the county claims that deserving clients have been unfairly denied benefits, in part due to the call center problems. County Executive Scott Walker has pushed for outsourcing the operation as a way to hire more help, but the County Board has resisted that move.

"This is something we should be able to do and do well," Holloway said. He's concerned the state might take over the programs, the board chairman said.

The state's main goal has been to prod the county to run its food stamp and other aid programs better, said Seth Bofelli, a spokesman for the state Department of Health Services.

"Our top priority is to make sure the problems with the call center and high error rates (on food stamps) are addressed," Bofelli said. The state's denial of the training grant over those issues was "unprecedented," he said.

Walker's decision this month to add more county staff to the call center after his efforts to privatize the operation stalled was a positive step, but long overdue, Bofelli said. However, the county "just has not been able to show sustained improvement," he said.

In other words, I just found out, on Christmas morning, that my job was in jeopardy due to Walker's short-sightedness and incompetence. The unions warned him that he was making a mistake. The County Board warned him of this as well. But he dismissed both in his arrogance and his obsession with running for governor. All he could think of is what would make him look good to the voters in his perpetual run for governor.

Why is it only the County Board and the unions that are lobbying the state to leave this contract with the County. Where is Walker? Why isn't he, you know, actually showing some leadership by advocating once for his own County? Instead, we get talk about "his preference":

Unlike Walker's push for privatization in other areas, the county executive is adamant about his preference to run Family Care with county workers.

"We are very good at it," he said. "There really isn't any need" to bring in private firms to run the program, Walker said.

Yeah, well, there wasn't any need for the other jobs that he privatized either, but he did it anyway. Now, the County is risking losing hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue due to his foolishness.

I have to agree with Board Chairman Lee Holloway on this:

Holloway also said he's concerned that Walker's political ambitions could harm the county's ability to get or keep state contracts. Walker ran as a Republican for governor in 2005 but dropped out. He's widely expected to make another run for the job Democrat Doyle has held since 2003.

Walker said he doubted that would be a problem. He said the bigger concern will be how the county fares in the upcoming state budget. A projected $5.4 billion deficit could lead to painful cuts passed along to counties, Walker said.

If Walker is worried about possible cuts in funding, why is he always giving them all the excuses they could possibly need to cut funding?

If Walker worked in the private sector, he would have been shown the door a long time ago. He has continuously cut services and the quality of services that remain, to the point of costing more in lawsuits and penalties than he saved in the first place. He continually shows the people that pays his company that they can't trust him with his responsibilities. Yet he does this time after time after time, expecting different results. Isn't that the definition of insanity?

I know that Walker hasn't held a real job in his life, so he might not be aware of the importance of a resume. Things like finishing school, even if you had your butt handed to you in a school election, by a write-in candidate nonetheless, is a sign of character. Dropping out isn't. Doing well in your previous jobs is also very important.

Perhaps someone should advise Walker about that. Maybe, instead of worrying about running for higher office, he should worry about doing the job he has now. That would be a pleasant change fo pace from him and a good way to start the New Year. And if he cannot handle the job, which is becoming painfully apparent to be the case, then it is time we show him the door, while we still have a County to salvage.

MJS Raises Rates, Lowers Service

On the front page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, there is a small blurb at the bottom of the front page. The blurb is from Sheila Davidson, Vice President of Operations. It reads:
Dear Readers:

For the past 10 years, we have been able to hold steady the cost of daily and Sunday Journal Sentinel editions sold at retail outlets and vending machines. However, rapidly escalating costs - primarily of newsprint - requires us now to raise our prices by a modest 25 cents.

Beginning next Sunday, the price of the Sunday Journal Sentinel sod at retail locations and vending machines will increase from $1.75 to $2. Beginning Monday, the cost of the daily Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sold at retail location and vending machines will go from 50 cents to 75 cents. The price change does not affect home delivery subscription rates.

We thank you for understanding, and your continued readership of the metro area's best resource for in-depth news and information.

Sheila Davidson
VP Operations
So, after they lay off a great deal of their staff members, diminish the size of the paper, combining sections, and providing less news, they still are going to raise their rates. I would like them to tell us how much the newsprint went up, that would justify paying more for less product.

Anyone who buys papers outside of the metropolitan area knows that those costs are much, much higher. Up to a year ago, a weekday edition of the MJS cost a dollar. I stopped buying it when it went to a $1.25. Do they think I will be more willing to buy it now that it has gone up again?

And to make it all the more preposterous, I did not get a complete paper this morning. I've tried to call from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. I went to their website to try to address the issue this way, but guess what, I'm blocked. I've tried to work around it, and they said that they would give me a new password in an email, but that was 45 minutes ago, and no email.

As a paying customer, I expect that this issue be addressed, I get credited for the incomplete paper, and an apology.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Second Amendment Applies To This How?

To protect your right to watch a movie in peace?
A man enraged by a noisy family sitting near him in a movie theater on Christmas night shot the father of the family in the arm, police said.

James Joseph Cialella, 29, of Philadelphia, told the man's family to be quiet, then threw popcorn at the man's son, police said. The victim told police that Cialella was walking toward his family when he stood up and was shot.

Detectives called to the United Artists Riverview Stadium theater in South Philadelphia found Cialella carrying the weapon, a .380-caliber handgun, in his waistband, police said.

Cialella faces six charges that include attempted murder and aggravated assault. He remained in custody Saturday. Police said bail had been set, but they did not know the amount.

Lt. Frank Vanore called the incident "scary that it gets to that level of violence from being too noisy during a movie."

Now, if only everyone had a gun, then we could have had some real bloodshed!

An Open Letter To Brett Favre

Dear Mr. Favre,

I have watched you from the beginning of your career with the Green Bay Packers.

I saw you throw your first professional pass and catch it yourself.

I've been to many games at Lambeau Field, especially the year that you led the Pack to the Super Bowl victory. I was at a preseason game, getting sunburned. I was at two games during the regular season, and I followed you and the Pack to Tampa Bay, where Packer fans actually outnumbered Buc fans, and you clinched the division championship in the first week of December.

I attended the NFC Championship game at Lambeau, when you led the Pack to a victory over the Carolina Panthers. It was so cold that day that while tailgating before the game, the beers froze the moment you opened them and the Bloody Marys were Slushy Marys. I remember being in the stands, and while we were waiting for them to give you and your teammates the Halas Trophy, seeing an old man crying. When I asked him why, he said that you and your teammates brought back the memories of Lombardi and his Packers, who he also saw lead the country as football champions.

I remember watching that Super Bowl with friends, and oh, how we cheered when you and Reggie did victory laps around the stadium, holding the Lombardi Trophy that you were bringing home after thirty years of its absence in Title Town.

I remember other great games and plays. I was there when you through that miraculous toss to Antonio Freeman on Monday night football, in the rain, in overtime, against the Vikings. How it bounced off Free's back and into his hands for the game winning TD.

I still get choked up when I think of another Monday night game, the day after your father passed. How, instead of giving in to your grief, you decided to dedicate your play to him, and had the best game of your storied career.

I also remember the low times. When you admitted to your addiction to pain killers, and only got help when Deanna threatened to leave you. When you were worried about your mother's home after Katrina. Deanna's fight with cancer.

Mr. Favre, you gave many people, not just Packer fans, but people all over the country and even from around the world, a chance to share your life with you. You were human and open, and people felt that they could relate to you.

You let us into your life. You didn't hold back, whether it was on the field during game time, or off the field, raising money for a charity.

You are indeed a very lucky man, Mr. Favre. You were given the chance many young men only dream of. You played in the NFL. Not only did you play, but you excelled. You broke almost every record there was to break, and many of them will stand for a long, long time. You also have a beautiful, caring wife, and two lovely daughters. You've made enough money to last your life time, your daughter's lifetimes, and for their children and their children's children.

Tomorrow, you will be playing the last game in the regular season with your new team, the New York Jets. While it pained me to see you in the wrong shade of green, it was still enjoyable to watch you play.

But Brett, I take no pleasure in what I am about to say, but unless by some stroke of luck, your season will probably end tomorrow. If it doesn't, it would mean a lot of luck is on your side, and I hope you take it all the way. But odds are, it will end tomorrow.

When the season ends, whether it is tomorrow, or in the playoffs, or even after the Super Bowl, please, let your career end with it. You have said yourself that your arm is bothering you. And to be quite frank, it is showing in your play. You also don't seem to have the same zeal for the game that you once had.

You have nothing left to prove to anyone. As I said before, you have done what many men can only dream of. And like everyone else on this planet, you're not getting any younger. I am sure that you are feeling every hit, every sack that you have taken in the past 39 years of your life.

You have a beautiful family. Go and enjoy them. Enjoy life and relax for a while. If the football bug bites, go into coaching, or even announcing. But don't do like too many athletes have done, and refuse to go out gracefully.

And I'll see you in Canton.

Sincerely from one of your truest fans,

Chris Liebenthal

Another Sign That The Economy Is Tanking

With thanks to Mark Parisi:

Will Any Republicans Refuse Their Raise?

Yesterday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (which is still blocking me, BTW) ran a story about State Representative Bob Ziegelbauer, a Democrat from Manitowoc, who is refusing to accept his raise. Although in all fairness, I must agree with Jim McGuigan, that this is pretty much an empty gesture, considering that Ziegelbauer is already making $74,000 a year as the Manitowoc County Executive. (I wonder how he is allowed to hold both positions. It seems like ti would be a conflict of interst to me.)

Today, WSAW-TV reports that a second Democrat, Jon Erpenbach of Middleton, is also going to turn down his raise.

I have yet to hear one Republican to turn down his or her raise. I would suggest that Alberta Darling be the leader for her party to turn down her raise. After all, even though I am sure that the fees at the golf course are rising, it is not like she did anything to earn what she is making now, much less anything extra.

Conservatives Are Anti-Anti-Bullying

Last summer, the might Brawler noted that conservatives loves bullies. Everyone from Tom DeLay down to Charlie Sykes.

I saw this blurb from WSAW-TV in Wausau that only confirms the Brawler's observations (emphasis mine):

An anti-bullying proposal that failed twice in the Legislature has newfound support and a better chance at being passed next year.

A special committee of state lawmakers, school district employees, police and others wants to see the law enacted. The group studied school safety for five months this year and recommended that schools either follow state anti-bullying guidelines or come up with their own.

It will be up to the Legislature to decide whether to put the recommendation into law.

School groups have been supportive of requiring anti-bullying plans that would allow Wisconsin to join 36 other states that already have such provisions. But both times that a bill was proposed, in 2006 and 2007, it died in the Republican-controlled Assembly.

Maybe one of my conservative readers could explain just why do you support bullying? Is it that your positions won't gain traction otherwise?

Friday, December 26, 2008

No Passing Zone

Anyone who has driven in the country during the winter knows that you need to show extra caution. Or so you would think. This guy should be a nominee for the Darwin Awards:
John W. Aman, 67, of Butternut, attempted to pass a snowplow while driving eastbound at about 10:15 a.m. on Highway 70 near the intersection of Highway D in Lac du Flambeau, according to a Wisconsin State Patrol news release. At the same time, a logging truck was driving westbound and struck and ran over the driver’s side of Aman’s truck.

Aman died at Howard Young Medical Center in Woodruff as a result of injuries in the crash, according to the State Patrol.

The logging truck suffered a damaged axle as it swerved and hit a second pickup truck. A car involved in the crash hit logs that spilled into the roadway. A fifth vehicle swerved into a ditch to avoid the other vehicles and logs.

The crash remains under investigation. The logging truck might not have been visible to the driver of the first pickup truck because of snow kicked up by the plow, according to the news release.

Why Is This Man Talking?

Alderman Bob Donovan must not have gotten what he wanted for Christmas this year. That would be one possible explanation, besides the fact that he is always hankering for some publicity, for him shooting his mouth off yet again.

This time, he is complaining that the PDW isn't moving fast enough for him. Never mind that we have already had the second or third snowiest December on record. Never mind that parking restrictions were lifted for Christmas.

But instead of being quiet, and letting people simply think he is a goofball, he has to go on and prove it:

"Many of our side streets are simply impassable for emergency vehicles," Donovan told reporters. "These streets need to be cleared out."

However, Donovan said he was not aware of any case where a firetruck, ambulance or squad car had been unable to get through.

So he is complaining about a problem that doesn't exist. Nothing new there. But it only gets better:

Patrick Curley, Mayor Tom Barrett's chief of staff, and Mike Engelbart, a public works official, said ticketing resumed today as planned, and towing was set to start about 3:30 p.m., with plows in place to clear snow after cars are towed. City crews have been working their way through each neighborhood and just reached Donovan's district today, they said.

Curley said Donovan was briefed about the situation at 11 a.m., or 2 1/2 hours before his 1:30 p.m. news conference. Donovan said he didn't get any information until 1:05 p.m., after he had made repeated phone calls to the Department of Public Works and had sent out an announcement of his news conference.

Even if one gives Donovan the benefit of the doubt, and presumes he is being accurate that he didn't know until a half hour before the news conference, that would have still given him plenty of time to either cancel the event, or at least change what he was going to say.

But it is like Patrick Curley says:

"Bob thinks he's the smartest guy in the room, and that's only true if he's the only guy in the room."
Personally, I think he may be giving Donovan too much credit.

Happy Kwanzaa!

Happy Kwanzaa to my readers. For more information on Kwanzaa, click here.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

David Clarke: Today's Ebenezer Scrooge

From the famous Dickens' story, "A Christmas Carol":

"We have no doubt his liberality is well represented
by his surviving partner," said the gentleman, presenting
his credentials.

It certainly was; for they had been two kindred
spirits. At the ominous word "liberality," Scrooge
frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials

"At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,"
said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than
usually desirable that we should make some slight
provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer
greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in
want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands
are in want of common comforts, sir."

"Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge.

"Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down
the pen again.

"And the Union workhouses?" demanded Scrooge.
"Are they still in operation?"

"They are. Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish
I could say they were not."

"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour,
then?" said Scrooge.

"Both very busy, sir."

"Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first,
that something had occurred to stop them in their
useful course," said Scrooge. "I'm very glad to
hear it."

"Under the impression that they scarcely furnish
Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,"
returned the gentleman, "a few of us are endeavouring
to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink,
and means of warmth. We choose this time, because
it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt,
and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down

"Nothing!" Scrooge replied.

"You wish to be anonymous?"

"I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge. "Since you
ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer.
I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't
afford to make idle people merry. I help to support
the establishments I have mentioned--they cost
enough; and those who are badly off must go there."

"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."

"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had
better do it, and decrease the surplus population.
Besides--excuse me--I don't know that."

"But you might know it," observed the gentleman.

"It's not my business," Scrooge returned. "It's
enough for a man to understand his own business, and
not to interfere with other people's. Mine occupies
me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!"

And from our own Sheriff David Clarke
"Other than missing a meal from time to time, no one goes without some kind of nourishment" in the U.S., Clarke wrote. He also said for some, homelessness was "a lifestyle choice."

Holloway told Clarke in a Dec. 11 memo that the sheriff's remarks "lacked empathy" and said, "Any police officer walker the streets of Milwaukee can readily see evidence of hunger and homelessness."

Clarke said Holloway's memo sounded like scolding from his father.

"The next time someone asks for my opinion I will tell them to contact you because you do my thinking for me," Clarke retorted in a Dec. 19 memo. Clarke said Holloway was mouthing "the standard liberal talking points" and favored "the government cradle-to-grave dependency approach."

Well, at least Clarke is finally admitting he doesn't have a mind of his own. But, even with all of his faults, Holloway would still be a much better choice to get his opinions from than his current source.

Shovel Out Those Hydrants

If you have a fire hydrant in your yard, or if an elderly and/or disabled neighbor has one, make sure you shovel it out:
Neighbors who had done the right thing by shoveling out a fire hydrant deserved a lot of the credit for keeping a fire at a home in Brookfield Christmas morning from doing more damage, Brookfield Deputy Fire Chief Colin Curtis said this afternoon.

Curtis said that when firefighters arrived at the home in the 2100 block of Possum Court, the garage was fully on fire. But because they were able to get water quickly from the nearby hydrant, they were able to hold down damage to the two-story home to which the garage was attached. The home sustained smoke and water damage, while the garage and two vehicles inside it were destroyed. Curtis said he did not have information one what kind of vehicles they were.

"The neighbors had shoveled the hydrant, saving us that critical time," Curtis said.

Pa Capper has one in his front yard. I go over there after every snow to make sure it's cleaned out. Fortunately, due to dad's age and limited abilities that go with his age, the neighbors have also adopted the hydrant, and more often than not, the job is done by the time I get there. But it is stories like this that keep me going to make sure.

Grinches In Washington

And no, it's not even Congress or the Bush administration.

It's the cops:

Four D.C. police officers operating out of the Sixth District station in Northeast have been accused of stealing toys dropped off for the Toys for Tots program, WTOP has learned.

The officers have not been charged with a crime at this point, but D.C. Police Spokesperson Traci Hughes says an internal investigation is underway.

The news on the telly says they were caught on surveillance cameras, so I would guess their goose is cooked. I only hope the delay is due to the holiday and not some kind of distorted code of honor thing.

On the bright side, we have good cops right here in Milwaukee:

When two Milwaukee police officers were called to a home in the 3800 block of N. Port Washington Road on Wednesday evening, they found a woman who needed treatment for an overdose of drugs and mental problems. They took the woman for treatment, leaving a 6-year-old daughter with an aunt.

But the officers, Steven Roufus and Timothy Gauerke, also dealt with some of the surrounding circumstances they noticed, according to Milwaukee Police Department spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz. There were no presents under a small plastic Christmas tree in the home. Schwartz said the officers went back to the District 5 station where they work and took up a collection.

"They then went to Walgreens and bought the little girl a coat, hat, Barbie doll and other toys," Schwartz said. "In addition they noticed there was not a lot of food in the home. They brought some food, including milk, juice and cereal. A coloring book and other items also were collected from the station. The coloring book was given to the aunt to give to the child on Christmas Eve and the rest of presents were hidden to give to her on Christmas morning from Santa."

Since the kids can't rely on the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, it is good to see someone watching over them.

It Could Always Be Worse

I was going to do a post whining about this Christmas. I never really got into the holiday spirit this year, what with the troubles up north, my wife getting laid off for the third time this year, stress at the job, too many friends having too many serious medical problems, this winter picking up where last winter left off, etc, etc, etc.

Then I saw this story on the news, and I realized things could have been much, much worse:
In a bizarre Christmas Eve rampage in a Los Angeles suburb, a 45-year-old man in a Santa Claus outfit opened fire on a gathering of his in-laws and then methodically set their house ablaze, killing at least six people and injuring several others, the authorities said on Thursday.

In adition, three people who were at the party in the suburb of Covina — including the couple who owned the home and the former wife of the suspect — were missing, the police said.

The suspect, identified by witnesses as Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, later killed himself in front of his brother's house in Sylmar, about 40 miles from the scene of the shootings, the police said.

Witnesses said Pardo, armed with cans of accelerant, went to the house looking for his former wife, Sylvia, with whom he had been entangled in a bitter divorce..

The frenzied shooting occurred just before midnight Wednesday at a two-story home on a cul de sac in Covina, a middle-class town about 22 miles east of Los Angeles. People who escaped the home, including one woman who broke an ankle as she leapt out of a second-floor window, said they had gathered for a family celebration.

I can't even imagine what that family is going through now.

It makes my problems, all of our problems, seem less insurmountable, and helped me focus on the important things in life.

RIP Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt, the first Catwoman, has passed on at the age of 81.

Here is a clip of Ms. Kitt singing "Love For Sale" at a charity benefit, including her famous purr:

Buon Natale a tutti!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How Apropos

From JSOnline:

The county ID card and badge of the soon-to-be demoted superintendent of the Milwaukee County House of Correction turned up last week in a toilet.

That was days after Malone had checked out on a three-month medical leave and weeks after Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. had taken over Malone's office.

The card and badge, contained in a tri-fold wallet, were found Friday by an inmate cleaning the men's room in the administrative offices at the House of Correction in Franklin, Assistant Superintendent Jeffrey Mayer said Tuesday. Malone started his sick leave five days earlier but came back briefly Thursday to sign a vendor contract, Mayer said.

Considering how poorly Malone ran HOC, it seems kind of symbolic and fitting that his ID matches his career.


Mike Toman, alderthug in Oak Creek has been charged with aggravated assault for a beating up a 64 year old man:

Toman told police that he, Zalewski and Jenson grabbed Pietruszynski and took him to the door. Pietruszynski backpedaled four or five steps when he was pushed through the door, Toman told police.

Surveillance video of the incident shows Pietruszynski come through the door, followed by Toman, who pushes Pietruszynski, the complaint says. The video shows Zalewski come out next, followed by Jenson, according to the complaint.

Pietruszynski suffered bleeding in his brain and was in a coma Monday at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa, the complaint says. A hospital spokesman said Tuesday that Pietruszynski's family had asked the hospital not to provide updates on his condition.

Not only is Toman going around beating up old men, but then he tries to throw his buddies under the bus:

Toman told police that he and the other two men proceeded to escort the victim out as a group, and that he took the victim's right arm and another man took his left arm. They pushed him through the doorway, and he back-pedaled four to five steps, Toman said.

However, video surveillance shows Toman exiting the building alone directly behind the victim and shoving him. The other two men went outside about two and three seconds later.

When asked if he had shoved the man, Toman told police he believed he had.
Nice guy. Surprisingly, some of the people that originally came up with the term "alderthug" for former Alderman Michael McGee, has been strangely silent about this one.

What Obama's Election Really Means To Some People

The right is often trying to ridicule Obama by calling him names like The One or the Messiah. Even Elliot Stearns is fed up with what he feels is deification of Obama.

What Elliot or the baser bloggers on the right or even I can't fully comprehend is what it means to some people.

Maybe this, from Renee Crawford, will help:
My husband and I watched the 10:00pm pronouncement of our new president alone in our bedroom. We just sat there silent, he grabbed my hand as the tears started to run down my face and we let it sink in. After about 15 seconds though, I heard my father scream and we met on the stairs with him shouting and cheering and then, he grabbed me and broke down into tears. Watching my 77 year old father fall into sobbing tears when Barack Obama was elected president by the people of this nation was an overwhelmingly emotional thing for me personally.

My father actually started crying that morning. When I came down the morning of November 4, 2008, my father was watching the television with tears in his eyes. I plan to write an entire blog on my parents at some point (although this really should be a novel), but suffice to say that a 77 year old African American man who served his country as a hero in the Korean War only to come home to the severe racism of the late 1950's in America, who 10 years later married a white woman from Neenah, WI when that was illegal in 38 states, who raised 4 successful biracial children in a time when the national was in unbelieveable turmoil, who has been personally discriminated against more times than any human being should ever have to endure, and through all of it, became a leader in his community, fought on the front lines of the civil rights movement with his children at his side, a man admired and respected by all who know him, a suburban soccer dad, a grandpa extraordinaire, a father to all he knows, a husband of 42 years to my lovely and strong and beautiful mother, always keeping his sense of humor, his love for all of humanity and his love for living, to see a man I've only seen cry a few times in my 41 years and only at the loss of his closest and most adored relatives. To see my father openly sob as he said, "I never thought I could live long enough to see this." All those years of disappointment that he held to himself just poured out of those tears.

The tears were not entirely sad, they were full of joy, love for our country, patriotism beyond patriotism and love for all Americans. They were tears that all those who came before, those my father knew and worked with to make this country look beyond skin color, that their work was not in vain. They did something then so profound that the fruits of their sacrifices had taken longer than they hoped and shorter than they imagined. The tears were full of hope and optimism and dreams and they were followed by dancing, cheering, setting off fireworks, and we laughed and listened to our neighbors, friends, the students on UWM's campus as they did the same.
Do read the whole thing, then take some time to reflect on it. Then gripe if you want, but it will only make you look jealous and petty.

It Was Inevitable

Santa asks for his bailout:

Tip of the crown: Dan Cody

The Fundamentals Of Our Economy Is Strong

Some workers, including my wife, are facing an extended layoff during the holidays. Some workers are being laid off indefinitely, like the autoworkers in Janesville.

The future for these people are bleak.

At least those poor, impoverished executives are making ends meet, barely. But as Zach points out, that's supposed to be a secret.

So what can we do? Of course, blame the workers!

The Right Is All About Taking Our Rights

Taking a page from Bush/Cheney systematically shredding the Constitution and taking our rights away, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce is trying to take more of our rights away.

A group of citizens created petitions calling for mandatory paid sick leave, collected enough legal signatures, and got it on ballot as a referendum, per state law. The referendum was duly and legally voted on and won overwhelmingly.

Now the MMAC is trying to steal our voices and our votes by having the law overturned in court.

The way I see it, even if you think the law is poorly written or just plain wrong, it was voted on and passed. People exercised their rights and that should be honored.

Furthermore, if MMAC thinks the law is poorly written or too expensive or whatever, why are they waiting now to do something. They could have avoided the whole thing by doing the right thing in the first place.

And for those who are rooting for MMAC in their lawsuit, then you have no grounds to gripe when activists try to turn over Proposition 8 or any of the other legalized discrimination laws. You're just advocating for legislating from the bench.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Chanukah!

For my Jewish friends, I wish you a Happy and Blessed Chanuka.

And for those that don't know what Chanukah is, read up on it, would ya?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Third Shoe

by Gary Markstein:

The Writing Was On The Wall

Courtesy of Pundit Kitchen

Would Rove Murder To Cover Voter Fraud?

Oh, how I love a good conspiracy theory!

While trying to catch up on some other things, I stumbled across a story that caught my interest.

Mike Connell was a GOP operative and IT specialist that worked closely with none other than Karl Rove. Apparently, from what I've read, Mr. Connell was the person who was responsible for the creation of the parallel email system used by the Bush administration, most notably in the political firing of several U.S. Attorneys. Interestingly enough, this is the same server was used to tabulate the election results in Ohio during the 2004 elections.

Mr. Connell was subpoenaed to testify in a court hearing in Ohio regarding possible shenanigans. After being forced to give a deposition, Mr. Connell claimed that Rove was threatening him and telling him he needed to take the fall in any charges. People took these threats so seriously that the Ohio Attorney General was asked to intervene and give protection to Connell and his family.

In what I am sure is pure coincidence *cough, cough*, Connell, an experienced pilot, died when his plane mysteriously crashed three miles from the airport.

Now, I am not accusing Rove or anyone else of murder. Nor am I saying definitively that there is some kind of conspiracy going on here. I am just pointing out that these are an amazing set of events, if they are indeed coincidental.

Gee, Do You Think There May Be A Correlation?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is hurting.

They reported a 10% drop in revenue in November. Their circulation numbers keep dropping.

This is despite the fact that they've cut staff three times in the past year or two, the latest including the latest cut of 39 more people.

And with less reporters and less staff, the paper keeps shrinking in size and in coverage. To make things even worse for them, when their editorial board does cover something, they're getting it wrong - a lot.

But despite having the paper circling the proverbial drain, they still manage to give one of their departing top executives a sweetheart deal worth almost a half a million dollars.

I'm sure it will be only a matter of time before they go begging for a federal bailout. But I think Gretchen Shuldt put it best:
Wow. The paper shrinks, the stock falls, layoffs happen, employees and retirees suffer and big payouts happen at the top. Go figure.

Word Of The Day: Ethickiness

Stephen Colbert coined the word "truthiness," defining is at "truth that comes from the gut, not books."

In honor of Supreme Court Justice Annette "Gut Check" Ziegler, I hereby propose a new word: Ethickiness. It means ethics that comes from the gut, not books or the law.

Ziegler's ethickiness can be again evidenced in this article regarding a ruling that Ziegler must fully disclose what is in her family's blind trusts:

Gerald Nichol, a former Dane County circuit judge, said Ziegler has had "problems in the past understanding" conflict-of-interest rules, so her waiver request should be denied.

Shortly after being elected in 2007, Ziegler was reprimanded by her fellow justices for failing to step aside in cases involving West Bend Savings Bank - where her husband is a director - when she was a Washington County judge.

Jonathan Becker, director of the board's Ethics Division, said one "troubling aspect" of Ziegler's trust is the designation of a brother-in-law as trustee.

For the gentle reader that has memory problems, like Owen Robinson seems to experience, Ziegler took her seat on the Wisconsin State Supreme Court under a cloud of suspicion for failing to recuse herself from cases which involved either the bank her husband worked for or companies in which she owned stock.

Despite being reprimanded by her fellow Supremes, she apparently has not learned from her past "mistakes."

I for one would find it suspicious that someone with previous violations of the ethics code wouldn't be aware of what's in her blind trust. This is especially true with the fact that her brother-in-law is the trustee. I'm sure there's no chance of collaboration there. [/sarcasm]

Cory Liebmann has more on the issue.

Scott Walker's Private Public Park defines the word park as "an area of land, usually in a largely natural state, for the enjoyment of the public, having facilities for rest and recreation, often owned, set apart, and managed by a city, state, or nation."

A commenter from this post reminded me of a recent development regarding the Milwaukee County Parks. That is that the restaurant Coast, which is located the O'Donnell Park Pavilion, will be closing their doors at the end of the year, only to reopen as a private party venue. In other words, unless you make reservations for an entire restaurant, you cannot access this part of a Milwaukee County public park.

Part of the money that we pay in taxes to Milwaukee County is to help maintain the parks. But what good does it do if we don't even have access to the very parks that we are paying for?

I can imagine how people like Charlie Sykes, Mark Belling or any of the right wing bloggers would scream their heads off if they were told by Governor Jim Doyle that they had to pay for something, but had no right to use it. Yet there is an eerie silence from them regarding Walker's abuse of office and of his misuse of County property.

Maybe it's because they are happy with that calling and realize that when they hold their events at the new place, they don't have to deal with the riff raff, like the poor and the minorities, who will no longer be allowed to use the parks that they also paid for.

Happy Winter Solstice

The shortest day of the year, supposedly. As I get older, they always seem to get shorter.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

More Talking Points For The Walker Campaign

As Scott Walker gears up to go a-begging for money to support his perpetual gubernatorial campaign, I've been trying to help him out by giving him talking points.

The other day, he gave me several when he spent a half-hour giving an infomercial on Charlie Sykes' propaganda show. One included the fact that he and Chuckles were mocking the idea of putting bike racks on the county buses. Sykes thought no one would use them and Walker thought county taxpayers would pay for it. What a brain trust these two are! Of course they are wrong as usual. Sykes ignores the fact that many cities, some in even worse climes than ours are using them and have seen an increase in ridership because of them. Walker ignores the fact that the racks are being paid for with a federal grant and with private donations from the Bicycle Federation of WI. But neither of these two ever let reality get in their way much.

Walker was also tsk-tsking Doyle for the deficit that the state is facing. Um, Scott, did you forget that the only year that the County hasn't had a deficit requiring emergency action was the year you took yourself out of the budget process? Not to mention that you ran up a deficit this year again, even though you have willfully failed to fill 717 positions that are fully funded. Where is that money? Also, I haven't heard the state being sued or receiving bad press for failure to provide services, like the County has done regarding mental health services, the jail, the public assistance call center and the HOC. In other words, Walker gives us all the deficit without any of the services. Lovely.

Oh, and part of the State's deficit came when State Senator Lena Taylor had millions of dollars poured into the County's transit system. Amazing how one can complain about a problem that he contributes to.

And speaking of unfilled positions and the call center, there was this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the other day, in which Walker reluctantly agreed to "beef up the call center."
Not hire the necessary workers, mind you, just transfer them in and short other services. But he still is adamant about not providing enough services, just enough money to the private agencies. I still think his campaign slogan will be "Screw The Poor!", seeing on how he is still trying to convince people that less is more.

For other campaign talking points, I would refer the gentle reader to the venerable James Rowen and the erudite Brawler.

Never, Ever Shake A Baby

Given my intense focus on the child welfare system lately, it is only logical that someone forwarded this email to me, which originated from Children's Hospital of Wisconsin:

Shocking increase in shaken baby syndrome sets devastating new record

With 28 cases of shaken baby syndrome being treated at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin since Jan. 1, 2008, Wisconsin and northern Illinois broke a devastating new record of shaken baby cases previously set in 2006. "Shaking or slamming an infant's head is one of the most brutal ways to abuse a child, and it is 100 percent preventable, " said Lynn Sheets, MD, medical director, Children's Hospital's Child Protection Center . "Never, ever shake a baby."

Shaking an infant can cause permanent, severe brain damage and death. During shaking or slamming, the infant brain is torn, resulting in devastating brain injury and bleeding around the brain. Those who survive often live with residual problems including blindness, deafness, seizures and learning disabilities. As many as 30 percent of shaken babies die as a result of their injuries. "The economic downturn and looming holiday season contribute to a community that is experiencing higher stress levels than ever before," said Sheets. "When you combine financial stress with other stressors and an inconsolable, crying infant, caregivers are more likely to become frustrated or angry and hurt the infant."

"Frustrated caregivers should place the baby in a safe place and walk away. A baby never has died due to excessive crying," said Sheets. "In fact, most infants cry between two to three hours a day. An additional 20 to 30 percent of infants cry substantially more." "It is normal for parents and caregivers to feel frustrated," said Jennifer Hammel, director, Child Abuse Prevention Fund . "But, it never is OK to harm a child." Children's Hospital urges parents and caregivers to take these steps when they feel themselves becoming frustrated while caring for an infant or toddler:
  • Put the child down gently in a safe place (such as a crib) and leave the room. Give yourself time and space to cool down.
  • Pick up the phone and call a friend, neighbor, relative or a parent helpline. Sometimes, just talking to another adult can help calm nerves.
  • Walk with or carry the child to a neighbor's home and ask for help.
  • No matter how frustrated you become, never shake a baby.

Twas The Night Before Inauguration

I saw this on Kay's Blue Racine. It made me imagine how many conservative heads would explode reading this, given how they think every liberal looks at him with some sort of messiah complex, and I couldn't resist swiping it:

Twas the Night Before Inauguration
By John Cobarruvias

Twas the night before inauguration and what to my dismay
The market was tanking, I lost my 401K!
The stocks were hung, in downfall they stuck
While Bush did nothing, a truly lame duck

The republicans were nestled, their heads in the sand
With visions of defeat of the republican brand.
And Cheney with his gun, his heart a pace
Looking for someone, to shoot in the face.

When out on the house floor, there came such a clatter
I sprang to the internets to find what’s the matter.
Away to my screen I ran with a flash
Hoping the market, didn’t crash.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow
Showed me someone I needed to know.
When what to my eyes, I paused, with a comma
But a vision of hope, It was Barack Obama!

With excitement and conviction in each of his steps
I wondered what he and his elves, would do next.
More rapid than eagles his appointments they came
And he whistled and shouted, and called them by name.

Now Emanuel! Now, Dashle! Now Richardson and Biden!
On, Clinton, On Napolitano, and Gates, no sense in hidin’!
To fix the economy, our reputation and more.
And to stop the killing of this unnecessary war.

As Obama stood still, the republicans they trembled
Remembering 8 years of a disaster they had assembled.
They’ve broken our banks, and doubled our debt.
They scared us to death with weapons of threats.

They squandered a surplus, They started a war.
They shredded our constitution, littered on the floor.
They attack our unions, our immigrants and those who are gay.
They claim to be Christians, yet on the sick they prey.

We may never recover from this hole they dug.
But we will climb to the top with a American tug.
The republican party have destroyed all that matters
They deserve nothing more but to hold the damn ladder.

But his voice did change, along with a smile.
Thinking of the bills that soon would be filed.
Protect those who are old and young alike
Restore our honor and our military might.

Protect our planet, and clean our air.
While creating a surplus we can leave to our heirs
Fix our economy, and health care for all.
And honor those who fought, and those who fall.

Obama sprang to his feet, to his team he gave a shout.
The challenges seem impossible, hard work needed no doubt
But I heard him exclaim ere he talked and ran.
Hey! It’s not just a slogan, YES WE CAN!

Happy Christmahanakwanzaaka to all!!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Why Do I Care So Much?

Anyone who has read my stuff either here or at folkbum's already knows that I have written lots and lots about the child welfare system. Probably more than any other blogger. Maybe more than all of the other bloggers combined.

I do this for a few reasons. One is that I am more than passingly familiar with the system, having worked in it for almost seven years. I feel that I can bring an insight that few others can.

Some may say that I do so much on the subject because I am bitter about getting forced out of the system. To be perfectly honest, there would be some merit to that train of thought.

But for me, the main reason is that having had been part of the system, I know what it means to the kids that are served by the system. And frankly, it pisses me off to no end to see what has become of the system after society decided that the illusion of saving tax money is more important that giving a kid a chance at a decent life.

When I was a worker in child welfare, I had one case in which the mother eventually had 16 children, all of whom were in foster care at one time or another. Many of the kids had aged out of the system by the time I joined the county and took over the case, but there were still a handful of kids still in foster homes and the mother was still to give birth to three more kids.

Child #15 was a boy that I detained directly from the hospital and placed him with a foster family that would eventually adopt him. Child #16 was a girl that I again detained directly from the hospital and placed in the same home as her older brother.

After going through the obligatory hoops of trying to provide services that I already knew the mother didn't want and wouldn't take advantage of, I recommended that the court order an adoption study with the foster family as the adoptive resource. The court agreed and issued such an order.

After the foster family was approved, we proceeded to terminate the parental rights of the biological parents and the children were adopted by their new family. I was there for that day, when the adoption occurred. I remember the boy dressed up in a little suit and the girl in a little dress and ribbons in her hair. I remember how happy the children were knowing that this family loved them enough to publicly commit themselves to them, even though they had four children of their own already.

As I watched this new family walk out of the court center together, I was amazed at how natural they all seemed. It was then that I realized I had given these children a chance at a life they would never have had otherwise known.

I attended the adoption party thrown by the family. They rented a park pavilion for the occasion and they had extended family members and friends come in from all over the country, just for this occasion. I felt very humbled when I had several people I had never met come up to me, shake my hand and thank me for what I did.

After the adoption was complete, my formal role in this family ended. But like they did with these two children, the family enveloped me and adopted me as one of their own, only as a friend instead of a worker.

Every year I receive a Christmas card from the family with a picture of the kids.

The boy that I took from the hospital, that I kiddingly said would grow up to play professional football, will be starting high school next year, and already has talked to the coach about trying out for the football team. Coincidentally, over the years, the family has moved and the boy will be attending my alma mater. He is also in the National Junior Honor Society, which means his grades must be exemplary.

The young girl, who was born with development issues due to being exposed to alcohol while she was a fetus, is also on the honor roll at her school. She is learning to cook and is involved with swimming and cross country.

Every year, when I received their Christmas card, I actually sit down and study the picture, smiling. I know that their lives would not nearly be as good as they are if I or one of my former colleagues, had not stepped in to give them that chance and to protect them from much worse.

I also realize how lucky they are, and I am, that their adoption happened when it did. A few years later and, who knows, they might have ended up in tragedy, like young Christopher Thomas.

And that is why, even when I am soul weary from the apparent futility of my "crusade," I cannot and will not let go of it. It may not be as sexy as griping about taxes or having a moment of faux outrage, but it is a helluva lot more important.

The More Things Change...

There is an old saying that goes "The more things change, the more they stay the same." This seems to be especially true when it comes to the child welfare system in Milwaukee County.

Earlier this week, as the controversy surrounding the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare and the death of Christopher L. Thomas, Jr. continued, Denise Revels Robinson, the director of the BMCW stepped down from that position, I pointed out that this would not solve the problem.

Then a couple of days ago, the local paper reported that the private agency that was supposed to be providing case management and supervision to Christopher and his sister, was also the agency that was supposed to be providing services to Will Johnson, a five month old baby that was drowned by his mother during an unsupervised visit.

In the wake of these two deaths, said agency, La Causa, announced that they were going to terminate their contract with BMCW and get out of child welfare.

Charlie Sykes thought that this was finally a move to hold someone accountable for these tragic deaths. Likewise, the editorial board at the local paper also thought this was a good idea, but at least stated that the investigation on how this happened should continue, as well as the follow through on some meaningless changes.

What Sykes and the editorial board are either unable or unwilling to understand is that all of this means very little, if anything at all. La Causa pulling out of their contract won't fix the entire system. All that will happen is that yet another agency, probably that Children's Hospital group, will be plugged into that spot, and the same problems will continue.

It's a bit like watching a football game. If the coach has drawn up a bad game plan, it doesn't matter who is on the field, and pulling one player for the other isn't going to change the fact that it is the game plan that is faulty.

It doesn't matter who the case managing agency is, if the whole paradigm of the system is faulty. The same problems will arise, and children will continue to be murdered. This is evidenced by the fact that the BMCW has already gone through a number of private agencies over the past decade, and yet the problems, and the deaths, remain constant.

It also does not hold the ones that are truly responsible for this ongoing calamity accountable for the role that they played in adapting such a idiotic paradigm that has failed in every other state that it's been tried in. It is well beyond time for the state legislature and the governor to get off their collective duffs and actually do something substantial to fix the system.

What good are twice a month visits if the worker still doesn't know what he or she should be looking for? There is a need to streamline the system so that workers can actually do what they are supposed to do, provide services to the child and to the family, as opposed to endless, redundant paperwork. There is a need for the BMCW to actually provide comprehensive training BEFORE the worker is assigned a caseload. And if there weren't so many administrations sucking money up, there would be more money for actual caseworkers and for services. Then maybe some of these tragedies could be prevented.

The only glimmer of hope is that there are some people that do see the problem, and are trying to fix it. From the article announcing La Causa's decision to pull out of child welfare, there is this:

"It makes you wonder if this model (private child welfare services) can work here," said Susan Conwell, executive director of the child welfare advocacy group Kids Matter Inc. She said community leaders should be involved with the transition of La Causa's responsibilities elsewhere.

Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of Children's Rights, the organization that filed the lawsuit, said: "Regardless of whether services are run by a private agency or directly by the county or state, the state remains responsible for the children in its custody.

"The fact that La Causa is getting out of the child welfare business is not a judgment, pro or con, on privatization. It is a judgment, however, on how Wisconsin is fulfilling its obligations to the children who depend on its child welfare system and the degree to which the state is ensuring adequate care for them.

Obviously, I agree more with Ms. Conwell, but at least Ms. Lowry is demanding real accountability and not just some whitewashing of the real issues. That is more than I can say for Sykes or the editorial board.

Another sign of hope comes from this press release from State Representative Tamara Grigsby (emphasis mine):

Today, State Representative Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee) called on fellow Milwaukee legislators to join together and confront problems related to the death of Christopher Thomas.

"In the wake of Christopher Thomas' tragic death, it is essential we come together and take stronger action to prevent the senseless suffering of Wisconsin's children," Grigsby said. "Following the death of young Christopher, we learned that the mechanisms put in place to protect Wisconsin's children are inadequate. Now more than ever, we must eliminate the deficiencies in our child welfare system."

Grigsby, ranking member on the Assembly Committee on Children and Family Law in the current legislative session, member of the Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership Council, and a passionate advocate for children in need, has asked Milwaukee legislators to meet with social workers and other public employees serving the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare to hear their perspective on the current crisis.
"This meeting will provide legislators with an understanding of the barriers and challenges that hinder Wisconsin's child welfare system on a daily basis," Grigsby stated. "Immediate action is needed to correct the shortcomings that have threatened the lives of innocent children for far, far too long."
I don't know much about Representative Grigsby, but I certainly hope she is a woman of her word, unlike State Senator Alberta "Do Nothing" Darling, who only gives out false promises.

But I would make a couple of suggestions to Rep. Grigsby. Meeting with the front line workers is fine, given that it is done correctly. The case managers for the private agencies are non-union, and will probably be coached, intimidated and threatened by their employers on what to say. These interviews would have to be done with complete confidentiality of the worker, if you want an honest answer.

Secondly, don't just ask the case managers. Many, heck, even most of them are relatively new to the job. They might not know how dysfunctional the system is, if that is the only system that they are familiar with. You also need to speak to other people that work with the system. People like foster parents, both current and former. Same with the social workers. There is a reason why these people no longer want to have dealings with the Bureau. They would be the ones to tell you what the real problems are.

Also talk to the attorneys and the judges out at Children's Court. They would also be invaluable to their insight of what is happening in the BMCW, especially the untenably high turn over rate. I am still in contact with some of the judges and attorneys out there. When I ask them about the BMCW and of any news, almost each and every one of them will start out with the complaint that there is never the same worker on a case from one month to another. That only serves to delay the process and bog down the courts. Meanwhile, the children would continue to languish in limbo, with no efforts being made to get them into a permanent home.

Until real, substantial changes are put into effect, we cannot allow ourselves to be beguiled by the false promises of the bureaucrats until the next tragedy strikes. We have had that for too long now, and too many kids have paid the price for our apathy and indifference and our all too willingness to take the easy or cheap way to fix the problem, which aren't fixes at all.