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Social Justice Shorts


Social Justice Shorts: Thursday

December 17th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

Picture-4

(NOTE: The HP ad above was featured on the same page that contained Emily Bazelon’s Slate article below about the sexting and cyberbullying cases, and the juxtaposition struck me as…..um….amusing.)

LOOK, I TOO THINK JOHN YOO IS IN LEAGUE WITH SATAN, BUT GET A GRIP!

A group of lawyers and law students are demanding that Deputy Attorney General David Carrillo, who works in AG Jerry Brown’s office, drop his plans to teach a constitutional law class with the UC Berkeley professor John Yoo next semester.

In case you’ve dozed off on the matter, John Yoo is the guy who wrote the infamous torture memos to justify the actions of the Bush administration when he was a US Justice Department lawyer from 2001 to 2003.

The SF Chronicle has the story. Here are some clips.

By instructing a class with Mr. Yoo, you are helping to legitimize his illegal and unethical actions,” organizations led by the National Lawyers Guild said Tuesday in an open letter to Deputy Attorney General David Carrillo, a doctoral candidate and instructor at the university’s Boalt Hall law school.

They asked Carrillo either to teach the course by himself, if the school will allow it, or to leave it to Yoo. Signers included the law school’s chapter of La Raza Law Students Association and the Boalt Alliance to Abolish Torture.

Oh, please. I’m all for prosecuting Yoo. If someone can find a legal way to wrap the law around him and squeeze a bit, that’d be excellent. (Unfortunately, I don’t think they can.)

But, otherwise, if some nice liberal guy from the AG’s office wants to teach with him, leave them the heck alone. Good education—particularly a law school education—-thrives on differing points of view.


IN FLORIDA, CLEMENCY IS NOT DEAD

The horrible murders committed by Maurice Clemmons , and the subsequent attacks on Mike Huckabee, have not exactly encouraged the notion of clemency. Nevertheless, Wednesday a Florida woman named Jennifer Martin who was serving 16 years for manslaughter, was set free by a four person parole board that included Florida governor Charlie Crist.

ABC news has the details.

The video of Martin’s first day out is from the St. Petersburg Times.


THE 9TH CIRCUIT, THE SUPREMES & THE “PERILOUS FRONTIER OF CYBERLAW”

(I just like writing that: “….the perilous frontier of cyberlaw.“)

Anyway, regarding the two new Supreme Court cases we’ve already talked about here: the Ontario cop sexting case, and the issue with the rights of mean kids who cyberbully, Slate’s legal writer, Emily Bazelon, has written a good column that explores the two cases recently accepted by the Supremes, and notes that the California’s 9th Circuit of Appeals is smack in the middle of both of them. In each instance, the judges of the 9th came down on the side of the rights of the individual.

(In the case of the mean girls, I think they’re right. In the case of the sexting cop…. hmmmmm… maybe yes, maybe no.)

In any event, Baselon’s column engages in an informative discussion of both cases. Here’s a clip:

Before Jeff Quon got a pager from the Ontario Police Department, where he’s a sergeant, he signed a blanket statement that he had he had “no expectation of privacy or confidentiality” when using city equipment for e-mail or the Internet. But then his supervisor put in place an informal policy that undercut the official one. The supervisor told cops who had the pagers that they could send 25,000 characters worth of text messages a month and then after that, pay for the extra messages—and if they did, avoid an audit. Quon went above the character limit a few months in a row, paying each time. Then his chief started to wonder about whether Quon was wasting time on the job and asked the pager service for the texts. It turned out that lots of them were notes about sex Quon had written to his girlfriend. Quon sued, arguing that the search of his texts was a violation of his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches at work.

In June 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed with him.
He had a reasonable expectation of privacy, the court said, given what his supervisor told him about paying for extra messages—the department’s “operational reality.” The court also found that there were other, less intrusive ways for the police chief to figure out whether Quon was frittering away his time: Warning him ahead of time to quit sending so many messages, asking him to count the characters himself, or asking him to cross out the personal parts before the department reviewed them.

This ruling, by Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw for a panel of three judges, implicitly recognizes that company pagers and e-mail accounts often turn into personal ones. Sometimes, that saves employees’ time: If I’m not toggling back and forth between my Slate e-mail account and Gmail, my day is more streamlined (or so I tell myself). If your boss says you can use company technology for your own business, then you should be safe from unnecessarily intrusive searches—even if he’s contradicting some official blanket disclaimer in which you signed away your privacy rights without really paying attention.


SF SUPERVISOR CHRIS DAILY DROPS F-BOMB ON GEORGE GASCON’S HEAD

Also in the SF Chron, it seems that new San Francisco police chief, George Gascon, was roundly cussed out by Supervisor Chris Daly.

(Gascon, if you’ll remember, a longtime LAPD cop, used to be the Assistant Chief under Bill Bratton. Before he took the SF job, Gascon was rumored to be the front runner to replace Bratton as the L.A.C.O.P. So we in LA we are justified as viewing him as one of ours.)

In any case here’s a clip that explains the situation:

Supervisor Chris Daly got up from his seat, approached Gascón, cut him off to introduce himself and was heard dropping the f-bomb as he left the chambers in a huff. Gascón looked surprised, said it was nice to meet Daly and continued testifying.

[SNIP]

Apparently Gascón hasn’t reached out to Daly since taking the job several months ago, despite his focus on cracking down on drug dealing in the Tenderloin, the heart of Daly’s district.

“I don’t know if it’s good politics or not, but if I was a new department head, I would certainly reach out to every decision maker,” Daly told us.

He said he appreciates the focus on the Tenderloin, but disagrees with the “nickel and diming” approach of going after low-level users which is overcrowding jails and causing the Sheriff’s Department to go over budget. He’d like to see the bigger fish nabbed instead.

We heard reports that Daly said “F- you, F-you!” as he left the chambers. So was the f-bomb directed at Gascón? “I was muttering to myself, yes,” Daly confirmed. “I think probably it was more like f-ing a-hole. It wasn’t directed at him, and you know, I’m sure very few people could hear it.”

Evidently it was more than a few.

Posted in social justice, Social Justice Shorts, torture | 18 Comments »

Social Justice Shorts

December 15th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

NOLA-PD

A CALL FOR CONSERVATIVES TO MAKE PRISON REFORM THEIR OWN

In an enormously important Op-Ed in Monday’s New York Times, Ross Douthat calls on conservatives to “… take ownership of prison reform, and correct the system they helped build.” The democrats don’t have the credibility to do it he says, and in many ways he’s right. And few have shown the inclination for fear of being labeled soft on crime. (Witness our California state legislature.)

Here’s how the essay opens:

If you’re a governor with presidential aspirations, you should never, under any circumstances, pardon a convict or reduce a sentence. That’s the lesson everyone seems to have drawn from the dreadful case of Maurice Clemmons, an Arkansas native who murdered four Lakewood, Wash., police officers over Thanksgiving weekend — nine years after Mike Huckabee, then governor, commuted his sentence and the Arkansas parole board set him free.

Even before Clemmons was shot dead the following Tuesday by Seattle police officers, a chorus of pundits had declared Huckabee’s presidential ambitions all but finished. His prospective 2012 rivals — Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin — hastened to suggest that they never considered issuing a pardon while governor. And even observers sympathetic to Huckabee’s decision (Clemmons’s original 108-year sentence was handed down when he was only 16, and for burglary and robbery, not murder) tended to emphasize its folly. Joe Carter, who handled rapid-response for Huckabee’s 2008 campaign, acknowledged that the “prudent tactic would have been to simply refuse to grant any leniency — ever.”

Read the rest. And here’s what the National Review had to say.


DOES YOUR BOSS HAVE THE RIGHT TO SNOOP THROUGH YOUR TEXT MESSAGES?

The Supreme Court has agreed to take its first texting case— a case that originated in California. The question is whether a company—or in this case, a public agency, the police—have the right to monitor text messages if those messages are sent an/or received on an office-issued phone.

Here’s a bit of what Adam Liptak wrote in Tuesday’s New York Times:

The justices agreed to hear an appeal from the city of Ontario, which was successfully sued by police Sgt. Jeff Quon and three other officers after their text messages — some of which were sexually explicit — were read by the police chief.

At issue is whether the chief violated their rights under the 4th Amendment, which forbids “unreasonable searches” by the government. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the issue, due by June, could set new rules for the workplace in public agencies, and perhaps in private companies as well.

While the 4th Amendment applies only to the government, many judges rely on the high court’s privacy rulings in deciding disputes in the private sector, legal experts say.

Last year, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals broke ground when it ruled the officers had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in their text messages. The officers had been led to believe by a supervisor that they could use their pagers for personal use, the appeals court said.

However, the city had a policy that said employees had no guarantee of privacy when they used computers, phones and other devices that were owned by the city.

The 9th Circuit’s ruling has already had an impact.

“It was a healthy reminder to employers that they need to have clear policies in place. And they have to be consistent in following them,” said Mitch Danzig, a management lawyer in San Diego.

The LA Times also reports on the matter.



MORE ON THE SOUTH PASADENA TEENAGER WHO DIED AFTER A PARTY

Jilly Leovy and Robert Faturechi have an update on the seventeen year old south Pasadena student who died over the weekend after a party.


PIPE BOMB FOUND NEAR USC

Yes, you read right
. Here’s the information based on what is known


PRO PUBLICA INVESTIGATING POST KATRINA NOPD SHOOTINGS—WANTS CITIZEN HELP

Pro-Publica has launched what they are calling a major investigation,
together with the New Orleans Times-Picayune and Frontline. They are looking into the New Orleans Police Department’s efforts to investigate its officers’ use of deadly force in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, efforts which Pro-Publica’s reporters say are deeply flawed.

The reporters write, “Many of the facts surrounding the post-Katrina police shootings are murky. But the available evidence suggests they’re part of a broader pattern of violent encounters between police and civilians, one that is now under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.”


Now Pro-Pubica is calling out for eyewitnesses who may have knowledge
of any such incidents to call or email one of their Phone & email tip lines (504-826-3775 and nolatips@propublica.org ).

The first of the series of stories may be found here.

Posted in law enforcement, Social Justice Shorts, Supreme Court | 40 Comments »

Tuesday’s Social Justice Shorts

December 8th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon



WHEN DOES RESTRAINING AND SECLUDING KIDS TURNS ABUSIVE AND DANGEROUS

On Wednesday, December 9, Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) plan to introduce a bill that prevents the misuse of restraint and seclusion on school kids. (Miller is the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. McMorris Rodgers is a member of the Committee.)

One would imagine that such a bill as this one would not be necessary in this day and age. But one would be wrong.

It seems that, unlike with hospitals, and like facilities that receive federal funding, there are currently no federal policies that provide guidelines as to how restraint and seclusion can be used in schools, and the state laws are ridiculously uneven.

As a consequence, there have been reports of horrific cases of adults sitting on kids who are face down until they have stopped breathing, adults placing mentally disabled kids in closets for extended periods of time, in certain cases with fatal results, and on and on.

(The video above shows the Congressional testimony of a mother named Toni Price about once such incident. Price’s account is dignified, clear and heartbreaking.)

A look at the report
on the matter from the US General Accounting Office is quite sobering.

Anyway, this is a bipartisan bill. Take a look.

The video above is of one mother’s testimony at a Congressional hearing on the issue this past spring.


ROBBER APOLOGIZES TO VICTIM

Evidently on Sunday night, a gun-wielding robber who jacked $70 from a Christmas tree salesman apologized to his victim saying, “Times are tough,” according to the LA Times.

I know several young able bodied men who are about to apply for General Relief because, despite daily searches for any kind of work they can find nothing, and they need some way to put food in the house but do not want to turn to the same desperate strategy as the gunman.

I got a call from one of them last night. He does not want a government hand out, he said. “But what can I do?” he asked me. I had no answer.



CAN A CAMPUS CHRISTIAN GROUP BAN GAYS AS VOTING MEMBERS?

On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to take a case which pits issues of religious freedom against a college’s policy of nondiscrimination. Moreover, the case has views of two circuit courts at odds with each other, one of them California’s beloved and sometimes notorious 9th Circuit.

The Christian Science Monitor has a very thorough write up. Here’s a clip:

The Christian Legal Society (CLS) at the Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco was stripped of its registered student organization status at the college because it refused to allow gay and lesbian students to become voting members or officers of the group.

Under the Hastings nondiscrimination policy, student organizations must allow fellow students to join and potentially seek leadership positions in any organization without regard to their status or beliefs….

Starting in the 2004-2005 academic year, the CLS required prospective members to sign a statement of Christian faith. The statement includes a pledge that the undersigned student trusts in “Jesus Christ as my savior.”

Prospective members must express belief in several religious tenets, including “one God, eternally existent in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The statement includes a pledge of belief in the virgin birth, eternal life, Jesus’ resurrection, a divinely created heaven and earth, and that the Bible is the inspired word of God.

In addition, the national Christian Legal Society developed a policy position stating its view of biblical principles of sexual morality. The position, adopted by the Hastings chapter, said that “unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle” was inconsistent with the group’s statement of faith and would disqualify an individual from membership.

Great case! Morally complex and legally ambiguous. Go Supremes!


JUSTICE BREYER: “GET ME THE REWRITE GUY!”

And Speaking of the Supreme Court…based on another case that went before the court on Monday, it looks quite possible that the nation’s Miranda warning may get rewritten. The case—Florida v. Powell—concerns one Kevin Dwayne Powell who did not understand, even after the warning was given, that he could have an attorney with him during questioning—as that fact is not really spelled out.

(Although if Mr. Powell had watched a little more episodic television, surely he would have known his rights a bit better.)

As the AP explains the rest.


STILL MISSING DAVID FOSTER WALLACE

This isn’t really a social justice issue at all, it’s a literary issue. But if you care about such things, the new posthumous piece of fiction by David Foster Wallace in the upcoming issue of the New Yorker, is a reminder why so many of us are, more than a year later, so devastated that Wallace could seem to find no way out of his personal psychic pain other than to silence it in the most permanent of manners.

Still and all, no matter how bittersweet, another encounter with DFW’s huge and humane talent is utterly thrilling.

The New Yorker published short story is an excerpt from The Pale King, the unfinished novel he was working on before he committed suicide in September 2008.

Posted in children and adolescents, Civil Liberties, Courts, crime and punishment, criminal justice, Education, LGBT, Social Justice Shorts, State politics, Supreme Court | 15 Comments »

Sunday, Monday Hits, Picks & Must Reads

November 23rd, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

Ratliff-vanishes

VANISHING IN A DIGITAL AGE

I’m bored out of my mind with the New Conventional Wisdom that persists in opining that the Internets have killed storytelling…..narrative writing….long form journalism…. or what have you, when research and practical observation repeatedly tells us otherwise.

We are a storytelling species.

I bring this up because of a the wonderful tale in the December issue of Wired Magazine that is justifiably getting lots of attention this past weekend. It is a terrific example of immersion journalism that is web-centric, interactive—plus it is engaging storytelling with a well constructed narrative.

It’s called VANISH: Finding Evan Ratliff.
It is about what happened when Wired writer Evan Ratliff tried to disappear without a trace in this brave, new non-private world.

Do read it.


Photo by Joe Pugliese for Wired


AND SPEAKING OF STORYTELLING….

The LA Times’ Maura Dolan tells a heart-piercing first person tale
of her teenage son’s two friends, one of whom died at a Memorial day weekend party featuring too much alcohol. The other friend was the one who gave the booze party while his parents were out of town.


WEED CONTROL

As the LA City Council heads toward an actual, no-kidding vote on the issue of regulating marijuana dispensaries, the LA Times’ John Hoeffel asks how many retail pot outlets is too many.


OKAY, IF YOU FEEL YOU MUST TALK ABOUT SARAH PALIN, READ THIS

Two things worth reading during the media’s recent sheep-like Sarah Palin news storm.

1. Matt Tabbai’s take on Palin as a WWE Star

Rolling Stone’s Matt Tabbai has become one of the most consistently interesting journalists in America right now. Is he the nicest? Probably not. He seems to have an ego approaching the size of that new floating city thingy, the Oasis of the Seas. And he swears a lot. But he’s also dogged and extremely insightful at noting and characterizing patterns.

Warning to those conservatives who are Palin fans. If you read this, be forewarned that Tabbai obviously doesn’t like Palin. But read it anyway. It’s the analysis that matters, not Tabbai’s personal feelings about Sarah.

2. Carl Hiaasen’s faux fact check of Palin’s book.

It’s old, but it’s still really, really funny.


OBAMA, CHINA, AND HOW THE AMERICAN PRESS CREATES ITS OWN REALITY (AND NOT IN A GOOD WAY)

I am not in the least expert on China but the Atlantic’s Jim Fallows is. And he (and some others whom he quotes) explains the media’s latest vexing example of pack journalism—or horse race journalism as NYU’s Jay Rosen began describing it nearly two years ago in the midst of the presidential primary. This particular instance has to do with Obama’s trip to Asia, and Fallows explains that much of the American reporting on the trip is…well… incorrect. Unfortunately, wrong or not, by next week, the POV Fallow’s describes will likely become the accepted reality of the situation.

Here are a couple of clips from Fallows’ essay:

[Here Fallows quotes Howard French:]

Howard French goes on to say that these assumptions were flat wrong. He offers many explanations, including this: “I find that the Washington reporters tend to be typically the most subject to this instant scorekeeping. This is part of the game of Washington reporting. They’re at the bleeding edge of this phenomenon that I think is distressing in terms of the approach of the press to serious questions. Everything is shot through this prism of short-term political calculation as opposed to thinking seriously about stuff. You can’t be an expert on every question, and so you’re part of the Washington press corps and if you’re really good and really diligent, you’re going to be expert maybe in a few things and one of those things might not be China.”

[Finally, he concludes with this.]

We’re all familiar with one “crisis of the press,” the business collapse. This is a different kind of crisis, though it makes the business crisis worse: the distortion of reality by compressing every complex issue into the narrative of the DC-based “horse race.” As you can tell, this really bothers me.

I traveled with the presidential press corps briefly once during the Carter administration, when I was young and wildly inexperienced. Yet because I was an outsider, I could see what the others seemed not to see: And that was the fact that the reporters who were daily defining the national dialogue talked to no one but themselves and a small cadre of government insiders from both parties. I also noted that they rarely, if ever, questioned an insidious kind of group think that made their reporting fact laden, and seemingly informed and connected, but often weirdly wrong. At the time, I found this vision frightening.

I still do.


STEVE LOPEZ AND TRULY INSANE COST OF AN ER VISIT

Steve Lopez’s Sunday column was about a Santa Monica doctor who got his head slightly banged up playing some weekend soccer in the park, needed a few stitches, went to a local emergency room—-and came away with a bill that flabbergasted him (and remember, the guy himself is a doctor). There was, for example, the $350 tetnus shot that the doc knew for a fact cost $27. It got way worse from there. Read it.


Posted in media, Must Reads, National politics, Social Justice Shorts | 17 Comments »

Social Justice Shorts – UPDATED

November 17th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

Wesleyan-inmates

UPDATE:

FROM THE OH, REALLY? SEZ YOU! FILE

Once again proving my contention that the world of city politics is just like high school, but with higher stakes, according to the LA Times, District Attorney Steve Cooley said today that he is going to prosecute marijuana dispensaries no matter what the city council decides. (See earlier post a couple of paragraphs below.)


The district attorney said his office was already prosecuting some dispensaries,
and he promised to step up efforts next month. Cooley said he decided to weigh in today because he was irritated that the council had ignored the advice of the city attorney, Carmen Trutanich.

“What the City Council is doing is beyond meaningless and irrelevant,” he said.

Alrighty then. That certainly settles that. Rough translation: Screw you, City Council.

******

Then later, Councilman Ed Reyes made his own statement in response to Cooley’s statement. It should be said that Reyes is, at the moment, sounding like the voice of sanity.

Here are some LA Times clips from the Reyes volley in this escalating ping-pong match:

Councilman Ed Reyes, who has overseen the development of the city’s ordinance, said he did not think Cooley’s comments would cause the council to rethink whether to allow sales. “This is not about Cooley versus Reyes, or Cooley versus the council. This is about the quality of life. We all have better things to do than to do this legal jousting,” he said.

[SNIP]

Once the council acts on the issue, Reyes said, “We expect the city attorney to vigorous defend our medical marijuana ordinance.”

Um, about that last thingy, Ed. Lots of luck.



KILLER OF FLOR MEDRANO WAS A SPOUSAL ABUSER WHO HAD BEEN DEPORTED TWICE

On Monday, officials released the name of the 23-year-old man, Daniel Carlon, who stabbed 30-year-old single mother, Flor Medrano, in her mid-city apartment before two LAPD officers were able to stop him. Carlon, it seemed, had a past of abusing women, and had been deported to his home country of Mexico twice in the past two years. But each time he returned.

Baxter Holmes and Andrew Blankstein report in the LA Times:

Alrighty then.

Carlon had also pleaded guilty to charges of domestic violence in two previous cases, both of which involved another woman, according to Michele Daly, a family violence prosecutor with the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office, which had jurisdiction.

The first incident occurred in March 2005. According to Daly, who quoted from a police report, Carlon threatened violence against the victim if she reported the abuse to authorities. “If you call the police department, we’re both going to die. I’ll kill you if you call the cops,” Carlon told the victim

After pleading guilty to felony spousal abuse, Carlon was sentenced to 180 days in jail and was ordered to complete a 52-week domestic violence program. When he was released in the fall of 2005, he began stalking the same woman again, Daly said.

The woman filed a report in November stating that Carlon
was harassing her over the phone and knocking on her window, which he broke. The woman also hid from him, Daly said. He was sent to prison in February 2006 for two years after he again pleaded guilty to felony spousal abuse.

There’s more here.


CITY COUNCIL COMMITTEES TO CITY ATTORNEY: “SMOKE ON THIS, BUDDY!”

After what has been described as a raucous four hour meeting, two separate committees from within the city council voted to reject the recommendation from city Attorney Carmen Trutanich, to label all retail sales of marijuana as illegal and criminal.

The city attorney and DA Steve Cooley recently reinterpreted the medical marijuana statute
much more narrowly than most other legal professionals who have commented on the law.

The LA Times, has this:

After the members of the planning committee and Public Safety Committee voted, David Berger, a special assistant to City Atty. Carmen Trutanich, said it is up to the council to decide whether to accept the office’s legal advice. “Our duty is to advise them on what the law allows for and not to go on a whim,” he said. “They decided to go a different way.”

Councilman Ed Reyes, who has overseen most of the council’s consideration of the issue, expressed exasperation with the city attorney’s office. “I think they are very, very narrow in that they’re taking their prosecutorial perspective,” he said.

The long-delayed measure could be taken up by the full council as soon as Wednesday. “We need something on the books now. There is no reason why we should delay,” Reyes said

And John Guenther of Neon Tommy had this.

Councilman Ed Reyes, who has been driving the creation of dispensary legislation for the past two years, released some pent up frustration with the city attorney’s office.

“For two years, we have reached points of disagreement,” Reyes said. “We have a hearing here on Monday. And again it’s the same posturing that I’ve been enduring for the past two years in office and I find that very disconcerting.”


WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY OFFERS NEW RIGOROUSLY EXCLUSIVE COLLEGE DEGREE—TO INCARCERATED FELONS.

The New York Times reports:

Though community colleges and others, like Boston University, have long had inmate programs, the two-month-old Wesleyan program is one of a few in the country where the selection process is highly rigorous, where academic potential is the primary criterion and where past criminal conduct, however heinous, is not considered in admission.

Some 120 inmates applied at Cheshire for 19 spots in the program. The process required them to submit essays, some of which can be read here, on weighty matters like Frantz Fanon’s view that language helped “support the weight of a civilization” or Sigmund Freud’s thoughts on happiness.

Many states—California among them—dropped most of their college programs after the Clinton administration did away with Pell grants, that once upon a time used to help to help pay for the state programs. In California, the few educational programs remaining have been first on the chopping block due to the budget crisis.

But Wesleyan, it seems, is committed to making this program work. The New York Times has more about the prisoner/students, their admissions essays and their course work.

Photo by Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

Posted in crime and punishment, elections, Medical Marijuana, prison, prison policy, Social Justice Shorts | 3 Comments »

Social Justice Shorts: 2 Cases of Professional Dodging…& More

November 13th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

Got-swine_flu_shots_tshirt

USC’S NEON TOMMY REPORTER CALLIE SCHWEITZER CAUSES LA’S PUBLIC HEALTH GUY TO HIDE OUT

Yes I know my pals Marc Cooper and Kevin Roderick already mentioned this, but after reading two inexcusably fact-challenged stories by so-called experienced and professional journalists, this tale of the exploits of Callie Schweitzer and her fellow Neon Tommy reporters, bears repeating and further praising.

For the past several weeks, Annenberg grad student Schweitzer and some of the other reporters working with her have been trying to have a brief conversation with L.A. County Director of Public Health Jonathan Fielding, about the county’s H1N1 deaths, and Fielding has reportedly dodged the calls.

Schweitzer and pals were working on a major package that looked at swine flu deaths across LA and analyzed what those deaths might suggest in terms of patterns.

As the main public health guy for LA, one would think that Fielding should get on the phone with the Neon Tommy reporters, given the nature of their investigation. But in any case, he didn’t. Who know, maybe he was always really, really busy.

But that’s not the weird part.

The weird part is the fact that, this past Tuesday when Neon Tommy’s Callie was booked by Warren Olney’s producers for Olney’s Which Way LA? radio show, they also booked Fielding—WHO ONLY AGREED TO BE ON THE SHOW if he was on air when Callie Schweitzer was off.

Are you serious????

Now, keep in mind WWLA? is not exactly some kind of talking heads free-for-all such as one frequently sees among the so-called “professionals” on cable TV news.

Warren runs a tight (and reasonably polite) ship. So it is not that Fielding had to worry that the intrepid grad student was going to put him in a metaphorical choke hold. (Although she is not my student, Schweitzer doesn’t strike me as the choke hold type anyway. She seems rather, you know, smart and competent.)

Now Callie Schweitzer and the Neon Tommy reporting group have written an open letter to Mr. Fielding. Which you can find right here (along with a podcast version of the WWLA? show in question).

I recommend you read the whole thing. It’ll cheer you up.

So why can I not possibly be pessimistic about the future of journalism in the face of all the massive circulation drops, layoffs and publications closings? Because of terrific young reporters like Callie Schweitzer. (This prominently includes the two classes full of smart and enthusiastic young men and women I am lucky enough to teach on Tuesdays and Fridays—at Annenberg and at UC Irvine.)



SCHWARZENEGGER COMPLIES WITH JUDGES ON PRISON POP REDUCTION—(SORT OF)

After the panel of three federal judges, led by U.S. Court Judge Thelton Henderson, rejected the state’s last proposal to comply with the panel’s requirement that the governor come up with a way to reduce California’s prison population bu 40,000 prisoners, Governor Schwarzenegger is set to submit a new plan Thursday night.

And then he plans to tell the judges that his proposed plan isn’t legal.

If the discrepancy between the first statement and the second is giving you whiplash, keep in mind that the governor’s previous plan, submitted in September (and rejected in October) instead of reducing the population by the requisite 40,000, only dropped by little more than half that much, or 23,000.

Not surprisingly, that plan didn’t work at all for Judge Henderson and company.

Plus there is also the matter of the case that Arnold and Jerry Brown have filed before the U.S. Supreme Court contending that they don’t have to comply with the 3 judges’ demands at all anyway.

Michael Rothfeld of the LA Times has a good report on the intricacies of the story.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tonight will give federal judges a road map to reducing state prison overcrowding that involves waiving some state laws so sentencing regulations can be changed and new private prisons built.

But the governor also will disavow those solutions as illegal, said Oscar Hidalgo, a spokesman for the
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

An initial plan that Schwarzenegger submitted was rejected three weeks ago by the three judges, who threatened him with contempt of court for failing to meet their demand for a proposal to reduce the inmate population by 40,000 prisoners over two years.

With his new proposal, the governor appears to be trying to avoid open defiance of the judges without giving the impression that he is contradicting his opposition to their efforts in an appeal now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The new plan, which the governor says would reduce the prison population
by 42,000 by December 2011, will heed the judges’ Oct. 21 order to identify state laws that they would need to suspend to meet their goal.

Yet Schwarzenegger also is expected to tell the judges he does not believe it would be legal for them to waive those laws. He contends that it is improper for the federal courts to intrude into the state’s affairs.


DOUGLAS RING

Real estate investor and attorney Douglas Ring—also the former husband of city council woman, Cindy Miscikowski, was found dead in his Brentwood home Thursday. Police are investigating Ring’s death as a possible suicide.


LEGISLATING CHRISTMAS

A new initiative that may or may not be headed for next year’s ballot would require—-not allow, require—California public schools to have their students sing Christmas carols.

The LA Times’s editorial handles the militantly batty matter with exactly the right touch. Here’s a representative clip:

Merry Susan Hyatt, the substitute teacher who is spearheading the petition drive, is optimistic that she can garner the 434,000 signatures required to put the initiative on the ballot. “We got 25 signatures in just two nights,” she gushed to the New York Times. At that rate, we can expect the Christmas carol referendum in about 95 years — assuming those Grinches at the American Civil Liberties Union don’t sidetrack it in the courts. (It is, of course, blatantly unconstitutional, favoring as it does not only religion but a particular faith.)

Posted in Public Health, Social Justice Shorts | 21 Comments »

Sunday/Monday Picks

November 2nd, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

Peace---Reading-picks

BILL BRATTON AS CHIEF – LOOKING BACK

Frank Stolz has a very good three-part series that gives a multifaceted perspective on Bill Bratton’s tenure as Chief of the LAPD:

1. What Bratton faced when he arrived—big things, and little things.

2. Bratton’s civil rights legacy what he did and did not accomplish.

3. Bratton’s style of leadership. This segment is savvy and really a lot of fun. Bratton even admits to using “the look” as a tool in meetings. You know, that look.

We’re gonna miss him.


THE UNNECESSARY DEATH OF A SON, A BROTHER, A COP & SOLDIER

“Dear God, do not let Peter’s sacrifice of his life go unnoticed,” said Bishop J. Jon Bruno as he led the mourners in prayer. “Care for all people who are returning from military action with such great love that they have all that they need to become whole again.”

It was the dominant message at Army Lieutenant Peter Sinclair’s funeral. The account by the LA Times’ Jai Rui Chong of Peter Sinclair’s promising life and his pain-and-PTSD-driven death is mandatory reading.


LOCKED UP WITH NO CRIME—AND NO LAWYER

On Monday, the NY City Bar Association’s Justice Center will demand attorneys be provided for the thousands of long-time New York residents who have committed no crime but are locked up under dreadful conditions unable to fight deportation proceedings.

Here is the opening of the NY Times story.

A startling petition arrived at the New York City Bar Association in October 2008, signed by 100 men, all locked up without criminal charges in the middle of Manhattan.

In vivid if flawed English, it described cramped, filthy quarters where dire medical needs were ignored and hungry prisoners were put to work for $1 a day.

The petitioners were among 250 detainees imprisoned in an immigration jail that few New Yorkers know exists….


MAN FIGHTS HIS FIRING FROM MONSTER DRUG COMPANY AND WINS VICTORY FOR HIS FAMILY

A great David and Goliath story from the Raleigh News-Observer.


CALIFORNIA’S 3 STRIKES LAW EXAMINED IN 3 PARTS

An excellent three part series on California’s three strikes law finished Saturday on NPR. Definitely worth your time. (And, no, NPR doesn’t suggest doing away with the law altogether. )

Posted in Social Justice Shorts | 2 Comments »

End of the Week Social Justice Wrap Up

October 23rd, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

Bratton-and-Antonio

POLICE COMMISSION MAY HAVE THREE CHIEF CHOICES BY TUESDAY—OR NOT

According to the LA Times:

The Los Angeles Police Commission today completed two days of interviews with candidates vying to be the next LAPD chief. Officials hope to select three finalists by Tuesday.

The commission, a civilian panel that oversees the Los Angeles Police Department, met with 13 applicants. All but but two were LAPD deputy chiefs and assistant chiefs.

According to the Daily News:

Los Angeles Police Commission members hope to narrow the field of 13 applicants to the final three, possibly as early as Tuesday but no later than Nov. 16, commission president John Mack said after the interviews held at the City Club on Bunker Hill.

The Police Commission wouldn’t ID the two outsiders, said John Mack, as they both presently have Chief jobs somewhere else.

UPDATE: BY THE WAY, A NOTE TO THE LA TIMES: Could you possibly stump more obviously for Charlie Beck—in Joel Rubin’s piece (which was good in many ways, except for the Charlie stumping), the accompanying photos, and the unsigned editorial of October 21. I think Charlie would make a very good chief too (among a number whom I think would be excellent) AND, sure, I think if someone has the inside track right this minute, it is Beck.

Yet this is not a done deal. So quit slanting your coverage (and, doing things like tarring Sharon Papa for a situation that anybody honest would tell you was not of her making). It’s not one bit helpful to the process.

SATURDAY UPDATE: Since writing this, I’ve rethought the matter. See correction in newer post above.


AND WHILE WERE ON THE SUBJECT OF POLICE, ANOTHER BIG GANG CRACK DOWN

Before dawn on Thursday, more than 1,100 LAPD officers and FBI agents were banging on doors to make 45 arrests of members of the Rolling 60′s

Lots of people have the story, but why not listen to what the smart students at Annenberg Radio News did with it. They have more in the way of original reporting on the issue than either the LA Times, AP or the NY Times.


SCOTUS AND LWOP KIDS

The November issue of the American Bar Association Journal has a very thoughtful article on the two upcoming Supreme Court cases that will both challenge the notion of juveniles doing Life Without Parole—LWOP.

Here is how it opens:

“As any parent knows,” children are different. So said U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy more than four years ago in Roper v. Simmons. There, a deeply divided court ruled 5-4 that executing those who committed murder as ju­veniles vio­lated the Eighth Amendment’s proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. Part of the reason, the court said, was that juveniles were less cul­pable, less mature and less responsible than adults.

“The reality that juveniles still struggle to define their identity means it is less supportable to conclude that even a heinous crime committed by a juvenile is evidence of irretrievably depraved character,” Kennedy wrote for the majority.

“From a moral standpoint,” he added, “it would be misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult, for a greater possibility exists that a minor’s character deficiencies will be reformed.”

This month the court returns to the subject of juvenile justice by examining what has been termed the penultimate punishment for juveniles, life without parole.

In a pair of cases from Florida, Graham v. Florida and Sullivan v. Florida, the court must determine whether Roper’s reasoning—that juvenile defendants are fundamentally different from adult defendants—extends from the death penalty to life without parole. Arguments are scheduled for Nov. 9.

MORE AFTER THE JUMP….including Rush Limbaugh, the Willingham case and the Chicago 7

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Courts, LAPD, Social Justice Shorts | 28 Comments »

Social Justice Shorts

September 29th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

montana-de-oro-state-park---california-poppy-docentjoyce369-ll

ARNOLD STEPS IN TO SAVE STATE PARKS—BUT MAYBE NOT FOR THE REASON HE SAYS

This past Friday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger jumped into the budgetary breach with a plan to miraculously rescue 100 state parks from closing (the same 100 he had personally and unilaterally elected to close, but okay. A niggling point).

The story is that the governor brought out his budget crunchers and told them to go forth and find enough savings elsewhere to be able to keep the parks open with minor cutbacks and partial closures to a few parks. Not a perfect solution but much better than shuttering 100 of California’s precious public wildland spaces. That, Arnold! Such a problem solver!

But what, one wonders caused this sudden change of heart?

Could it maybe have been the looming threat of nasty lawsuits and the possible loss of millions of dollars in federal grants?

Yep. Looks like it. In another one of his excellent essays on state and national parks, civil rights lawyer and City Project head, Robert Garcia, pointed out rather presciently, just before Arnold had his come-to-Jesus cost cutting session, that it had been recently been brought to Schwarzenegger’s attention that closing the parks would cost a hell of a lot more—in legal bills and funding losses—than keeping them open.

Here’s a clip:

[The National Park Service] told the governor in June that state park closures would violate the contracts the state signed to receive $286 million in federal funds for 67 parks under the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and could jeopardize hundreds of millions more in future funds. The land for another six state parks could also revert to the federal government. (Read the NY Times article.)

Months after the plan to close state parks was announced, the department’s lawyers finally got around to analyzing the law earlier this month in a memo that was promptly leaked and posted on the Internet. (Read the Mercury News Article on the memo.)

The memo outlines about eight reasons why closing state parks would raise serious problems under contract, property and environmental laws…..


[Here's the rest of Garcia's essay.
And here's the memo.]

PS: Try to catch Ken Burns series on the National Parks before it’s over. It’s fantastically good.



THE SUPREMES CONSIDER THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF LWOP KIDS WHO DID NOT COMMIT MURDER


In Monday’s LA Times, David Savage gave a preview
of the case that the Supreme Court will consider in November to determine whether or not life without parole for minors who didn’t kill constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

At issue is whether it is cruel and unusual punishment to imprison a minor until he or she dies when the crime does not involve murder.

According to Amnesty International, “The United States is the only country in the world that does not comply with the norm against imposing life-without-parole sentences on juveniles.”

Nearly all of the estimated 2,500 U.S. prisoners serving life terms for juvenile crimes, the group said, were guilty either of murder or of participating in a crime that led to a homicide. But 109 inmates are serving life sentences for other crimes committed when they were younger than 18.

[SNIP]

The question will be an early test of whether Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a former prosecutor, will align herself with the court’s tough-on-crime conservatives or join with its liberals to strike down prison policies perceived as going too far.

Here, by the way, is a past look at California’s LWOP kids.


UC PRESIDENT MARK YUDOF TO ALL UNDERLINGS: YOU’RE DEAD TO ME

Okay, he didn’t say those words exactly, but in last week’s NY Times interview, University of California president Yudof said some things that were a bit flip sounding given how drastic the cuts have been at the state’s UCs.

For instance there was this:

.Being president of the University of California is like being manager of a cemetery: there are many people under you, but no one is listening. I listen to them.

(“…like being a manager of a cemetery?” Okay, so faculty and staff are either dead to him—or the undead. Hard to tell.)

And, regarding his salary (Yudof makes $540,000 plus $228,000 a year toward his pension plan, plus an annual $120,000 housing allowance, totaling: $888,000 a year), when asked what he thought about the suggestion that no administrator at a state university needs to earn more than the president of the United States, ($400,000), Yudof said:

Will you throw in Air Force One and the White House?

Yudof may or may not be good for the UCs (there are a lot of people lately weighing in on the NOT side of things)—but, given the hits the university system, its employees and its students are taking, a little diplomacy would go along way, dude.
.


THINKING OF STAFON JOHNSON

This isn’t a social justice issue, but many people—myself included— are sending positive thoughts the direction of USC running back, Stafon Johnson, who went though 6 hours of surgery Monday after a weight room accident in which a weight bar fell on his throat.


Posted in California budget, crime and punishment, criminal justice, Education, environment, juvenile justice, social justice, Social Justice Shorts | 11 Comments »

Social Justice Shorts

September 21st, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

detective-working


The photo above doesn’t have a thing to do with the stories in this post. I took it on Friday afternoon when I stopped to talk to police at the scene of an attempted robbery of a West Los Angeles marijuana physician’s office on Pico Blvd., just west of Sawtelle, in which two people were shot, one of them critically. (The guy in the snazzy hat is the detective.) The shooting, which took place just after 4:30 p.m., was an odd and scary one according to the two witnesses with whom I spoke. (The witnesses were two young men in their early 20s.) They told me that a couple of guys walked into the doctor’s office, one dressed unaccountably in a yellow reflective traffic vest, the other dressed normally but with a back back strapped to his chest. The yellow vest guy signed in as if he was a patient, then the backpack guy reached into his pack, pulled out a pistol and shot the doctor’s receptionist and another office employee, a single shot fired at each. Just like that. No demand. No warning. A few seconds later, the shooter and friend ran out. It is not clear if they attempted to steal anything, or not.


STATE EDUCATION CUTS = 48 OR 50 KIDS IN A CLASSROOM

It is no shock to find out that this fall many LAUSD classes are absurdly large and crowded due to teacher cuts. On Sunday, the LA Times had a look into some of those classes and schools that are faring the worst.

As it was, every seat was taken. One young woman plopped on the floor, next to a microwave oven. A young man stood in the corner, shifting from one foot to the other. Three teens scrunched on top of a desk. Everyone’s attention was riveted on the slight, soft-spoken man pacing the small patch of bare linoleum in front of them….

But, hey, at least the state legislature avoided letting those prisoners out a few months early (and putting them on house arrest) Whew! .



OBAMA AND NEWSPAPERS

During his Sunday media blitz, Barack Obama said that he would be open to giving tax breaks to newspapers that restructured as nonprofits.

The Hill reports:

….“I haven’t seen detailed proposals yet, but I’ll be happy to look at them,” Obama told the editors of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade in an interview.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has introduced S. 673, the so-called “Newspaper Revitalization Act,” that would give outlets tax deals if they were to restructure as 501(c)(3) corporations. That bill has so far attracted one cosponsor, Cardin’s Maryland colleague Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D).

[SNIP]

“I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding,” he said



LEAK CONTROVERSY HOLDING UP FEDERAL SHIELD LAW

The Washington Post reports:

A congressional push to enact a federal shield law for journalists is being held up by disagreement with the Justice Department on how to deal with cases that involve leaked national security information, congressional and media sources say.


OPEN LETTER TO THE TEACHERS’ UNION….FROM A UNION REP

This open letter to UTLA President A.J. Duffy from on of the union’s chapter chairs, Jordan Henry, a well-liked teacher and union rep at Santee High School.

(The link was in one of last night’s tweets by another LAUSD teacher/union activist, Jose del Barrio.)

In the letter, Henry suggest that the union rethink its knee-jerk condemnation of the charter school movement—for its own benefit.

Here’s a clip:

At this critical juncture in our union’s history, with at least one third of our union at stake, it is imperative we learn from past mistakes with haste. In particular, we must undo the misunderstanding, mischaracterization, and underestimation of the charter movement in Los Angeles which has marked your term and fueled the coalition of forces behind the School Choice Motion.



47-YEAR OLD ESCAPE FROM THE ROCK, NOT YET A COLD CASE

Okay, well if the 1962 infamous escape from Alcatraz isn’t a cold case, it’s mighty chilly. But according to Monday’s NPR story, U.S. Marshall’s are still actively working the case.

The U.S. Marshals Service is still actively pursuing the case on the chance that the three men pulled off one of the most daring prison escapes in U.S. history.

“Leads still come in. I just got one a couple weeks ago,” U.S. Marshal Michael Dyke said recently in his office in Oakland, Calif., as he poured over a stack of old file folders from the case.

Posted in California budget, Charter Schools, crime and punishment, LAUSD, law enforcement, media, Medical Marijuana, Obama, Social Justice Shorts | 40 Comments »

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