Sunday, December 27, 2009

Infragard allows San Diego lawyers like Andy Serwin to interact secretly with the FBI


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

InfraGard is a program run by the United States Federal government, which partners Federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies with private corporations, so that they can share intelligence information with each other.

As of December 2009, there were over 34,000 corporations and government agencies who were members.

Infragard began in the Cleveland, Ohio, Field Office in 1996, and has since expanded to become a national-level program, with Infraguard coordinators in every FBI field office...

Claims of The Progressive magazine

In early 2008, Matthew Rothschild reported in the journal The Progressive that there were 86 chapters and 23,000 InfraGard members in various businesses involved in critical infrastructure in the United States, and that several InfraGard members had stated that they had been told in private that in the event of martial law being declared in the United States, the InfraGard members would have the right to "shoot to kill" and would not be prosecuted for this. The FBI has denied this...

The Progressive also reported the concerns of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that there "is evidence that InfraGard may be closer to a corporate TIPS program, turning private-sector corporations — some of which may be in a position to observe the activities of millions of individual customers — into surrogate eyes and ears for the FBI".

Infragard allows San Diego lawyers like Foley & Lardner's Andy Serwin to interact secretly with the FBI

From Foley & Lardner website:
...He is also a member of the San Diego Chapter of the San Diego FBI Infragard Group, an organization dedicated to promoting ongoing dialogue and timely communication between information technology companies and the FBI. As a member, he receives daily, non-public briefings on information security and other threats, including early warnings about new attacks on financial services companies or healthcare providers...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Most learned ayatollah in Iran, Hossein Ali Montazeri, mourned by protesters

Mourners Of Iranian Cleric Protest During Funeral
by The Associated Press
December 21, 2009

Tens of thousands of Iranian mourners turned the funeral procession of the country's most senior dissident cleric into an anti-government protest Monday, chanting "death to the dictator" and slogans in support of the opposition amid heavy security.

Witnesses said security forces clamped down in Iran's holy city of Qom where massive crowds streamed in for the funeral rites for Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who died Sunday at age 87.

One opposition Web site reported clashes outside Montazeri's home between security forces and mourners, who threw stones. Iranian authorities have barred foreign media from covering the rites, and witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of arrest.

Montazeri's death pushed Iranian authorities into a difficult spot. They were obliged to pay respects to one of the patriarchs of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the one-time heir apparent to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. But officials also worried that Montazeri's memorials could become new rallying points for opposition demonstrations. The ayatollah broke with Iran's clerical leadership and became a vehement critic, denouncing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and calling the postelection crackdown the work of a dictatorship.

Republican Senator Tom Coburn prays that God will stop a Democrat from voting for health care reform

Coburn Did Not Wish 'Misfortune' on Colleagues With Prayer Remark, Aide Says
December 21, 2009

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn did not wish "misfortune" on anyone when he asked people to pray that lawmakers miss a key vote on health care reform, a spokesman said Monday, rejecting suggestions from Democrats that the Oklahoma doctor was wishing ill on his colleagues.

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn did not wish "misfortune" on anyone when he asked people to pray that lawmakers miss a key vote on health care reform, a spokesman said Monday, rejecting suggestions from Democrats that the Oklahoma doctor was wishing ill on his colleagues.

Rather, Coburn was hoping -- praying, even -- that sleep-deprived Democrats would hit the snooze button one too many times and miss the vote scheduled for 1 a.m. ET Monday morning...

The call to prayer didn't work. The vote to end health care debate and move to final passage was successful. But the Coburn comment touched off the latest war of words between Republicans and Democrats over health care.

"What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can't make the vote tonight," Coburn said Sunday ahead of the vote. "That's what they ought to pray, so that we can actually get ... the middle of America and the middle of the Senate a bill that can run through this country and actually do what we say we all want to do."

Democrats interpreted that as a threat.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., took to the floor shortly afterward to rebuke Coburn and call for a clarification.

"I don't think it's appropriate to be invoking prayer to wish misfortune on a colleague. I want him to clarify that," he said. "This statement goes too far. The simple reality is this -- we are becoming more coarse and more divided here." ...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

LA Times: School district doesn't effectively evaluate teachers

At Chula Vista Elemetnary School District, principals seldom observed me or other teachers, but they did fill out evaluations. If I were a principal, I'd want to hear teachers' thoughts and ideas about teaching. In almost 3 decades of teaching, I never had such a conversation with an administrator. If the district had some idea of what was really going on at Castle Park Elementary, it could have saved $100,000s in legal costs. It had no idea how confused and disturbed certain teachers were when it allowed those teachers to dictate decisions at the district office.

Bar set low for lifetime job in L.A. schools
Los Angeles Unified often hands out tenure with little or no review of novice instructors' ability or their students' performance.
By Jason Felch, Jessica Garrison and Jason Song
December 20, 2009

Altair Maine said he was so little supervised in his first few years of teaching at North Hollywood High School that he could "easily have shown a movie in class every day and earned tenure nonetheless."

Before second-grade teacher Kimberly Patterson received tenure and the ironclad job protections it provides, she said, "my principal never set foot in my classroom while I was teaching."

And when Virgil Middle School teacher Roberto Gonzalez came up for tenure, he discovered there was no evaluation for him on file. When he inquired about it, his school hastily faxed one to district headquarters.

"I'm pretty sure it was just made up on the spot," Gonzalez said.

There is nothing to suggest these teachers didn't deserve tenure, but the district did little to ensure they were worthy.

A Times investigation found that the Los Angeles Unified School District routinely grants tenure to new teachers after cursory reviews -- and sometimes none at all.

Evaluating new teachers for tenure is one of a principal's most important responsibilities...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The octopus uses tools, solves mazes

Tool Use Found in Octopuses
Wired Science
Brandon Keim
December 14, 2009

After years of surprising scientists with their cleverness and smarts, some octopuses appear to also use tools.

Veined octopuses observed off the coast of Indonesia carried coconut shell halves under their bodies, and assembled them as necessary into shelters — something that wasn’t supposed to be possible in their corner of the animal kingdom.

“To date, invertebrates have generally been regarded as lacking the cognitive abilities to engage in such sophisticated behaviors,” wrote Museum Victoria biologists who described the octopuses in a paper published Monday in Current Biology. “The discovery of this octopus tiptoeing across the sea floor with its prized coconut shells suggests that even marine invertebrates engage in behaviors that we once thought the preserve of humans.”

In captivity, some species of octopuses have solved mazes, remembered cues and passed other cognitive tests typically associated with advanced vertebrates. More anecdotally, they’re known for popping aquarium hoods, raiding other tanks and demonstrating what might be called mischief.

All this has come as a bit of a surprise to scientists. After all, octopuses are descended from mollusks. They’re more closely related to clams than to people...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

John Pruitt describes Chino Valley Unified (CVUSD) fiascos: $609,164.72 to Dan Shinoff; A Superintendent closed schools for personal reasons

It appears that a former superintendent closed schools just to lower the number of schools in Program Improvement

'Another fine mess' for CVUSD
John Pruitt
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
December 12, 2009

The state action of placing Chino Valley Unified School District in PI (Program Improvement) status is a sad commentary on education for the CVUSD community. Basically, CVUSD failed to educate English-learner students based on AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) scores.

Wayne Joseph, the new CVUSD superintendent, must be repeating the words of Oliver Hardy from the comedy team of Laurel and Hardy - "Here's another fine mess you have gotten me into" - when thinking of former former superintendent Edmond Heatley's administrative management skills.

When the school board approved the closure of Gird, El Rancho and Los Serranos, the board was oblivious to the true reason behind the superintendent's recommendation. It was not savings vs. cost but to improve Heatley's chances to leave CVUSD. Heatley wanted three fewer PI schools on his resume. Three PI schools were eliminated but the English-learner students are our children, and they remained.

CVUSD had six PI schools and five were in danger of a state takeover. Each school was in the latter stage of a five-year improvement plan, and little progress had been made. After five years, the state of California has the option to take over a school. It was professionally unhealthy for a superintendent to be relieved of his responsibility of management; and there lies the reason for the unwise closures.

Although state mandates for student performance for categories such as English-learners, socioeconomically disadvantaged students, African-American students, Asian students, Latino students and special needs students are challenging, CVUSD should not be in PI status. If Upland USD, Walnut USD and Claremont USD are not in PI, then Chino Valley certainly should not be in PI status.

NCLB (No Child Left Behind) and state mandates are rising to irrational levels. There is a possibility other school districts will fall into PI status. But, CVUSD did not implement existing resources to avoid being placed in PI.

CVUSD's API (Academic Performance Index) scores are excellent. The school board gave Heatley raises based on API scores. That was a major mistake. A raise based on performance is a good idea, but performance should be assessed on a scale that is measurable and has balance (incentive).

Chino Valley USD is located in an area where high API scores occur due to factors of economics, education level of parents and parental involvement. All school districts have dedicated teachers giving their best effort to promote student achievement; that is the common thread among all school districts. The home environment of a student is the single most motivating factor regarding student achievement; of course there are rare exceptions. That is why some districts struggle with low scores and a school district like Chino Valley has high scores. Heatley was given raises based on factors he had absolutely nothing to do with in raising scores. The board missed that point in assessing Heatley on measurable factors.

The balance (incentive) factor is when a benefit is given for good performance, and a benefit is withheld when performance does not meet expectations. Heatley was given a raise based on an imbalanced assessment. A raise to a superintendent can never be taken back due to state law. The school board should have set another criterion to hold the superintendent accountable for performance.

When we review CVUSD catastrophes - the loss of $7.5 million in state funding due to two school sites not meeting state minimum minutes (CVUSD became a laughingstock in local and national news media); the loss of $947,404.62 in legal fees to Lewis Operating Corp. on the Preserve fiasco; the loss in legal fees to Dan Shinoff and law firm of $609,164.72 to represent CVUSD on the Preserve fiasco; placing legal counsel under the authority of the superintendent; the decision of moving Briggs to the Preserve school and the reversal; the decision of moving the agriculture program at Chino High to Don Lugo and the reversal; the loss of 60 percent of highly specialized speech and language pathologists (12 of 20); the needless elimination of three schools with devastating results to the community; the uncalled for disruption of student life from the three closed schools; flip-flop decisions on transportation fees and other fee services; the misinformation of the budget with a questionable $44 million deficit; weekend overtime pay to staff due to the closed schools; the layoff of 171 teachers and 47 CSEA employees (all layoffs could have been avoided); CVUSD in PI status by the state, and failure to hold Heatley accountable - one wonders: Where was the board? ...

John Pruitt is a former board member of Chino Valley Unified School District. He lives in Chino.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Secrecy in schools--and in the media

The authors below seems to agree with the things I said in "Free the Union-Tribune 5!"

The Educated Reporter

Commentary on education coverage, writing and a few other things
Linda Perlstein
December 7, 2009

Everything that’s wrong with us, Part Two. The biggest barrier to excellent education journalism has nothing to do with the institutional weaknesses of that clunky old mainstream media. Rather, it lies within the schoolhouse doors. And the boardroom doors. And the superintendent’s office doors.

Educators operate in a culture of fear.

Schools bar access to reporters, and that is a problem. Always has been. Worse, though, is the paranoia that prevents anyone, from the top on down, from speaking honestly about what works and doesn’t in education, what policy might look like (or does look like) in action. If I were a principal and politicians were visiting my school, I would show them the worst things in the building, so they could see our challenges. I would allow my teachers to speak with the press, without prepackaged messages to deliver. I would be starkly frank with my own bosses. But these days, there is no incentive for such honesty...

So teachers only tell their principals what they want to hear, principals tell their superintendents what they want to hear, superintendents tell their boards what they want to hear, all the way up to the national policy makers. Given that calculus, of course, the truth that makes its way to the vast majority of journalists is varnished to a glow.

Education is a secretive world. (Not convinced? Think about the fact that we have built an entire system around the results of tests that in most states nobody outside the classroom is allowed to see.) But with access and honesty comes greater understanding. For ages, the Washington Post had so little access to D.C. schools that they only covered the district as the inept bureaucracy it largely was...There was blame enough for everyone: central office, school administrators, parents, Jonathan himself.

... Superintendents tell me that because they can control their own message through electronic media, they don’t “need” journalists anymore. That scares the crap out of me, and it should scare you too.

To Write About Curriculum, Reporters Need Classroom Access

By Mary Ann Zehr
December 7, 2009

A former reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer remarked to my colleague Lesli Maxwell that for journalists to better cover classroom issues in schools, they need to have better access to classrooms. Lesli included the views of Dale Mezzacappa in a story about a report by the Brookings Institution that documents a lack of education stories on the front pages of mainstream newspapers nationwide. The report also concludes that education gets scant attention in the top news stories produced by radio and television reporters.

Mezacappa's remarks resonated with me because I've found that the ability I have to provide examples of how a school's curriculum plays out in the classroom depends on whether I'm permitted to spend a lot of time observing in classrooms.

I sometimes find it difficult to convince school administrators that when I visit a school, I want to spend at least a whole day observing students and teachers, rather than taking a tour of the school and mostly interviewing administrators. With observation, I can identify examples to show how a curriculum is implemented. See this story I wrote about summer philosophy classes to get a sense of examples I gleaned from a day of observation. And even in this policy story about Striving Readers, a federal adolescent-literacy program, I was able to provide a classroom example at the end of the story because Chicago public schools gave me good access to classrooms during a site visit.

The Brookings Institution report decries the lack of news coverage of curriculum.

One way that school officials might be able to urge reporters to take a greater interest in curriculum is to invite them to observe in classrooms.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

How can teachers and administrators stop bullying when so many of them model it? Suicide of Ryan Halligan in Provo, Utah

Bullying a cause of suicide, not a rite of passage
By Donald W. Meyers
The Salt Lake Tribune

When John Halligan's son Ryan committed suicide six years ago at the age of 13, he and his wife tore the house apart looking for the suicide note that would explain why he did it.

They didn't find one. But when Halligan, then an engineer with IBM in Vermont, logged onto his son's instant messaging account, he found the answer he was looking for: Ryan Halligan was a victim of cyberbullying.

Halligan was the keynote speaker at the 10th Annual Suicide Prevention Conference at Brigham Young University on Friday. The conference was conducted by the Utah County HOPE Task Force, a coalition of community groups focused on preventing suicide, and attracted educators, social workers and students.

Greg Hudnall, HOPE's executive director, said the group this year is attempting to get at the root causes of teen suicide, including bullying in its many forms.

"People don't realize the impact of bullying," he said.

Barbara Blotter, student services director at Nebo School District, said students who know a friend is being bullied can let counselors or parents know, especially if the friend threatens suicide. Because some signs of suicidal behavior -- depression, drastic changes in behavior, falling grades, feelings of loneliness, extreme sensitivity, impulsive behavior or drug and alcohol abuse -- can be mistaken for teen angst, Blotter said the key is erring on the side of caution.

"One of the things we do as counselors, if we have a question [about whether a student is suicidal], we don't let them leave until we notify their parents and let them know," Blotter said in an interview.

Cyberbullying makes school administrators' jobs more difficult, Blotter said. The problem: The bullying takes place on home computers outside school -- and outside a principal's jurisdiction. But Blotter said the school can intervene if the online bullying disrupts school life.

Halligan said bullying was a major factor in his son's suicide.

A bully and his friends targeted Ryan, who had problems with learning and physical coordination, in fifth grade. The taunting became so bad that in seventh grade, Ryan asked his parents to take him out of school. He said talking to the principal would only make matters worse, since he would be labeled a "tattletale."

Instead, Halligan and his son turned to one of their favorite movies, "The Karate Kid," about a bullied teen who develops self-confidence and defeats his tormentor through the discipline of martial arts. But Ryan chose kick-boxing instead of karate, and he and his father practiced in the basement.

Ryan had a showdown with his oppressor, and he thought the bullying was over. Near the end of the school year, he said he had befriended the bully, which Halligan now believes was a mistake.

That summer, he said Ryan spent most of his time on the computer. After Ryan's suicide, Halligan learned from Ryan's friends online and through chat logs that Ryan was the target of a rumor that he was gay, a rumor spread by the bully who was supposedly now his friend...

Chino Valley Unified School District contracts for legal services

See John Pruitt on Chino Valley Unified problems.

Chino Valley Unified School District
Regular Meeting of the Board of Education
October 16, 2008
Approved payment for legal services to the law offices of Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost, LLP and a law firm that prefers to be anonymous in these pages.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Are the people in charge of your school corrupt? New movie about New Jersey schools: The Cartel.

New Movie Unveils Corrupt New Jersey Public Schools
From Joseph E. Moser on Friday, October 9, 2009

“Teachers punished for speaking out. Principals fired for trying to do the right thing. Union leaders defending the indefensible. Bureaucrats blocking new charter schools. Teens who can't read, parents desperate for change, and teachers struggling to launch stable alternative schools for inner city kids who want to learn.” This is New Jersey and its monopolistic public school system – a system that can spend nearly “$400,000 per classroom, and yet only 39 percent of the state’s eighth-graders are proficient or advanced readers, and only 40 percent of its eighth-graders are proficient or advanced in math.”

These are just some of the people and issues introduced to us in a new movie The Cartel.

Faith-based pardons: Huckabee pardoned Clemmons and others who got Baptist ministers to intercede

Nov 30, 2009
Mike Huckabee's fatally bad judgment
Brutality by another Huck-pardoned criminal suggests the 2012 GOP hopeful listened more to pastors than prosecutors
By Joe Conason
Reuters and AP

Maurice Clemmons, a person of interest in the killing of four Lakewood Police officers in Parkland, Wash., Sunday.

If clemency for Maurice Clemmons were the only fatal error committed by Mike Huckabee as governor of Arkansas, he might be able to shift blame to the state's law enforcement system and even run for president again in 2012. Yet the Clemmons commutation that he granted nine years ago is only one among several cases that raise serious questions about Huckabee's judgment.

[When] Clemmons, the fugitive suspect in the shooting deaths of four police officers, was hit in the torso by return fire from one of the cops who later died, he escaped...

The damage to his political future will hinge on how deeply news organizations now delve into those cases -- and the bizarre faith-based rationale behind his use of the clemency and pardon powers of the governor.

Huckabee has proudly declared on many occasions that he disdains the separation of church and state, insisting that his strict Baptist piety should serve as the bedrock of public policy. Nowhere in his record as governor was the influence of religious zeal felt more heavily than in the distribution of pardons and commutations, as his own explanations have indicated. During those years he granted more commutations and pardons than any governor during the previous four decades, many of them surely justified as a response to excessive penalties under the state's draconian narcotics laws. But others were deeply controversial, especially because so many of his acts of mercy appeared to depend on interventions by fellow Baptist preachers and by inmate professions of renewed Christian faith.

No doubt word spread among the prison population that the affable governor was vulnerable to appeals from convicts who claimed to be born again. Clemmons too was among those who benefited from Huckabee's tendency to believe such pious testimonials...

Surely the most notorious instance of misplaced mercy involved Wayne Dumond, a rapist and murderer now deceased, who was originally sent to prison in Arkansas for raping a distant cousin of Bill Clinton. During Clinton's presidency the Dumond case became an obsession among certain right-wing pundits and politicians, who insisted that Dumond had been framed and brutalized by the "Clinton machine." When Huckabee became governor, he supported a parole for Dumond, winning applause from the Republican right -- until the former prisoner raped and killed a young woman in Missouri. Dumond later died in prison, under suspicion that he had murdered at least one other woman after his Arkansas release -- a tragic outcome for which Huckabee has repeatedly tried to blame others, including his two Democratic predecessors in the statehouse.

The real engine behind Dumond's release, however, was a Baptist minister and ultra-conservative ideologue named Jay Cole, who also happened to be a friend of Huckabee...

Republican states get bigger handouts than Democratic-leaning states

December 1, 2009
Republicans Benefit More from Fiscal Redistribution than Democrats
The New York Times

Republicans may “market themselves as the party of fiscal restraint,” but states that vote Republican benefit from federal government redistribution far more than those that lean Democratic. This has been true since about 1992, the tail end of George H.W. Bush’s presidency.

So argues Gary Richardson of the University of California, Irvine, in the most recent issue of The Economist’s Voice. An excerpt:

In 2004, the average Alaskan received $1.84 in federal benefits for each $1.00 he or she paid in federal taxes. The Republican presidential candidate, George W. Bush, received 62 percent of the vote.

Now consider the state of Massachusetts. In 2004, the average resident received only $0.82 in federal benefits for each $1 paid in federal taxes. Yet less than 38 percent of all voters pulled the lever marked George W. Bush. And this was not an effect of John Kerry’s candidacy in particular. Four years before, when his opponent was Al Gore, Bush received only 33 percent of the vote.

The pattern holds true across all fifty states: In 2004, the 28 states in which George W. Bush received more than 50 percent of the vote received an average of $1.32 in federal benefits for each $1 their citizens paid in federal taxes. In contrast, the 19 states in which George W. Bush received less than 50 percent of the vote received an average of $0.93 on the dollar.

A rare victory for the rule of law at SDCOE: Superintendent Randy Ward FINALLY obeys court order to reinstate Rodger Hartnett

See all Rodger Hartnett posts.
See Randy Ward posts.
See San Diego County Office of Education posts.

Back to Work
Voice of San Diego
by Emily Alpert

A former employee who is suing the San Diego County Office of Education alleging wrongful termination has been sent back to work, only to immediately go on paid leave.

Rodger Hartnett was fired two years ago from the office for negligence, insubordination and dishonesty. He alleges that he was actually fired for blowing the whistle on conflicts of interest in the agency.

In March, a Superior Court judge ordered that Hartnett be put back to work and given back pay as the larger case proceeded. The office appealed. Last week, another court turned down the appeal.

Hartnett said he tried to return to work today, but was given a letter putting him on paid administrative leave. He estimated his last salary at $110,000 annually, but said it was possible that it had increased in his absence. It is unclear how much back pay Hartnett will receive, another part of the court order. The letter stated:

"The County Superintendent is aware of the court order regarding back wages. He is in discussion with his legal counsel regarding the amount of back wages, if any, due you."

I'm waiting to hear back from the County Office spokesman for his comments. Look for updates here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Is DA Bonnie Dumanis bullying a judge who was apparently appalled by evidence tampering?

DA Bonnie Dumanis boycotts Superior Court Judge John Einhorn
By Staff, City News Service
Sunday, November 29, 2009

Without explanation, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has been steering cases away from Superior Court Judge John Einhorn, it was reported Saturday...

Any time a case is assigned to Einhorn, prosecutors use a legal tactic called a peremptory challenge to block the case from going to the judge. Under the law, each side has one such challenge when assigned a judge. They do not have to state a reason for doing so, the Union-Tribune reported...

It is rare, though not unprecedented, for prosecutors to boycott a judge...

Einhorn has been at the center of two high-profile cases in San Diego over the past year. Sommer was convicted of murdering her husband, Todd, in 2007 by poisoning him with arsenic. She was granted a new trial in November of that year.

Then in April 2008, new evidence was discovered — tissue samples of Todd Sommer that showed no traces of arsenic — and that led to prosecutors dismissing the case.

[Maura Larkins note: This proved that evidence used in the first trial had been tampered with.]

The retrial had been assigned to Einhorn. Allen Bloom, Sommer’s lawyer, pressed for the case to be dismissed in a way that would preclude prosecutors from ever charging Sommer again.

That legal battle went on for more than a year, with prosecutors at one point telling Einhorn he had no authority to even hear the matter. Einhorn disagreed and said state law allowed him to consider the unusual request...

Eventually, Einhorn sided with prosecutors. On Sept. 25, he declined to permanently bar another prosecution of Sommer, but openly said he doubted the case would ever come to trial again.

It was around that time that the challenge apparently went into effect. Bloom said he doubted that the move stemmed from the Sommer case, because he said Einhorn ruled against him on most issues.

Still, Bloom said the move smacks of an effort to bully the judge...

Lemon Grove School District cross-examines teacher on her views of the Trinity for court case

It's ridiculous to complain about the word "Christ" in a song played at school unless the teacher is actually focusing on one religion as a subject, which was not the situation in the case below.

Note to Lemon Grove School District: Although "Christ" was added to the name of Jesus by believers after his death, and wasn't actually part of Jesus' name during his life, a lot of people have heard the words "Jesus Christ" so often that they think Jesus had two names. They are not saying "Jesus is the Messiah" when they say, or play a song tape that says, "Christ." Really, they aren't. You shouldn't have made such a big deal out of this word. It was unfair.

It's good to teach about religion in the classroom as long as more than one religion is covered. The California framework asks that teachers cover three or more faiths if they talk about religion.

Dance teacher fired for using religious music

Pacific Justice Institute
September 8, 2009

A dance teacher who was terminated from her job after a complaint was made that she used religious music in her instruction, is in trial this week. The single complaint which cost the teacher her job came from a school staff member rather than a parent or student. In addition to secular music on the day in question, the instructor, Kathy Villalobos, used a rendition of Dona Nobis Pachem, Canon in D and O Si Funi Mungu. Dona Nobis Pachem is a baroque piece by J.S. Bach and is sung in Latin. O Si Funi Mungu, which is translated as “Praise God,” is sung in Swahili, though the song has some English interspersed. Though the 15 stanza song is predominantly in Swahili, one stanza mentions Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

An attorney for the Lemon Grove School District, Dan Shinoff, cross-examined the teacher on her views of the Trinity. The jury sat attentive as the songs were played in court last week. Villalobos then testified as to the educational purpose for the selections.

Despite emails and testimony to the contrary, the District is claiming that Villalobos was not fired because of the religious music but for reasons such as pupil attendance class scheduling. Yet, the school is inconsistently claiming that it was justified in firing Villalobos to prevent a violation of the separation of church and state. “It is clearly constitutional and legal for a teacher to use both religious and secular music as a part of instruction,” commented Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute.

Villalobos’ lead attorney in the case is Karen Milam, PJI Senior Counsel who directs the southern California office. Assisting her in the trial is PJI attorney Matthew McReynolds. The trial, now in its second week, will likely go to the jury on Thursday. California law which allows instructors to use non-proselytizing references to religion while teaching, specifically identifies dance instruction as an acceptable subject for use of such references. (9/1/09, Pacific Justice Institute)

No God Music

San Diego Reader
By Jay Allen Sanford
Oct. 14, 2009

“I played a song in my after-school dance class, a job that I had for five years [and] this song mentioned the name ‘Christ,’ ” says former Lemon Grove arts teacher Kathy Villalobos. “This name…seemed to bother an administrator, a clerk, and an after-school coordinator; subsequently, I lost my job a few days later.”

“Religious art and music should not be banished from our schools,” says attorney Karen Milam of the Pacific Justice Institute, which is appealing a recent San Diego County Superior Court decision dismissing Villalobos’s claim of wrongful discrimination because “[Villalobos] had not suffered as much as the Jews in Nazi Germany.”

The song in contention, “O Sifuni Mungu,” is mostly sung in Swahili. Villalobos claims the song — chosen for its danceable African rhythm — was the cause of her termination. The Lemon Grove School District maintains she was fired mainly due to missing a number of classes and district rescheduling.

“They are also on record as saying this is about insubordination,” says Villalobos. “I have never, ever in all the five years had one complaint or warning laid against me until someone heard the name of Christ in one of my songs.… They have offered me a ‘settlement,’ what I call ‘hush money,’ and they absolutely refuse to publicly admit what they did.”

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Scientology tried to stop investigations

Scientology : The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power

Monday, May. 06, 1991

By all appearances, Noah Lottick of Kingston, Pa., had been a normal, happy 24-year-old who was looking for his place in the world. On the day last June when his parents drove to New York City to claim his body, they were nearly catatonic with grief. The young Russian-studies scholar had jumped from a 10th-floor window of the Milford Plaza Hotel and bounced off the hood of a stretch limousine. When the police arrived, his fingers were still clutching $171 in cash, virtually the only money he hadn't yet turned over to the Church of Scientology, the self-help "philosophy" group he had discovered just seven months earlier.

His death inspired his father Edward, a physician, to start his own investigation of the church. "We thought Scientology was something like Dale Carnegie," Lottick says. "I now believe it's a school for psychopaths. Their so-called therapies are manipulations. They take the best and brightest people and destroy them." The Lotticks want to sue the church for contributing to their son's death, but the prospect has them frightened. For nearly 40 years, the big business of Scientology has shielded itself exquisitely behind the First Amendment as well as a battery of high-priced criminal lawyers and shady private detectives.

The Church of Scientology, started by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard to "clear" people of unhappiness, portrays itself as a religion. In reality the church is a hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like manner. At times during the past decade, prosecutions against Scientology seemed to be curbing its menace. Eleven top Scientologists, including Hubbard's wife, were sent to prison in the early 1980s for infiltrating, burglarizing and wiretapping more than 100 private and government agencies in attempts to block their investigations...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

San Diego City College District loses appeal in Mesa College case

This is an interesting case, establishing that you can NOT give up your right to due process as established by the Education Code.

Filed 7/28/09


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Joan M. Lewis, Judge. Affirmed.

Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz, Ray J. Artiano and Richard E. Romero for Defendants and Appellants.

Grady and Associates, Dennis M. Grady, Kenneth W. Baisch, and Bradley K. Moores for Plaintiff and Respondent.

... The trial court granted Farahani’s petition for writ of mandate (Code Civ. Proc., § 1085), ruling that the Agreement violated the Education Code and Farahani’s due process rights. The court issued a peremptory writ of mandate under Code of Civil Procedure section 1085...

Farahani was a tenured professor of international relations and public policy at Mesa College. He had worked for the District for 18 years prior to his termination in June 2006.

Beginning in 1994, the District received complaints from female students and staff about what they described as unwanted sexual and social advances. In October 2000, after investigating some of these complaints, the District gave Farahani a written reprimand advising him that continued misconduct would result in discipline up to and including termination...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Judges in other countries are even more hostile to freedom of speech than Judge Judith Hayes. Solution? Free Speech Protection Act of 2009

S. 449: Free Speech Protection Act of 2009
111th Congress

Free Speech Protection Act of 2009 - Allows any U.S. person against whom a lawsuit for defamation is brought in a foreign country for defamation on the basis of the content of any speech by that person that has been published, uttered, or otherwise disseminated in the United States to bring an action in a U.S. district court against any person who, or entity which, brought the suit, if: (1) the speech at issue in the foreign lawsuit does not constitute defamation under U.S. law; and (2) the person or entity which brought the foreign lawsuit serves or causes to be served any documents in connection with such foreign lawsuit on a U.S. person.

Allows the award of treble damages if it is determined by a preponderance of the evidence that the person or entity bringing the foreign lawsuit intentionally engaged in a scheme to suppress rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution...

Monday, November 16, 2009

UCLA professor offers wild solution to bad bank behavior: long jail terms

UCLA professor offers wild solution to bad bank behavior: Scare them straight
Peter Cohan
Nov 16th 2009

A UCLA professor has come up with a wild idea to help prevent the next financial meltdown. He doesn't propose expensive regulations and mechanisms of enforcement on financial actors. Instead, he suggests that swift and decisive punishment of the biggest instigators of financial mayhem could scare the industry straight.

Before getting into the details of his proposal, let me introduce the man and his new book, from which this idea springs. Professor Mark A.R. Kleiman heads UCLA's Drug Policy Analysis Program. Years ago, we shared an apartment while I was working at a summer job in Cambridge, Mass., and he was teaching at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Kleiman also runs a great blog -- The Reality Based Community. I contacted Kleiman a few weeks ago after seeing his new book, When Brute Force Fails, from Princeton University Press, in the window of the Harvard Book Store...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

This movie asks why we don't end poverty: How the rich steal from the poor

Nov 13, 2009
Beyond The Multiplex
"The End of Poverty?": How the rich steal from the poor
Does a confrontational new documentary try to resurrect Marx for the 21st century? And is that such a bad idea?
By Andrew O'Hehir

So here's the real question about capitalism, the one nobody really wants to face: Does it create gross inequality as an unfortunate byproduct of its energy and dynamism -- or is gross inequality itself, between rich and poor, between the industrialized North and the underdeveloped South, the principal product of capitalism over the last five centuries?

..."The End of Poverty?" seeks to remind us that the global victory of capitalism over the last 30 years has only brought its flaws into sharper focus. We now live in a world where 20 percent of the population -- that's you and me, bub -- use 80 percent of its resources, where upward of 1 billion people live on $1 a day or less, where 16,000 children die daily from malnutrition and where the people of sub-Saharan Africa, the globe's poorest region, spend $25,000 every minute servicing their massive debt to the rich countries of the North.

All those markers of extreme poverty have gotten dramatically worse since the '80s; despite rapid technological and agricultural progress in the developed world, the number of people suffering from chronic malnutrition has roughly doubled in the past 40 years....

It's become conventional to blame the culture and climate of poor countries and poor people, at least in part, for their own plight, as if corrupt dictatorships, ethnic warfare and raw-material economies were somehow intrinsic to Africa and Latin America. In depressing but largely convincing fashion, Diaz's film argues that all those things were the result of a lengthy historical process. Africa's dysfunctional and often anti-democratic regimes definitely aren't helping matters, for example, but they themselves -- along with the dire poverty they can't manage -- were produced by the European and North American powers' relationship to the global South, from 16th-century colonization right through 21st-century globalization...

No to California Interscholastic Federation (CIF); Yes to Senate Bill 225

I never understood why so many schools use taxes from all families to support athletics for a small minority of students.

I was appalled about ten years ago when Valhalla High School changed its admissions policy to the girls tennis club from open enrollment to top players only. The result was that more than forty girls were thrown out so that a small group could get specialized coaching at public expense. Not surprisingly, that small group consisted largely of girls whose families had provided them with private lessons.

At about the same time, Cuyamaca College decided that only the best players should be given sports classes, and the rest should just go to the fitness center. Fortunately, this policy was reversed after complaints.

Is the goal of education to separate the haves from the have-nots, or is it to create a society of productive individuals? I also wonder if we're doing young athletes a favor by distorting their egos and making them feel that performance in sports is more important than the well being of society as a whole.

I agree with the following letter by Danielle Andreassi.

Subject: FW: NEED YOUR HELP: With Rights Being Denied to the Disabled as per SB225 by the
Date: Fri, 13 Nov 2009

Please help us implement Senate Bill 225 as it was written.

Please contact me if you need more information, but this is a serious problem that our disabled students as they are being denied a FAPE (free and appropriate public education), and this is a violation of State, Federal and ADA laws and we are all paying for this as taxpayers. This is coming at a high price to these parents and a huge emotional cost to these students. Each of of these parents that have been touched by inappropriate behavior by CIF has had to pay a high financial price and most likely had to go to court for the sake of their child. A high school student should see time on a field or basketball court not a courtroom.

Thank you for your time.

Danielle Andreassi

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Health Insurance Monopolies Are Legal

Health Insurance Monopolies Are Legal
October 29, 2009
Monica Sanchez
Campaign for America's Future

Health insurance companies are exempt from federal antitrust laws — laws that protect commerce from monopolies and unfair business practices in most other types of markets. As a result, health insurers have become highly concentrated and premiums have soared. There is movement on Capitol Hill to remove this exemption, but the best way to quickly infuse competition into health insurance markets across the country is with a strong, national public health insurance plan option.

The U.S. Senate debates insurance company protection

The Morality of Health Care Reform, pt. 6
By Terrance Heath
November 9, 2009

As the Senate Finance Committee moved into its fourth day of deliberations over the health care bill, tensions continued to rise.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), broke new ground defending an amendment he'd proposed that struck language from the bill defining which benefits employers are required to cover -- in this case, basic maternity care.

"I don't need maternity care,
" Kyl said. "So requiring that on my insurance policy is something that I don't need and will make the policy more expensive."

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), interrupted Kyl: "I think your mom probably did."

The amendment was defeated, nine to 14.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

25 Chicago middle school students jailed in food fight; lounge food fight by "Castle Park Family" teachers seems to increase status of participants

A comparison of two food fights, a recent brawl by students in Chicago and a 1999 outburst by teachers belonging to the "Castle Park family":

It took two janitors over a week to clean walls and shampoo rugs and upholstered furniture in the teachers lounge at Castle Park Elementary School after a small group teachers went wild after the students left on the last day of school in 1999. (The teachers never reimbursed the taxpayers.) The teachers brought the leftovers from class parties to the lounge, including lots of fruit punch and whipped cream.

These teachers ruled the roost at the school, getting rid of principal after principal that didn't do what the "family" wanted. One principal acceded to so many demands for spending that he plunged the school deep into debt and was fired. Another allowed teachers to engage in so many illegal actions that the district ended up in court for years defending those teachers. Principal Ollie Matos was hired to get the teachers under control, but the teachers union, Chula Vista Educators, prevented him from doing so.

25 Chicago Students Arrested for a Middle-School Food Fight
New York Times
Published: November 10, 2009

CHICAGO — The food fight here started the way such bouts do in school lunchrooms most anywhere: an apple was tossed, a cookie turned into a torpedo, and an orange plunked someone in the head. Within minutes, dozens of middle-school students had joined in the ruckus, and spattered adults were ducking for cover.

By the end of the day, 25 of the students, ages 11 to 15, had been rounded up, arrested, taken from school and put in jail. A spokesman for the Chicago police said the charges were reckless conduct, a misdemeanor.

That was last Thursday afternoon. Now parents are questioning what seem to them like the criminalization of age-old adolescent pranks, and the lasting legal and psychological impact of the arrests.

“My children have to appear in court,” Erica Russell, the mother of two eighth-grade girls who spent eight hours in jail, said Tuesday. “They were handcuffed, slammed in a wagon, had their mug shots taken and treated like real criminals.”...

San Diego prosecutor withheld evidence favorable to defense of 3 men charged with raped

San Diego prosecutor suspected of withholding evidence in rape case
CBS News 8
Posted: Nov 10, 2009

A San Diego prosecutor is under investigation, suspected of withholding evidence in a high-profile rape case. The case resulted in plea bargain last month and the rapists walked free.

Now, the mother of the victim is ... accusing the San Diego District attorney’s office of a cover up.

It was a brutal case of rape by intoxication in San Marcos. Three north county men accused of kidnapping a Palomar College student in May of 2008, getting her drunk and gang raping her.

News 8 has learned [prosecutor Dan] Rodriguez is now the subject of an ongoing disciplinary investigation. He’s accused of withholding evidence in the case.
Initially Rodriguez told the mother of the 18-year-old rape victim that all three defendants were facing serious prison time.

“We were told they were looking at -- with kidnapping and rape charges -- they would be looking at 20 years to life,” said Tammie Heintzman. She said Rodriguez assured her the case as solid...

From the beginning, the case was high profile. The victim had met one of her attackers on the MySpace web site... At the last minute, a new prosecutor was assigned to the case and soon thereafter the District Attorney’s office reached a plea bargain with all three defendants.

Two pleaded guilty to rape by intoxication, the third to felony assault. All three walked free after serving just 8 months in jail.

It wasn't until later that Heintzman, the mother of the victim, says she finally found out why the original prosecutor, Dan Rodriguez, was taken off the case.
“It was shared that Dan had been suspended and it was related to the case, and it was related to misrepresenting evidence,” Heintzman told News 8.
The evidence withheld was favorable to the defense.

All three defense attorneys involved in the case confirmed to News 8 that prosecutor Dan Rodriguez failed to turn over in a timely manner what they called highly exculpatory evidence, including a tape recorded police interview with the victim and statements the teenager made during a medical exam...
The new prosecutor, Kate Flaherty, quickly offered the defendants a plea deal.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

If we refuse to pay for good schools for poor kids, we end up without national defense

November 9, 2009
Too Few Youths Eligible for Military, Leaders Say
Report Recommends Investments in Early Childhood Programs
By Dakarai I. Aarons

The United States should invest in early education to help bolster the number of young people eventually eligible to serve in the military and protect national-security interests, a report released last week argues.

A majority of the nation’s young adults are ineligible for military service because they have not graduated from high school, have criminal records, or are physically unfit, says the report.

Based on research from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Department of Defense, the report says 75 percent of Americans ages 17 to 24—about 26 million people—are ineligible to join the military.

“A quality education is really an issue of national security,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said at a Nov. 5 news conference held to release the report. “If we don’t educate our children well, we put our nation at risk.” ...

Teacher evaluations are worthless: teachers almost always get good evaluations

Jay Mathews at the Washington Post opines that schools should be able to evaluate, reward, promote or dismiss teachers however they want. He notes that most teacher evaluation systems end up giving good evaluations to almost everybody.
--Emily Alpert's Bright and Early

Forget about rating teachers---rate schools instead.
Washington Post

Those unfortunate people in the District may worry about the quality of their teachers, and wait anxiously for the results of the school system’s controversial new evaluation of classroom techniques and test score improvement. But those of us in the Washington area suburbs don’t have to worry because we already know that close to 100 percent of our teachers are entirely satisfactory. How? Our school districts say so.

I asked suburban school officials to share the latest results from their teacher evaluations, which are usually done by principals and subject specialists. Here are the percentages of teachers rated satisfactory, in some cases called meeting or exceeding the standard: Alexandria 99 percent, Calvert 99.8 percent, Charles 98.4 percent, Culpeper 97 percent, Fairfax 99.1 percent, Falls Church 99.55 percent, Loudoun 99 percent, Montgomery 95 percent, Prince George’s 95.56 percent, and Prince William 98.3 percent.

Anne Arundel, Arlington, Fauquier and Howard, and Manassas City say they don’t collect such data. Carroll says it is doing it for the first time and hasn’t finished yet.
Those numbers in the high 90s sound good, but they don’t impress some advocates of better teaching. Near perfect teacher evaluation passing rates are common throughout the country.

One reason why D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has launched her complex IMPACT evaluation of the District’s teachers is that the research and training organization she founded, the New Teacher Project, is a sworn enemy of those standard evaluation systems. Since teacher ratings in most districts are as discerning as peewee soccer award night, with everyone getting a trophy, why bother?

The standard evaluation system “not only keeps schools from dismissing consistently poor performers, but also prevents them from recognizing excellence among top performers or supporting growth among the broad plurality of hard working teachers who operate in the middle of the performance spectrum,” said a recent New Teacher Project report.

The organization studied 12 districts, including Chicago, Denver, Cincinnati and Little Rock, in four states and found that less than one percent of teachers were rated unsatisfactory. Yet a survey of 15,000 teachers and 1,300 administrators in those districts found that 59 percent of the teachers and 63 percent of the administrators believe their district was not doing enough to identify, compensate, promote and retain the most effective teachers.

School officials in the Washington suburbs say they don’t have that problem. They are helping teachers build their skills, they say, even if that work is not reflected in their evaluation summaries. “Principals and supervisors work hard with teachers to improve instruction,” said Keith Hettel, assistant superintendent, human resources, in Charles County.

“We have made professional development a priority this year,” said Amy Carlini, spokeswoman for the Alexandria schools.

I would reject such talk as mere public relations, except for the undeniable fact that most Washington area districts--when compared to school performance in the rest of the country--are doing a splendid job. We have an advantage because of our relatively high family incomes, which correlate with academic achievement, but the quality of teachers and administrators I have watched in the last decade is usually high and the results good.

So what to we do? I agree that 99.8 percent satisfactory evaluation rates are ridiculous. Stop wasting time and money on them. Instead, emulate those schools--mostly public charters--that choose principals carefully and let them evaluate, reward, promote or dismiss teachers any way that works for them.

Bonuses should go to the whole school to be divvied up, not to individual teachers. And if student achievement isn’t growing at a healthy rate, or if teachers are fleeing in disgust, get rid of that principal and hire a better one. It will reduce paperwork, and free more time for teaching kids.

By Jay Mathews | November 8, 2009

Monday, November 09, 2009

Audit reveals expenses of ousted East Side Superintendent Bob Nunez

This story is from the Bay Area, but it reminds me of our own notorious Bob Watkins, former president of the San Diego County Office of Education. When is the San Diego media going to find out what expenses he charged while at SDCOE?

Audit details ousted East Side schools Superintendent Bob Nunez's expenses
Mercury News
By Sharon Noguchi

Ousted Superintendent Bob Nunez routinely spent $1,000 a month for meals, travel and lodging and sometimes charged the cash-strapped East Side Union High School District as much as $4,000 a month.

The details were revealed for the first time Friday in a lengthy report into Nunez's spending habits that led to his departure last week from the struggling San Jose school district — complete with a $120,000 severance check.

The revelations were outlined in a 2,100-page report by the San Francisco law firm Hanson Bridgett, which reviewed two years' worth of Nunez's credit card spending. The report, commissioned by the East Side board, also concluded that Nunez did not improperly receive vacation pay or commit a conflict of interest...

Saturday, November 07, 2009

At last the 9/11 Commission can get a look at the evidence in the World Trade Center attack

See all posts on WTC collapse.

For some unknown reason, President George Bush ordered the steel from the World Trade Center buildings that collapsed on September 11, 2001 to be immediately sent to China for recycling. Obviously, the evidence of the collapse couldn't be studied at that time, but we can all go look at it now that it's been turned into a ship.

USS New York comes to life; ship born of 7.5 tons of World Trade Center steel

BY Stephanie Gaskell
November 7th 2009

The USS New York is seen during its commissioning on November 7, 2009 at Piers 86 and 88 in New York City.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stands with sailors and Marines at the commissioning of the USS New York.

* Articles
* Bear Stearns execs told black AND white lies: prosecutors
* Get the details on the Yankee parade in Manhattan
* President Obama OKs extension of unemployment benefits, first-time homebuyers tax breaks
* Gov. Paterson defends pricey trips abroad if they can help bring jobs to NY
* No satisfaction for Paterson in Bam's heat over election losses

The New York came to life Saturday, becoming the Navy's newest warship - and a proud symbol of fortitude.

The $1 billion amphibious transport dock carries 7.5 tons of steel from the World Trade Center in her bow stem.

"The New York will be a visible testament to our resilience," said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus as the first watch was set and hundreds of sailors and Marines ran onto the decks of the ship, a tradition signaling the official commissioning of the vessel.

Cmdr. Curt Jones, a native New Yorker, took command during an emotional ceremony at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum attended by more than 6,000 people, including Secretary of State Clinton, Gov. Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg.

"There is a lot of emotion that is associated with this ship for all of us," Jones said. "The steel that is in the bow of the ship, that motivates us literally every day in what we do."

The ship, which has a crew of about 360 sailors, will be docked at Pier 88 until Thursday, when it heads to its home port at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia.

"This ship has been the product of a lot of hard work," Paterson said. "It is not just named the New York - it IS New York."

Clinton said the New York will help the nation heal, more than eight years after the World Trade Center attack.

"In that steel, burned but unbroken, lives the spirit we saw on 9-11," she said. "Sometimes our pain can lead us to purpose."

Mike Petters is the president of Northrop Grumman, which built the ship in Avondale, La.

"We needed this ship," Petters said. "New York needed this ship. And America needed this ship."

For Carl Scheetz, a firefighter with Rescue 1 in Hell's Kitchen, the ship is a reminder of the city's strength.

"To me it's a show of resiliency to the whole tragedy that happened," he said. "The crew members are great. I met a Marine and went to say 'Thank you' to him. He said, 'No, sir, thank you very much.' "We have a lot in common," Scheetz said.

CALA admits that many lawsuits against government agencies have merit

San Diego would save many millions if our district attorneys would quit prosecuting obviously innocent people like Dale Akiki and Jim Wade, and if our city attorneys would discourage wrongful actions like secret pension deals.

San Jose keeps lid on litigation costs
By John Woolfolk

San Jose has forked over a lot of taxpayer cash to resolve lawsuits and claims from people who felt the city owed them for a host of wrongs — from errant golf balls to sexual harassment.

But the city seems downright frugal in what it has paid out for verdicts, settlements and outside lawyers compared to other major California cities, according to a new report by a citizen watchdog group.

The report this week by California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, or CALA, found that San Jose's annual litigation costs in the last couple years were a fraction of those for similarly-sized San Francisco and San Diego, as well as smaller cities such as Oakland and Sacramento.

"Some communities are more effective at avoiding lawsuits than others, and that's good management practice," said Marko Mlikotin, Northern California regional director for CALA, a non-partisan group opposed to abuses of the legal system. "It's very important for governments to have good management practices so that they don't expose taxpayers to these types of litigation."

The group's report compared costs incurred by the most populous California cities and counties for paying legal claims, verdicts and settlements, as well as hiring outside lawyers for the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 budget years.

San Jose's litigation costs were $1.9 million in 2006-2007 and $1.7 million in 2007-2008. The report argued the $1.9 million could have paid for more than two dozen firefighters
that year.

But the city's costs paled in comparison to some of its peers. For 2007-2008, San Diego spent $17 million on litigation, Oakland $7.9 million and Sacramento $3.3 million. Los Angeles spent a staggering $72 million.

San Jose records also show a decline in annual litigation costs from $4.9 million in 2005-2006 to $1.5 million in 2008-2009.

"We try hard to keep those numbers down," City Attorney Rick Doyle said.

Santa Clara County did not fare quite to well in comparison to its peers. The county spent $4.7 million in 2007-2008, less than the $5.2 million cost in 2005-2006. Smaller Alameda County spent $4.4 million on litigation in 2007-2008, while San Diego County spent just $1.2 million.

San Francisco, which is both a city and a county, spent $18.3 million on litigation in 2007-2008.

The report noted that while many of the lawsuits brought against government agencies have merit, some seem absurd...

Former Helix High 16-Year-Old Says Josh Stepner "Did Nothing Wrong"

See all Josh Stepner posts.

Doesn't Bonnie Dumanis have anything better to do? Aren't there some actual bad guys she should be charging with crimes? Did Helix High and/or Grossmont Union High School District (controlled by extremist Jim Kelly) get legal advice regarding this case?

Sometimes I wonder if education attorneys intentionally create problems so that there will be a lawsuit against the school and the attorneys will be paid $100,000s to defend the school. My advice to Helix High: settle this case right now, before it really gets expensive.

Channel 6's Jeff Powers served the public well by getting this story:

Exclusive: 16-Year-Old Says Josh Stepner "Did Nothing Wrong."
Reported by: Jeff Powers
San Diego Channel 6

EL CAJON - Former Helix High assistant principal Josh Stepner was supposed to appear in court on Thursday to face a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor for giving a female student a ride to a bus station, but his arraignment was postponed.

Dakota Garza is the student who was given that ride, and she is shocked that Stepner was even charged in the first place. She says at the time of the ride, she was no longer a student at Helix High.

"I'm a lot more comfortable now," Garza told San Diego 6 in an exclusive interview from her hometown in Medford, Oregon. "I'm in my familiar town where I was born and raised and I'm very happy to be back."

Garza says she is doing well. "Stay in all my honors classes and I'm back in soccer and enjoying school."

Garza began the school year as a student at Helix High. She had been living with relative Karen Flores and 9 others in a two bedroom home.

On August 24th, the 16-year-old took action. A court order shows Garza dissolved any legal custody to Flores. She was trying to get back to Medford and says she told Assistant Vice Principal Kevin Osborn.

Garza said, "After I had purchased the ticket I went into his office and just was letting him know that I was going to be unenrolling from the school."

Garza purchased a bus ticket on the morning of September 17th from the school computer. She says she went through the procedures Helix requires for unenrollment and says she alerted Osborn to those details. It was very clear to her that she was no longer a student.

Officials at Helix would not confirm the timing of Garza's withdrawal from school. It was later that night that Josh Stepner gave her a ride to the bus station.

Garza said she is surprised Stepner is facing a misdemeanor because, "He was really just trying to help me. He did absolutely nothing wrong. I think he was the only one who really tried to reach out to me and help me with what I was going through."

Stepner says the past couple months have been tough on him and his family. "It's been a nightmare. It's hard to watch yourself being talked about when you know you're a good person -- you know that you're a righteous person."

Garza says now it's about putting this behind her and exposing the truth. "I really think that in this whole thing he's just been more of a scapegoat. He's just been someone that people felt that they could just dump things on and you know accuse him and point the finger at him."

Stepner and his attorney are due back in court December 14th. Stepner's attorney is challenging the legitimacy of the misdemeanor complaint.

We asked to interview Helix Assistant Principal Kevin Osborn but our offer was declined.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Citizen Media Legal Project website--Will Judge Judith Hayes be able to shut it down?

Someone sent me a link today to Harvard University's website about threats to citizens who try to exercise their freedom of speech.

The website is here.

It's amazing how many powerful people think that the First Amendment doesn't apply to people who criticize them.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Do ethical lawyers prepare orders for a judge to sign that indicate that their motion was granted when it actually was denied?

Do ethical lawyers sometimes write a proposed order for a judge to sign that doesn't mention that their motion was denied?

I am interested in hypothetical situations. If you figure things out ahead of time, it makes it easier when push comes to shove to make the right decision.

So I've been working on this imaginary scenario in which a lawyer believes he can get a judge to sign an order that is significantly different from the minute order prepared by the judge. In this fantasy, a judge has denied the lawyer's motion without prejudice, and given the opposing party a very specific instruction. But the lawyer never mentions in his proposed order that his motion was denied, and he adds significant details to the judge's instructions.

Is this something an ethical lawyer would do? Hmmm. Do readers have any thoughts on the matter?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Rally regarding corruption at Office of Administrative Hearings

A rally/protest will be held in front of the Governors/OAH building at 1350 Front Street on November 9, 2009 from 10am-12am. (I call this building the California building.) Many parents feel that they don't have a chance at due process due to corruption at OAH (Office of Administrative Hearings).

Dayon Higgins, Volunteer Parent Advocate, says, "I will be wearing an orange jumpsuit and carrying a cardboard casket. I believe that without special education rights to a fair due process that we are condemning children to prison or poverty. Without support our children lose opportunities."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Eli Broad and EdVoice versus California Teachers Association

Dan Walters: School reform duel shifts to surrogates
By Dan Walters
Oct. 30, 2009

One of the more obscure – and probably more important – of California's many political conflicts pits an organization called EdVoice against the California Teachers Association and other school unions.

It centers on our ever-deepening education crisis, manifested in low test scores and high dropout rates, especially among black and Latino kids.

EdVoice, maintained by some wealthy Californians such as Southern California developer Eli Broad and Silicon Valley tycoon Reed Hastings, advocates charter schools, tougher teaching standards and other aggressive approaches.

The CTA and its allies, meanwhile, say California's chief education issue is money, specifically its below-average level of per-pupil spending.

It's not so much a partisan or even ideological conflict – Broad and many other EdVoice leaders are Democrats – as it is one of pedagogic philosophy, but that doesn't make it any less abrasive.

Last year, for instance, EdVoice backed its former president, Christopher Cabaldon, in his bid for a Yolo County state Assembly seat while unions poured money to his victorious rival for the Democratic nomination, Mariko Yamada, one of several clashes between the factions.

EdVoice and the unions will play for bigger stakes next year, facing off in the ostensibly non-partisan race to succeed Jack O'Connell, the outgoing state schools superintendent who has ties to both factions.

Almost certainly, O'Connell's successor will be either state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, or Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, both former teachers. And EdVoice is throwing its weight behind Romero while Torlakson counts on the unions for his campaign.

Romero's crusade for prison reform pitted her against the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the other big union power player. And she aborted her bid for a congressional seat this year after the Los Angeles County Labor Federation endorsed rival Judy Chu.

Broad, Hastings, the family of the late Don Fisher (founder of the Gap), and other EdVoice principals have been Romero's chief contributors to date, clearly marking her as the organization's candidate. Commensurate financial backing from unions for Torlakson has yet to emerge, but clearly is in the works.

The two have already been dueling over legislation, with Romero carrying EdVoice-backed bills while Torlakson carried those sought by school unions, and he recently introduced a new bill imposing more regulation on charter schools. Romero won big when the Legislature (with Torlakson voting "no") extended a "school choice" law giving parents the right to shift their kids from one district to another.

It was not only a win for Romero and EdVoice but also reflected the Obama administration's direction on school reform. Inferentially, therefore, the Romero-Torlakson duel will be a referendum on how schools should be fixed not only in California but also across the nation.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Would you do what Josh Stepner did? Give an abandoned and abused girl a ride to a bus station to visit her grandmother?

See all posts on Helix High.
See all posts re Grossmont Union High School District.

Here is the declaration
of the girl in this case. All she wanted was to live with her grandmother, and that is what she is now doing. Her cousin, who instituted the complaints against former Helix High Charter School vice principal Josh Stepner, apparently has control issues. It's a disgrace that a good man is being run through Bonnie Dumanis' wringer after having been punished by his employer. Josh Stepner never would have had any problems at all if four teachers at Helix High hadn't behaved so badly. He is being punished for his own good deed and for the bad deeds of others.

I'm wondering if trustee Jim Kelly of Grossmont High School District asked Bonnie Dumanis to prosecute a good man at Helix High simply because Kelly wants to bring down the charter school.

Student's application & restraining order against her mother (2009)

See all Josh Stepner posts.

Helix asst. principal says he was only trying to help student
Oct 22, 2009

For the first time, we're hearing from a Helix High School assistant principal accused of helping a 16-year-old student run away. Through his attorney, the principal says he was only trying to help a child abandoned by her mother.

"This is really a classic example of no good deed goes unpunished," Josh Stepner's attorney Mark-Robert Bluemel said.

Bluemel is getting ready to go to court to defend Stepner against a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Stepner is accused of helping a 16-year-old student run away to Oregon.

"This man is innocent and he has the right to prove that. Unfortunately, what has happened prior - and that's why I'm talking to you - is he was painted out as being guilty," Bluemel said.

Stepner is not accused of having a sexual relationship with the student, as was initially reported by News 8 and other media outlets. Those reports were based on inaccurate information given to the media on October 5th, and were corrected by News 8 twelve hours later.

As it turns out, Stepner is accused of helping the girl purchase a bus ticket to Oregon and driving her to the bus station.

"My client brought her to safety, so to speak. She's now back in Oregon with a family and going to school," Bluemel said.

Court records show the girl had recently taken out a restraining order against her mother, and the judge revoked the mother's custodial rights. Bluemel says the girl in effect had no guardian and no home to run away from.

"He was assisting a student in need without a guardian and helping her get home, and I think he's been made a scapegoat," Bluemel said.

Since 2006, four teachers have been convicted of sex crimes involving Helix High students.

Bluemel says his client, a married father of three, simply got caught up in that firestorm.

"The evidence will show that there was no inappropriate conduct. He was acting in furtherance of the child's best interests in getting her to a safe harbor, back home to Oregon," Bluemel said.

The girl's father is dead and her grandmother lives in Oregon.

Stepner is facing one misdemeanor count. His attorney will enter a plea in El Cajon court by Nov. 5

See earlier post.

JC Pohl helps Escondido students turn against bullies

When they're ready to get really serious, schools will also do something about teachers who bully students and teachers who bully other teachers.

Turning against bullies
By Rose Marie Scott-Blair
San Diego Union Tribune
October 29, 2009

Have you ever been punched, tripped, kicked, shoved or had a rumor spread about you?” filmmaker JC Pohl asked students at Escondido's Bear Valley Middle School at a special assembly last week. About 350 seventh-graders in were the room, and they all stood up.

“Now, if you have ever done that to anyone else, sit down,” Pohl said.

Five students remained standing.

In three years of taking his Teen Truth Live assemblies on bullying to about 350 schools in 20 states, Pohl said that 99 percent of the 400,000 students his group has reached say they have been bullied or have bullied someone else.

Pohl, a San Diego native who lives in Los Angeles, and his partner, fellow filmmaker Erahm Christopher, were prompted by the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., to create a message for children.

“After Columbine we were frustrated because the media just talked to adults, and we felt that students were the ones who could explain why this happened,” Pohl said.

So they gave cameras to five California students to film their lives for a year.

Using 100 hours of raw video from students and security camera footage from Columbine, they produced the award-winning documentary, “Teen Truth,” the centerpiece of their assemblies.

Bullying can be anything from “a bad attempt at humor” to physical violence, and includes intimidation, teasing, labeling and put-downs, Pohl told the students Friday.

“The result is the same. It causes anger, and if kids hold a lot inside, they can explode and may even kill someone,” Pohl said.

In the past 13 years, 148 students and 27 teachers have been killed in school violence in 26 states and 14 countries, and 195 students have been wounded, according to figures compiled by Pohl. Twelve students and one teacher were slain at Columbine.

“Students are the eyes and ears of the school. If you see it or hear it, report it,” he said. “Start doing something today to make a difference. Be more understanding, show compassion, learn how to love each other.” ...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'm a doctor. So sue me. No, really

The doctors' lobby says capping malpractice suits will make healthcare cheaper.
I'm an M.D. and I don't believe it
By Rahul K. Parikh, M.D.
Oct. 27, 2009

...Defensive medicine is just one of the supposed systemic ills...Proponents of reform say that defensive medicine, frivolous lawsuits and high premiums are behind the surge in healthcare shift the blame for America's healthcare crisis away from private insurers and onto a supposed scourge of ambulance chasers...

The only problem is that it's not true...Defensive medicine adds very little to healthcare's price tag, and rising malpractice premiums have had very little impact on access to care.

...First, based on the current rhetoric, it's easy to assume we have an epidemic of malpractice suits in America. We don't.... according to the Congressional Budget Office, nationally, between the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, the frequency of malpractice suits per capita remained stable at about 15 claims per 100 physicians per year. Another report, from the National Center for State Courts, actually shows that the number of cases between 1996 and 2006 dropped 8 percent...

Next is the question of frivolous lawsuits. Tort reformers push the notion that junk lawsuits dominate the legal system...

But the private studies cited often involve small numbers of claims, or focus on a single hospital, insurer, specialty or type of injury, or were commissioned by interested parties, aka the malpractice insurers themselves...In 2006, researchers from Harvard published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine... What they found kills the notion of frivolous lawsuits. It suggests that most people who sue are suing for good reason.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Three county officials volunteer on the board of Children's Initiative; charity gets contract

Charity gets contract for after-school services
Three county officials volunteer on the board of Children's Initiative
By Jeff McDonald
Union-Tribune Staff Writer
October 26, 2009

Background: To balance the county's budget this past spring, county supervisors trimmed the popular after-school program Critical Hours.

What's changing: Supervisor Ron Roberts last week sought and received board approval for a no-bid contract to restore some funds. The deal calls for up to $241,981 to go to a nonprofit that has three top county officials on its board of directors.

The future: The agreement runs through June 30, 2010, and may be extended six months if additional funding is found.

San Diego County has awarded a no-bid contract worth up to $241,981 for after-school services to a charity that has three top county officials on its board of directors...

The money will fund after-school services for low-income children in Supervisor Ron Roberts' district. The Board of Supervisors approved the award last week without debate.

The action will restore lost funding for Critical Hours, a program that was trimmed earlier this year when supervisors were scrambling to balance the county's annual budget.

The Children's Initiative board includes Walt Ekard, county chief administrative officer; Nick Macchione, Health and Human Services Agency director; and Mack Jenkins, chief probation officer.

Roberts, who recommended the agreement to his colleagues, said he did not know Ekard and two other administrators served on the charity board...

Waiving the competitive-bid rule will get funds quickly to the nonprofit, Roberts said, noting its history of working well with the county.

The Children's Initiative is run by Sandra McBrayer, a member of the county's First 5 Commission, which distributes about $40 million a year in tobacco tax money for early-childhood programs...

Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob, who is also the First 5 Commission chair, said the Children's Initiative contract is a different situation.

“There, we needed to do away with the perception that First 5 board members and advisory board members could influence the allocation of grant funding for personal benefit,” Jacob said. “Here, a member of the Board of Supervisors made the recommendation, not other county officials.”...

The Critical Hours program was promoted by Roberts and Supervisor Greg Cox in the 1990s in response to research showing that most youth crime occurs between 2 and 6 p.m.

Since 1997, the county has invested more than $19 million in the program, according to the Children's Initiative, which coordinates the services across the region.

Anti-CIF meeting in Alpine reveals that Poway sports gets away with illegal players while Eastlake, San Diego High coaches lose their jobs

Accusations of bias at town hall meeting
By Brent Schrotenboer
Union-Tribune Staff Writer
October 23, 2009

Several parents, students and citizens last night denounced the local governing body of high school athletics, accusing it of discrimination in a town hall meeting that drew nearly 100 people.

The gathering at New Assurance Baptist Church in Rolando was organized to protest decisions made by the San Diego Section of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF).

Pastor Rickey Laster said the meeting's purpose was to “speak truth to power.” It was conducted by a grass-roots group calling itself Citizens Against CIF, which has accused San Diego Section officials of bias against schools from disadvantaged areas.

“It's discrimination is what it is,” said Rudy Johnson, a Horizon High School senior.

The meeting lasted more than two hours with many emotional pleas to fight local CIF officials through various means, including picketing the San Diego Section's Board of Managers meeting Tuesday. Some elected officials sent representatives to monitor the meeting, including Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, and Rep. Bob Filner, D-Chula Vista.

Local CIF officials said they could not attend because of scheduling conflicts. But a private attorney who has worked for San Diego Section officials, Dino Buzunis, tried to give the CIF's side. His comments often were met with jeers from the crowd. Buzunis asked them to keep an open mind so they can “know the entire story.”

“You're only being told what certain people want you to hear because decisions have been made that they're unhappy with,” Buzunis said.

Buzunis said “the CIF is not a racist organization” and that its rules are designed to create a level playing field for all.

Several players from the Eastlake High girls basketball team didn't agree. The San Diego Section booted the Titans from the playoffs last year, accusing them of having an ineligible ninth-grader who used false addresses to gain enrollment at Eastlake middle and high schools. Eastlake team members denied it. Coach Janet Eleazar recently was fired amid such allegations of improper recruiting, which she denied.

Others at the meeting asked why the wrestling and baseball programs at Poway, where section Commissioner Dennis Ackerman lives, didn't face serious penalties after facing similar accusations. Eastlake and San Diego High, in a similar case, ended up with fired coaches and forfeited games...

Football Player's Dreams Shattered By CIF
CIF Abusing Its Powers?
ovember 4, 2005

Rocco Sanchez was one of the most sought-after high school football players in the country...

Sanchez's dream of playing in the NFL suffered a major setback when his parents split up. Sanchez and his mother moved, forcing him to leave Castle Park High School and attend Otay Ranch High School.

It was not a big deal, until Maria Castilleja, the principal at Castle Park High School, called the school district and said Sanchez did not really move.

Sanchez and his mom, Mika Molina, moved into a home near Otay Ranch High School. However, Molina's husband stayed in Castle Park's district...

In August, the CIF held two hearings and found that ... Sanchezes violated a CIF rule which "requires the entire Sanchez family move" to the new address.

According to 10News, the CIF and the school district said Sanchez's mother was lying. Therefore, Sanchez could not play football...

"There's certainly an appearance of a conflict of interest, and you should avoid those appearances," said Bob Ottilie, an attorney representing Sanchez...

CIF Abusing Its Power?

...Molina said the CIF unfairly used the CIF's rule book and ignored the fact that she had split up with her husband...

"I can give you horrible examples of people who have been deprived of their rights and haven't had a chance to prove they're right because of the way the CIF investigates these matters, hears these matters and delays these matters," said Ottilie.

Ottilie has taken on the CIF numerous times and has won every battle over student eligibility.

The former wrestling coach for Carlsbad High School said abuses by the federation turned physical at a wrestling tournament when a CIF official attacked him.

"I turned my back to him, and that's when I get assaulted by him basically," Pilot said.

Someone turned their video camera on just as CIF tournament director Richard Malliet choked Pilot.

Parent Rick Trevino wrote a letter to the CIF and said that Malliet had Pilot in a choke hold. Douglas Gadker, another parent who wrote the CIF, said Malliet had Pilot "in a headlock and was dragging him from behind."...

According to 10News, the tournament director, who witnesses say was the attacker, was not punished. Instead, the CIF has, at least temporarily, banned Pilot from coaching at CIF events...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fox News isn't even pretending anymore

Fox News isn't even pretending anymore
By Gene Lyons
Oct. 15, 2009

...The boldest innovator, however, has been Fox News. Since President Obama’s election, the cable news channel has dropped all but the barest pretense of objectivity. Billing itself as “fair and balanced,” Fox has turned itself into what White House communications director Anita Dunn recently called “the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.”

Actually, that’s an extremely polite way of putting it. It’s closer to Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth.” Fox openly promotes “Tea Parties” and other political demonstrations; it portrays every perceived White House defeat, such as Chicago’s failure to secure the 2016 Olympic Games, as a victory for something called “Fox Nation.”...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

When Kentucky prosecutor charged Edwin Chandler, had no second thoughts. Now innocent man is exonerated after 9-year jail term

His conviction for manslaughter and robbery in Whitfield's death was vacated just hours after a Jefferson County grand jury indicted 45-year-old repeat offender Percy Phillips for her death. Phillips is already serving a 20-year sentence for assault.

October 13, 2009
Man's conviction set aside in 1993 shooting death
Courier-Journal Louisville, Kentucky
By Jessie Halladay
and Jason Riley

For 16 years, Edwin Chandler faithfully believed the day would come when everyone would know he wasn't the man who shot Brenda Whitfield in the head during a 1993 robbery at the Chevron station where she worked.

That day finally arrived Tuesday, when Jefferson Circuit Judge Fred Cowan vacated the manslaughter and robbery charges against Chandler after prosecutors and police announced they had convicted the wrong man...

When Steve Schroering prosecuted Chandler in 1995, he said he had no doubt that the right man went to prison.

[Maura Larkins comment: Prosecutors never have any second thoughts, do they?]

“It was never a case I had second thoughts about until this morning” when Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Stengel called to tell him the conviction was being set aside.

After all, a store video camera captured the crime and an eyewitness tentatively identified Chandler. Fingerprints, a knit cap and sunglasses were found at the scene. And Chandler made a taped confession to detectives, admitting to the robbery and saying the shooting was accidental.

But the fingerprints didn't match Chandler's, the owner of the cap and sunglasses was uncertain, and Chandler said he falsely confessed, coerced by police scare tactics and coaching.

Chandler said then-Detective Mark Handy told Chandler he believed he was lying and threatened to charge his sister and girlfriend with harboring a fugitive if he didn't tell the truth.

Chandler said he was a few blocks away, watching a movie with his girlfriend. He remembers seeing a swarm of police cars but didn't know what had happened.

Police focused on Chandler after a witness identified him near the scene, and he already was wanted on a jail-escape charge...

But Chandler's jurors never heard some of the information that could have helped acquit him.

They never heard from John Gray, who was pumping gasoline when the shooting occurred. Gray left his name with a county officer at the scene, but it was never passed on to the city officers investigating the case..

In 1996, Gray was serving time in prison with Chandler and told him he saw the shooter and his name was Percy...