“Staggering worker caseloads…”.

The Illinois General Assembly is in session this week, and they’re looking at actually putting more than $900 million back into the budget, a small piece of it intended for the Department of Children and Family Services. In a bill sponsored by House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago),

nearly $25 million would go to the Department of Children and Family Services [DCFS]. The agency’s budget had been reduced by nearly $90 million.

The increase would allow the agency to avoid deep layoffs that had threatened Director Richard Calica’s reorganization plan, agency spokesman Dave Clarkin said. The ongoing child welfare department shuffle includes shoring up the critical frontline with 138 additional child-protection investigators, reducing middle-management positions and deploying recruitment specialists across the state to help move children more quickly out of the foster care system and into permanent homes.

The Tribune has reported staggering DCFS worker caseloads, overdue investigations, a clogged child abuse hot line, untimely day care inspections and troubling child deaths that raised questions about whether more could have been done to intervene.

“Troubling child deaths…”.

If you live in Illinois, you can help by calling your state representatives to tell them you want to see the DCFS budget restored — and if you don’t know who your state representatives are, or what district you’re in (which I’d say is a pretty regular occurrence at the state level) you can call 217-782-4141 to find out. (Plus which: State legislators get a lot fewer calls than their national counterparts do – your call has an even bigger impact when you’re calling downstate). (Or upstate. You know).


Please, please: Call.


Israeli government’s priority: settlements.

Every now and then I like to remind people that the occupation is a real thing that actually exists in the lives of real people. On Monday, Israel reminded us why:

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz last week signed the government’s new national priority list, which grants housing and development benefits to some 660 communities….

The new national priority list includes 87 West Bank settlements out of a total of 131 settlements. Some of these communities belong to the large settlements blocs, such as Ariel and Efrat, which have a relatively high social-economic ranking, and others are isolated communities like Yitzhar, Itamar and Elon Moreh.

In total, settlements make up 13 percent of the list, while settlers make up just 4 percent of Israel’s population.

As Ynet so delicately puts it: “the government appears to be encouraging Israelis to purchase lands in settlements like Beit El, Tapuach, Ofra and Eli”—the very thing that the government has long encouraged Israelis to do, via perks such as state subsidized mortgages, extra education budgets, and superior infrastructure funding.

It’s important to remember here that Ofra was built illegally even by Israeli standards, and whole sections of Beit El sit on land stolen from private Palestinian owners—and that these two examples are hardly exceptions to the rule. The occupation (a real thing that actually exists in the lives of real people) is a tool wielded by successive Israeli governments to protect the country’s investment in the settlement enterprise, an enterprise rooted in and shaped by lawlessness.

“On the other hand,” Ynet reports,

the cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Kiryat Malachi, which were hit by hundreds of Hamas rockets in the recent round of fighting in Gaza, have been excluded from the list despite their relatively low social-economic ranking.

Other communities excluded from the list include Lod, which was the subject of a scathing state comptroller report, Ramla, Kiryat Gat and Beit Shemesh, which has an even lower social-economic ranking.

…Ephraim Mishal, who is running for the position of Kiryat Malachi mayor, added: “What more has to happen in our city for the government to include us in its aid programs. A lot of blood has been shed, and the government is conveying a message that we are not on its list of priorities.”

Indeed. Not on its list of priorities, and apparently not likely to be in the near future. Unless and until rockets start to fall again (which, in the absence of a two-state peace, seems a forgone conclusion, even to Israelis who lived through the last war), a two-state peace made increasingly impossible by the on-going settlement enterprise.

If the people of Lod and Kiryat Malachi want to see their problems genuinely addressed, they’ll have to start in Ofra and Beit El.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.