Gov. Walker appoints his lawyer’s brother to a judgeship

On Friday Gov. Scott Walker appointed former Outagamie County District Attorney Vince Biskupic to a seat on the Outagamie County Circuit Court. For those of you playing at home, Vince Biskupic just happens to be the brother of Steve Biskupic, the former U.S. Attorney who coincidentally has been working as Gov. Scott Walker’s attorney for the better part of two years.

And before anyone defends Walker’s choice, let’s take a look at Vince Biskupic’s record during his time as Outagamie County District Attorney, thanks to TruthInJustice.

During his eight years as Outagamie County’s top prosecutor, Biskupic raised at least $37,000 from individuals in uncharged deals, the newspaper found.

  • Poor people and their attorneys weren’t informed that such deals existed. Included in the group paying money in exchange for avoiding charges were two dentists, two corporate executives, a contractor and a student at an expensive private college.
  • By making payments ranging from $500 to $8,000, and sometimes agreeing to other terms such as counseling or cooperating with investigators, the people signing Biskupic’s deals avoided charges including criminal damage to property, drug dealing, making obscene telephone calls, criminal perjury, forgery and patronizing prostitutes.
  • Two people contend they were innocent and felt pressured to sign the agreements to protect their reputations. One said he was “shaken down” by Biskupic.
  • Spot checks with prosecutors in a third of Wisconsin’s 72 counties indicate that more than half use uncharged agreements. Of the 16 prosecutors who reported using such deals, some said they collected no money; others said they collected roughly $50 to $200, not the thousands of dollars that Biskupic exacted from some individuals. The prosecutors said such agreements represented a tiny part – probably less than 1 percent – of the cases they handle and the offenses included domestic violence, theft and disorderly conduct.

Given Vince Biskupic’s rather interesting prosecutorial philosophy, Gov. Scott Walker’s appointment of Biskupic to sit on the bench in Outagamie County certainly seems curious, to put it mildly.

H/T to The Political Environment.

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Joe Biden: “It is cowardly not to step up” against domestic violence

Speaking at a meeting of the Democratic National Committee’s women’s leadership forum on Friday, Vice President Joe Biden said the nation needs to bring young men into the effort against domestic violence by encouraging them to stand against the crime on college campuses.

Biden, speaking at a meeting of the Democratic National Committee’s women’s leadership forum, said the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act highlights the need to fight domestic violence against women in their teens and 20s.

Biden said the administration would be unrelenting “to make it clear that it is cowardly not to step up.”

The vice president reiterated the message Friday afternoon at a round table on domestic violence issues in Denver. “You have an absolute obligation to intervene when you see violence taking place,” Biden said of men. “That’s manhood. That’s being a man.”

Here’s some video of Joe Biden’s remarks.

Burke jobs plan plagiarized from other candidates

*Sigh* Really?!? Really?!?

Large portions of Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke’s jobs plan for Wisconsin appear to be copied directly from the plans of three Democratic candidates who ran for governor in previous election cycles.

Burke’s economic plan “Invest for Success” copies nearly-verbatim sections from the jobs plans of Ward Cammack, who ran for Tennessee governor in 2009 before withdrawing from the race, a 2008 plan from Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, now-Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s plan from his failed-2009 bid, and John Gregg who ran for governor of Indiana in 2012 and lost to Mike Pence.

Gregg’s plan is no longer online but BuzzFeed News accessed the text through an archiving service, while Cammack’s plan is available here.

Markell’s plan can be seen online here.

McAuliffe’s plan is likewise no longer online but BuzzFeed News has seen the text through an archiving service as well.

A spokesman for the Burke campaign told BuzzFeed News an “expert” named Eric Schnurer who also worked on the other campaigns as responsible for the similar text, a case of self-plagiarism.

It’s disappointing that no one on Mary Burke’s campaign thought to vet the job plan presented to them by Eric Schnurer to make sure there weren’t any problems wit the plan, and the sad part is that despite screwing over Burke’s campaign in this instance with his unoriginal jobs plan, Eric Schnurer will likely continue to get work as an “expert.”

The Republican-created mess at the Republican-created Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare

This is what you get when Republicans are allowed to run the government.

When Mary Wolf left the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare this year, she wrote a pained letter to the agency’s leadership in both Milwaukee and Madison:

“The decision to leave the BMCW broke my heart,” she wrote. “It came down to the choice of retaining my ethics and values or continuing to do work that I love (but) be expected to do things that were morally questionable. It seems wrong to me that it had come to that.”

Wolf worked as an initial assessor at the bureau from March 2013 to February.

In that role, she could decide if children suspected of being abused or neglected needed to be removed from their homes — an event that could retraumatize a child and send families on a journey toward reunification that, even if successful, might take years.

Or she could decide to leave the children in their homes — exposing them to the risk of further abuse, neglect or even death.

By the end of Wolf’s brief tenure, the thought of going to work in the morning made her retch.

Assessors such as Wolf have left the bureau in droves, according to statistics provided by the state Department of Children and Families, which runs the Milwaukee office.

Nearly a quarter of the agency’s assessors left in 2010. Nearly a third left in 2011. Thirty-eight percent left in 2012, and another 38% left in 2013.

Even with new hires, the havoc caused by that level of turnover year after year has been compounding. One way to measure it: the number of backlogged initial assessments — that is, assessments still open past the 60-day deadline set by law.

In June, they peaked at nearly 3,000.

It’s important to note the State of Wisconsin took control of Milwaukee’s child welfare system in the 1990s, when Republican Alberta Darling and her fellow Republicans added a clause to the 1996 state budget that had the State of Wisconsin assuming control of Milwaukee’s child welfare system.

[I]n 1996, Alberta Darling, along with her fellow Republicans, at the marching orders of then-Governor Tommy Thompson added a clause to the budget bill, taking over the child welfare system in Milwaukee County. Their rationale was that, even though independent audits had shown the foster care system to be grossly underfunded, that they could do a better job at running the system than Milwaukee County had.

In 1998, the state took over, creating the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare (BMCW) and began to privatize the system. By the end of 2001, they had it all but completely privatized, with contracts to no less than five different agencies. They also increased the budget for Milwaukee County’s child welfare system by some $35 million. At that time, the standard payment to a foster parent of a child less than three years old was $292 per month.

The problems with the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare can be directly traced back to Republicans who first undermined Milwaukee County’s child welfare system by underfunding it and then finished the job they started by privatizing almost the entire system.

What’s more, not only have Republicans privatized Milwaukee County’s child welfare system, but they’ve dumbed it down by loosening the requirement that those individuals who complete initial assessments to determine if child abuse or neglect is occurring be licensed social workers.

As for stabilizing the workforce, the bureau has widened its net of candidates by removing the requirement that initial assessors be social workers, a move agencies that support and represent social workers have found to be wrongheaded.

Unless I’m mistaken, all that’s required to be an initial assessor for the BMCW is a high school education and some social services work experience, which doesn’t sound to me like a recipe for success in regards to having solid initial assessors who have the education and expertise necessary to do their jobs.

As a result, Milwaukee County’s most at-risk children are less safe, thanks to Republicans.

Could Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s days be numbered as DNC Chair?

It’s no secret I’m not a fan of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Putting aside the fact that her politics are terrible, I think she’s been an awful “leader” of the national Democratic Party.

However, we may not have to endure much more of Debbie Wasserman Schultz as DNC Chair, if this report from Buzzfeed and this scathing piece in Politico are to be believed. Here’s a highlight from the Politico piece.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is in a behind-the-scenes struggle with the White House, congressional Democrats and Washington insiders who have lost confidence in her as both a unifying leader and reliable party spokesperson at a time when they need her most.

Long-simmering doubts about her have reached a peak after two recent public flubs: criticizing the White House’s handling of the border crisis and comparing the tea party to wife beaters.

The perception of critics is that Wasserman Schultz spends more energy tending to her own political ambitions than helping Democrats win. This includes using meetings with DNC donors to solicit contributions for her own PAC and campaign committee, traveling to uncompetitive districts to court House colleagues for her potential leadership bid and having DNC-paid staff focus on her personal political agenda.

She’s become a liability to the DNC, and even to her own prospects, critics say.

“I guess the best way to describe it is, it’s not that she’s losing a duel anywhere, it’s that she seems to keep shooting herself in the foot before she even gets the gun out of the holster,” said John Morgan, a major donor in Wasserman Schultz’s home state of Florida.

H/T to DownWithTyranny!

Congress Passes ISIS Bill and Evacuates Washington!

In probably one of the worst decisions to come out of Washington since the decision to invade Iraq under President George W Bush, the Senate piled on and passed the bill to ‘train moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS’ that easily passed the House yesterday.

What an incredible waste of American resources…and many of those very same legislators who decried President Obama’s broadcasting when he intended to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan…actually built in a December 11 sunset date by adding the Syrian authorization to an budget extension bill…because, well once again we are two weeks away from the new fiscal year without a budget…but I digress.

On the Senate bill:

The Senate gave overwhelming approval on Thursday to a measure on the training and arming of Syrian rebels, then fled the Capitol for the fall campaign, sidestepping the debate over the extent of American military action until the lame-duck session of Congress later this year.

The training measure, pushed hard by President Obama, was tucked into a larger Senate bill to keep the government funded past Sept. 30, a maneuver that leaders of both parties favored to ensure as few defections as possible. The Senate’s 78-to-22 vote, a day after the House passed the measure, masked the serious doubts that many senators had.

The broader debate over Congress’s role in blessing or expanding a new military campaign in the Middle East was one that few on Capitol Hill wanted just six weeks before the midterm elections.

And hopeful presidential candidate Rand Paul:

“I’m not sending your son, your daughter over to the middle of that chaos,” said Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, whose libertarian views have propelled him into contention for his party’s 2016 nomination. “The people who live there need to stand up and fight.”

He added, “I am not giving up, but it is their war, and they need to fight.”

About the House bill:

An unusual but overwhelming coalition in the House voted Wednesday to authorize the training and arming of Syrian rebels to confront the militant Islamic State, backing President Obama after he personally pleaded for support.

The 273-to-156 vote was over a narrow military measure with no money attached, but it took on outsize importance and was infused with drama, reflecting the tension and ambiguity of members wary of the ultimate path to which any war vote could lead.

There was rare unity between House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, who strongly backed the training legislation and sought to portray it as a modest measure. And the opposition included the equally unlikely pairings of antiwar Democrats and hawkish Republicans.

And how did the Wisconsin House Delegation vote?

Only two of Wisconsin’s eight House members voted for the resolution — Democrat Ron Kind and Republican Paul Ryan.

And the six who voted no included lawmakers with very disparate views on intervention.

Democrat Mark Pocan, who opposed the resolution, said he feared this would turn out to be a much bigger military commitment than advertised. “All of this sounds like it’s looking a lot more like a war rather than a very limited engagement,” he said in an interview.

But Republican Jim Sensenbrenner expressed almost the opposite rationale for voting no, saying his fault with the administration’s approach was that it was tepid. “We need to annihilate them,” he said in an interview.

Republican Reid Ribble said his opposition was both procedural and substantive. “The president didn’t need authorization. We train troops around the world all the time,” he said. “And I personally was not convinced we knew who we were training.”

Also voting no were Republicans Sean Duffy and Tom Petri and Democrat Gwen Moore.

In voting yes, Kind said he opposes committing combat troops to the region. But he said in a statement: “The step we took today is the best of the bad options that we have. … It gives the president bipartisan support to help him build a coalition in opposition to this growing threat, provides oversight resulting in greater accountability and is the best plan to avoid putting combat troops on the ground.”

And then they all left town to continue their campaigns…

And unfortunately, I had a graphic from the NY Times showing the vote nationally for both houses, but I lost it. I will add it later if I find it again.

What If We Do Nothing: ISIS and the Arab World

This op ed piece originally appeared in Wednesday’s New York Times and was reprinted this morning in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. I am going to copy it in its entirety here because I think it bears repeating. I hope the NYTimes will understand (the link to their original is above):

An existential struggle is taking place in the Arab world today. But is it ours or is it theirs? Before we step up military action in Iraq and Syria, that’s the question that needs answering.

What concerns me most about President Obama’s decision to re-engage in Iraq is that it feels as if it’s being done in response to some deliberately exaggerated fears — fear engendered by YouTube videos of the beheadings of two U.S. journalists — and fear that ISIS, a.k.a., the Islamic State, is coming to a mall near you. How did we start getting so afraid again so fast? Didn’t we build a Department of Homeland Security?

I am not dismissing ISIS. Obama is right that ISIS needs to be degraded and destroyed. But when you act out of fear, you don’t think strategically and you glide over essential questions, like why is it that Shiite Iran, which helped trigger this whole Sunni rebellion in Iraq, is scoffing at even coordinating with us, and Turkey and some Arab states are setting limits on their involvement?

When I read that, I think that Nader Mousavizadeh, who co-leads the global consulting firm Macro Advisory Partners, is correct when he says: “When it comes to intervening in the Arab world’s existential struggle, we have to stop and ask ourselves why we have such a challenge getting them to help us save them.”

So before we get in any deeper, let’s ask some radical questions, starting with: What if we did nothing? George Friedman (no relation), the chairman of Stratfor, raised this idea in his recent essay on, “The Virtue of Subtlety.” He notes that the ISIS uprising was the inevitable Sunni backlash to being brutally stripped of power and resources by the pro-Iranian Shiite governments and militias in Baghdad and Syria. But then he asks:

Is ISIS “really a problem for the United States? The American interest is not stability but the existence of a dynamic balance of power in which all players are effectively paralyzed so that no one who would threaten the United States emerges. … But the principle of balance of power does not mean that balance must be maintained directly. Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia have far more at stake in this than the United States. So long as they believe that the United States will attempt to control the situation, it is perfectly rational for them to back off and watch, or act in the margins, or even hinder the Americans. The United States must turn this from a balance of power between Syria and Iraq to a balance of power among this trio of regional powers. They have far more at stake and, absent the United States, they have no choice but to involve themselves. They cannot stand by and watch a chaos that could spread to them.”

Therefore, he concludes, the best U.S. strategy rests in us “doing as little as possible and forcing regional powers into the fray, then in maintaining the balance of power in this coalition.” I am not sure, but it’s worth debating.

Here’s another question: What’s this war really about?

“This is a war over the soul of Islam — that is what differentiates this moment from all others,” argues Ahmad Khalidi, a Palestinian scholar associated with St. Antony’s College, Oxford. Here is why: For decades, Saudi Arabia has been the top funder of the mosques and schools throughout the Muslim world that promote the most puritanical version of Islam, known as Salafism, which is hostile to modernity, women and religious pluralism, or even Islamic pluralism.

Saudi financing for these groups is a byproduct of the ruling bargain there between the al-Saud family and its Salafist religious establishment, known as the Wahhabis. The al-Sauds get to rule and live how they like behind walls, and the Wahhabis get to propagate Salafist Islam both inside Saudi Arabia and across the Muslim world, using Saudi oil wealth. Saudi Arabia is, in effect, helping to fund both the war against ISIS and the Islamist ideology that creates ISIS members (some 1,000 Saudis are believed to be fighting with jihadist groups in Syria), through Salafist mosques in Europe, Pakistan, Central Asia and the Arab world.

This game has reached its limit. First, because ISIS presents a challenge to Saudi Arabia. ISIS says it is the “caliphate,” the center of Islam. Saudi Arabia believes it is the center. And, second, ISIS is threatening Muslims everywhere. Khalidi told me of a Muslim woman friend in London who says she’s afraid to go out with her head scarf on for fear that people will believe she is with ISIS — just for dressing as a Muslim. Saudi Arabia cannot continue fighting ISIS and feeding the ideology that nurtures ISIS. It will hurt more and more Muslims.

We, too, have to stop tolerating this. For years, the U.S. has “played the role of the central bank of Middle East stability,” noted Mousavizadeh. “Just as the European Central Bank funding delays the day that France has to go through structural reforms, America’s security umbrella,” always there no matter what the Saudis do, “has delayed the day that Saudi Arabia has to face up to its internal contradictions,” and reform its toxic ruling bargain. The future of Islam and our success against ISIS depend on it.

Gov. Walker: drug testing the poor is “about compassion”

Speaking at a campaign event on Monday, Gov. Scott Walker defended his proposal to require recipients of public benefits to submit to drug testing as being “about compassion.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Monday defended his proposal to require drug tests of people seeking unemployment assistance and food stamps by saying it was an act of compassion, not an attempt to make it harder for people needing help.

“This is really about compassion,” the Republican said. “It’s not about making it hard to get government assistance, it’s about making it easier to get a job.”

For the son of a preacher, Scott Walker sure has a tortured definition of compassion.

Thursday Music: Talking Heads: Psycho Killer

I hate people when they aren’t polite…

Blogging Blue’s “14 in ’14”

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