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takingsidesGovernor Walker: Hey! Don’t Worry About It!  WEDC Shame

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has a hot mess on his hands. His signature jobs making Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, or WEDC, has become an albatross riding along a repo man sought Maserati.

But before we indulge on the notion that we too can possibly have Wisconsin taxpayers buy each of us a Maserati, allow me to bring you up to speed on what WEDC is and why you should PAY attention to what can be potentially Governor Scott Walker’s biggest scandal to date.

WEDC was created in 2011 by Governor Walker who decided to replace the Wisconsin Department of Commerce with the WEDC. Why did he do this? Well, Walker, who promised that he would create 250,000 jobs in the state his first term in office, created WEDC to HELP him achieve that lofty goal.

But as anticipated by those who saw Walker’s action as nothing more than a pipe dream, Walker did not reach his goal of 250,000 promised jobs.

However WEDC, the agency that was supposed to help Walker create jobs instead created a hot mess for Walker I had previously hinted at.

What did Walker’s WEDC achieve, well in May 2013 an audit from the Legislative Audit Bureau reported at the time that WEDC had troubles it could not ignore. The audit found that between 2011 and 2013, WEDC gave out $124.4 million in awards to various corporations without a formal review by staff or underwriters.  Underwriters? You know, the people you wait to hear from that tell you to either hit the road or welcome to the party after you apply for a HOME LOAN.

But don’t get your undies in a bunch. Walker it seems was clever enough to not set up fiscal checks and BALANCES procedures when he created WEDC. Checks and balances?! Who needs stinking checks and balances!?

Indeed, our Governor had things set up so nicely that at the time WEDC was christened, WEDC didn’t mandate staff reviews of awards it was giving out because the awards it seems were all approved by the agency’s bipartisan WEDC board of Directors.

Hmmm….you say! Yes, I say.

This amateurish administrative blunder allowed for awards to go to companies that sat on the brink of ruin. For example, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS) reported that a Milwaukee based company called Building Committee Inc. got a $500,000 loan after falsely saying it hadn’t been sued for five years. The MJS found that this company did default on a loan and later dissolved. But here’s the nugget that caught the attention of political pundits who don’t SUPPORT Walker, the company’s owner had given $10,000 to Walker’s first gubernatorial campaign. BINGO!

But wait a minute! This rabbit hole gets even more interesting. Turns out that Walker’s team pushed very hard to get the Building Committee, Inc. this loan so that the owner of the company, the guy who gave Walker $10,000 campaign donation, can keep his precious Maserati and several other luxury cars.

http://m.jsonline.com//statepolitics/wedc-backed-firm-after-learning-state-money-was-for-luxury-car-debtsb993z1-309866451.html

Since this revelation, reports from newspapers all over the state have published that WEDC did not formally review over 25 other loans totaling over $123 million dollars. Wow!

Imagine you being able to walk into a BANK. No money. In bankruptcy. About to go under. You then see an opportunity. Find $10,000 (LMAO). Donate that money to Scott Walker’s campaign for president and WHAALA! You’re approved for a WEDC loan to spend the money as you please. Oh! By the way! That string tied to the loan reminding you that that money is supposed to be for creating jobs, well, that’s just a technicality.

Hey! Don’t worry about it!

Well, lucky for Wisconsin taxpayers two Democratic members of the WEDC Board of Directors are not biting the line–“move on folks! There’s nothing to see here”.

In fact, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) called for a full investigation at WEDC  and have requested the assistance of Attorney General Brad Schimel in facilitating the release of full records and documentation on any unsecured WEDC loans, WEDC loans issued over concerns of underwriters, or WEDC loans where underwriting documentation is missing or was not complete.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-scott-walker-jobs-agency-20150619-story.html

Scott Walker’s failed flagship jobs agency gave out over $123 million worth of taxpayer-funded economic development assistance without review or approval of an underwriter.

Shazam!

And what did Wisconsin taxpayers get BACK for the Building Committee, Inc.  and all the other companies who received loans without and formal review?

A lousy 2,100 jobs, were actually created as a result of the awards provided to the over 24 companies that got $124 million dollars curtesy of Walker’s corporate welfare PROGRAM known as WEDC.

Pathetic puts all this mildly.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) released a statement that concluded:

“Instead of again misleading the public, we would rather WEDC and the Governor focus their energies on quickly getting us all the records we requested – including any awards they made over the objections of underwriters, Community Development Block Grant ACTIVITY under WEDC and now the Department of Administration, and details of loans under $200,000 that were approved without staff review.”

Hey Governor! We are worried about it!

takingsidesEnding Chronic Homelessness Good Cause if Racial Parity Achieved

A few weeks ago Milwaukee media blew up the town with news reports bellowing the narrative that a plan eliminating chronic homelessness in Milwaukee County in three years is being implanted by our local government officials.

Some call the plan “ambitious” and some label it “fantastical”, the goal to coordinate a collaborative strategy by county and city officials is sound and should be supported by the community, especially the business community.

I met with Health and Human Services Director for Milwaukee County, Hector Colon to talk about the plan.

Our meeting came about after a few Facebook exchanges highlighting what I felt was a flaw in the plan.

After reading a report published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS), this part of the story raised a red flag I could not ignore.

The MJS report stated: “The community prosecutor would help identify homeless people and panhandlers in downtown and differentiate between those who need help and those committing criminal activity, said Kent Lovern, Milwaukee County chief deputy district attorney”.

After agreeing to meet with me I met with Colon at his office where he shared information regarding not only what he was doing to end chronic homelessness, and also what was going on at the Health and Human Service.

Colon is without question enthusiastic, knowledgable and ambitious. I mean that in a good way.

Colon’s work at HHS is guided by the influence of the Milwaukee County Executive. As long as Colon moves forward with Milwaukee County Executive Abele vision, Colon should have no trouble being successful transforming HHS into a top rate quasi-government operation over seeing much of the services its corporate and non-profit partners will be contracted by the County to do.

Getting back to the proposal to end chronic homelessness. Colon informs me that he is tasked with ensuring that 300 individuals defined as “chronically homeless” are no longer chronically homeless. He said it’s the moral thing to do and it saves the County money and resources. Good cause for getting people off the street who have been homeless for a long time.

Colon stated the annual $1.8 million cost of the program would come from reallocation of already existing funds, largely rental assistance funds, which includes $900,000 from the county and about $900,000 from the city and its Housing Authority.

I get it. Yes, the plan is sound and doable. However, that part where “…The community prosecutor would help identify homeless people and panhandlers in downtown and differentiate between those who need help and those committing criminal activity…” still troubled me.

I asked Colon what did the plan have in place to prevent a racial disparity gap between those who got help, and those being sent to jail. Was there any data being gathered? What internal check and balance was being employed to ensure racial parity?

Colon assured me that data gathering was being developed in order to prevent such issues from happening.

Colon went on to say that collecting such data is important to be able to identify if in fact homeless people are being treated differently based on race when their circumstances appear similar.

Well, this is Milwaukee where racial inequality, racial profiling, black unemployment is double white counter-parts, the jail and House of Correction is housing more blacks and Hispanics and blacks are the most disproportionately counted as homeless in the county, leads me to be skeptical.

But without real data in hand, all one can do is highlight this concern to the people behind this plan and wait to see if in fact they collect the data and truly seek to achieve the racial parity that is needed to make this a truly successful effort.

Indeed, there is a real effort on paper to help our most needed. There is a commitment by County Executive Abele, Dir. Hector Colon and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to do the moral right and improve the quality of life for many of the homeless in this community.

Nevertheless, the jury is still out on whether or not this is going to be a round up of black and hispanic homeless people ending up in the big house, instead of their own house.

takingsidesWalker’s WEDC Debacle Needs Aggressive Pursuit for Accountability

This past week, newly elected Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairwoman Martha Laning stepped into the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) imbroglio by sending a letter to Republican Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel officially asking that he do his job and release the official WEDC records in order for the public to see firsthand what damage has been done to the wallet of Wisconsin’s taxpayers.

The letter by Laning is the first real aggressive action DPW has initiated against Walker, who has enjoyed cupcake responses by DPW in the past few years, for his administration’s destructive policies that have sent Wisconsin into a whirlwind of debt, which Wisconsin’s children and grandchildren will have to pay unless more actions like this continue.

Laning’s letter follows the demands by Democrats State Representative Peter Barca and State Senator Julie M. Lassa, both members of WEDC board, who acted responsibly to demand WEDC records but have yet to have their demands met. Why? What is Governor Walker hiding?

WEDC, a state corporate welfare agency in Wisconsin created by Scott Walker and supported by Republicans of the Wisconsin State Legislature, has repeatedly been in the news giving corporations LOANS to support CEOs who clearly should have not received WEDC LOANS that Wisconsin taxpayers will sooner or later have to pay for.

Laning is now putting pressure on the Walker administration, and it’s about time.

Clearly Wisconsin taxpayers are experiencing an injustice if Schimel ignores Laning’s letter and refuses to comply with federal and state laws.

In addition, why not demand a letter from former Secretary of Administration Mike Huebsch stating that, during his tenure as SOA, under no circumstances, was there any malfeasance on his part to provide loans to failing corporations, including “The Building Committee Inc.”

As stated in an article published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Paul Jadin, the former head of WEDC, said Minahan and then-Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch pushed for a $4.3 million LOAN, but the agency couldn’t justify more than $500,000 — which Jadin said he considered ‘fairly risky.’”

Paul Jadin it seems would be a likely individual to bring to a legislative committee to further inquire as to whether or not Jadin was directed to provide a WEDC LOAN to The Building Committee. In fact, Jadin, during such a legislative committee hearing should make it clear as to whether or not he was directed by Governor Walker or Walker’s appointed administrative watch dogs, former SOA Mike Huebsch and his Chief of Staff Keith Giles, to provide any other corporation a WEDC loan under similar nefarious circumstances.

Further, an independent audit should also be requested by the Department of Workforce Development focusing on the number of jobs created and how many have been made permanent.

Finally, former SOA Mike Huebsch should resign from his current post at the Public Service Commission (PSC). His abrupt exile as SOA to the PSC raises an eyebrow of suspicion as to why he was demoted by Walker. Clearly WEDC has more CORRUPT pieces to the puzzle than what has been reported so far. Having Mike Huebsch continue on as a member of the PSC taints the position he currently holds.

To be sure, this is Wisconsin! There is no room for Tammany Hall like politricks at our state Capitol. Schimel must do the right thing. He must do his duty and force the release of WEDC PUBLIC RECORDS so that the full facts of what has taken place at WEDC can be known. In doing so, the wheels of justice can turn so that the mistrust and bitterness many of Wisconsin’s taxpayers have for our government can finally be reversed.

takingsidesStraw Poll Showing at DPW: Things That Make You Go, Hmmm…

The Wisconsin Democratic convention was held this past weekend. The biggest excitement for the Democrats was the election of a new leader to step in and steer the party towards a new path that would lead to victories in the Wisconsin Assembly, Senate and reclaiming the Governor’s office.

This year Democratic Party delegates voted for Martha Laning to lead the party forward. Laning of Plymouth received just over half of the voting delegates’ votes. She will be in this position for the next two years.

During the convention a gubernatorial straw poll was featured. The straw poll revealed over twenty six candidates receiving votes from 511 individuals who decided to participate in the straw poll. The straw poll is an informal unscientific poll which asked Democrats attending the convention who would they like to see run for governor. The straw poll was conducted by Wispolitics.com

http://wispolitics.com/mobile.iml?Article=350096

The winner of the straw poll was State Senator Kathleen Vinehout of Alma, Wisconsin receiving 149 from the 511 individuals who decided cast a vote (29.16%).

Those who came in second and third place were: State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse – 89 (17.42%) and 3rd – U.S. Representative Ron Kind of La Crosse – 85 (16.63%).

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a former candidate for governor received one (1) vote. To be fair, there were others who received 1 vote including Congress Woman Gwen Mooreand Mayor John Dickert of Racine. In all, a total of 11 of the 26 potential candidates received one vote.

The Democratic nomination for Governor of Wisconsin will not be in effect for at least another three and a half years, which is a good thing for Mayor Barrett if he’s seriously thinking of running for governor again.

takingsidesAbele’s New Chronic Homelessness Initiative Comes at Odd Time During Bucks Deal 

Abele is proposing aggressive Feudalist type tax collection tactics against indigent tax payers living in Milwaukee County in order to collect revenue needed to build Billionaire owners a stadium so that millionaire basketball players of the Milwaukee Bucks have a palace to play in.

The County Executive, who ironically announced recently that he would be spending $1.8 million annually to end chronic homelessness, makes it clear now why he is spending that money on the homeless initiative, he’ll obviously have to address growing homelessness in Milwaukee County once he starts shaking down indigent seniors and poor people for money he needs to off the Milwaukee Bucks stadium.

A key part of the proposed plan to create a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks calls for Milwaukee County tax collectors to go after “uncollected” debt owed Milwaukee County to generate $80 million the proposal seeks to help pay towards the new stadium.

According to Milwaukee County Budget Director Steven Kreklow, the county is owed $120 million as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Don Behm. Mmmm…so County Executive Abele did not collect this may to provide decent health care services for the elderly and poor, or address homelessness sooner, but we sure can collect the money owed now to pay for a basketball arena.

Well, can’t say the County Executive lacks vision. He clearly sees a future where more Milwaukee County residents will be joining the homeless ranks. I wonder if he was able to see that coming from his skybox seat during a Bucks game recently?

I’m Going With Martha Laning DPW Chair
These last two weeks I’ve been fighting off smears and slanders, damn! And I wasn’t even running for office. But one who has been running for office and fighting off smears and slanders as well is Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) Chairperson, Martha Laning.
During this campaign for DPW chairmanship, Laning has been the most heavily criticized candidate in the race for DPW Chair, many of the criticisms against her focused on BS stuff about where she worked 19 years ago.
Rather than focusing on her vision for the future of DPW, her enemies attack her because her enemies can not levy an attack on her vision for the DPW. Not one attack against her ideas or her selection of Rep. David Bowen to be her vice-chair was launched by her attackers.
Another idiotic attack made against Laning is that she is new to the DPW.
What!
Hell, thats a good thing in my book. What better way to come into a new position? Not surrounded by status qou pay check focused Dems not doing anything to fight off the Koch brothers funded extremist Tea Party front groups, seeking to destroy the social safety net that protects children and the poor from hunger or sickness.
While I really do not have much to say about the other candidates, I do have to point out that the worst DPW Chair candidate is Jason Rae, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) member from Milwaukee who also works for a two sides dealing consulting firm based in Milwaukee.

Rae represents the destructive forces using the Democratic Party of Wisconsin as a cash cow. Rae represents a desperate attempt by those holding power now to keep control of the DPW.

These are the same networks that have done nothing but loss democratic campaigns Under the failed leadership of out going DPW Chair Mike Tate, who is also supporting and pushing for Rae to win.

Rae is not the person for the job. While I don’t have issues with the Gay community, in fact, the issues I have with the Gay community are more political and economic than homophobic, Rae is the first to respond to critical views of him with the your homophobic response. With such a threat ready to be levied against anyone who questions his work, who would be willing to challenge some of the things he does? As one progressive blogger put it, “…he thinks that people shouldn’t question him or candidates that the Democratic establishment supports, which is a textbook example of a royalist mindset”.

Martha Laning on the other hand is more down to Earth. Her interviews on radio and her efforts to outreach into the central city of Milwaukee are actions that prove her to be sincere in her efforts to do what needs to be done to regain the legislator in democratic hands.

Martha Lanings values is being provided. I believe these words from her. It is because of these words and her actions I ask Latino democrat delegates to vote for Martha Laning.

Martha Laning Values:

From Martha Laning: I believe being a Democrat and a progressive should be one and the same.

While many people talk about the challenges facing our state, I have taken action.  I have demonstrated my ability to deliver concrete outcomes that reflect my values, such as the efforts I spearheaded in Sheboygan to fund a new school computer lab, add a school breakfast program so every child had a better chance to succeed, and build a broad coalition of activists, business people, and community leaders to raise $4.6 million dollars to build the Generations Center for Sheboygan County during the recession.  I believe that real change comes when people work together to make their communities stronger, and I have enjoyed leading projects that make a difference.

I am proud to be part of the Democratic Party because of our strong support for Wisconsin and Democratic values:

  • Ensuring equal opportunity for all Wisconsinites.  All people deserve the same opportunity to live their lives, support their families, and engage in their community safely, free from harm, and with dignity and respect.
  • Providing access to a quality public education.  In order to move Wisconsin forward, we need to fund our public schools, oppose the expansion of unaccountable voucher schools, develop our technical and job training programs, and support the decisions made by Wisconsin education professionals, including the implementation of Common Core.
  • Unifying the people of Wisconsin.  Only by listening to and respecting all sides of the key issues facing our community, can we move forward towards an effective solution.
  • Investing in Wisconsin workers.  Wisconsin is strong when our workforce is strong and our businesses are profitable.  Increasing the minimum wage, strengthening labor unions, and supporting small businesses are not mutually exclusive.

As DPW Party Chair, I will work to raise the funds, strengthen the statewide team, and support the candidates necessary to ensure Democratic values are strong in Wisconsin.

takingsidesThis past weekend Chicago recorded over 55 shootings over 15 deaths and no one seems to care. America’s fascination with guns is turning into an ever growing insensitivity towards life, with the latest carnage taking place in Chicago. Yet, there is no evidence that the US is any closer to joining the rest of the civilized nations and imposing strict gun control laws in order to reduce violent crime.

Indeed, every national tragedy involving guns, the American public is being inundated with figures about gun violence, ranging from the fact that more than 84 people are killed daily with guns, to the shocking statistic that there are more than 31,000 gun-related deaths annually. In 2010, for example, there were 8,775 murders by firearms in the U.S., while in Britain there were only 638. Moreover, there are 300 million firearms in a country of just over 311 million and just over 47 percent of Americans own guns. Most disturbingly, as pointed out by the Children’s Defense fund, is the fact that in 2010, “2694 children and teens were killed by gunfire [and] since 1979 …a shocking 119,079 children and teens have been killed by gun violence. That is more child and youth deaths in America than American battle deaths in World War I (53,402) or in Vietnam (47,434) or in the Korean War (33,739) or in the Iraq War (3,517).” These are startling figures, data from ten years ago to be sure, still data today or five years ago do not tell us enough about the cult and spectacle of violence in American society. Nor do they make visible the myriad of forces that has produced a country drenched in bloodshed and violence.

There is little doubt that the role of gun supporting organizations are instrumental in the violence haunting American culture, but they represent only one factor in the culture of symbolic and institutional violence that has such a powerful grip on the everyday cultural apparatuses and workings of American society. The issue of violence in America goes far beyond the issue of gun control. When gun control is the focus — instead of a broader consideration of violence — it can actually serve to deflect the most important questions that need to be raised. The grave reality is that violence saturates almost every aspect of North American culture. Domestically, violence weaves through the cultural and social landscape like a highly charged forest fire burning everything in its path. Popular culture, extending from Hollywood films and sports thuggery, to video games, embraces the spectacle of violence as the primary medium of entertainment. The real issue here is the existence of a pedagogy of violence that actually makes the power of deadly violence attractive.  Representations of violence dominate the media and often parade before viewers less as an object of critique than as a for-profit spectacle, just as the language of violence and punishment now shapes the U.S. culture  — with various registers of violence now informing school zero-tolerance policies, a bulging prison-industrial complex, and the growing militarization of everyday life. There is also the fact that as neoliberalism and its culture of cruelty weaves its way through the culture it makes the work place, schools, and other public spheres sites of rage, anger, humiliation, and misery, creating the foundation for blind rebellion against what might be termed intolerable conditions. Accepting the logic of radical individual responsibility, too many Americans blame themselves for being unemployed, homeless, and isolated and end up perceiving their misery as an individual failing and hence are vulnerable to forms of existential depression and collective rage.  We have seen such violence among students reacting to bullying and among postal workers responding to intolerable work conditions. There is no one cause of violence, but a series of a number of causes that range from the war on drugs and the militarization of police departments to mass incarcerations in prisons to the return from brutal wars of many trained killers suffering with PTSD. All of these factors combine in an explosive mix to create an dangerous culture of violence and cruelty and as Jeff Sparrow points out a “willingness of ordinary people to commit unthinkable atrocities.”

The metaphysics of war and associated violence creep into everyday life in the United States, a process which has intensified since 9/11. War and militarism not only eat up resources and revenue, it also determines the more general meanings that shape the values of social relations of everyday life and is constitutive of both social power and culture itself.  Under neoliberalism, markets are now fused with the warlike logic of militarization as ways of thinking, subject positions, and the ordering of social relations are fused, as the philosopher David Theo Goldberg points out, with “military truth, structure, and temporality.”

Of course, what I mean by this is that is the United States is not only obsessed with military values shaping foreign policy, but war and militarism have become a mediating force that now seep into almost every aspect of daily life.  War now makes men, and becomes the most important logic mediating not simply contemporary views of masculinity but social relations in general. We see war and its dynamics of cruelty and punishment seeping into a whole range of institutions. For instance, we see schools and social services modeled increasingly after prisons. We see police forces being paramilitarized. We see popular culture endlessly celebrating the spectacle of violence. What is startling is that the logic of war and violence have become addictive, a socially constructed need that we simply cannot get away from. Violence has become a defining organizing principle of society that has become one of the few shared mediating forces that now holds everyday life together. What is crucial to acknowledge here is that “the fields of politics and violence—a violence that seems to lack rational organization, not excepting self-destruction—are no longer separated. They have progressively permeated one another.”

State violence is now amplified in the rise of the punishing state which works to support corporate interests and suppress all forms of dissent aimed at making corporate power accountable. Violence as a mode of discipline is now enacted in spheres that have traditionally been created to counter the symbolic and institutional violence perpetuated by forms of state and corporate sovereignty. Airports, schools, public services, and a host of other public spheres are now defined through a militarized language of discipline, regulation, control, and order. Human behavior is now reduced to the instrumental logic of cost-benefit analyses, market shares, and profit ratings. Human relations and behaviors are not simply militarized, viewed as targets, but also reified and dehumanized making it easier to legitimate a culture of cruelty and politics of disposability that are central organizing principles of predatory capitalism.

takingsides

Since the early 1980s, Milwaukee has witnessed a deteriorated manufacturing industry leading to decaying neighborhoods. While this deterioration of neighborhoods progressed, Milwaukee was fast working on reliving the glory days by focusing its efforts to build up the downtown area in the mid-1990s.

This brings me to a parallel I found most interesting after watching news coverage of the Baltimore riots, and studying the causes for the explosion of human emotions that took place after the death of Freddie Grey.

Closely examining Baltimore’s problems as brought forth by many of the youth who participated in the chaos, Baltimore has much of the same social and economic problems the Black community faces in Milwaukee. Unemployment, poverty, crime, and racial inequality are some of the same social problems both cities face.

The social problems that exist in both cities, combined with the economic problems, create a perfect storm for social upheaval, especially in the central city of Milwaukee.

Prof. Marc Levine of the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee addressed these social and economic problems when he wrote about Baltimore’s major investment efforts to bring itself out of the shadows of deterioration and into the light of renaissance in a book entitled: “The Social Sustainability of Cities.” In this book, Prof. Levine published the chapter: “A Third World City in the First World: Social Exclusion, Racial Inequality, and Sustainable Development in Baltimore.” Now the parallels I see that Prof. Levine address in that chapter about Baltimore seeking to improve its brand can easily be compared to Milwaukee’s efforts to create its own Camelot.

Prof. Levine points out that Baltimore set out to recreate its image from that of a manufacturing Blue collar utopia that is falling apart, to a more modern festive-like city with a carnival atmosphere. To achieve, this Baltimore put most of the city’s political gambling chips on rehabilitating the inner harbor. Sort of their version on betting on their future.

Baltimore city leaders told city residents that creating such a tourist hotspot would benefit the city as a whole, but as Prof. Levine points out, Baltimore neglected some of its other social problems while pursuing this “carnival city” strategy.

Focusing on building Baltimore’s inner harbor, tourist hot spots and carnival city strategy in order to attract tourists to the city’s downtown area—sounds a bit like Milwaukee’s rebranding strategey, doesn’t it?

Prof. Levine points out that Baltimore spent over $2 Billion dollars since the 1970s to the present during its renaissance effort. That’s $500 million dollars every ten year for the last four decades. To put that in another perspective, Baltimore spent over $50 million dollars a year to achieve what? It certainly did not improve conditions for Baltimore’s Black citizens.

According to the leaders of Baltimore’s Black community, they have not seen any progress in their neighborhood and things for Black people in that city have gotten economically worse every decade since the 1970s. It’s no wonder why the city’s people exploded the way they did.

Milwaukee’s mayor Tom Barret is headed in the same direction. His renaissance Fresh Water Coast development ideas coupled with his festive streetcar initiative is moving tens of millions of dollars into developing the City’s fresh water coast and downtown area.

So as Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett builds his Camelot, Milwaukee neighborhoods of the Central City will mimic Baltimore’s deterioration, and Milwaukee’s underclass neighborhoods will see increased social problems and police misuse of force.

If there is political will to avoid the mistakes of Baltimore, city leaders must open access to black entrepreneurs into those areas now being developed in order to reshape and renew Milwaukee’s brand as a truly diverse city.

The mayor must initiate policies and programs that provide education to Milwaukee’s struggling minority entrepreneur class that helps guide business competitors though the city procurement process and contract competing procedures.

Above all, the mayor and city leaders must commit to the federal standards for hiring people of color and women and stop ignoring its failure for not doing so.

Indeed, it is much easier to find the social and economic flaws of the city, but the solutions are there. It just takes political will to follow the standards already in place and to implement accountability when those standards have not been achieved.

takingsides

 

 

 

 

 

American Cities Will Feel Heat This Summer

The world once again turns its attention to events in America, this time the world is witnessing civil unrest in Baltimore, Maryland USA; it’s important to note that Ferguson, Missouri demonstrations are still going on. And as the weather in America begins to warm up, the cities of the United States will most likely not only feel the heat of summer, but will most certainly begin to feel the heat of fires burning in their communities as well.

The mayor of Baltimore referred to citizens upset with police killing and brutalizing them as ‘thugs’. The governor is calling in the Maryland National Guard and a State of Emergency has been declared in this American state. Everyone is on high alert as pompous people look down their noses and talk about how ‘out of control’ Blacks are in Baltimore and how ‘riots never solve things’.

What’s interesting is that while many are quick to condemn the unrest in Baltimore, many of those same people blasting the demonstrations are the same people who stood by and cheered loudly when they saw ‘riots’ in Tunisia and Egypt during the Arab Springs. These same Americans say those riots were necessary for people to free themselves from oppression and brutal police tactics.

When students in Hong Kong rioted against police, American conservative and neoliberal media cheered and gave the students major approval and moral support. The United States condemned the brutality of Chinese police.

Of course we have the unrest in the Ukraine. America is actually sending aid to help those who dared to stand up to oppressive police forces. American political leaders call them Freedom Fighters.

It’s funny how America loves to cheer for those fighting for Freedom except when it comes to Black people fighting against oppression. In June 1976 the Soweto Riots took place, thousands of people were killed and the world condemned South Africa. However, the USA and Israel kept their support of the leaders of that country and their brutal Apartheid Regime.

American media tried to say that the students in Soweto needed to find peaceful means to stop oppression. They were told riots never solve anything. Every time a vote came up to put embargoes on South Africa, the USA was there to veto it. During the time of the Soweto riots former President Gerald Ford and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were trying to find negotiations, not to end Apartheid but to make it friendlier. The US saw South Africa as an important geo-political partner. Hence it wasn’t about freeing Blacks; it was about keeping things orderly. Fortunately Blacks in South Africa refused to go along and talks fell apart and ultimately they won their country.

Violent protests is the byproduct of a system in which the police are given freedom to do as they wish without consequences.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t condone unnecessary violence, whether it be a rioter burning a store or police shooting an unarmed suspect in the back, but psychologically, violence is an understandable (though still unacceptable) response to the current situation in Baltimore.

The police and the American court system have made it clear that police will continue to be above the law, even when their actions are dishonorable at best, and horrific at worst.

On the other side of that coin, I expect measures will be put in place to keep police from abusing their power, and using the special consideration the legal system affords them to justify, and get away with any heinous act, and this is where AMERICA has gone horribly wrong as a society.

With no official channel to turn to for results, people feel helpless and frustrated, and some of those people use rioting in Baltimore as an outlet for that frustration. It’s still not acceptable behavior, but it’s definitely understandable behavior, and it’s also behavior we’re going to see more of in the coming months and years if America, as a society, continues to accept the status quo when it comes to the way police are treated in our legal system after killing unarmed Black Americans without facing justice.

takingsidesLatino Majority Voting  for Rubio or Cruz – Not Going To Happen 

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz thinks he can become the nation’s first Latino president, but before conservative Republicans start counting that Latino vote, here’s a bit of news for them: it’s not going to happen.
Despite his heritage, Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant, Cruz will never rally Hispanic voters in the manner Obama was able to rally the Black vote.
“I can’t envision any scenario in which Ted Cruz can make any appeal to Latinos at this point,” said Matt Barreto, co-founder of the polling and research firm Latino Decisions and a political science/Chicano studios professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “If anything, he will hurt Republican chances [with Latino voters]. It will be worse than Mitt Romney.”
Cruz has shied away from using his Hispanic heritage as a selling point in the past, and that will not change now.
“The real question is whether the senator perceives himself as a Latino candidate,” said Hector De Leon, co-chairman of the Associated Republicans of Texas, which reaches out to Hispanic voters. “And I don’t know if he does … I have never heard him use that phrase or even hint at it.”
Even if Cruz wakes up tomorrow and realizes he’s Hispanic, his stand on immigration and harsh rhetoric on undocumented immigrants, puts him in the gutter with Sean Hannity and all the other ultra-right wing neo-cons.
Cruz was able to rise to national prominence after his election in 2012 as a staunch foe of so-called “amnesty” policies. He backed an extensive fence along the U.S.-Mexico border and has blasted Obama’s immigration policies granting temporary work visas to undocumented immigrants, measures largely supported by Latinos voters.
Do why would anyone think Cruz would draw the Hispanic vote to the GOP?
He won’t. And that’s alright with the GOP because what the far right wing wants is an American. Hot dog eating, apple pie swallowing, beer guzzling American. Rice and beans in the White House? Not with Ted Cruz there.
Cruz’s tense relationship with Latinos likely won’t matter during the Republican primary contests, when white, conservative voters are the demographic to win. But it could hurt him in a general election campaign, when moderate voters and Hispanics might be turned off by his anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Obama’s historic election in 2008, when he won 95 percent of the black vote and 67 percent of the Latino turnout, sent a message to Republicans that the country’s shifting demographics meant relying on white, male voters was no longer a surefire path to victory in national elections. Cruz will not inspire a similar movement in 2016.
Cruz might appeal to Latino voters by making the case that his economic policies will create better job and education opportunities, still, that won’t even be enough.
Now that Marco Rubio is running for the GOP presidential ticket, Republicans now have two major Hispanic candidates in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Mr. Rubio’s Hispanic background in particular could pay dividends for him. The son of immigrants, he speaks fluent Spanish and was part of the bipartisan “gang of eight senators” that worked for comprehensive immigration reform.
But before anyone gets too far down the road of discussing the GOP’s 2016 Hispanic face, keep this in mind: Hispanics are a very big and complicated group and both Rubio and Cruz are from one small segment of it, Cuban-Americans.
There is a long list of reasons why the Republican Party has had trouble with Hispanic voters in recent elections, particularly the GOP’s push in Congress against comprehensive immigration reform.
But beyond policy divides, “Hispanic” is a complicated identity in the United States. It’s about more than checking a box on a form, it’s about the different realities and experiences different Hispanic groups have. Cuban-Americans such as Rubio and Cruz come from different places than other Hispanics, on the globe and in American politics.
Rubio or Cruz in the White House riding on the Hispanic vote, not going to happen.

takingsides

 

 

 

   

 

Police Use of Deadly Force Hot Issue 

In every civilization there is a set of laws that govern behavior and a set of rules that make sure we live in an ordered society. So what happens when someone whose responsibility is to govern that law makes an error and falls through the cracks of a legal system designed to punish all with equaland fair justice?

What happens when we don’t see justice or justice is delayed? Even when there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence and testimony?

In August of 2014, Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed “alleged criminal” Michael Brown. Now what actually happened is incredibly subjective to the readers’ point of view. A grand jury found Darren Wilson not culpable, so he does not have to face a trial of his peers. Again, whether or not he should have been indicted is the readers’ opinion.

Much of the Ferguson unrest lies in the fact that a white cop shot a black kid, but a point often overlooked is that police brutality and misconduct knows no race or gender.

An example in need of reexamination is the case of Kelly Thomas, beaten to death by Fullerton police officers. Video footage showed police officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli beating Kelly as he begged for mercy. Defense attorneys contest that the victim was a violent and dangerous person. They stated that the victim had defied a lawful order and fled police officers who were making an arrest. When all the facts of the case had been presented, the ruling came in favor of Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli.

Does this give “Carte Blanche for police officers to do whatever they want”? What does this mean for those in law enforcement who may have committed a crime? Should it be used as further proof that the criminal justice system needs to be changed? Should we hold people whose sworn duty is to uphold the law to higher standards?

Another example of police brutality which resulted in a death occurred at the University of South Alabama. In October 2012 ,Campus Police Officer Trevis Austin shot and killed a young man by the name of Gilbert Collar. Officer Trevis had all the standard police equipment — which included stun gun, mace, and baton — instead chose to shoot at Collar who was high on LSD. Despite all the evidence, including surveillance cameras, he was not indicted and was found to have used proper force.

This is what happens even with direct video evidence, and public pressure. What happens when a police officer is failed to have met the required standards for a criminal arrest?

Another example is Seattle Detective Shandy Cobane. In April of 2010 he stomped on a suspects leg and declared he “was going to beat the fucking Mexican piss out of him.”

While videotaped evidence was found showing Cobane guilty of at least aggravated assault and/or hate crimes he was not charged, instead he was suspended thirty days without pay, demoted and reassigned a desk job. They took action only after a public outcry occurred with release of the video.

So what does this mean as a police officer? Does this mean that, if and only if somebody gives a damn, you’ll get a slap on the wrist? Does it mean if you get caught you’ll only be shifted and moved around to make sure you don’t embarrass anyone else?

In another shocking example of police misconduct, in September 2012 Philadelphia Police Officer Jonathon Josey was filmed punching Aida Guzman after Guzman allegedly threw a beer bottle at police. Guzman’s charges were later dropped.

Officer Josey was charged with misdemeanor assault and was faced with losing his job. However, Officer Josey did not get prosecuted on charges thanks to a judge who — much to the chagrin of those seeking justice — was later found to be married to a police officer. Further, Officer Josey was rehired by the very same police force that fired him and even given full benefits and back pay.

How can we find justice in a justice system that’s entwined with the police department? Will the system always look the other way for police officers?

And in the recent case of Mike Brown and Darren Wilson, it is clear that there are several anomalies not only in what happened in that night in question, but in the way the whole investigation was handled and how the prosecution ran its case.

So what do we do with a Justice system that seems to favor police officers? How can we protect ourselves from the very people we have trusted to uphold the laws that we ourselves make to protect us?

Lately the most popular method of police accountability is the advance of the cell phone camera or personal recording device. Perhaps the question isn’t why haven’t we heard of the incidents before now, but why so there are so very many. Law enforcement seem to have forgotten that we as a people deserve to know the motivations and reasoning behind law enforcement’s actions.

We should ask ourselves, “Who Watches The Watchers?”

 

 

takingsides

 

 

Who is Alderman Jose G. Perez Working For? 

The Milwaukee Public Library (MPL) cond

 

ucted a community survey in order to get an idea of what our community thought about the two competing proposals seeking to relocate the Forest Home Library to either the Hill Building on 9th & Mitchell  St., and the proposal that sought to build on property located on South Cesar E. Chavez Drive.

The MPL survey, some argue was “unscientific”, but asked several questions. The two questions most telling about the community’s preference were:

Question #5: “Which proposal increases visibility and expands access to the library?”

 

The results to this qustion were as follows:

The Mitchell St.: Proposal: 16.1%.  The Cesar E. Chavez Proposal: 83.9%

And question #7: “Which proposal do you prefer?”

The results to this question were as follows:

The Mitchell St.: Proposal: 16.7%.  The Cesar E. Chavez Proposal: 83.3%

Over 83% of respondents preferred the Cesar E. Chavez Drive proposal over the Gorman Mitchell St. Proposal.

The rest of the survey clearly revealed that overwhelmingly the Cesar E. Chavez Drive proposal was the community preferred proposal.

Ignoring their survey MPL decided to go with the Mitchell St. proposal.

So what happened? Why ask for community input and then ignore that over 2/3 of the respondents to the survey preferred?

I had a telephone interview with MPL Trustee chairman, John Gurda who made it a point to tell me that Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (HCCW) CEO, Jorge Franco and the HCCW supported the Mitchell St. proposal.

HCCW supported the Mitchell St., proposal? Really!

To ignore the overwhelming support of the community to relocate the Forest Home Library on South Cesar E. Chavez Drive could not possibly just hinge on just Jorge Franco and the HCCW support for Mitchell St. I thought to myself.

Seeking more information as to who else supported the Mitchell St. site I submitted open records request to Alderman Jose Perez office, Mayor Tom Barrett’s office and MPL.

What I received from those request were letters signed by various leaders in our community and emails from residents of our community showing support for the Cesar E. Chavez proposal. There was NO document in the items I received from City Hall or MPL that indicated support for the Mitchell St., proposal. Not even a letter from Jorge Franco or the HCCW supporting the Mitchell St. proposal.

So I thought, well, the Alderman of the district; where did he stand on the matter? There was NO document of support for the Cesar E. Chavez proposal issued by Alderman Jose G. Perez. In fact, the minutes of the meetings in which this matter was addressed and discussed did not reflect any statement of support for the Cesar E. Chavez Drive proposal by Alderman Jose G. Perez. To be fair, Perez did not state support for the Gorman Mitchell St. proposal either.

Still, many in the community stated that Perez was vocal in his support for the Cesar E. Chavez Drive proposal. He stated his support for the proposal to individuals, but when it came time to make his support official and on the record at the December 2 Library Building & Development meeting, Alderman Jose G. Perez said nothing.

A subsequent meeting on December 9 was held and Alderman Perez did not show up at that meeting to voice support for what the community wanted.

Why did Alderman Jose G. Perez turn his back on the community? Why did Alderman Perez not speak on behalf of the community who overwhelmingly supported placing the library of Cesar E. Chavez Drive?

Several attempts to have Alderman Perez speak to this met with negative responses to emails sent to his office.

It is clear that transparency is not an Alderman Jose Perez concern.

If Alderman Perez is not listening to his constituents, like he did with the streetcar and Cesar E. Chavez Library proposal, then who is Alderman Perez working for?

takingsidesA Latino Downtown: Missed Opportunity

My two part series regarding the Forest Home Library addresses issues such as community involvement, bureaucratic indifference to community involvement, an alderman who throws the community under the bus and a Hispanic group with a history of going against the Hispanic community.

But I think the biggest issue that my series touches on is the fact that the Forest Home Library, had it been relocated to South Cesar E. Chavez Drive, would have been the corner stone to a Latino downtown in Milwaukee that Wisconsin Latinos could be proud of.

Indeed, the Cesar E. Chavez Library could have been the anchor to a thriving Latino downtown in Milwaukee.

Cesar E. Chavez Drive, with combination of successful retail stores, various attractions, restaurants and of course an inviting atmosphere, could have become a welcomed addition for Milwaukee.

A Latino downtown not only would help carry Milwaukee’s economy, but also significantly would contribute to the city’s identity. Imagine that! Milwaukee, with a national reputation of being the most segregated city in the country establishing a Latino downtown.

The library could have been a major factor for this to happen.

But as my series regarding the Forest Home Library will show, doing the right thing to uplift Milwaukee is not as important as playing politricks for some individuals in this city.

And this is important to point out, politricks that is. Because it becomes increasingly important as Milwaukee struggles to be economically competitive, and where national trends suggest that cities will play key roles in the global economy, creating mini downtowns in the community would contribute towards the city’s economic competitiveness.

When politricks is part of an Alderman’s agenda, it is the community that suffers. When politricks is part of a bureaucrats agenda, it is the community that suffers. When the community suffers, the city suffers.

A neighborhood downtown becomes a key element in attracting and retaining talented and creative community members to the neighborhood.  This is an important part of a growing and prosperous Latino community.

South Cesar E. Chavez Drive has history, established neighborhoods, a unique music scene and cultural attributes, how could this area not be selected for the new library?

A Latino downtown becomes the historic heart of the community and the community’s social identity is linked to that historic center.

John Gurda, president of the Milwaukee Public Library Trustees understands this. The historic aspects of neighborhoods must be preserved. But sometimes historic aspects of the past must take a back seat to allowing new history to be built.

The Latino footprint in Milwaukee must be cemented, the relocation of the Forest Home Library could have help to make that happen.

Some will argue that the site on Mitchell street will achieve the same, I argue all one has to do is survey the community again and one will see that the community sees Cesar E. Chavez Drive as the Latino nerve center.

Preservation and rehabilitation are two tools that help recapture and celebrate the past. Vision and courage is what builds and drives us towards the future.

The city’s historic buildings will allow the city to tell its unique story, but building new structures tell the story of where the city is going.

A great opportunity to showcase the future of Milwaukee to the world was lost.

The placement of the Forest Home Library could have put Milwaukee on the map illustrating an economic model that builds neighborhoods which captures the attention and imagination of residents and visitors.

It’s unfortunate politricks got in the way of that.

takingsidesChicago Can Lead The Way With Chuy

Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, candidate for mayor of Chicago for the past year has provided the public positions regarding his policies to positively impact how Chicago can provide an opportunity for individuals to meet as equals without regard for race or class. Clearly, he demonstrates with his words ideas for the most effective way to engage in fair housing, safe and vibrant neighborhoods, market affairs, transportation needs and concerns and long term plans for urban development and employment.
Economic justice, good public schools, urban infrastructure up-grades and making sure that Chicago places its citizens at the center of public policy are the ingredients that ensure stability in Chicago. “Chuy” gets it.
The growing influence of globalization on urban systems and the role large cities play in the world economy are among the factors now impacting the quality of living.
The growing power of multi-national corporations, private sector chambers of commerce and free market quasi-government institutions do have a tendency to subordinate cities and states to the needs of big business. The need to devise an ethical approach that takes into account the needs of the individual, small businesses and neighborhoods, to ensure fair and equitable treatment between communities, the environment and the economy are matters Chuy clearly can handle.
Chicago is a city that exemplifies human diversity. The people of Chicago vary in wealth and status, but all share an association within the city boundary. However, despite the common geography, there are still sharp social divisions that divide the people of Chicago. High levels of poverty and violence are difficult challenges, but Chuy is willing to take on these issues directly. He is indeed committed to creating a socially cohesive and inclusive city.
The task at hand will not be easy; devastated neighborhoods serve as a reminder of the immense task to change the culture of poverty. Nonetheless, an enlightened, democratic approach to policy reform can achieve social and economic sustainability and move Chicago forward as a model for other cities struggling with the same issues.
Simply being in favor of economic growth is not enough. The manner in which Chicago’s economy grows is what matters. The laying out of a plan to the public demonstrates that Chuy has a tangible, well thought out idea on what to do about the environment, economic justice and social issues—all part of the plan to making city life a pleasant and shared experience.
Giving Chicago a human face can achieve initiatives that encourage inhabitants to be stakeholders and owners of their community willing to work together with all citizens in order to achieve collective prosperity and peace in the streets.
The goal for Chuy first is to set the tone once elected mayor, which would open opportunities to implement policies that will awaken the creative capacities of all men, women, and young people who live in Chicago. The second is to allow this city to proceed into the new millennium as an example of a democratic city in which the ideals of economic liberation, equal opportunity, self-determination, and harmony can be achieved for all its communities.
Chuy has the right ideas. If Chicago can put him at the helm to lead the way.

Wisconsin Senator Johnson Exhibits Follower Mentality Instead of Leadership Qualitiestakingsides The “open letter” from Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and 46 other Republican senators to the leadership of Iran has created a political firestorm for the GOP.  It has been harshly denounced by Democratic loyalists as “stunning” and “appalling”.

To get themselves out of hot water the GOP went to their patent practice of blaming President Obama for their letter. That seemed pretty silly, which led Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to try blaming a snowstorm in D.C. last week for Republicans failing to think their plan through.

Well, that one got people laughing.

But then in comes Wisconsin’s Senator Ron Johnson who last week said that the open letter he signed with 46 other GOP Senators and who tells his colleagues that the letter should not have been directed to Iran’s ruling regime. What Senator Johnson said was:

“I suppose the only regret is who it’s addressed to”.

“Who it’s addressed to”? Really!

The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee defense for signing the letter is that he wasn’t happy it was sent to the wrong people.

Honestly. This is just something that comedy program writers would have never dreamed up.

47 Republican United States Senators signed and authorized their names to be used in a letter intended to influence another nation’s leadership to forgo nuclear talks with the president of the United States of America, and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson’s only regret is that it was sent to the wrong people?

So admittedly, Senator Johnson was more of a follower in this whole Iran letter fiasco.

Now that Johnson admits he did not like who the letter was sent to, why didn’t the Senator from Wisconsin show some leadership and say something before?

And now that Johnson is saying something about who the letter was sent to, why isn’t he offering any clue as to where the letter should have been sent?

Wisconsin’s Senator Johnson signs a letter that interferes with the work of the chief executive of the government of the United States by circumventing U.S. protocols and all he can offer is they messed up by sending the letter to the wrong people.

In corporate America, how long do you think Johnson’s seat on any corporate board of directors in America would last for meddling in the affairs of the corporations CEO?

Any corporate board and all the investors of that corporation would have tossed Johnson out onto Wall Street by his ears had he done something like what he did as a Senator of the United States.

It’s just shameful and disheartening that our Senator would participate in an action they amounts to nonsense at best, disruptive and intrusive at worst.

Johnson’s participation in the Cotton letter fiasco is evidence of shallow leadership seeking direction and guidance from whomever.

Johnson instead of showing leadership and command by demonstrating his own leadership impulse and independent critical thinking, allowed himself to be led by someone who has exposed the 47 Republicans as elementary political hacks.

Johnson, instead of devoting his time improving his efforts towards how to best serve Wisconsin, seems to be spending his time playing Politricks with a young first term Senator from Arkansas.

Johnson failed himself, America and Wisconsin for being a willing follower in Senator Cotton’s political game of gotcha.  That’s to bad. His actions did not serve in the best interest of the nation or Wisconsin. It also clearly did not help Johnson either. Instead of being seen as a leader, he’s now clearly labeled as nothing more than a political hack follower.

And this is the most unfortunate part of this whole issue. Senator Johnson seems to not realize that his position holds the destiny and future of our children.

If Johnson thinks that sitting as a Senator of the United States means he’s there to play politricks and to be a hack in order to advance his extreme ideas and political networks into power, he then has demonstrated that he clearly does not care for our children and the future of our nation.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan is Right About ISIStakingsides

Former Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, now the archbishop of New York, compared Islamic State (ISIS) to the IRA – saying militants terrorizing the Middle East are a distortion of “genuine” Islam, just as the Irish Republican Army was a “perversion” of Catholicism.

In an interview on CNN, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said, “Remember 30, 35, 40 years ago with the IRA in Ireland? The IRA claimed to be Catholic. And they were baptized; they had a Catholic identity. What they were doing was a perversion of everything the church stood for.”

“And to their immense credit, the bishops of Ireland, every time the IRA blew up a car or a house or a barracks to the British Army, the Irish bishops would say they are not Catholic,” continued Dolan.

When ISIS beheaded 21 of Egypt’s Coptic Christians last month, they claimed to be doing God’s work. They quoted religious sounding terminology like “fighting until the war lays down its burdens,” not ceasing until the Promised Messiah returns to “break the cross” and “kill the swine.”

The Koran likens the murder of an innocent life to the murder of humanity.

The Koran also declares that there is “no compulsion in matters of religion”. It declares that religious war, like the one that ISIS is claiming, is totally forbidden and condemned by Islamic leaders all over the world.

Cardinal Dolan’s views are in line with President Barack Obama who said, “we must never accept the premise that they (ISIS) put forward because it is a lie. Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders — they’re terrorists.”

ISIS is like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), who represents themselves as Christians; the only difference between the KKK and ISIS is that Islamic State terrorists now choose to broadcast their actions to the world via the internet, while the KKK still operates underground in the United States.

Like ISIS, the KKK seeks to justify their brutal crimes by saying they were for an honorable cause. This is complete folly. Terrorism of any hue is never justifiable.

The KKK of 2015 are no different to the KKK terrorists of 1875. That is why it so important to guard against attempts by some to rewrite what has happened here in the United States, and using ISIS as the example of what all Muslims represent.

Archbishop Dolan is correct: ISIS is not representative of Islam, much like the KKK or the IRA is not representative of Christians.

ISIS is totally devoid of religious truth.

What does exist for ISIS is oil, money, and land – the true aims and the true gains of ISIS’ aggressive territorial warfare. Islam is what they use to justify to themselves the slaughter of non-believers, or anyone who they think has slighted their beliefs.

The Koran, whose message ISIS butchers at every turn, even instructs Muslims to protect the religious freedoms of others when they are persecuted and threatened. What this shows is that the God of Islam is the God of all people, however much ISIS may hate it.

ISIS is extremely selfish or just mad? There’s a good chance it’s both. One thing is absolutely clear, there is nothing ‘Islamic’ about ISIS. The analogy is accurate. These are not real Muslims.

takingsidesFinding Common Ground Is An Unstoppable Force

A Left-Right alliance is emerging in the United States on one issue after another that could form unstoppable majorities for many overdue changes.

Recently, a shower of e-mails and other protests descended on Congress from voters that led to a near a majority, composed of Democrats and Republicans, defying their own leadership to say “no” to NSA dragnet snooping on Americans.

Then Americans told members of Congress to avoid becoming embroiled in another Middle-East war, this time in Syria. Congress backed down.

Americans of all political identities are tiring of costly imperial wars.

Other libertarian, conservative, liberal and progressive citizens want to change the so-called Patriot Act’s infringement upon the freedoms and liberties of Americans.

Regular media reporting on abuses under the Patriot Act, such as invasion of privacy, are increasingly seen as affecting all Americans – and not just certain minorities such as Muslim-Americans.

Left-right coalitions oppose rampant corporate welfare or crony capitalism, handing out subsidies, giveaways of taxpayer assets and bailouts of Wall Street and other tax escapes by Big Business.

Granted there is a prolonged anti-public interest gridlock and paralysis of what can be called Washington’s corporate government (composed of corporate Republican and corporate Democrats). But left-right convergences could foreshadow political realignments pressing on incumbent politicians to advance long-overdue redirections opposed by corporate lobbyists.

These convergences do not have to change election results; they work on elected representatives between elections.

This was true with the passage of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform in 2002.

Higher minimum wage

More cities and states are raising their minimum wage without waiting for Washington. Even Republicans Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty came out for a higher federal minimum wage. They notice the polls coming in at between 70 and 80 percent in support of increasing the minimum wage.

Left – right alliances are passing juvenile justice reform of outrageously long jail sentences for minor possession of street drugs and start seriously confronting the costly, counter-productive practices of the prison-industrial complex.

Former House Republican Speaker, Newt Gingrich, and right-wing lobbyist Grover Norquist and other right-wingers started a “Right on Crime” initiative to save society tax dollars by stopping the filling of jails with non-violent offenders. The US has the highest percentage of its population in jail of any nation in the world.

Abraham Lincoln said: “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.”

Though they will continue to disagree on many issues, the left and right do agree on the need for many important changes. When they focus on acting together, they are unstoppable.

What in tarnation is Wisconsin thinking?takingsides

Governor Scott “Scooter” Walker is blazing a trail across the nation, parading himself as a potential presidential candidate. But unfortunately for Wisconsin, he’s not looked at by his fellow conservatives as an innovative fresh ideas leader, they see him as a cowardly political not ready for prime time neophyte who managed to marginalize his candidacy with an astounding display of gutlessness never seen in modern political campaigns.

I mean, I kind of got the feeling Walker was in over his head when he visited England and ended up looking like a confused boy Scott when he would not explain his position on EVOLUTION. But since then, Scooter has been taking a shellacking from conservative newspapers all around the country for being a chump.

The conservative media did not jump on Walker that hard when he declined to answer if he believed in evolution. But after standing beside Rudy Giuliani as the former New York mayor said President Barack Obama wasn’t a patriot and did not love America, Scott Walker got all mealy-mouthed and, instead of saying he believed the President loved America, he stood there unwilling to concede that the president of the United States of America in fact loves America.

But that’s not all. Walker raised the stakes and blurted out that he wasn’t so sure whether or not Barack Obama was a Christian because, as Walker puts it, he’s “never asked him” that.

By the now, the nation has to be saying to itself, What in tarnation is Wisconsin thinking?

Scott Walker’s embrace of radical conservativism, in order to avoid politically alienating his base of the radical conservative Hoi polloi, is more than just a sign of his utter lack of leadership. It’s a sad commentary about us in Wisconsin who elected this sneaky politician as governor three times in the last four years.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out the coverage in conservative newspapers around the country that have been publishing Walker’s brand of cowardly antics:

Scott Walker’s spineless silence

Washington Post Editorial Board, February 20th, 2015

“His (Mayor Giuliani) remarks presented an early test of character for Mr. Walker, and Mr. Walker failed spectacularly. At the dinner, the governor said nothing. Even the next morning, having had a night to ponder, Mr. Walker chose not to lift himself out of the Giuliani sewer.”

“ Any reader of this page knows that we find plenty to criticize in Mr. Obama’s foreign policy. But the questions about his patriotism that emerge from a venomous stew of racism, xenophobia and echo-chamber cable television chatter are ludicrous and say a great deal more about the critics than about the object of their criticism.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/gov-scott-walkers-spineless-silence/2015/02/20/ebf9f626-b91c-11e4-a200-c008a01a6692_story.html

Scott Walker’s cowardice should disqualify him

Washington Post Op-Ed, February 20th, 2015

“What Scott Walker did ought to disqualify him as a serious presidential contender”

“Certainly don’t look to Walker, who, in trying to establish himself as the man to lead the country after the 2016 election, is avoiding anything that might resemble leadership.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/scott-walkers-cowardice-should-disqualify-