Thursday, January 30, 2014

Orleans parish school system could easily have made things better rather than making them worse, now owes back pay to 7,000 fired teachers


The 2013 Orleans Parish School Board meets for the first time Jan. 14, 2013, at Hynes elementary in Lakeview. Danielle Dreilinger, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Dear folks at Orleans parish school system:

You could so easily have made things better rather than making them worse.

The Orleans parish school system sounds remarkably similar to the school systems in Chicago and in Chiapas, Mexico--and here in San Diego. Like board members and administrators across the US, you have been shamefully cowardly when it comes to fixing schools.

Firing legions of teachers isn't the answer. First of all, the problem runs deeper than individual teachers. Second, you made a mess without fixing the huge problem in your schools. Of course, that just means that you're doing what the National School Boards Association expects from all board members.

The problem could be solved easily.

American schools are wasting resources. We under-utilize the top 10 % of teachers, and we over-utilize mediocre and incompetent teachers.

If New Orleans had properly used the skills of its top teachers, and at the same time allowed less competent teachers to play roles that they are fully capable of playing, it could have a superb school system today.

You New Orleans board members probably had some sincere desire to provide better teachers. But the only changes you would consider were those that had powerful political backers. So you probably deluded yourselves into thinking you were doing good for kids as well as for yourselves.

Why do most school board members refuse to do anything unless they get a political or personal advantage? Obviously, we keep electing the wrong people to school boards--people willing to play ball with the powerful usually get elected.

Sincerely,
Maura Larkins


Hey, New Orleans, You Probably Shouldn’t Have Fired Those 7000 Teachers After Katrina. #Payup
by Doktor Zoom
January 17, 2014

So it turns out that Louisiana’s attempt to “remake” public education after Katrina — which mostly consisted of opening up the state’s coffers to grifty charter schools and handing out vouchers for religious schools, regardless of their quality – has run into just a teensy bit of a problem: in their zeal to screw teachers’ unions, they also fired over 7000 teachers without due process, and a court in the teachers’ class-action suit has found that the teachers are entitled to damages. Not the full 5 years’ back pay and benefits the teachers sought, but 2-3 years’ pay, plus benefits for those who were enrolled in them before being fired:

The decision validates the anger felt by former teachers who lost their jobs. It says they should have been given top consideration for jobs in the new education system that emerged in New Orleans in the years after the storm.

Beyond the individual employees who were put out, the mass layoff has been a lingering source of pain for those who say school system jobs were an important component in maintaining the city’s black middle class.


It shouldn’t have happened in the first place, of course, but in the chaos following Katrina, pushers of charter schools and other schemes to privatize public education were quick to jump in and “help” — mostly helping themselves to large pools of money for “rebuilding.

And just to add insult to catastrophe, the influx of new reformers have changed the, shall we say, complexion of New Orleans schools, not to mention siphoning public money into private education companies:


More young, white teachers have come from outside through groups such as Teach for America. And charter school operators often offer private retirement plans instead of the state pension fund, which can discourage veteran teachers who have years invested in the state plan.

Though many schools have made a conscious effort to hire pre-Katrina teachers and New Orleans natives, eight years later, people still come to public meetings charging that outside teachers don’t understand the local students’ culture.


And just to underline the message that a new boss was in town, the 7,000 teachers were first put on “disaster leave without pay,” and then unceremoniously fired in 2006. For an extra kick in the teeth, the terminations themselves were often badly botched:

Notices were delivered to teachers’ old addresses, sometimes to houses that no longer existed, and they directed teachers wanting to appeal the layoff to come to the School Board’s building, which Katrina had destroyed. This happened even though state-appointed consultants Alvarez & Marsal had set up a hotline to collect teachers’ evacuation addresses.


The charters rushed in, able to pick and choose their students and with no obligation to hire teachers displaced by Katrina. The public school system was largely taken over by the state-run “Recovery School District,” leaving only 6 schools in the Orleans Parish School Board, down from 120. But hey, it was good for kids, and cost-effective… as long as the fired teachers didn’t win their class-action suit. Now that the teachers have won, the back pay and benefits may cost the state and the city $1.5 billion, according to an estimate by attorneys during the appeal. Oops, stupid due process. (Also, yes, that is billion with a b. We mathed it.)

Golly, it’s almost as if treating contracted employees as a bunch of storm-damaged debris to be carted off to the landfill was not such a cost-effective strategy after all.

[NOLA.com via Charles Pierce]


7,000 New Orleans teachers, laid off after Katrina, win court ruling
Danielle Dreilinger
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
January 16, 2014

In a lawsuit that some say could bankrupt the Orleans Parish public school system, an appeals court has decided that the School Board wrongly terminated more than 7,000 teachers after Hurricane Katrina. Those teachers were not given due process, and many teachers had the right to be rehired as jobs opened up in the first years after the storm, the court said in a unanimous opinion.

The state is partly responsible for damages, according to Wednesday's ruling from Louisiana's Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. However, its five-judge panel did reduce the potential damages certified by the District Court: Instead of five years of back pay plus fringe benefits, the appeals court awarded the teachers two to three years of back pay, with benefits only for those employees who had participated in them when they were employed.

During the appeal, lawyers said the damages could amount to $1.5 billion.

The class-action case applies to all School Board employees who were tenured as of Aug. 29, 2005, the date that Katrina blasted up the Louisiana-Mississippi line and New Orleans levees failed, flooding much of the city. Many employees were members of the United Teachers of New Orleans, but the appeals court ruled that an earlier settlement with the union did not prevent this case from being tried.

The decision validates the anger felt by former teachers who lost their jobs. It says they should have been given top consideration for jobs in the new education system that emerged in New Orleans in the years after the storm.

Beyond the individual employees who were put out, the mass layoff has been a lingering source of pain for those who say school system jobs were an important component in maintaining the city's black middle class. New Orleans' teaching force has changed noticeably since then. More young, white teachers have come from outside through groups such as Teach for America. And charter school operators often offer private retirement plans instead of the state pension fund, which can discourage veteran teachers who have years invested in the state plan.

Though many schools have made a conscious effort to hire pre-Katrina teachers and New Orleans natives, eight years later, people still come to public meetings charging that outside teachers don't understand the local students' culture.

The 7,000-plus educators were initially placed on "disaster leave without pay" then terminated, a decision that was made final on March 24, 2006.

The circumstances of those layoffs rubbed salt in the wound, plaintiffs said: Notices were delivered to teachers' old addresses, sometimes to houses that no longer existed, and they directed teachers wanting to appeal the layoff to come to the School Board's building, which Katrina had destroyed. This happened even though state-appointed consultants Alvarez & Marsal had set up a hotline to collect teachers' evacuation addresses.

Meanwhile, the state took over almost all the city's public schools and radically expanded the opportunity to charter them. The tragedy of the storm offered the opportunity, reformers said, to make big changes that would give the children the education they deserved.

Schools reopened one at a time or in handfuls, in a decentralized system. The charters had complete control of their own hiring.

The defendants in the suit sought to justify the layoffs by saying they had no idea when or how many schools would reopen, and that they could not keep paying teachers for jobs that no longer existed. Almost all its schools had been taken over by the state Recovery School District, and the few remaining Orleans Parish public schools were dependent on state per-pupil funding to operate. With no students, there was no money.

In the end, the Orleans Parish School Board directly ran only six schools, down from more than 120. As of last year, the School Board directly employed only 600 people.

Civil District Court Judge Ethel Simms Julien initially ruled for the teachers in 2012. The appeal was argued in May.

The reduction in force

The appeals court panel that ruled Wednesday was composed of judges James McKay III, Edwin Lombard, Paul Bonin, Daniel Dysart and Roland Belsome, who wrote the opinion.

It said the School Board had the right to institute a reduction in force. But the method used by the board denied teachers their constitutionally protected right to be recalled to employment, the court said. Even with the schools closed, the School Board was legally required to create a "recall list" of teachers who were available to return to work. The board did not, even though it had that information.

Furthermore, the School Board should have used that list to rehire employees for jobs as they opened for the next two years.

"In failing to create the recall list, the appellees lost the opportunity for employment for a minimum of two years," Belsome wrote.

The court's decision did not address the question of whether employees had been properly notified of the layoffs or given a meaningful opportunity to appeal.

The state's role

During the appeals hearings, the judges challenged the plaintiffs to explain why the state was liable. The judges suggested the plaintiffs targeted the state for fear the local School Board wouldn't be good for the money.

Julien, the trial judge, had ruled the state was responsible for two reasons: Officials interfered wrongly with the teachers' employment contracts, and the state was a partner in managing the schools at the time. Cecil Picard, the state education superintendent at the time, had signed a memorandum of understanding with the School Board to overhaul the local board's finances, which resulted in consultants Alvarez & Marsal coming in.

The appeals court overturned both arguments. It said the memorandum of understanding did not create a broader legal partnership, and state law gave Picard the authority to take over New Orleans' schools, which resulted in the layoffs.

However, the appellate judges did think the state had some role: It should have rehired some of the teachers itself for the schools it commandeered for its Recovery School District.
The law governing the state district says that when schools are taken over, existing teachers "shall be given priority consideration for employment in the same or comparable position."

Wrote Belsome: "There is absolutely no evidence that qualified appellees were provided the consideration mandated by the statute. To the contrary, the record clearly shows that the state advertised for these positions nationally and contracted with Teach for America to hire inexperienced college graduates (who) did not have teacher certification."

For that reason, the state is responsible for an extra year of back pay and benefits to teachers who would have met the criteria to be rehired. That's much lighter than Julien's initial ruling, which made the state equally responsible with the Orleans school system for five years of back pay plus benefits.

Brent Barriere, lead attorney for the School Board, said he thought employees would not get paid if they had found other jobs.

Reaction

Willie Zanders, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said the unanimity of the decision indicated the strength of their arguments.

"I'm very pleased and humbled at the same time," he said. "We have experienced, through the funerals and the phone calls, a lot of the hardships these educators have had to endure." Gwendolyn Ridgley, one of the seven lead plaintiffs, died in 2012.

He added, "It's a victory for them even though it's not the final step," referring to the state and School Board's right to appeal.

Barriere said the School Board was not ready to discuss the likelihood of an appeal. State Education Superintendent John White did not respond to a request for comment.

As expected, the union's parent organization, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, was thrilled with the Fourth Circuit's ruling.

"These employees suffered a dual tragedy: Once when the levees broke and another when their livelihoods were taken from them," said federation attorney Larry Samuels.

But Carter, of United Teachers of New Orleans, said he thought the anger among veteran educators had begun to subside as newer teachers -- some of whom have joined the union -- understood "it wasn't the educators who were here who were the problem" before the storm. He supported what he called the "renaissance" in New Orleans education.


Orleans Parish School Board swears in members, chooses president
Danielle Dreilinger
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
on January 14, 2013

Orleans Parish School Board members were sworn in for a new four-year term on Monday, including three new representatives, Sarah Newell Usdin in District 3, Leslie Ellison in District 4 and Nolan Marshall II in District 7. The board also unanimously elected Ira Thomas as president and Ellison as vice president.

The Orleans Parish School Board currently oversees about one quarter of the parish's 80-odd schools, including Lusher, Ben Franklin and McMain. No schools have returned to OPSB control since the state created the Recovery School District to take over failing schools after Hurricane Katrina.

The new additions return the board to majority black membership. They may also shift the board's political leaning to a slightly more conservative stance, though where Marshall stands remains unclear. Though he is a lifelong Democrat, his father was a Republican and he has expressed measured support for the charter school movement.

The highest-profile new member is Sarah Newell Usdin, who led the reform incubator New Schools for New Orleans. She raised over $150,000 for her school board bid, far outpacing other candidates, much of it from supporters outside the district.

Ellison, a religious conservative, replaces liberal Lourdes Moran on the West Bank.

This spring, the board is set to choose a permanent superintendent to replace interim Superintendent Stan Smith.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Woman confronts former teacher about sexual abuse, captures call on video


"All these years I've been waiting to get some justice."

[Maura Larkins' comment: In my personal experience at Chula Vista Elementary School District, powerful cliques protect bad teachers and administrators. School politics helps wrongdoers and the incompetent survive by attacking effective employees who are seen as a threat.]

Woman confronts former teacher about sexual abuse, captures call on video
by Jen Hayden
posted by Scout Finch
Daily Kos
Jan 22, 2014

A 28-year-old woman who identified herself as "Jamie" worked up the courage to call her former teacher and confront her about years of alleged sexual abuse, which she claims began when she was 12 years old and continued until she finished high school. The former teacher and basketball coach had moved onto an assistant vice principal position in another school district.

When Jamie finally worked up the courage to pursue criminal charges, she was disappointed to learn the statute of limitations had expired and she would be unable to pursue criminal charges. Knowing her former teacher was still working with children, she bravely called her abuser, Andrea Cardosa, who was working as Alhambra High School’s vice principal of student services. Jamie recorded the call and posted it on YouTube.

Her call to Andrea Cardosa can be seen here.

Cardosa did not dispute the allegation and almost immediately resigned:

School officials identified the accused as Andrea Cardosa, a vice principal at Alhambra High School, and said she resigned Friday after an interview with administrators.

The resignation followed the release of a YouTube video made by Jamie Carrillo, 28, of Victorville. The video was posted on Friday. By 4 p.m. Monday, there were about 131,800 views.

Today the video has more than 750,000 views.

As for Jamie's next step, she's considering legal options:

Her attorney, David Ring, said Jamie’s former teacher was previously investigated by both school and law enforcement authorities in 1999 when rumors began to swirl about the alleged abuse. But the investigation resulted in no arrests, charges or disciplinary action, he said.

Ring said the former teacher, who was her basketball coach, was allowed to resign with a positive recommendation.

“They call this 'passing the trash,'” Ring said.

Ring said Jamie is considering a lawsuit alleging misconduct on the part of the school districts that hired the former teacher.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mistrial declared in Fallbrook Union Eementary School District case regarding electronic document destruction

UPDATE Feb. 26, 2015: A jury awarded Elaine Allyn over $1 million for retaliation by Fallbrook Union Elementary School District when this case was finally allowed to reach a conclusion in February 2015 after more than a year of delays.


UPDATE April 2014: A new trial in the Allyn v. Fallbrook case began on
April 21, 2014 with Judge Jacqueline Stern--and was stopped
after four days and rescheduled for July 25, 2014.

Judge Stern had no need to declare a mistrial in the Allyn v. Fallbrook Schools case in October 2013 (see story below). When one juror couldn't continue with the trial, the judge could have let the remaining alternate juror take his or her place. And Judge Stern could have insisted that school district attorneys expedite their questioning instead of letting it drag on for hours and hours--three times as long as plaintiff's counsel. 

SMOKELESS DOCUMENT DESTRUCTION?

Elaine Allyn claims she was fired in retaliation for her objections to the destruction of district electronic documents.

This reminds me of the recent burning of documents in San Ysidro School District.
Justice.



Traditional document destruction:
a few bags of shredded documents escaped
the burning spree in San Ysidro


SDCOE board members
Mark Anderson, Susan Hartley, Lyn Neylong, Gregg Robinson and Sharon Jones

The liability insurance carrier for most San Diego County school districts, San Diego County Office of Educuation JPA, is deeply involved in the legal strategies used by districts in lawsuits such as a motion for San Ysidro Schools asking the court to forbid any mention of a cash handoff to the superintendent, destroyed documents or criminal charges. SDCOE doesn't think the court--or the public--needs to know what's going on.

It seems that Fallbrook's legal team wanted a mistrial in the Allyn case so Human Resources Director Dennis Bixler could get his story straight for the next trial.


Fallbrook's Human Resources Director Dennis Bixler

And there might also be another reason Fallbrook Union Elementary School District wanted a mistrial: to create financial pressure on the plaintiff so she'll settle for a small amount and then maintain silence about what happened at Fallbrook.

San Diego County Office of Education JPA has deep pockets so it can keep paying attorneys no matter how many times the case is retried, but I doubt that Elaine Allyn has such deep pockets. Is the district abusing the court system to force her to settle for less? The school district had the nerve to file a motion asking for attorney fees--from the Plaintiff!


Elaine Allyn

ORIGINAL POST:

"'Ten of the 11 jurors said they felt like it was looking like a case of retaliation (against Allyn),' said Curran. 'They said they felt Bixler and Singh were not credible, and that Singh also came across as rehearsed. They said they felt Price wasn’t believable and they hadn’t seen anything that proved [Allyn] had violated any processes.'

Curran claimed one significant incident during the proceedings was noted by the jurors. 'Bixler impeached himself dozens of times by changing his testimony on a critical issue in the trial.' The matter involved whether or not Allyn had complained to Bixler that she was being asked to delete district archives.


Mistrial declared in Allyn vs. FUESD
Debbie Ramsey
Village News
October 24th, 2013

On Monday, Oct. 21, Judge Jacqueline Stern declared a mistrial in the case of Allyn vs. Fallbrook Union Elementary School District (FUESD) at Vista Superior Court, citing that the proceeds would exceed the time limit previously established for the trial. The trial had just begun its seventh day out of the 10 days slated for it. Allyn, the district’s former information technology director and an employee of 18 years, claimed she was wrongfully terminated by administrators in 2012 in an act of retaliation and that the district violated public policy by misusing public funds.

"The jury in this case had been scheduled through Thursday, Oct. 24, and the court determined that the case would not conclude until Nov. 7, resulting in the judge declaring a mistrial," said FUESD defense attorney Gil Abed of Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz, APC.

Allyn’s attorney Michael Curran, of Curran & Curran Law, posted the blame for the mistrial firmly on the defense counsel.

"I think it is reprehensible the way they wasted everyone’s time and resources," said Curran, who claimed FUESD attorneys "intentionally" prolonged examination of their defendants in order to effect a mistrial. Curran said he "repeatedly objected to the defense counsel’s undue consumption of time."

FUESD’s defendants, Dennis Bixler, Candace Singh, Bob Price, and associate superintendent Raymond Proctor were the individuals under fire by the plaintiff’s counsel. In an earlier interview, Curran said, "This case is really about an abuse of power, a breach of public trust, and a cover up that included retaliation by [Allyn’s] bosses."


Candace Singh, Superintendent

Curran cited examples of what he called the "excessive" time used in the early days of the trial. "We examined Bixler for 2.5 hours, compared to their 6.5 hours; we examined superintendent Singh for 2 hours, compared to their 6 hours; and we questioned the district’s investigator Price for 2.5 hours, compared to their 7.5 hours," he said.

"Then the district and their counsel claimed they need another two weeks to put on their defense case," said Curran. "The judge was forced to declare mistrial after jurors indicated they could not stay longer then the court originally cleared."

"Two jurors would have encountered problems with their jobs; one had to report for military duty on a certain date," Curran explained.

Prior to the mistrial being declared, Curran said in his opinion, "The case was going along very well and we were demonstrating that Ms. Allyn’s termination was wrongful and retaliatory; the evidence was unfolding just as we had planned."

Conversely, Abed said "As officers of the court, neither Mr. Shinoff (law firm partner) nor I will try a case in the press and will only litigate our cases before the court. We are very disappointed that we were not able to complete this trial and show the jury the abundance of evidence justifying the dismissal of a management employee in the district."

Judge Stern ordered a judicial settlement conference be set for Dec. 12 in the case, which will be presided over by Judge Thomas Nugent, to see if the parties can be assisted in resolving the case before scheduling a new trial.

"[The district] could settle with Ms. Allyn and they should," said Curran. "If an acceptable settlement is not reached, then a case management conference will be set for January, after which a new trial date will be ordered."

Following the dismissal of the jurors, Curran said he had an opportunity to speak with 11 of the 12 to gauge their opinion of the case.

"Ten of the 11 jurors said they felt like it was looking like a case of retaliation (against Allyn)," said Curran. "They said they felt Bixler and Singh were not credible, and that Singh also came across as rehearsed. They said they felt Price wasn’t believable and they hadn’t seen anything that proved [Allyn] had violated any processes."

Curran claimed one significant incident during the proceedings was noted by the jurors. "Bixler impeached himself dozens of times by changing his testimony on a critical issue in the trial." The matter involved whether or not Allyn had complained to Bixler that she was being asked to delete district archives.

"That is smoking gun evidence and we knew he was being told to change his testimony," said Curran.
"We showed him what was in his notes and he had to go back to his original testimony."

Abed said his respect continues for the jury trial process. "A trial is a pursuit of the truth to a jury. We look forward to a complete vindication of all the allegations made against the district."

Curran said he felt the situation leading to the mistrial was disrespectful.

"It is a terrible, continued injustice to Ms. Allyn and 12 very conscientious jurors who listened to the evidence/case for seven days only to have their time wasted by the district and their lawyers," he said.

Curran said other matters have come to light during his handling of Allyn’s case that he feels should be investigated.

"We intend on providing a complete report and demanding the San Diego Office of Education and California Office of Education investigate these matters," said Curran.

COMMENT

...Teri Heyneman-Myers

Oct 28, 2013
I wanted to explain about the jury and the question about the availability of the alternates. The first juror was used when a selected juror had conflicts. There was only one other alternate juror available for the trial Well...the trial was going to extend two weeks beyond the original AGREED upon date. By the way...this was not Allyn's attorney's idea. When a poll took place asking which jurors could remain the answer was obvious. This was a shame that the dedicated jurors had wasted their time.

Apparently it is common for the jurors to speak after a trial. As Mr. Curran said in the VN article Ms. Allyn was favored.

My sister, Elaine Allyn (Heyneman) and I have grown up in Fallbrook. The FUESD style of politics need to change. I think a bit of pruning needs to take place and I do not mean trees. Let's begin at the top shall we?!...

[Maura Larkins comment: When you say "begin at the top" do you mean the pruning should start with Diane Crosier and Randy Ward and the board at SDCOE?]

COMMENT

...[by] WasThere

Oct 28, 2013
I observed one day of that trial and it was a joke. The defense legal team so obviously was burning time on the clock, it was painful to watch. I heard about every job Candace Singh ever had, what she did there, why her role(s) were important, who she worked with.........

This line of questioning by her own legal team went on for hours!! The judge was useless and could have "overseen" this trial via skype. Every time there was an objection (which was literally about every 30 seconds) she had to go back to the minutes because she had no clue what was objected to.

Elaine Allyn on left
FALLBROOK: Ex-tech director says school district officials ordered her to destroy emails
By GARY WARTH
nctimes.com
June 17, 2012

The former director of educational technology for the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District has filed a $972,000 civil lawsuit against the district, alleging she was wrongfully fired after being falsely accused of snooping through emails.

The suit, filed May 31 by Encinitas resident Elaine Allyn, includes allegations of discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wasteful spending. She also claims that a district investigation into a teacher suspected of videotaping students was hampered because an administrator had ordered emails deleted, inadvertently destroying possible evidence.

Besides the $972,000 cited in the lawsuit, Allyn's attorney Susan Curran said her client also will be seeking lost past and future income, lost benefits, attorney fees and punitive damages.

Dennis Bixler, assistant superintendent of human resources, said the school board meet in closed session last month to discuss the claim Allyn had filed as a prerequisite to the lawsuit. Trustees rejected part of the claim and sent other parts back without action because they were untimely, meaning they had happened too far in the past, he said.

In the complaint, Allyn said she had been a district employee for 18 years and was earning about $109,000 a year when she was fired in May.

According to the lawsuit, Allyn had been subjected to six years of harassment from Ray Proctor, associate superintendent of business services at the district, who had become vindictive after learning she had complained that he made an inappropriate comment about her in a Cabinet meeting in 2005.

Proctor declined to comment for this story, directing all inquiries to Bixler.

According to the lawsuit, Proctor had said Allyn must have "slept with the vendor" to get the district its good cellphone contract.

Allyn said in the lawsuit that the human resources department ignored her complaint about Proctor, but her accusation was leaked to him. For the next six years, according to the suit, he was overly critical of her, giving her smaller budgets than her male counterparts and denying her staff assistance.

Also in the lawsuit, Proctor is said to have asked Allyn in early August 2011 to wipe out or cleanse the district's entire electronic data imaging from its archive system and to wipe out all emails that were in the trash bin of the active system.

The district hired Candy Singh as the new superintendent last August. According to the complaint, Singh also requested Allyn delete old imaging and emails, and Allyn said she again refused because it was a violation of state and federal laws.

At Singh's and Proctor's insistence, however, Allyn later hired a consultant to help dismantle the archive system, according to the lawsuit.

Last January, the lawsuit continues, Allyn was asked to assist in the investigation against a teacher suspected of videotaping students. Allyn said she scanned the video camera and found nothing incriminating, but was unable to provide a backlog of the teacher's emails, as requested by private investigator Bob Price, because there were few to read since Proctor and Singh had order a change to the archive system.

According to the lawsuit, Proctor asked Allyn for an administrative password to access additional log files on the computer system.

After she complied, Allyn said she was called in to Proctor's office and accused of illegally accessing and reading employee emails.

Allyn said the accusation was unfounded, as employee emails are not considered private and district policy gives her the right and ability to access emails and electronic files without prior notice or consent.

Bixler, however, said that while the emails are not considered private, and supervisors have the right to look into the emails of subordinates, Allyn was looking into the emails of her supervisors.

According to the lawsuit, Allyn said she was accused of looking into Singh's emails because she knew about complaints against the superintendent, including how $30,000 had been spent on new office furniture and remodeling. Allyn said in the suit that she knew of the complaints about the spending because people in the district were talking about them, not because she snooped in emails.

But according to a district notice outlining existing causes to discipline Allyn, which Bixler signed April 12 and provided to the North County Times, the investigator hired by the district found other indications that Allyn was looking into the superintendent's and other administrators' emails.

In her lawsuit, Allyn denied ever looking into the superintendent's emails.

[Maura Larkins's comment: Maybe the Allyn v. Fallbrook case should be called Falliburton due to its similarities to a case in which a Halliburton manager pleaded guilty to destroying documents after the BP Gulf oil spill.

] See also the early articles from 2012 about this case.

Basketball players suspended from game for hand signals popularized by Boehner, Dekker: why are school administrators so dumb?


See John Boehner's hand signal? It means his team scored a three-pointer.


See these hand signals? It means these kids are suspended from their high school game.

Some school administrators do more harm than good. Is their bad behavior a result of just not being very smart? Well, sure, at times, but many of them also have an urge to punish that they simply can't control. I think that frequently the wrong people are suspended.

Wisconsin School District Suspends Black Teenagers for Celebrating While Black
by Grizzard
Daily Kos member
Jan 17, 2014

Certain activities in the United States are lethal or criminal based solely on the racial composition of the person doing them. Driving while black, for instance, prompts suspicion across the country. Walking while black has earned teenagers a death sentence in certain Florida neighborhoods, and seeking out police help while black has proved a dangerous task for former football players in North Carolina.

Now we have a particularly toxic confluence of bad American ideas in a bigger than small Wisconsin community. The over-policing of American high schools often produces results where standard stupidity lands students suspension or worse. And sometimes, when the pre-disposition in a community is toward scrutinizing the scary, inherently suspicious black youths which make up a small percentage of the community's minority base, students have the lives sidetracked for doing basically nothing at all.

That's what's happened in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, where two students from Sheboygan Falls High Schools were suspended after a newspaper article showed them "flashing" what some police chief "confirmed" as "gang signs."

If you knew absolutely nothing about basketball, then you'd still be wrong for thinking that any of these three smiling, innocuous young men should be suspended from school for what took place in that picture. After all, the picture was only discovered when the local newspaper ran a positive public interest piece on the players in que

But I'm a Wisconsin basketball fan, and because of that, I have a slightly different take on this situation. The young man on the left, Jordan Jackson, explained that he was simply throwing up three fingers, a common basketball expression for players who just made a three-point basket. The young man in the middle appears to simply be pointing at the camera, a pose that I made in probably 100 pictures when I was in high school.

There's more to this, though. The Wisconsin Badgers are currently ranked third in the country, and they've lost one basketball game this year. Last season, they made the NCAA basketball tournament. Over the last decade, Wisconsin has been one of the best, most consistently good programs in the country. This is important because, like they did Tuesday night and will do against Saturday night, the Badgers often play on ESPN and other national networks. And if you spent even a few minutes watching Wisconsin basketball this year or last, then you'll quickly recognize the "gang sign" that got Jackson in hot water.

Below, you will see Sam Dekker, the disputed best player for Wisconsin and a graduate of Sheboygan Lutheran High School. Two years ago, he led his high school to the Wisconsin 5A state championship and was unarguably the best high school player in the state. A five-star recruit, he signed with the Badgers and is expected to someday forge a career in the NBA. One could easily imagine young men like Jackson emulating Dekker, and for good reason.


Next, you'll see the entire Wisconsin bench. When Wisconsin buries a three-point shot - which is often, as the Badgers shoot it from outside more often and more effectively than almost anyone - the Badger bench throws up "confirmed" gang signs.

As you can see in the picture, one of the players is even using three fingers to form a pair of glasses. Those who watch Badger basketball can attest that that particular move will soon turn into three fingers raised high, just as the other players are doing.


While the easy first response is to laugh at police chiefs and school administrators who are so far removed from their own local reality and so pre-disposed against their own students that they don't even recognize basketball players doing something they've seen on television from the most successful basketball team in the state, the more pressing question is why we immediately assume that three otherwise law-abiding and unassuming black children are suspicious while players for the state's flagship basketball team have been throwing up the same signs with impunity for more than a year without prompting the suspicion of, well, anyone.

It's a sad indictment of the reality faced by young black kids in America and especially in American schools. The default setting, it seems, is criminality, and these kids are burdened by an act first, ask questions later mentality that makes them prove that they aren't members of dangerous gangs. It must have been comforting to the many who complained to the school district about the picture to learn that the three teenagers in question were not a part of some Blood sleeper cell operating quietly in 95-percent white Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Those people should take a step back and ask themselves why, when young black kids from their community make these hand motions, they assume the worst, while when Sam Dekker does it, they likely celebrate with a fist pump or excited yell. Young boys of all races should be able to emulate their sports heroes. In fact, Sam Dekker - a guy with a lot of game and seemingly clean record - wouldn't be a bad guy for a kid from Sheboygan to look up to. The reality in America, however, is that young men like Jordan Jackson must look twice before doing most anything, including celebrating a made three-pointer.

Maura Larkins comment: Here's what happened when poor people were given a stipend. The frequency of behavioral problems declined by 40 percent, nearly reaching the risk of children who had never been poor. Can we save middle class kids by saving poor kids?

Friday, January 17, 2014

In this tragic story, neither the school nor an angry student felt an obligation to respect the rights of others

This school didn't single-handedly turn a kid toward violence. But it sure didn't help that the school ignored basic fairness when it punished a boy severely while ignoring the fact that another student had earlier victimized him in exactly the same way.

An innocent boy, Christopher Lane, is now dead.

The school played politics. My guess is that Christopher Lane isn't the last victim of a system (and I'm not just talking about the school) that ignores fairness. It will surely take many years before the final victim in this story is taken down. It turns out, you can't protect the golden boys and girls when you allow the kids on the wrong side of town to grow up impoverished, deprived of opportunities, neglected and/or abused.


Darkness in August
Vanity Fair
By Buzz Bissinger
February 2014

...If there was anything keeping [James] Edwards in high school in the fall of 2012, his freshman year, it was wrestling. This was the only sustained time he did his homework and kept his grades up so he could stay eligible. He wrestled at 160 pounds on the varsity as a freshman, and had the twin gifts of quickness and strength.

But one day a classmate took a picture of him on the toilet and posted it for a while on Facebook before deleting it. Edwards sought revenge. He made a video of the classmate at a urinal and posted it on Facebook, too—a typical tit-for-tat prank.

The kid didn’t care, but his father did. He complained to school officials, and Edwards got suspended for cyberbullying. He returned after roughly a month but then was kicked out for the rest of the school year for doing something similar.

Edwards was never the same after that initial suspension. It curtailed his wrestling season, the only positive outlet he really had. He felt that a double standard was being applied. As he told an adult friend, “This white kid. He did the same thing I did. And he did it first. And I get kicked out of school.”...


Sarah Harper, the girlfriend of Christopher Lane, the Australian baseball player who was shot and killed while out for a jog in an Oklahoma neighborhood

'My heart just broke right there': Girlfriend remembers Okla. ballplayer killed in random shooting
By Randy McIlwain and Becky Bratu
NBC News
Aug. 21, 2013

The girlfriend of the Australian baseball player who was senselessly shot dead while jogging in Duncan, Okla., said he was a kind and charismatic 22-year-old who could light up a room and who loved to travel.

"He had done more things in his life than I ever thought I could even imagine doing. He's traveled so many places, he's seen so many things," Sarah Harper told NBC News. "He's already so worldly at 22 years old but yet he still had dreams to go and see everything and be everywhere and know everything."

The ballplayer, Christopher Lane, was a native of Australia and a catcher for an Oklahoma college baseball team. He was gunned down Friday in an apparently random shooting.

Harper, an American who attends Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond, said she remembered everything about the moment when police broke the news of his death to her...

...A woman who called 911 after the shooting told the dispatcher that Lane fell into a ditch, had blood on his back, turned blue and then stopped breathing.

The slaying has dominated news reports in Lane's home country, leading former Australian deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer to call on Australian tourists to boycott the United States.

“It is another example of murder mayhem on Main Street,” Fischer told CNN on Tuesday night...


A POLITICIAN RESPONDS TO THE TRAGEDY


Steve Fair
Steve Fair on murder of Christopher Lane in Duncan
MuskogeePolitico.com
August 23, 2013

I am sure you have heard of the recent shooting (Friday) by some teenagers in my hometown - Duncan, OK - of a young Australian baseball player. This was reported as a 'random act of violence' and that there was no connection/reason/motive for the shooting other than the thugs 'were bored.' Already some folks from Australia and U.S. liberals are condemning our state and nation for allowing citizens to have guns to protect themselves. I want to point out three things:

First, this shooting is not representative our our community, county or state. The real problem wasn't the gun the young man used - it was the heart of the shooter. Sin and wickedness are in the heart before they are in the hand. Please pray that God will regenerate dead hearts in young people not only in Duncan, but across our nation. I fear we have danced around the real issue in America: the inherent wicked, depraved nature of man. The hope of America is the regenerating gospel of Jesus Christ...period.

Second, my wife taught two of the young men charged with this heinous crime. She says both were discipline problems in elementary school. She wasn't surprised to learn both were involved in this shooting. She said the parents were uninvolved in their kid's life. This points out another problem in America.

We have children raising themselves and parents justifying their kids' every action.

[Maura Larkins' comment: this last bit about parents justifying their kids' every action would seem to apply to the parent who demanded that James Edwards be suspended, while his own son was not suspended for initiating cyberbullying.]

When you teach rebellion, you reap rebellion. The fruits of that rebellion are anarchy (no government) and antinomia (no law).

Third, we ask for your prayers. God is sovereign and He is in control. I don't understand why He allowed this tragedy in our area, but I do know it has a purpose. I am thankful for our District Attorney Jason Hicks and our Sheriff Wayne McKinney. Both are godly men, both Republicans, who are unafraid to stand on principle. Pray for them as they work through this case...

Steve Fair
National Committeeman - Oklahoma

But perhaps Mr. Fair is not being totally honest when he claims that "this shooting is not representative our our community, county or state."

The Vanity Fair article notes:

...The people of Duncan could act with beautiful hearts, as they did last May, sending multiple volunteer crews when the Oklahoma town of Moore, 75 miles to the north, was decimated by a tornado. But there was an undertow in the community and surrounding county, a simmering violence that did not explode very frequently but was horrific when it did. More often than not, it involved the young.

In the early-morning hours of June 10 in Duncan, 16-year-old Michael Ray, disconsolate that his 14-year-old girlfriend, Alyssa Wiles, had dumped him, broke through the back door of her home and stabbed her to death with the knife he was carrying, according to the police, who said he also stationed a 14-year-old friend outside to alert him if her parents or anyone else came to the house. (Ray has pleaded not guilty.)

Five months before that, in January of 2013, a home invasion had taken place in nearby Comanche. According to police, two men shot Mark Roebuck twice, bound his wife, robbed the safe, and then shot Roebuck again on the way out. Roebuck survived; two suspects were later arrested and are awaiting trial.

In June 2012, in neighboring Velma, a 16-year-old girl, Braylee Henry, had gone into the Tee Pee Totem convenience store to get a soda. She encountered Miles Bench, a 21-year-old man who worked there. Bench, apparently infatuated with Henry, allegedly beat her to death with a blunt instrument, dumped her body, and then was arrested driving her car. (Bench has pleaded not guilty.)

People in Duncan and surrounding towns were shocked by the brutality of such crimes. They responded with admirable largesse for the families of the victims. But the crimes were passed off as aberrational blips. On the morning of August 16, nobody thought violent crime was trending up...


See also:

Severe and unequal school discipline preceded the killing of innocent bystander Christopher Lane

Why the Wealthy Favor Harsh Punishment — for Criminals and Errant Schoolchildren (discusses "class essentialism")

Basketball players suspended from game for hand signals popularized by Boehner, Dekker: why are school administrators so dumb?

Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior


Maura Larkins comment: I don't want innocent children like Christopher Lane to die because other innocent children are "raising themselves." Wouldn't it be better for society to help kids who have a parent in prison or on drugs, to prevent those children from becoming violent, than to merely "stand on principle" after horrible crimes are committed? Mr. Fair points out that this crime could have been prevented. But if waiting until a crime has been committed and then meting out punishment were a successful tactic, we'd have the most crime-free nation in the world.

Clearly, suspending students and imprisoning their parents hasn't solved our problems. Is it perhaps time to try something new? Perhaps Mr. Fair could do something more concrete than merely exhort his fellow friends to "pray that God will regenerate dead hearts in young people."

Amazing! Here's what happened when poor people were given a stipend. The frequency of behavioral problems declined by 40 percent, nearly reaching the risk of children who had never been poor. Can we save middle class kids by saving poor kids?


James Edwards

Vanity Fair notes that James Edwards wrote this private message to a woman who was a surrogate mother:

I’m fighting a mental battle of success and failing. And I’m running out of options. I have little help! … And I’m at the point where I have no choice but go out and hustle. I’m going to look for a job 2marroo But that won’t do much cus I’m 15.

Jackson wrote back, warning him that he was flirting with prison, that the “hustling” life was “no place for you!”

Edwards’s reply:

Yes mam correct. And I am wrong for it I know.… And I gotta get in where I fit in. Take me in if you don’t want me like this. You feed me. You help me get shoes. Oblivious I’m looking for help. #this is the part where everyone says the can’t. And say love u bye.… Next year ill still be a crip and years after that until grave! Wat choice do I got.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Latest revelation of incompetence and dishonesty among professionals: nuclear launch officers cheated on proficiency tests; do we properly evaluate ANYONE?

There are huge numbers of highly competent people in all professions--so why do less competent people so often rise to the top?

Why do our most crucial professions fail to root out incompetence and dishonesty?

For years the evidence has been accumulating that we don't properly evaluate teachers and doctors and police and judges. What I'm wondering now is if ANYONE in ANY job or profession gets effectively evaluated.

Why is this such a widespread problem?

Because politics matters more than competence in almost every venue--not just in schools.

What can we do about it? We can start in our schools, giving real educations, and teaching young people to rely on their abilities instead of manipulating people and situations. And we need to teach the value of honesty and a job well done.



Major General Michael Carey was dismissed for conduct unbecoming
US nuclear launch officers suspended for 'cheating'
Beth McLeod
BBC News
16 January 2014

Thirty-four US Air Force officers in charge of launching nuclear missiles have been suspended over accusations that they cheated in proficiency tests.

The air force said some staff had texted answers to the routine tests to others, while others had known about the cheating but failed to report it.

The ranks involved range from 2nd lieutenants to captains.

The allegations emerged during investigations into alleged drug use by personnel at other bases.


Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said the cheating had involved officers based at the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, and related to a monthly test all nuclear missile staff must take.

"Some officers did it," she said of the cheating. "Others apparently knew about it, and it appears that they did nothing, or at least not enough, to stop it or to report it."

Illegal gambling

Ms James said it was "absolutely unacceptable behaviour" but that the security of the nuclear programme was not in doubt.

"This was a failure of some of our airmen. It was not a failure of the nuclear mission," she said.

The 34 officers have had their security clearance revoked and the entire team in charge of overseeing missile launches will be re-tested.

A further three officers have been suspended for allegedly possessing recreational drugs.

It is the latest scandal to hit the air force and nuclear missile force.

In August, a nuclear missile unit at Malmstrom failed a safety and security inspection, leading to a senior security officer being relieved of duty.

And in May, it was reported that 17 officers in charge of maintaining nuclear missiles were sidelined over safety violations at Minot Air Force base in North Dakota.

In October, the general in charge of America's long-range nuclear missiles, Maj Gen Michael Carey, was sacked, with officials citing a "loss of trust and confidence".

It later emerged he had engaged in conduct "unbecoming of a gentleman" during a work trip to Russia in July.

Gen Carey's removal came days after the Navy sacked Vice-Adm Tim Giardina, second-in-command of the US Strategic Command, over illegal gambling.

Strategic Command oversees everything from America's land-based nuclear missiles to space operations governing military satellites.

US nuclear programme scandals

October 2013 -
Maj Gen Michael Carey, a two-star general in the 20th Air Force, is sacked after accusations of drunken misconduct
October 2013 -
US Navy Vice-Adm Tim Giardina is removed as deputy head of US Strategic Command and investigated for illegal gambling
August 2013 -
the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base fails a safety test, and its commander is relieved of duty
May 2013 -
The US Air Force temporarily strips 17 officers at Minot base in North Dakota of their nuclear watch authority following a poor grade in a missile launch test.
October 2007 -
The air force relieves several officers of their duties after a B-52 bomber was mistakenly flown across the US loaded with nuclear-armed missiles

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sweetwater approves campaign finance reform; all it took was a few indictments; now what about other school districts?


An image captured in January 2012, at one of the many heated meetings of the Sweetwater trustees.

Sweetwater School Board to Consider Campaign Finance Reform
Under the current rules, a board member can accept an unlimited amount of money from a contractor seeking or performing work with the district.
By Wendy Fry
NBCSanDiego
Jan 14, 2014

The Sweetwater Union High School District will vote on campaign finance reform Tuesday in the wake of a two-year criminal probe into relationships between contractors and South County politicians.

The community has been persistent in getting the item on the agenda, despite being blocked in the past by the board and superintendent.

The proposal would limit campaign contributions to $750 for a single election contest for candidates for the board of trustees.

It also seeks to ban candidates running for school board to take contributions from anyone other than individuals or political party committees.

...This comes after three Sweetwater Union High School District board members were accused of accepting thousands of dollars on gifts and meals, allegedly for awarding construction contracts to contributing companies.

No limits are currently in place. Under the current rules, a board member can accept an unlimited amount of money from a contractor seeking or performing work with the district. For example, during his 2010 reelection campaign, Board President Jim Cartmill accepted a $20,000 contribution from SGI Construction Management, which working at the time for the district under the voter-approved $644 million bond measure.

The proposed campaign finance rules would do nothing to curb the often big amounts of money spent on behalf of candidates through independent committees. A political party could, for example, spend as much as it wants independently to promote a candidate, as long as the campaign was not coordinated with the candidate.

Sweetwater board approves campaign reform
By Allison Sampite-Montecalvo
SDUT
Jan. 14, 2014

CHULA VISTA — The Sweetwater Union High School District school board, with three members facing criminal charges in a pay-to-play case brought by the District Attorney’s Office, voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of campaign finance reform.

The reform was supported by trustees Jim Cartmill, John McCann and Bertha Lopez. Trustee Pearl Quiñones was absent. Cartmill, Lopez and Quiñones have been indicted in the corruption investigation.

Many residents consider the reform decision a huge step forward in transparency and restoring trust. Community member Maty Adato said the vote was a move in the right direction.

“This is the fifth time this issue have been on the agenda in two years,” she said. “They’ve never wanted to adopt it.”

The decision limited campaign contributions that can be made to board candidates to a maximum of $750. Only individual donors would be allowed to make contributions. Previously there was no limit on the amount or type of campaign contributions that a school board candidate could accept.

The resolution makes it “unlawful for an individual to make, or for a candidate or a controlled committee to solicit or accept” a contribution more than $750 for a single election contest.

“The limit would apply to both campaign committees and also to legal defense funds, which are additional separate fundraising mechanisms that elected officials may use when they’re facing particular illegal matters related to their office,” said Christine Cameron, an attorney who works for the district. Cameron also said the knowing solicitation of district employees for contributions is prohibited.

“The resolution also provides that at a later time the board would develop procedures for investigating violations of the rules but in the meantime a complaint submitted to the superintendent and signed by the complainant would have to be investigated using an independent investigator,” she said.

A controversial item on how to fill a board seat vacated by a member who pleaded guilty in the corruption case didn’t make it to a vote Tuesday. Although the members present formed a quorum, a decision on the vacant seat issue requires the support of three or more board members, and that appeared unlikely, so the matter was delayed. Board members also felt it was important to include Quiñones in the decision.

The vacancy was created when Arlie Ricasa resigned after pleading guilty Dec. 19 to a misdemeanor charge of accepting gifts above state limits. The Sweetwater indictments were among others at the San Ysidro School District and Southwestern College.

The board decided it would try and get in touch with Quiñones as soon as possible and set another meeting to either decide on a process for a provisional appointment or go forward with a special election.

But the trustees are up against a ticking clock.

The school district’s attorney, Dan Shinoff, said that according to board bylaws, members must fill the vacant seat within 60 days, or Feb. 17. The more time that passes the more likely it is a special election would be held, which Shinoff said could cost up to $1.5 million for a nine-month appointment (when Ricasa’s term would have expired). Shinoff said the special election would cause “a significant fiscal impact on the district.”

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Drop charges against transgender teen defending herself!



Daniel J. Cabral

Petitioning Daniel J. Cabral, Senior Deputy District Attorney
Mark Peterson, District Attorney
Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office

Drop charges against transgender teen defending herself!
Petition by Valerie Poquiz
Hercules, CA

My sister, Jewlyes Gutierrez, is a 16 year old teenager, who identifies as a transgender female. Her gender identity has caused her to be a victim of taunting, harassment, and bullying by her peers. On November 13, 2013, Jewlyes defended herself against three girls who were tormenting and then physically attacked her. This was captured on video and you can see Jewlyes trying to run away. The students involved were suspended but to our disbelief, District Attorney Daniel Cabral then filed charges against Jewlyes for battery - she's the only one charged.

Jewlyes should not be charged criminally. Rather, this altercation should be the responsibility of the school district, who should take proper action and implement the necessary resources to prevent incidents like these from happening again.

One of the girls who attacked Jewlyes had repeated bullied her - even spitting gum in her face. Jewlyes sought help from the assistant principal in fear of her physical safety but the issue was not properly addressed, no necessary action was taken by the administration. The bullying continued.

Jewlyes attends Hercules High School in Hercules, CA - part of the Contra Costa Unified School District. Even the school district president disagrees with the charges being brought against Jewlyes: "This is just a young child who is 16-years-old, already going through a lot of stress," he said. "This is a remedy? Is this the way we want to deal with children?"

Violence towards transgender and queer youth is a serious problem. Recently in Oakland, CA, a transgender teen was lit on fire. What message is the District Attorney's Office sending when they prosecute a transgender teen who school officials labeled as the victim in this incident?

Sign this petition and tell District Attorney we are outraged by the decision to charge Jewlyes and that we hope he will use his discretion to allow for a restorative and educational solution rather than the court system to deal with what happened at Hercules High School.

Please tell the District Attorneys Office that we want our tax dollars spent on teaching tolerance and on conflict resolution programs in schools, not on prosecuting youth who are in need of a safe learning environment.

Monday, January 13, 2014

My Happy Hacker takes orders from lawyers, but also seems to have a sense of humor


I'm awarding good humor points to my hacker, who has become quite playful during the past week. He (or she) is having fun, but doing no harm.

Less than a week ago I discovered that this page in my related website had been hacked.

HERE IS THE HACKED IMAGE OF A GRIEVANCE I SUBMITTED TO CVESD:



I published this blog post, which the hacker must have read. In the post I wrote that California Teachers Association (CTA) director Jim Groth, who had been Chula Vista Educators (CVE) grievance chair at the time, had turned up unexpectedly at the grievance meeting and said that the union did NOT support the grievance. The grievance merely asked that the district RESPOND to an earlier grievance. It appears that CTA was quite desperate to cover up illegal actions of pals of CVE President Gina Boyd.


Former CVE President Gina Boyd at her deposition.
This blogger has awarded to Gina the Alberto Gonzalez
CRS award for her amazing lack of knowledge and
substantial memory loss: "I don't know"--25 times and
"I don't remember (or recall, etc.)--35 times;
total cognition lapses: 60.


Sometime during the past few days, someone went to work on my grievance image again. But this time, my hacker did NOT hide any information. He (or she) just moved black boxes around! It's actually quite entertaining to examine his (or her) handiwork.

He (or she) enlarged the black box to cover EMPTY SPACE on this page:




and moved the black box sideways on this page!



I actually like my hacker now, but I'm still not terribly fond of the lawyers who ordered the hacking.


It should be noted that CTA isn't the only party trying to hide these events. Current CVESD board members Pam Smith and her faithful allyLarry Cunningham were involved in the criminal actions, and they also have paid tax dollars to lawyers to support efforts to shut down my website.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Survey: 81 Percent of Universities Say Sequester Has Directly Affected Research Activities; Canada also cutting research


(Graphic: Inside Higher Ed)

Survey: 81 Percent of Universities Say Sequester Has Directly Affected Research Activities
November 12, 2013
by Allison Kilkenny
This post first appeared in The Nation.

According to a new survey released Monday, 81 percent of responding universities said that sequestration, the automatic federal budget cuts, have directly affected their research activities. More than half of universities said a decrease in new federal grant opportunities and the shrinking value of existing grants, has prompted them to reduce research-related positions and nearly a quarter of the institutions said they have laid off research employees as a result of the cuts.

“The survey shows that sequestration is already eroding America’s research capabilities at universities across the country,” the Association of American Universities, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and The Science Coalition announced in a written statement.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block has been criticized in the past by student activists for doling out lavish salaries for high-profile hires amid tuition hikes, budget cuts and recession, but on Monday he stated that a $50 million loss to the university’s research funding could lead to a brain drain, top researchers leaving in a mass exodus.

RELATED Q&A

Dr. Andrew Rosenberg of the Union of Concerned Scientists talks about the "war on science." Block put things in stark terms, reminding members of Congress that many universities have no more emergency funds or administrative flexibility to help compensate for the sequester cuts.

“The buffer is much thinner,” said Block. “So if faculty members lose their grants, if grants don’t get re-funded because of sequestration, there is a limited amount we can do to keep labs running. So if you ask what is the long-term effect? …Literally labs close and people end up on the street. That’s the danger.”

The negative effects of sequester are already on display in Ohio. Dr. Stan Gerson, director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, spent much of the past year calling members of Congress in hopes they would repeal cuts to research programs. Gerson told public radio WCPN, “It’s real jobs and real people” at stake.

From WCPN:

Case, like Michigan, receives some of the biggest federal grants in the US for research.

Of the roughly $400 million Case spends on research annually, about 80 percent comes from federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Case’s cancer center offers an example of how sequestration funding is slowly squeezing the budget. This summer, news came that the center’s five-year operational grant fell by $6 million.

“It’s undoubtedly the case over an 18-month period that there will be a smaller workforce in our school and our university. Just because, where else are the dollars going to come from?” Gerson says.

While Case isn’t planning layoffs yet, they are more selectively filling positions and faculty members are being encouraged to consider flexible hours. Gerson also told WCPN that labs on campus aren’t hiring as many graduate students.

Others also expressed concern that cuts in research would result in the loss of a competitive edge against other countries that prioritize education and research.

“We lose our competitiveness with foreign countries, especially China and India, which are investing very heavily in research and development,” said Philip DiStefano, chancellor at University of Colorado Boulder. “The longer that sequestration goes on, the more chances are that we are going to lose our competitive edge that we have had with foreign countries.”

The world of academia has objected to harsh austerity measures for a long time. In March, Science Works for US collected video editorials from professors and administrators, who argued that the then-proposed cuts would threaten American research and innovation. An op-ed in the Financial Times from before the sequester stated that, “fully 75 percent of postwar growth is tied to technological innovation, according to the commerce department.”

But these concerns fell on deaf ears, even though budget cuts will have a ripple effect for multiple generations, stripping opportunities from burgeoning students, researchers and scientists.

“There is a clear and present danger that sequestration will damage America’s pre-eminence in scientific research and higher education over the long-term,” said Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun. “Given the impact we already have seen, we urge the members of the House and Senate who are negotiating funding for fiscal year 2014 and beyond to end sequestration, enable investments in scientific research and higher education and restore the dividends these investments produce for our economy and society.”


"Like a Book Burning" The Canadian government is closing scientific libraries and destroying docs
by Pakalolo
Daily Kos
Jan 12, 2014

"Paranoid ideologues have burned books and records throughout human history to try to squelch dissenting visions that they view as heretical, and to anyone who worships the great God Economy monotheistically, environmental science is heresy."

Post Media News has obtained a document stamped "SECRET" which exposes the closure or destruction of more than half a dozen world famous science libraries and countless scientific documents that they contain. The destruction and burning of documents has little if anything to do with digitizing the books and documents for cost savings as claimed by the Harper government.

The Tyee has several excellent reports detailing the destruction of scientific documents and the libraries that house them.

As reported by The Tyee earlier this month and again here, scientists are sounding alarms about libraries dismantled by the government, including Maurice-Lamontagne Institute, which housed 61,000 French language documents on Quebec's waterways, as well as the newly renovated $62-million library serving the historic St Andrews Biological Station (SABS) in St Andrews, New Brunswick. (Famed environmental scientist Rachel Carson corresponded with researchers at SABS for her groundbreaking book on toxins, Silent Spring. The station's contaminant research program has been axed by the Harper government.) Also shut down are the famous Freshwater Institute library in Winnipeg and one of the world's finest ocean collections at the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Scientists who use the libraries say priceless information -- essential for the legal and political security of Canada's waterways as well as the defence of the longest coastline in the world -- was thrown into dustbins, burned or scavenged by private consultants. In Winnipeg, a consultant's group operating for Manitoba Hydro backed up a truck to collect materials from the dismantled library.

A DFO scientist anonymously told The Tyee, "The cuts were carried out in great haste apparently in order to meet some unknown agenda. No records have been provided with regard to what material has been dumped or the value of this public property. No formal attempt was made to transfer material to libraries of existing academic institutions."

In addition, the Harper government has forced hundreds of researchers and Coast Guard workers to be laid off. Harper has dismantled a marine contaminants program, closed the Kitsilano (Vancouver) Coast Guard station which is reportedly the first line of defense against oil spills.

The document lists 26 "tracks" or changes within the Department of Fisheries being carried out to help reduce Canada's federal budget deficit. Very few of those tracks' descriptions make claims for bolstering or improving marine safety, contaminant research, protection of fish habitat or the efficacy of the Coast Guard.

Instead, the document details numerous actions which create reductions or total elimination of these environmental services.

They include:

•The shrinkage of 20 Marine Communications and Traffic Service centres down to 11;
•The reduction of Inshore Rescue Boats;
•The reduction of Marine Search and Rescue services;
•The defunding of species at risk recovery oriented programs in the Maritimes;
•The closure of 21 Conservation and Protection offices, as "part of a broader departmental footprint reduction plan." Comox, Pender Harbour, Quesnel, Hazelton and Clearwater all lost offices;
•The closure of the Kitsilano Lifeboat Station in Vancouver;
•Closure of the Experimental Lakes Area;
•The killing of all biological effects contaminant research within the department.

The document explains that ending the capacity to do public research on freshwater and ocean pollutants such as bitumen spills "involves eliminating the in-house research program aimed at biological effects of contaminants, pesticide and oil and gas, and establishing a small advisory group to oversee the outsourcing of priority research needs."

Sounds like "quiet little rooms" if you ask me.

Environmental activists through out the world celebrated when George W. Bush was finally out of office. Since the election of Harper's regime, the world now has Canada with a leader, who like Bush, prides himself in the part that he plays in the destruction of the planet. Maurice Strong, the Canadian diplomat who was secretary-general of the famous 1992 Earth Summit, calls Harper’s government, “the most anti-environmental government that we’ve ever had, and one of the most anti-environmental governments in the world.”

Canada holds more than 20 per cent of the surface freshwater in the world, and its rivers and streams annually transport almost 10 per cent of the world flow of freshwater. Canada is also one of the world's largest seafood-exporting nations. All of which is now at risk of damage or destruction along with scientific evidence documenting the pollution and the damage to marine and freshwater systems.

The below corporations along with Charles and David Koch are pushing a libertarian brand of political activism that presses a large footprint on energy and climate issues. They have created and supported non-profit organizations, think tanks and political groups that work to undermine climate science, environmental regulation and clean energy. They are also top donors to politicians, who support the oil industry and deny any human role in global warming.

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
Canadian Energy Pipeline Association
Petroleum Services Association of Canada
Propane Gas Association of Canada
Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors
Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association
Alberta Chamber of Resources
Alberta Chambers of Commerce
The Cement Association of Canada
Canadian Council of Chief Executives

I recommend reading the Tyee articles. There is to much atrocity documented there to elaborate on in one Dkos diary.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Kansas Court Could Kill the Right to a Decent Public Education

I suppose we could call this the "Brown versus Brownback" debate.

California governor Jerry Brown has a very different approach from Kansas governor Sam Brownback.

The Washington Bridge scandal involving Governor Chris Christie has proven that our elected and appointed officials are willing to harm the public to advance their personal and political agendas. Schools are targets as much as bridges.



Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback answers questions about education funding. Brownback and legislators are waiting for a Kansas Supreme Court ruling on whether the state is spending enough money on its public schools. (AP Photo/John Milburn)

Kansas Court Could Kill the Right to a Decent Public Education
Bill Moyers and Company
January 9, 2014

In 2012, tea party-aligned legislators in the reliably red state of Kansas, backed by deep-pocketed outside groups, were able to purge Republicans they viewed as insufficiently devoted to Governor Sam Brownback’s right wing agenda. Since then, Kansas, like North Carolina, has become a test bed for conservative policy-making.

Deep spending cuts to education, health care and other social services were central to that agenda. And this month, the Kansas Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in a lawsuit precipitated by those cuts which could have profound consequences for public education in America.

In The New York Times, David Sciarra of the Education Law Center and Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights write about what’s at stake…

Kansas, like every state, explicitly guarantees a free public education in its Constitution, affirming America’s founding belief that only an educated citizenry can preserve democracy and safeguard individual liberty and freedom.

And yet in recent years Kansas has become the epicenter of a new battle over the states’ obligation to adequately fund public education. Even though the state Constitution requires that it make “suitable provision” for financing public education, Gov. Sam Brownback and the Republican-led Legislature have made draconian cuts in school spending, leading to a lawsuit that now sits before the state Supreme Court.

The outcome of that decision could resonate nationwide. Forty-five states have had lawsuits challenging the failure of governors and legislators to provide essential resources for a constitutional education. Litigation is pending against 11 states that allegedly provide inadequate and unfair school funding, including New York, Florida, Texas and California.

Many of these lawsuits successfully forced elected officials to increase school funding overall and to deliver more resources to poor students and those with special needs. If the Kansas Supreme Court rules otherwise, students in those states may begin to see the tide of education cuts return.

Kansas’ current constitutional crisis has its genesis in a series of cuts to school funding that began in 2009. The cuts were accelerated by a $1.1 billion tax break, which benefited mostly upper-income Kansans, proposed by Governor Brownback and enacted in 2012.

Overall, the Legislature slashed public education funding to 16.5 percent below the 2008 level, triggering significant program reductions in schools across the state. Class sizes have increased, teachers and staff members have been laid off, and essential services for at-risk students were eliminated, even as the state implemented higher academic standards for college and career readiness.

Read on to see what steps the Kansas legislature may take if the court rules against it.

Budgets are a reflection of priorities, and it’s worth noting that some states are taking a very different approach. This week, California Governor Jerry Brown proposed increasing spending on pre-K education by $22 billion over the state’s 2011-2012 budget. According to the Los Angeles Times, “schools that serve low-income students and non-native English speakers will receive more money under the formula… Under Brown’s plan, LAUSD would see its per-pupil funding jump from about $7,700 per student per year to $12,750 by the end of the decade.”

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

If you want help with your teenager, call an ambulance, or call the fire dept, but don't call the police


Keith Vidal

My father used to say, "If you want help, call an ambulance, call the fire dept, call the dog catcher, call anyone, but don't call the police."

He was right. Why are so few people familiar with this simple bit of common wisdom?

Cop Allegedly Said ‘We Don’t Have Time For This’ Before Shooting Schizophrenic Teen To Death
By Annie-Rose Strasser
Think Progress
January 7, 2014

Schizophrenic 18-year-old Keith Vidal was having an episode on Sunday when his parents called the police for assistance. Instead, an officer shot and killed their son right in front of them.

During Sunday’s incident, Vidal had apparently picked up a small screwdriver — small enough that it couldn’t have caused serious harm, his family says, but enough that they sought law enforcement assistance. Three different police departments’ officers arrived at the scene. The first two were able to restrain Vidal and calm him down, according to Vidal’s father. But then a third entered, and that’s when he says things went sour.

He says the third officer tased Vidal, knocking the 90-pound teenager to the ground. The officer then allegedly stepped forward with a firearm and said, “we don’t have time for this,” before shooting the teen dead.

Southport Police Department, one of the three North Carolina agencies that responded to the call, has put one of its detectives on administrative leave in relation to the case, reports WECT. The department did not say whether the officer was the one who had fired the weapon. The other departments, Boiling Spring Lakes PD and the Brunswick County Sheriff’s office, said that they have not put their responding officers on leave. The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the incident.

Sadly, families often treat police officers as assistants in home disputes or conflicts. But law enforcement officials have a long history of turning heated situations deadly. Protocol for police who take out their guns is to aim for the head or chest, and that’s exactly what the officer did in this case...

Monday, January 06, 2014

Response to angry lawyer

Rachel Maddow:

"You not wanting to be known for something you have done is not the same as you not having done it."

See all posts Stutz v. Larkins lawsuit.


UPDATE:

Hey Koch Brothers: Your Ton of Lawyer Papers Didn't Make Rachel Maddow Back Down!
by hungrycoyote
Daily Kos
Jan 28, 2014

Rachel Maddow: "It's our country too, even if we don't get invited to your Billionaires’ Party in Palm Springs every January."

You may think that since Rachel Maddow has spent so much time these last few weeks wrapped up in reporting on the continuously breaking scandals out of New Jersey, that she hasn’t had time to think about that billionaire-duo of behind the scenes politics known as the Koch brothers. But you’d be wrong. The last time Rachel went on a full out rant about the Kochs’ escapades was at the beginning of this month. If you happened to catch that glorious segment when Rachel Maddow Spoke Truth to the Powerful Koch Brothers, you might think it doesn’t get any better than that. You’d be wrong. Rachel Maddow ended Monday night's show with a powerful segment pointed squarely at the influential brothers. If you missed it, you can watch it online, or if you prefer to savor every word by reading a transcript, just jump over the orange squiggly.

The segment starts with quotes from news reports that the Koch brothers helped accumulate $400 million that was spent to defeat President Obama and Congressional Democrats in the 2012 and then points out how the endeavor failed miserably. It's just amazing that the Koch brothers wasted their money having they lawyers attempt to muzzle Ms. Maddow. She even quotes the press coverage of the last time she tied the Koch brothers to the conservative networks they have created around the country, and specifically in Florida. Politifact had rated her assertions as "Mostly False" last time. Her response? More documentation that her reporting was factual.

Makes you wonder how the Koch brothers ever became successful billionaires, doesn't it? They blew $400 million on the 2012 election, and they wasted money on attorneys trying to force Rachel Maddow to retract her reporting. Fail! Fail! Fail! Why don't they just take their toys and go home? Seriously? When one thinks of all the good that money could have done, and yet it was used to wage a losing battle. The war isn't over because the Kochs plan to fight even more battles in the coming months as the 2014 election cycle gears up.

Don't think you can spare the time to watch a 15-minute video or read the long transcript? Read the end and then reconsider that thought.

The new Politico reporting on the Kochs' otherwise secret plans is that the Kochs, whose operation already rivals the Republican Party, they are now reshaping their operation in ways that could end up reshaping the Party itself, starting with raising as many millions of dollars as possible this weekend in Palm Springs. The Koch brothers are spending and organizing the spending of more money than almost anyone in history to influence American politics. They also fight vociferously to limit real reporting on how much they spend, how they spend it, and what the impact that spending has on our polity.

They want to influence American politics. And they are influencing American politics. But they do not want to be known for what it is that they do. And at one level this is one small fight about one group pushing one laughably terrible policy from Florida. But this is also about how American politics works now. And whether it stays in the light or whether it is allowed to go underground. Because how they are working their side of politics now is millions and millions and millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars that are intentionally made difficult to trace, funneled to networks that build networks that you can disown when you want to if you want to.

Does that intentionally opaque political activity get reported on now, or doesn't it? They have tried to make it as hard as possible for that reporting to get done. I say we do it anyway. It's our country too, even if we don't get invited to your Billionaires’ Party in Palm Springs every January.

I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to Rachel Maddow's reporting after she receives another ton of lawyer papers in response to this segment.

Elaborate network obscures Koch influence

Rachel Maddow traces part of the vast network of Koch-funded groups and initiatives to show their influence on conservative politics.

So the weather this weekend obviously was perfect if you live anywhere near Palm Springs, California. Maybe you played some golf on the manicured desert greens, enjoyed a cool drink by the pool. January in Palm Springs means look, 75 degrees and sunny. You feel like a million bucks. Or maybe you feel like several billion bucks.

Rachel Maddow: "January in Palm Springs means look, 75 degrees and sunny."

And a few weeks ago The Washington Post tallied up all the money the Kochs and their network raised for the 2012 election cycle [See Koch-backed political coalition, designed to shield donors, raised $400 million in 2012 by Matea Gold, The Washington Post, 5 Jan 2014]. And by The Post's accounting, it looks like something on the order of about $400 million just for the 2012 election, torn down into a rabbit warren of essentially unGoogleable, hard to trace, opaque non-profits and organizations, most with seemingly unrelated names and spread out all over the country and good luck sorting it out.

attribution: None Specified

Rachel Maddow: "The Washington Post tallied up all the money the Kochs and their network raised for the 2012 election cycle."

Around this time every year the conservative activist billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch get together with other very wealthy people somewhere around Palm Springs in order to talk conservative politics and conservative causes. Charles and David Koch try to hold these regular seminars in as much secrecy as possible because otherwise, the scene outside where they’re meeting ends up looking like this. [Video of protestors.]

Rachel Maddow: "This was outside the Koch's desert summit in 2011, and that was an off year for politics."

This was outside the Koch's desert summit in 2011, and that was an off year for politics. But that year people did find out in advance where they were going to and when they were going to be there, and so there was sort of a welcome party in reverse for the Kochs and their rich allies that year. That was 2011 when the Kochs and their friends were presumably planning their strategy for the next election cycle. The next election cycle, of course, was 2012.

Rachel Maddow: "At $400 million it was among the most mega of all the mega-money in that election."

The Post says found quote a labyrinth of tax-exempt groups and limited-liability companies helping mask the sources of the money, much of which went to voter mobilization and to television ads attacking President Obama and Congressional Democrats. What the Koch brothers helped fund in time for the 2012 election was a huge deal. I mean, at $400 million it was among the most mega of all the mega-money in that election. What they helped build for 2012 was very impressive … on paper. But in real life it flopped. The Kochs and their wealthy allies wanted Mitt Romney to become president, of course. In that effort, they failed. They also tried to put the Republicans back in control of the Senate, and they failed. They tried to get more Republicans into the House as well, and they failed at that too.

Rachel Maddow: "2012 was such a disappointment to the Kochs."

Twenty-twelve was such a disappointment to the Kochs that they delayed their plans for the 2013 summit [See Kochs Postpone Post-Election Meeting by Robert Costa, National Review Online, 11 Dec 2012]. Again, they usually troop off to Palm Springs in January. But after the 2012 election they pushed it back from January until April so they could have more time to try to figure out what to do.

Rachel Maddow: "that cash infusion was found by the state of California to be illegal."

But still, they were not yet done with the pain from that 2012 election cycle. In October, California officials announced that two groups they described as part of the Koch brothers network had broken campaign finance rules in the way they shuffled money around. A huge last minute infusion of cash into two California ballot initiatives (one to gut union rights and one to shield the richest taxpayers for a tax hike), that cash infusion was found by the state of California to be illegal [See Group Linked to Kochs Admits to Campaign Finance Violations by Nicholas Confessore, The New York Times, 24 Oct 2013].

Rachel Maddow: "One of the groups ... got a heap of cash from donors at the Koch's Palm Spring Summit in 201."

One of the groups dumping money into those fights in California reportedly got a heap of cash from donors at the Koch's Palm Spring Summit in 2012 [See Koch World 2014 by Kenneth P. Vogel, Politico.com, 24 Jan 2014].

Rachel Maddow: "...those groups agreed to a record fine, handed down by the State of California."

And in October those groups agreed to a record fine, handed down by the State of California. For their part, the Kochs insisted they had nothing to do with that scandal in California. They said they did not control those particular outfits and did not give money directly or indirectly to any nonprofit in that particular California election. But of course, they did still end up with their name in this headline [See Group Linked to Kochs Admits to Campaign Finance Violations by Nicholas Confessore, The New York Times, 24 Oct 2013].

Rachel Maddow: "The Washington Post attempting to chart the Koch backed election machine for 2012."

And in this one; this is The Washington Post attempting to chart the Koch backed election machine for 2012 [See Inside the $400-million political network backed by the Kochs, The Washington Post, 5 Jan 2014]. You can see one of the groups that got its wires crossed in California is right there in the middle of the web; in the middle of the Koch-backed network.

Rachel Maddow: "But what makes the Kochs' genius, is that they help grow networks."

For the Koch brothers, the news out of California presents a different and worrying kind of challenge. I mean, they can write impressive checks. They can get other rich people to write impressive checks. But what makes the Kochs' genius, is that they help grow networks; networks that then grow other networks. And in so doing they create a web of immense influence that seems decentralized. So when someone at the end of the org. chart does something that gets noticed, either for good or for bad, well then it's your call as to whether or not you say you’re proud to take credit for what they did or whether you tell everyone that you’ve got no connection to them whatsoever. Change the world; sway elections, but keep your hands clean. You don't have to answer questions about it. You don't have to face scrutiny as to your motives or anything else and it cuts down on those annoying protesters outside your swanky resort meetings. If you are writing checks alongside the Kochs you get to be part of this leviathan, far reaching, well funded nest of networks and no one has to know that about you unless you want them to.

Rachel Maddow: "...the maze of linked groups and money did not win them the 2012 election."

The Post called it quote a maze of groups that cloaks its donors. But again, in 2012 the maze of linked groups and money did not win them the 2012 election, and they had that problem in California with the network going sideways and getting busted by that state there. So what happens this year? What do the Kochs try to sell in their desert retreat this year, which happened just this past weekend in Palm Springs?

Rachel Maddow: "...look for the hotel where all the rooms are booked and suddenly the restaurant is inexplicably off limits."

It was kind of fun watching the local press trying to figure out where the meeting was going to be held this year [See Koch brothers expected to hold desert conference by Erica Felci, The Desert Sun, 24 Jan 2014]. Hint, look for the hotel where all the rooms are booked and suddenly the restaurant is inexplicably off limits. Politico.com broke the news on Friday about the Kochs' pitch this year. Quote This year, the Koch’s close allies are rolling out a new, more integrated approach to politics. That includes wading into Republican primaries for the first time to ensure their ideal candidates end up on the ticket, and also centralizing control of their network to limit headache-inducing freelancing by affiliated operatives [See Koch World 2014 by Kenneth P. Vogel, Politico.com, 24 Jan 2014].

So the Kochs are reportedly selling more influence over which candidates are running and more control over the network. All the non-profits with the hard to follow anonymous-sounding names that have been freelancing out there, right? More control. And good on Politico for being able to report that out in advance of the meetings this weekend because we know how secret they like to keep this stuff.

I've got to say, though, when that story broke I always wonder now, every time I see somebody report something new on the Koch brothers and particularly on what the Koch brothers fund, I wonder if they are getting buried under a ton of lawyer papers every time they report this stuff too. Or whether the Kochs just do that to us.

Rachel Maddow: "Being a political actor means being subject to political scrutiny. If you don’t want to be known for it, DON'T DO IT."

[Video clip from The Rachel Maddow Show 3 Jan 2014]:

… we will not stop reporting on the political actions and the consequences of the political actions of rich and powerful men even if they send angry letters every time we do it. I will not read scripts provided to me by anyone else. I do not play requests. I will happily make corrections when I do get things wrong. We do it on this show all the time. But I will not renounce or retract reporting that is true even if the subjects of that reporting don’t like it. Being a political actor means being subject to political scrutiny. If you don’t want to be known for it, DON'T DO IT.

So a few weeks ago we reported on this show about forced drug testing for people on welfare in the State of Florida. It's a Rick Scott policy in that state. It has not been going well in that state. And that's of wider political interest for two reasons. One is that Florida Governor Rick Scott's running for re-election and he's making that policy part of his re-election effort; even as a federal judge has just struck down that policy as unconstitutional. Also, though, the second reason, that story may not just be about Florida anymore. Between the time that the forced drug testing thing got signed into law in Florida and the time that the federal judge first struck it down, a Florida group called the Foundation for Government Accountability started marketing that forced drug testing law around the country, trying to talk other states into doing it as well. They went to public hearings in Georgia to share the good news about Florida's terrible policy [See The Right Presses On For Welfare Drug Tests The Rachel Maddow Show, 2 Jan 2014].

They went to public meetings in Georgia to share the good news about Florida’s terrible policy [See RELEASE: Think Tank Shares Florida’s Welfare Drug Testing Success at Georgia Public Hearing, Foundation for Government Accountability, 15 Feb 2012]. They went to a national meeting of the group ALEC in Arizona to market Florida's terrible policy to state legislators from all over the country [See RELEASE – Think Tank Featured at ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force, Foundation for Government Accountability, 5 Dec 2011]. So we reported that a few weeks ago. The problems with that forced drug testing policy had as a policy in Florida, its problems legally in Florida, and the efforts of this Koch brothers-affiliated group, the Foundation for Government Accountability, to nevertheless try to sell this very bad policy nationwide.

PolitiFact gets it wrong!

The Koch brothers responded by telling us that they had nothing to do with the Florida Foundation for Government Accountability, they rejected any effort to link them with what that group does and with the policies that that group promotes. The Koch brothers say they have nothing to do with the issue of drug testing for welfare benefits, nothing to do with that Florida law, and nothing to do with this Florida group, the Foundation for Government Accountability. Quote an attorney for Koch Industries … says Koch foundations have no connections to the Foundation for Government Accountability [See Rachel Maddow claims Florida group that backs drug-testing welfare recipients is affiliated with Koch brothers, PolitiFact, 9 Jan 2014]. A spokesman for the Koch Company says, quote Koch has not contributed to the Foundation for Government Accountability. We have had no involvement whatsoever with the foundation for Government Accountability or the Florida law [See MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Hunkers Down on Koch Bros. Claim by Erik Wemple, The Washington Post, 8 Jan 2014].

No involvement with the Foundation for Government Accountability whatsoever. They do not want to be associated with the work of this group or the policies this group supports. They do not want to be tied to them. They do not want you to hear forced drug testing in Florida and think about the conservative networks that have been spawned by the Koch brothers.

attribution: None Specified

The Institute for Humane Studies is a non-profit.

Here's the thing. This is the website for The Institute for Humane Studies. The Institute for Humane Studies is a non-profit. They list Charles G. Koch of Koch Industries as their chairman [See Institute for Humane Studies income tax exemption form (pdf)]. And one thing this Koch-chaired non-profit has done is offer the Charles G. Koch Summer Fellows Program. The Koch summer fellowship is a paid public policy internship. Quote at the state level the fellowship strengthens the institutional capacity of market-oriented think tanks. You and I might not get invited to the Kochs' fund-raising party in the desert. We don't get to watch them building their network. But every so often we get a glimpse of the Kochs' network itself building.

[Audio recording of Heather Lakemacher, Policy Programs Director, Institute for Humane Studies, Students for Liberty/Youtube 2 Feb 2013]

Next .. and this is my personal favorite, because it's the one I direct … is the Koch Summer Fellow Program. And the Koch Summer Fellow Program is run by the Institute for Humane Studies, and here are the basics, and obviously, I can go into a lot more detail in the Q&Q session. It's a paid internship program which pairs you with opportunities throughout the entire country. So we work with State Policy Network, and one of the advantages that we have there is many of the state groups aren't able to pay internships. They only have unpaid internships. And so through the Koch Summer Fellow Program we actually provide a stipend for the summer. So it's an opportunity to work with a group and get paid for it.

That was a nice-sounding lady from the Koch-chaired Institute for Humane Studies talking to students from a Koch-funded organization last year. She's talking about sending Koch fellows to the State Policy Network, which is a group of think tanks which includes the Foundation for Government Accountability. That group in Florida that the Kochs say they have nothing to do with.

attribution: None Specified

Rachel Maddow: "State Policy Network says it is very excited about these liberty-loving interns." State Policy Network says it is very excited about these liberty-loving interns who get a stipend, housing assistance, and travel scholarships as part of their Koch fellowship [See SPN News January/February 2013 Updates]. In full disclosure I should tell you that a lot of corporations also give money to the State Policy Network including our corporate owners at Comcast. But not all of them send interns to these groups as Charles Koch fellows.

[Audio recording of Heather Lakemacher, Policy Programs Director, Institute for Humane Studies, Students for Liberty/Youtube 2 Feb 2013]

You can use, like, the Koch Summer Fellow Program if you go to our website, we've got what we call the host search. And it's a listing of all of the organizations that we work with.

Rachel Maddow: "And oh, hey, look, that group that the Koch brothers say they and their foundations have absolutely no involvement with whatsoever."

That's how the Koch Fellows people tell you to find out where you can work if you get one of these paid Koch fellowships. You go to the Koch fellows host search page. You can search it by policy interest or by region. And oh, hey, look, that group that the Koch brothers says they and their foundations have absolutely no involvement with whatsoever, The Foundation for Government Accountability; that group in Florida that has been pushing that drug test the poor law. Look, there they are. Same guys; same guys the Kochs say neither they nor their foundations have anything to do with. Anyone who reports out new information on the political activities of the Koch brothers, particularly on what they fund and who they're linked to, tends to get acquainted with their teams of lawyers and spokesmen very quickly. They challenged our original report this month about the Foundation for Government Accountability and them being a Koch-affiliated group.

Koch spokesman accuses Maddow team of trying to change the subject.

We stand by our report. Then we asked them about this other very bright link between the Koch brothers and the Florida group they want to say they're not affiliated with whatsoever. We asked them about this other link. And they said essentially, Hey, quit changing the subject. Their spokesman telling us, quote rather than admit you are wrong about that Florida group you are shifting the focus to a new line of flawed reasoning that isn't relevant to your previous coverage. But the Koch network is the whole point of the previous coverage and all the coverage we've ever done of these guys.

Again, the Kochs say they have nothing to do with drug testing for welfare benefits or with the Florida law but the group that is promoting that Florida policy around the country is affiliated with the Koch brothers and benefits from being part of their network of conservative political groups. And that matters. And reporting it despite their threats; matters.

Kochs' otherwise secret plans is that the Kochs, whose operation already rivals the Republican Party, they are now reshaping their operation in ways that could end up reshaping the Party itself.

The new Politico reporting on the Kochs' otherwise secret plans is that the Kochs, whose operation already rivals the Republican Party, they are now reshaping their operation in ways that could end up reshaping the Party itself, starting with raising as many millions of dollars as possible this weekend in Palm Springs. The Koch brothers are spending and organizing the spending of more money than almost anyone in history to influence American politics. They also fight vociferously to limit real reporting on how much they spend, how they spend it, and what the impact that spending has on our polity.

They want to influence American politics. And they are influencing American politics. But they do not want to be known for what it is that they do. And at one level this is one small fight about one group pushing one laughably terrible policy from Florida. But this is also about how American politics works now. And whether it stays in the light or whether it is allowed to go underground. Because how they are working their side of politics now is millions and millions and millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars that are intentionally made difficult to trace, funneled to networks that build networks that you can disown when you want to if you want to.

Does that intentionally opaque political activity get reported on now, or doesn't it? They have tried to make it as hard as possible for that reporting to get done. I say we do it anyway. It's our country too, even if we don't get invited to your Billionaires’ Party in Palm Springs every January.