Bill Lueders continues to do good reporting on the launch of The Capital Times as a head-on rival of Isthmus, as he does Thursday.
Especially when he declares that "the incessant cheerfulness of associate editor John Nichols is more than a little obnoxious." You just noticed? Of the 20 or so to be "separated" from the newsroom, Lueders asks, "Will working-class hero John Nichols be drawing smiley faces on their pink slips?"
Bill ends by noting that in December, Isthmus ran a cover story on the publication's 90th birthday. The story's subhead asked, "Will it live to see 100?" Bill concludes:
My answer is: Let's hope so.
Maybe the change to twice weekly will improve the paper's quality. But it won't last longer than the coreweekly, Capital Newspapers' late unlamented weekly freebie. Not if it can't do better than the Pat Schneider article on February 13 headlined "Homeless group gets boot."
A half-dozen homeless people stood shoulder to shoulder Tuesday in a chilly vacant house in the town of Madison that had been home until the landlord insisted everyone get a credit check, which each of them failed.
..."All we want to do is end homelessness," a man who identified himself only as Jeff said at a news conference today.
Immediately, the Blaska bullshit detector began a long, dolorous wail. The story raised more questions than answers. So I put those questions to the reporter and to her editor. So far, no response. I did not expect any but what a way to treat a customer! Hmphf!
First, here are my questions for The Capital Times, which have gone unanswered. I will follow that up with the answers, which I had to dig for on my own initiative, which is considerable.
Blaska's spurned inquiry:
Date: February 13, 2008 6:48:15 PM CST
I am about to make your life more interesting.
I am intrigued by your fascination for "activist Kristen Petroshius" and so ask of you these questions:
1. What is her academic/work experience with the homeless?
2. You picture (I think) five people behind Ms. Petrosius. The house she rented for them, what was the occupancy rate?
3. How many jobs did each of the five apply for in the preceding week?
4. You quote her as saying that the landlord "assumed they would be white college students like her." Does the landlord agree with that rendition?
5. Did you ask Ms. Petroshius for the identity of the landlord so that you could independently verify?
6. If not, why not?
7. You use the quote "all we want to do is end homelessness." What does Ms. Petroshius say is the best method for ending homelessness?
8. Do experts in the field -- entities like Wisconsin DHFS, Porchlight, Salvation Army -- agree?
9. You quoted a certain Kabzuak Vaj as saying that "It's a problem of ... war against poor people." What does that mean?
10. You make more than one reference to racism. Has a complaint been filed with the City of Madison EOC? With the State Dept. of Civil Rights? With the federal government?
11. To what "unwarranted attention" did the Town (capital T) of Madison Police subject the "formerly homeless?"
12. Is Kristen Petroshius' news value so high that her press conference had to be rushed into print as a breaking news story, as one might for Barack Obama? Or could this story have used more vetting?
13. Are you being used a) willingly or b) unwillingly by Mr. Petroshius?
14. Your newspaper/website advertises "hard hitting journalism." On the scale of 1 (weakling) to 10 (Ahnold in his prime) how would you rate your story on hard-hittingness?
I hope to print your answers in my critically acclaimed blog. It's on-line, as you may appreciate.
BlaskaBlog gets to the source:
As I said, I was stonewalled by The Progressive Dane newspaper/website, so I went to one of the owners of the residence in question on Dane Street, just off Park Street, Mr. Duane Steinhauer.
Duane tells me that the property management firm who vetts his properties rented the house on December 20 to a single woman by the name of Kristen Petroshius. She was the sole applicant.
"On the Friday before Christmas she was to pick up the keys and move in. I went in that Friday to turn the water on and saw ... 6 to 8 to 10 people sitting around." Steinhauer noticed, on subsequent return visits to break in a newly installed furnace, "they were always there. Not a one was a tenant. Never left to get a job. Every time I would ask 'Is Kristen here?'"
The rental agency inquired and told Steinhauer that Petroshius admitted renting the house for homeless people and promised to run credit checks on the people who were actually living there.
None of the inhabitants passed and all were evicted on January 12 except Petroshius who, apparently, never did reside therein.
Steinhauer was speaking to a Town of Madison police officer in the latter's squad car the morning of February 12 just outside Pitcher's Pub when a neighbor approached and said the people had moved back in. Yet another officer, the Town of Madison police chief and the building inspector were already on site.
"I was told I was in violation of the zoning code for having more than two unrelated people in the same residence," Steinhauer said. Indeed, waiting in his mailbox when he got home was a letter to that effect from the Town.
The police chief asked if he could search the premises for illegal drugs but was refused, Steinhauer said. At that point, landlord and authorities left and, an hour so so later, Kristen Petroshius had her news conference and the Prog Dane newspaper/website took her bait and swallowed hard.
And no, the Prog Dane newspaper/website never bothered to talk to Duane Steinhauer.
Real journalism and hard-hittin' to boot
Contrast that cut and paste job with the thorough research Nathan Comp did in last week's Isthmus in his piece, "Edge of Homelessness." I excerpt:
There are also those who simply exploit the system. "A lot of them go to the Capitol and play cards in the basement and do nothing all day, then they come over here, eat a meal and go to sleep," says [Jim Willis, who manages the Drop-In Shelter at Grace Episcopal Church]. "That's frustrating because they're not taking care of what they need to be taking care of."
Last year, [Kelly Maluag, Porchlight's street-level outreach worker] placed six people into housing. "Drugs are a huge problem. The majority of those I work with have had problems with drinking or drugs. I tell them right from the beginning that they have to meet me in the middle. It's tough."
As Jim Willis says, "I understand we all lack something in life, but you've still got to keep trying. You can only get so far with other people's help, then you've got to go beyond that help and do it yourself."
Do you see the difference here between activist Kristen Petroshius' approach -- "all we want to do is end homelessness" - and the discipline of people who actually know what they are doing? Providing a "home" through subterfuge is not solving the homelessness problem. Dealing with the demons that cause homelessness is the sine qua non to solving the problem.
The fact is that people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol will sacrifice everything for their pills and booze. If they can avoid paying rent that is all the more they can devote to getting their joneses on. Kristen Petroshius is an enabler, not a problem solver.
Homelessness is the symptom, not the cause.
He's a real Nowhere man... the nomination is at your command
My hat is off to political wunderkind Brian Fraley, who once worked on one of the many Blaska campaigns (not saying which campaign or which Blaska), for highlighting the doe-eyed, Peter, Paul and Mary-singing, tie-dyed nature of Barack Obama's supporters.
Earlier this week, he blogged:
Obama fans, please explain to me what the hell this means...
"We deserve an America that allows each of us to be what we can be, with no limits to our dreams or our ability to dream. Together, we can achieve a greater sense of America, unrestrained by the policies of the past. Together, we will see our collective opportunities, our collective aspirations, fulfilled. While some hope to keep us down with more of the same, our call for change is resonating across this great land. We will not be so casually cast aside. Together, we can. Yes we can."
Obama fans, only. Seriously, what does this mean? What am I missing?
Here are some of the responses I received:
,br> Grumps: If you have to ask, you may be part of the problem.
Keith Schmitz starts his explanation in a similarly dismissive manner: Like Louis Armstrong once said, "if you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know."
"But you demand an answer so here it is. What Obama and his supporters are doing is hold the US to its promise to provide opportunity. ..."
"Capper" opines: I believe it's called the American Dream.
Jack Lohman adds: "Keith has it right.
"If you are at the upper end of the class war his words are garbage. You like the way things are going and you want more of it. If you are at the lower end, or don't like our direction, he offers hope. Change."
And on and on until Fraley puts a stop to the whole nonsense by revealing:
I can also tell you without a doubt that the quote is completely devoid of all meaning. It is completely devoid of substance, both tangible and ethereal. How can I make such a statement? Well, I should know.
I wrote it.
I wrote it on a hunch that it would prove a theory, which it did. (If you reread the post, you'll note I never said it was a quote from an Obama speech.)
I've long said that Barack Obama's campaign was not about policy, but rather that Obama's lofty rhetoric merely created an atmosphere where dissatisfied voters could see in him whatever they wanted.
The whole delightful scam, worthy of a bloggers' Pulitzer, can be found at Fraley's blog "Daily Takes."
Angels Explained by Children
My friend Charlie Esser sent me one of those Internet things that make the rounds. This one is little kids' conceptions of angels. Here are the three best:
Angels talk all the way while they're flying you up to heaven. The main subject is where you went wrong before you got dead. -- Daniel, 9
My angel is my grandma who died last year. She got a big head start on helping me while she was still down here on earth. -- Lynn, 9
Some of the angels are in charge of helping heal sick animals and pets. And if they don't make the animals get better, they help the child get over it. -- Vicki, 8
As they say, works for me!