Impeach Governor Scott Walker!

No, not over Act 10 which gutted the rights of public employees and their unions, not over Act 14 that gutted the authority of the Milwaukee County Board, not the meddling in the Milwaukee Public School System, not Right to Work Legislation, not budget cuts to public schools, not budget cuts to the University of Wisconsin system, not the ineffective DNR, etc., etc., etc.

But Wisconsin Governor Walker should be impeached…now…for his total failure to protect the young people incarcerated at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and the Copper Lake School for Girls and the total ineptitude and arrogance of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. Since the closing of the Ethan Allen School for Boys in Wales just west of Milwaukee in Waukesha county, all minor males sent to the state for incarceration have been sent to Lincoln Hills near Merrill WI over 200 miles from Milwaukee.

There is a laundry list of mistreatment of inmates, lack of trained medical personnel and a chronic shortage of trained staff…resulting in overtime and overworked state employees. There is in fact little or no reason that this should exist and it can no longer be tolerated…and the blame goes right to the top…the office of Governor Scott Walker.

I suggest that you read this article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. But here are some excerpts:

For years, officials knew or should have known about the thicket of problems at Lincoln Hills and its sister facility on the same campus, Copper Lake School for Girls.

“It all went on in plain view of the Department of Corrections, but nobody at the Department of Corrections knew how juvenile corrections worked or how Lincoln Hills operated or what was going on,” said Troy Bauch, who until recently was the union representative for workers there.

The sweeping criminal probe, now nearly 2 years old, is examining allegations of prisoner abuse, child neglect, sexual assault, intimidation of witnesses and victims, strangulation and tampering with public records. A separate internal investigation uncovered four incidents where inmates’ bones were broken.

The crisis at Lincoln Hills is rooted in systematic breakdowns, lax management, confusion over policies, a lack of communication and chronic staff shortages, a review of more than 1,000 pages of records and dozens of interviews by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found.

Officials trained staff improperly, failed to preserve video evidence, didn’t document serious incidents, and often shirked their duty to report matters to parents, police and social service agencies.

The shortcomings intensified in 2011 when the Walker administration shut down two youth prisons in southeastern Wisconsin to save $25 million a year. The move put all of the state’s serious teen offenders in one facility — hundreds of miles from most of their families.

“The entire climate went from mildly hellish to the ninth ring of hell,” said Timothy Johnson, a former guard.

While a developing crisis quickly became apparent, no one moved to address it.

After nearly six years in office, Walker has yet to visit Lincoln Hills.

(emphasis mine).

There is absolutely no reason that young people should be treated like this while under the care and control of the State of Wisconsin…no matter what reason sent them to Lincoln Hills.

What is the governor’s most recent response to the issues al Lincoln Hills and the Milwaukee County Boards reluctance to continue to send juveniles there? Build a new prison in Milwaukee County as long as the county pays to run it.

Gov. Scott Walker is considering having the state help fund building a Milwaukee County juvenile corrections center, but the county would have to pay for running it.

Milwaukee County officials have sought a way to keep more teen inmates closer to home instead of sending them more than 200 miles away to Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls.

The two secure facilities share a campus north of Wausau and have been under criminal investigation for nearly two years for prisoner abuse and child neglect.

But nary a word about fixing the issues as Lincoln Hills…so why wait until the criminal investigations bring back the records of wrongdoing and indictments…IMPEACH GOVERNOR WALKER NOW!

The Comey, Weiner, Clinton E-Mail Scandals

After fevered efforts to find something damning in the emails found on Anthony Weiner’s server…FBI Director James B Comey says “…the agency stands by its original findings against recommending charges.”

Now, I think there needs to be some serious follow up investigations by the Justice Department and Congress into what was actually on Mr. Weiner’s computer…the news articles keep saying they are Clinton emails…are they actually emails sent from Hillary Clinton herself? Simply someone in her campaign? Or just from his estranged wife?

And did the FBI illegally inject itself into the presidential campaign?

And it wouldn’t be politic to fire him today, but President Obama should fire Director Comey first thing Wednesday morning. Dir. Comey shouldn’t be rewarded if his actions ushered in a Trump era and Sec. Clinton shouldn’t have to deal with it as president.

Sheriff David Clarke’s deathtrap

According to a report last week in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the death of Terrill Thomas while he was confined in the Milwaukee County Jail has been ruled a homicide after the cause of Thomas’ death was “profound dehydration.” According to accounts from other inmates, the water in Thomas’ cell had been shut off for six days .

The death of an inmate in the Milwaukee County Jail has been ruled a homicide, four months after corrections officers reportedly cut off his water supply for an extended period of time.

The cause of death was dehydration, with other significant conditions including bipolar disorder, according to autopsy results released Thursday by the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office.

Terrill Thomas, 38, was found unresponsive in his cell on April 24, nine days after being arrested for shooting a man in the chest and later firing two shots in the Potawatomi casino.

His family said he was in the throes of a mental breakdown when he was arrested. At the time of his death, he was awaiting a court-ordered psychiatric examination.

In July, the Journal Sentinel reported that inmates in cells near Thomas heard him beg for water days before his death and saw the water faucet in his cell had been shut off.

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article notes, Terrill Thomas death at the hands of David Clarke’s jail staff isn’t an isolated incident – during a four-year period 10 people died in custody of David Clarke’s Sheriff’s Office.

Bruce Murphy’s Take On AG Schimel’s Hearing Loss:

Earlier this week I commented on Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel’s total tone deafness related to his Department of Justice investigation into the shooting death of Sylville Smith at the hands of the Milwaukee Police Department. I am not the only one feeling this way…witness today’s article by Bruce Murphy over at Urban Milwaukee:

Then there’s the fact the state investigation is using retired Milwaukee police officers in the Smith probe. The AG told the media he doesn’t see a conflict in using MPD officers: “Milwaukee PD has about 2,000 sworn officers as I understand. The likelihood that there would be some relationship between a particular patrol officer, who’s going to be much younger than an experienced detective… is small. And if there is any relationship at all, that officer, that investigator would not be permitted to have any role in the investigation.”

This is not the first time former Milwaukee officers were used in such a state investigation. They were also used in the 2014 investigation of Milwaukee officer Christopher Manney who shot and killed Dontre Hamilton in Red Arrow Park.

At the time, Bies [Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay)] told Fox 6 he trusted the state agents to be impartial, but thought their ties to the Milwaukee department could make the public suspicious: “I would’ve thought that whoever made those assignments maybe would’ve considered those issues and… made a better decision and put a different investigator on.”

In short, perception matters. As it turned out, many in Milwaukee have never accepted the decision that determined Manney wasn’t criminally culpable and there have been periodic protests since then. But the stakes are far higher in the Smith killing, which touched off a near-riot. Whatever the decision that’s made, it’s critical that it looks as fair as possible, with no perception of favorable treatment.

But how “independent” does the investigation look when you have Milwaukee officers investigating a fellow member of the force? Under the circumstances, you have have to ask why Schimel hasn’t simply looked for other retired officers — whether from the Madison, Racine or any other city — to conduct the Smith probe.

But Mr. Murphy goes me one better…and it’s because they have been spending a lot of time following political contributions around the state. But if a perception of bias by the former MPD officers doing the investigation doesn’t bother AG Schimel, why would this:

But questions have arisen about Schimel’s links to Milwaukee police. For starters, he has been a frequent recipient of campaign donations from the Milwaukee Police Association. The police union gave him five donations of $500 between May 2014 and October 2015, as Gretchen Schuldt has reported for Wisconsin Justice Initiative.

What can possibly go wrong here?

When Gerrymandering Just Ain’t Good Enough

There is a very quiet movement afoot to repeal the 17th Amendment…and for those of you who have forgotten the 17th…it provided for the direct election of senators rather than having the state governments electing them. Why would anyone want to do that? Well apparently somebody in the GOP brain trust realized that you can’t gerrymander a state…so to control the selection of US Senators…you have to find a way to control the process. Like put the selection back into the hands of an elected body that can in fact be gerrymandered. Voila!

A widespread sentiment among more extreme conservatives — including a surprising number of prominent Republican candidates, former candidates, office holders, and former office holders — is that the 17th Amendment should be repealed. That Amendment, ratified in 1913, changed the way of selecting United States senators. It empowered a state’s voters and took the power of selection away from legislatures.

A quick look at the argument of the “repealers” that the 17th Amendment took from the states the power to choose senators reveals that it did no such thing. A state is more than its legislature. Voters, choosing senators by state, express the state’s will at least as fully as legislatures did.

Every state still has two senators, maintaining equality of states in the Senate. Legislatures never had the ability to control the votes of U.S. senators, and always failed in the rare instances in which they attempted it. Nor did they have the power to instruct senators or to recall senators who violated their “orders.” As a matter of fact, the Constitutional Convention explicitly rejected state control in favor of “per capita” voting by senators, and it has never been extraordinary for a state’s two senators to cast different votes.

The founders knew that majorities in legislatures would shift, that they might differ between houses, and that a state’s senators would often vote differently from one another. There is no less incentive now for a senator to vote “in the interests of the state” than there ever was. Thus, the argument from federalism is bogus.

It should also be noted, that it was state legislatures that had chosen every senator who voted to propose the 17th Amendment. It was also state legislatures themselves who voted to ratify it. In fact legislatures in 41 of the 48 states decided to ratify the Amendment, far more than the required three-fourths of the total.

What, then, is the real motivation behind the demand for repeal, when its likelihood of passage is so remote? There certainly is no outcry from the people of the United States demanding a measure that would strip them of their votes for their senators. In all probability, the fundamental motivation that masks itself as an effort to restore a vanished federal system is actually a covert grab for power.

Consider two things: first, conservatives tend to believe, probably correctly, that large voter turnouts are detrimental to their interests; second, it is possible to gerrymander a state to create districts that defeat majorities, but it is impossible to gerrymander a whole state. Thus, if there were no 17th Amendment, conservatives believe that they might be able to control the selection of U.S. senators even against majority preference. Long-term demographic trends are opposed to them and their ideology, so they desperately try anything they can think of to retain minority power.

They increase obstacles to voting across the board. Whenever possible, they even deny the vote to as many people as possible. They are notorious in their attempts to restrict citizenship to keep the electorate as small as they can. They treat elites ever more favorably, and now, however much it may simply be grasping at straws, they seek to return selection of senators to state legislatures. Their motivation is therefore less related to federalism, than to power.

Vox Populi!

When is 49% Good Enough and 50% Isn’t

I know that I ragged on the voter turn out already last week. How everyone was extolling the high turnout yet only 49% of eligible voters turned out. So the minority of voters made some pretty important decisions about local governments and of course the biggy…the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. So even though a candidate needed to win 50% of the votes cast…they actually logged far less than a majority of the citizenry that they are going to represent.

I hope I made my point last week…but it comes to mind again as I’ve read a number of articles recently about the issues with keeping qualified teachers in public education. It’s not a case of how do you keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree…its an issue with why should they teach when they are being attacked at every opportunity. And as teachers leave the profession, there are fewer and fewer candidates in our universities who are pursuing education degrees. Again why pursue a job that may feel rewarding…that you know is important to our future…when you will be demeaned and demoralized at every turn.

And then my mind wanders to teachers unions. Because they have been effectively neutered and can’t provide the kind of protection and representation that professional teachers are entitled to. Thank you Governor Walker and Act 10.

But speaking of Act 10 (I am working from memory here and not looking all of this up so please correct me where I am wrong), for a union to recertify it has to take a vote every year (?) and the membership has to vote in favor of continued representation…and it has to carry with greater than 50% of the total membership in favor. Not 50% of those voting…50% of the total membership.

Think about that for a moment…we elected a supreme court judge with far less that 50% of those voting…no where near 50% of all eligible voters…but a union needs more than 50% of total membership.

We seem pretty cavalier with electing officials who may have longstanding effects on our lives and livelihoods and futures…compared to the onerous requirements to do something as simple as recertifying a union. I just don’t get it.

Scott Walker administration wanted to offer a top DNR job to mining company lobbyist

This should surprise absolutely no one who’s been paying attention to the close relationship Gov. Scott Walker’s administration has had with not only supporters of Gov. Walker’s campaigns, but with lobbyists as well.

Gov. Scott Walker’s administration considered giving a top natural resources position this year to a lobbyist for a company proposing a massive iron mine, but backed off because of a federal law barring conflicts of interest.

“Records show that Walker’s staff was considering Gogebic Taconite lobbyist and spokesman Bob Seitz for the post of deputy secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. He was being considered for the post just before Gogebic announced it was closing its office in northern Wisconsin and stepping away from a proposed $1.5 billion iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties.

“Seitz ended up getting a different appointment from Walker, with the Public Service Commission.”

Though the source link is a year old, I thought this was worth noting simply because it points out just how corrupt our state government has gotten. After all, this isn’t the first example of cronyism in state government, as evidenced by the Brian Deschane situation.

If One Secretive Group Isn’t Enough:

Yesterday I covered a little known local non-profit group that is messing in Milwaukee County and City of Milwaukee issues called Milwaukee Works, Inc. This morning Daniel Bice and Mary Spicuzza of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel expose another secretive interloper. I don’t think I’ve seen anything from them in my neighborhood but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out here.

A secretive group led by a longtime conservative political operative has spent as much as $200,000 to influence Tuesday’s city elections, including the Milwaukee mayor’s race and key aldermanic contests.

And the group has done all this without disclosing its donors, detailing its spending or even registering with local, state or federal agencies.

Craig Peterson — a veteran GOP operative — said last week that his group, called Milwaukeeans for Self-Governance, has been involved in just about all of the 14 competitive Common Council races. Only one incumbent, Ald. Jim Bohl, isn’t facing a challenger.

Peterson insisted the group and others that he’s created are focused on improving conditions in Milwaukee, such as combating crime and improving job opportunities for city residents, especially African-Americans.

“We’re not registered with anybody because we don’t need to be,” Peterson said. “However, we are going to be around for a long time, so there may be multiple organizations.”

But the diverse slate of candidates backed by Peterson’s group doesn’t appear to have a single unified message or agenda — except possibly opposition to a Milwaukee streetcar — prompting some to wonder what Peterson is really aiming to achieve.

It’s not clear who is putting the money up for the sophisticated operation, which is underwriting radio ads, opposition research and detailed city polling. Peterson will say only that it receives funding from a “network of business people.”

But one thing is certain: Peterson is out to upset the balance of power at City Hall.

And here’s the kicker: Mr. Peterson lives in River Hills…?

If these two little local groups aren’t enough to convince us that the campaign finance laws need some serious revisions…I don’t think there’s any hope left for democratic government at any level anymore.