LA Progressive https://www.laprogressive.com Progressive Media Advocates Sat, 25 Apr 2015 01:03:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2 Contempt of Cop https://www.laprogressive.com/contempt-of-cop/ https://www.laprogressive.com/contempt-of-cop/#respond Sat, 25 Apr 2015 01:03:11 +0000 https://www.laprogressive.com/?p=111999 Contempt of CopCheryl Dorsey: Why would an officer feel justified in shooting someone simply because they ran? I'll tell you why—because over the years these officers have been able to get away with murder, literally.

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Beatriz Paez is just one of the many recent victims of what I like to refer to as “Contempt of Cop.”  Fortunately for Paez, she lived to talk about her encounter.

Paez witnessed plain clothes officers detaining several individuals at gunpoint and decided to record the incident on her cell phone. One of the officers, a U.S. Marshal, told Paez to stop recording. When she failed to obey his order, the unidentified marshal charged towards her, snatched her phone out of her hand, and hurled it to the ground.  But he wasn’t done. The marshal then stomped on the phone and punted it down the sidewalk. Luckily, Paez had someone else recording her as she recorded the officers.

As a retired 20-year veteran sergeant of the Los Angeles Police Department, I understand that some police officers have an absolute expectation that if they tell you to do something—you better do it.  When you don’t, sometimes there is a price to pay.

Police officers have tremendous power. That small group of officers who have garnered so much of the public’s attention lately have the ability to take hours out of your life. One favorite technique is  an unlawful detention on a Friday followed by a weekend in jail if you don’t have the financial wherewithal to make bail.

An errant officer could cost you hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars by issuing a traffic citation and having your vehicle towed. An overzealous officer can stop you, drag you out of your car, and beat you—possibly requiring expensive follow-up medical treatment once released from jail on that bogus “resisting” arrest and battery on a police officer charge. Or you just might lose your life.

Contempt of Cop is not real, you say?  Ask Floyd Dent of Inkster, Michigan, who was recently exonerated of charges after he had been brutally beaten by Inkster Police Officer William Melendez—aka Robocop—after Dent allegedly committed a traffic infraction. Melendez was fired, arrested, and charged with two felonies in the Dent assault.

Ask Mario Givens, who was yanked from his residence by fired South Carolina Officer Michael Slager, who was investigating a burglary at Givens’ home. (The same Slager who killed Walter Scott during a traffic stop.)  Givens was tasered and booked for “resisting” arrest when Slager decided Givens did not live there. The criminal charge against Givens was later  dismissed. Givens filed a personnel complaint against Slager and Slager was found not guilty of wrongdoing. Really Chief?

Some police officers will initiate a traffic stop or their other favorite—an investigative stop—escalate a seemingly benign encounter to a use-of-force incident and then arrest the citizen for either resisting arrest or battery on a police officer.  Both charges are difficult to refute without a video recording.

Sadly, these incidents are commonplace. Some police officers will initiate a traffic stop or their other favorite—an investigative stop—escalate a seemingly benign encounter to a use-of-force incident and then arrest the citizen for either resisting arrest or battery on a police officer.  Both charges are difficult to refute without a video recording.

Here are just a few more examples of contempt of cop. Remember Marlene Pinnock, the homeless grandmother walking along the Santa Monica freeway in Los Angeles? California Highway Patrol Officer Daniel Andrew straddled her mixed-marshal arts-style and punched her repeatedly in the face and head when she failed to obey his order. CHP settled with Pinnock for $1.5 million.

Then we have San Bernardino County Sheriffs who chased, tasered, and kicked  Francis Pusok as he lay prone on the ground. The San Bernardino Sheriff subsequently  paid  Francis Pusok $650,000.

Pinnock and Pusok were the lucky ones. They lived.

Tragically, during a traffic stop for a broken third tail light in North Charleston, South Carolina, 52-year-old Walter Scott exited his car and ran away on foot, eluding a much younger officer, Michael Slager. Scott paid with his life. Slager must have been pretty upset when he could not catch Scott—so much so that Slager pumped five shots into Scott’s back.  Apparently, when you run from a police officer (Contempt of Cop) and the officer lacks the physical stamina to catch you, death is the penalty.

Need more proof?  Reputed gun dealer Eric Harris ran from Tulsa deputy sheriffs during an undercover sting operation. As he took what were probably his last breaths, one of the deputies told him, “you f*cking ran“.  So, let’s be clear, if you run from the police, there may be a heavy price to pay. Death was Harris’ penalty for contempt of cop. Gun dealer or not, when did police become judge, jury, and executioner?

I could go on. Contempt of Cop is real. There does not appear to be any other explanation for the loss of life in these next incidents:

  • Ezell Ford, a  mentally ill man in Los Angeles, who did not want to “talk” with LAPD  gang officers during an “investigative stop;”
  • Kelly Thomas, another mentally ill man in Fullerton, California, who was beaten by a police officer who was allegedly overheard saying, “I’m gonna f*ck you up” as he placed black leather gloves on his hands. Thomas later died from his injuries and a jury acquitted the officers involved.
  • A Marana, Arizona, police officer used his patrol car as a battering ram when an apparently suicidal man, Mario Valencia, refused to drop a shotgun he had been pointing to his head as ordered and was run over by a responding officer.
  • And most recently, Freddie Gray in Baltimore—described by some as a “career criminal”—made eye contact with an officer and then ran. Gray was captured, detained, and thrown in a police van as he screamed in obvious pain. Gray later died from a partially severed spine and broken vertebrae. Career criminal or not, you don’t get to kill him, officer.

My thoughts: Bad police tactics can lead to bad shootings. Poor planning and a lack of communication between partner officers can lead to excessive or deadly force incidents. An inability to empathize and relate to the community served can also lead to devaluation of a  human life.

More-from-Cheryl-DorseyDuring my 20-year career while working South Central Los Angeles, I had my fair share of alleged criminals run from my partner and I.  That’s what criminals do. Most don’t want to go back to prison.  So if an officer understands that fleeing suspects are inherent to police work, get ready to exercise, officer.

Why would an officer feel justified in shooting someone simply because they ran?  I’ll tell you why—because over the years these officers have been able to get away with murder, literally.  Police chiefs circle the wagons, the department begins to craft a [fish]  tale, and then the victim or suspect is vilified.

Bad guys do bad things, I get that. Whether a suspect is a so-called “thug”,  a drug user,  a gun seller or just dumb in public [for running], police officers should not be allowed to shoot and maim or kill them on the spot for a perceived slight.

When police officers become personally involved; when police officers believe the failure to obey an order is a direct affront to them, excessive force and sometimes deadly force follows. Be clear, it’s not about overcoming resistance to effect an arrest, it’s about punishment.

Fire Cynthia WhitlatchI understand that if sense was common everybody would have it.  I understand that common sense is not something that can be taught.  I understand that compassion and empathy is not a learned behavior. That’s who you are at your core. Police officers found wanting in this regard should be plucked from the rank and file and banned from serving on another police department. Recurring and intermittent psychological evaluations might help identify those troubled officers. Let’s start there.

Cheryl Dorsey
Black & Blue

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Trans-Pacific Partnership: Death of the Republic https://www.laprogressive.com/fast-track-the-tpp/ https://www.laprogressive.com/fast-track-the-tpp/#respond Fri, 24 Apr 2015 19:03:53 +0000 https://www.laprogressive.com/?p=112004 Fast Track the TPPEllen Brown: Negotiating the TPP in secret and fast-tracking it through Congress is considered necessary to secure its passage, since if the public had time to review its onerous provisions, opposition would mount and defeat it.

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The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.    — Article IV, Section 4, US Constitution

A republican form of government is one in which power resides in elected officials representing the citizens, and government leaders exercise power according to the rule of law. In The Federalist Papers, James Madison defined a republic as “a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people . . . .”

On April 22, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement that would override our republican form of government and hand judicial and legislative authority to a foreign three-person panel of corporate lawyers.

The secretive TPP is an agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries that affects 40% of global markets. Fast-track authority could now go to the full Senate for a vote as early as next week. Fast-track means Congress will be prohibited from amending the trade deal, which will be put to a simple up or down majority vote. Negotiating the TPP in secret and fast-tracking it through Congress is considered necessary to secure its passage, since if the public had time to review its onerous provisions, opposition would mount and defeat it.

Abdicating the Judicial Function to Corporate Lawyers

James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers:

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. . . . “Were the power of judging joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control, for the judge would then be the legislator. . . .”

And that, from what we now know of the TPP’s secret provisions, will be its dire effect.

The most controversial provision of the TPP is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) section, which strengthens existing ISDS  procedures. ISDS first appeared in a bilateral trade agreement in 1959. According to The Economist, ISDS gives foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever the government passes a law to do things that hurt corporate profits — such things as discouraging smoking, protecting the environment or preventing a nuclear catastrophe.

Arbitrators are paid $600-700 an hour, giving them little incentive to dismiss cases; and the secretive nature of the arbitration process and the lack of any requirement to consider precedent gives wide scope for creative judgments.

To date, the highest ISDS award has been for $2.3 billion to Occidental Oil Company against the government of Ecuador over its termination of an oil-concession contract, this although the termination was apparently legal. Still in arbitration is a demand by Vattenfall, a Swedish utility that operates two nuclear plants in Germany, for compensation of €3.7 billion ($4.7 billion) under the ISDS clause of a treaty on energy investments, after the German government decided to shut down its nuclear power industry following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011.

Under the TPP, however, even larger judgments can be anticipated, since the sort of “investment” it protects includes not just “the commitment of capital or other resources” but “the expectation of gain or profit.” That means the rights of corporations in other countries extend not just to their factories and other “capital” but to the profits they expect to receive there.

In an article posted by Yves Smith, Joe Firestone poses some interesting hypotheticals:

Under the TPP, could the US government be sued and be held liable if it decided to stop issuing Treasury debt and financed deficit spending in some other way (perhaps by quantitative easing or by issuing trillion dollar coins)? Why not, since some private companies would lose profits as a result?

Under the TPP or the TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership under negotiation with the European Union), would the Federal Reserve be sued if it failed to bail out banks that were too big to fail?

Firestone notes that under the Netherlands-Czech trade agreement, the Czech Republic was sued in an investor-state dispute for failing to bail out an insolvent bank in which the complainant had an interest. The investor company was awarded $236 million in the dispute settlement. What might the damages be, asks Firestone, if the Fed decided to let the Bank of America fail, and a Saudi-based investment company decided to sue?

Abdicating the Legislative Function to Multinational Corporations

Just the threat of this sort of massive damage award could be enough to block prospective legislation. But the TPP goes further and takes on the legislative function directly, by forbidding specific forms of regulation.

Public Citizen observes that the TPP would provide big banks with a backdoor means of watering down efforts to re-regulate Wall Street, after deregulation triggered the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression:

ellen brownThe TPP would forbid countries from banning particularly risky financial products, such as the toxic derivatives that led to the $183 billion government bailout of AIG. It would prohibit policies to prevent banks from becoming “too big to fail,” and threaten the use of “firewalls” to prevent banks that keep our savings accounts from taking hedge-fund-style bets.

The TPP would also restrict capital controls, an essential policy tool to counter destabilizing flows of speculative money. . . . And the deal would prohibit taxes on Wall Street speculation, such as the proposed Robin Hood Tax that would generate billions of dollars’ worth of revenue for social, health, or environmental causes.

Clauses on dispute settlement in earlier free trade agreements have been invoked to challenge efforts to regulate big business. The fossil fuel industry is seeking to overturn Quebec’s ban on the ecologically destructive practice of fracking. Veolia, the French behemoth known for building a tram network to serve Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, is contesting increases in Egypt’s minimum wage. The tobacco maker Philip Morris is suing against anti-smoking initiatives in Uruguay and Australia.

The TPP would empower not just foreign manufacturers but foreign financial firms to attack financial policies in foreign tribunals, demanding taxpayer compensation for regulations that they claim frustrate their expectations and inhibit their profits.

Preempting Government Sovereignty

What is the justification for this encroachment on the sovereign rights of government? Allegedly, ISDS is necessary in order to increase foreign investment. But as noted inThe Economist, investors can protect themselves by purchasing political-risk insurance. Moreover, Brazil continues to receive sizable foreign investment despite its long-standing refusal to sign any treaty with an ISDS mechanism. Other countries are beginning to follow Brazil’s lead.

In an April 22nd report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, gains from multilateral trade liberalization were shown to be very small, equal to only about 0.014% of consumption, or about $.43 per person per month. And that assumes that any benefits are distributed uniformly across the economic spectrum. In fact, transnational corporations get the bulk of the benefits, at the expense of most of the world’s population.

Something else besides attracting investment money and encouraging foreign trade seems to be going on. The TPP would destroy our republican form of government under the rule of law, by elevating the rights of investors – also called the rights of “capital” – above the rights of the citizens.

That means that TPP is blatantly unconstitutional. But as Joe Firestone observes, neo-liberalism and corporate contributions seem to have blinded the deal’s proponents so much that they cannot see they are selling out the sovereignty of the United States to foreign and multinational corporations.

ellen brownFor more information and to get involved, visit:

Ellen Brown
Web of Debt

 

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Westboro Baptist Church: They Came, We Saw, We Conquered https://www.laprogressive.com/westboro-baptist-church/ https://www.laprogressive.com/westboro-baptist-church/#respond Fri, 24 Apr 2015 18:31:51 +0000 https://www.laprogressive.com/?p=111998 Westboro Baptist Churcht didn’t seem to make the local news outlets, but the Westboro Baptist Church brought their “God Hates Fags” road show to Orange County this past Monday. The Topeka, Kansas-based group made the trip ostensibly to protest at the memorial services for Rev. Robert Schuller, founder of the Crystal Cathedral, in Garden Grove; but they […]

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Westboro Baptist ChurchIt didn’t seem to make the local news outlets, but the Westboro Baptist Church brought their “God Hates Fags” road show to Orange County this past Monday.

The Topeka, Kansas-based group made the trip ostensibly to protest at the memorial services for Rev. Robert Schuller, founder of the Crystal Cathedral, in Garden Grove; but they stopped by Anaheim High school as a sort of warm up. Why the animosity for the late Rev. Schuller was not clear; even less clear was why they chose to appear at Anaheim High School.

Westboro Baptist ChurchBut what happened at Anaheim High was no doubt not what the WBC was expecting. Under the watchful eyes of a dozen or so Anaheim Police Department officers (NOT, by the way, in riot gear), the dozen or so WBC protesters were met with 150-200 counter protesters.

This crowd of enthusiastic, friendly people came to show the WBC people that tolerance was stronger than hate. The group was made up of clergy, most in uniform; lay folks (I was there with Interfaith Witnesses), LGBT people, students of the school, and local residents. We lined both sides of the busy street in front of the school, holding signs with messages ranging from affirmative (God Loves Us All) to theologically whimsical (Jesus Had 2 Dads), to outright mocking (God Hates Figs)–Matthew 21:19, in case it slipped your mind.

John-MacMurray-175The Phelps Folks stayed about ten minutes, then shuffled off down the street to their cars.

Sometimes the good guys win.

John MacMurray

 

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Prisoners As Victims https://www.laprogressive.com/prisoners-as-victims/ https://www.laprogressive.com/prisoners-as-victims/#respond Fri, 24 Apr 2015 04:23:07 +0000 https://www.laprogressive.com/?p=111982 Prisoners as Victimsoo many people believe that if people are in prison, they are as guilty as hell, and, therefore, they deserve any kind of treatment that is dished out! I can understand the lack of sympathy and empathy by so many even though I don’t agree with that kind of mindset or for some, their total […]

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Prisoners as VictimsToo many people believe that if people are in prison, they are as guilty as hell, and, therefore, they deserve any kind of treatment that is dished out!

I can understand the lack of sympathy and empathy by so many even though I don’t agree with that kind of mindset or for some, their total indifference. I have always believed that the purpose of incarceration is to punish fairly but also to rehabilitate. It flies in the face of reason that ugly, brutal, cruel mistreatment of inmates is what imprisonment is about. Such behavior under the color of law can lead not to rehabilitation but, instead, to the hardening of criminals, most of whom will eventually be released into a society for which they are not prepared.

It is absolutely a contradiction that we are working on such things as prison overcrowding and post-incarceration programs (which are meant for training and re-training and eventual jobs) when far too many of these former inmates have come back into society, into the community, as ruined human beings. They are relegated to ever-increasing difficulty at re-assimilating because of all the repressed anger and rage they harbor from their inmate experiences.

Let me give you some genuine examples that illustrate my point. For quite some time now I have been working with prisoners, to many of whom I have become close. They often share their personal stories with me. I hear a litany of mounting complaints that often seem to be carbon copies of each other–in terms of the abuse they receive on the inside.

What about the young man who had been approached threateningly by a “friend”? When the problem started to escalate, both were handcuffed but the young man wound up with a broken wrist. When he filed a complaint, the system turned the tables on him and claimed that he had attacked the guard and then further retaliated by sending him to a different prison altogether—away from the classes and help groups in which he actively participated and from which he greatly benefitted and from the camaraderie he had established with his fellow inmates. Perhaps there was a time when such a story would have sounded incredible, but not today with the growing awareness of so many incidents of police battery.

And why did this happen? In part, because he is gay. “How repulsive!” is the common response as reflected by this statement by a guard, “You f—in’ faggot! Why don’t you just die!” And that quote is the least hateful of the ones that have been disclosed to me.

Homosexuality and mentally and physically disabled inmates are usually sectioned off and often are the brunt of continuously atrocious treatment by unsympathetic guards who believe that population to be nothing less than repulsive.

Homosexuality and mentally and physically disabled inmates are usually sectioned off and often are the brunt of continuously atrocious treatment by unsympathetic guards who believe that population to be nothing less than repulsive and thus treat them as the refuse of society, like animals—people who do not rate humane treatment (that would be afforded animals). These “masters” are degrading and humiliating in the way they interact with their “victims.” It is hard to believe, but it has been repeatedly reported that many of these guards even encourage these incarcerated and bewildered souls to consider and even act on suicide.

Another seemingly universal complaint is the food: small, greasy, often watered-down portions—the result of which habitually leads to malnourishment or other serious ailments, like diabetes. Failing health is frequently ignored in the early stages by prison officials and often only recognized when major health issues ensue, thus costing the taxpayer thousands of dollars for any one individual, but, more critically, sometimes leading to the death of the inmates in question because of delayed or substandard treatment (remember, “justice delayed is justice denied”).

Cell conditions are another story. It is not a rare anomaly that the heat is arbitrarily cut off to an entire cell block—for no apparent reason and without explanation. The resultant dampness and cold are another inexcusable, insupportable form of abuse.

What of solitary? Surely a punishment overused and abused! Many are forced to stay in tiny, dark cells for 23 hours a day (a fate Dzhokhar Tzarnaev may be facing). If you ever saw the Denzel Washington movie, The Hurricane (based on the life of the fighter, Rubin Carter), you were witness to the harsh reality of what transpires for people so incarcerated. It is common for them to lose their minds. And after all to which Carter was subjected, he was later found innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted—a result that can never undo the cruelty which he experienced.

If this is what we want for our prisoners, why not just execute them all? Rehabilitation, redemption, re-integration (just words) become virtually impossible outcomes for inmates who have received the severe and, generally, unthinkable treatment as described above.

If we like to think of ourselves as forgiving and compassionate people living in a humane society, we simply can no longer tolerate or accept such unholy practices. We must demand changes and we must do that now!

rosemary-jenkins-200At the very least, retaliation of any kind for grievances must be absolutely prohibited and punished if found to take place. Programs must be accessible—system-wide—to rehabilitate, train and re-train, and to help re-integrate the formerly incarcerated into a society that can benefit from their newly productive participation.

Rosemary Jenkins

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Do Profits Drive Desire for LAUSD Board Seat? https://www.laprogressive.com/charter-school-profits/ https://www.laprogressive.com/charter-school-profits/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 04:22:03 +0000 https://www.laprogressive.com/?p=111943 LAUSD BoardRobert D. Skeels: Most of the time the charter school industry's corporate leadership is able to craft their messaging so as to distract the populace from the real purposes undergirding their projects. But occasionally, someone in their sector goes off script and tells the truth.

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Charter School Profits

Photo by John Schreiber

“The education industry represents, in our opinion, the final frontier of a number of sectors once under public control… represents the largest market opportunity… the K-12 market is the Big Enchilada.” — Montgomery Securities prospectus quoted in Jonathan Kozol’s The Big Enchilada

Most of the time the charter school industry’s corporate leadership is able to craft their messaging so as to distract the populace from the real purposes undergirding their projects. But occasionally, someone in their sector goes off script and tells the truth about what chartering is all about. Usually it’s those in the sphere of finance capital—gleefully celebrating how lucrative the charter school industry has been for them. The Forbes piece, Charter School Gravy Train Runs Express To Fat City , is an excellent example of this.

Sometimes individuals in the neoliberal corporate education reform camp spill the proverbial beans. Industry proselytizers like Andy Smarick and Paul Vallas have been candidly honest about charters discriminating against Students with Disabilities (SWD), and charters eschewing veteran teachers, respectively. Revelations of the dark secrets behind the charter industry’s insatiable drive for profits also shine cleansing light on a current local issue—namely the attempts of charter industry profiteer Refugio “Ref” Rodriguez, and his California Charter Schools Association’s (CCSA) campaign to capture the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education seat for District 5. One of Rodriguez’s fellow CCSA profiteers inadvertently provided incontrovertible evidence of why the school privatization camp spent over three quarters of a million dollars in the primary election alone.

A Twitter follow from a name I recognized as a marginal player in the corporate education reform camp sparked curiosity. A moment spent checking their LinkedIn profile yielded a veritable gold mine of information unequivocally proving the charter industry’s, and particularly CCSA’s, drive for profits comes at the expense of children and community. The prose from their profile says it all:

Co-Founder/VP – School Services & Products
California Charter Schools Association
July 2003 – July 2007 (4 years 1 month)
Launched and operated association services and products division providing financial, insurance, special education, and other member services that broke-even the first year and generated 30% profit margins in subsequent years–with 20-30% lead generation and 20-50% close ratios.

Profit margins, lead generation, and close ratios… refreshing honesty from an industry that claims it “puts kids first.”

Charter School Profits

Bennett Kayser (left) Ref Rodriguez (right)

Like the hedge fund managers discussed in the Forbes piece above, platitudes about helping kids are quickly subsumed by talk of plentiful profits, revenues, and business opportunities when charter school executives talk among themselves. This focus on profits drives Ref Rodriguez’s CCSA charter school industry trade association to eliminate any political opposition, and also explains their unhinged viciousness and ruthlessness towards the Honorable Bennett Kayser, our sitting LAUSD Board member, who has had the temerity to oppose charter schools placing greed over student need. Let’s look more closely at CCSA’s business dealings, how they harm students enrolled in charters, how they harm students enrolled in public schools, and then we’ll return to the implications of the May 19, 2015 General Municipal Election in Los Angeles.

Charters convert public funds into private profits

California Charter Schools Association’s (CCSA) business ventures were so outrageously profitable, they drew in an array of corporations, privately held companies, and large foundations wanting a share. Firms like EdTec, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., Charter Impact, Inc., and Discover Re (The Travelers Indemnity Company) jumped in CCSA’s profits pool. Longtime school privatization advocates The Walton Family Foundation and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation loomed large. Seeing an opportunity to exploit public education dollars nationally, the CCSA, Walton Family Foundation, Travelers, and Gallagher & Co. launched School Risk Management, LLC, which later became known as CharterSafe/PrivateSafe. Here is an excerpt of a 2007 press release from one of the corporate entities involved in this deal.

“In 2007 as a response to the growing need for appropriate insurance for charter schools nationally, Gallagher partnered with the California Charter School Association JPA and the Walton Family Foundation to form a risk management and insurance program for charter schools. This program has been known as the CharterSafe program. Recently the California Charter School Association JPA began promoting their self insured pool program as CharterSafe. In an effort to differentiate the national program from the California based JPA program, we have decided to change our program name. Going forward, we will be known as the Charter First Insurance Program.”

Note the prominence of the right-wing-reactionary Walton Family Foundation in the press release. Walmart fortune heiress, Carrie Walton Penner, is currently the CCSA Board Vice-Chair (term ending 6/30/2017). By most accounts Walton Penner is close to both profiteer “Ref” Rodriguez of the PUC Charter School Corporation, and the well-heeled Ana Ponce of the Camino Nuevo Charter School Corporation. Rodriguez was a CCSA Board member from 2005 to 2009, while Ponce currently serves as the CCSA Board secretary. Like all 501(c)3 “non-profits”, the CCSA Board is unelected, and, to all intents and purposes, is unaccountable to anyone other than its charter executive membership and private funders. CCSA’s public funders (the taxpayers) have no voice in the 501(c)3 corporation’s affairs. Its private investors get seats on the board. Known for their aversion to public education, and their exploitation of working class families, the Walton Family Foundation is CCSA’s biggest funder. In 2010 they showered the CCSA charter school industry association with a staggering $3,940,652.00. Annual investments like that are nothing when one considers the return of investment in the forms of profitable finance capital spinoffs like CharterSafe, LLC.

The avaricious insurance executive… ahem, “education entrepreneur” who oversaw growth of the hugely profitable CCSA CharterSafe enterprise, then launched his own consulting firm to skim more money from the trough of public funds. Funds which became entirely unregulated when the charter school industry was created by corporate interests in the nineteen-nineties. Refugio “Ref” Rodriguez’s revenue hungry PUC charter school chain is a client of that selfsame consulting firm.

The money making aspect of chartering is so predominant, that peripheral concerns like pupils, pedagogy, or populace are not part of the discussion. Here is a LinkedIn endorsement for our CharterSafe protagonist by the Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at the National Alliance for Public [sic] Charter Schools:

“Ted is one of the most creative people I know. He is an excellent partner because he always makes sure the business relationship benefits both parties. I have introduced him to our customers, and they always come away impressed.”

I doubt many think of children, schoolteachers, or education when they see phrases like “business relationship”, or “introduced him to our customers”, but that’s what the charter school project is all about—business. Big business at that.

The charter industry’s profits-first agenda hurts it’s own students

The CCSA counts 14 of the schools comprising Refugio “Ref” Rodriguez’s charter empire among its membership. As mentioned above, CCSA and its business partners profit from selling financial products and services to its corporate charter members. Additionally, just like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, CCSA charges dues. Their formula is based on enrollment. Of issue is whether these corporate charters can demonstrate that the dues they pay to their trade association come from somewhere other than taxpayer funds intended for students. Rodriguez’s PUC has paid well over a hundred thousand dollars into the CCSA slush fund, which in turn is used for political lobbying to increase charter industry profits. Those funds, regardless if they came straight out of taxpayer pockets, or are front end investments from billionaire ideologues like Walton Penner, would be better spent on students. Yet as we saw above, when it comes to choosing between profits and pupils, the charter industry always prioritizes the former. The “non-profit” designation of the charter industry is simply a tax status, indicating they don’t have shareholders. The 501(c)3 “non-profit shells” of these organizations merely serve as fronts to the myriad businesses they feed education funds to. Real estate, leasing, insurance, administration, and many more lucrative industries benefit from this arrangement.

Charter executives make sure they partake of the profits too. I remember interviewing a young person who had worked for a wholly owned subsidiary of the Green Dot Charter Corporation. They told me they had lost any illusions that they were a “non-profit” when they saw Green Dot’s Alma Vivian Marquez roll up in a brand new Porsche Cayenne. A sampling of Los Angeles corporate charter school CEO salaries is eye opening, especially when one realizes that they all work for schools with a tiny fraction of the student population that the public school district serves:

Charter Chain Executive Total Compensation Form 990, Part VII§A
Celerity Vielka McFarlane $438,730.00 2012
Alliance Judy Burton $330,400.00 2012
Aspire James R. Willcox $293,687.00 2012
Green Dot Marco Petruzzi $279,478.00 2013
Camino Nuevo Ana Ponce $230,811.00 2012

While representatives of the lucrative charter industry claim they run public schools, entities tasked with using precise legal definitions all say otherwise. This includes the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, the California Court of Appeals, and the National Labor Relations Board, all of which are on record stating that charter schools are not public entities. The most authoritative framing of this issue comes from the U.S. Census Department:

“A few “public charter schools” are run by public universities and municipalities. However, most charter schools are run by private nonprofit organizations and are therefore classified as private.”

Like the rest of the private sector, the charter industry must continually increase market share in order to maintain profitability. One of the ways they do this is through advertising. Rodriguez’s corporate charter schools squander untold amounts of taxpayer funds on advertising in pursuit of growing market share, and hence increased profits for the business interests associated with his schools and his CCSA trade association. The photo of a ubiquitous PUC advertisement (right) was taken by the author. Charter School ProfitsOur tax dollars are being leveraged in order to secure more of our tax dollars to fuel the revenue hungry machine that is the charter school industry. Obviously this is of no concern to profit minded charter executives like Rodriguez, but those funds could, and should, be spent in the classroom for student learning, instead of growing market share for the burgeoning charter school sector. Ironically these corporate charter school chains frequently claim they have long “waiting lists,” so why the need to advertise? In a word the whole waiting list myth is another part of their marketing scheme.

Despite having additional resources invested in them by billionaire foundations, not to mention their being able to control their student populations through selective enrollment, attrition, and outright discrimination against Students with Disabilities (SWD), PUC charter schools, while profitable, haven’t done much for students. For example, in 2013 students from Rodriguez’s Early College Academy for Leaders and Scholars (ECALS) took the California State University (CSU) entrance exams. Half of those taking the test failed to test proficient in either mathematics or English. The fifty percent of Rodriguez’s students that failed had to take remedial high school classes.

Other corporate charter school chains, like Alliance, Camino Nuevo, and Green Dot, have had years where up to ninety-eight percent of their “graduates” failed to test proficient in either mathematics or English. If the tradeoff for public control and oversight of our education dollars was supposedly to accommodate these so-called “high performing,” privately managed entities, then we have been duped. The only area where charter schools have performed well is that of funneling precious education funding into the coffers of the corporate interests they serve.

The charter industry’s profits-first agenda hurts public school students

I recently wrote in response to a charter chain getting away with defrauding the public for millions of dollars.

“One cringes thinking of all the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) public school libraries that could have been reopened with those millions “missing” from the privately managed Magnolia Gülen Charters.”

This sentiment holds true across the board. For every education dollar that winds up in the hands of hedge fund managers, business bankers, and corporate executives, there is a public school child suffering from the inequity of a system being systematically starved of resources. In March of 2015 The Center for Popular Democracy released a groundbreaking report entitled Risking Public Money: California Charter School Fraud. The report meticulously details tens of millions of dollars in fraud stemming from this essentially unregulated industry, and suggests that “[b]ased on conservative estimates, California stands to lose more than $100 million to charter school fraud in 2015.” As a community organizer I constantly hear parents talk about overcrowded classrooms and lack of resources. It is incomprehensible that at the same time our neighborhood public schools are in desperate need, our community’s funds are wantonly, recklessly, and even fraudulently squandered by the opaque structures of the privately managed charter school industry.

In response to our public schools being short changed because of the myriad shortcomings of the lucrative charter school industry, the Honorable Jackie Goldberg founded the Transparency, Equity, and Accountability in Charter Schools (TEAch) organization a few years ago. Everyone should support TEACh, even families with children enrolled in privately managed charter schools. Their mission statement: “An organization working to ensure that charter schools are Transparent, Equitable, and held Accountable for their practices.”

Aside from budget woes created by the charter sector syphoning our education dollars off into corporate coffers, another area where public school students are most hurt by charter industry’s profits-first agenda is that of special education. The 2008 Andy Smarick piece alluded to earlier outlines how the charter industry deliberately avoids enrolling Students with Disabilities (SWD) to save money and uses that additional financial burden to bankrupt the public school district. His words echo the neoliberal ideology of eliminating the public commons in favor of a profitable, private sector:

“As chartering increases its market share in a city, the district will come under growing financial pressure. The district, despite educating fewer and fewer students, will still require a large administrative staff to process payroll and benefits, administer federal programs, and oversee special education. With a lopsided adult-to-student ratio, the district’s per-pupil costs will skyrocket.” [emphasis mine]

As a society we must stand against the exploitation of our most vulnerable. Frankly, any school getting public funding should be obligated legally, ethically, and morally to educate every child. If it is too difficult for the charter school industry to stop prioritizing corporate greed over special education need, then there needs to be discussions of shutting down their industry. Los Angeles School Board members who have attempted to enforce these obligations on charters have been savaged by the CCSA. Bennett Kayser’s principled stand against the lucrative Aspire Charter Corporation is notable. Depending on which source one cites, Aspire either served a negligible number of SWD, or none at all at the time of Kayser’s opposition to their charter renewal:

“But a look at area special education programs provides insight into the types of students served by Aspire. ¶ El Dorado’s special ed program does not serve a single visual or hearing impaired student nor students with multiple disabilities, orthopedic or brain injuries, according to state reports. L.A. Unified’s program serves many of these disabilities, requiring highly-specialized, costly care.” (KPCC, April 16, 2014)

This is unacceptable. We already saw James R. Willcox’s compensation package above. Children in both the public school system, and the privately managed charter school sector, deserve better than to have the funds we alloted them diverted into private hands.

The billionaire backed CCSA campaign for the May 19, 2015 School Board election

With prodigious profits for themselves and their investors at stake, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) launched a scorched earth campaign to get one of their longtime industry operatives, Refugio “Ref” Rodriguez, elected. Dr. Andrew Thomas, the third place finisher in the primary election for the LAUSD District 5 seat, wrote the following commentary regarding the ideologically charged billionaires supporting CCSA’s SuperPAC for Rodriguez:

Why are out-of-district billionaires such as Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings, former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Jim Walton of the Wal-Mart founding family, and local philanthropist [sic] Eli Broad spending over a $1 million in this school board race?

In defense of their profits, Rodriguez and his CCSA trade group launched the most deplorable and dishonest political campaign in recent memory. One lie and innuendo packed CCSA mailer attacking the Honorable Bennett Kayser was so repugnant that it saw Kayser’s fellow board member, the Honorable Dr. George McKenna, calling the CCSA out for being “racially inflammatory”. Rodriguez’s CCSA trying to paint their opposition as racist is no small irony, given that the CCSA was founded by bigoted nativist Steve Poizner. Another series of Rodriguez’s CCSA attacks mocked Kayser’s disability. Kayser, who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, has been one of the strongest advocates for Student with Disabilities (SWD) the district has had in years. As discussed above, the charter school industry sees SWD as an impediment to their profits, so Kayser’s standing up for those students has made him CCSA’s biggest target.

robert-skeels-200With almost unlimited funding at their disposal, Rodriguez and his fellow CCSA profiteers look to seize the LAUSD District 5 Board of Education seat and use it as a means to increase charter market share, proliferate profits, and eliminate any oversight interfering with those first two goals. An important question we should be asking ourselves is why can charter industry executives run for our public school board, but no member of the public can ever run for the boards of their charter school empires?

If you live in LAUSD District 5, I implore you to demonstrate to profiteer Rodriguez and his CCSA trade association that our community values pupils over profits by voting for Bennett Kayser in the May 19, 2015 General Municipal Election.

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Common Cause and Us https://www.laprogressive.com/common-cause-of-california/ https://www.laprogressive.com/common-cause-of-california/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 03:36:21 +0000 https://www.laprogressive.com/?p=111963 Common Cause of CaliforniaTax Day this year had special meaning for us. Common Cause of California recognized us with their "Local Activists of the Year" award, presented at a glorious ceremony at the Skirball Cultural Center.

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Common Cause of California

All photos courtesy of Christopher Nelson

Tax Day this year had special meaning for us. Common Cause of California recognized us with their “Local Activists of the Year” award, presented at a glorious ceremony at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Joining us in receiving awards were retired California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and California Supreme Court Chief Justice (Ret.) Ronald M. George.

Common Cause of CaliforniaWe’re deeply grateful to our friends at Common Cause, the event’s Host Committee, and especially Leila Pederson and Brooke Erdmann, who organized the event, and their Executive Director, Kathay Feng. For several years, we collaborated with Common Cause — and former Common Cause staff member Anjuli Kronheim Katz — in organizing the LA Media Reform Conference held at Occidental College. More recently, we’ve pitched in on their efforts to increase voter turnout and find better ways to fund campaigns.

Thank you, too, goes to Marcy Winograd, who gave us such a nice introduction. Sure, shoot us, but we still think Congress would be a better place with Marcy in it.

Common Cause of California

Marcy Winograd and Kathay Feng joining us

We’re especially thankful for our friends from our neck of the woods who made it all the way over to the Skirball Center from Northeast Los Angeles and Pasadena. Who knew you could get there from here?

Surprising us was contingent from our ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter — Joanna Amador, Justin Chapman, Kris Olkerhauser, and Michelle White. Then there was the ACLU staff contingent — Miguel Cruz, Clarissa Woo, Elvia Meza, and Marco Benigno. And our Justice Not Jails colleague, Rev. Peter Laarman. And Michelle Sutter and Mary Beth Fielder…

Common Cause of California…And our daughter Linnea Friberg-Price and her boyfriend Yafiet Isaac, who made it all the way in from UC Riverside.

It was a special night for us.

Common Cause Staff Leaders

Common Cause Staff Leaders

Here are Common Cause’s three main priorities:

  • Strengthen Campaign Finance Laws
  • Increase Voter Turnout
  • Defend and Advance Redistricting Reform

Contact them here if you’d like to join us in helping Common Cause reach its goals.  To see the LA Progressive Live! show, click  LA Progressive Live

— Dick & Sharon

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Legacy of War https://www.laprogressive.com/anzac-day/ https://www.laprogressive.com/anzac-day/#respond Fri, 24 Apr 2015 02:36:36 +0000 https://www.laprogressive.com/?p=111953 ANZAC DayRobert J. Burrowes: In 1966, the year I turned 14, I decided that I would devote my life to answering two questions: Why are human beings violent? How can this violence be ended?

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ANZAC DayAs the world continues to engage in various commemorations in relation to World War I, Australia approaches the centenary anniversary of a defining event in the nation’s history: ANZAC Day. On 25 April 1915, and for many days after, Australia suffered savage losses at Gallipoli in Turkey.

ANZAC Day

Tom Burrowes

Sometimes when we reflect on war, we talk about sacrifice for a good cause. Other times, we talk about the cost, in lives or liberties lost. Occasionally, we talk about the horror. Sometimes we talk about the gains, nationally or internationally, for freedom and democracy. And rarely, we analyse the causes of war and lament that one day we might end it.

When I reflect on war, I think of my uncles and great uncles, and my father and mother (both veterans of World War II) and I know what I want to do. But briefly first, some history.

My great uncle, Thomas Ince Farrell, was a soldier in the 16th Battalion of the AIF in World War I. He was killed in action at Pope’s Hill, Gallipoli ‘on or about’ 2 May 1915.

Another great uncle, Leslie Burrowes, was a trooper in the 10th Light Horse Regiment of the AIF in World War I. He was wounded in action three times at Gallipoli and died prematurely some years after the Great War, a psychologically broken man. He was undoubtedly suffering from what today would be called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He survived the horrors of war to live with them psychologically for the rest of his difficult and shortened life.

ANZAC Day

Bob Burrowes

My father had two brothers: his older brother, Robert, and his twin brother, Thomas. Both were killed in World War II.

Bob was a soldier in the 34th Fortress Engineers of the Australian Imperial Force. He was captured during the fall of Rabaul on 22 January 1942, held prisoner and half-starved at the Malaguna Road camp until he was put on the Japanese prisoner-of-war ship ‘Montevideo Maru’ in late June. On 1 July 1942, the unmarked and unescorted ‘Montevideo Maru’ was torpedoed off Luzon by the ‘USS Sturgeon’. The ship sank in six minutes. All 1,053 Australian prisoners of war were killed: it was Australia’s largest single loss of life in a single incident during the entire war.

In his final letter home, written while he was a prisoner, Bob wrote ‘Get Jim out if you possibly can.’ But it was too late. Bob’s brother Jim had already joined up and been assigned to M Special Force; he served as a coastwatcher in Papua, New Guinea. After the war he married Beryl, a veteran of the Women’s Australian Air Force (WAAF). Jim and Beryl ‘made’ me, as Dad sometimes jokes.

My father’s twin brother Tom was a wireless air gunner on a Beaufort Bomber (popularly but irreverently known as ‘flying coffins’) in the RAAF’s 100 Squadron. He was shot down over Rabaul on his first mission on 14 December 1943. His plane was never found.

ANZAC Day

Beryl & James Burrowes

In 1966, the year I turned 14, I decided that I would devote my life to answering two questions: Why are human beings violent? How can this violence be ended? I also decided to act on the basis of what I learned by seeking answers to these two questions. This is more than a life passion: It is why I live.

If you like, you can read what I have learned in the past 49 years, particularly with the help of my beloved Anita. It is summarized in a document that I called ‘Why Violence?

You can also join a worldwide effort to create a world without violence by signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World.’

A world without violence might not be possible, but we humans are always undertaking things that look impossible at first glance. Besides, my parents always taught me to ‘Try. Try again.’ I still do. And, at 92, they are still my greatest supporters.

Robert J. Burrowes

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The Inland Empire Strikes Back https://www.laprogressive.com/inland-empire-rebounds/ https://www.laprogressive.com/inland-empire-rebounds/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 00:03:08 +0000 https://www.laprogressive.com/?p=111946 Inland EmpireJoe Mathews: Don't tell the Coast haters, but Riverside and San Bernardino Counties are driving California's comeback.

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Inland Empire ReboundsDon’t tell the Coast haters, but Riverside and San Bernardino Counties are driving California’s comeback.

The Empire is back.

I’m talking not about the new Star Wars movie but about Southern California’s Inland Empire. Of course, you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for a statewide celebration of the remarkable economic comeback of the I.E.—which encompasses Riverside and San Bernardino counties and their 4.4 million inhabitants. When it comes to this huge section of the state—with a population greater than Oregon’s—if the good news isn’t being ignored, it’s being spun as bad.

The I.E. has real problems. Poverty rates are among the highest in the state—more than 17 percent in Riverside County and more than 20 percent in San Bernardino County, or about double the rate of Bay Area counties.

The Inland Empire is by far California’s least fashionable region. That’s because it resembles the hotter, grittier, more working-class place the state is actually becoming, not the beautiful, wealthy place we aspire to be. When the I.E. is growing, such gains are dismissed as unwanted or unnatural sprawl; when the I.E. struggles, such pain is considered to be just rewards for an impudent dystopia.

The glare on the I.E. was especially harsh during the Great Recession, with some pinning the global economic meltdown on its housing mania and resulting foreclosure crisis. Unfortunately, that narrative has proven so durable that it’s obscured the Inland Empire’s startling recovery. An unemployment rate that topped 14 percent in late 2009 has been cut in half. Housing prices have roared back. If there is a “California comeback” like one the governor is touting, the I.E. is driving it.

If you live near the coast, you may not have heard that the Inland Empire has been leading the state in new business creation; from 2012 to 2013, the region, while representing just 12 percent of California’s population, accounted for a majority of new businesses statewide. Most of the industrial space under construction in California is in the I.E. And the Inland Empire has been adding jobs at a rate rivaling the Bay Area. Projections suggest that it will be the fastest-growing part of the state over the next five years.

This isn’t solely a tale about the rebound of the construction business. The region’s logistics industry, which warehouses and moves goods coming in and out of the ports, is booming as a strong dollar has led to a spike in imports. Low gas prices are helping transportation and trucking firms—and making life cheaper for workers and families in a region where driving is essential. And the I.E. is blessed with relatively cheap land for development and housing—an asset that is scarce elsewhere in California.

The improvement is visible to the naked eye. This Easter, while visiting relatives in the arid area where the cities of Yucaipa and Redlands meet, I found local retail spaces full of businesses again for the first time in years. Communities in highly populated areas of the Inland Empire—Ontario, Chino Hills, Corona, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside—are experiencing significant retail growth. Murrieta, infamous for anti-immigrant protests last year, is benefiting, ironically, from foreign investment. The high-end grocery store chain Whole Foods is making a push into the area, too.

Of course, this sort of growth—in housing, in retail, in logistics—is considered gauche in California’s loftier (and leftier) precincts, where thought leaders are more likely to mouth the word “sustainability” than to say their prayers.

As Inland Empire Economic Partnership chief economist John Husing has pointed out, California’s environmental regulations are essentially at war with four major sectors in the I.E.—logistics, construction, manufacturing, and mining. And the drought is making the I.E. even more unpopular; photos of drier areas of the Empire often accompany newspaper stories blaming water shortages on supposedly “limitless” growth in today’s low-growth California.

joe-mathewsOf course, the I.E. has real problems. Poverty rates are among the highest in the state—more than 17 percent in Riverside County and more than 20 percent in San Bernardino County, or about double the rate of Bay Area counties. The education levels of its population are abysmal; only one in five adults in the Inland Empire have a college degree (compared to 35 percent in San Diego County and more than 40 percent in the Bay Area). The region’s biggest airport, Ontario, has been run poorly for years by Los Angeles’ notoriously dysfunctional airport commission. And the region’s public health statistics are ugly, with the Inland Empire suffering California’s biggest shortages of primary care and specialist physicians. A generation of cuts to the state budget have disproportionately hurt the newer, less stable local governments in the I.E.

The good news about all these problems is the enormous room, and potential, for improvement. The health care industry is starting to take off inland, with the Affordable Care Act bringing more customers as training programs promise to bring more skilled health care workers and higher-income people to the region. Business and government leaders are trying to take the Ontario airport back from L.A. The leaders of UC Riverside and Cal State San Bernardino have launched an effort to double the number of local students finishing their degrees.

If the comeback continues, the I.E.’s problems will have more to do with its success. Will the region run out of space for warehouses? Will rising housing costs price out too many families? Will too many people leave the expensive coast and create more traffic?

joe-mathews-175You can be sure that Californians will hear more about these problems than the I.E.’s successes. But these will nonetheless be good problems for a region to have. As Alien Ant Farm—a band with Riverside roots—likes to sing, “These days are great. There’s work to do.”

Joe Mathews
Zócalo Public Square

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End the War on Deadbeat Dads https://www.laprogressive.com/deadbeat-dads/ https://www.laprogressive.com/deadbeat-dads/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 23:28:13 +0000 https://www.laprogressive.com/?p=111944 Deadbeat DadsTina Dupuy: What Scott’s death has highlighted is a system that is cruel, arbitrary and punitive toward fathers and strangely dismissive of the best interests of their children.

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Deadbeat DadsI had a deadbeat dad. The kind of slacker so egregious—so blatant in shirking his responsibilities—that he and his generation of counterparts inspired a series of draconian laws to combat their “free spiritedness.” My father (I wince to refer to him as that) exists as a transitional fossil in the evolution of child support in this country. He was between the time when men were by default the automatic and sole breadwinners of the family and the time when the full force of the state would come after you for a late installment.

My mother gave up the right to sue for child support in the divorce; an antiquated idea that largely no longer exists. My chromosome contributor went about his life of mystical self-discovery rarely mentioning or thinking about his two children. Meanwhile, we were on food stamps, school lunch programs and other social services. Mostly we went without.

By the time I was a teenager and in foster care, the laws had caught up to dear ol’ dad and sent him a bill in the form of a tax lien. I’m not sure if he ever actually paid it. I expect to hear from him if he ever needs a kidney.

I share this not for sympathy; I offer it because if anyone should have absolutely no tolerance for deadbeat parents, it’s me.  If anyone should want to see loafers and serial impregnators punished, it’s me. If anyone would get some revenge-based pleasure out of seeing deadbeat dads suffer at the hands of the law—it’d be me.

But the police shooting death of Walter Scott, a man in and out of jail for the “crime” of failure to pay child support, has given me pause. Scott, father of four in South Carolina, had a warrant out for his arrest when he was pulled over for a broken taillight. He fled the scene, only to be shot in the back by a police officer now charged with murder. (Something that would have never transpired had a video of the incident not surfaced.)

What Scott’s death has highlighted is a system that is cruel, arbitrary and punitive toward fathers and strangely dismissive of the best interests of their children.

What Scott’s death has highlighted is a system that is cruel, arbitrary and punitive toward fathers and strangely dismissive of the best interests of their children. Under the guise of budgetary issues and fueled by a puritanical moral crusade against seemingly casual sex, we’ve been incarcerating men for failure to pay for their children. Men who cannot pay child support for any reason are being sent to jail.

There aren’t comprehensive numbers of how many people go to jail for failure to pay child support, arguably one is too many. The New York Times reports, “But in 2009, a survey in South Carolina found that one in eight inmates had been jailed for failure to pay child support. In Georgia, 3,500 parents were jailed in 2010. The Record of Hackensack, N.J., reported last year that 1,800 parents had been jailed or given ankle monitors in two New Jersey counties in 2013.” A 2007 study of child support arrears by the Urban Institute of nine large states noted, “Nearly three quarters of the high debtors [those who owed more than $30,000] had no reported income or reported incomes of $10,000 a year or less.”

These laws were designed to tackle middle- to upper-class fathers from skipping out on their obligations. They’ve also created debtors’ prisons for the fertile yet marginalized among us.

This attempt at recovering money from state coffers doled out to fatherless children is costing the state money in incarceration, court costs and paperwork. It’s just shifting expenditures, investing heavily in this sadistic public humiliation for child abandonment. When in jail, men don’t work—sometimes after jail they can’t work—and then, as we’ve seen, they can slide into the world where the best option seems to be bolting from a trigger-happy cop during a routine traffic stop.

tina-dupuyNone of this is in the best interests of the children. None of this makes their lives better—or more secure, comfortable or hopeful. It makes them into a curse—a bane to their fathers and then they’re still sans child support. Child welfare is the point of these skirmishes and yet children have become collateral damage.

As a replacement for a scorched earth crusade to make deadbeats’ lives miserable, we should be focusing on how all children—even the children of rotten parents (like mine)—should have a certain level of care. They should have the same opportunities in this world as people with decent parents. They’re faultless in this melodrama and forgotten at its conclusion.

tina-dupuy-2013We’ve perfected destroying the lives of derelict fathers; instead we could be concerned for their children.

They’re worth more of our time and attention than their parents.

Tina Dupuy
Taking Eternal Vigilance Too Far

 

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Gay Rights, Black Lives https://www.laprogressive.com/gay-rights-black-lives/ https://www.laprogressive.com/gay-rights-black-lives/#respond Wed, 22 Apr 2015 22:55:33 +0000 https://www.laprogressive.com/?p=111937 Gay Rights Black LivesBrent Budowsky: What was striking in Indiana and Arkansas — and across America — was how the business community joined rights advocates and many Main Street voters supporting the simple justice of equal rights for gays.

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Gay Rights Black LivesFrom the day Thomas Jefferson declared that all straight white men are created equal, our nation has lived the epic story of the great battle for civil rights, equal rights and human rights that embodies true American exceptionalism.

Jefferson believed every generation should write its own rules to expand the boundaries of freedom. He would be proud of those who battle today for equal rights for gays, equal pay for women, equal protection for voting, fair treatment for immigrants, fair wages for workers, and freedom from fear for black citizens — who should never be regarded as enemies of the state living disposable lives by anyone entrusted to defend our communities.

2015 will someday be known as the year of gay rights, when an American consensus was born that we should all be free to love and marry the person of our choice, but also as the year when too many blacks were killed by police, and America was reminded, through prayers I share and protests I join, that black lives matter too.

During this year of gay rights, a political battle was waged in Indiana and Arkansas that powerfully demonstrated that equal rights for gays has achieved mainstream support at the center of American life. In Indiana, the opposition to Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s actions became such a political disaster that he was taken off most lists of 2016 presidential prospects.

What was striking in Indiana and Arkansas — and across America — was how the business community joined rights advocates and many Main Street voters supporting the simple justice of equal rights for gays.

What was striking in Indiana and Arkansas — and across America — was how the business community joined rights advocates and many Main Street voters supporting the simple justice of equal rights for gays.

Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments about same-sex marriage, which should — and, in my view, probably will — result in the right to same-sex marriage being declared the law of the land. When government regulates marriage, all Americans should be treated equally!

Not long ago, many had argued vehemently that gays should not be allowed to serve in the military and that women should be seated at the back of the military bus. Now, after years of war that have imposed great stresses on our military forces, the heroism of gays and women in uniform is valued and honored as highly as the heroism of straights and men. Patriotism, valor and honor in service to country knows no race or gender!

It is politically and legally powerful that in the gay marriage case, retired military officers filed one of the most important amicus briefs in support of marriage equality. They make the incontrovertible argument that national security is harmed by discriminatory laws that force active-duty troops and military families to be transferred from states that recognize their marriage to states that do not.

brent budowskyIf those who are straight want to date, fall in love with, or marry someone, nobody who is gay has ever demanded that person should be denied that right. Should I — or you — demand that the power of the state deny that right to someone who is gay? No. The Constitution demands equal justice under law, including laws regulating marriage.

Regarding the crisis afflicting blacks and police, the overwhelming majority of police are heroes who protect our communities with honor. But these repeated and horrifying abuses and injustices of blacks being killed by police must end.

President Obama should convene a three-day summit of civil rights leaders, police chiefs and unions, religious leaders of all denominations and congressional leaders from both parties to develop and implement a plan. It should include funding for universal cameras on police — to protect citizens and police alike — and funding to support local jurisdictions to expand hiring, integration and training of police.

Brent-Budowsky-1752015 is the year when gay rights are winning and black lives are threatened. 2016 will bring a great national debate about equality, fairness and justice for all, after which America’s first black president may well be succeeded by America’s first woman president.

Brent Budowsky
The Hill

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