Saturday, September 13, 2008

Holy batman! Media infighting!

The New York Times and Washington Post are uncharacteristally at each other over whether Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin blew it when she had difficulty answering ABC anchor Charles Gibson's question about "the Bush Doctrine."

The New York Times says this shows Palin's ineptness. The Washington Post (which is hardly pro-Palin) points out that there have been as many as four different definitions of the so-called "Bush Doctrine" and that Palin was correct in asking Gibson for clarification of his question.

At least the Potomac press had a drop of journalistic integrity here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

In honor of Gene Malone

For anyone who follows Kenosha politics, Gene Malone is a familiar name -- the retired teacher whose letters to the Romans usually got lost in the mail. The guy who was a pain in the butt of most school board members with his usually rigid thinking that was also usually a couple of bubbles off the plumb.

But until his untimely death last month Gene Malone kept plodding and prodding. He didn't care if most people tuned him out or if his ideas were somewhat to the right of Attila the Hun.

I, too, found him typically annoying and often irrelevant. But what I thought really didn't matter. What was important is that Gene Malone taught us all lessons that most of us needed to learn.

What Gene taught us is that our rights as Americans don't mean much if we don't use them and that certainly includes our freedom of speech and to petition the government for redress of grievances. Gene was seldom "politically correct" and while his ideas were usually on the fringe, he nonetheless taught us that hiding behind fake smiles and euphemisms is neither what our forefathers envisoned or what thousands gave their lives to defend.

Yes, Gene was a character but as the late Charles Kuralt pointed out, when America runs out of characters it will have lost its character.

So, in Gene's honor, I'd like to tell the inflated egos who comprise the majority of the Kenosha Unified School Board that they pulled a major boner when they eliminated driver education programs.

It's only common sense that regardless of whether you're the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or the person who sweeps its floors you both have to know how to drive and society benefits from having well-educated drivers on our highways. It's such a "no brainer" that it makes you wonder if these supposedly educated people have any brains. They certainly don't have common sense.

And then there's that CDO boondoggle that's risking the school district millions and making more than a few people in this community ponder whether the "rocket scientists" who got us into this mess ought to be making license plates. (And to think one of them is a financial services consultant!) Shame, shame on them.

I don't know if Gene Malone will ever know that I wrote this but I'd like to think that if he did, he'd be proud.

Whoopi's ignorance is matched only by her arrogance

Whoopi Goldberg wasn't joking when she freaked out over the nomination of Sarah Palin as the Republican vice-presidential candidate in a blistering attack where she called the Alaska governor "dangerous."

The actress turned know-it-all then went on to say that those who view small towns as idyllic boroughs of patriotism slight those in big cities who may be equally as patriotic. She had a point but, unfortunately, its validity was tarnished by her bombastic and arrogant attacks on Sarah Palin.

The worst of it, though, is that after 9/11 we were all New Yorkers. I saw numerous tributes to the victims and heroes of 9/11 across the country. Ironically, perhaps the most compelling to me was at a housing project in Fairbanks, Alaska -- thousands of miles from New York City -- where children made a crepe paper monument in the fence surrounding the project. Her arrogance in belitting residents of America's small towns was matched only by her ignorance.

9/11: We're still wimps, mostly.

I set out this morning to write something new and creative on this, the seventh anniversary of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

However, I reviewed what I wrote last year here and essentially it's all still correct, save for the fact that we're beginning to see slight progess in Iraq.

I thought last year's comments were compelling and echo them today as we pray in rememberance of those who lost their lives and those who sacraficed to help them seven years ago in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. May they never be forgotten.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Whither thou goest Kenosha County GOP?

Recently the Kenosha County Republican Party has shown an upsurge in participation but something is certainly wrong this year.

Not one GOP candidate appeared on the ballot for county office. Not one.

The Assembly seat being vacated by County Executive Jim Kreuser will be picked up by his predecessor, Peter Barca, who will have no Republican opposition in the fall.

The GOP is fielding Ben Bakke against incumbent State Senator Bob Wirch while former Pleasant Prairie trustee Alex Tiahnybok renews his ongoing grudge match against John Steinbrink, sr., this time challenging Steinbrink's bid for re-election as state representative.

Of particular note, however, was the absence of a Republican candidate for county clerk where Mary Schuch-Krebs won a five-way Democratic primary to succeed retiring Edna Highland. It's too bad the GOP sat this one out.

A hat tip tp Jim Huff

Jim Huff, a county board supervisor and former Kenosha police officer, may not have won the Democratic primary for state assembly but he certainly earned respect.

Former state representative Peter Barca entered the race at the very last minute and demonstrated a well-organized campaign that won him the nomination and, as there is no Republican opposition, effectively the seat as well.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Jim was outgunned by a more experienced and better financed candidate. Still, you have to give Jim credit for entering the fray early on and sticking with it against the odds.

Jim Huff may not have earned enough votes but certainly he has earned a measure of respect.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Say what? Shooting a moose without a permit is worse than child abuse? You can't make this stuff up.

No sane person could believe this.

Earlier I posted the letter from Col. Julia Grimes, then director of the Alaska State Troopers, reaming out Gov. Sarah Palin's ex-brother-in-law, a rogue trooper, for using a taser on his ten-year-old stepson, shooting a moose without a proper permit and drinking beer on duty in his marked patrol car. Check it out.

Well, today I was discussing the letter with some friends when one caught something I'd overlooked which sent me even further into orbit. This is too weird to be made up, folks.

Col. Grimes wrote: "The use of your department issued Taser on a ten-year-old child, your stepson, Payton, demonstrated extremely poor judgment and a conscience (sic) choice you made to violate the department's standards of conduct." She goes on to deplore this violation in no uncertain terms: "This is unacceptable. Your lapse of proper judgment and unacceptable conduct is very serious in nature and on its own this matter warrants corrective action."

Tough -- and very appropriate -- language. Col. Grimes even wrote about how such an act would even diminish the child's view of state troopers and what is acceptable conduct for law enforcement. Before you scream, "Right on, Julia!" you ought to read what follows when she turns to shooting a moose without a proper permit. I mean CAREFULLY read it.

Col. Grimes starts out by saying, "The issue of the wildlife violation has even deeper ramifications."

Say what? Shooting a moose without a proper permit is worse than what amounts to a very aggravated act of child abuse?

It gets worse.

After tearing the vagabond trooper a new rectum for the Taser incident, unlawfully shooting a moose and drinking beer on duty, in uniform and in his marked patrol car, Col. Grimes recounts the seven warnings previously given and concludes: "The events and behavior sustained during this administrative investigation not only brings discredit to the department by having a trooper violate law, but also documents a continued course of conduct rife with poor judgment and violation of policy. It is nearly certain that a civilian investigated under similar circumstances would have received criminal sanctions. These events are unacceptable, constitute a gross deviation from our department's standards and will not be tolerated."

Hold on before you let out that cheer, folks, because this is what she wrote next: "Based on the totality of this review and your past history, you will be suspended for ten working days."

Say what? A ten-day suspension for all that? Is your head spinning?

Hold on, folks, it gets worse. That suspension was later reduced to five days. I've seen police officers canned for a lot less than this -- and rightfully so.

Frankly, I don't give a rat's behind if Gov. Palin was trying to get this moron fired. No sane, intelligent person with an ounce of morals would tolerate this mope with a badge and a gun, period.

And as for Col. Grimes, thankfully she's no longer the director. Shooting a moose without a proper permit "has even deeper ramifications" than child abuse with a weapon? What planet did she come from?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Palin attacks show hypocrisy, sexism

I like Jimmy Carter.

I didn't always agree with him, but Jimmy Carter was a breath of fresh air at a time when the nation was weary of the Watergate scandal.

Jimmy Carter was the "man from Plains" -- his truly small (population 637) town in Georgia -- who served one term as Georgia's governor before seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Carter also served three years in the state senate.

It was hard not to like Jimmy Carter. He was folksy, down-to-earth, carried his own luggage, had a colorful family (remember "Billy Beer" named after Jimmy's brother?) and often stayed with ordinary families during his 1976 presidential campaign.

The nation ate it up, falling in love with the humble small-town peanut farmer. The national media didn't go on a witch-hunt and, in fact, the imperfections of Jimmy Carter and his family became almost a source of national pride. In short, they were media darlings.

On a personal level, how could I not like a guy who (literally) bought me a beer?

Fast forward 32 years.

Sarah Palin is in her first term as Alaska's governor. Her approval rating hovers between 80-90%. She served two terms as mayor of Wasilla, a fast-growing Anchorage suburb which is more than ten times larger than Plains, Ga. Previously she was on the city council and also served as oil and gas commissioner. Like Jimmy Carter, she's seen by many as "one of us" and, also like Jimmy Carter, presents herself as a "Washington outsider."

But instead of the media love-fest Jimmy Carter enjoyed, Sarah Palin has been subjected to microscopic hyperscrutiny which questions everything from her ability to govern (her public service resume rivals candidate Carter's -- and she's not running for president) to being a good parent.

Could this be because she's a woman? Could this be because she's a Republican? Could this be because she has the audacity to be a conservative Republican woman?

Certainly the media has its job to do and rightfully should investigate the qualifications of the candidates. But it's a huge leap from legitimate investigation and reporting to a thinly-veiled witch hunt.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Listen up! The truth about "Troopergate"

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's opponents are trying to raise a ruckus over what's become known in the national media as "Troopergate" in which it's alleged that she canned Walt Monegan, the state's public safety commissioner, because he wouldn't axe her ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper who received only a ten-day suspension (later reduced to a mere five days!) for illegally shooting a moose, drinking on duty and using a Taser on his ten-year-old son.

The essential facts will be covered here in short order. I say "essential" because once you read them you'll wonder yourself why this moron wasn't canned.

First off, I know Walt Monegan to be a "cop's cop" who worked his way up the ladder from third-shirt patrolman to chief of police in Anchorage before Gov. Sarah Palin appointed him Alaska's public safety commissioner. I like Walt and believe the real reason he's no longer the top cop is because he couldn't justify submitting a reduced budget when his agency was overworked, understaffed and underfunded.

The truth is that Walt is an "at will" appointee who served at the pleasure of the Governor who can fire him for any reason or no reason at all, period.

The truth also is that Walt technically wasn't fired. He was offered a different job, as executive director of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. He turned it down.

Further, the truth is that Sarah Palin, long before she was governor, wrote Col. Julia Grimes, then director of the Alaska State Troopers, about her abusive brother-in-law's antics. Read for yourself what she wrote.

The truth is that the trooper was disciplined by Col. Grimes for eleven violations, including drinking on duty, illegally shooting a moose and using a Taser on his ten-year-old son. Col. Grimes' letter indicates that there were prior warnings and another document shows that the trooper was the subject of a domestic abuse restraining order.

Bear in mind, folks, that all this was done before Sarah Palin became governor and Walt was appointed public safety commissioner. That makes the claims that Palin or others acting on her behalf were learning on Walt to fire the rogue trooper a bit suspect because how could he act when the matter was closed?

Nonetheless, Sarah Palin could have flat out fired Walt for any reason under the sun and, as an "at will" appointee, he has no recourse.

The rest of this, of course, is mired down in politics but you have enough facts at your disposal to independently conclude that even if Sarah Palin or others acting on her behalf tried to get Walt to can her ex-brother-in-law, so what? The real travesty is that he wasn't fired earlier. (If anything good has come out of this it's that Julia Grimes is no longer director!)

Case closed.

FoxNews tonight: Gov. Sarah Palin: An American Woman

Rebroadcast of last night's documentary on Sarah Palin. 7 p.m. on FoxNews.

(If anyone missed it, I downloaded it onto a DVD!)

Sarah Palin: She's one of us!

"She's one of us!"

That's the comment most frequently heard from folks who have become acquainted with John McCain's running mate.

Of course, readers of this blog were introduced to Gov. Palin six months ago: http://ragdujour.blogspot.com/2008/03/mccains-vp-choice-could-be-easy-and.html

and I knew once Sen. Joseph Biden joined the Democratic ticket that it would be necessary for McCain to do something dynamic. He did.

The left-wingers and their allies in the news media were caught off-guard because, quite frankly, they weren't up to admitting their own ignorance about Gov. Palin and Alaska.

Had they done their research, they'd have found that Sarah Palin was "vetted" when she upended the Republican establishment to get elected Alaska's governor -- including claims about lack of experience: http://www.frontiersman.com/articles/2008/09/07/opinion/columnists/doc48bcf03a0e877323781165.txt.

Further, the lack of knowledge about Alaska's strategic and economic importance is mind boggling. This isn't Vermont, folks. Despite the low population density, Alaska is one of this nation's most important states in terms of energy, natural resources and military preparedness. While some may scoff at Gov. Palin's titular command of the Alaska National Guard, military historians know that the native Alaska Territorial Guard whose unpaid members ranged in age between 12 and 80 was the first line of defense against the Japanese. It wasn't until 2000 that Congress gave retroactive status and benefits to these brave volunteers (including 27 women).

Had the media stars done their homework they would have known about The Last Frontier. They would have known Alaskans are highly educated, well-read and debate foreign policy on their own. They would have talked about Horicon, Wisconsin native Fran Ulmer -- a University of Wisconsin Law School graduate -- who went on to become Alaska's lieutenant governor and an unsuccessful Democratic party candidate for Governor in 2002. And yes, Fran was a mayor, too (Juneau, Alaska).

Sarah Palin's inclusion on the McCain ticket means this will be anything from a boring election. It will also educate the rest of the nation about Alaska's importance. Regardless of the outcome of the election in November, the nation will have benefitted from McCain's bold -- and long overdue -- step.

As for the Obamaniacs, they'd be well to heed the saying that Alaska's political landscape is littered with the bodies of those who underestimated Sarah Palin.

Baaacccckkkk!

A number of family, health and employment issues led to a summer hiatus here but it's time to get going again, perhaps on a more limited basis.

Thanks to all -- especially dad29 -- who E-mailed asking if everything was okay.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

State needs to fix personnel crisis

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has uncovered a bizarre scheme in the short-staffed Department of Corrections where some guards work overtime and then call in sick, getting premium pay for overtime nonetheless.

Some of the guards came near or over six figure salaries considering their overtime pay. In one cited example, a guard at Redgranite Correctional Institution used nearly 23 days of sick leave in 2006. She was paid $97,280 that year, including $51,042 in overtime. The Department of Corrections shelled out more than $36 million in taxpayer money for overtime that year.

It's time for a huge reality check and corrective action.

Let's start with the Redgranite officer. Her base pay parallels that of young Assistant District Attorneys who have doctorate degrees and, instead of making big dollars, often have over six figures in educational debt. I doubt that officer has the educational background or debt load that these young prosecutors have and they don't get a dime in overtime! (Plus her total wages with overtime approaches the pay earned by the state's most senior attorneys -- people with well over 20 years on the job.)

There are several glitches in the state employment system that need fixing.

First, if the Department of Corrections -- or any other agency -- needs that much overtime, there's a bigger problem with maintaining adequate staffing levels.

Second, who is minding the store when it comes to tracking potential sick leave abuse?

Third, why are career professional employees with advanced degrees making less money and get no overtime whatsoever? The public suffers from the revolving talent door.

Make no mistake -- employees deserve to be fairly compensated for their work. It's not their fault that the state is so mismanaged.

On the flip side, the abuses and inequity must stop.

And, finally, what's with these workers blowing their sick leave? Yes, they may be cranking out big wages to improve their pension checks, but retirees are required to pay for their own health insurance and unused sick leave is converted to a fund at retirement to pay those premiums. That's supposed to be an incentive for employees not to overuse sick leave -- and generally it works. But these examples are deplorable.

Will the Pleasant Prairie Village Board (literally) turn the clock backward?

There's an interesting agenda item listed for tomorrow night's Pleasant Prairie Village Board meeting.

Buried almost at the bottom is a resolution to move the village board meeting time from 6:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

You'll recall that one of the complaints challengers Alex Tiahnybok and Jeff Lauer raised in their successful campaigns was that the board's old 5:00 p.m. meeting time was unreasonable for most citizens to attend.

After Tiahnybok and Laurer upset incumbents Tom Terwall and Bill O'Toole, village board meetings were moved to 7:30 p.m. starting May 16, 2005. That didn't last long as board meetings went into the late evening.

On September 19, 2005 the village board adopted a motion by Trustee Mike Serpe, seconded by Trustee Steve Kumorkiewicz, to move the meeting time to 6:30 p.m. Serpe made the motion "in the spirit of cooperation."

That spirit should prevail today.

Tiahnybok and Lauer's obstreperous behavior got them booted from the board last year. They were wrong about a lot of things -- but not this one.

The meetings should remain at 6:30 p.m. (an earlier start time than the Kenosha city council or the Bristol and Somers town boards, all of which start at 7:00 p.m.) and trustees who would vote otherwise would justifiably be exposed to political fallout.

Bosman shows some balls

Newly minted Kenosha mayor Keith Bosman pegged it correctly when he said any new public safety dispatch center should be built downtown, a point raised here seven months ago.

I also wrote additional commentaries on October 31, 2007, November 6, 2007 and November 8, 2007.

It's nice to see that some of our politicians are paying attention. Let's hope that trend continues and the proposed boondoggle is laid to rest.

Bear hugs for Craig Swanson

Bear hugs to Kenosha News editor Craig Swanson for finally giving ghost editorial writer Dale McFeatters a photo and byline.

McFeatters is an editorial writer for Scripps-Howard newspapers which sells his work to other newspapers, including the Kenosha News.

Our local newspaper has been using McFeatters' work product but without any attribution, creating the impression that the Kenosha News was responsible for the content.

Swanson demonstrated a good streak of journalistic integrity by bringing McFeatters out of the closet. It was a smart move (especially since McFeatters' work looks more like commentaries than editorials) and we can only hope the trend will continue.

A whole forest of moose droppings to Steve Lund, the Kenosha News editorial guru who floats the idea that former county executive Allan Kehl should be required, if convicted of federal campaign corruption allegations, to make restitution for the cost of the special election to fill his vacancy. Regardless of any legal impediments to this idea, Lund glosses over the fact that the Kenosha News called for Kehl to step aside. On that basis maybe the Kenosha News should pay the cost of the special election!

Where does the UW System really stand on the cost of an education?

Today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story on how University of Wisconsin campus chancellors are leaving in droves for better paying opportunities is interesting but masks other parts of the discrepancy story.

For example, the UW folks like to trot out numbers to show how faculty salaries lag behind comparable schools and then they cry crocodile tears for all the poor students being forced out of an education by rising tuition.

But the same folks who do that have also come up with this doozie which seems to suggest that UW tuitions are too low with the subtle hint that maybe if they get jacked up again there would be more money to pay increased faculty salaries.

They gloss over the fact that tuition increases significantly outpaced the inflation rate. According to Business Week: "Four-year public colleges have taken the hardest hit, with the rate of growth in tuition and fees this decade the highest it has been in 30 years. The average tuition and fees at four-year public colleges for the 2007-08 academic year are $6,185, up $381 (or 6.6%) from last year, the College Board said. Those numbers don't include room and board and other expenses, which add about $7,404 to the bill. The consumer price index for all urban consumers rose 2.8% between September, 2006, and September, 2007."

And UW? Glad you asked. UW's tuition is above the national average which begs the question that if students are overcharged and faculty is underpaid, where is the money going?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Is this Chief Flynn's first public blunder?

Ed Flynn, Milwaukee's new police chief, has been shaking things up a little with generally positive responses from his department and the community.

Flynn empowered his seven district captains to develop and implement crime reduction strategies in their respective districts, giving them the credit and the spotlight.

He's also made it clear that officers who screw up will be dealt with but those who do their jobs the right way will enjoy his prompt and public backing.

That's why it's a little difficult to swallow what may be his first public blunder.

Flynn is changing the appearance of Milwaukee's patrol cars to the "black and white" look right out of Hollywood (or LAPD, to be exact). But having a "little fun" as Flynn says comes with a price tag of $300 per car.

It's hard to tell how many marked police cars the Milwaukee PD has but the Columbus (Ohio) Police Department has 429 with nearly 200 fewer officers. So let's just say Milwaukee has 10% more officers and 10% more marked cars. At $300 a pop that's nearly $142,000 -- or about the cost of two new police officers.

Black and white police cars or two additional cops on the beat? That's a no-brainer. Hire the cops.

Thanking John Antaramian

Last month John Antaramian unceremoniously wrapped up 16 years of service as Kenosha's mayor. While his tenure hasn't been without controversy, some of it justified, the bottom line is that the city is a better place today than it was 16 years ago.

To be fair, Antaramian's predecessor, Pat Moran, got the ball rolling toward moving Kenosha away from a moribund community that could have been paralyzed when Chrysler pulled the plug on automobile production in 1988. (And it certainly seemed mysteriously disingenuous when Moran, who last month was defeated in an effort to get his old job back, was critical of the initiatives he helped set in motion.)

The truth is Kenosha's neighborhoods look a lot better than they did 16 years ago. So does the lakefront. There are more job opportunities. And of particular note is that Kenosha did something many cities haven't: the city not only expanded outward but renewed and redeveloped inner city neighborhoods. Imagine what Milwaukee or Racine would look like if those cities followed the same path.

It's not been perfect. Kenosha has the trolley to nowhere, bizarre support for the KRM rail fleece which doesn't benefit Kenosha, construction of a school across the street from a prison, reduced fire protection, potholes that could be filled with subcompacts and arguably some of the worst snowplowing and ice control in the nation.

But if folks like John Antaramian didn't fight the good fight, imagine how much worse things would be today. And that created a particular dilemma for new mayor Keith Bosman. He'll need to improve on Antaramian's track record or risk getting the boot at the next mayoral election.

Pleasant Prairie has every right to question school district

Allow to me to ask you this question: If you paid for two gallons of gas but only received one, what would you think? What would you do?

That scenario sums up the situation where village of Pleasant Prairie taxpayers cough up one-fourth of the Kenosha Unified School District's revenues for educating less than one-eighth of the district's students.

On that basis alone village residents, through their village board, have every right to weigh in on how the district is being run.

In the days before Kenosha Unified -- when there was a "joint" school district -- the Pleasant Prairie and Somers town chairmen met with the Kenosha city council as the fiscal control board. The school board prepared the school budget but the fiscal control board approved the tax levy which, in essence, gave the final say to the city council and town chairmen.

Nowadays the village board appoints a school commission which is supposed to serve as a liaison between the village and the school district but, except for staging candidate forums, hasn't done much.

That may -- and should -- change.

The village board wisely asked the school commission to look into the risky financial shenanigans pulled by the school board which went out and borrowed money to invest in the functional equivalent of risky junk bonds. The district's investments have lost half their value and what may have seemed like a good idea at the time is being called into question today.

Before anyone shoots off about what business does the village board have looking into the affairs of the school district, I'll tell you.

It's not uncommon for major stockholders -- particularly pension funds -- to weigh in on how the corporations they invest in are managed. These funds often carry a lot of clout when it comes to whacking reckless corporate management into line.

When the village is paying for two gallons but only getting one, there's every right and, in fact, a duty to speak out.

Much ado was made -- but little done -- a few years ago when the tax equity study showed that the village and the city were paying a disproportionate share of the county budget when compared with services actually received.

Here we have a clear and distinct inequity that, coupled with the school board's risky business ventures, compels that the village weigh in.

I've long argued that the school commission should either be given some real work to do or be disbanded. I congratulate the board for at least making some effort to give the commission a meaningful assignment but maybe it's still not enough.

There's been an undercurrent for several months about whether the village should form its own school district. Maybe it's possible, maybe it isn't. Maybe it's feasible, maybe it isn't. My initial look at this suggests that it might need some legislative action to accomplish but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We won't know if we don't give it a serious examination.

When village taxpayers are paying for two gallons and only getting one, nobody can fault this board for taking action to protect the best interests of taxpayers of today and, perhaps more important, the taxpayers of tomorrow.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A blog change

Jess McBride's link was removed from the main page here because it no longer works.

Jess, whose blog was the inspiration for this one, has closed her blog to public view. That's too bad but it's her call.

Voter ID ruling makes sense -- but so does the dissent

The United States Supreme Court today upheld Indiana's strict voter identification laws in a splintered 6-3 ruling.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the plurality opinion which said, "We cannot conclude that the statute imposes 'excessively burdensome requirements' on any class of voters."

Stevens' opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, suggests that the outcome could be different in a state where voters could provide evidence that their rights had been impaired.

Concurring opinions by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito suggest that there's nothing wrong with requiring voters to produce photo identification, period.

"The universally applicable requirements of Indiana's voter-identification law are eminently reasonable," Scalia wrote.

"The burden of acquiring, possessing and showing a free photo identification is simply not severe, because it does not 'even represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting'", he said.

But one of the three dissenters, Justice David Souter, said that in Indiana getting a photo identification is neither free or convenient, pointing out that in many counties voters would pay fees for birth certificates and have to travel long distances to a driver's license office to get an identification card.

Souter's dissent makes a good point. If photo identification is to be required of voters, then it must be free and widely accessible.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Archbishop Dolan to stay -- for now

Milwaukee's public relations savvy Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan is one of a half-dozen names being tossed out as the next Archbishop of New York but Dolan himself is playing down the reports, saying he'd rather be watching the Brewers at Miller Park.

Dolan has connections to Rome, is publicly charismatic and has a way with people that could earn him millions if he ever left the priesthood for a corporate career. While he says he's staying in Milwaukee, I'd qualify that with the disclaimer "for now."

Kenosha Unified School Board doesn't have exclusive rights to stupidity

Just when it's looking like the Kenosha Unified School Board's shady financial dealings are the peak of ignorance, the Bradley Center Board in Milwaukee was on the fast track to overtake it.

How?

Well, the Bradley Center Board came up with an idea to sell naming rights to the Bradley Center. This seems a bit odd if only because the Bradley Center already has a name.

In fact, the Bradley Center was so named because it was funded by a $90 million gift from the late Jane Bradley Pettit in honor of her father, Harry Lynde Bradley.

But the center's board was looking at ways to make some additional revenue and selling the facility's name was at the top of the list. That was until Mr. Bradley's grandchilden spoke up and correctly pointed out the offensiveness of doing that which prompted the board to drop the plan.

Slut a bunch of wheezeballs!

Is Marc Hujik a fox guarding the hen house?

As the scandal brews over the Kenosha Unified School Board's risky investments, member Marc Hujik's defense of this shady dealing which could cost district taxpayers millions of dollars.

The first thing you need to understand -- in plain English -- what the problem is. So here goes.

Municipal treasurers like to tout that they made the taxpayers money when they invested tax receipts in safe short-term vehicles such as certificates of deposit or Treasury Bills. They get a pat on the back for reducing the tax bite a little while not risking taxpayer money.

What KUSD and a few other school districts did was nothing like that. KUSD actually borrowed money to invest and then put it in a risky product that smacks of investing in junk bonds.

Playing Russian Roulette with taxpayer funds is bad enough but to borrow money on top of that to make risky investments is bizarre, to say the least.

Hujik's defense of that practice is not terribly surprising. Think of it like this: When was the last time you got a newsletter from an underperforming mutual fund that confessed, "We blew it and made some bad investments." You never hear that. So Hujik's butt covering blarney holds about as much water as a strainer, period.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Media, governor and legislature ignore statewide prosecution crisis

In the waning hours of 2005 the Kenosha News seized onto sensationalism when the front page trumpeted the very public resignation of disgruntled Deputy District Attorney Susan Karaskiewicz, a moment she now regrets.

But there's been hardly a peep from the newspaper folks about a far more sensational crisis at the Kenosha County District Attorney's office: the revolving door where up and coming young talent is forced to leave public service in order to make ends meet.

There wasn't a word in the Kenosha News a couple of weeks ago when rising star Jason Rossell said his farewell to hang out his shingle. Ditto for the depature of Richard Cole a few months earlier. Or rising stars Corey Chirafisi, Tom Perlberg and Erik Monson. And nothing's been said about others who would leave if the right opportunity came along.

Why the revolving door? It's because talented young men and women across the state and nation can't afford to remain in public service with incredibly low salaries and staggering student loan debts.

Putting it into perspective, I finished law school 27 years ago with just $6700 in debt. My first full year on the job I made $24,000 -- and that was the bottom rung of a "step system." That's over $51,000 in today's dollars but today's young prosecutors make $5,000 less and have six-figure student loans to repay.

The pay crisis was so bad in the 1980's that the legislature in 1989 made all Assistant District Attorneys state employees, a move designed to encourage competence and professionalism and provide a career path for those lawyers interested in public service. State prosecutors were then ranked in a "step system" grid according to their experience and much needed substantial pay raises.

But the "step system" was abandoned a couple of years later creating a disparity between us "old geezers" and new prosecutors who receive no longevity pay. As it stands today, they start at $46,000 and go nowhere in terms of pay progression. That means some new graduates make as much as prosecutors with five years or more on the job which explains why so many are leaving.

How bad is it?

Every district attorney's office in the state is understaffed, overworked and this comes at the expense of serving victims and protecting our citizens. In the past six years, we have lost 180 experienced prosecutors from service statewide due to the absence of pay progression ("step system"). That's a 50% turnover in just the last six years. The impact this is having on public safety is alarming. The risk to the justice system attributable to the lack of experience is aggravated by the caseload that each prosecutor is expected to carry.

The Legislative Audit Bureau Audit of Prosecutors (2007) revealed the State is over 132 prosecutors short. Here in Kenosha we're about 50% understaffed. The current crisis, intensified by the upcoming loss of 21 federally funded positions statewide should frighten and shock the public. If the state does not allocate resources to adequately fund, and retain prosecutors, we will continue to lose experienced criminal prosecutors and our ability to convict defendants accused of serious crimes will be severely disadvantaged.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. The very reason the state took over the prosecution system was to foster professionalism, competence and longevity and end the revolving door. The governor and legislators have turned their backs on this promise and the public is largely unaware of the situation or its consequences.

A prosecutor's temper tantrum on her last day on the job makes the front page but the greater crisis is shrouded by media silence. Shame on them.

Racist? Elitist? What will be Obama's next insult?

Much has been made about Senator John McCain's temper, which the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has done a good job of keeping in check, but check out what's happening on the other side.

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama admits that comments he made privately last week about bitter working class voters who "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them" were ill chosen. Obama was explaining troubles that he has winning over that group of people. Meanwhile, rival Hillary Clinton calls his comments "elitist and out of touch."

Maybe if Obama's slip of the tongue was a one-shot affair this wouldn't be news, but look at what else he's said.

Following his speech on race at the National Constitution Center in which he referenced his own white grandmother and her prejudice, Obama told an interviewer, "The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity, but that she is a typical white person. If she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know - there's a reaction in her that's been bred into our experiences that don't go away and sometimes come out in the wrong way and that's just the nature of race in our society. We have to break through it. What makes me optimistic is you see each generation feeling less like that. And that's pretty powerful stuff."

The "typical white person" may have been taken out of context but nonetheless the fact he makes an assumption about a "typical white person" begs the question of what would happen if Senator McCain or Hillary Rodham Clinton uttered "typical black person?"

In Johnstown, Pa., Obama made the following comment in regards to sexual education: "I've got two daughters, nine years old and six years old. I'm going to teach them first of all about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby." That's right - his grandchildren would be a punishment. This is what happens when the goes off the teleprompter and starts speaking by himself. Off the prompter, we get a little window into his mind and how he really sees America.

And then there's Obama indefensible defense of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the extreme racist bigot who until recently was pastor of Obama's church.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Barack Obama should be judged not on the color of his skin but on his qualifications, including the content of his character.

The more you look at the content of Obama's character, the emptier it looks.

Watch this amazing video -- and then contribute to the cure

Check this out (video is toward the bottom of the page).

Amazing kids, amazing cause.

Pleasant Prairie School District would face uphill battle to be approved

Mike Renner forwarded this information which shows it's extremely difficult, as a practical matter, to create a new school district in Wisconsin.

This suggests that legislative change may be in order which would be an interesting undertaking for State Representative John P. Steinbrink, sr., who is also the village president.

Friday, April 11, 2008

To my Pleasant Prairie friends (and foes)

This is the spring nature photography season and that means I'll be taking a lot of vacation time over the next couple of months. That means I'm conspicuous by my absence. And sorry, YouTube isn''t my "thang."

Pleasant Prairie School District worth a look

For the past few months a "brainstorm" has been brewing to create a Pleasant Prairie School District but some recent developments have taken this notion from the realm of "brainstorm" to an idea worthy of serious study.

The initial attraction of a village school district was tax equity. You may recall the county-wide tax equity study which suggested that municipalities pay more to the county than they get back. No such study was ever done, though, to determine whether village taxpayers are getting their money's worth from the Kenosha Unified School District.

What moved this idea up the ladder was recent news that the school board literally borrowed money to put it in risky investments which could cost district taxpayers $8 million to avoid defaulting on nearly $29 million. That's serious stuff and, according to some financial experts, a risk that was, at a minimum, improperly assessed.

Frankly, I know many municipal and county treasurers who take pride -- and political advantage -- by investing taxpayer funds in safe, short-term vehicles to raise some extra cash from interest income. There are two operative concepts here: safe and short-term.

But complex, risky financial wheeling-and-dealing isn't exactly the best stewardship of taxpayer money and Kenosha Unified's fiscal management isn't the only thing under scrutiny. Add to it dropout rates, test scores, minority achievement and a few other problems and there's reason for village parents to wonder if there's a better way.

As this notion gets fleshed out, it quickly becomes apparent that this isn't just about money. Village residents aren't just taxed more than our fair share but are also represented less. Further, the opportunity to build a winning school district from scratch -- one that would be less bureaucratic and more responsive to parents and voters -- could be enticing. And an outstanding school district could attract additional tax base.

On top of that, this is an idea which is being embraced by many factions in the village (which shows we don't disagree with each other on everything).

Am I ready to say, "Go for it!" Not quite. But it's time for this to go from "brainstorm" to serious study.

Perhaps the legal and financial obstracles would be insurmountable but we won't know without a blue-ribbon study. Even if the idea doesn't get off the ground, it might just make the school board and administrator take the village more seriously.

I suggest that the best and brightest talent in the village be gathered to form a committee to give the feasability of a Pleasant Prairie district a thorough examination. The time is now.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Kehl plea bargain shows wrong priorities

The Kenosha News is reported that former Kenosha County Executive Allan Kehl has agreed to plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy to receive improper payments, and, in exchange, the United States attorney has agreed to recommend a two-year prison sentence.

The maximum prison term for the charge is five years.

In the plea agreement filed today, Kehl admitted to wrongfully receiving $15,000 in cash from Kenosha businessman Dennis Troha -- $10,000 in 2005 while at Troha’s office and $5,000 in 2006 while the two stood in Troha’s garage.

Folks, I think Kehl, if this is true, deserves punishment but two years in prison punishes the taxpayers more than it does Kehl.

There are violent criminals who do far less time than someone with no prior criminal history.

I believe a short jail stint as an object lesson is appropriate for Kehl coupled with probation and a very significant fine.

Further, it's amazing that the ringleader, Dennis Troha, never spent a day in jail.

This whole thing is a black mark on Kenosha but putting Kehl in a "Club Fed" for two years is a horrible and stupid waste of resources.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The George W. Bush legacy: Over 4,000 dead and gas over $4 per gallon. Are you better off than you were four -- make that eight -- years ago?

The number don't lie.

At the end of March there were 4,001 American military personnel who lost their lives in Iraq.

This morning outside my hotel near the San Francisco airport gasoline sold for $4.099 per gallon.

Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential debates asked, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

When President George W. Bush took office on January 20, 2001, the national average gas price was $1.46 per gallon. Six and a half years later, on August 27, 2007, the national average gas price had jumped to $2.76, roughly 89% higher. Compounded annually, this represents about a 10% jump each year Bush has been in office. The national average Monday was $3.32 per gallon but in Wisconsin it's $3.45 and even higher in our area.

Now, let’s compare the numbers over the same time period for President Bill Clinton.

When Clinton took office on January 20, 1993, the national average gas price was $1.06 per gallon. six and a half years later, the national average gas price had jumped to $1.22, roughly 15% higher. Compounded annually, this represents about a 2% jump each year.

Even when you compare all of Clinton’s term (38% jump overall) against the first six and a half years of Bush’s term, the overall jump in gas prices between the two presidents isn’t even close. In order to meet Clinton’s “numbers” gas prices would have to fall to $2.02 per gallon - or roughly 36%.

The price rise of 26 cents a gallon over the past month in Wisconsin follows the rising cost of crude oil, which reached an all-time high of $111 a barrel last week and traded around $109 today.

Here's what doesn't make sense.

The crude oil price has been the foundation for gas prices that otherwise defy market forces: decreasing demand for gasoline and surplus inventory. Right now, though, demand is down and supplies are strong which should mean lower gas prices.

This is superimposed on our Iraq boondoggle and indicates that we have a weak White House and an even weaker Congress.

President Richard M. Nixon had the intestinal fortitude to impose a wage-price freeze. Maybe such a widespread edict isn't needed now, but it's time to reign in gas prices which are fueling costlier grocieries and consumer goods.

But Bush has been in bed with his oil baron buddies and doesn't give a rat's behind about how this impacts average Americans, especially with low-paying jobs.

When gasoline prices fell during his tenure, Ronald Reagan once asked, "Isn't it nice to see the gallons adding up faster than the dollars?"

Yes, it would be nice to see that again.

It would also be nice to see a strong United States with a strong military that no nation would ever think of messing with. We had that before the Bush-Clinton presidencies.

I dare say that regardless of how inept Barack Obama is -- and I believe he's the likely Democratic nominee -- Republican candidates will feel the wrath of the voters in November.

And well they should.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hoeksema the huckster?

Tim Hoeksema, the CEO of Midwest Airlines since Midwest Express was formed in 1984, may have sold Midwest stockholders and the community a bill of goods when he was seeking support to take the company private in the wake of a takeover bid from AirTran.

One of the selling points Midwest hammered was AirTran would dilute the "hometown" airline yet look what Hoeksema has done since the sale to TPG Capital (of which Northwest Airlines has a 47% stake) went through.

Yesterday was the last day of operation for Skyway Airlines, Midwest's wholly-owned commuter carrier operating as Midwest Connect. 380 Skyway employees lost their jobs including pilots who received not one penny in severance pay.

Midwest Connect service will now be contracted to SkyWest, a St. George, Utah based regional carrier that operates flights for several carriers, including United and Delta.

I have nothing against SkyWest. As commuter carriers go they're one of the best. But Hoeksema's hucksterism is rallying the community around Midwest only to see it dump the careers of 380 people is appalling.

Yes, there are decisions any business must make which may be unpopular, but why was it necessary to wait until after Midwest stockholders okayed the TPG deal to drop the bomb? And certainly Hoeksema, a former pilot, could have ameliorated things had he insisted that the Skyway employees be hired by SkyWest.

As it stands, it's looking more and more that Hoeksema was merely the huckster for a hoax on Midwest stockholders and the Milwaukee area community.

Kenosha News hyprocrisy is befuddling

The Kenosha News has an editorial policy so inconsistent that it's mind boggling. Today is a good example.

Here's what the newspaper says: "DART - To former County Executive Allan Kehl, whose alleged transgressions will prove costly to county taxpayers. Kehl, who resigned after being charged with campaign fund-raising violations, is innocent until proven guilty, and we sincerely hope he is ultimately found innocent in a court of law. But however the case is resolved, county residents are being forced to shell out some $200,000 for a special election to replace Kehl. That's a shame, but it has to be done. We agree with County Supervisor Jennifer Jackson, who said of the unanticipated expense, 'I'd love to see it build a new bike trail. I'd like to see it fill the potholes that everybody's talking about.' Instead, it will be used to find a successor to a man whose alleged actions abused the public trust."

Let's look at this more closely.

The Kenosha News is berating former County Executive Allan Kehl because his resignation means that taxpayers may have to shell out as much as $200,000 for a special election to pick a successor.

On the surface, that's plausible, but wasn't it the Kenosha News that editorially called for Kehl to step aside? And it's the same newspaper that says in the same breath that Kehl is presumed innocent at this point but then drops the other shoe.

I agree that the lure of money and casino politics put an indelible taint on this community and, if true, Kehl's acceptance of illegal campaign contributions is another nail in the coffin of public integrity in Wisconsin.

But the Kenosha News was also one of the casino project's biggest and blindest backers. The newspaper repeatedly failed to search its own archives to tell readers about how many grandiose promises were made 18 years ago when Dairyland Greyhound Park was licensed.

Those promises seem to be the same lure being spread by the casino project's backers yet the newspaper never called them to task over it.

It was a cheap shot to profess belief in the constitutional presumption of innocence and then denigrate Kehl because he didn't step aside and an even cheaper one to berate him when he did.

Integrity isn't something that should be maintained by public officials. It should also be upheld and practiced by public institutions, such as a daily newspaper.

Greetings from Yosemite National Park


Gasoline just outside the park at El Portal, California sells at $4.59 per gallon -- a mere 90 cents more than the "bargain" prices up the road in Midpines and Mariposa!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The wrong way to go about the right thing

The Kenosha News had an interesting story -- accompanied by the obligatory smiling photograph -- of a meeting between Keith Bosman, Kenosha’s mayor-elect, Acting County Executive Mark Wisnefski and Terry W. Rose, outgoing county board chairman.

The theme of the story -- getting intergovernmental cooperation off to the right start -- is laudable until you realize that the county’s second largest municipality was conspicuous by its absence.

With nearly 20,000 residents, the Lakeview Corporate Park and Prime Outlets plus a WEPCO power generating plant, you’d think Pleasant Prairie is a long ways from being seated at the kid’s table.

Apparently not.

It’s a good idea for the city to develop good working relationships with the county and its metropolitan neighbors. Pleasant Prairie and the Town of Somers belonged at that meeting. Metropolitan problems demand metropolitan cooperation toward metropolitan solutions.

Instead of congratulating Bosman, Wisnefski and Rose I say shame on them. This type of insult is ignorant, inexcusable and should never happen again.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Kumorkiewicz tops Serpe in Pleasant Prairie voting

Incumbent Pleasant Prairie trustee Steve Kumorkiewicz garnered 1301 votes, 15 more than fellow incumbent Michael Serpe.

Interesting that for all the griping and sniping from dissident factions in the village, Serpe and Kumorkiewicz had no opposition.

Kenosha voters reject Moran's negative campaigning

Keith Bosman scored 69% of the vote to win election as Kenosha's next mayor. It was a stunning defeat of former mayor Pat Moran who ran a negative and bitter campaign.

Moran raised a few good issues, such as public safety, but his pledge of a "new direction" was correctly perceived as going backward plus his mudslinging got to be too much.

Bosman would do well to pay attention to the legitimate concerns Moran raised. And Kenosha voters deserve kudos for rejecting negative politics of the past.

Bosman has every right to celebrate. Moran should be ashamed of himself.

Congrats to Kathy Carpenter!

Blogger Kathy Carpenter handily defeated incumbent Kenosha Alderman Kurt Sinclair. Her hard work in her campaign paid off.

In a bit of a surprise, Ron Frederick, a council bedrock, was defeated by newcomer Anthony Nudo by just six votes. Expect a recount.

Ralph Nudi stirred up a lot of mud in an effort to unseat north side incumbent G. John Ruffolo. It didn't work. Nudi was trounced.

Best wishes to Terry Rose

On his three days as Acting Interim County Executive.

Today is election day!

Don't forget to vote. It's your right--and duty!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Louis Butler -- Forget the loopholes, let's talk about candor

This week's state supreme court battle between incumbent Louis Butler and Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman is perhaps the ugliest and costliest campaign for that office. It's enough to make anyone who loves the law sick.

Instead of mano-o-mano, special interest groups have placed mudslinging ads all over the state. Butler's friends claim Gableman is a political hack who isn't as tough on crime as he claims. The challenger's people say Butler -- nicknamed "loophole Louie" -- is too liberal and sides too often with criminals over crime victims.

For their part, the two candidates seem to be trying to outgun each other on the issue of who's tougher on crime which is utterly ridiculous.

Being a supreme court justice isn't like a trial judge who gets to make evidentiary calls during a trial and in sentencing can choose incarceration, probation or a fine. True, a left sided track record and roots in the public defender network offer Gableman a fair shot at Butler who, in turn, questioned some of Gableman's calls as a north woods prosecutor.

Instead of focusing relevant issues of law and judicial philosophy, this sniping by the candidates and surrogates serves nobody. For my part I wish I could vote "none of the above."

But there is one dispositive factor which will cause me to vote for Gableman. It's a Butler ad in which the incumbent claims he's supported by 18,000 law enforcement professions.

The truth -- which is conceded in another Butler ad -- is that Butler is supported by organizations which represent 18,000 law enforcement professionals despite Gableman's support from most of the state's district attorneys and sheriffs.

That Butler would get such support isn't surprising. He tends to be a "pro labor" voice. But there's a larger issue.

Lawyers have an ethical obligation to exercise candor toward the tribunal. In plain English, it means to tell the truth. Not all 18,000 folks who belong to those groups backing Butler do so as individuals and Butler's campaign continues to run a misleading ad that implies that they do.

Yes, I know Gableman is a lawyer and a judge and has accuracy gaps of his own, but Butler is already a state supreme court justice. They're the folks who ultimately pass judgment on lawyer discipline. If anyone should be as clean as a hound's tooth, it should be Louis Butler.

Truth be told, I think Butler's a good and decent guy. But he isn't setting the right example and that alone is enough to cost him my vote.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Greetings from Hocking Hills, Ohio

Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio



Time to go out on a limb

The Kenosha News sure went out on a limb when it endorsed Carl Bryan, an 18-year-old high school student, over retired teacher JoAnne Taube, for one of two Kenosha Unified School Board sets up for election.

In a refreshing bit of candor, the newspaper concedes there's growing frustration over how the district is being run and perhaps it's time for a new face:

Taube, 65, taught elementary music at schools all over the district for 40
years. She has been active in the Kenosha Education Association and served three
years as president. She has also served on numerous committees, including
some of the difficult ones, such the boundary committee that is charged with
recommending new borders for school attendance areas. Taube has paid her dues,
and she is probably at least as familiar with issues in the district as most of
the current members of the School Board.

Yet we find the need to send a message to the School Board that the
voters want something different. The election of Carl Bryan, a candidate who is
still in school, is the best way to send that message.

Residents of the district are frustrated by the lack of progress on so
many fronts that it's hard to keep count. The graduation rate is disappointing,
the test scores are disappointing, attendance isn't good, the performance gap
between racial groups is frustrating and improvements, where there has been
improvements, have been small.

Bryan admits he was taken by surprise by some of the questions at forums in
the beginning of the campaign, but he has been learning as he goes along. He
said the board needs a fresh perspective that he can provide, and he said he is
eager to demonstrate that his education in this school district has prepared him
for this challenge. We think that demonstration, if successful, would be
reassuring to district residents.



I'm not sure I share all of the newspaper's enthusiasm -- Bryan's mother is a teacher and he could come on the board with his own set of biases -- but there is some merit in putting an "end-user" on the board. It's been a long-time since Mark Hunter, now a police lieutenant in Pleasant Prairie, fulfilled that role. Maybe it's time to give Bryan the same shot.

Congratulations to Chief Ed Flynn and the "good citizens of Milwaukee"

It's about time Milwaukee had a police chief serious about fighting crime while holding his own officers accountable.

In his short tenure Ed Flynn has done a lot of good things. He's empowered subordinates to come up with and implement crime-fighting strategies -- and allows them to take the credit. He quickly and unequivocally defended an officer from an unjustified allegation. And he topped it off by sending the right message to the community: "We will own up when we mess up, and if we mess up, we will be accountable," Flynn said. "But I won't be a punching bag for a group of people looking to develop a constituency at the cost of a police officer, especially when the life of an officer is at risk."

That's the type of leadership the Milwaukee Police Department has needed for a long time. And it's exactly what a real chief should be saying.

And while Flynn deserves a salute, so do two "good citizens of Milwaukee" who did what should have been done in coming to the aid of the officer and the community. Their taking the time to get involved -- to report an impaired motorist and come to the aid of an officer under attack -- deserves the utmost recognition. (You can listen to the 911 calls here.)

A community's safety isn't just the business of the police department. It's a partnership. Nobody -- and I mean nobody -- should forget that.

Campaign tactics question Moran's fitness to be mayor

To understand what's to follow, let me illustrate something that could happen to any of us in everyday life.

Suppose the brakes on your car failed and your car sailed through a stop sign and collided with another car, injuring the driver.

As a responsible driver, you have insurance and you notified your insurance company about the accident.

That leads to a common legal struggle to determine whose fault is the accident and how to apportion liability for the other motorist's injuries.

The other motorist says you were responsible because you were driving your car and, regardless of the bad brakes, you ran the stop sign.

You say, "Wait a minute. I wasn't driving recklessly. I just got that car a few months ago and those brakes are fairly new. They should have worked. I think the manufacturer is responsible because the brakes were supposed to work."

The automaker says, "It looks like the master cylinder failed. We bought that from another company. They should be responsible."

And so goes a typical legal battle over who is responsible for what seems to be a fairly straightforward accident case.

Fast forward to the Kenosha mayoral election where Pat Moran placed ads blasting his challenger, Keith Bosman, over an alleged "lawsuit" over water damage to a neighbor's condominium.

The ads, which appear in the Kenosha News and on WLIP, convey the impression that Bosman is some dirtbag because a water leak from his condo damaged one owned by an elderly neighbor who had to move out while repairs were made. The ads claim that Bosman is being sued because of this.

Let's sort this out.

First, there's no lawsuit. A lien was filed. At some point there could be a lawsuit but a lien isn't a lawsuit. A lawsuit is commenced when a complaint is filed. So far, none has been, thus the claim Bosman is being sued is false. A lien is filed to protect someone's potential interest.

Second, the fact a suit is filed doesn't mean a person is guilty of the alleged wrongdoing. There could be, as in the case of the defective brakes mentioned above, a search for who is at fault and, if more than one source is, then the fault under Wisconsin's landmark comparative negligence law has to be appropriately apportioned. This doesn't happen overnight.

Third, to convey the impression that Bosman is a scumbag who dumps on an elderly neighbor is flat out sleazy. It may also be a crime. According to Wis. Stat. s. 12.05: "No person may knowingly make or publish, or cause to be made or published, a false representation pertaining to a candidate or referendum which is intended or tends to affect voting at an election."

The case law interpreting this section pretty much allows election puffery such as name calling or distorting voting records. The current mud bath going on between the two state supreme court candidates is a good example of this. As distasteful as it is, it's not against the law.

But the line gets drawn when the allegations tend to impugn the other candidate's personal character and reputation, i.e., Candidate A saying Candidate B is a deadbeat who doesn't pay his child support.

It's one thing for Moran to blow smoke and call for an ill-defined "new direction" but it's another when he tries to denigrate Bosman's character with a false accusation.

While Keith Bosman isn't Mr. Excitement and certainly not without flaws, he hasn't resorted to the sleaze Moran has in this campaign. Bosman could have touted how Moran was chastised over showing a gun he kept in his office to a group of visiting students when Moran was mayor. Bosman could have lawfully placed ads calling into question Moran's financial qualifications because Moran's business went bankrupt. To his credit, he didn't. (And, to be fair, when third-party rumors about the bankruptcy began circulating, I rose to Moran's defense.)

I used to like and have a lot of respect for Pat Moran. The way he has conducted his campaign clearly indicates that something's wrong with this man that he has to stoop to such sleaze is order to build his candidacy. He is simply not qualified for any elected office.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A dirtbag's faux pas

As I was shopping last night I was accosted by one of our citizens who apparently is bent on serving a life sentence on the installment plan.

"I did my 69 days in jail standing on my head," said the man, whom I didn't recognize.

"69 days?," I said.

"That's an odd number. How'd you wind up doing that?"

"The judge sentenced me to 90 days," the creature replied.

"Oh, that's very interesting." I said.

"I'm glad you did them standing on your head because somebody goofed," I added.

"With your 25% good time credit, you were only supposed to serve 68 days, so you got screwed out of a day."

There are many weary days when I go home exhausted but retain comfort in the thought that I'm going home and they're wearing orange.

Kudos (so far) to Scott Walker and Lena Taylor

This spring election is enough to make anyone sick.

I'd like to vote none of the above in the State Supreme Court race. The egregious mudslinging is reminiscent of two prostitutes arguing over which is the bigger whore. Both Louis Butler and Michael Gableman have distorted issues and their records. Still, Butler is too far left for my liking although I would prefer a more centrist alternative. The special interests trying to buy the election have ulterior motives beyond which candidate is tougher on crime and we should all be alert about that.

On the flip side, there's the county executive race in Milwaukee.

I'm no Scott Walker fan. No secret there. I think he's not done enough to reverse the mammoth degeneration of Milwaukee County's infrastructure. "No tax increase" is a great slogan but so is "Do you want a $50 filling now or a $500 crown later?" There are too many crowns needed now and no money to pay for them because of this neglect.

Nonetheless, Lena Taylor, a state legislator, hasn't shown enough to convince me that she's the better candidate but she's right to raise questions about the county's declining infrastructure.

The good news, so far, is that both Walker and Taylor have campaigned respectfully -- and even with a little bit of humor. It's easy to curse the darkness over the sick advertising many candidates are resorting to these days but Walker and Taylor both deserve praise for keeping it above the belt.

The tax man cometh

This is the "somewhat" part of "somewhat daily."

It's tax time and my energies and spare time have been expended doing the annual experience that rates up there with a colonoscopy in terms of pleasure.

Sorry for being on the side but it's also given me a chance to reflect a bit on the current events.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Breaking news: Fire at Civil War Museum

The Kenosha Fire Department responded to a fire call this morning at the new Civil War Museum which is scheduled to open later this month. No other details are available.

Martin Luther King, jr and Barack Obama

One of the highest privileges in my life was the opportunity to meet and speak briefly with the late Dr. Martin Luther King, jr.

As one who pushed the battle for civil rights since grade school, I was particularly interested in what Dr. King thought would be the impact and legacy of landmark civil rights legislation, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Dr. King's response indicated that when people start living and working next to each others, barriers that separate them should, over time, naturally begin to fall -- essentially that the laws would hopefully position people into situations where they can be called upon to do the right thing.

Of course, Dr. King had a lot more to say, but it was interesting how he interfaced law and society. And, although we still have a ways to go in eradicating discrimination, the fact is that in the four decades since that conversation we are seeing people judging each other by the content of character or at least making an attempt to do so. We are seeing, particularly among young people, a nation less hung up about race. Maybe Dr. King was right after all.

And then there's Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

Obama, who, having a white mother and black father should really be characterized as mixed race, grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia (hardly white enclaves), was educated at Columbia University and Harvard Law School and had a meteoric rise in politics to where with only three years in the United States Senate he's a serious contender for the Democratic party's presidential nomination.

If there is ever a poster child for a beneficiary of the blood, sweat and tears of Dr. King and the legions of others who struggled and sacrificed for civil rights, Barack Obama is it.

Obama showed that America is capable of putting race behind it and moving forward in a very dramatic way. The only monkey wrenches are the ones he put in the mix himself.

First, Obama for years has belonged to a church whose pastor has uttered well-documented bursts of bigotry and intolerance with nary a peep in response from Obama until they became more widely known.

And then, when pushed on the subject, Obama delivers a confusing diatribe on race, simultaneously blasting and praising the deranged minister and lecturing us on race. It was lame and insulting and raised more questions than it answered.

Obama's attacks would hold more water had they been made years ago when he wasn't a candidate. Further, as one of the most privileged persons of color in American history, his condescending lecture was unnecessary and plain insulting.

Barack Obama's double-edged sword is that America is fully capable of judging a person by the content of his or her character. His problem now is that when that evaluation uncovers flaws in his own character, Obama wants to deflect attention elsewhere.

There's a saying from the 1960's: "You're either part of the solution or part of the problem." Barack Obama is clearly the latter.

Shame.

Regardless of how anyone feels about our military presence and mission in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the men and women who carry it out -- and all others who wear or who have worn the uniform of this country -- deserve the very best whether its training and supplies, support in the field and at home and, yes, medical care.

But the past three decades have shown a decline in such care and commitment, often to pathetic and dangerous levels, and of the compassion that should be associated with it. This is something that reflects the character of the nation.

The Washington Post has been documenting some of the most egregious examples in its expose of conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, once a crown jewel of military medical care facilities. The newspaper's stories give us all reason for angst. This is a national shame that should never have happened and should never happen again.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Class vs. crass

Christopher P. Connell is a Milwaukee County Deputy Sheriff with 12-years on the force. Jason Fields is a second-term state representative from Milwaukee. One thing they shared in common this week is that both were arrested for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant.

Connell -- who took an oath to uphold the law -- registered .22 (nearly three times the "legal limit") on a breath test after he was arrested by a Hales Corners Police Officer whom he berated for busting him.

You know how many cops I have stopped and let go? Hundreds," Connell said. "If I saw a car smashed up against the wall and it was a cop, I would let it go, man. You did not have to do this to me."

What a piece of work Connell is to berate another law enforcement officer who was just doing his job. As Sheriff David Clarke put it, “It’s embarrassing when the kind of behavior we implore the public not to engage in, is exhibited by one of our own law enforcement officers.”

By contrast, Representative Fields, who "blew a .13" in his breath test, was fully cooperative when he was arrested by one of Connell's coworkers. Fields promptly came forward, apologized for his actions, acknowledged that he was wrong, intended to immediately plead guilty, praised the arresting officer and, in particular, made a special apology to children for failing to set a proper example. When questioned by reporters Fields did not duck, dodge or otherwise evade any question and made it clear that he was accepting his punishment as he should.

Sheriff Clarke is right on target. The public's confidence in law enforcement is rightly shaken when the people who are supposed to uphold the law instead break it. Representative Field was truly a class act for whom forgiveness is entirely possible. Connell, however. deserves to be fired.

Obama's race talk: too little, too late

It's said that there are those who walk the walk and those who talk the talk with the latter being a pejorative description.

Barack Obama is one of the few people who went from walking the walk to merely talking the talk and his lame speech this week on race relations is living proof.

Before his oratory debacle Obama really did walk the walk. Americans by and large judged him not as a black (well, actually mixed race) man but rather on the content of his character. He even won the Mississippi Democratic primary.

When I visited a Des Moines area nursing home just before the Iowa caucuses I heard a lot of excitement about Obama and not one word mentioned that he is the "black" or "colored" candidate. That played out time and time again as Americans proved the capability to judge a man on the content of his character. That, however, is a two-way street.

Now that Americans are moving past the color barrier, they are beginning to judge Obama on the content of his character and with growing frequency not liking what they see.

For starters, Obama is a third-year senator with little experience beyond being a "made for TV" candidate who rolls off sound bytes like a juke box but stumbles and deflects when asked something off his script.

His legislative accomplishments are virtually nil.

And yet a good thing is that Americans are putting aside their taboos to begin questioning Obama's qualifications without worrying about being called racists if they dare suggest that he's not up to the task.

When the poop hit the oscillating device after it was discovered that Obama's pastor is some crazed bigot, Obama miraculously decided it was about time he talk to Americans about race, something he hasn't had to do -- thankfully -- up to this point.

He condemned the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's views in strong language -- yet embraced Wright as a wayward member of the family. The condemnation was too little and came way too late. Where was Obama all these years when Wright was spewing forth his misguided hate?

The problem with Obama's argument is that Wright is not a symbol of the strengths and weaknesses of African Americans. He is a political extremist, holding views that are shocking to many Americans who wonder how any presidential candidate could be so closely associated with an adviser who refers to the "U.S. of KKK-A" and urges God to "damn" our country.

Obama did little to address his strange tolerance for the anti-Americanism of his spiritual mentor. For example, he didn't take on Wright's 2003 sermon in which Wright claimed, "The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color."
This accusation does not make Wright, as Obama would have it, an "occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy." It makes Wright a dangerous man.

Wright's accusation is batty, reflecting a sputtering, incoherent hatred for America. And his pastoral teaching may put lives at risk because the virus that causes AIDS spreads more readily in an atmosphere of denial, quack science and conspiracy theories.

But what America especially didn't need is a self-serving lecture on race from one of our most privileged black citizens. The viability of his candidacy shows that Americans are capable of setting race aside in a very dramatic way.

The problem with Barack Obama is that when you do judge him on the content of his character, particularly his belated condemnation of Wright's crazed bigotry, he comes up as being morally and mentally unfit to be commander-in-chief.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Journal-Sentinel misleads readers

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel once again misleads readers with an inaccurate story about the arrest of a Milwaukee County deputy sheriff for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant.

The newspaper reported (as it did last month with respect to the arrest of another officer) that the deputy was arrested "on suspicion" of what the newspaper called "drunken driving."

The first problem is that nobody is ever arrested legally in Wisconsin "on suspicion." An officer can't lawfully stop a person temporarily based on mere suspicion.

An officer may temporarily detain a person -- emphasis on the word "temporarily" -- to investigate his or her "reasonable suspicion" that the person is committing, has committed or is about to commit an offense. Almost all traffic stops are based on this higher standard of "reasonable suspicion."

An arrest can only be based on yet another higher standard -- "probable cause" -- and even then there's no such offense as "drunken driving."

The offense is operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant, controlled substance, etc. The law does not require someone to be drunk in order to be unlawfully impaired in the operation of a vehicle.

Of course most of us use the phrase "drunk driving" loosely but in a legal sense it has no meaning. The greater error, however, is to say that someone was arrested "on suspicion" as such arrests -- and even temporary detentions -- are clearly illegal.

As for the deputy's conduct, what a piece of work he is.

First, officers are supposed to uphold the law, not break it. Then this moron berates the arresting officer: "You know how many cops I have stopped and let go? Hundreds," he said. "If I saw a car smashed up against the wall and it was a cop, I would let it go, man. You did not have to do this to me."

Yes, he did. It was his duty to do so, period.

Interim county executive appointment hits snag

Kenosha County Board Chairman Terry W. Rose's plan to nominate fellow supervisor Mark Wisnefski as interim county executive has hit a snag.

First, there are those on the board and in the community questioning Rose's plans to can indicted executive Allan Kehl's right-hand-man, Kenn Yance and reassigned Carrie Kalberg, Kehl's daughter-in-law and staff assistant.

Then questions have been raised about Rose's intentions of replacing Yance with County Public Works Director Fred Patrie in the wake of news about previously undisclosed defecits in the county's golf course operations.

And then there are some very legitimate questions about whether Wisnfeski is the right person to fill in while county executive wannabes vie for votes in an upcoming special election.

My take is that this plan needs some work.

Yance is an "at will" employee and it should come as no surprise that when Kehl is out the door (which will happen with Kehl's resignation takes effect at the end of the month), Yance will follow.

And Kalberg, according to Rose, won't lose any pay or benefits when she's transferred.

In one sense, Rose is correct when he says those moves will give the executive's office a "fresh start" but a closer look suggests that Rose, a Democrat, is kicking out two people with Republican credentials, thus paving the way for Assembly Minority Leader Jim Kreuser, a Kenosha Democrat, to run for the job once held by Kreuser's old boss, John Collins. One might argue that it's merely replacing the stench of one political skunk with another.

As for Patrie, he's a long-standing county department head but it seems like his department, which apparently has some issues these days, demands his full attention. There are other competent county managers who could step in -- finance guru David Geertsen comes to mind -- for the time being.

And then there's Wisnefski.

Does serving on the county board make a person qualified to be county executive? That's a good question and while Wisnefski is a veteran county board member, there has been virtually no discussion about whether he has what it takes to do the job, especially since the outgoing executive's staff has been removed. In this sense perhaps someone like Geertsen might be a better choice to serve as interim executive.

Another name mentioned as an interim executive is outgoing Kenosha mayor John Antaramian who clearly has the credentials to do the job pending the election of a new executive. And it should be up to the new executive to choose his or her staff.

All of this scandal, of course, suggests that maybe the executive's job should be abolished and a professional county administrator appointed. That's an idea well worth considering.

Monday, March 17, 2008

It's time for this community to recognize an unsung hero

Last May thousands of people turned out to honor slain Deputy Sheriff Frank Fabiano, jr. Hundreds of police officers from throughout the Midwest packed the Carthage College chapel and the seemingly endless procession of squad cars to the cemetery was witnessed by young and old alike. A visiting officer, Madison’s Brian Austin, wrote that his colleagues were humbled by the outpouring of respect the Kenosha community paid to Deputy Fabiano and his family.

Now that Ezequiel Lopez Quintero has been convicted of killing Deputy Fabiano, it’s time for this community to appropriately recognize another hero on that fatal May 16, University of Wisconsin-Parkside Police Officer Jimmie Spino.

It was Officer Spino who, while on patrol, observed that Deputy Fabiano was having trouble getting a van to stop. Officer Spino pulled his patrol car behind Deputy Fabiano’s to offer backup, if needed. It was.

As Deputy Fabiano commanded the van’s driver to get out of the vehicle, Officer Spino heard gunfire and saw “flashes” of light. He saw Deputy Fabiano fall to the ground. Officer Spino returned fire as he positioned himself to aid the fallen deputy. The gunman ran off.

This community, which rightfully honored the sacrifice of Deputy Fabiano, shouldn’t overlook the heroism and service of Officer Spino who put himself in danger to help the wounded deputy and attempt to capture the assailant. It was Officer Spino who chose to pull in behind Deputy Fabiano -- something police officers routinely do -- but the rest was anything but routine. It was Officer Spino who witnessed the gunfire that struck down Deputy Fabiano. It was Officer Spino who tried in vain to assist the fallen deputy and who would later testify in court as the only eyewitness to this tragedy. It is Officer Spino who must live with the aftermath of these events in a way that no other person in this community can or will do.

Officer Spino has not sought any recognition but he was honored by the university at a ceremony keynoted by Chancellor Jack Keating, himself the son of a Seattle policeman. (It was Jack Keating who was shocked upon his arrival at Parkside to find that Chancellor Alan Guskin disarmed the police force in the 1970’s. He quickly and wisely reversed that ridiculousness and, hindsight being 20-20, think of what the consequences might have been had he not.)

Now that a Racine County jury has convicted Deputy Fabiano’s killer, it’s time that this community show its appreciation to Officer Spino who, like the slain officer, is a hero. We owe him no less.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Attack on Moran a cheap shot

Five weeks later an anonymous poster commented on my assessment of whether Pat Moran, the former Kenosha mayor who wants his old job back, is truly an effective and honest advocate for public safety.

The poster raises several questions about Moran, the most disturbing one about the failure of Moran's business. It's probably a good idea to clear the air.

After he left office in 1992 Moran opened up Little Professor Book Center (later known as Southport Book Center) near the Target store in the Southport Plaza Shopping Center.

Moran's store gave Kenosha its first full-service bookstore in decades. Unfortunately, as an independent bookstore, Moran couldn't compete when Barnes and Noble opened up in Racine. It was not for lack of trying. At one point Moran even opened up a cafe in th rear of his store but like so many independent booksellers the competition from the major national chains was too strong.

That's not to say that Moran shouldn't be scruitinized for his past record as mayor and his curiously vague promotion of "A New Direction" as his campaign mantra or for any special interests who may be supporting him. Have at it and he sure deserves it but to kick the guy when he tried to do something good is a bum rap.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spitzer's hypocrisy exposes ours

Elliot Spitzer's penchant for exorbitantly priced call-girls contrasted with his previous hard-nose crusade against prostitution brought down the New York governor who resigned yesterday.

More than a few people were beating their chests and banging the drums over Spitzer's hypocrisy and most didn't cry many tears at his departure.

But is Spitzer the only hypocrite in the crowd?

The news media salivated over the story which got its start as an IRS suspicious money transfer investigation. They hunted down the details and uncovered the young woman who was on the other end of the deal. She was working for an elite escort agency.

The titillation didn't just extend to the media. "Pretty Woman" was a pretty popular movie. So have other films and books dealing with "The World's Oldest Profession."

If you think about it, "The World's Oldest Profession" got to be so old because society has a duplicid attitude much like the police commander in "Casablanca" who was "shocked" to discover gambling at Rick's while simultaneously he was collecting his own chips.

This is not an endorsement of prostitution but simply a reminder that hypocrisy extends well beyond the governor's office in Albany.

Perhaps our neighbors north of the 49th parallel have a more realistic and honest approach.

In Canada, private acts between consenting adults are not considered the government's business. There are three operative concepts here: (1) adults, (2) consent and (3) private. So, in Canada, while prostitution isn't illegal, solicitation is. So is pimping, sexual exploitation of minors and human trafficking. In other words, those crimes that truly do shock the public's morals and endanger the community are pursued. You can't hustle on the street, have sex with a minor, enslave for sexual purposes or be a pimp.

Perhaps Canada struck an appropriate balance of conscience, morals and the wise use of law enforcement resources. More important, the Canadians aren't as hypocritical.