Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Brandon Hein Needs Your Help

The other day, I wrote an article concerning the rejection by the 9th Circuit Court to hear Brandon Hein's case. As mentioned in the article, this was Brandon's last chance at a rehearing and it appeared that his fate was sealed: 10 more years (at least) in prison. After writing the article, I contacted Brandon's parents, Gene & Janice, to see if there was anything left to be done. I have been following this story for close to a year now and have been in contact with the Hein's sporadically. From what they told me, it is now in the hands of Governor Schwarzenegger and a letter writing campaign is now underway. I ask that anyone who is either familiar with the case, or cares at all about the state of our judicial system, to join me in writing to the governor on behalf of Brandon.

For those who are not familiar with the case; you can go to to get the particulars of the case. You may also ask for a guide to writing the governor by e-mailing to You can let Gene and Francis know that I sent you and you can expect a quick reply. For additional information on Brandon's case, go to the "Archives" section of my blog and click on "2009" and then click on "August". There you will find my original article, written on August 24, 2009, describing the events that took place leading up to this terrible injustice.

If our history has shown us anything, it's that if enough people voice their concern over an issue; our government has no recourse but to pay attention and to act on it. Brandon Hein, now 33, needs our voices to be heard NOW!! Governor Schwarzenegger is leaving office in January of 2011 so the clock is ticking. He has the power to right a terrible wrong but only WE can make it happen. So please, join me in writing to the governor (you do not need to be a resident of California) asking for the
IMMEDIATE commutation of Brandon's sentence, so that he may have a chance at living a productive life. I would say that 15 years is a long enough sentence for someone who did not harm a single person but had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. On behalf of the Hein family, I thank you for your efforts.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Brandon Hein's Appeals Exhausted

On July 16th, the 9th Circuit Court denied Brandon Hein's final request for a rehearing. This was Brandon's last chance so, after 15 years of passionate pleas and legal jockeying; Brandon is now destined to spend at least 10 more years in prison before he becomes eligible for parole. I can now say, without hesitation, that in all my years of studying and witnessing our judicial system, I have NEVER seen a greater miscarriage of justice.

What has become of our great nation? The fact that our country, the one that has been perceived to be the model for humanity, tolerance, and fairness, can allow such a travesty is terribly disconcerting. While we sit in judgment of the atrocities perpetrated by other nations, a young man in our own country will spend at least 25 years of his life for doing nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yes, it's that simple!

When I was first contacted regarding this decision, my first reaction was a physical one. The next was emotional as I hung my head in shame. Having lived through the Vietnam era, Watergate, the Iran-Contra affair, the invasion of Iraq, Abu Ghraib, and Gitmo; I can honestly say that this is the first time that I was ashamed to be an American. While some may view that as hyperbole-I can assure you that it is not.

Recently, the Supreme Court has made some rulings that I found to be contrary to the values instilled in me as a child. The two that immediately jump out are the ones dealing with post-conviction DNA testing and the decision to allow corporations to be granted the same rights as an individual in regard to campaign funding. While, in my estimation, they pale in comparison to the ruling handed down by the 9th Circuit Court; I find them to be quite disturbing nonetheless.

As a liberal, I am forever accused of ignoring both the intent of our founders and the sanctity of the Constitution. Truth be told, while I believe the founders to have been men of incredible courage and forethought; I also believe they were human beings with human flaws. And while I see the Constitution to be the foundation for the greatest nation on earth; I also see it as a document that needs to adjust with our forever changing times. How else does one explain the need for it to be amended 27 times since its initial ratification in 1787?

At the root of Brandon Hein's situation is the Murder-Felony Rule, an abomination that I have addressed in previous articles. I daresay that our founders never intended for our judicial system, at any level, to be granted the power to enact and employ such a hideous and inflexible law. The same can be said for the detention and treatment of a number of the prisoners still being held at Guantanamo Bay. Many of the detainees were deemed to be "non-combatants" and posed no threat to our country years ago (i.e. Ighurs). Yet, they still remain imprisoned. Two of the primary tenets of our judicial system, "due process" and "habeus corpus", have been all but ignored by our government-past and present.

Make no mistake about it; the American flag will still fly proudly from the porch of my home but our feeling of "exceptionalism" may require another look. Brandon Hein now faces the very real possibility of entering prison at the age of 18 and not leaving it until, at least, the age of 43! His fate now rests solely on a commutation of sentence by Governor Arnold Schwarnegger, who leaves office in January of 2011. It's important to note that were it not for Governor Schwarznegger, Brandon would not have a chance at parole at all. The Murder-Felony Rule offers only two options upon conviction: death or life without the possibility of parole.

I urge all of you, as both Americans and human beings, to write to Governor Schwarznegger pleading that this terrible injustice be minimized by commuting Brandon's sentence all together, before leaving office. For information on how to contact the governor and to learn more about Brandon's case, please go to:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Huge Day in Massachusetts

Today, all eyes will be on my home state, Massachusetts. The senatorial race between Martha Coakley(D) and Scott Brown(R) has evolved into a referendum of sorts regarding the health care bill as well as the policies of the Obama administration. I am active in many political discussion boards online and the focus of many has been today's election. The problem is that very few people know what either candidate stands for. The conservatives see Brown as nothing more than the much needed vote #41 while the liberals see Coakley as necessary to carry on the goals of the late Ted Kennedy. Over the past month; local television has been inundated with ads from both campaigns and I, for one, will be happy when this is over. Though I believe Coakley has run a "dirty" campaign; I intend to cast my vote for her.

While some will say that I am voting along party lines; I prefer to think I am voting on the important issues aside from health care reform. Coakley has been a strong advocate for regulation of Wall St. while Brown has not. Coakley has been in favor of removing the pre-existing provision in health care while Brown has not. Furthermore, Coakley's record as Attorney General is laudable. As a state representative; Brown has voted in favor of Republican legislation 96% of the time. I have no desire to see the Bush/Cheney policies return and Brown appears to favor that approach. It's difficult to tout yourself as an independent thinker, as Brown does, when you have a voting record like that.

The emergence of the Tea Party will play a major role in today's election as well as the mid-term elections this fall. Their influence and power seems to grow by the day while their intelligence does not. It is no secret that the Tea Party is merely an extension of the FOX network which, in my opinion, provides more false information than accurate information. Their pundits are nothing more than well paid, misinformed celebrities. In a future article, I will spend more time on Beck, Coulter, Hannity et al but for now; my focus will remain on today's election.

Most polls have the election at a dead heat while others whose credibility is suspect, to say the least, have Brown with an almost insurmountable lead. As for myself, I will stay tuned to the local stations as the individual precinct numbers come in. I have never placed much stock in polls and let's not forget the famous "Dewey Defeats Truman" faux paus in the late 40s. I think a nice nap will be in order today as I suspect the final tally will not be known until very late this evening or early tomorrow morning. As an aside; it is beginning to snow rather hard here in Central Mass. and I fear a low turnout will not bode well for Martha Coakley. We'll just have to wait and see! GO COAKLEY!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Partisanship Is Killing Our Country

Hello everyone-it has been some time since I have written here. I have been pre-occupied with other endeavors but a couple of newsworthy stories have prompted me to do a little venting. The issue at hand is the ever growing problem of partisanship.

As you know; the latest health care bill was passed in the House and is now heading to the Senate for debate and a vote. I confess; I am not terribly optimistic about its passage there. We can thank Sen. Joe Lieberman for that. Lieberman has trouble deciding which party to ally himself with but, in this case, he has jumped on the Republican bandwagon. Sixty votes are needed for the bill to pass and Lieberman’s decision has all but assured that the number will not be reached. Presently, the Senate is comprised of 58 Democrats, 40 Republicans, and 2 Independents. For the bill to have any chance; the two Independent votes are crucial. Lieberman is one of those Independents and has single handedly squashed the hopes of the majority of Americans who favor health care reform and the public option. My only hope is that the voters from Connecticut finally bounce his sorry ass from office in 2010.

To illustrate the omnipresent partisan voting practices in Congress; one need only look at the final tally in the House. Out of the 216 available votes from the GOP-only one voted in favor of the bill. I find it hard to believe that the other 215 voted against it based on its merits. Toeing the party line has become the norm in Congress and I see no end in sight. It’s clear that the motivating factor when voting is to simply oppose the other party. To hell with what the American people want. Anything thought to have been proposed by the Obama administration is assured of a NAY vote from the Republicans. This philosophy does little for the betterment of our nation at a time when it is sorely needed.

To further emphasize the presence of partisanship in Congress; a look at the voting results for Sen. Franken’s (D-MN) amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill will tell us more. Senator Franken’s amendment seemed like a sure bet given its content. To summarize: The amendment prohibited the government from granting contracts to companies that included, in my opinion, an unconstitutional clause in their employee contracts. The clause, neatly cloaked in fine print, prohibits employees from exercising their right to due process granted to us all in the 14th Amendment. “Essentially, due process guarantees that persons have a right to be fairly heard before they can be deprived of life, liberty, or property.” (Rush; The Dictionary of Criminal Justice 5th Edition, 2000)

What caused Sen. Franken to propose this amendment was a case involving a female employee of KBR (Haliburton) who was raped while working in Iraq. Upon returning to the U.S. after the incident; she intended to file criminal charges against the perpetrators and to sue KBR, only to find that her employee contract prohibited her from doing so. Her desire to seek justice through the criminal and civil court was declined based on the aforementioned clause. As if that isn’t repulsive enough; the vote for the amendment proved to be equally nauseating.

During the debate on the Senate floor, Sen. Jeff Sessions claimed it was not the purview of the government to decide what can and can’t be included in a private company’s employee contracts. He went on to say that it was not up to the Senate to decide who should benefit from taxpayers dollars. It’s important to note that, only weeks earlier, this moron was calling for the immediate freeze of government aid to ACORN. I can only assume that he forgot about that little diatribe. While ACORN receives, on average, $1.5 million per year from the government; KBR/Haliburton and Blackwater have received over $25 billion in contracts since 2001!!

After the debate and Session’s blustering; the amendment came to a vote. The results: 30 of the 40 GOP senators (75%) voted AGAINST the amendment!! The amendment passed thanks to the 10 Republican senators who voted with their conscience as opposed to their allegiance to the GOP. I found this story to be one of the most disgusting examples of how partisanship is tearing this country apart. I urge everyone who lives in a state where their senator voted against this to cast a vote for ANYONE who opposes them in the next election. If you don’t; consider yourself complicit in denying that poor woman her right to due process and remember-the next time, it may be you!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Is It Any Wonder?

In the field of criminology, there exist an exhaustingly high number of theories that attempt to explain the reasons for criminal behavior. Among them are: biological, genetic, learned, environmental, and psychological, to name a few. One can find a degree of validity in each but, in my opinion, few provide us with a direct correlation between child abuse and juvenile crime, with the exception of one. Dr. Lonnie Athens, viewed by many as a maverick, devised a unique method to study the criminal mind. His method, coupled with his life experiences, is presented in Richard Rhodes’ book "Why They Kill." For the purpose of this article; I will focus on the effect child abuse has in the creation of juvenile offenders. It should come as no surprise that I gravitated toward, and embraced the theory of a maverick.

A brief history of Lonnie Athens is necessary to help us understand how and why his theory differs from those presented by such respected and well known criminologists as Joseph Wilson, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. Unlike the others; Athens was a victim of abuse from his father, a Greek immigrant. According to Rhodes, it is not uncommon for some who are victims to seek explanations. “Hypervigilance is in any case one price children pay for childhood abuse.” (Rhodes, pg. 14) While the majority of criminologists rely on various statistics and other forms of empirical data; Athens chose to take a more hands-on approach. From Rhodes:

"Much later Athens would write scornfully of academic criminologists who present themselves as experts on criminal violence without ever had personal experience of such violence or contact with violent criminals. Their usual rebuttal to his challenge, he noted, was that “one need not actually have heart trouble or some other terrible disease to discover a cure for it.'That was true, he agreed,'but one must at least see, touches, smell, and examine actual diseased hearts if he ever hopes to know anything about them.' Athens had certainly seen, touched, smelled and examined more than enough violence in his tumultuous childhood to know what he was talking about."

I plan to address Athens’ approach in a future article but for the sake of brevity; I will focus on the theory itself. His theory on “Violentization” is composed of 4 stages. The first stage being Brutalization which translated refers to various forms of abuse. The first form, Violent Subjugation, concerns the most common and recognized cases of child abuse. “During this experience, bona fide or would be authority figures from one of the subject’s primary groups uses violence to force her to submit to their authority.” (Athens, L. (1992) The Creation of Dangerous Violent Criminals. Pg. 28)

Athens refers to the second form of brutalization as Personal Horrification. This has proven to be equally damaging but is rarely presented to the public by the media. The absence of sensationalism is a likely explanation for its absence. “Here the subject does not himself undergo violent subjugation, but witnesses another person undergoing it.” (Athens, pg. 38) The long term effects of personal horrification are considered to be equally contributory to eventual juvenile crime and beyond. Both forms instill a sense of helplessness in the child.

The third and final form of brutalization is Violent Coaching. This form is far more common than most would think. I was fortunate in the sense that I was never subjected to any of these brutalization practices but witnessed violent coaching on more than one occasion. Once again, I will defer to Dr. Athens to explain this form. “Novices are taught that they should not try to pacify, ignore, or run from their protagonist, but should personally attack them” It is little wonder that the transition from Phase1-Brutalization, to Phase 3-Violent Performances, is both understandable and almost natural. My intention is not to condone this metamorphosis but attempt to explain it. Dr. Athens himself is evidence that not all children follow this path however its influence is indisputable.

I chose to skip Stage 2-Belligerency, for the simple fact that I don’t wish to lengthen this article any more than is necessary (in other words, I don’t want to bore you). My intention is not to minimize the importance of Stages 2 and 4-Virulency, which is why I strongly recommend anyone interested to purchase Dr. Athens’ book. As previously stated, the transition from brutalization to violent performances is understandable and illustrates the need to recognize and address abuse as early as possible. “The subject, now belligerent, awaits only the proper circumstances to test his newly developed resolve to attack people physically with the serious intention of inflicting grave injury upon them.” (Athens, pg. 63) It is reasonable to argue that, at some point, we are all capable of distinguishing right from wrong. It is also reasonable to argue that a juvenile who has been subjected to years of violent subjugation, personal horrification, and violent coaching does not necessarily possess the capability to differentiate between the two. What they perceive to be “normal” can be vastly different from what is socially acceptable behavior.

The purpose of this article is to draw attention to the implications of ignoring the plight of abused children. The longer a child is subjected to any kind of abuse; the greater the cost is to society. My friend Mike Tikkanen writes in his book Invisible Children: “Nationally, four years is the average length of time for sexual abuse of a child within a toxic family before they are removed.” Four years of any form of abuse will inevitably lead to psychological problems that may require therapy. The likelihood that many will turn to crime further adds to the cost, not to mention the danger that will be incurred. Programs and services designed to prevent and address these issues are the first to be slashed by our short-sighted legislators. Perhaps if they took the time to consider the long-term effects and costs that result from their ignorance; they may look elsewhere when confronting budgetary woes.

I strongly recommend that anyone interested or concerned purchase the following books:
1)The Creation of Dangerous Violent Criminals by Lonnie H. Athens. Available at Amazon for $20.00
2) Invisible Children by Mike Tikkanen. Available at for $16.95

Thursday, August 27, 2009

RAGE-Adoloscent Illiteracy

I received a phone call Monday from a gentleman from Minnesota. Since I have redirected my focus from politics to child abuse and juvenile justice issues; I have been in touch with people from an organization called Invisible Children ( and KARA (Kids at Risk Action). Bob, the gentleman from Minnesota, is an active member of these organizations. To say he is passionate about these issues would be a gross understatement. We talked about a number of topics but one issue was particularly important to Bob (not to minimize the others)-literacy. I confess the fact that this is a major contributing factor to juvenile crime had completely escaped me. After our conservation, I decided to look into this further. Suffice it to say: Bob “knows of what he speaks.”

I would like to begin with a quote from the State Superintendent of Wisconsin regarding literacy. (

“At its core, literacy is the ability to read and write. While this ability remains the nexus of literacy of adolescents, additional abilities are needed to maximize learning in all content areas. In Wisconsin, we must infuse this core with the ability to invent, design, create, compute, and communicate so that adolescents can make critical judgments, solve real-world problems, and become productive citizens who lead rewarding lives.”

While researching the correlation between illiteracy and delinquency, I came across a paper by Lois S. Mohr-Corrigan entitled "Illiteracy and Juvenile Delinquency." In this paper, a series of studies and interviews were used to help explain, not justify, how illiteracy can lead to frustration and anger in youths. “Aggression is one of many emotions harbored by illiterate adolescents.” Their inability to express themselves leads them to delinquency as a means to release their anger. Michele Kipke, a source cited in the paper, explains how the pressure of being accepted during adolescence can adversely affect an individual throughout the course of their life. “…once shunned as an outcast for not fitting in, those feelings can follow an illiterate person around for the rest of his or her life, affecting every facet with its negativity.” It is here that teachers and other school officials can provide support to those affected. School is often the starting point for future successes and failures.

After studying Criminal Justice in college, my interest in the various theories explaining juvenile behavior prompted me to purchase a number of books concerning the varying theories. One of the books I purchased is entitled "Child and Youth Security Sourcebook." “Effective schools convey the attitude that all children can achieve academically and behave appropriately, while at the same time appreciating individual differences…Students who do not receive the support they need are less likely to behave in socially desirable ways.” Once again, the significance of recognizing and dealing with illiterate students is magnified. I daresay we have failed to do either in an effective manner.

While President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act gave the impression that the government was taking a more active role in improving education; it did little for the illiterate. Encouraging states to elevate their testing standards may have benefited those proficient in reading and writing skills; it exposed those with learning disabilities and the illiterate. This may have proven to be advantageous if the schools were equipped to address these problems but that was simply not the case. In 2002, $24.4 billion was earmarked for the new project. A paltry $1.2 billion was allocated for basic reading programs in 2002 which was a considerable increase from the amazingly low $286 million available in 2001.

Attending to the special needs of illiterate students has long been the purview of school counselors. Perhaps a portion of the aforementioned $24.4 billion should have been diverted to the American School Counselor Association. “Although ASCA recommends a 250 to 1 ratio of students to school counselors (WOW!), the national average is actually 475 (2006-2007) school year.” ( In the state of Illinois, the ratio is 1172 to 1!! Only 4 states have managed to adhere to the 250 to 1 ratio. Is it any wonder that thousands of illiterate children are allowed to “fall through the cracks”? Research has consistently shown that poor academic achievement contributes to crimes committed by delinquents.

In my conversation on Monday; Bob expressed his frustration concerning the absence of rage regarding illiteracy. His desire for societal rage; rage akin to that prevalent during the civil rights movement, is understandable. My research has opened my eyes to the blatant disregard for thousands of youths. The fact that this apathy has led to the incarceration of so many has certainly infused a rage within me. I would like to close with a quote from Michael S. Brummer, Visiting Fellow at the U.S. Department of Justice.

“The link between academic failure and delinquency is strong…Schools are apparently contributing to the delinquency problem by continuing to provide traditional programming that…leaves many students, after six years of instruction, unable to read accurately, fluently, and effortlessly with comprehension…What brings about the delinquency is not the academic failure per se, but sustained frustration which results from continued failure to achieve selected academic goals.” Derived from Brummer’s book "Retarding America: The Imprisonment of Potential."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Brandon Hein and the Murder-Felony Rule

While perusing through the latest edition of Newsweek, I came across an op-ed entitled WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME. The piece dealt with the plight of Brandon Hein, a young man who has been in prison for close to 14 years. Young Hein was sentenced in 1995 under the murder-felony rule that is only recognized in 24 states today. Reading this story brought me back to my days of studying Criminal Justice at Colorado Tech University. I recall, at the time, that I felt that the rule was inherently flawed in several ways. The penalty for being found guilty of felony-murder is limited to two options; death or life without the chance of parole. Though his sentence was commuted by Governor Schwarzenegger earlier this year; Brandon will still not be eligible for parole for another decade. A young man, who killed no one, will end up spending at least 24 years behind bars.

For those unfamiliar with Brandon’s story; I will do my best to summarize the events that led to his incarceration. On May 22, 1995, Brandon and a couple of his friends had been drinking and were in search of some marijuana. When they stopped by an acquaintance’s home to purchase the marijuana; a fight broke out between one of Brandon’s friends and one of the boys selling the marijuana. Unfortunately; a knife was introduced into the fight and the death of one of the dealers resulted. This occurred in Agoura Hills, CA; close to the site of the famous O.J. acquittal and the Menendez brothers’ hung jury. It’s also important to note that the youth who was killed was the son of a police officer.

I would like to clarify that I am in no way defending the actions of any of the youths. The problem I have is the American concept of the punishment befitting the crime. In cases where the murder-felony is invoked; the prosecution is at a distinct advantage since intent, a major component in any other murder case does not need to be established. Simply put: Anyone who is in the company of someone who commits a crime where a murder occurs is automatically charged with felony-murder. In this case; the crime was an apparent attempted robbery of an illegal substance. It is little wonder that 26 states do not have this rule. Had the tragedy not happened; I highly doubt the police would have been involved at all. I digress.

From the U.S. Supreme Court case Enmund v. Florida (1982):
“Neither deterrence of capital crimes nor retribution is a sufficient justification for executing petitioner. It is unlikely that the threat of the death penalty will measurably deter one such as petitioner, who does not intend to kill. As to retribution, this depends on the degree of petitioner’s culpability, which must be limited to his participation of the robbery.”

I am aware that judicial jargon is often difficult to decipher but let’s concentrate on the final line. “As to retribution, this depends on the degree of petitioner’s culpability, which must be limited to his participation of the robbery.” Aside from the fact that the robbery was of an illegal substance; Brandon’s sole participation was the robbery itself. While many, if not most, Supreme Court decisions are deemed to be precedents-Enmund v. Florida has been completely ignored.

To further highlight the injustice of Brandon’s case, let’s take a look at the sentencing guideline for 1st degree murder and its definition. In California, the sentence for 1st degree murder is 25 years to life. This leaves open the possibility of parole-Brandon’s doesn’t it. 1st degree murder is defined as: “An intentional killing by means of poison, or by lying in wait, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate and premeditated action.” First of all; Brandon’s sentence, even with the Governor’s commutation, is more severe than someone found guilty of premeditated murder. Second; by definition, 1st degree murder is FAR more heinous than anything Brandon did.

I consider the case of Brandon Hein to be both appalling and embarrassing for the entire judicial system. While Americans sit in judgment of Iran, China, and North Korea regarding their inhumane treatment of prisoners and their judicial system in general; an 18 year old young man has been forced to spend the most important years of his life in a maximum security prison. In order to reduce the budget woes of the state; California has announced that they intend to release 40,000 prisoners over the next two years. If Brandon Hein is not among the 40,000 released; the entire California legislature and its judicial system should be ashamed of themselves.

For anyone interested in learning more about Brandon; visit http://

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Tragic Story of Dae'von Bailey

The recent arrest of Marcus Fisher in Las Vegas, the murderer of 6 year old Dae'von Bailey, has brought the failure of the Department of Social Services to the attention of citizens nationwide. Fisher had been pursued and is now being charged with the murder of Dae'von Bailey on July 23rd. This article will address the apathy (fiscally rationalized)prevalent and how easily and often, neglected and abused children are allowed to fall through the cracks. What you will discover is that, all too often, these tragedies could have been avoided simply by people doing their jobs. You will also see how budget cuts in many states have resulted in the deaths of children who are forced to live in similar conditions that Dae'von lived in.

Fisher was arrested on August 19th after evading police since the murder. His arrest was the result of a manhunt that involved members of the LAPD, Las Vegas PD, and the U.S. Marshall's Service. I think it's important to note that this multi-agency task force was created in a matter of days. The irony of this will become clear as the details of young Dae'von's story is unveiled.

"In the months before he died, Dae'von told adults at school that Fisher had punched him in the stomach and had slammed his head into a bathroom sink. He repeated the complaints to social workers who interviewed him and to medical professionals who examined him for injuries. But he was sent back twice to his violent home."

There is definitely enough blame to be placed concerning this horrible story. There are also a number of questions that need to be answered. The question that I have is: Why is it possible for law enforcement agencies to coordinate efforts to apprehend a single person when schools, social service agencies, and the medical community are unable to share information that would have saved the life of a young boy?? Much of the blame for the inefficiency of the DSS can be placed on the fact that these agencies are often the target for budget cuts. California, a state deeply affected by the present economic climate, has proposed to slash $3.3 billion from the system.

"According to research from 2008, 14 children who died under the protection of child welfare agencies in L.A. were neglected because of 'breakdowns in the system in which some agencies knew about potential abuse but failed to share their information with other agencies. In other cases, investigators found that poor decisions by social workers had contributed to their deaths.'"

Though budgetary problems contribute to the allowance of neglect and abuse perpetrated against children; it does little to excuse the death of Dae'von and others. The L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services had received an estimated 12 complaints of abuse concerning Dae'von; many of which were reported by the school. Despite these complaints, the agencies involved were unable to effectively work together to remove Dae'von from an obviously dangerous environment. Yet, after the murder; a multi-agency task force was quickly formed (no problem with coordination there). Is it too much for us ask that people do their jobs?

Information for this article was derived from the following sources:,0,3577922.colum?track=rss

Saturday, August 15, 2009

If You Build It; They Will Come

For the past seven months, I have devoted my writing to the political arena. This is a volatile area under normal circumstances but with the advent of health care reform; the debates have become more heated and frustrating. Liberals and conservatives have both established their positions on the topic and unwavering would be an accurate description of these positions. The problems lie with the distortion of the intent of the bill by the conservatives and the ever-changing promises being made by President Obama. Sarah Palin’s allegation of the existence of “death panels” and Obama’s willingness to deal with the special interest groups he promised to avoid has fueled an already blazing fire.

My original objective when I began blogging was to be somewhat of an advocate for the need of reform in the Juvenile Justice system. Looking through the nearly 50 articles I have written; I became aware that only one of them dealt with the system and its need for reform. The present political landscape coupled with my detraction from my original goal has induced me to redirect my focus. A blatant case of exploitation and corruption was brought to my attention by a fellow blogger and friend. This story, which continues to unfold, has certainly caught my attention and will be the topic of this article.

Two judges in Pennsylvania have pleaded guilty to a litany of charges leveled against them in U.S. Federal Court. These are the result of an investigation prompted by Bob Schwartz, president of the Juvenile Law Center. For those interested in reading more on the investigation; visit The sordid details of the investigation were reported to the public by Amy Goodman of DEMOCRACY NOW. According to Goodman; Schwartz chose to begin the investigation after receiving a number of complaints regarding the excessive sentencing practices of judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan.

Schwartz’s investigation led him to cases dating back to 2003. The two judges have “pleaded guilty to taking bribes for placing youths in privately owned jails.” It is estimated that the two received a staggering $2.6 million. Along with the bribery charges; they are also charged with wire fraud and income tax fraud (tough to declare bribery revenue). What I find equally, if not more detestable is the allegation that both Ciavarella and Conahan were complicit in facilitating the construction of these detention centers.

During my research, I found an article by John Schwartz of the New York Times on a web site aptly called: PEOPLE YOU’LL SEE IN HELL. In the article, Schwartz details the ease in which these sentencing practices were allowed to go unnoticed. By doing so; he touches on some of the flaws inherent to the entire system: Flaws that I will be addressing in a future article. Due to the seriousness and magnitude of this injustice; the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania assigned a Special Master, Senior Judge Arthur E. Grimm, to the case.

"The special master had submitted an 11-page report that there was routine deprivation of children's constitutional rights."

Due to Judge Grimm’s findings, hundreds of juvenile records were ordered expunged by the Supreme Court.

Goodman of DEMOCRCY NOW had the opportunity to interview two of the juveniles sentenced by the judges. Jamie Quinn, a first time offender and 14 years old at the time, was charged with simple assault and harassment. This incident revolved around an argument Ms. Quinn had with a friend that resulted in a “slap.” Despite the fact that no injuries were reported; Jamie was ordered to serve a 4 month sentence at PA Child Care; one of the privately owned detention centers Ciavarella and Conahan received bribes from and assisted in their securing funds to be constructed.

The other victim of this travesty that was interviewed was Kurt Kruger, another first time offender. Kruger was deemed to be a “lookout” for his girlfriend who was shoplifting. According to reports; Kruger had moved out of his home due to problems between Kurt and his father. Because of this, he never received notification that the court had chosen to go forward with the charges. He believed they had decided to ignore this frivolous charge because his girlfriend (the one who actually shoplifted) was never summoned to appear. When Kruger missed his scheduled hearing; an arrest warrant was issued. After his arrest, without the benefit of counsel, he was sentenced to by Ciavarella in a 90 second hearing!

Perhaps the most troubling case (not to minimize the others) involved 15 year old Hillary Transoe. Hillary was charged with harassment for posting a parody of her high school Vice President on her MySpace page. She was sentenced to 3 months in one of the detention centers. Three months for a parody?? Wow-considering some of the things I pulled in high school; Ciavarella or Conahan might have sentenced me to life! These are just a few examples of the injustices perpetrated by these judges between 2003 and 2008. An increasingly large number of civil suits have been filed as a result of these discoveries.

As I mentioned previously; there are a number of constitutional rights that are habitually ignored in our Juvenile Justice system. Given the fact that hundreds of records have been expunged due to the revelations brought to light by this investigation; it is only natural to question how many lives have been irrevocably damaged. As a condition of their guilty plea, Ciavarella and Conahan have agreed to an 87 month sentence in a federal prison. I’m sorry; that’s not good enough for me. I would like to see them spend 87 months for every life they ruined because of their pathological greed.

One of the things I plan to address in a future article will be the change in focus of the juvenile judicial system. The long accepted approach of counseling and rehabilitation has been replaced by a more punitive guideline. While health care reform is dominating the attention of our legislators and society; juvenile justice reform has been all but ignored for decades. Bringing this to the attention of as many people as possible is my new objective. I can only hope that people are more receptive to new ideas and possible solutions to juvenile justice than they have been to health care reform.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bounced From TODAY.COM

I was recently banned from posting my articles to a political blog site known as TODAY.COM. The reason, or reasons, for my expulsion remain unclear though I confess I have developed a seemingly obvious theory. What troubles me most is the outright fabrication I was given by the administration as cause for my dismissal. I will attempt to give you the abridged version of what transpired so as not to bore you.

This saga began some weeks ago when a sudden influx of the Christian Right (fundamentalists) began posting their articles in the political forum at TODAY.COM. One article in particular, : Contradictions In the Bible, was the catalyst for the ensuing firestorm. For purposes of clarification; TODAY.COM is structured in a fashion that enables the writers to engage in debates concerning the articles posted. It's important to note that my own feelings regarding religion are not pertinent to this argument. The objection many of us had was with the propagating of religious views in a venue that was dedicated to politics.

One particular writer; one of great passion and well respected, became increasingly agitated as more of these articles began to appear. I can assure you-he was not alone. I should inform you that there is a separate section at TODAY.COM designated for articles pertaining to religion. The aforementioned was very outspoken, as is his way, concerning the presence of these articles as well as their content. A rather heated debate broke out and in one of his replies; the administration censored his comment claiming that courtesy was more important than content. This is an odd perspective in a political blog site. I found it rather ironic to find a blatant infringement of the 1st Amendment perpetrated in said forum. They refused to post his comment and informed him of that via e-mail. He then proceeded to post the e-mail, which was censored, and this resulted in his expulsion. Many of us were of the opinion that we were all being punished since we were now going to be deprived of his unique style and perspectives on both domestic and foreign issues. A couple of writers, myself included, voiced our objection by way of articles and tributes-all to no avail.

On Sunday of this week; I made a personal and, what I thought to be, a respectful plea for his reinstatement.

"I respectfully request that you reconsider your position concerning dsent (Naked Emperor) and allow him back into your political section. His passion and perspectives are sorely missed..."

The reply I received was a nonsensical attempt at rationalizing their decision by citing how he had violated the "Terms and Conditions" of their site. Heil Hitler! Though I confess to expecting nothing less; they included completely false allegations against myself.

"Please know that we've had no problem with your published content but are concerned with your efforts to repeatedly contact us with complaints about other bloggers without merit for the mere fact that their politics are different than your own or because a fellow blogger/friend of yours was dismissed."

Ignoring their grammatical errors and that incredibly long run-on sentence; I have NEVER contacted them to complain about any bloggers' differing views. When I responded to refute these ridiculous assertions; I found myself in the same company as my friend-BANISHED!

"We are sorry that you are not happy blogging in the network and since you feel the need to keep contacting us repeatedly in this manner we have no recourse but to deactivate your account... Our decision is based on your actions of the past few weeks where you've continually complained about other bloggers and how works."

Once again; I have never complained about another blogger to them and I have challenged them to back up their bullshit. I do admit to inquiring why one particular author, who just happened to be the central figure in the previously mentioned debate, was consistently being given the "Featured Blog" slot. TODAY.COM is a site where you are paid (if you want to call it that) based on the amount of traffic your article generates. Being given that slot is a definite advantage. The fact that I find her articles to be nothing more than baseless, unsubstantiated rants is irrelevant. I made my inquiry utilizing TWITTER and once I received their horseshit explanation; I let it go. END OF STORY! Apparently; along with being lousy writers, they are a bit reactionary as well.

What I find disturbing is both their unfounded allegations directed at me and their ability to expel anyone who disagrees with their convoluted view of what is acceptable to post. They seem to have no problem allowing racial slurs to be posted on their site. Since their claim that I "repeatedly" contacted them is easily refuted; I am unable to come up with any other explanation. What confuses me is the fact that advertisements pay for their site yet they chose to expel two writers who contributed to their readership. However: what truly bothers me is that I had developed an enjoyable camaraderie with a number of fellow writers, albeit via e-mails and comments to articles, that I am sure to miss.

To close: for good or bad-I will be posting here on a regular basis where there is no fear of censorship. I will definitely miss the interaction available at TODAY.COM but I can live without the hypocrisy. My friend also posts here and you can find him at: I strongly recommend you visit his site as I have no doubt you will enjoy reading his articles as much as I do.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pakistan Needs To Make Up Their Mind

An article recently published in the New York Times has both infuriated and confused me. This article deals with complaints made by Pakistani officials concerning our increased presence in Afghanistan. I admit that this entire situation has a personal side to it. One of my best friend’s sons, whom I babysat as an infant, is an officer in the USMC. He is presently deployed in Afghanistan and as a platoon leader; is in the middle of this “increased presence.” I have previously written articles voicing my objection to their president’s, Ali Zardari, method of requesting aid via the Washington Post. Presently, we have pledged $1.5 billion per year for the next 5 years to help stimulate Pakistan’s economy. Considering we have done such a superb job stimulating our own; forgive me if I find a considerable amount of irony in that gesture.

“Pakistani officials have told the Obama administration that the Marines fighting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan will force militants across the border into Pakistan…”

I have apparently been mistaken in my perception that this was a joint effort. I had assumed that the Taliban posed as great a threat to Pakistan as it does to the U.S. In fact; after my posting about Zardari on a different site; I received the following comment from a Pakistani national. (I wasn’t aware I had such a broad readership.)

Zameer said:
this author from USA has critized upon the opinion written by our elected president of Pakistan in Washington post ; Remember ,Zardari has all the basic rights to write , speak or propagate for Pakistan and people of Pakistan has given him this right ; I am a common man in Pakistan ; i think if president Zardari is demanding more and more support from USA , then he is doing very well ; his Pakistani troops (both civilian and army are being killed by Taliban ; and if Zardari does not stop them , then Mr. author , your throat will also be cut by some Taliban leader one day ; face the facts and do not mix up the things ; When your own secretary of state Hilary Clinton admits and takes the responsibility of creation of alqaeda and Taliban then why you cry over Mr. Zardari if he writes the same truth in Washington post ; please do not bother regarding nuclear arsenals of Pakistan rather bother your own pentagon which was attacked by alqaead in 9/11 despite all security arrangements ; Zardari is not corrupt ; no court has been able to find proofs of his corruption ; correct your record accordingly '; Mr. Zardari is not only leading anti terrorism war for Pakistan’s survival rather yours survival as well;

OK Zameer; you got it. Though I find my friend’s accusations to be absurd; it displays why I am so confused over this sudden change in attitude regarding the pursuit of the Taliban. It’s important to note that Zardari was quoted as saying; “This is our war. It is our wives and children who are being killed.” Wrong again Zardari! Has he forgotten that 3,000 innocent Americans were killed by these people? He has consistently sought our help in fighting these insurgents and now they consider our more concerted effort to be a threat to their security.

“Pakistani officials still consider India their top priority and the Taliban militants a problem that can be negotiated. In the long term, the Taliban in Afghanistan may even remain potential allies for Pakistan…” WHAAAAT?

Yes, the Taliban has long been applauded for their willingness to negotiate. You need only ask the innocent civilians in Afghanistan to find out how willing the Taliban is to reach peaceful resolutions. My confusion is based on the sudden change of heart. It was less than 2 weeks ago that the Pakistani Army confronted the Taliban in the Swat Valley with considerable success.

“Last year, Washington presented evidence to Pakistani leaders that Mr. Haqqani, working with Inter-Services Intelligence, was responsible for the bombing last summer of the Indian Embassy in Kabul that killed 54 people.”

Ah hah-now I’m starting to get it! Haqquani is an Afghan Taliban leader who the U.S. contest is operating under Pakistani protection. So, apparently, as long as the Taliban strikes at India from time to time-they get a pass. Joe Klein writes in Time Magazine:

“In the latest National Interest, Bruce Riedel-who led the Obama Administration’s Afghanistan and Pakistan policy review-suggests that a coup led by Islamist, Taliban-sympathetic elements of the Pakistani army remains a very real possibility. Pakistan has at least 60 nuclear weapons. The chance that al-Qaeda sympathizers might gain access to those weapons is the real issue in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

From what I can ascertain from all of this is that while our young men and women are risking their lives; Pakistan has redirected their focus from the Taliban back to India. Of course; India has always been Pakistan’s biggest threat. However, to attempt to detract our focus away from our objective is bullshit. To Pakistan I say: If you don’t wish to join us anymore-stay the fuck out of the way. This is our fight and always has been. To even suggest that we change direction is a slap in the face to our soldiers. So step aside Pakistan and let our troops do their job and when we’re done-you can do all the negotiating you want with those murdering pieces of shit. What do you have to say for yourself now Zameer?