Paul Ryan takes Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS after voting to cut funding for ALS research

Yesterday I posted video of me taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and I noted that ALS research is a cause worth donating to, especially given the drastic cuts to ALS funding by the federal government.

Among those who’ve taken the Ice Bucket Challenge to benefit ALS research was Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, and while it seems commendable that he took the challenge, it shouldn’t go unnoticed that Rep. Ryan voted for legislation (the Budget Control Act of 2011) that defunded ALS research.

The funding cuts, in this case, were caused by the passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011 — otherwise known as the bill to save the United States government from default. As a condition of getting congressional Republicans to sign off on the debt ceiling hike, the Obama White House and Congressional Democrats agreed to budget cuts and future budget cuts that would be delivered via sequestration, an across-the-board cleaver that cut certain agencies’ budgets by roughly 5 percent.

The National Institutes of Health was one of those agencies. It was forced to slash an estimated $1.55 billion from its programs. Among those was the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. In Fiscal Year 2013, the NINDS budget was $1.53 billion, a $92 million decrease from FY 2012. For ALS-specific research, funding went from $44 million to $39 million.

The next time Rep. Ryan wants to help fund ALS research, perhaps he should start by not cutting federal funding for ALS research.

VIDEO: Zach takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

By now you’ve no doubt heard about the Ice Bucket Challenge to benefit the ALS Association that’s gone viral, helping raise over $41 million to help fund ALS research.

On Wednesday, I found out I was challenged to do the Ice Bucket Challenge by Cudahy Mayor John Hohenfeldt, and in the interest of raising awareness (and hopefully a little more money), I’m posting my Ice Bucket Challenge video here for you all to watch. I hope watching me douse myself in ice cold water will inspire you all to visit the ALS Association’s website and make a donation, because it’s certainly a worthy cause.

So here’s the video of me taking the Ice Bucket Challenge, along with my three challenges.

Please consider taking a moment to visit ALS Association’s website and make a donation to help fund ALS research.

” He’ll be looking down the barrel of a gun “

A couple of  years ago when my wife and I were visiting my parents in the tiny southeastern Minnesota town where I grew up ( population roughly 1,000 ) my dad told me a disturbing story that I couldn’t get off of my mind for quite some time. The recent events in Ferguson and St. Louis have brought it back vividly, and I think it’s one more piece of evidence, albeit anecdotal, to suggest that contemporary police culture is way, way out of hand.

Across the street from my folks lived a life long resident of my hometown, a guy I’ll call Joe, who lived with his mother in her small, one story house.  Joe had a long history of psychiatric problems and everyone in town knew he was a troubled guy, but we also knew that he wasn’t dangerous. He was actually quite likable and grew the most fantastic garden in town in his backyard, and every time we visited my parents I always went across the street and talked to him. I knew him from my youth and he seemed to appreciate my coming over to visit and see his garden.

But things got a little weird when Joe suddenly found Jesus and took to knocking on doors in the neighborhood to evangelize, especially when he went to the house right next door to my parents place, which had recently been bought by an out of town cop who worked for a local police department some 40 miles away. Some kind of argument ensued when Joe was over there and it turned into a bit of a dust-up, which ended with Joe leaving as he shouted and waved his arms.

My dad went out to see what was going on and spoke to the cop, who I’ll call Bob. Bob was apparently quite agitated and told my Dad, ” if he ever comes over here again he’ll be looking down the barrel of a gun. ”

I was shocked, and frankly pretty pissed off. As a semi-retired social worker and someone who’d known Joe for decades, I couldn’t believe that a small town cop, or any cop for that matter, would talk that way about an obviously troubled guy with mental health problems.

I don’t think we’re talking about a few bad apples here when it comes to police violence, I think we’re talking about an internal culture that sees force, and deadly force, as the answer to every problem they encounter.

It’s time for cameras on every cop and independent reviews of all police involved shootings in every state in the country. Police need to be accountable to the communities they serve, not the other way around.

There’s nothing exculpatory about the Kajieme Powell killing video

The St. Louis Police Department dictionary must be different than the one you and I use, because in the wake of the release of the cell phone footage taken by a citizen while Kajieme Powell was being shot and killed by police,  St. Louis Police Association business representative Jeff Roorda said the union approved of the video’s release because,  ” it’s exculpatory for one thing “.

No, Mr. Roorda, the video is not exculpatory, it’s incriminating. The officers must have reported to St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson that Powell had a knife raised in an overhand grip and was two or three feet away from them when they opened fire, because that’s what Dotson told reporters in the wake of the shooting. But the video tells a much different story. Assuming, then, that the officers lied in their report of the shooting incident, why did they do so?

The most plausible explanation is that they knew that the situation as they encountered it did not justify the use of deadly force, so they freely embellished upon and then reported a scenario that would justify their actions. And if this is the case, we should all be outraged, horrified and demand that the officers involved be investigated for an unjustifiable homicide.

Someone in the St. Louis, or even the national press, needs to ask Sam Dotson or Jeff Roorda why there is such a stark discrepancy between the officers  initial report and what actually happened. Police officers presumably lying about the details of a fatal shooting of a citizen is no way to de-escalate tensions in Missouri or anywhere else in the country.


is the third time the charm for Dan Sebring? No, no, and no.

Showing a stunning lack of understanding about the electoral makeup of the 4th Congressional district, yesterday an anonymous writer at the Wisconsin Daily Independent opined that Dan Sebring may finally be able to beat incumbent Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore because “the black community carried Clarke,” a reference to Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke’s victory over challenger Chris Moews in the Democratic primary on August 12. The unknown author provides no evidence to back up his or her claim that “the black community carried Clarke,” and the author conveniently ignores the fact that there was a concerted effort to get Republicans to cross over and vote for Sheriff Clarke.

The black community carried Clarke and they tend to carry Moore. Could the unhappiness with Obama lead them to Sebring? This last election proved a conservative that talks to the black community can make it. A conservative message can break through and Sebring has a lot of name recognition.

A quick glance at the vote totals in the Milwaukee County Sheriff race seems to indicate that efforts by Republicans to get Republican voters to turn out and vote were successful, given the fact that Sheriff Clarke alone garnered more votes in 2014 than both he and Chris Moews did combined in 2010.

At any rate, despite pie in the sky statements that African Americans will turn out and vote for Dan Sebring, there’s absolutely no chance he’ll beat Gwen Moore in November.

Ernie Wittwer declares victory in Democratic primary in 17th Senate district

While there were some absolute blowout races after the results of the August 12 partisan primaries were tallied, there were a few races in which the results were extremely close. On such race was the Democratic primary in the 17th Senate district, a race that pitted longtime resident and activist Ernie Wittwer against Pat Bomhack, the hand-picked choice of Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson.

That race was extremely close, with just two votes separating the winner (Wittwer) from the loser (Bomhack), and after the official canvass showed a 7 vote margin, Wittwer declared himself the winner.

Official county canvasses show Wittwer beating Pat Bomhack by just seven votes in the Democratic primary for Wisconsin’s 17th Senate district.

That’s a slightly wider margin than the two-vote difference initially reported by an unofficial Associated Press vote tally last week.

However, it’s also still close enough that Bomhack could request a recount at no cost to his campaign.

According to the canvass report filed with the Government Accountability Board, Bomhack received 3,840 votes to Wittwer’s 3,847.

“I’m looking forward to the general election,” Wittwer said. “We’re figuring out what we have to do to get on with beating my Republican opponent.”

There’s been no word yet on whether Pat Bomhack will request a recount, as he did not respond to contact by the CapTimes and there’s been no activity on his Facebook page since August 13.

Given such a tight margin of victory, I’d expect Bomhack

Shooting to kill

Shortly after two St. Louis police officers shot and killed 25 year old African American Kajieme Powell on Tuesday, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said at a press conference that Powell had approached officers with a knife raised in an overhand grip, and was within three or four feet of them when they opened fire. The trouble is that Chief Dotson obviously didn’t know that someone had captured the entire episode on a cell phone camera.

I’ll warn you ahead of time that the video is disturbing. It clearly shows that Powell was maybe ten feet from the officers when they opened fire and that his hands were at his sides. I counted nine shots fired, at least two of them after Powell was already on the ground. 

Could the police have used a Taser on Powell? Could they have shot him in the leg since he was allegedly wielding a knife and not brandishing a firearm? Could they have backed away and tried to talk him down? Of course they could have, but they didn’t. They showed up and promptly shot him, and they obviously shot to kill.

This has to stop, and people of color shouldn’t have to bear the burden of stopping it on their own. is asking  for our help in demanding a full investigation into the killing of Michael Brown, and they’re also soliciting funds to hire a police accountability organizer in the St. Louis area.  My wife and I are going to send them $100.00. You should too.

And then we need to demand immediate transparency regarding police training curriculum all across America. What is being taught at the Academy? Shoot first, and shoot to kill?

Alderman Zielinski: Body cameras should be included in city’s 2015 budget

From my email and my facebook timeline:

Wearable body cameras for Milwaukee police officers should be included in Mayor Tom Barrett’s proposed 2015 executive budget, Alderman Tony Zielinski said today.

The small cameras record the interactions officers have with citizens, and also document calls for service.

“Given current events, I believe these cameras are a good investment which can increase overall police transparency while providing a clear record of what occurs during a given call for service,” Alderman Zielinski said. “I am calling on the Mayor to include body cameras in his 2015 city budget, and if he does not, I will be introducing a budget amendment to include them.”

Alderman Zielinski, chair of the Licenses Committee, said he believes body cameras will become standard equipment for police departments across the U.S. during the next few years. “These cameras offer the public a clear record of what transpired, and for officers who followed the law and followed procedure — but who are wrongfully accused – the footage can provide irrefutable vindication,” he said.

Mayor Barrett will introduce his 2015 executive budget later next month.

Meanwhile in St. Louis….

…..police shot and killed Kajieme Powell, a 25 year-old African American man on Tuesday.

Police were called by a convenience store owner who suspected Powell had stolne drinks and donuts from his shop, according to a recording of the 911 call, while a woman called 911 to report Powell was acting erratically and had a knife in his pocket.

Two officers in a police SUV responded to the calls, the cell phone video shows. When the officers got out of their vehicle, Powell walked in their direction, yelling and telling them to shoot him already.

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said Tuesday that both of the officers opened fire on Powell when he came within a three or four feet of them holding a knife “in an overhand grip.”

But the newly released cell phone footage undermines the statement, showing Powell approaching the cops, but not coming as close as was reported, with his hands at his side. The officers began shooting within 15 seconds of their arrival, hitting Powell with a barrage of bullets.

Here’s the cell phone video of the incident, but be warned it contains graphic content.

**WARNING** The video contains graphic content!

Two things struck me about the video, the first being the fact that at least two shots were fired by the officers after Kajieme Powell had already fallen to the ground. I also couldn’t help but notice that both officers immediately drew their firearms instead of attempting to subdue Powell with a non-lethal option such as a Taser, which would likely have subdued Powell short of ending his life. Obviously I don’t know if the officers in question were equipped with Tasers, but if they were it certainly seems that one officer attempting to incapacitate Kajieme Powell with a Taser while the other had his firearm trained on Powell would have been a smarter option.

Here’s a photo of a 2016 Republican presidential frontrunner

It doesn’t get much better than this – here’s Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s mugshot after he surrendered himself to the Travis County (TX) jail on Tuesday.

Rick Perry mugshot

Yep, he’s definitely a frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Blogging Blue’s “14 in ’14″

Goal Thermometer