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!

Ceding Federal Lands to the States

Over the last decade or so…as a part of the Bundy federal lands grazing incidents and their takeover of federal lands in Oregon…the subplot was state’s rights and federal lands should be ceded to the states. Well those conversations seem to be coming up again since the Donald Trump win on November 8th.

First, ceding federal lands to the states under these conditions is giving into terrorists…something that the US have vowed never to do.

But on what I perceive to be legal and historical grounds, the state’s have no rights to the federal lands within their borders. Because they are federal lands. They belong to me and you and every other citizen of the United States and not just to the residents of Oregon or Wyoming or South Dakota. They are held to benefit all of us as a nation not to the individual states.

And then there is the fact that most of those federal lands have been owned by the United States before any of those states even came into existence. What right do the states have to pre-existing domain?

But I fear that this will come to the forefront sometime during a Trump regime…and it must not be permitted to happen. Federal lands should be held in perpetuity for the common good.

Added 12/21/16: From the NY Times: It’s Our Land. Let’s Keep It That Way.

Immigrants Need To Assimilate!

During the campaign and since the election of President-elect Donald Trump…as part of the undercurrent of the anti-immigrant rhetoric there has been the continued story that immigrants need to assimilate. That they don’t do that. But they do…they do it very effectively…even if it isn’t on the schedule that the right thinks is normal.

My paternal grandfather spoke German when he came to this country…but none of his children or grandchildren did (in retrospect I wish he had allowed a bilingual family). My maternal great-grandparents spoke German and Irish but none of their children or grandchildren did.

In the early 20th Century there were dozens of foreign language newspapers across the nation and I believe at one time Milwaukee had more German language papers than English. Those are all gone now.

So what is the fuss? Our memory is short. Many of the new immigrants will take on American culture as they add unique new aspects to it. It just might not happen as quickly as someone thinks it should.

But immigrants haven’t always been so good at assimilation. If they had you’d be reading this in Ojibwe right now!

AG Schimel Should Go To Jail

Yeah, I know that’s a provocative headline and no I don’t really think that Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel has done anything that deserves incarceration.

But I am embarrassed that I haven’t written about this subject before. Four people have died while incarcerated in the Milwaukee County Jail in 2016. The jail run by County Sheriff David Clarke. Now deaths by inmates in custody in county jails do happen from time to time…but four is a pretty egregious number in less than a year. And two of them are particularly troubling. One male inmate with mental health issues died from dehydration after having the water turned off in his cell. The other was a newborn who didn’t survive the night when jail personnel ignored the mother’s statement that she was going into labor. By the time they checked her in the morning the baby was dead.

But as far as the public can tell nobody is investigating it. A recent law was passed in Wisconsin that requires that investigations of civilian deaths in police custody or by a police officer be carried out by an outside law enforcement agency. Unfortunately when this bill passed it intentionally excluded deaths of inmates in county jails. So the investigative agency for these four death in the Milwaukee County Jail are being carried out by the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department, the same department that runs the jail.

There have been a number of calls for outside investigations from the media and the families involved. There have been a number of calls for Sheriff Clarke’s resignation by elected officials. But nothing is moving forward as far as we can tell.

So I would request that AG Schimel send a team to Milwaukee and visit the jail and investigate these four deaths in particular and the general overall handling of the jail. And if anything is amiss to bring charges against those responsible. It’s been long enough without action and the Wisconsin Dept of Justice is the appropriate agency.

Side note to the state legislature: Fix the loophole that allows deaths in custody at county jails to be investigated by the jailors!

Federal Court Blocks WI Gerrymandered Districts But Now What?

Some transitory good news came out yesterday when a federal court voted 2 -1 to block the gerrymandered Wisconsin legislative districts.

Here is a synopsis:

A dozen voters sued in July 2015, arguing the maps unconstitutionally discriminated against Democrats by diluting their voting power. They called it the worst example of gerrymandering — a term for dividing districts to gain an unfair advantage — in modern history.

Attorneys for the state countered Wisconsin is trending Republican and argued there’s no legal way to measure gerrymandering. They added that partisanship should be expected when one party draws legislative boundaries.

Of course the GOP will appeal this to the US Supreme Court so nothing is going to happen in the short term…and the outcome may totally depend on who is sitting on the court given the Trump presidency.

But what should the Democrats in the state legislature be doing in the meantime? They should be drafting and presenting a bill that requires that future redistricting be handled by an independent agency with the consent of the legislature similar to provisions in Iowa. Something that seems to be going swimmingly in Iowa right now!

Will it fly in Wisconsin? Probably not…particularly given our recent experience with the destruction of the Government Accountability Board and the new better partisan election commission….the GOP will stop it dead in its tracks. But it should be brought up anyway…and the GOP made to defend their position once again in the light of day under the dome…and be forced to say they are against one person one vote and equal representation.

But that won’t happen either as the minority will just wimp out and hope the US Supreme Court saves their posteriors…

Ivanka’s Baubles Bangles and Beads

Apparently Ivanka Trump wore jewelry from her namesake line of jewelry while accompanying Donald Trump for his interview on “60 Minutes”. And someone from her firm sent out info touting it. And some people are making a big stink about it.

Really? I mean Really?

Donald Trump is about to destroy the legacy of President Barack Obama, destroy international trade, destroy safety net and entitlement programs for US Citizens, destroy the economy by removing 11 million working residents, destroy the environment and possibly start the biggest recession/depression since Herbert Hoover and we a getting out of joint over some over priced costume jewelry?

Get your heads out of your posteriors…we have some real policies we have to stand up against…and you are worrying about this?

They aren’t migrants!

For those of you who haven’t seen the news lately…or haven’t visited news sites that carry such news…the French government is tearing down a refugee camp in Calais and moving its residents to other facilities in France. Many of the residents are upset because they would like to reach Great Britain and feel that being moved from Calais will make that move more difficult. This despite the fact that the camp is described as a squalid jungle. So there has been some rioting and violence.

I don’t know what we can do about it directly but there is something about they way it is being reported in much of the America press the really bothers me. As we’ve seen in this campaign, words matter. And NPR and other outlets have repeatedly called the residents of these camps: migrants.

They aren’t migrants. Migrants follow the crops and harvest them. Migrants move from their home to a new home to find work. Migrants came to America to find a better life. Migrants settled the west and the plains by moving from the east. Migrants moved from the rural south to the north and Midwest to find factory jobs. Migrants abandoned the dust bowl and moved to California in the depression. Those are migrants.

The people in France are refugees. They have been violently driven from their homes by war. I think it is important that we don’t lose sight of that. They have left behind everything they knew for the unknown to literally keep from being killed.

This is an important distinction and I don’t know why the media is trying to soft pedal this by using the term migrant. As I said NPR has used the term migrant the past two days. Good Morning America got it right in a title: “France Begins Removing Thousands From Squalid ‘Jungle’ Refugee Camp“, but used migrant in the story a time or two. And the Associated Press uses migrants: “France moving more than 6,000 migrants, destroying huge camp” (an article reprinted in the October 26, 2016 print edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel where the subheading read: “Thousands of migrants still await relocation”).

I won’t go on with other examples…but it is really important that we use refugees…it denotes their existence and their presence resulting from violence, an involuntary movement from their former homes. The label migrant makes it sound voluntary and implies less urgency for their situation.

Let’s call refugees…refugees.

Sheriff Clarke Runs Amok, County Exec Abele Talks Sense, and a Judge Starts the Healing

Following the Sherman Park riots on August 13th and 14th, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke decided to close Milwaukee County park, Sherman Park, at 6 PM each day. The normal time for county parks to close is 10 PM. In the short term this made some sense but in the passing days and then weeks, the residents requested that the park be returned to normal. Obviously the neighborhood wanted to heal. And there were several weekly events held in the park that were being interrupted that were designed to help area youth and others.

Well Sheriff Clarke ignored the requests of neighborhood residents and kept the 6 PM curfew in place. That was common knowledge but nearly everyone in the city other than the sheriff were wondering why. What I didn’t know was the park was also enclosed in orange plastic snow fencing…an intimidating and extremely ugly presence in the park.

But then this Sunday it got more interesting!

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele announced Sunday that Sherman Park…would resume its normal operating hours, setting up a showdown with Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., who had imposed shortened hours in the wake of the unrest.

…he (Abele) reinstated the county park’s normal operating hours and had the fencing removed — only to have Clarke reinstall the barrier and threaten to arrest anyone, including Abele, who refused to leave the park after 6 p.m.

Acting on a legal opinion by the county’s top attorney, Abele on Sunday reinstated the park’s 10 p.m. closing time and ordered the removal of the fencing, calling it “a literal and figurative barrier standing in the way of healing in the Sherman Park neighborhood.”

Within hours Sunday, Clarke ordered his deputies to replace the fence, and said in an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the park would remain closed from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. as a matter of public safety until he decides otherwise.

Well, not to let this rest, County Exec Abele then sought and gained a court injunction against the sheriff closing down the park again:

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Hansher on Sunday issued a temporary restraining order barring Clarke from closing the park early, and he ordered the removal of bright orange snow fencing that has lined the park for all but a few hours since rioting broke out in the surrounding neighborhood over a two-day period last month.

Hansher ordered sheriff’s deputies not to impede public access to the park “in the absence of any genuine, bona fide reason related to maintaining law and order and preserving the peace.”

He also chastised Clarke for failing to appear in court and not sending an attorney, calling it “contemptuous of the civil proceeding and the public’s right to have a hearing.”

“The sheriff is not above the law,” Hansher said.

A follow up hearing is set for Wednesday…and someone from the Sheriff’s Department had better show up this time…although it’s even money the sheriff himself won’t show up.

Hansher scheduled a hearing on a permanent restraining order for 2 p.m. Wednesday. He said if Clarke attempted to unnecessarily impede access to the park, he would find the sheriff in contempt of court.

All of this is typical of the ongoing feud between the sheriff and the county exec.

But the really telling statement on this whole thing is the very last paragraph of the article:

“I feel like instead of acting like a bully, Clarke should come down and talk with us,” Major (Dee Major – an area resident) said. “There is nothing wrong here.”

So besides not evening listening to the requests of the neighborhood, the sheriff hasn’t even visited the area?

Sheriff Clarke is up for re-election in 2018…plenty of time to find a qualified candidate to run against him!