Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Milwaukee Voucher High School Closes

Voucher schools around the country are proving to be an epic failure and are leaving students and their parents stranded with little or no warning.

It's no different in Milwaukee:
A private Milwaukee high school run by a voucher-school operator that's come under scrutiny this year has been barred from receiving more taxpayer money, state documents show.

And now Travis Technology High School on Milwaukee's north side has closed, forcing about 200 teenagers, almost all of whom attended on a taxpayer-paid voucher, to find different schools to attend when winter break ends.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction on Dec. 22 barred the high school from participating in the Milwaukee voucher program because it failed to obtain a special bond this month that was part of an agreement the school's operators signed with the state in October.

On Monday, a receptionist at Travis Tech confirmed the school was no longer operating.

Travis Tech, 8350 N. Steven Road, had 179 children enrolled as of fall 2014, according to state enrollment figures. The high school is one of two voucher schools run by Ceria M. Travis Academy Inc. The other is Ceria M. Travis Academy, 4744 N. 39th St., a much larger school with 437 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade, according to state enrollment figures.

The nonprofit running the schools is headed by CEO Dorothy Travis Moore and her daughter, Executive Director Wilnekia Brinson.

Both are paid six-figure compensation packages, according to their organization's federal tax filings. Meanwhile, current and former employees have complained to the state and to the Journal Sentinel of lacking textbooks and other adequate classroom materials and resources to help children learn.

They also complained that Travis Moore has regularly employed teachers without bachelor's degrees — the state requires teachers at voucher schools to have degrees — while employing family members with dubious job titles and responsibilities.

Travis Moore and Brinson did not return calls for comment for this article. In previous interviews, they confirmed a handful of family members were employed but declined to produce a full roster of staff members' names, job titles and salaries.
Yeah, it sucks for those kids and their parents that have to find a new school by Monday but hey, at least the owner of the voucher school and her family got paid well, which surely will help them sleep at night:
Federal nonprofit tax filings list the individual compensation for Travis Moore and Brinson, whose total compensation packages totaled $213,000 and $118,000 respectively, in 2012, according to those federal documents.

Brinson said five family members are employed at the organization, which has 67 employees. Travis Moore confirmed that Brinson's husband, Robert Brinson, works for the organization in a student support and security role.

They declined to disclose other family members' job titles and salaries.

A video from a celebratory dinner for the organization at the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2011 revealed that Travis Moore's son worked for the organization, as well.
Over the years, the Travis family has raked in $35 million even though only 2% of their students can read at grade level and only 3% can do math at grade level.

I can't wait for the rousing success the entire state will see in 2015 when Scott Walker and the Teapublicans make the voucher system a statewide program.

A Sad Day In Milwaukee County

Today was a very sad day for Milwaukee but most people are not aware of it.

Thanks to Boss Abele and his agenda of austerity, several Milwaukee County employees who serve our community's most vulnerable citizens, were laid off. Milwaukee County no longer has Community Support Programming for the mentally ill because Abele privatized it.

But the layoffs aren't the worst part. Some of the private agency workers don't have a degree in the human service field. And many of the clients haven't even heard from, much less met with, their new private sector workers. They will be now without medication, support or supervision for who knows how long.

And we are paying more for this decrease in services.

County Executive Chris Abele and Meg Kissinger might call this a success and much needed reform. I call it an abomination and a disservice to our vulnerable citizens and to the taxpayers.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

MD Kittle Attacks - And Loses!

By Jeff Simpson

M.D. Kittle from WIsconsin Reporter had a virtual vendetta against a kindergarten teacher, who over the summer destroyed one of his hero Scott Walker's campaign signs.   Kittle wrote numerous stories on his Bradley Foundation funded right wing blog about the "horrific" incident, a decision was made recently to rightly return this teacher to her classroom.  

In a statement issued on Dec. 22, the district confirmed that Smith will return to teaching but with conditions.“The Board of Education has determined that it is appropriate to restore Ms. Smith to active teaching duties, but has also imposed several conditions to address this situation and to make certain that no similar incidents occur in the future,” the district said. “The Board of Education requires that all district employees understand that, as public servants, they are role models for district students and should exhibit appropriate public conduct, whether on or off the job.”The district stated: “The Board of Education wishes to make it clear that it does not condone Ms. Smith’s conduct. For that reason, the board has taken serious, remedial measures to address this situation. However, the board also concluded that it was a completely isolated event that is not representative of Ms. Smith’s character, or her record of service to our country and our district. The board also noted that district parents that have had children in Ms. Smith’s class praise her work as an educator.”
Kittle's withch unt resulted in a teacher being suspended,with pay, for a whole semester.  Which meant the school lost, the kids lost, this public servant lost in this.  The only good thing to come out of it was that in the end Matt Kittle also lost.  

why do teachers need a union?  Well funded right wing organizations like Wisconsin Reporter has a long history of attacking teachers and trying to get them fired.    Michael Grebe is in charge of millions upon millions of dollars, with the goal of electing Republicans.  He has proven that there will be no dissent allowed.  

The sad thing to think about is what public servant he sic's Wisconsin Reporter(his personal lapdog) on next.  

By the way want to know where people like Larry Mulqueen come up with their ideas of such things as "liberal hit list"?

Read the comments on this story by Kittle and it becomes very clear!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Wisconsin School Funding Explained

The Giuliani Privilege

By Jeff Simpson

Rudy "911" Giuliani. former Republican Mayor of New York City, has been everywhere in the news telling anyone who will listen, that there was nothing wrong with Darren Wilson Shooting Michael Brown.  

After days of nation-wide protesting and rioting over the grand jury decision to not indict former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said on Sunday that prosecutors shouldn't have tried to indict him in front of a grand jury in the first place. Doing so, according to Giuliani, was political theater.
"I don't see how this case normally would even have been brought to a grand jury," said Giuliani, a former prosecutor, on Fox News Sunday. "This is the kind of case—had it not had the racial overtones and the national publicity—where a prosecutor would have come to the conclusion that there is not enough evidence to present to the grand jury."
One thing that Mr. Giuliani has to thank his status and skin color for is that he still has a daughter.

The rebellious daughter of former law-and-order Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was busted today for allegedly stealing makeup from an upscale beauty and skin care shop near her Upper East Side home, officials said.
Cops said Caroline Giuliani, 20, a student at Harvard University, was arrested after security cameras caught her stuffing makeup into her jacket pocket at a Sephora store at E. 86th Street and Lexington Avenue shortly before 2 p.m.
Giuliani, who was in the store by herself, was confronted by a sales clerk and a store security guard, who called police.
Sources said she allegedly stole five items, worth about $100.
During the wait for cops to arrive, store officials established the suspect’s identity, and apparently had a change of heart and declined to press charges. But by then it was too late, and the daughter of the man who built a reputation for being tough on crime was carted out in handcuffs.

Unlike Michael Brown, Caroline lives to shop(lift) another day!   This must be part of the 7% crime that Rudy likes to talk about.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Yes Virginia There Is A Santa Claus!


This never gets old to me. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you!  Thank you for reading and commenting all year.   

In 1897, the New York Sun received a letter from a girl, Virginia O’Hanlon, asking if Santa Claus exists. It is probably the most famous letter to the editor ever published. Francis P. Church of the Sun replied with an editorial that is now a seasonal classic:

“I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says if you say it in the Sun, it is so. Please tell me the truth — is there a Santa Claus?”— Virginia O’Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little.
In this great universe of ours, man is a little insect and an ant is his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus.
It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginia. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment except sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus.
The most real things in the world are those that neither child nor man can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on a lawn? Of course not. But that is no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men who ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glories beyond.
Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives, and he will live forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Walkergate: Santa Doe Gives Tim Russell Another Lump Of Coal

As the gentle reader is aware, Scott Walker's lifelong friend, campaign worker and aide, Tim Russell, took the fall for his old buddy and was sentenced to two years in prison for stealing money from a ersatz veterans fund (which really was nothing more than a campaign stunt for Walker).

Sadly, Russell could have and should have been charged with so much more but Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm was unable or unwilling to get the job done.  Russell was heavily involved with the caucus-style of illegal politicking going on in the courthouse, including setting up the secret router that Walker and company used to avoid open record requests.

Like his co-conspirator, Kelly Rindfleisch, Russell decided a slap on the wrist was too much and appealed his conviction, even though he had pleaded guilty.

Predictably, it did not go as well as Russell was hoping:
A Wisconsin appeals court has upheld a theft conviction against a former aide of Gov. Scott Walker when he was Milwaukee County executive.

The 1st District Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled against Tim Russell in his appeal of his 2012 conviction.

Russell was Walker's deputy chief of staff in 2009 and 2010 and was charged with stealing more than $21,000 from a nonprofit group benefiting veterans. He pleaded guilty to one felony theft count and was sentenced to 2 years in prison.

Russell argued on appeal that he was wrongly sentenced for the crime of misconduct in office, rather than theft. He also argued that he was ordered to pay $5,000 more in restitution than was proper.

But the appeals court upheld the lower court's rulings in both instances.
Even the appeal didn't work out, Russell can take some solace that his time in the big house will be over within a month - provided he keeps his nose clean.

Then the only question is what strings Walker will pull to reward his old chum for his silence all this time.  And you know that will happen, otherwise Russell might write a kiss and tell book which would torpedo Walker's presidential aspirations.

Deanna Alexander Does It Again - Money Matters, Black Lives - Not So Much

Two days ago, I reported about a very disgusting and vile racist tweet made my Deanna Alexander, in which she mocked the last words spoken by Eric Garner, a black man who was choked to death by a New York cop:

To say that her racism set off a firestorm would be an understatement.

She has spent the last two days deleting comments off of her Facebook page and locking down her campaign Twitter account.  The only three other people I have seen do that are her good friends and benefactors - Scott Walker, David Clarke and Chris Abele.

Unfortunately for her, not all of her friends support her overt racism.

A friend of Cog Dis has shared these tweets made by Alexander, showing that while she might not think that black lives matter, she does care about one thing - money:

In other words, she is more concerned about businesses making money than she is about people making a living wage or the reason for the protests- another black man being unjustly killed by a white cop, something which has become epidemic across the country.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that Alexander opposes raising the minimum wage, much less making it a living wage, making her complaints hypocritical and hollow - much like her spirit.

The fact is that Alexander is an embarrassment to the Milwaukee County Board and to Milwaukee County in general.

If she had a shred of dignity or respectability, she would apologize and resign immediately.  Don't hold your breath for either of those things to happen, since she doesn't possess either of those qualities.

I again call on the Milwaukee County Board to censure Alexander for her overt racism and attempts to fan the flames of the racial tension that envelops our community.

In the meanwhile, you can contact Alexander and tell her you don't appreciate her racism and that it has no place in government. You can call her at 414-278-4259 or email her at deanna.alexander@milwaukeecountywi.gov.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Scott Walker Channels His Inner Jeremiah Rusk - Again

By now, the gentle reader is probably fully aware that on this past Friday afternoon, people were peacefully protesting the lack of justice regarding the murder of Dontre Hamilton, as they have done so several times in the past eight months. However, on Friday, in the course of their protest, they briefly blocked I-43.  As they say, it was a minor inconvenience brought about my a major injustice.

What the gentle reader might not know is that the cowardly Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke found himself to be above his head and ran to Scott Walker for help.  Walker granted Clarke's request and ordered out the National Guard, even though they don't have a mission or objective yet.

It reminded me of another Wisconsin governor that was a lot like Walker - Jeremiah Rusk.  But in 1886, it was laborers and not African Americans who were the targets:
Governor Rusk was under considerable pressure from employers to stop the strike. Employers were saying that they would turn the entire society upside down and use the bombing in Haymarket Square as their proof that a revolution is under way.

Rusk called the Mills and told Captain Treaumer of the Lincoln Guard "if the strikers try to enter the mill, shoot to kill." Captain Treaumer then ordered his men to pick out a man, concentrate and kill him when the order is given. The strikers spent the night in open fields nearby while the Militia camps stayed at the Mills with sentries posted. During the night the sentries were shooting at anything that moved. A Navy tug brought provisions for the guard.

May 5
Around nine in the morning the strikers gathered again chanting "eight hours," a reporter who slept with them reported that it was odd that this was a group with no real leadership, but everyone was united in one single purpose.

The crowd approached the mill and faced the militia who were ready to fire. Before Treaumer knew the crowd's real intentions he ordered halt, but the strikers, who were about two hundred yards away, did not hear him.

He ordered the militia to fire. The crowd was in chaos as people fled the scene. The Milwaukee Journal reported that six were dead and at least eight more were expected to die within twenty four hours.
It also needs to be pointed out that this isn't the first time Walker has threatened to use military force against peaceful protesters:
In 1886, Wisconsin made history right here in little old Bay View.  The situation then is being eerily repeated by our own Governor Rusk Walker who is calling for the removal of all worker rights in both the public and private sectors, and has threatened said workers with the National Guard if there is any "unrest."  What is worrisome is that he has not defined what he considers "unrest."

Back in 1886, workers were joining forces and demanding pay raises and eight hour work days.  They almost shut down every business in the city until they agreed to start treating their workers with respect and as people.  When the strikers came to Rolling Mills in Bay View, where things got ugly.  Governor Rusk, at the pleading of big businesses (WMC, anyone?), sent out the state militia.  The rest, as they say, is history...
One might have hoped better from even Walker, but when his supporters and fellow right wing nut jobs have no issue with mocking the death of a black man, I wouldn't put anything past Walker - especially if he thinks it might help his slim to nonexistent chances to be president.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Deanna Alexander's Racist Tweet Goes Beyond The Pale

With all of the racial tension going on in Milwaukee and the rest of the nation, one would think that it would be incumbent to try to calm things down, or at least not fan the flames.

Yet Milwaukee County Supervisor Deanna Alexander has willfully failed to act like a responsible adult and put out one of the most horrendous and blatantly racist tweets I've seen from an elected official:

It's one thing to express support for law enforcement officers, but to mock the unnecessary and unjust death of a black man goes beyond the pale.

While it is surprising that Alexander somehow thought it would be a good idea for an elected official to send out such a overtly racist tweet, the fact that she is a racist is no surprise.  She exemplified that when she sent out this vulgar email against her opponent, Tracey Corder, in her last election:

As I had written at the time:
Being a social worker myself, I would like to know why Alexander thinks that's a bad thing.  Or is she just using her career as a bureaucrat in order to be elitist?

With the reference to the "four convictions" against Corder, she is being downright dishonest and deceitful.  There are four cases involving Corder listed on CCAP.  But two of them are small claims court involving the time when she lived with her brother and the other two are traffic violations.  Not exactly the hardened criminal that Alexander is trying to portray her as.
The really ironic part of her tweet is that she is not exactly law abiding herself.

In just the past couple of months, she was caught using taxpayer money to send out a voter suppression mailer and then got lying about it. She is also under investigation for violating ethics rules by using her status to raise money for her father's funeral.

People are already calling for Alexander to resign because of her extremely racist tweet but I don't expect her to do that.  She doesn't have enough integrity or honor to take responsibility for her actions.

I do, however, sincerely hope that her colleagues on the Milwaukee County Board will hold her accountable and censure her for trying to flame the fire under the racial tension in our community.

She must answer for her inappropriateness and irresponsibility.

But I have to admit I agree with Alexander on one point - she is broken.

ADDENDUM: Here are some examples of incidents in which the person was not breaking the law and is not breathing easy - or even breathing - anymore.

Walkergate Was About To Go Nationwide

As the gentle reader knows, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has been the subject of not one, but two, separate John Doe investigations.

The first investigation was regarding Walker using his office as Milwaukee County Executive as one of his campaign headquarters. The investigation revealed an extremely high level of collaboration between his county staff and his campaign staff. The investigation also led to six convictions and more than a score of people being given immunity.

The first investigation gave rise to the second investigation into the illegal collaboration between Walker's campaign and various dark money groups, like Wisconsin Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity.

Investigators were getting close to blowing the case wide open, so said dark money groups poured tons of cash into fighting the investigation by filing frivolous lawsuits on both the state and federal levels. Even though their petitions were full of lies and omissions, the dark money groups were able to get the help of the equally corrupt federal Judge Rudolph Randa and put a temporary halt to the investigation.

One of the multitude of lawsuits filed by the Wisconsin Club for Growth accuses the Government Accountability Board of exceeding its authority in the second investigation. Stemming from that lawsuit, as it usual the case with these fools, they give away more of what they are trying to hide, including other people involved in their scandal.

From Marie Rohde, writing for WisPolitics.com:
John Doe investigators planned to issue subpoenas and search warrants for radio personalities Charlie Sykes and Sean Hannity as part of their secret probe into coordination between conservative groups and Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign, according to a lawsuit released today.

Eric O’Keefe and the Club for Growth, two targets of the probe, filed the lawsuit under seal earlier this year in Waukesha County Court accusing the Government Accountability Board of exceeding its authority as it took part in the investigation. A judge ordered a redacted version of the complaint released today following a hearing.

The lawsuit provides no explanation why investigators may have planned the subpoenas for Hannity and Sykes. They were mentioned in a passage on others who received subpoenas in the probe, and the citation for Hannity and Sykes was from a exhibit that was filed under seal. The suit says many more subpoenas were planned for targets throughout the country, but it does not name them.
It's not a big surprise that Sykes, a Milwaukee-based squawk radio host is named. He's been involved with a lot of the propaganda and is currently married to the communications director for the Bradley Foundation, which is one of the dark money groups.

While Hannity's name is a bit surprising, it shouldn't be. After all, he did have his own fundraising scandal.

Oh, and as for the latest bit of inanity from Wisconsin Club for Growth...as the gentle reader could have guessed, they're making things up again. From a press release issued by the GAB lawyer:
In response to allegations in the amended complaint, it is important to be absolutely clear the Board through its Chair was apprised of District Attorney contacts with Government Accountability Board staff concerning the developing John Doe from the beginning.

We have committed to trying this case in the courts, not the media. Allegations in a complaint are just that, allegations, and nothing more. They are not proven facts or conclusions of a court.

We will have an opportunity to file our response and present evidence which we believe will refute and disprove specific allegations as well as the general hyperbole of the plaintiff’s complaint. As with any litigation, we urge the media, public, and elected officials to withhold judgment until the facts are known. After all, that is the basis of our legal system.

We caution pundits and observers not to be hasty in making conclusions based upon partial information. When the facts are known, we trust that erroneous and uninformed conclusions will be corrected
The scary part about all this is that these cases are headed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear at least some of them. Four out of the seven justices are beholden to the dark money special interests that are behind these lawsuits and don't seem likely to recuse themselves like ethical judges would do.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Legislative Accountability

From Busted Pencils Blog, make sure and bookmark it!

Dear Senator Vos,
I just finished reading your interview in the Journal Times. There is a lot to comment on but let me just focus where my expertise allows me some ability. I know this concept might be hard for you to understand but I typically try to only offer commentary on the things I actually know about and have a significant experiential base to help make my remarks relevant and maybe even useful.
For example, I will not comment on “right to work for less” legislation—not my expertise. However, I do think that creating an atmosphere that is hostile towards the working people of the state—labor—might be short sighted considering that employment and wages in “right to work for less” states seems to be no better than in states that allow workers and employers the freedom to bargain without government interference. Just a feeling I have.
But now let’s talk about your intense desire to dismantle the education system of the state of Wisconsin.
WHY, WHY, WHY would you even be thinking about implementing “accountability?” Accountability has a 30-year record of failing children, parents, teachers, and communities. And the disaster of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top over the last 14 years has literally denied a generation of children access to their fundamental right of a powerful and critical education! The only beneficiaries of “accountability” have been you and your friends in the legislature and the companies that have made millions on the sale of tests and data systems to schools. Schools that have simultaneously been drained of money that could have gone towards the only things proven by research to help create an atmosphere in which real learning can occur—health care, basic nutrition, and access to books.
This leads me to ask again, why? Why engage in behavior that actually damages children, families, and communities? Is the money being offered by lobbyists really worth purposely harming Wisconsin’s kids, families and communities? If you and your colleagues in the legislature really want to help make sure Wisconsin is delivering on its promise to the children of the state, why not simply start by asking for help from people that actually know what they’re talking about. Why not ask a classroom teacher what they need to help educate the children of Wisconsin?
In addition to wanting to disrupt K-12 education, now, according to the article you want to screw up the University of Wisconsin system of higher education all because of some silly idea that professors are not working enough.
I have a better idea. Before you start screwing up one of the best systems of higher education in the world all over your perceived issue with faculty workloads, please first implement a transparent system of accountability for you and your legislative colleagues. Provide us with detailed daily workloads—the taxpayers— so we know where and when you are actually working for us. We—the taxpayers— need to be sure that all of you are not “working on administrative and other nonproductive activities.” We—the taxpayers—want efficient legislators. We don’t really have time for you and your colleagues to engage in inefficient legislative practices.
Also, it would be really helpful if you and your colleagues designed a legislative report card. We—the taxpayers—would like to know if you and your colleagues are actually building Wisconsin’s infrastructure, creating life sustaining jobs, and helping to promote a civil society free of racism, segregation and poverty. Right? I mean we are paying you good money. Shouldn’t we—the taxpayers— know if you and your colleagues really are effective civil servants?
Or better yet, shouldn’t we—the taxpayers—know who the failed legislators are? Oh and along with that how about a merit based system of pay for legislators and a transparent system for the removal of failed legislators? We—the taxpayers—really don’t think that you and your colleagues should have a job for life.
Thanks for your time and I eagerly await your draft for a system of political and legislative accountability.
Best wishes for the New Year,
Tim Slekar

Friday, December 19, 2014

American Exceptionalism

By Jeff Simpson

Interesting report coming out for our friends on the right who keep defending torture.

“Debating about it, ummm … Some of the worst things that happened you don’t know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib … The women were passing messages out saying ‘Please come and kill me, because of what’s happened’ and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It’s going to come out.”
“It’s impossible to say to yourself how did we get there? Who are we? Who are these people that sent us there? When I did My Lai I was very troubled like anybody in his right mind would be about what happened. I ended up in something I wrote saying in the end I said that the people who did the killing were as much victims as the people they killed because of the scars they had, I can tell you some of the personal stories by some of the people who were in these units witnessed this. I can also tell you written complaints were made to the highest officers and so we’re dealing with a enormous massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there and higher, and we have to get to it and we will. We will. You know there’s enough out there, they can’t (Applause). …. So it’s going to be an interesting election year.”
It really shows you what a sick twisted person Dick Cheney(and the rest of the Bush Administration that condoned this) is.    Remember this when your Republican uncle tells you how necessary torture was, right after explaining that Jesus is the reason for the Season.

The Whiteness of 2015

 By Jeff Simpson

Reince Priebus, former voter cager, Robin Vos's old roommate and now national chair of the Republican party has a vision for his party:

Our overarching vision is a country that offers equal opportunity for everyone.
Reince also defines "everyone" differently than most.  One way that you can help support the Republican Party, and get a dose of their true vision, is to buy a 2015 GOP calendar:

The "Your America” Calendar features photos of what the American Dream means to supporters across the country — whether that’s a serene view of our lands’ natural beauty or your grandchildren waving the American flag for their very first time. Get your Official GOP 2015 “Your America” Calendar by submitting $9.00 or more to the RNC.

The people of color in the Republican vision of 2015 is as easy to find as the hitchhiker on the Old Style can.  We know that they have no use for people of color, but they could have at least found a stock photo to throw in the background of their vision for America.

Or maybe, since the Republican takeover of 2014, there truly is no future for people of color in America!

Abele's Mental Health Board Boondoggle Worsens

As I have reported before, Milwaukee County Executive Chris "Boss" Abele is in a hurry to close up the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex so that he can sell the land to his wealthy friends.

When those pesky County Board Supervisors threatened to slow down the process of moving these vulnerable adults out by asking for common sense safety nets and precautions, Boss Abele did what he usually does when he doesn't get his way.  He threw a tantrum and ran to his friends, Scott Walker and the extremist Teapublicans in the state legislature, and had the mental health system removed from the county board's jurisdiction.

In place of the county board, Milwaukee's mental health system is overseen by Boss Abele's Mental Health Board.

From its conception, Abele's Mental Health Board has been a growing disaster.

First off, its formation was delayed while Walker and Abele selected their hand-picked political appointees to be on the board.

When the Board finally started to meet, their first job was to rubber stamp Boss Abele's budget for their system with no chance of analyzing it to see if it was sufficient.  However, more problems arose with the concern of whether their actions are even constitutional.  The Board has the authority to tax people but are not only not elected, they didn't even have public hearings on their budget.  In other words, it was taxation without representation.

This week, it was reported that Boss Abele's Mental Health Board still isn't ready for prime time:
Observers are raising questions about the Milwaukee County Mental Health Board and its plans for restructuring mental health care throughout the area. Formed in the spring, the board has yet to begin formal discussions on how it will lead the transformation to a decentralized health care system focused on community-based facilities.

According to board member Mary Neubauer, the board was initially faced with budget and organizational issues that required its attention and is now ready to make progress on its main mission. Chairperson Kimberly Walker said in an email that the board has discussed priorities that it will “flesh out” at its Dec.18 meeting.

“Once the board identifies priorities and goals, we will work in collaboration with the administration to see that strategic plans are developed and implemented,” Walker wrote.
In other words, they still don't know what they are doing. They don't even know what they want to be doing.

Yet, while the Board is trying to find itself, Boss Abele is still pushing vulnerable citizens out of the complex, with or without proper support systems that will be able to meet their needs and keep them safe.

But, wait! With all things Abele, there is more.

Not only does Abele's Mental Health Board without direction, they are also lacking even the most basic support:
The 13-member board operates without a dedicated staff, raising uncertainty about how it will carry out its responsibilities. “Board members have a hunger for data and information but that raises questions about how the board will function without anyone on staff to gather the information,” said Rob Henken, director of the Public Policy Forum in Milwaukee.

Questions also remain about how the board will manage the makeover of the mental health care system. “No one knows yet what level of oversight the board will choose for itself,” Henken said. “Will it be like a traditional board of directors that sets an agenda, or will it be more administrative and focus on day-to-day details?”

Neubauer said that some level of support staff is “most definitely needed” to gather data and provide analysis for the board to make decisions. Once armed with the information it needs, she believes, the board can lead the mental health care transformation.


Added Barbara Beckert, Milwaukee director of Disability Rights Wisconsin, “One of the concerns we had from the beginning was who will be supporting the board,” she said. “It is very important to have an independent staff that the board can direct in an analytical role. But to date that has not been available.”

The board has the ability to hire its own independent staff and assign responsibilities, according to Beckert. Until now, the county has proved some administrative support and information gathering.
Well, isn't that special?

Because the Mental Health Board is still lacking any independent reports or analyses, they are forced to rely on information spoon fed to them by Boss Abele, who's proven time and time again to be less than a reliable source of information.

By the time that the Mental Health Board will be ready to do their job, a lot of damage will already be done and most of these vulnerable adults - as well as the taxpayers - will have been thrown to the corporate vultures.

But it is not all bad news.

In their meeting on Thursday, the Mental Health Board, at the persistence of AFSCME, was able to gain a guarantee that Abele would not continue to try to treat the county workers at the mental health complex differently than other county workers.  This will mean sparing those workers thousands of dollars in unnecessary pay cuts.

The Mental Health Board has also taken action, again due to the persistence of the unions, to start to address the serious safety issues that are present at the mental health complex caused by Boss Abele's incompetent handling of the system.

That's more than Abele has done in the four years he's been running the place.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Right To Some Honesty

BY Jeff Simpson

 While our neighbors to the West spend this time between elections deciding what to do with a $1 Billion surplus, the Republicans in Wisconsin keep finding ways to add to our $2.2 Billion deficit they created.   

Now, shortly after the election, Assemblyman Chris Kapenga says he has a "Right to Work" bill ready to go.  Of course Mr. Kapenga told us this in early December, forgetting to mention it during the election season that ended less than a month prior.   Not a single mention of "right-to-work" as part of his agenda on his campaign website.  

"It's my opinion it has to come up early" in the session that begins in January, Fitzgerald told reporters. "I don't know how we get through the session without having this debate.

Of course when Mr. Fitzgerald says "It has to come up early" he does not mean it should come up during the election season.  Now that he has faced the voters saying one thing, it is time to do something completely different.   In case you were wondering, the number of mentions by Senator Scott Fitzgerald of "right-to-work" laws on the campaign trail = 0! 
For those of you scoring at home, adding up the mentions of 'right-to-work" laws on the campaign trail ofSpeaker Robin VosRepublican Majority Leader Jim Steineke, and Joint Finance Committee co-chairJohn Nygren also add up to zero!

Spend months ducking the issues and spend millions muddying the waters, then when you are elected, claim a mandate and start talking about extremist legislation like it is why you won the election.   

How long we will let OUR elected reps continue doing this to us?

Politics Defined

You will never find a more accurate description of politics today:

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Hell Of A Time

From our friend Steve Carlson!  Happy Holidays!

RoJo Squared - Profiting At Taxpayers' Expense

The Milwaukee Business Journal did a story about Robin Vos' popcorn business with an interesting twist:
Probably the biggest surprise when Wisconsin Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos gave me a tour of his Burlington popcorn business was the female inmates working there.

I visited RoJo's Popcorn for a story on Rep. Vos' small businesses, which consist of the Burlington popcorn-processing and packaging plant and south side Milwaukee retail and online shop Knight's Popcorn.

At the time, Vos told me he used to oppose a corrections-system-to-work transitional jobs program, but in recent years had retained temporary workers from a women's correctional facility in Racine County at his Burlington business. He also employed a former inmate from the program at his retail shop.

I was reminded of my visit with Vos Friday when I read a Wisconsin State Journal article that Vos wants to expand prison work-release programs in Wisconsin. He told the State Journal that recent experiences at his factory changed his mind about "how we get people back to work."
It's not surprising that Boss Vos would support this. In his twisted worldview, it's a win-win-win scenario.

He gets to exploit prisoners who work for next to nothing, he gets to use taxpayer dollars for their healthcare and he has an operation to help cover his graft.

Coincidentally, another RoJo - US Senator Ron Johnson - had the same profiteering business scheme:
Republican Senate candidate Ron Johnson, who has campaigned against government subsidies to business, employs up to nine prison inmates at his plastics factories whose health care costs are paid by the state, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

Public records show that Pacur Inc. and Dynamic Drinkware LLC, two companies run by Johnson, employ up to nine inmates at a time through a state Corrections Department jobs program.

Johnson's companies offer private health insurance to the regular employees at the Oshkosh factories. But Melissa Roberts, an executive assistant with the Corrections Department, said the companies don't have to cover the inmate workers. "The benefit is that they don't have to pay health benefits," she said.
Isn't it quite convenient that these reprobates keep finding laws that are supposed to be for the good of the community but seem to be even better for their wallets?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Curious Point About Mike Ellis Hiring A Political Operative

Jason Stein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that soon (but not soon enough) to be retired State Senator Mike Ellis is spending taxpayer money to hire a Republican state operative for a couple of months:
In November, outgoing Senate President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) hired the campaign manager of Senator-elect Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), an ally of Ellis. Kyle Koenen will be paid more than $3,400 a month as a legislative assistant while waiting for a permanent job in Wanggaard's office to start in January.

As of the last reporting date on Oct. 20, Wanggaard's campaign had thousands of dollars in cash that could have been used to pay Koenen to do political work instead of state work so he wouldn't have been out of a job for the two months following Wanggaard's election victory.

But Ellis, who retires in January, said that he has been frugal overall with the money in his office's budget for personnel and that there has been enough official work for Koenen to do since one of his full-time staffers left his office this month to work for another senator. Including Koenen, Ellis has three staff members, one in Neenah and the other two in Madison.

"I still have constituents to take care of and phone calls to answer," Ellis said. "I can't take care of the district with two people."
Stein goes on to use the usual corporate media shtick of false equivalency, claiming both sides do it, as if that somehow makes it OK.

I think Stein missed a very curious point about Ellis' stunt.

As the gentle reader will recall, the Teapublicans put out a hit on Ellis earlier this year, having him secretly videotaped at a bar, in which Ellis boasted about creating a Super PAC to go after his Democratic appointment and stating that Scott Walker works only for himself.  They wanted Ellis out because he did not always toe the party line and they had a lot of money making ventures - like school privatization - to cash in on.

So, when his party stabbed him in the back like that, why in the world would Ellis turn around and help them out?

Did they break Ellis' ego like he breaks gavels?  Is Ellis that much of a sheep? Do they have compromising photos of Ellis with a sheep?

All I know is that if I had been betrayed like Ellis was, I would be loathe to do them any favors.

RIP Fuzzy Thurston

Sadness struck Packer Nation on Sunday when it was announced that famed Fuzzy Thurston passed away:
Fuzzy Thurston, a key player on Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers championship teams of the 1960s, died Sunday after a long illness. He was 15 days shy of his 81st birthday.

His family announced the death on Sunday afternoon via Twitter, prompting an outpouring of sympathy messages from Packers fans.


Thurston became the Packers' starting left guard upon his arrival in Green Bay. He missed part of the 1965 season because of injury. Thurston's last year as a starter was 1966. He was a backup to Gale Gillingham in his final season, 1967.

Thurston was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1975. He was inducted to the Wisconsin Athletic and the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association halls of fame in 2003 and was a member of the Valparaiso Athletic and Indiana Football halls of fame.

"The Packers Family was saddened today to learn of the passing of Fuzzy Thurston," Packers president and chief executive Mark Murphy said in a statement. "Fuzzy was an endearing figure for Packers fans for more than 50 years, going back to his all-pro playing days and continuing through his rousing welcomes at Lambeau Field as a favorite alum. Our sincere condolences go out to Fuzzy's family."
I was fortunate to have met Fuzzy once.

My wife and I had taken Vangie, an elderly friend, out for lunch at a restaurant called King's Table in King, Wisconsin, just outside of Waupaca.

It was mid-October and my wife and I were decked out in our Packer gear.

When we asked the waitress for our bill, she said that a gentleman sitting halfway across the room wanted to compliment us on our outfits and the way we attended to our elderly friend. She further said that he would like to pay for our lunch tab.

I looked up in surprise and saw an older but vibrant man sitting at a table. Like us, he was garbed in his Packer finery and when I made eye contact with him, he broke out in one of the biggest smiles I've ever seen and gave me a thumbs up.

As I looked closer at him, I saw that he was wearing a hat with the number "63" on it.  My jaw bounced off the table when I realized that Fuzzy Thurston had just paid for our lunch.

I immediately went up to him and shook his hand, thanking him for his generosity.  It was only then that I noticed a large bandage on the front of his throat.

Still smiling, he held up his hand, indicating that I should wait.  He reached in his pocket and pulled out a wad of bills.  He flipped through the money until he found one of his business cards for his restaurant.  He pulled out a pen from his coat pocket and autographed the card for me.

It was a coincidental meeting, but it showed Fuzzy's character and what a generous and outgoing man he was.

Former VA Governor Bob McDonnell Could Face Ten Years In Prison

Well, well, well:
The matter is far from settled. The probation office recommended a punishment from 10 years and a month to 12 years and 7 months. Calculating an appropriate range of sentences in the federal system is a complicated, mathematical process that takes into account a variety of factors, including the type of crime, the defendant’s role and the amount of loss. The judge has yet to see the arguments from each side.

McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted in September of lending the prestige of his office to Richmond businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. in exchange for $177,000 in loans, vacations and luxury items.

McDonnell is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 6. His wife’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 20, and her guideline range is expected to be lower than her husband’s. The probation office has not yet filed a report concerning her.


The range is particularly notable because last December, prosecutors offered to let McDonnell plead guilty to just one count of lying to a bank as part of an agreement that would have meant he could be sentenced to three years in prison at the most and probation at the least. Importantly, though, McDonnell would have been required to sign a statement acknowledging that he helped Star Scientific, Williams’s dietary-supplement company, at the same time the businessman was giving him loot, fully shouldering blame for a relationship he has insisted was not criminal and was driven largely by his wife.
It is no great leap of logic to connect this to the way that Scott Walker, the Teapublicans and their dark money overlords are fighting so hard to kill John Doe.

Isn't that enough to make one wistfully dream what Wisconsin would be like if we had a legal system - both on the state and federal level - that wasn't so damn corrupted.

H/T to Crooks and Liars

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Another Day Another Religious Gaffe By Scott Walker

Just a couple of days ago, Scott Walker became a national laughingstock when it was reported that he signed a letter to a constituent with "Thanks again and Molotov."

Now, another religious gaffe by Walker has surfaced.

Last month, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Walker tried to justify his refusal to expand Medicaid in Wisconsin by saying:
“It’s probably not fair to ask the son of a preacher to use biblical metaphors,” Walker said. “My reading of the Bible finds plenty of reminders that it’s better to teach someone to fish than to give them fish if they’re able. . . . Caring for the poor isn’t the same as taking money from the federal government to lock more people into Medicaid.”
Blogger Chris Walker (no relation to the governor) caught the gaffe and pointed out that Walker was actually citing a Chinese proverb and not a Bible verse.

Walker (the blogger, not the despot) goes on to point out that Bible actually contradicts what Walker (the despot, not the blogger) is trying to argue.

That's gotta be rather embarrassing to the preacher's son.

But there's more.

Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel finally got around to reporting on this gaffe and contacted Team Walker who had a curious response:
Team Walker disagrees.

"The governor specifically says it’s in his reading of the Bible," said Laurel Patrick, press secretary for Walker. "He’s not quoting scripture."
Well, doesn't that clear nothing up? He's citing the Bible but not the Bible? Huh?

The one thing we do know is that not only did Scott Walker drop out of college, he apparently dropped out of Sunday School too.

Cross posted at Crooks and Liars

Walkergate: Kelly Rindfleisch Asks John Doe To The Big Dance

Kelly Rindfleisch, one of Scott Walker's top aides who pleaded guilty to illegally doing political work while on county time, is appealing her conviction.  Again:
A former aide to Gov. Scott Walker when he was Milwaukee county executive has appealed her conviction for misconduct in public office to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Kelly Rindfleisch filed the appeal on Friday. It comes after a state appeals court on a 2-1 vote upheld her conviction last month.

Rindfleisch was one of six people convicted as a result of a now-concluded “John Doe” investigation focusing on activities in Walker’s county executive office. Walker was never charged.

Rindfleisch had pleaded guilty to felony misconduct in office in October 2012 for doing campaign fundraising for then-lieutenant governor candidate Brett Davis during the time she was receiving a county paycheck.

Her appeal is based on investigators’ seizure of roughly 16,000 emails from her Yahoo and Google accounts. She argues on appeal that the emails were obtained during an unconstitutional search and should be suppressed.
Keep in mind that she appealed this issue during her trial and appealed her conviction on this matter.

She is obviously hoping to do a Scott Jensen-like maneuver in getting the case in a friendly venue where the rule of law is not as important as the rules of their corporate overlords.

I also find it ironic that Rindfleisch keeps crying about how broke she is but keeps finding the money to pay high-end Attorney Frank Gimbel to file these frivolous appeals.  Then again, she's probably getting a discount rate since Gimbel is a big supporter of Walker, who is helping pay for Rindfleisch's legal defense fund.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Jensen Deception

BY Jeff Simpson

 In Monona Grove, like many other public school districts in Wisconsin, we have a code of conduct that students have to sign and we expect them to live up to.   In this code of conduct this line is prominent:
Honesty (Students will be trustworthy and truthful, no matter what the consequence.)
The Elmbrook School District hasa special policy on Academic Honesty:  
Policy 5131.2 - Academic Honesty
The District regards academic honesty as vital to the academic, social and emotional development of all students. Honest and ethical behavior is an essential component in the learning process. Academic honesty requires that all academic work is the legitimate, truthful effort and product of the student. In contrast, academic dishonesty is an attempt by students to claim and show possession of effort, knowledge and/or skills that are not their own. Academic dishonesty in any form shall not be permitted.
Which brings us to the issue of the day, public education, and the recent November elections.  
We will see an expansion of "school choice" and the head of the "school choice" movement in Wisconsin is formerly convicted felon, Scott Jensen.  Jensen was basically given a "get out of jail free' card from his good friend and fellow Republican, Attorney General elect Brad Schimel.    
After Jensen left in disgrace, he went right to be head lobbyist for American Federation for Children(AFC). AFC is funded by the Walton and DeVos family and their main goal is to privatize our public education.   
AFC's visions is defined as(emphasis mine):
The American Federation for Children envisions an education system where parents are empowered to choose the best educational environment for their child, where innovation and entrepreneurism revolutionizes our education system, ensuring all children, especially low-income children, are provided with the opportunity to receive the finest education possible, whether it be in a traditional public school, public charter school, virtual learning, private school, home school or blended learning.
Doesn't there seem to be a disconnect that the organization that just wants parents to be "empowered to choose the best educational environment for their child" hired as its point person someone who has a proven history of not being able to be trusted to help serve the public?  

To make matters worse, they give the ethically challenged Jensen lots of money to buy elections.  As Bill Lueders recently pointed out:
School choice proponents, many from out of state, funneled $64,000 directly into candidates’ coffers in 2014, through AFC and another group. (The AFC-affiliated funder, Wisconsin Federation for Children Political Fund, filed its last report Nov. 26, a month late, risking a penalty of up to $500. Its Washington, D.C.-based administrator did not respond to an emailed question about the late filing.)In addition, AFC made independent expenditures of $866,000 to boost or oppose candidates. This adds to the nearly $10 million in state electoral spending by school choice proponents between 2003 and 2012, as tallied by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
AFC’s spending in the Nov. 4 elections included $148,000 to help narrowly defeat Democrat Rep. Mandy Wright, a former teacher and school choice critic. It spent $123,000 to help Republican Todd Novak score a razor-thin win over Democrat Dick Cates. And it poured $240,000 into GOP choice proponent Howard Marklein’s successful bid for an open Senate seat.**
** To put things in perspective, while they are spending tens of millions of dollars on elections, our annual budget(approximately 3200 kids, 250 staff, six buildings is $32 Million).   Also average teacher pay in WI is approaximately $47,000/yr, while Scott Jensen makes a over $200,000/yr.   
 When you give Scott Jensen that kind of money to play with, he uses it just as you would expect!    
Yet, in its electioneering, AFC commonly doesn’t even mention school choice. It attacked Wright for allegedly using sick leave to attend a protest, which she insists is not true. It went after Cates for his vote on the local school board concerning the Pledge of Allegiance. And it ripped Democratic Rep. Gordon Hintz for threatening a female colleague and being cited in a massage parlor sting operation, both in 2011.
Now let's sum it all up, we have a disgraced former elected rep, who is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in small time races, to attack certain candidates disgracefully and dishonestly, late in the game, about every issue BUT school choice, and then AFC wins by razor thin margins.   Then Mr. Jensen declares:
Jensen is proud of these victories, which he says give it “a school choice majority in both houses.” He attributes this success to public support for school choice.
How Jensen sleeps at night is something he will have to answer, but why we continually reward this behavior in our political system is something that we have to take a long look at.  
Mr. Jensens behaviors, if he were a student in our district, would result in probably suspension and possible explusion(depending on the behavior plan we would work out between the principal, his teachers and parents).   
Is the person who would not be able to be hired into our schools, the person we want entrusted with millions of public education dollars?   
Do you feel safe knowing that YOUR children's future is in Scott Jensen's hands?    

Images from public profiles!