Tuesday, December 29, 2009

At Least He Didn't Wear a Hairnet

No awful hairnets involved in this Mark Neumann photo-op...just a dash of wooden prompter reading with a touch of deer-in-the-headlights.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Do Privatized Flies Taste Better?

Milwaukee County First is reporting about a complaint that was apparently filed at Milwaukee County's Behavioral Health Division. According to the report, the food service that Scott Walker successfully pushed to privatize in 2009, has not exactly been a model of quality. Here are some of the issues that have been reported:

  • Inadequate portion size
  • Ignoring special diet needs
  • Bugs in food

The Behavioral Health facility was already audited and cited after a terrible starvation death and other horrible things back in 2006. The last thing that they need is inadequate food portions, not to mention bugs in food an ignoring special diet orders. I know that Walker and his "conservative" disciples love to preach about private companies always being cheaper and more efficient. We already know that this dogma is simply not accurate. In fact this story validates some of the quality concerns that people have had about privatizing services in general. I suppose someone could make the argument that privatized flies taste better than regular ones.

All joking aside, this is actually a very serious issue and I wish that someone would finally be forced to own the incompetence at the Behavioral Health Division. For example, who is overseeing the dietary contracts out there? Some people have told me about possible cronyism going on at BHD and I wonder if that could be at play in this situation. I don't personally know, but what I do know is that these reports are serious and given the BHD history, someone should take action.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thanks for the ‘Awful’ Bush Decade

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that Americans have a very negative view of the past decade, most of which was marked by President Bush's time in office. The poll found that 58% of people said that the decade was either "awful" or "not so good," 29% said that it was "fair" and only 12% said that it was either "good" or "great." The people that were polled also said that the country lost ground during the decade on the environment (37%), health and well being (46%), peace and national security (50%), moral values (66%) and a whopping 74% said it lost ground on economic prosperity.

Census Bureau figures that were released in September mostly supported the public's negative impression of the Bush Decade. On every major issue the Census Bureau found that the country lost ground. We lost it on median household income, poverty, childhood poverty, and lack of health insurance among other things. In comparison, the country's position in each of those categories improved during President Clinton's two terms (often dramatic improvements).

I'm proud that the State of Wisconsin twice rejected George W. Bush, but we still had our fair share of Bush backers that tried to convince us otherwise. I think of Bush's "cousin" Scott Walker, Leah Vukmir, the Republican Party of Wisconsin and so many others. I suppose a sarcastic "thanks" is in order for their contributions in promoting an awful president and helping craft an 'awful' decade. As much as some of these Bush boosters were loving him a few years ago, they couldn't run away fast enough when reality finally hit.

Although many of his prominent Wisconsin supporters have ditched him, most of them still recite his failed policies. Tax cuts for the rich being a silver bullet for everything and the massive deregulation of industry are just two of the big ones. The awful Bush Administration did plenty of both and we can clearly see where it brought us. Since I don't think that the former Bush boosters will ditch his failed policies as quickly as they ditched the man, we can only hope that Wisconsinites show the same common sense that they did in 2000 and 2004. If we didn't like the "awful" Bush Decade, then why would we promote folks that are using the same awful policy playbook?

ht: Think Progress

UPDATE: Found this because of a link at One Wisconsin Now, "Top Ten Worst Things About the Bush Decade".

Friday, December 18, 2009

Send a Bill to Milwaukee County

Yesterday the Milwaukee County Board failed to override Scott Walker's veto of a study. Specifically, the study was to provide an accurate number for the cost of providing the same benefits to all Milwaukee County workers. Walker and at least 7 Supervisors pretended that they were against this measure because treating workers equally would be too expensive. An absurd point to be sure, but even more absurd since we don't even have an accurate assessment of how much it would cost. And that is why equality-minded supervisors called for a study in the first place. Clearly Walker and at least 7 supervisors would rather remain in ignorance on the issue.

One vote would have provided a successful override of Walker's veto. If everyone that originally voted for the study, would have voted the same way, it would have moved forward. When a veto proof majority originally voted for the study, Walker bragged that he was going to flip the one person that he needed to prevent an override. He was successful and it is no surprise that Lynne De Bruin was the one to flip. Apparently her reputation for caving at the slightest hint of pressure is justified. Apparently she now thinks that studying the cost of equality is just a little too expensive.

LGBT families and others that should be/but aren't treated equally should send a bill to Milwaukee County. Did everyone else get their property tax bill recently? Did you see the portion that is paid to Milwaukee County? Might I suggest that people send a bill to Milwaukee County asking for reimbursement of that amount? Why should any group of people be required to be a first class taxpayer but second class citizens?

You may also want to contact Scott Walker and the supervisors that believe equality is too expensive, and ask them the following: 1. Are you and your family carried on the Milwaukee County benefits system? 2. How much is that costing Milwaukee County Taxpayers? 3. Will you repay Milwaukee County for those costs and remove yourself from the benefits system?

Here is the contact info if you want to send your bill to Milwaukee County and/or ask these officials to give back their expensive taxpayer funded benefits:

County Executive Scott Walker

Email: countyexec@milwcnty.com

Milwaukee County Courthouse 901 North 9th Street, RM 306
Milwaukee, WI 53233

Phone: 414-278-4211 Fax: 414-223-1375

Milwaukee County Supervisors

Lynne De Bruin, Joe Sanfelippo, Joseph Rice, Paul Cesarz, Mark Borkowski, James Schmitt, Michael Mayo

Milwaukee County Courthouse
901 North 9th Street, RM 201
Milwaukee, WI 53233
Phone: 414-278-4222 Fax: 414-223-1380

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why Can't You Just Say, "He's Wrong"?

Today the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorialized that the full Milwaukee County Board should override a Scott Walker veto today. The veto was meant to stop a study that would look at the actual costs of treating all Milwaukee County employees equally. Specificly, that LGBT families would have access to the same benefits as their heterosexual co-workers. So the study that Walker doesn’t want is about how much extending those benefits will/or won’t cost.

The good part about the editorial is that the MJS says that the Walker veto should be overridden. The part that makes me crazy is how they have to qualify any and every criticisim of Walker with “he has a point” kind of language. NO! HE DOESN’T HAVE A POINT! HE IS WRONG! Why can’t the MJS just say so?

I know that the MJS has invested a lot of their own “capital” into Scott Walker but this kind of thing is getting so absurd. I really think that Scott Walker could propose using the Park East land to build a massive puppy mill and the MJS would somehow manage to find a “good point” in it.

The last time that I can remember the MJS Editorial Board saying that Walker was flat out wrong about something was when his administration closed the pools early in the middle of a heat wave and then scapegoated his managers when he saw the public outrage. Other than that 2003 incident, I simply can’t remember the MJS simply saying “He’s wrong” about anything.

The measure is only asking for a study of the benefits in question. We want to the know the real costs and Walker wants to keep us in the dark. The likely outcome of a study will be that they will not cost that much more. Then Walker and friends will have to admit that the real reason for fighting this is rank discrimination and pandering to an extreme base. That is why he vetoed the study and that is flat out (come on, you can say it) W-R-O-N-G!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Potpourri of Shameless

Just in time for the holidays, we are all getting a complimentary potpourri from Milwaukee County! Unfortunately it is a potpourri of shameless, and it doesn't look half as lovely as the festive one pictured here.

Not only did Scott Walker successfully send a group of modestly paid workers to the unemployment line for the holidays, but he then bragged about it as a "win" for himself. As if that wasn't bad enough, this week we found out that the majority of the workers that he threw out were African-American. I don't think that I need to remind people how much worse the unemployment rate is for the African-American community as compared to the population as a whole. Maybe Scott Walker will send those families a Christmas card thanking them for helping him score a short lived political point. He deserves the national coverage that he is getting about his inability to control his toilets.

This week we also saw five of the seven people on the Milwaukee County Board's Personnel Committee vote to sustain Scott Walker's veto against LGBT families. The measure was only calling for a study to analyze the impact of offering benefits to the families of LGBT Milwaukee County workers. But why would they want a study when they can just cite some made up estimate that Walker's underling pulled out of thin air? If they actually got the results of a reliable study, then they might have to admit that this has nothing at all to do with money. It has everything to do with catering to Walker's extreme base.

I renew my call for Walker, David Arena and all five of those supervisors to give up their benefits because they are costing taxpayers too much! If they don't give up their benefits, then they should at least fully disclose how much their benefits are costing taxpayers.

As an aside, it was particularly galling to see Lynne De Bruin live up to her reputation and reverse herself at the slightest hint of pressure. I think members of the LGBT Community should start sending their property tax bills to her and ask her to pay the county portion of it. After all, why should the LGBT Community be first class taxpayers but second class citizens in Milwaukee County?

Just when you think your potpourri of shameless is complete, Scott Walker comes along with something new to add! I didn't think he could do it, but I think that Walker has come down on yet another side of the federal stimulus issue. Who knew that there were so many sides to it! Capper has the details, and believe me, they are the very definition of shameless.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Walker Can’t Pass Smell Test - Again

Dan Cody at Left on the Lake was first to point out that a business owner that was awarded a cleaning contract by Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, is also a large donor to Walker's campaign. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was not far behind with a story today that also highlights the donations to Walker. These developments have caused at least one conservative blogger to call out Scott Walker on the issue. This incident is certainly not the first time that Walker actions have not passed the smell test. Consider below, what is just a small sampling of typical Walker funny business:

  • Spivak and Bice reported in 2002 about Scott Walker's heavy handed approach to fundraising from lobbyists to aid his first run for Milwaukee County Executive. In that story they compare Walker's fundraising approach to famous bank robber Willie Sutton. At that time, lobbyists (including Republican ones) claimed that although he didn't issue explicit threats, the implication was still very clear. Walker called the lobbyists asking for campaign cash reminding them that if he didn't win as Milwaukee County Executive, he would still be a state legislator. When questioned about the allegations (which included a recording of his "pitch") Walker tripped over his words and admitted, "I should be more clear about my pitch about county government."
  • After first being elected County Executive, Scott Walker received an "F" by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign for his campaign finance disclosures. The grades were based on the total number and value of improperly reported contributions. This has been a continual issue with Walker and his record according to WDC didn't exactly improve in 2005. This problematic pattern resurfaced again this year, as discovered by One Wisconsin Now. These kinds of violations are important because they keep watchdogs from identifying questionable issues such as the current one.
  • In 2003 Scott Walker awarded a $389,000 contract to Bear Stearns, which was locally managed by the later-indicted P. Nicholas Hurtgen. Soon after the awarding of the contract, Hurtgen helped arrange two fundraisers worth $25,000 for Walker's reelection campaign. A 2004 investigation found that the Bear Stearns contract had been awarded improperly. They won the contract even though their bid cost $90,000 more than a competing company. When public records were sought during that investigation, it was found that most were either "lost" or destroyed.

Scott Walker promised to clean things up in Milwaukee County but he has actually done the exact opposite. To those that have been paying attention over the last seven years, this latest questionable incident is just the latest chapter in the story about Scott Walker's self serving behaviors. It has been pretty clear to me that he is more concerned with winning the next election than with good and open governance. When people try to examine his actions, he goes to the greatest lengths to obstruct them (including the County Board). I'm sure that this is because Walker knows that most of his questionable actions just won't pass the public's smell test.

UPDATE: Capper gives us more detail pointing out who is actually "cleaning up" at the courthouse.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What is with all the blurred lines at CRG?

Last week we took a look at one of the most recent campaigns launched by "Citizens for Responsible Government". In that blog posting, I suggested that they should be disclosing what could be perceived as conflicts between the personal business interests of one of the "two guys" that run the outfit and their chosen actions as a group. The more that I looked at the situation the more I began to question things in this specific area and in others.

For example, in my blog last week I specifically mentioned Orville Seymer being a landlord of numerous properties and one time head of the local Apartment Association and the possible personal benefit that he could see as a result of the latest CRG fight. As it turns out the lines between Orville's personal business interests and CRG are more blurred than I first realized. When I looked at the letter again, I noticed that they use the same P.O. Box on the mailing that Orville uses for his own personal business as a landlord. Here is just one recent example of Orville filing an eviction case in Milwaukee County Circuit Court and the address listed is the same P.O Box that is on the recent CRG mailing. All of these things blur way too many lines in my own opinion and this should cause even some of their most fervent supporters to question some of CRG's motives and credibility.

Yet another question arose in my mind after a closer inspection of the recent letter from CRG. Before I address it let me explain a bit more about their organizational structure. The Shepherd Express did a great job of addressing some of this in a report last week. What we know as CRG is actually made up of the following three entities:

  • CRG Network - which is a Political Action Committee and can come the closest to targeting a candidate or an election.
  • CRG Advocates - which is a 501(c)(4) "nonprofit" which is supposed to do "issue advocacy" but that can't directly seek to influence actual elections in the same way the PAC can.
  • CRG Foundation – which is a 501(c)(3) "nonprofit" and it is supposed to focus strictly on "education" and has the most rigid restrictions and prohibitions regarding issue advocacy and political actions.

So we were talking about blurred lines with CRG right? When I looked closer at their recent mailing I saw that it declared itself as being paid for by "CRG Advocates, Inc." which is the proper entity to send such a mailing. But then I noticed at the top of the letter they display what appears to be the logo for "CRG Network" which is the PAC. They also list "CRG Network" and the logo in the return address area. So exactly which one sent out and paid for this letter?

This apparent blurring of important organizational lines was curious to me, so I looked at a few other recent mailings that were supposed to be sent and paid for by CRG Advocates. Namely the October 2009 mailing, that promoted their Pro-Scott Walker rally at Serb Hall. That mailing also said that it was paid for by CRG Advocates but it also included what appears to be the CRG Network's (the PAC) logo. So which is it? Was this mailing (and the rally that it advertised) a function of your "issue advocacy" group or of your Political Action Committee? I think it might be a good thing to know, specifically for elected officials that showed up, in some cases using County resources and staff in the process.

I am guessing that someone noticed what appears to be the PAC's logo on the October mailing because then on a similar mailing in November, the logo did not appear. So what's going on here and what is with all of these blurred lines at CRG? Supporters of the organization should start asking some questions and maybe the undisclosed donors should spring for someone to clear up what appears to be some very blurry lines.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Wear a helmet before boarding the crazy train

I'm told that former GOP big-wig Jim Klauser doesn't really like Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker very much. If that is really how he feels, I can't blame him because there is a lot to dislike – even from a traditional Republican perspective. Maybe that is why Klauser was so involved in finding anybody, other than Scott Walker to run for governor. The empty suit that he finally settled on was former Congressman Mark Neumann (is he still running a campaign?). Klauser even helped step on Walker's official announcement with a media blitz praising Mark Neumann over Walker. We knew that this was coming for some time but now Klauser has made his flip-flop complete and has now officially jumped on the crazy train. Apparently having private sector experience isn't as important as Klauser was telling us a few months ago.

I have a piece of advice for Jim Klauser as he boards the Walker crazy train: You might want to wear a helmet. I know that right wing blogs and talkers are loving the fact that you switched sides, but they still don't like you anymore than you like them. For example, let's just go down memory lane from a few months ago. Here is a sampling of what some of the Walker groupies were saying about you:

  • "Where has Klauser been over the last few years? Answer: Who cares!"
  • "Oh great…a 'has been' political hack endorsing a 'used to be' politician. Klauser is just upset that Walker won't kiss his ring."
  • "Klauser, Neumann, et al. represent the country club republicans."
  • "I don't know who has better chances, but as someone who's not overly enamored of Tommy Thompson, any endorsement coming from his camp makes me leery not excited."
  • "Now, again, we have misguided leaders, (Klauser and Neumann)... I say its time for a third party in WI as Republicans are self destructive."

So you think their feelings will change now? Capper gives us one example of reaction to Klauser's flip-flop: "James Klauser, aka Tommy's brain, is no conservative! He has always been a RINO since his days with Tommy."

Like I said Jim, you might want to wear a helmet.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Who is driving the bus and is it going off a cliff?

The conventional "wisdom" of today's right wing is that they are all but guaranteed big gains next year. I think it is a fool's errand to predict such outcomes when so many things are in such a state of flux. Not the least of which is the apparent internal schisms that seem to be growing by the day for the Republican Party. While the party big wigs were surly delighted at the sight of angry Beck watching tea bagging mobs disrupting public forums, they must be second guessing things right now. Consider some of the following:

  • A Washington Post poll the other day showed that the only thing that most Republicans agree on is that they oppose President Obama. Other than that, the poll reveals "deep dissatisfaction among GOP voters with the party's leadership as well as ideological and generational differences." Fewer than half of Republicans (and GOP-leaning independents) approve of the direction that the party is going in today. This same poll found that there is no real consensus on GOP leadership, with 18% naming Sarah Palin, 13% saying John McCain, and 8% saying that "no one" is the leader.
  • In a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll released on Sunday, it seems that a majority of conservatives name nonelected officials and hate jocks like Limbaugh and Beck as the leaders of the conservative movement. The poll goes further in revealing an even wider rift between the fringe dwelling tea bagging-types and the few remaining moderates that want to broaden their party. It seems that the more radicalized new GOP base is winning the battle with the recent talk of a "purity test" for their candidates.
  • Republicans already lost a reliable seat in New York because of the fringe's demand for extreme right wing purity. Now, as Think Progress has detailed, there appears more and more "New York's" in the making all across the country.

I don't pretend to know what is going to happen after voters go to the polls next year, but I can't imagine that being this disorganized, disgruntled and radicalized puts Republicans in the position that many on the right hope to occupy next year.

The Republican Party of Wisconsin has long been radicalized, having very few traditional Republicans or moderates left. From Leah Vukmir's card carrying membership in the "tenther movement" to Glenn Grothman's obsession with race and his war against equal pay – it seems that the RPW went off the cliff a few years ago. That being said, it will still be interesting to watch a few of their primaries in the state.

  • Assuming that Mark Neumann actually starts acting like a real candidate, will he and Walker have a race to the fringe?
  • Will Wisconsin Republicans back their pumpkin farmer
    establishment candidate for U.S. Senate Terrance Wall or will they opt for the true believer, Dave Westlake?
  • And what about that 7 candidate GOP primary in the 8th Congressional District? Are the teabaggers going to demand the most ideologically pure? Whoever does win the primary, will the "independent" that is running split the right wing vote?

Both nationally and in the state, these events will certainly be very interesting to watch. We will eventually find out who is actually driving the GOP bus and if it is indeed the crowd that plans on driving it directly off a right wing cliff.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Today is World Aids Day

AIDS is preventable & treatable yet 3,800 die everyday in Sub-Saharan Africa. Join (red) today.

But what is CRG not telling us?

Yesterday Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG) sent out another wild-eyed rant in the form of a letter. It demands that people hurry up and call their elected officials. It focuses on a proposed ordinance in the City of Milwaukee related to the inspection of apartment buildings in two specific neighborhoods. If someone wasn't familiar with the characters involved at CRG, who knows what they would think about the hyperbolic rhetoric in the letter. Here is a small taste of the high minded dialogue on public policy that CRG apparently wants to foster (all caps, bolds, underlines and repeated use of exclamation points belong to CRG):

  • "WARNING! The City of Milwaukee Wants to Expand Their Bureaucracy…"
  • "Rental Property Inspection Scheme"
  • "…this is 'Big Brother' in its most Orwellian sense."
  • "A new 'backdoor tax' scheme YOU pay."
  • "Bureaucrats with the right to search your private living space…without a warrant!"
  • "…perhaps unconstitutionally!"
  • "Call City Hall…Do it NOW!!!"

In October, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did us the favor of describing the proposed ordinance without all of the "colorful" language (this time the emphasis is mine).

Under the proposal, to be reviewed by the full council at its Nov. 3 meeting, landlords would apply for an inspection by the city Department of Neighborhood Services to make sure each rental unit meets building and zoning codes.

The inspection will cost the landlord $85 per unit, with the certification for each unit lasting four years if no health and safety code violations are found after the initial inspection, said Art Dahlberg, department commissioner. If such violations are found, the landlords will be required to undergo annual inspections.

The ordinance would apply only in two neighborhoods with older rentals, and problems with code violations: an area near University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, bordered by Edgewood Ave., Newberry Blvd., Cambridge Ave. and Hackett Ave., and the Lindsay Heights neighborhood on the north side, Dahlberg said. It would affect around 3,700 units.

That description clearly tells me that the proposed ordinance is specifically targeted at an area that has a history of persistent code violations. It doesn't seem to be the far reaching attack on our personal freedom and privacy that the CRG mailing would have us believe. So what is really going on here and why would CRG pick up this specific cause in the middle of their effort to advance Scott Walker's political career? What aren't they telling us in the letter?

One of the "two guys" behind CRG is Franklin resident Orville Seymer. It is no secret that he is also a landlord of rental properties, owns a rental property management business, and has also been a leader in the local Apartment Association. Therefore, it would stand to reason that Seymer could have a significant personal interest in fighting this ordinance (for example, does he own a property in the two neighborhoods directly affected by this proposed ordinance?). Did he help write the CRG letter? Given his own over-the-top rhetoric on this specific subject, it seems very likely.

So at what point should an organization let us know that one of the "two guys" running it may have a significant personal interest in the organization's latest crusade? I don't really care what CRG does internally, but shouldn't at least one of the "two guys" running the outfit at least ponder the possible appearances here?