Sunday, August 30, 2009

Blackwater (now "Xe") employed untrained foreigners for senstive operations, also former CIA officials/Links to Shinoff ruling and Terry Greir

Click here to see "Judge Judith Hayes will rule on whether Dan Shinoff was intimidating, unethical or unprofessional when he sued Dr. B.J. Freeman on behalf of VUSD."
See all Judge Judith Hayes posts.

Click HERE for Terry Grier.

See Erik Prince, Master of War.
Who exactly was keeping America safe during the Bush years? And who was buying loyalty with US taxpayer dollars? It looks like Blackwater (now known as Xe) was using tax dollars to pay foreigners and former CIA agents for their loyalty--to Blackwater.

How Many Moral Waivers Has Blackwater Issued?

The Washington Note
Oct 11 2007
(Note the date. It seems that our calamities are often predicted; it's just that no one acts on the warnings.)

A while back, I got interested in the fact that the Pentagon has issued more than 125,000 "moral waivers" to recruits in order to continue to meet manpower requirements. While issuing these waivers for various kinds of felonies -- including theft and assault -- the military under its highly righteous most senior general, Joint Chiefs Commander Pete Pace, continued to legally harrass and expel discovered homosexuals in its ranks.

This raises the questions about norms in private military contractors -- like Blackwater.

I don't know the answers but it would be interesting to know if Blackwater has issued any moral waivers to its recruits -- or whether it has any moral benchmarks at all. Someone really ought to ask...

Former DoD official and defense policy staffer at CSIS and the Council on Foreign Relations John Hillen used to focus on the "norms gap" between society and the Department of Defense -- and he'd side with the anti-gay bias of the Pentagon in general. But Blackwater USA and other private contractors raise a new question not about the gap between their outfits and American society -- but about the norms gap between a Blackwater operation and the military.

My New America Foundation colleague and friend Jim Pinkerton -- who used to hang out with the current President when "W" was a lost puppy looking for purpose under the political direction of Lee Atwater -- has written a great essay on Blackwater -- with particular focus on the cockiness of the firm's CEO, Erik Prince...

Blackwater tapped foreigners on secret CIA program
By ADAM GOLDMAN and PAMELA HESS, Associated Press
Aug 30, 2009

WASHINGTON – When the CIA revived a plan to kill or capture terrorists in 2004, the agency turned to the well-connected security company then known as Blackwater USA.

With Blackwater's lucrative government security work and contacts arrayed in hot spots around the world, company officials offered the services of foreigners supposedly skilled at tracking terrorists in lawless regions and countries where the CIA had no working relationships with the government.

Blackwater told the CIA that it "could put people on the ground to provide the surveillance and support — all of the things you need to conduct an operation," a former senior CIA official familiar with the secret program told The Associated Press.

But the CIA's use of the private contractor as part of its now-abandoned plan to dispatch death squads skirted concerns now re-emerging with recent disclosures about Blackwater's role.

The former senior CIA official said he had doubts during his tenure about whether Blackwater's foreign recruits had mastered the necessary skills to pull off such a high-stakes operation. Blackwater's later hiring of several senior CIA officials who were involved in or aware of the secret program, including one of the men who ran the operation, showed the blurred lines of using a private contractor for such a highly classified and dangerous project...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rick Hess from the American Enterprise Institute says pay teachers more and ask more from them

Rick Hess from the American Enterprise Institute asserts that if we want better teaching we need to pay better teachers more, recruit teachers later in life, and reduce paperwork. "This is an extravagant waste of talent."

Class Size and Pay: A Tradeoff?
Education Week
August 27, 2009

American Enterprise Institute edu-maverick Rick Hess has this provocative essay in the most recent issue of Education Next. He brings up a lot of interesting ideas about recruiting career-changers and deploying teachers differently in the classroom.

But the thing that really stopped me in my tracks was this observation on class-size reduction.

"In this decade, as states overextended their commitments during the real estate boom, the ranks of teachers grew at nearly twice the rate of student enrollment. If policymakers had maintained the same overall teacher-to-student ratio since the 1970s, we would need 1 million fewer teachers, training could be focused on a smaller and more able population, and average teacher pay would be close to $75,000 per year."

...Would we now have better teachers? After all, as economists will volubly tell you, when you change things like compensation, you effect change in the talent pool that applies for jobs. (It is one of the theories behind performance-based compensation.)

Teachers, which would you prefer: a class size of, say, 15-to-1 and your current salary, or a $75,000 salary and a class size of, say, 30-to-1?

Online education is more effective than classroom teaching

It's sad when a machine can do a better job than a college graduate. The problem is school districts are choosing the wrong college graduates in too many cases, and they're keeping the wrong people in the classroom. See evaluating teachers.

August 19, 2009
Study Finds That Online Education Beats the Classroom
By Steve Lohr
New York Times

A recent 93-page report on online education, conducted by SRI International for the Department of Education, has a starchy academic title, but a most intriguing conclusion: “On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”

The report examined the comparative research on online versus traditional classroom teaching from 1996 to 2008. Some of it was in K-12 settings, but most of the comparative studies were done in colleges and adult continuing-education programs of various kinds, from medical training to the military.

Over the 12-year span, the report found 99 studies in which there were quantitative comparisons of online and classroom performance for the same courses. The analysis for the Department of Education found that, on average, students doing some or all of the course online would rank in the 59th percentile in tested performance, compared with the average classroom student scoring in the 50th percentile. That is a modest but statistically meaningful difference.

“The study’s major significance lies in demonstrating that online learning today is not just better than nothing — it actually tends to be better than conventional instruction,” said Barbara Means, the study’s lead author and an educational psychologist at SRI International...

CTA's Jim Groth wants to slow down educational reform

Jim Groth, my former colleague at Chula Vista Elementary School District, should be suggesting effective methods for evaluating teachers instead of nixing Obama's efforts to allow schools to include student scores in teacher evaluations.

But apparently the California Teacher Association is taking a page from extreme right-leaning Sarah Palin and Mark Sanford in thumbing its nose at stimulus funds.

CTA doesn't want California to participate in the Race to the Top at this time because it wants to protect the current inadequate teacher evaluation system. Longtime loyal Democrats are getting sick of CTA's opposition to school reform.

Sarah Palin and Mark Sanford were overruled by their legislatures. But who will overrule CTA?

Chula Vista Teachers Protest Schwarzenegger Visit
Voice of San Diego
Emily Alpert
Aug. 27, 2009

The Chula Vista teachers union used a visit from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as a platform to protest his education plans, chiefly the push to link standardized test scores to teacher evaluation so that California is eligible for added stimulus dollars from the federal government.

Schwarzenegger was scheduled to visit Chula Vista Learning Community Charter School this morning. The union held a press conference at the school to explain their opposition to his plans. I couldn't make it to their meeting, but I phoned Jim Groth, a Chula Vista teacher and a board member of the statewide California Teachers Association, to talk about their announcements.

"What we are saying is, 'Let's slow down,'" Groth said as he left the Chula Vista school. "Changing the laws at the state would affect all districts. We're talking about local control. Local school boards would not have that control -- it would be dictated by Washington, D.C."...


Embattled South Carolina governor vows to finish term
Aug 26, 2009

Republican South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, a conservative once seen as a possible presidential candidate in 2012, rejected a call from his deputy to resign Wednesday in the wake of a sex scandal...

Sanford was a prominent opponent of Democratic President Barack Obama's economic stimulus bill and rejected $700 million of South Carolina's portion of the funds on grounds it would undermine the state's fiscal stability...the state Supreme Court later overruled his opposition...


Sarah Palin won't stop complaining that the media has portrayed her unfairly. Apparently this is because the media talks about things that Palin herself would prefer not to discuss, such as Palin's using the fact that Russia is within sight of Alaska to prove that she is ready to handle international foreign policy.

Chula Vista Educators' Peg Myers won't stop complaining that this blog has portrayed her unfairly. Again, this seems to be because this blog talks about things that Peg herself would prefer not to discuss, such as her actions against teachers at Castle Park Elementary when Peg was working on behalf of administrator Richard Werlin and some of her other friends.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ted Kennedy's story of redemption and achievement; seeing potential in our students

Senator Edward Kennedy died on August 25, 2009. I remember when Ted Kennedy was an irresponsible playboy. I never expected him to amount to much, but I was wrong. Over the years I have tried to get better at recognizing the seeds of greatness in people who don't appear to be remarkable. This has been rewarding to me as a classroom teacher. I've learned NEVER to write off any child. It has distressed me to sit in various teacher lounges and listen to the constant put-downs of kids by teachers, particularly since I believe these negative prophecies tend to be self-fulfilling.


I have fervently hoped for universal health care ever since one of my first grade students was home alone with her 32-year-old father when he died of an easily treatable heart problem. I hope someone will step forward and take Kennedy's place in the effort for universal health care.

My student's hard-working and responsible young father needed a rather simple heart procedure, but couldn't afford it.

He was not eligible for Medi-Cal because he owned his own humble little house and a small business that supported the family in a very modest style.


In the last six weeks of life, elderly patients are usually given hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of care, perhaps delaying their deaths by several weeks. The young father of my student had many years of life ahead of him, and only needed a thirty-thousand dollar operation.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Return of the Garbage Patch Kids

Return of the Garbage Patch Kids
Voice of San Diego
Aug. 24, 2009

Miriam Goldstein was floating on an inflatable raft in one of the planet's oldest biological communities, curiously watching gelatinous creatures few humans have ever seen, when she noticed tiny polka dots of plastic bobbing on the ocean surface.

Goldstein was shocked to see firsthand how big pieces of synthetic debris are breaking down and littering the North Pacific Gyre with "micro-plastics" -- almost undetectable, confetti-like bits that could end up fouling the entire food chain, from zooplankton to humans.

"So there are all these cool organisms, and they're underneath this sort of layer of plastics just floating there," said Goldstein, the chief scientist on a Scripps Institution of Oceanography mission to study the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch that has collected in the gyre, which is about 1,000 miles off the California coast...

Did Aspen Group LLC actually help SDUSD in return for $229,000?

Schools don't need Aspen Group to micromanage them. Schools need a whole new culture. I suggest bringing in Patrick Leoncini, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Randy Quinn, senior partner
Aspen Group International, LLC

Much Ado About Micromanaging
Voice of San Diego
August 24, 2009

...After the school board picked the new superintendent, Terry Grier, it brought in a new consultant, the Aspen Group LLC, to keep working on governance issues with them in April 2008. I've tallied up $229,000 in contracts to those consultants since then, plus another $160,000 contract the school board signed with Aspen to work with them for the next school year...

But when school board member Katherine Nakamura told me that the closed meeting today gave them a real opportunity for some honest conversation about their roles and allowing the superintendent to be the superintendent, I had to ask: Wasn't that what all those governance trainings were for? What happened in that closed meeting that wasn't happening in those earlier trainings?

"The issue of Houston maybe clarifies things," she said. "We had some more honest conversations."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Judge Judith Hayes will rule on whether Vista Unifed School District was intimidating, unethical or unprofessional when it sued Dr. B.J. Freeman

UPDATE: Judge Judith Hayes found that Vista Unified School District's behavior was illegal or unethical, and then she ordered me not to talk about it. Ever. How can she justify her decisions? Apparently, the same way that Catholic University of America justifies its refusal to give academic freedom to professors. But isn't San Diego Superior Court supposed to function differently than the Catholic University?  The court isn't a private religious institution.

See all Judge Judith Hayes posts.

The image below is page 2 of VUSD's case management statement in B.J. Freeman case.

Click image to enlarge.

Judge Judith Hayes decided VUSD was intimidating, unethical or unprofessional when it sued a paid expert witness for refusing to testify as VUSD wished about whether a child was eligible for special education classes.

The case in question was filed in 2004 by Vista Unified School District against Dr. B.J. Freeman. Dr. Freeman was willing to testify, but she insisted on saying that the child was eligible for special education.

Here is what VUSD wrote in its 2004 Case Management Statement about why it was suing Dr. Freeman:

"...Dr. Freeman was to support the school in following her assessments..."

You can't get much more mealy-mouthed than that, can you? What it meant was that Dr. Freeman's assessment didn't say what the school wanted it to say.


Dr. B.J. Freeman noted, in her response to Vista Unified School District's complaint against her, "Plaintiff is purposefully mixing up the issues of the initial assessment of the child, the meetings which occurred to develop a care plan, and the final issue about the Due Process hearing of which Dr. Freeman was not informed until a couple of weeks before the hearing."

See B.J. Freeman Demurrer page 5 line 18.


This shouldn't be a tall order, since the judge and the writer have very little in common other than their name. Here is an article about the writer:

The Happy Heretic
03 18th, 2009
“When people ask me why I write what I write I usually answer, ‘To nudge people.’ This is literally the truth. I try to nudge people into thinking about things they might otherwise never give a passing thought to. I try to make it easier for them to do so by using satire, vivid imagery, and a sprinkling of merry nonsense.”

Judith Hayes, the Erma Bombeck of the secular humanist community, has the unique ability to raise serious points while making us laugh as she throws buckets of cold water on the irrational beliefs and maddening inconsistencies that often characterize popular religion. She’s at her best when recounting modern-day “miracles” such as the apparition of the Virgin Mary’s face in a waffle at a Fresno diner; or when she describes how she started rubbing a stuffed penguin whenever she had the urge to pray, and got the same results. But there are also poignant stories about believing friends and acquaintances whose struggles with irrational beliefs in the face of perplexing dilemmas and personal tragedies are in many cases heartrending. She also devotes a chapter to explaining in clear, concise, layperson’s terms exactly what humanism is and stands for, in particular extolling its tolerance. By turns funny, provocative, and touching, Judith Hayes is the perfect popular spokesperson for clear thinking and reason...

Do students and parents have to keep silent when teachers or coaches are abusive? California court says NO.

Coach Mike Lee

Written Complaint to School Board Held Protected Under Anti-SLAPP Law
Summer 2006
Lee v. Fick (2005) 35 Cal. App. 4th 89
By Kelly T. Boruszewski
Lorber, Greenfield & Polito, LLP

Michael Lee, a high school baseball coach, sued a parent for, among others, libel, and slander. These causes of action were based upon that parent publishing a letter to the Conejo Valley Unified School District claiming Lee was manipulative to the players, the parents, and the other coaches; verbally abusive to the kids; emotionally abusing the kids with his outbursts of anger and favoritism to certain players; and threw a fit in the dugout and verbally attacked the parent’s
son for not respecting his authority.

The slander case of action was based on the allegation that the parent stated to at least eight people Lee was a bad coach, was unethical, and had severe anger and emotional and anger problems. In both causes of action, Lee alleged the parents acted with malice and caused him to lose his job.

In response to the Complaint, the parent brought a special motion to strike (anti-SLAPP motion) pursuant to Section 425.16 of the Code Civil Procedure. Section 425.16, subdivision (b)(1) provides: “A cause of action against a person arising from any act of that person in furtherance of the person’s right of petition or free speech under the United States or California Constitution in connection with a public issue shall be subject to a special motion to strike, unless the court determines that the plaintiff has established that there is a probability that the
plaintiff will prevail on the claim.” Subdivision (e)(1) provides that an act in furtherance of a person’s right of petition or free speech includes, “any written or oral statement . . . made before a . . . judicial proceeding, or any other official proceeding authorized by law . . . .”

Section 425.16 requires a two-step analysis: First, determination whether defendants had made a threshold showing that the challenged causes of action arise from a protected activity. If so, then, second, whether the plaintiff has demonstrated a probability of prevailing on the claim, i.e., the complaint is sufficient and is supported by facts sufficient to sustain a judgment in plaintiff’s favor.
To that end, the parent filed a declaration stating Lee became angry as her son when the son “shook off” Lee’s baseball signs, to which Lee verbally and physically threatened the son, poking a finger in his chest.

As a result, the parent wrote a letter addressed “To Whom It May Concern,” alleging libelous statements. The libel cause of action arose from the letter the parent sent to the school board.


Civil Code section 47, subdivision (b) provides that any publication made in any “judicial proceeding” or “in any other official proceeding authorized by law” is privileged. Thus, communications to an official agency intended to induce the agency to initiate action are part of an “official proceeding,” including complaints to school authorities about a teacher or principal in the performance of his or her official duties.

Lee submitted an affidavit in opposition to the motion. He declared the parent’s son was rude to the coaches and had a bad attitude, and denied that he physically or verbally abused the son.

When Lee read the parent letter submitted to the school district, he could not believe what was alleged. School officials conducted a four-week investigation, and Lee continued as baseball coach for the next season. It was only after the parent then met with the principal of the school that Lee was terminated as head coach.
Lee argued the parents never intended to initiate any legally authorized proceedings because the letter was not addressed to a school official, but “To Whom It May Concern.” The Court held that the address on the letter is not determinative and the parent’s uncontradicted declaration that she wrote the letter to deliver to the school district and did not publish the letter to any other person.

Lee then argued that the letter did not request an investigation or hearing and did not ask for any action. But the Court held that it is obvious from the content of the letter the parents were requesting that Lee be removed as coach.

The Court of Appeal held that complaints to school authorities about a teacher or principal in the performance of his or her official duties are privileged, pursuant to Section 47, subd. (d) of the Civil Code, holding that a letter written by a parent to school officials containing allegedly libelous statements about the coach was written to prompt official action and was privileged, even though the letter did not request an investigation or hearing and did not ask for any action.

Further, the Court held that it was not required that the letter expressly request an investigation or hearing or that school officials take any particular action. Notwithstanding, it concluded that it was obvious from the content of the letter that the parent was requesting that the coach be fired.

Under Lee’s slander cause of action, the Court held that the parent’s alleged comments to school officials and other “interested” parents of baseball players discussing her concerns about Lee’s conduct were privileged and Lee cannot avoid the privilege by characterizing the discussion among parents as gossip.

Lee last attempt was to claim that after school officials initially determined to retain him, the matter was no longer under consideration in any official proceeding. However, the Court held that the parent asked the school officials to reconsider, which is part of the official proceedings and is as privileged as an initial complaint.

The parent, as the prevailing party in the anti-SLAPP motion, was entitled to attorneys’ fees.


I think the answer to this question might be, more often than not, YES. Coach Lee seems to be doing fine now (see story below).

But sometimes it is the parent who complains who is crushed by the school authorities. Click here for the story of one San Diego parent who spent a week in jail for complaining about a coach.

Coach Lee’s supporters emerge
Claremont Currier
October 17, 2007
Regarding the topic of Claremont High School’s head varsity baseball coach Mike Lee and his past, the Claremont Unified School District along with the majority of CUSD parents are ready to move on with Coach Lee still intact...

...Newbury Park High School parent Debbie Alia said that she was “appalled” while reading a recent Los Angeles Times article on October 3 that focused on the text message issue...“He taught the kids respect, that baseball is a team sport and also taught them not to argue with the umpire or curse..."

Though Mr. Lee resigned from his position as baseball coach at Westlake High School last year and was terminated from his coaching position at Newbury Park High, former principals at Newbury Park and Westlake wrote favorable recommendations on behalf of Mr. Lee when he applied for the coaching position at CHS...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

This American likes Britain's socialized healthcare

Why I love Britain's socialized healthcare system

As I learned when my newborn daughter was very sick, in U.K. hospitals, people take care of each other
By Stephen Amidon
Aug. 22, 2009

My eldest daughter had a rough first week. Born after 22 hours of hard labor, her pink skin proceeded to turn an alarming shade of yellow on the second day of her life. It was a bad case of jaundice. She would need to be placed in an incubator, whose ultraviolet light would hopefully clear up the condition. If not, a transfusion would be required. My exhausted wife and I watched in numb horror as our child was encased in the clear plastic box that was to become her crib for the next seven days. What we had hoped would be a straightforward delivery had turned into a nightmare.

Because I am American, and those endless days and nights were spent in a maternity hospital in London, the week that followed has been very much on my mind as I listen to the recent attacks on the British National Health Service. It is a system that I found to be very different from the one currently being described as "evil" and "Orwellian" by politicians and commentators eager to use it as an example of the dark side of public medicine...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Suggestions for Terry Grier as he leaves San Diego for Houston

Photo at left: Terry Grier.
See all Terry Grier posts HERE.

Actually, I just have one suggestion for Mr. Grier: When you want to counteract teacher union excesses, DON'T GET IN BED WITH COMPANIES LIKE ASPEN INTERNATIONAL THAT ARE INTERESTED IN POWER, NOT REFORM.

Aspen International is worse than the teachers union.

Try some real reform--like sitting down and talking to a cross-spectrum of teachers, and getting them to talk to each other and to parents. Take the politics out of schools, and put professionalism in the driver's seat. Also, set up a meaningful evaluation system for teachers. Right now, both teachers and administrators have influence based on their political power, not their professional abilities.

HISD board picks San Diego's Terry Grier
Choice to lead district vows to cut dropout rate
Aug. 21, 2009, 8:14AM

Houston school trustees united Thursday to name Terry Grier the new superintendent, and now the ambitious San Diego schools chief must win over an unfamiliar and diverse community.

Grier, who has run eight school systems in 25 years, will take over the Houston Independent School District pending final school board approval. State law requires a 21-day waiting period.

“I just think there's a wonderful opportunity here,” Grier said after receiving a standing ovation at HISD headquarters.

The 59-year-old stood with his wife, Nancy, by his side and said he would be “humbled and honored” to lead the nation's seventh-largest school district. He pledged to reduce HISD's dropout rate and said he would help “an already good district become a truly great district.”...

Houston Independent School District statistics:
• Hispanic: 61.1 percent
• Black: 27.8 percent
• Anglo: 7.8 percent
• Asian: 3.2 percent
• Low income: 80.9 percent

Sources: 2008-09 data from HISD

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why do our courts convict the innocent so often? Connecticut man served 21 years for murder he didn't commit

Why don't the officers of the court, the lawyers and judges, do a better job of making sure good information is presented to juries? And why do jurors come up with senseless decisions so often? I'm wondering if we need professional jurors for very violent and very complex cases. The ordinary person has no way of understanding a murder, or a complex case, and is too easily swayed by manipulative lawyers. Ordinary jurors are fine in ordinary cases, but in some cases, they simply are not the "peers" of the people on trial.

DNA Frees Man Convicted of Murder
AOL / Wire Services
Aug. 20, 2009

A man who served 21 years in prison for a murder and rape he didn't commit walked out of a Connecticut court a free man Wednesday after a judge dismissed all charges against him, reported WTNH.

Kenneth Ireland was 16 years old when Barbara Pelkey, a 30-year-old mother of four, was raped and murdered in 1986. Police found Pelkey's nude body at the former R.S. Moulding and Manufacturing Co. in Wallingford, Conn., where she worked the overnight shift, NBC Connecticut (WVIT) reported.

Kenneth Ireland spent 21 years in prison, convicted of a murder that occurred when he was 16. But new DNA testing proved he didn't commit the crime. On Wednesday, a Connecticut judge dismissed all charges against him. Above, he leaves the courthouse a free man. His is just the latest case cleared via new DNA testing.

Kenneth Ireland spent 21 years in prison, convicted of a murder that occurred when he was 16. But new DNA evidence proved he didn't commit the crime. On Wednesday, a Connecticut judge dismissed all charges against him, and he left the courthouse a free man. His is just the latest case cleared through new DNA testing technology.

... DNA found at the scene of the crime wasn't conclusively linked to Ireland, it was linked to a blood type that 20 percent of the population has, including Ireland, reported The Associated Press in the Hartford Courant. Two people also testified that Ireland confessed. But Ireland denied those statements.

New tests conducted on that DNA in the past few months at the behest of the New Haven state's attorney conclusively proved Ireland's innocence. On Aug. 5 he was released from jail, according to the Courant, and on Wednesday a judge formally dismissed all charges against him.

His case was handled in part by the Connecticut Innocence Project, which has helped free two other men since 2006, the AP reported.

Guajome Park Academy case against employee who exposed grade changes; federal trial Sept. 15, 2009

UPDATE SEPT. 11, 2009: The federal court has ordered Guajome Park Academy to prepare dismissal documents for this case, which had been scheduled for trial next Tuesday. Apparently there is a settlement in the case. Shame on GPA for abusing the justice system to cover up its own wrongdoing.

Citizen Media Law Project summary of case: Guajome Park Academy v. DuPerry

See all Guajome Park Academy posts HERE.

Declaration in favor of McCulloch by Vista Unified School District board president Carol Herrera.

The court has refused to allow a defense witness to testify. Why is the court protecting the Plaintiff? The court granted an order excluding the testimony of Stephanie Persichetti at trial, although the court noted that "Defendant opposes the motion, claiming that this “entire lawsuit arises from the grade change of one student,” taught by Persichetti. Defendant states that Persichetti will provide relevant testimony regarding Plaintiff’s grade change policy and alleged violations of the policy, within the context of her experience as a teacher at the academy.".

Current healthcare system works well for CEO of AETNA; he mades $24 million a year

FOX News Blogs
August 20th, 2009
The Lighter Side: What Do Republicans Really Want?
By Scott Blakeman, Political Comedian

If the Republicans actually had a platform on healthcare reform, here's my version of what it might look like.

"As Republicans, we ask 'Who says our healthcare system doesn't work?' The CEO of AETNA made $24 million last year.It certainly works for him. Sure there's 47 million Americans who don't have health insurance, but we're more concerned about making sure those CEO's don't get a salary cut.

That's why we hate the idea of a public option. By increasing competition and lowering costs, the CEO of AETNA might have to settle for only $12 million a year. Who can live on that? And if the insurance companies make less money, that means they'll contribute less money to our reelection campaigns. And by the way, although we hate to say anything nice about Democrats, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus feels the same way as we do on this. He should. He's received $3.9 million from those insurance guys...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Charter School guru Mike Hazelton claims he's not a public figure in Cortez Hill case

Photo: Mike Hazelton

It's amazing that powerful people in schools think they can take control of our money and our children, yet not be accountable to the public.

"Without doubt, the public has a legitimate interest in the activities of a school principal.."

See all Hazelton posts HERE.

An Update on the Charter Guru Case

August 19, 2009
Voice of San Diego

One of the former employers of Michael R. Hazelton, the charter school guru who I wrote an investigative profile about last year, is firing back after Hazelton sued a now-shuttered school and its leader.

A recap: Hazelton is an administrator who led three Southern California charter schools in four years, each of which was left suffering deficits or battling accusations that he improperly enriched himself by the time he left. One of those schools was Cortez Hill, where auditors found that Hazelton had raised his own salary without board approval. Deficits at the school jumped from $16,559 to $188,187 in the single year that Hazelton worked there. Principal Jacqueline Hicks said she had been "ripped off" by Hazelton.

You might remember that back in February, Hazelton filed suit against Cortez Hill and Hicks, alleging that the school had failed to pay him his full wages, inflicted emotional distress and invaded his privacy by allegedly sharing a letter with a parent in which Hicks "maliciously, unlawfully and for an improper purpose" said she would file embezzlement charges against Hazelton with the police.

He contended that the letter was part of his personnel file and therefore private. It resulted in "the impairment of and damage to his good name and reputation," along with lost earnings, difficulty getting a new job, and humiliation, discomfort and embarrassment, the claim states. Hazelton advertised a new learning center after the last of the schools he led was closed; the center has since expanded to support families who are homeschooling.

Cortez Hill and Hicks countered that because the accusation of embezzlement centers on his actions as principal of Cortez Hill, it's unreasonable for Hazelton to expect that any wrongdoing wouldn't be publicized. "Without doubt, the public has a legitimate interest in the activities of a school principal," it continues.

The two articles we wrote are included by the attorneys as exhibits in the case.

Lawyers are scheduled to next confer on the case in September.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Democrats for Education Reform like Obama's efforts to change the status quo in education

“We like the way the administration is using Race to the Top to send a message about its priorities,” said Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. “We like that it’s gotten states to take a close look at their laws and practices.”

Dangling Money, Obama Pushes Education Shift

New York Times
August 16, 2009

Holding out billions of dollars as a potential windfall, the Obama administration is persuading state after state to rewrite education laws to open the door to more charter schools and expand the use of student test scores for judging teachers.

That aggressive use of economic stimulus money by Education Secretary Arne Duncan is provoking heated debates over the uses of standardized testing and the proper federal role in education, issues that flared frequently during President George W. Bush’s enforcement of his signature education law, called No Child Left Behind.

A recent case is California, where legislative leaders are vowing to do anything necessary, including rewriting a law that prohibits the use of student scores in teacher evaluations, to ensure that the state is eligible for a chunk of the $4.3 billion the federal Education Department will soon award to a dozen or so states. The law had strong backing from the state teachers union...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bonifacio "Bonny" Garcia resigns as Wasco city attorney

After a grand jury investigation and $500,000 in payments to attorney Bonny Garcia of Garcia Calderon Ruiz, the City of Wasco finally parted ways with Mr. Garcia this past March.

Bye bye Bonifacio
March 23, 2009
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
By Jennifer McLain

The city attorney known for his late - and high - billing habits resigned from his post as Rosemead's legal defender on March 19, reporter Rebecca Kimitch confirmed today.

Bonifacio Garcia was hired on April 3, 2007, the same day that the city was slapped with a lawsuit by a former city employee alleging that former Councilman John Nunez subjected her to sexual harassment. The lawsuit was later dropped and there was a settlement, and officials have said that Garcia's hiring date was just a coincidence that it fell on the same day the lawsuit was filed.

During the time that Garcia was employed, he charged the city more than double the amount it budgeted for legal fees. Garcia and Nunez worked together at the Garvey School District.

The City Council will consider hiring Joe Montes of Burke, Williams and Sorensen as the interim city attorney.

See See also

The article below talks about Garcia's 2007 misadventures in Rosemead and Wasco.

Rosemead puts cap on legal fees; Move comes after city billed $100,000 in 3 months
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
September 4, 2007
By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

...In Wasco, the hiring of Garcia's firm prompted a grand jury investigation, which was released in July.

The Kern County grand jury alleges the Wasco City Council violated the state's open meeting law by deciding in secret to fire the city attorney and replace the firm with Garcia, Calderon and Ruiz.

The report states that since Garcia was hired, "the city is incurring substantial increases in the cost of having a city attorney. It is estimated that this will cost four to five times more than the previous city attorney."

Garcia denied the grand jury's allegations. On behalf of the city, Garcia responded, "The grand jury's mistaken legal conclusions could have been avoided with a reasonable amount of legal research and factual investigation."

According to Wasco's finance records, Garcia's firm billed the city $148,024 for six months worth of work. In comparison, the previous law firm billed the city $34,178 for the previous six months of work.

"He is not overcharging the city. Some people say that his contract rate is too high, but he is charging the city what the contract rate is," said Wasco City Manager Ron Mittag.

Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, said an attorney can charge whatever he wants to charge. "The real question of course is, `Is this guy providing his money's worth?', and that is something for the city to determine."

Wasco Councilman Tilo Cortez said he thinks Garcia is "screwing the city."

"Bonny says you get what you pay for," Cortez said. "But I don't see what we are getting for the extra money that we are paying him." ...

Green Dot Charter Schools make a difference at Locke High, which was likely the worst school in LAUSD

"So many of us who had been working here for many years, without even knowing, we fell into habits. Whether it was bad habits or just kind of the habit of not caring."

Los Angeles' Most Troubled High School Undergoes Transformation

In Novel Experiment, 'Green Dot' Seeks to Breathe New Life into Students and School
Aug. 13, 2009
ABC News

...In an attempt to redefine the Locke's leadership, Green Dot fired all the school's original teachers in 2007 and made them reapply for their jobs.

"We felt like it was a slap to our face, when someone said they could do the job that no one else was doing," said Zeus Cubias, a Locke alum, who has been a teacher in the district for the last 11 years.

"So many of us who had been working here for many years, without even knowing, we fell into habits. Whether it was bad habits or just kind of the habit of not caring," Cubias told ABC News...

It didn't help that Jimmy was frequently late for school, but he got a bit of a break because of his troubled home life. Jimmy's father, a gang member, had been in prison for most of his life; and in 2007, his mother died of lupus, leaving him and his seven brothers and sisters to move in with his retired grandmother.

"My mom was like ... like my backbone, like your spinal cord, that's what my mom was, part of my body," he said. "Sometimes I think I could just throw the towel in, like I think, I can't do it no more. It's just impossible for me to continue on with my life like this."...

But Locke can't shield its students from the violence just outside its gates. In April 2009, one of its students was shot on the edge of the campus.

"This happens. This is Watts, and there are 20 something known gang territories that intersect on this corner," Barr explains. "We pushed the gangs off of campus. But you can only push them so far."...
This year, Locke graduated the second highest number of students in its history and sent more students to four-year universities than ever before...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

When the justice system is used to promote political careers

When political operatives decide who gets prosecuted, what do we have? We have a government that is deeply corrupt, with no checks and balances.

In 2006 New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici, a Republican, wanted Rep. Heather Wilson to be reelected. He figured it would be helpful if the US Attorney prosecuted some Democrats, but US Attorney David Iglesias said there wasn't enough evidence to pursue the voter fraud prosecutions desired by Domenici and Wilson. Domenici sent word to Karl Rove through Rove aid Scott Jennings.

Rove got the job done. A total of eight US Attorneys were fired, including San Diego's Carole Lam.

Karl Rove, Bush Officials Deeper in U.S. Attorney Firings Than They Admitted
August 12, 2009
By Robert Schlesinger
US News and World Report

So Karl Rove and the White House staff were more deeply involved with the infamous firings of federal prosecutors than they had previously acknowledged. Quel supris. I did get a nice chuckle from the New York Times story on the matter, though, where Rove's attorney is quoted as saying that there was "absolutely no evidence" that Bush's Brain and company did anything improper. That assertion is belied by the White House staff's actions and by logic.

The Times notes an internal White House E-mail noting plans to deny that New Mexico prosecutor David Iglesias had been fired because of Republican irritation over his pursuit of voter fraud cases and also to deny that any member of Congress had contacted the Justice Department to make such complaints. Both statements were flatly untrue. So if the Bush folk weren't doing anything wrong, why lie about it? (I suppose one answer is: They were talking to the public, they didn't know any better.)

Rove involvement in US attorney firing detailed

WASHINGTON (AP) - Former White House political adviser Karl Rove played a central role in the ouster of a U.S. attorney in New Mexico, one of nine prosecutors fired in a scandal in 2006 over political interference with the Justice Department, according to transcripts of closed-door testimony released Tuesday. Harriet Miers, then White House counsel, said in testimony June 15 to House Judiciary Committee investigators that Rove was "very agitated" over U.S. Attorney David Iglesias "and wanted something done about it."

Testimony puts Rove at center of Justice firings


WASHINGTON – The U.S. attorney in Albuquerque, N.M., didn't see enough evidence when asked to prosecute some voter fraud cases in his state.

In Washington, however, then-White House political adviser Karl Rove was getting a different message and acting on it.

Transcripts of closed-door congressional testimony indicate that Rove played a central role in the ouster of David Iglesias, who was one of nine federal prosecutors fired in a series of politically tinged dismissals in 2006.

Harriet Miers, then White House counsel, said in testimony June 15 to House Judiciary Committee investigators that Rove was "very agitated" over Iglesias "and wanted something done about it."

The committee released more than 5,400 pages of White House and Republican National Committee e-mails, along with transcripts of closed-door testimony by Miers and Rove. Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said the documents reveal that White House political officials were deeply involved in the firing of Iglesias and the other U.S. attorneys.

The documents show that staffers in Rove's office were actively seeking to have Iglesias removed after Republican figures in New Mexico complained that he was not pursuing voter fraud cases they wanted. In 2005, Rove aide Scott Jennings sent an e-mail to another Rove aide saying, "I would really like to move forward with getting rid of NM US ATTY."

Miers testified that Rove relayed to her complaints about Iglesias from political figures in New Mexico but added that she could not recall whether Rove told her specifically that the prosecutor should be fired.

"My best recollection is that he was very agitated about the U.S. attorney in New Mexico," Miers testified. "It was clear to me that he felt like he had a serious problem."...

Who knew? Chinese tunnels under Mexicali

An Imperial-Sized Portrait of Imperial County
By Maureen Cavanaugh, Pat Finn
These Days
KPBS Radio
August 12, 2009

Interview with William Vollmann, author of "Imperial," who will speak and sign books at Warwick's in La Jolla on Wednesday, August 12, 2009, at 7:30 p.m.

(After they built the railroads, Chinese immigrants were forced out of California. Some of them crossed into Mexicali, where they flourished in the restaurant and laundry businesses. But they were not all that welcome in Mexico, either. As a result, there exists an underground world in Mexicali where Chinese could move about safe from deportation.)

Here's another take on the story:

Sweet And Sour Times On The Border

by Joe Cummings
Jan. 1, 2006

...Many of the Chinese labourers who survived the building of the irrigation system stayed on after its completion, congregating in an area of Mexicali today known as Chinesca ('Chinatown'). Especially during the U.S. Prohibition years, when Americans flocked to Mexican border towns to partake of the alcoholic beverages outlawed at home, Chinese labourers and farmers moved into the city and spent their hard-earned savings to open bars, restaurants, and hotels. Chinesca eventually housed virtually all of the city's casinos and bars, and an underground tunnel system connected bordellos and opium dens with Mexicali's counterpart city on the U.S. side, Calexico. Bootleggers also used this route to supply the U.S. with booze purchased in Mexico. Many, but by no means all, of the Prohibition-era businesses were operated by chinos.

By 1920 Mexicali's chinos outnumbered the mexicanos 10,000 to 700. A group of 5,000 single Chinese males started the AsociaciĆ³n China, a Mexicali social organization at least partly devoted to the procurement of Chinese wives from overseas. The association remains active today.

In 1927 a series of Tong wars in northern Mexico erupted over control of gambling and prostitution rings. Mexican alarm over the Chinese participation in organized crime led to the government-encouraged Movimiento Anti-Chino in the late 1920s, a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment that swept the country and led to the torture and murder of hundreds of Chinese in northern Mexico--a tragic echo of what happened on a larger scale in California in the 1880s. To Mexico's credit, the government never enacted an equivalent to the U.S. Chinese Exclusion Act, which for a time prevented all persons of Chinese heritage from holding U.S. citizenship.

Mexicali quickly became a refuge for Chinese fleeing the violence on both sides of the border, since in that Chinese-dominated city the clans were strong enough to protect their own...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The "death panels" are already here

Sorry, Sarah Palin -- rationing of care? Private companies are already doing it, with sometimes fatal results
By Mike Madden
Aug. 11, 2009

The future of healthcare in America, according to Sarah Palin, might look something like this: A sick 17-year-old girl needs a liver transplant. Doctors find an available organ, and they're ready to operate, but the bureaucracy -- or as Palin would put it, the "death panel" -- steps in and says it won't pay for the surgery. Despite protests from the girl's family and her doctors, the heartless hacks hold their ground for a critical 10 days. Eventually, under massive public pressure, they relent -- but the patient dies before the operation can proceed.

It certainly sounds scary enough to make you want to go show up at a town hall meeting and yell about how misguided President Obama's healthcare reform plans are. Except that's not the future of healthcare -- it's the present. Long before anyone started talking about government "death panels" or warning that Obama would have the government ration care, 17-year-old Nataline Sarkisyan, a leukemia patient from Glendale, Calif., died in December 2007, after her parents battled their insurance company, Cigna, over the surgery. Cigna initially refused to pay for it because the company's analysis showed Sarkisyan was already too sick from her leukemia; the liver transplant wouldn't have saved her life.

That kind of utilitarian rationing, of course, is exactly what Palin and other opponents of the healthcare reform proposals pending before Congress say they want to protect the country from. "Such a system is downright evil," Palin wrote, in the same message posted on Facebook where she raised the "death panel" specter. "Health care by definition involves life and death decisions."

Coverage of Palin's remarks, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's defense of them, over the weekend did point out that the idea that the reform plans would encourage government-sponsored euthanasia is one of a handful of deliberate falsehoods being peddled by opponents of the legislation. But the idea that only if reform passes would the government start setting up rationing and interfering with care goes beyond just the bogus euthanasia claim.

Opponents of reform often seem to skip right past any problems with the current system -- but it's rife with them. A study by the American Medical Association found the biggest insurance companies in the country denied between 2 and 5 percent of claims put in by doctors last year (though the AMA noted that not all the denials were improper). There is no national database of insurance claim denials, though, because private insurance companies aren't required to disclose such stats. Meanwhile, a House Energy and Commerce Committee report in June found that just three insurance companies kicked at least 20,000 people off their rolls between 2003 and 2007 for such reasons as typos on their application paperwork, a preexisting condition or a family member's medical history. People who buy insurance under individual policies, about 6 percent of adults, may be especially vulnerable, but the 63 percent of adults covered by employer-provided insurance aren't immune to difficulty...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Is anybody missing the pompous Bob Watkins at San Diego County Office of Education?

If Bob Watkins is as rich as he claims to be, why doesn't he pay for his own plane tickets?

UPDATE: Taxpayers manage to pry a few bucks from Bob Watkins' fingers when true purpose of Chargers game outing is revealed.

See all posts about Bob Watkins.

A Voice of San Diego reader asks Bob Watkins (above), "What are you? Marie Antoinette in drag?"

Here's a chance to get some insight into the attitudes of Bob Watkins, who was on the board of San Diego County Office of Education for the past many years. Watkins is now chairman of the Airport Authority.


Airport Officials Continue Flying (and Dining) In the Lap of Luxury
Voice of San Diego
Aug. 9, 2009

...Though they had the option to pay $950 to fly economy, [San Diego Regional Airport] authority Chairman Bob Watkins and board member Bruce Boland upgraded to business-class fares. So the public paid $11,000 for the tickets instead of $1,900...

Employees have flown to Los Angeles on four occasions for meetings instead of driving. Those flights have cost as much as $820 each.

Watkins said he went on the London trip to help identify customers for Zoom Airlines, which briefly provided nonstop service between San Diego and London before the company bankrupted, a business failure that cost the authority $81,000. He said he went to the Chargers game and reception "to continue to help develop relationships."...

[UPDATE: There's a little problem with Watkin's explanation. Zoom went bankrupt TWO MONTHS before his very expensive trip.]

Watkins said the latest issues identified weren't alarming and hadn't been raised by the authority's internal auditor -- whose staff has expensed dinners costing as much as $89. The $435,000 budgeted for 2009 travel is less than a percent of the airport's total budget, Watkins said.

He suggested that a reporter couldn't relate to business class travelers because the reporter didn't make enough money. Watkins compared's examination of authority expenses to a "person who works for the Internal Revenue Service who’s making $40,000 a year and goes in and audits someone who lives in a $1 million home or $2 million home. They’re going to be skewed in terms of, 'Wow, I don’t have that.'"

[Maura Larkins comment: IRS rules are clear, Bob. And don't be so sure that the IRS guy isn't thinking, "Wow! I'd never want that in my house."]

Watkins said the authority's expense reimbursement policies were a "guideline" and needed to have flexibility.

"The public can trust us because we're not flagrantly violating the rules," he said. "Our people are honest and we have enough checks and balances to make sure we're not flagrantly violating the rules."...

The authority's employees shouldn't be entitled to more lavish travel than other municipal employees, [San Diego Taxpayers Association's Lani] Lutar said.

"If the city of San Diego can dine at a lower rate, the airport authority should be able to do so as well," she said. "If the mayor of San Diego can travel economy, airport authority staff should be able to travel economy...

[Maura Larkins comment: Go Lani! It's nice to be on the same side as SDTA for a change.]

Let Them Eat Prix Fixe Spaghetti Dinners

By Ted Blake
Aug. 10, 2009

So airport authority Chairman Bob Watkins "suggested that a reporter couldn't relate to business class travelers because the reporter didn't make enough money."

Has anyone ever heard a more aloof, clueless, and arrogant statement from a public official? The rules don't apply to rich people, Mr. Watkins? Your expense account is being paid for through user fees charged on us ordinary people, but we're too poor to understand why you need deluxe travel to an overseas Chargers game? What are you, Marie Antoinette in drag?

Here's an idea: call the mayor and tell him he made a big mistake appointing a pompous person like yourself as Chairman, resign your appointment immediately, repay the airport authority for all your "official" travel, and then use your ample personal wealth to pay for all your own perks from here on out!

Morning Report: You Couldn't Possibly Understand

It's becoming a trend when we confront public officials about extravagant spending on the public dime: You just don't get it.

"Have you ever tried to eat on $25? I promise you it is very difficult to do," the San Diego schools chief told us last spring while defending taxpayer-funded meals of venison and fancy Japanese beef.

Bob Watkins, the chairman of the San Diego airport authority, tried a similar approach when asked about an $11,000 first-class airfare for two to London among other expenses...

After the story ran, it became clear that Watkins' explanation for why he had to go to London wasn't holding up. He had said he went there to support an airline -- Zoom -- but it turns out this airline had gone belly up two months before his trip.

Yesterday, Watkins offered another explanation for taking the trip.

The aforementioned schools chief has changed his ways: He's flying coach and has cut back on other expenses.

To help illustrate the whole spending story, our media partners at Ch.4 cox and Ch. 7/39 swooped in with a video version of the story. You can watch it here to catch up.

'Flagrantly' Untrustworthy
By Francis Tepedino
Aug. 10, 2009

RE: The Airport Authority's attitude on expending the public's money: It is clear from Bob Watkins' statement:

"The public can trust us because we are not flagrantly violating the rules."

So we can trust them because they are only violating the rules -- but not flagrantly. A typical politician's response to getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar. I demand that Watkins and the others who are only violating the rules -- "but not flagrantly -- return the public monies, and perhaps they should also resign their position of public trust.


Ghostwriting the Airport's Story
Voice of San Diego
Monday, April 10, 2006

A lot of work went into Midge Costanza's opinion piece that appeared Dec. 23 in The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The staff at GCS Public Relations spent 16-and-a-half hours researching, editing and polishing the article, titled "Who will lead on our airport issue?" Costanza, president of the Midge Costanza Institute, a non-partisan public policy group, met twice with Rick Cook, a partner at GCS. They worked to make Costanza's words more conversational. They discussed a submission strategy. Cook twice spoke with Bernie Jones, the Union-Tribune's opinion page editor, and kept him updated on the article's status.

The bill for GCS's work came to $3,140, according to invoices. The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority paid it.

But anyone reading the article would have had no idea that the authority's public relations team had shaped Costanza's words. She does not work for the authority, and the opinion piece did not divulge the authority's role in drafting it. It appeared to be one person's concerned opinion, not part of an orchestrated campaign by a public organization...

From SDCOE website:

Alpine resident Bob Watkins was re-elected as President of the San Diego County Board of Education Wednesday at the board’s first meeting of 2008.

Watkins, the president and chairman of RJ Watkins Co., an international management consulting firm, said, “I am flattered that my colleagues think I’m worthy to represent them and the County Board of Education. The County Office of Education is doing a miraculous job, but there will always be work to do to see that all students get the best education possible.”

Bob Watkins' airport shenanigans are among his least damaging actions. If abusing expense accounts were the worst behavior officials engaged in, we'd be doing fine. We are seriously harmed when big decisions are made to benefit people in power and their friends. Both VOSD and the SDUT are to be congratulated for recent stories looking at how decisions have been made by the San Diego County Office of Education during the years Bob Watkins was on the board. SDCOE officials Randy Ward, Lora Duzyk, Diane Crosier, Rick Rinnear and Dan Puplava seem to be suing or getting sued with unprecedented frequency. A Bob Watkins-style culture seems to permeate SDCOE. I think Dianne Jacob gave this story its due; she's got bigger fish to fry, such as how SDG&E got its pals on the city council to approve power shut-offs in the back country without requiring that SDG&E work on undergrounding power lines or at least repairing them.

Aurora Ponce fundraiser a success! Patrick Judd and the Accelerated School fail to hold down a rising star

All Patrick Judd posts HERE.

An email from

Here at we are so excited that the fundraiser has been a success! Our goal was to raise the $1590 that UC Davis states students need for a year's worth of books and supplies.

As you know, among other punishments, Aurora's school (The Accelerated School) took away her summer tutoring job for peacefully protesting budget cuts causing class size increases and teacher layoffs. She needed the job to buy college books in the Fall.

Tomorrow (Tuesday August 11) at 10AM, outside of The Accelerated School, we will be presenting Aurora with a check for over $1680 (and more donations coming in). This event is organized by parent leaders from The Accelerated School and ACORN.

An overwhelming percent (86% at this point) of the donations have come from Public School Teachers. This is a powerful statement that our teachers care deeply about our students.

Aurora Ponce was publicly berated and chastised by her school administrators. In response, social justice educators and community members have risen to her defense. At we hope that this effort will counter any chilling effect on student-activists.

We hope the message is heard loud and clear: if you stand up for justice, people will stand with you.

Best Wishes,
James Ehrlich,


School relents on barring valedictorian from graduation speech
June 29, 2009

Aurora Ponce, the 18-year-old South L.A. valedictorian who was barred from giving a speech at graduation because she participated in a student protest over growing class sizes and other concerns, was allowed to speak at Saturday's ceremony.

The teenager, her family and supporters met with officials of the Accelerated School for two hours Friday but the matter remained unresolved, Ponce said. She prepared her speech and school officials reviewed it Saturday morning before giving her approval minutes before the ceremony.

"It meant a lot to me," said Ponce, who is heading to UC Davis in August to study engineering. "All the seniors were supporting me, my parents were there supporting me, my teachers...I was really happy."

-- Seema Mehta

Logan Jenkins writes about the Leslie Devaney v. Kathleen Sterling confrontation at Tri-City Hospital


Leslie Devaney seems to make it personal against board member Kathleen Sterling.

See the full complaint HERE.

It's Leslie Devaney (left) versus Kathleen Sterling (right). Devaney has targeted Kathleen Sterling in lawsuit against Tri-City Hospital.

S.D. mayor is right on how poorly run state is
By Logan Jenkins
San Diego Union Tribune
July 26, 2009

... A spiky bouquet--the Sterling Silver Tongue award--to the attorneys for seven fired Tri-City executives who are suing four board members, Tri-City Medical Center and its current CEO for illegal termination and defamation.

Without judging the merits of the case, one thing you have to admire about the lawsuit's complaint, fashioned by the law firm of Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz, is the way it focuses like a laser on what it calls, over and over and over, the “Sterling Faction.”

The overriding theory of the lawsuit is that the chain of events that led to the firing of the seven high-level executives, as well as the departure of former CEO Arthur Gonzalez via settlement, was orchestrated exclusively by Kathleen Sterling, a maverick board member with a score of scores to settle against the Tri-City executives and several hostile board members.

Here's an illustrative paragraph from the complaint that lays out the dynamic that the plaintiffs hope will earn them millions of dollars in damages:

“The Healthcare Executives are informed and believe that as soon as elected (in November), the Sterling Faction set out to exact revenge against the Healthcare Executives and then-CEO Gonzalez who had worked for so many years to protect the District and the public from Defendant Sterling's abuses and that the Sterling Faction set out to exact retribution for the Healthcare Executives' perceived anti-union political beliefs. Even before the elections were certified, the union-backed Sterling Faction began meeting as a group to plot the ouster . . . ”

In the plaintiffs' narrative, the other board members of the Sterling Faction – RoseMarie Reno, Charlene Anderson and George Coulter – were mere pro-union stooges under Sterling's decisive thumb.

By focusing the lawsuit on Sterling, the Exiled Seven's attorneys accomplish a couple of things. They create a colorful villain with a well-documented history of odd behavior. Moreover, they posit a highly personal motive for the firings – Sterling's burning desire for vengeance – that dovetails with the allegedly self-interested agenda of the nurses union.

If a jury ever hears this mother of all termination cases – each plaintiff is asking for a minimum of a million dollars, and that doesn't include punitive damages – Sterling will be the alleged conspiracy's ringleader, the star of the show.

And the other defendants? They're just stooges, along for the ride.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Three weeks left to help undo the harm Pat Judd did to student Aurora Ponce

To see all posts about Patrick Judd, click HERE. launches college books fundraiser for Aurora Ponce, valedictorian in South-Central Los Angeles.

Raza Education Fund is the fiscal sponsor. Ms. Ponce is being punished by her school for peacefully protesting school class-size increases & teacher layoffs.

Among other things, her school took away her summer job.

Donations for her college books/supplies are being accepted at

I'm going to college, I'm going to be broke," she said. "I was going to save that money for books. It's going to be hard,” says Ms. Ponce in a June 25, 2009 article.
> We're asking people to consider donations of $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 or whatever they can afford to give this student-warrior, whose bravery we want to reward & encourage.
> For those who would like to give, but can't until a paycheck arrives, we are asking that pledges be sent to or

So far we have managed to raise just over 50% of $1590 needed for books/supplies at UC Davis. But $790 is still needed.
> F O R I M M E D I A T E R E L E A S E

LOS ANGELES, CA - July 1, 2009
WHAT: announces the launch of a college books fundraiser for Aurora Ponce, valedictorian in South-Central Los Angeles, punished by her school for peacefully protesting school budget cuts, class-size increases & teacher layoffs. Raza Education Fund (REF) is the fiscal sponsor.

WHEN: Starts today, July 1st and ongoing through August, 2009.

Ms. Ponce's school, Annenberg High School (one of The Accelerated Schools) located on the corner of Main street and Martin Luther King Boulevard, have punished this stellar student leader for her participation in a non-violent, peaceful student sit-in.

We roundly condemn the actions and inactions of Patrick Judd, Jonathan Williams, Elizabeth Oberreiter and Sandra Phillips in the public punishment of Aurora Ponce, by suspending her for 2 days, not allowing her to participate in the senior class trip, taking away her summer tutor job and barring her from giving her graduation address (until public outrage forced school officials to relent minutes before the ceremony June 27).

This pattern of administrators silencing dissent is unacceptable. Ms. Ponce's case comes on the heels of the June 18 Liechty school diplomas scandal in which 65 brave students were denied their diplomas for turning their backs on graduation speaker Monica Garcia (L.A. Unified School Board President) who has supported drastic budget cuts. The Annenberg High School, a charter school, is also located in Monica Garcia's District 2, according to

On the 20 anniversary of Spike Lee's film “Do The Right Thing”, released in June, 1989, we are reminded of the consequences of justice denied and pent up anger. The film was prophetic: three years later, in South-Central Los Angeles the 1992 riots took place. Let this serve as a wake up call.

Aurora Ponce, a solid A average student, needs to be commended for her bravery. She honors the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., for which the boulevard where her alma mater is located is named.

We stand in support of this Los Angeles hero and are collecting funds toward her college books and supplies. Donations can be made online at (securely, via Paypal).

> Raza Education Fund EMAIL:

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Prosecutors decide that possible Brown Act violation should not be prosecuted

In San Diego we have a case similar to this Lake County case. Attorney Leslie Devaney, who is representing seven administrators who were fired by Tri-City Healthcare, reported to District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis that that the four board members she is suing are guilty of a criminal Brown Act violation. If Bonnie Dumanis continues her usual tactics, it will be a very long time before the charges are dropped. This will, of course, work to the advantage of Leslie Devaney's clients.

Clear Lake: Rare prosecution for Brown Act violation dropped
Lake County News
August 6, 2009
By Elizabeth Larson

Saying that the remedies were civil, the Lake County district attorney dropped a misdemeanor charge of violating the Brown Act brought when a Clearlake City Council member allegedly violated the confidentiality of a closed session by discussing an evaluation of the city administrator. -DB

CLEARLAKE – The Lake County District Attorney’s Office is dropping a misdemeanor charge of violating the Brown Act against a Clearlake City Council member.

Councilman Roy Simons, 83, was arraigned on the single misdemeanor charge on July 20, and was set to return to court at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 17 before Judge Stephen Hedstrom in Lake County Superior Court’s Southlake Division.

But on Thursday Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff sent a motion to the south county court seeking to have the charge against Simons dropped.

Deputy District Attorney Trang Vo had filed the case against Simons, but Hinchcliff determined that the remedies were largely civil and that the case shouldn’t proceed...

California protects anonymous speech online

New state law adds protections for anonymous online speech
October 03, 2008
First Amendment Coalition

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill that greatly strengthens the right to anonymous speech online. Assembly Bill 2433 raises procedural obstacles to out-of-state companies that subpoena California-based internet service providers for the IDs of anonymous posters. Unless there is a demonstrable basis for the underlying lawsuit, the subpoena will be thrown out and attorney’s fees charged to the out-of-state company.

Corynne McSherry of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (one of the co-sponsors of the bill) explains:

One of the most pernicious threats to anonymity is the filing of trumped-up lawsuits as an excuse to force ISPs to reveal speakers’ identities. Once such a lawsuit is filed, speakers who want to protect their anonymity must find a way to pay a lawyer to go to court and prevent disclosure of their personal information. That can be a real hardship—in fact, even the threat of having to go to court may discourage many people from speaking out in the first place.

Californians have long had an extra layer of protection against these lawsuits. Thanks to California’s anti-SLAPP law (SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) they can file a special motion to strike any cause of action based upon their speech or petition activity. The anti-SLAPP law works fine to stop an abusive subpoena if the underlying lawsuit is filed in California. But there’s a loop-hole: An appellate court recently ruled that the anti-SLAPP provisions don’t apply if the underlying lawsuit is filed outside of California. As a result, speakers and companies in California were exposed to frivolous satellite litigation without the shield of deterrence provided by the anti-SLAPP law. AB 2433 closed this loophole by amending California law to provide that individuals whose information is subpoenaed can move to quash the subpoena (i.e, to prevent production of the requested information) and, if they succeed, seek compensation for the costs of going to court.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Tax gas and oil companies to keep California State Universities great

The future of California depends on a strong CSU
By Enrique C. Ochoa
Daily News Los Angeles
Updated: 08/03/2009

California's recent budget deal is a major blow to the historic mission of the California State University system. At its 23 campuses, classes are being slashed, tuition increased by 30 percent, students turned away, graduations delayed, salaries cut, and positions eliminated.

As administrators scramble to address the budget deficit, political decisions are being made that will cause irreparable damage to California's great university system. The new budget is a victory for conservative forces that have long sought to limit the public sector and roll back the social and civil rights gains of the 1960s and 1970s...

Since the 1980s, California has seen the chipping away of the public university, with the CSU receiving a declining share of the state budget, rising tuition and many forms of corporatization.

With a $538 million budget cut this fiscal year and an even greater deficit predicted for next year, the CSU's mission of providing affordable high quality education to Californians is in jeopardy...

One innovative step is Assembly Bill 656, introduced by California State Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico. It would levy a 9.9 percent tax on all oil and natural gas extracted from California to be a reliable source of funding for higher education.

By investing in the CSU, we are investing in our economic future and providing opportunities for Californians that, in the long run, benefit us all.

Enrique C. Ochoa is Director of Latin American Studies and Professor of History at California State University, Los Angeles.