Monday, September 22, 2014

The New Jim Crow free webinar

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” — Benjamin Franklin

THE Southern Poverty Law Center is hosting a free webinar centered around a book that spent 100 weeks on the The New York Times best seller list — The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, written by Michelle Alexander.

I'm apologize that this is such late notice, however if you want to "attend", there's a link attached to register. Paul and I bought the book to try to learn a little before tomorrow night, but it's in no way necessary, and from the way things are looking, we won't get much, if any, read beforehand anyway. I'm sure the webinar will be illuminating.

The email invitation that came to me from the SPLC under Morris Dees' signature is below as is the link to register.

Dear Kelly,

I’d like to invite you to a very special online event this Tuesday evening.

We’ll be having a live conversation with Michelle Alexander, author of the widely acclaimed book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

Please join us Tuesday, Sept. 23, at 7 p.m. EDT for a free webinar with the highly acclaimed author and civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander.
Click here to register for the webinar.

The New Jim Crow is one of the most important – and eye-opening – books written in recent years.

It traces racial bias in our criminal justice system to a “law-and-order” and “get-tough” movement that originated with former segregationists in the wake of the civil rights movement.

Since then, we've seen a seven-fold increase in the number of prisoners in the U.S. Today, we have the world’s largest prison population and the highest per-capita incarceration rate – some five to 10 times higher than other Western democracies. And it’s tearing apart our most vulnerable communities – helping perpetuate a cycle of poverty and hopelessness.

But this unprecedented increase in incarceration bears no relationship to crime rates.

We believe this book is so important that we’ll soon be releasing a teacher’s guide to be used with book excerpts in schools throughout the country.

As Ms. Alexander put it: “They [students] have the power to change the system. It’s easy to imagine that a system like mass incarceration can’t be dismantled. The same was said about slavery, the same was said about Jim Crow."

As you know, we’re working hard to reform counterproductive school discipline and juvenile justice systems in the Deep South that do little more than feed children into adult prisons. And we’re also fighting the private prison industry – which earns more profits when more people are sent to prison.

I hope you can join us at 7 p.m. (Eastern) Tuesday as we explore this important issue with Michelle Alexander.

And please do everything you can do to promote justice and equality in your community.


Morris Dees
Founder, Southern Poverty Law Center

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sooner or later, they all come to Iowa

“My debut upon the world's stage occurred on February 26, 1845, in the State of Iowa.” — Buffalo Bill

THIS IS Iowa after all. On the way to work today, there were all manner of Des Moines police cars planted along I-235 near our downtown exit. At first we thought they had set up a speeding sting, but when we got to our turnoff, a parking enforcement vehicle was parked at the intersection. 

Paul said, "Okay, who's coming to town? There's no way they'd reach all the way down to parking enforcement if they didn't need all hands on deck blocking roads." I opined that it would have to be either the P or the V, and given the current world situation, I was betting it was the V.

Yup. It's every Democrats' favorite crazy uncle, Joe Biden

Sunday afternoon both Clintons were also in central Iowa to headline at the 37th and final Harkin Steak Fry. As those of you who follow politics closely probably know, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin is retiring in January after serving 10 years in the US House of Representatives, followed by thirty years in the Senate.

Senator Tom Harkin

Paul and I have only ever gone to the steak fry together once — in 2004 when Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson and I don't remember who all were on the dais that afternoon because they were ALL running for president!

More recently, in March of 2013, by happy accident I got to be Senator Harkin's personal guest at the Iowa High School Girls' Basketball Tournament championship game. It was great fun!! I shocked him by rooting for the team from Iowa City instead of the team from Ankeny where I live. (Here's a link to a post I wrote at the time about the game and sitting with the Senator in case you're interested: B-Ball.)

For forty years, Tom has been a staunch prairie-populist-progressive and champion for the disabled, but rather than having me do a bad to mediocre job of summarizing his career, I've attached the Civic Skinny column from the September 9, 2014 issue of Cityview, Des Moines' weekly independent newspaper owned by Michael Gartner

Ever heard of Mr. Gartner? Besides owning this newspaper and the local Iowa Cubs, the minor-league baseball team is the farm club for the Chicago Cubs, he was page-one editor of the Wall Street Journal, before he became the editor and president of the Des Moines Register, before he became editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal while at the same time serving as president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, before he became president of NBC News. Quite the media ascendance! But he had a rapid fall.

His last job was when and where he got famous, or possibly infamous. In 1993 Dateline NBC did a story on GM pickup trucks that were allegedly exploding on impact due to faulty gas tanks, and the show included film footage of one of the trucks detonating when hit, but it was a staged crash; the vehicle had been rigged to explode. 

Mr. Gartner resigned as a result of the scandal. Not that he necessarily knew about what had gone on. Maybe he did; maybe he didn't, but he was the head of the network and stepped down. If you're not from Iowa, and you've heard of him, that's probably why.

He's a good writer though. Although he signs certain personal notes he puts in his paper from time to time, he doesn't sign the Civic Skinny column, but it sounds like him. 

Whoever wrote the column did a good job.

Sen. Tom Harkin gets ready for the final Steak Fry. He has been Iowa’s worrying mother and rich uncle.


Tom Harkin is on his final lap.

Instead of spending his days and nights campaigning for a sixth term in the United States Senate, he and his wife and children and grandchildren took a trip to Australia late last month. Instead of making endless calls to raise millions to run again, he’s going through the papers that soon will be archived at the Harkin Institute at Drake University.

The tributes are pouring in — awards here, dinners there, proclamations and appreciations everywhere. And this weekend, at the 37th annual Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, thousands of Iowans — and hundreds of reporters — will gather to hear Bill and Hillary Clinton sing his praises and, midst their political caginess, genuflect to his Iowa.

And, in many ways, it is his Iowa.

Tom Harkin is the last of the Midwestern Populists, the champion of the disabled, the guardian angel for the poor, a guy with his heart on his sleeve. He’s the only Iowa Democrat ever to be re-elected to the United States Senate, and he was re-elected regularly. He has defeated more incumbents in congressional elections than anyone in American history. He has worked tirelessly to ensure that our children are fed, our land is preserved, our old people are cared for, our universities are strengthened.

He won’t turn his back on any issue or any cause, until his wife, Ruth — the Senator’s political strategist, straight-talking adviser and budget officer — slows him down.” You just can’t fight every fight, take on every cause,” she tells him. Sometimes he listens; sometimes he doesn’t.

As the father of the Americans With Disabilities Act, he has changed an entire nation, with access ramps and push-button doors and accessible bathrooms and curb-cuts and handicapped parking spaces and low drinking fountains and kneeling buses and hand rails — all the things that are invisible to able-bodied people but that have opened up the world to the disabled. Those things and more — like closed-captioning television — now are taken for granted in America, and it’s all because of Harkin and his genuine desire to help the people.

But Harkin — who still lives in the bungalow in Cumming where he grew up — has changed this state, too, probably more than anyone ever has. He rose to power in the era of the earmark, and he learned to grab his share, particularly for Des Moines and central Iowa.

In the 15 years from 1995 to 2010, when earmarks were abolished, he funneled more than $350 million into Polk County. The Principal River Walk? He found more than $5 million for it. The Des Moines River Greenbelt? Another $20 million or so. The Science Center of Iowa? Three or four million. The World Food Prize Hall of Laureates? More than $3 million. Education projects in the county — things like programs to help kids learn skills, to keep them in school, to equip their classrooms, to fund their research, to help everyone from pre-kindergartners to medical students? Some $40 million.

Health care? Millions for the nursing college at Mercy, plenty for the Free Clinics of Iowa, about $2 million for the Geriatric Research Center at Des Moines University and another $1 million or so for a wellness center at Grand View. Transportation? He guided more than $20 million into the building of Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, at least $17 million into central Iowa trails, tens of millions into the airports in Des Moines and Ankeny.

All of this is in addition to the hundreds of millions sent here through non-earmark legislation, for things like Pell Grants for college students and school-lunch money for needy students and all the other things that are lifelines to those who need food or shelter or health-care or schooling. For 40 years in Washington, 10 in the House of Representatives and 30 in the Senate, he has watched over this state — sometimes like a worrying mother, sometimes like a rich uncle. Need a phone call to help get an appointment at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda? He’ll make it. Need to find an organization to move into the shuttered School for the Blind? Here he is with AmeriCorps.

Tom Harkin went to the old Dowling High School in Des Moines, then on to Iowa State and law school in Washington. He is one of the most distinguished graduates of Iowa State, a university that in recent years snubbed him, insulted him and deeply hurt him when it belittled and diminished the Harkin Institute, which was to be at Iowa State and was to house his papers. After a shameful episode in which university officials quietly agreed among themselves that they would censor research proposals from the Harkin Institute that didn’t fit their Farm Bureau philosophy, the Senator moved the institute to Drake.

This was after Harkin had protected his alma mater with earmark funds. Look at the year 2002 alone: $2 million to start the biorenewable research resource consortia, $3 million for the Forensic Science Testing and Evaluation Lab, $2 million for Smart Materials for Future Aerospace Systems, $3 million for the Center for Aviation Systems Reliability, $3.6 million for the Engine Titanium Consortium, $1 million for the Center for Food Security and Public Health. The list runs on and on, adding up to more than $20 million, and that was just a typical year.

The nation’s senior junior senator — Chuck Grassley went to the Senate four years before Harkin — will turn 75 this fall. He’s hard of hearing, but otherwise fit. “I didn’t want to be one of those guys who leave drooling,” he told a friend a year ago when he explained why he was giving up a sure seat in the Senate. Besides, he said, he still has things he wants to get done.

Without question, he’ll continue his work on behalf of the disabled, one way or another but probably involving the Harkin Institute, which former Iowa Chief Justice Marsha Ternus is shaping at Drake. The papers will start being trucked in from Washington soon, and the renovated and retrofitted Cowles Library and its staff are ready to receive them and archive them.

The coming year will see scholars, speakers, researchers, fellows and students passing through the Institute, which will, of course, be handicapped accessible.

But first, thousands of Iowans will gather for the last time this Sunday at the Steak Fry. Hillary and Bill Clinton will be there, of course.

But they won’t be the stars

Monday, September 15, 2014

Hanging out with Carole King

“On the roof, it's peaceful as can be — and there the world below can't bother me.” — Gerry Goffin, Up on the Roof

SATURDAY Paul and I attended an event at a political friend's house on behalf of Senate candidate Bruce Braley, and guess who was also in attendance — musical legend Carole King. I know, right?! There were only about 40 or 45 people there, so we got to see her up close and personal. Paul got a CD signed, and I had my picture snapped with her. How cool was that. 

After we see an artist in concert, or in this case stand right next to her, we like to dig through on-line biographies to learn more. Hers is too extensive for me to do justice to now, but I want to call attention to a few pinnacles.

Carole had seven US Billboard Top Ten albums as a performer

1971 – Tapestry (No.1)
1971 – Music (No.1)
1972 – Rhymes & Reasons (No.2)
1973 – Fantasy (No.6)
1974 – Wrap Around Joy (No.1)
1976 – Thoroughbred (No.3)
2010 – Live at the Troubadour (with James Taylor) (No.4)

She had five US Billboard Top Ten singles as performer.

1971 – I Feel the Earth Move (No.1)
1971 – It's Too Late (No.1)
1971 – Sweet Seasons (No.9)
1974 – Jazzman (No.2)
1974 – Nightingale (No.9)

She wrote or co-wrote 118 pop hits on the Billboard Hot 100.

I'm not going to list them all (I'm sure you're relieved), but I want to highlight a few I liked the most. I would be surprised if there aren't some you didn't know she wrote. 

Will You Love Me Tomorrow (1960) — co-written by Gerry Goffin, made famous by The Shirelles.

Take Good Care of My Baby (1961) — co-written by Gerry Goffin, made famous by Bobby Vee.

Crying in the Rain (1962) — co-written by Howard Greenfield, made famous by the Iowa-born Everly Brothers (As Pam knows, this one can actually make me cry.)

Go Away Little Girl (1962) — co-written by Gerry Goffin, made famous by Steve Lawrence (Back in the day, I thought this was dreamiest song EVER.)

Up on the Roof (1963) — made famous by The Drifters (This is seriously one of my all-time favorites.)

I'm into Something Good (1964) — co-written by Gerry Goffin, made famous by Herman's Hermits.

Oh No Not My Baby (1964) — co-written by Gerry Goffin, made famous by Maxine Brown.

Don't Say Nothing Bad about My Baby (1964) — co-written by Gerry Goffin, made famous by The Cookies.

(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman (1967) — co-written by Gerry Goffin, made famous by Aretha Franklin

You've Got a Friend (1971) — made famous by James Taylor

After Carole and Bruce left, Paul went door-knocking, and with my leg propped up on the couch and an ice pack on my sprained ankle. I made calls to voters.

It's unfortunate that I was having such a bad hair day. Paul is in the background beaming.
It was funny: I had on blue pants that exactly matched her scarf.

Bruce Braley, who we hope will be the next Senator of Iowa.

A picture of Arvid Oliver taking a picture of me standing with Bruce Braley.

This picture is hilarious because it was snapped at the EXACT moment that Paul made
a joke that cracked everyone up including Carole who's on the right!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

More witnesses come forward

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." — Martin Luther King, Jr.

MORE PEOPLE who were on the scene when Michael Brown was killed are talking about what they saw. Here's a piece from the Daily Kos.

New witnesses to Michael Brown killing say he had his hands up
by Laura Clawson
Thursday, September 11 2014

In the past week, new witnesses to the killing of Michael Brown have come forward publicly. Crucially, two construction workers who were on the scene did not previously know Brown or his family—and they say he had his hands up when police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot him. Not only that, this isn't something they've started saying only since hearing other witnesses describe the scene; a video shows the men standing and watching the immediate aftermath of the killing, with one of them raising his hands, apparently echoing what he'd just seen:

"He had his f**n hands up," one of the men says in the video.

The man told CNN he heard one gunshot, then another shot about 30 seconds later.

"The cop didn't say get on the ground. He just kept shooting," the man said.

The other worker agrees that Brown had his hands up. The two men did not see what happened when Brown and Wilson first crossed paths, but were about 50 feet away from Wilson when he began shooting.

Spontaneously-erected memorial to Michael Brown
at the site of his death.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How Ferguson has changed and proposes to

“As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it — whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, he is trash.” — Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

RECENTLY I shared a couple of columns from New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof talking about the everyday discrimination black people face and white blindness to white privilege. It stirred some surprising comments on Facebook, although I must say that certain sentiments expressed seemed only to confirm Mr. Kristof's position that so many of us white people just don't get it.

I mean to write my own version, but for now I'd like to pass along three things:

— An opinion piece from the NYT written by Jeff Smith, assistant professor of urban policy at New School University in New York City and former Missouri state senator from St. Louis.

A New York Times graph comparing arrest warrants in Ferguson to other Missouri cities of the same size.

— A news piece by Frances Robles also of the NYT talking about changes proposed for the court system in Ferguson.

I must say that IMHO, you can't look at the arrest warrant chart and not figure that something has been badly amiss in that town.

Michael Brown in his high school cap and gown.

In Ferguson, Black Town, White Power
AUG. 17, 2014

POLITICS, wrote the political scientist Harold Lasswell in 1936, is about “who gets what, when, and how.” If you want to understand the racial power disparities we’ve seen in Ferguson, Mo., understand that it’s not only about black and white. It’s about green.

Back in 1876, the city of St. Louis made a fateful decision. Tired of providing services to the outlying areas, the city cordoned itself off, separating from St. Louis County. It’s a decision the city came to regret. Most Rust Belt cities have bled population since the 1960s, but few have been as badly damaged as St. Louis City, which since 1970 has lost almost as much of its population as Detroit.

This exodus has left a ring of mostly middle-class suburbs around an urban core plagued by entrenched poverty. White flight from the city mostly ended in the 1980s; since then, blacks have left the inner city for suburbs such as Ferguson in the area of St. Louis County known as North County.

Ferguson’s demographics have shifted rapidly: in 1990, it was 74 percent white and 25 percent black; in 2000, 52 percent black and 45 percent white; by 2010, 67 percent black and 29 percent white.

The region’s fragmentation isn’t limited to the odd case of a city shedding its county. St. Louis County contains 90 municipalities, most with their own city hall and police force. Many rely on revenue generated from traffic tickets and related fines. According to a study by the St. Louis nonprofit Better Together, Ferguson receives nearly one-quarter of its revenue from court fees; for some surrounding towns it approaches 50 percent.

Municipal reliance on revenue generated from traffic stops adds pressure to make more of them. One town, Sycamore Hills, has stationed a radar-gun-wielding police officer on its 250-foot northbound stretch of Interstate.

With primarily white police forces that rely disproportionately on traffic citation revenue, blacks are pulled over, cited and arrested in numbers far exceeding their population share, according to a recent report from Missouri’s attorney general. In Ferguson last year, 86 percent of stops, 92 percent of searches and 93 percent of arrests were of black people — despite the fact that police officers were far less likely to find contraband on black drivers (22 percent versus 34 percent of whites). This worsens inequality, as struggling blacks do more to fund local government than relatively affluent whites.

By contrast, consider the city: After decades of methodically building political power, blacks in St. Louis City elected a black mayor in 1993 and black aldermen or alderwomen in nearly half the city’s wards, and hold two of three seats on the powerful Board of Estimate and Apportionment, which must approve all city contracts. Well-established churches, Democratic ward organizations and other civic institutions mobilize voters in black wards. But because blacks have reached the suburbs in significant numbers only over the past 15 years or so, fewer suburban black communities have deeply ingrained civic organizations.

That helps explain why majority-black Ferguson has a virtually all-white power structure: a white mayor; a school board with six white members and one Hispanic, which recently suspended a highly regarded young black superintendent who then resigned; a City Council with just one black member; and a 6 percent black police force.

Many North County towns — and inner-ring suburbs nationally — resemble Ferguson. Longtime white residents have consolidated power, continuing to dominate the City Councils and school boards despite sweeping demographic change. They have retained control of patronage jobs and municipal contracts awarded to allies.

The North County Labor Club, whose overwhelmingly white constituent unions (plumbers, pipe fitters, electrical workers, sprinkler fitters) have benefited from these arrangements, operates a potent voter-turnout operation that backs white candidates over black upstarts. The more municipal contracts an organization receives, the more generously it can fund re-election campaigns. Construction, waste and other long-term contracts with private firms have traditionally excluded blacks from the ownership side and, usually, the work force as well.

But there’s a potential solution that could help Ferguson reinvest in itself and also help African-Americans compete for a bigger share of the pie: consolidation with surrounding municipalities, many of which face similar challenges. The St. Louis region has seen some preliminary support for the idea, with resistance concentrated in smaller political units whose leaders are loath to surrender control.

Consolidation would help strapped North County communities avoid using such a high percentage of their resources for expensive public safety overhead, such as fire trucks. It could also empower the black citizens of Ferguson. Blacks incrementally gained power in St. Louis City in part because its size facilitates broader coalitions and alliances. Another benefit of consolidation is the increased political talent pool. Many leaders just aren’t interested in running a tiny municipality.

In shrinking cities, politics is often a nasty, zero-sum game. But consolidation could create economies of scale, increase borrowing capacity to expand economic opportunity, reduce economic pressures that inflame racial tension, and smash up the old boys’ network that has long ruled much of North County.

When the state patrol and the national television cameras leave Ferguson, its residents will still be talking about how they can move forward. And they may be ready to expand the conversation so that it’s not just about black and white, but green.

Ferguson Sets Broad Change for City Courts
By Frances Robles
SEPT. 8, 2014

FERGUSON, Mo. — In the first major sign of change in this small city since last month’s police killing of an unarmed black teenager, the Ferguson City Council said Monday that it would establish a citizen review board to provide guidance for the Police Department.

It also announced sweeping changes to its court system, which had been criticized as unfairly targeting low-income blacks, who had become trapped in a cycle of unpaid tickets and arrest warrants.

Municipal court fines are the city’s second-highest source of revenue, leading many critics to argue that the authorities had a financial incentive to issue tickets and then impose more fees on those who did not pay.

Young black men in Ferguson and surrounding cities routinely find themselves passed from jail to jail as they are picked up on warrants for unpaid fines, one of the many simmering issues here that helped set off almost two weeks of civil unrest after the teenager, Michael Brown, 18, was killed by a white Ferguson officer on Aug. 9.

Data from municipal courts across Missouri show that in 2013, the city of Ferguson had the highest number of warrants issued in the state relative to its size. Arrest warrants are often served by municipal courts when someone fails to appear in court to pay fines for a traffic or other violation, like shoplifting, assault or disturbance of peace.

The high rate could reflect more crime as well as heavier prosecution, and it could be indicative of a fraught relationship between law enforcement and citizens. Brendan Roediger, an assistant professor at Saint Louis University School of Law and supervisor of the school’s Civil Litigation Clinic, said that resentment toward the police in Ferguson “is primarily formed around these interactions and not around investigations of serious crimes.”

Mr. Brown’s killing put a national spotlight on Ferguson, a small city in north St. Louis County. The unrest served to highlight longstanding complaints by a predominantly black community that they were being harassed by the police.

On the eve of what was expected to be a tense City Council meeting on Tuesday, the first meeting since the shooting, the city instead pre-emptively announced many changes activists have long sought.

Among other things, the Council was scheduled to vote on capping how much of the city’s revenue can come from fines. The city also announced a one-month window to quash pending warrants, a major victory for the activists and lawyers who had pressed for change and were expected to force the issue at Tuesday’s meeting.

“The overall goal of these changes is to improve trust within the community and increase transparency, particularly within Ferguson’s courts and police department,” one council member, Mark Byrne, said in a statement. “We want to demonstrate to residents that we take their concerns extremely seriously.”

Lawyers and activists cautioned that the change could be truly meaningful only if other municipalities followed suit, because Ferguson is not alone in its predatory tactics, said Julia Ho, a community organizer at Hands Up United, an organization that formed after Mr. Brown’s killing.

“The bench warrants and traffic fines were a regressive tax on the poor and criminalization of poverty,” Ms. Ho said. “If people no longer receive these charges, that’s huge: It keeps people from getting stuck in modern debtor’s prisons.”

The Arch City Defenders, a nonprofit legal group, and law professors at the St. Louis University School of Law recently wrote a letter to the mayor, James Knowles III, asking him to waive all pending fines and warrants for nonviolent offenses. The letter said that the warrants served as barriers to employment and housing and that waiving them would be an important conciliatory gesture to the community.

Mr. Brown was killed after a brief struggle with the officer, Darren Wilson, who was seated in his vehicle. Although the police said Mr. Brown went for the officer’s gun, witnesses have said that the officer fired at Mr. Brown as he fled and continued shooting after he put his hands up in a sign of surrender. A St. Louis County grand jury is evaluating the case and is expected to make a decision by next month on whether to indict Officer Wilson.

The federal Justice Department has its own civil rights investigation into the shooting and the Police Department’s practices.

Thomas B. Harvey, executive director of the Arch City Defenders, said the changes were about three-quarters of what they had requested. “Although it’s not exactly what we asked for, it’s a substantial step forward,” he said.

Ferguson, a city of just 21,135 people, issued 24,532 warrants for 12,000 cases last year, the group said in a recent report. That amounts to three warrants per Ferguson household.

The city’s traffic fine revenue has increased 44 percent since 2011, city records show. When drivers who could not pay failed to show up for court, the city issued warrants and increased the penalties.

About 20 percent of the city’s $12 million budget is paid through fines, Mr. Harvey said. Under the proposal announced Monday, the city will cap that at 15 percent and spend any excess on special community projects.

“The Council believes that this ordinance sends a clear message that the fines imposed as punishment in the municipal court are not to be viewed as a source of revenue for the city,” Ferguson’s Council said in a statement. “We are hopeful that the Council’s clear statement will encourage the municipal judge and prosecutor to explore and utilize alternative methods of sentencing, such as community service, to punish violators and deter similar unlawful conduct.”

Mr. Harvey said he was concerned about whether the fines would actually decrease and expressed skepticism over the fact that the City Council was endorsing a community service penalty that does not currently exist. “That’s still $1.7 million in fines collected, but it is a million-dollar drop,” he said.

The city said it would commit to funding a community improvement program and would hold ward meetings to elicit community input on what other changes should be made.

The city said it would also introduce an ordinance to repeal the “failure to appear” offense in municipal court, eliminating the additional fines imposed on those who do not attend court, and abolish administrative fees, such as the $25 fee to cover the cost of police personnel who arrange for the towing of abandoned vehicles.

Some of the fees the city planned to eliminate, such as the $50 charge to revoke a warrant, were illegal in the first place, Mr. Harvey said.

The city said the municipal judge had established a special docket for defendants who are having trouble making monthly payments on outstanding fines, the city said, giving people the opportunity to renegotiate their payment plans.

At the behest of the City Council, the municipal judge also established a one-month warrant recall program.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

I'm just SO mad

“I wish I could say that racism and prejudice were only distant memories. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust. We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.” ― Thurgood Marshall, United State Supreme Court Justice

I WASN'T intending to write a post today. Since I sprained by ankle five days ago, I've been required to keep off my feet. At my present rate of hobble, the few things I'm able to do take about three times longer than normal, so shortening my to-do list by even one item seemed like a good idea — despite the fact that writing a post is at least something I could do sitting with my leg elevated.

But . . . this morning I happened to read Nicholas Kristof's September 6 New York Times column, When Whites Don't Get It, Part 2, a followup to his August 30 column of the same name minus the Part 2, and I feel so mad that I can't even verbalize how mad I am! 

Not at Nicholas. Goodness no!! He's a personal hero of mine.

At the selfish, petty, whiny, blindly hubristic comments he received in response to his column! After I get a grip, I'm going to take a shot at expressing my own thoughts about racism in America and why I'm so incensed, but in the meantime here's Mr. Kristof's column.

The wonderful, amazing Nicholas Kristof
When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 2
By Nicholas Kristof
September 6, 2014

IN my column a week ago, “When Whites Just Don’t Get It,” I took aim at what I called “smug white delusion” about race relations in America, and readers promptly fired back at what they perceived as a smugly deluded columnist.

Readers grudgingly accepted the grim statistics I cited — such as the wealth disparity between blacks and whites in America today exceeding what it was in South Africa during apartheid — but many readers put the blame on African-Americans themselves.

“Probably has something to do with their unwillingness to work,” Nils tweeted.

Nancy protested on my Facebook page: “We can’t fix their problems. It’s up to every black individual to stop the cycle of fatherless homes, stop the cycle of generations on welfare.”

There was a deluge of such comments, some toxic, but let me try to address three principal arguments that I think prop up white delusion.

First, if blacks are poor or in prison, it’s all their fault. “Blacks don’t get it,” Bruce tweeted. “Choosing to be cool vs. getting good grades is a bad choice. We all start from 0.”

Huh? Does anybody really think that we all take off from the same starting line?

Slavery and post-slavery oppression left a legacy of broken families, poverty, racism, hopelessness and internalized self-doubt. Some responded to discrimination and lack of opportunity by behaving in self-destructive ways.

One study found that African-American children on welfare heard only 29 percent as many words in their first few years as children of professional parents. Those kids never catch up, partly because they’re more likely to attend broken schools. Sure, some make bad choices, but they’ve often been on a trajectory toward failure from the time they were babies.

These are whirlpools that are difficult to escape, especially when society is suspicious and unsympathetic. Japan has a stigmatized minority group, the burakumin, whose members once held jobs considered unclean. But although this is an occupational minority rather than a racial one, it spawned an underclass that was tormented by crime, educational failure, and substance abuse similar to that of the American underclass.

So instead of pointing fingers, let’s adopt some of the programs that I’ve cited with robust evidence showing that they bridge the chasm.

But look at Asians, Mark protests on my Google Plus page: Vietnamese arrived in poverty — and are now school valedictorians. Why can’t blacks be like that?

There are plenty of black valedictorians. But bravo to Asians and other immigrant groups for thriving in America with a strong cultural emphasis on education, diligence and delay of self-gratification. We should support programs with a good record of inculcating such values in disadvantaged children. But we also need to understand that many young people of color see no hope of getting ahead, and that despair can be self-fulfilling.

A successful person can say: “I worked hard in school. I got a job. The system worked.” Good for you. But you probably also owe your success to parents who read to you, to decent schools, to social expectations that you would end up in college rather than prison. So count your blessings for winning the lottery of birth — and think about mentoring a kid who didn’t.

Look, the basic reason young black men are regarded with suspicion is that they’re disproportionately criminals. The root problem isn’t racism. It’s criminality.

It’s true that blacks accounted for 55 percent of robbery arrests in 2012, according to F.B.I. statistics. But, by my calculations, it’s also true that 99.9 percent of blacks were not arrested and charged with robbery in 2012, yet they are still tarred by this pernicious stereotype.

Criminality is real. So is inequity. So is stereotyping.

The United States Sentencing Commission concluded that black men get sentences one-fifth longer than white men for committing the same crimes. In Louisiana, a study found that a person is 97 percent more likely to be sentenced to death for murdering a white person than a black person.

Mass incarceration means that the United States imprisons a higher proportion of its black population than apartheid South Africa did, further breaking up families. And careful studies find that employers are less likely to respond to a job inquiry and résumé when a typically black name is on it.

Society creates opportunity and resiliency for middle-class white boys who make mistakes; it is unforgiving of low-income black boys.

Of course, we need to promote personal responsibility. But there is plenty of fault to go around, and too many whites are obsessed with cultivating personal responsibility in the black community while refusing to accept any responsibility themselves for a system that manifestly does not provide equal opportunity.

Yes, young black men need to take personal responsibility. And so does white America.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Chipping away

"The First Amendment doesn't give anybody the right to be heard. People don't have to listen to you." — Rush Limbaugh

FOR ONCE, Mr. Limbaugh is right about something.

I admit, Hey Look can be a bit obsessive. Others think that HLSS's problem is being too broad. Animal rights and welfare, human rights and welfare, poverty, equality, fairness, justice — I can't help but care about them all. 

I have four more narrowly specific burrs under the saddle — removing the sold sign on government through strict campaign finance laws, preserving and enhancing separation of church and state, enacting restrictive gun ownership and carry laws and . . . drum roll please . . .  getting Rush Limbaugh to shut the f*** up. 

I would never infringe on Slimebuagh's right to be an idiot loudmouth. I just want him to give up and go away because no one is willing to give audience to his malicious lies and hatefulness.

On that note, here's some happy news. According to data compiled at StopRush, 37 advertisers and 11 stations have given El Rushbo the heave ho in August. Woohoo!!

(I'd be doing the happy dance if I hadn't sprained my ankle four days ago climbing over and jumping off a very tall freeway fence in order to get a perfect picture of a bridge for one of our clients.  Stupid? Yes. Illegal? Probably just a little.)

I am in complete awe and admiration of the dedicated crew at for their tireless commitment to 24/7 monitoring this conscienceless, misogynistic, racist money monger.

Here's what StopRush has to say about their effort.

Decent folks who believe in tolerance and equality are no longer powerless against Rush Limbaugh's efforts to spread intolerance on the radio. StopRush is making a major impact by convincing advertisers on this show to withdraw their ads--and with your help we can do even more. Just a few emails, tweets, or Facebook messages a week to Limbaugh's advertisers can go a long way toward making hatred less profitable.  It is our collective voice that makes us strong.

Want to do something to hold Limbaugh accountable?  
Join StopRush!  We can use your help in the following ways:

Join: The Flush Rush Facebook community

Visit: The StopRush sponsor database

Tweet: #stoprush Twitter campaign

Fact Check: Limbaugh Lie Debunking Site