Archive | Class War

‘Give us the tax cuts or we’ll shoot these kids’

White house social media director fires back at mitch mcconnell

Republicans are such lovely people. Good Christians, too:

Congress returns next week to a nightmarishly short calendar during which they must pass a host of bills to keep the government running, including the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) which provides health coverage to millions of children in low-income families and expires on Sept. 30.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Republicans may attempt to use the CHIP deadline as a vehicle to revive their effort to chip away at the Affordable Care Act, and could try to attach amendments to the bill to reauthorize its funding.

Congressional sources told the Wall Street Journal that Republicans are in particular looking at linking a repeal of Obamacare’s medical device tax to CHIP. Other lawmakers are considering amendments that would stabilize Obamacare’s marketplaces, fearing that a standalone bill to do so would either not pass Congress or would draw a presidential veto.

Havoc at Grenfell highlights class disparity in London

grenfell tower fire

By Kate Harveston

Some have called the tragedy at Grenfell Tower “London’s Katrina,” but that is not an accurate comparison. A hurricane is an act of nature, and Grenfell was the result of many years of neglect.

The building’s owners, Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Association (KCTMA), completed a renovation of the building not long before the prolific blaze. Changes to the building were intended to free up space for additional units, however in doing so the building was reduced to a single stairwell and exit, which was often blocked.

These easy-to-spot hazards undeniably contributed to the loss of life suffered at Grenfell. What made adding a few more units more important than the safety of the building’s entire population?

People Without a Place

Understanding what happened at Grenfell requires an understanding of its residents. The Lancaster West Estate where Grenfell tower resides is an ethnically diverse community of working-class citizens. Many of them live in cramped quarters and suffer deplorable living standards.

Twenty plus years ago, the Estate was a welcome home for immigrants, but as laws changed and populations increased, housing in the area began showing signs of fatigue. Today, it is the belief of many residents that neglecting the area’s housing has functioned as a form of deterrent to immigrants.

Grenfell residents report that politicians who should be protecting their corner of London have sold them out. Even in the wake of the terrible accident, efforts to collect donations have been fumbled and some people believe the building fire was started expressly to drive out Grenfeld’s tenants.

The Fall of State Housing

The British government laid the groundwork for social housing like Grenfell in the 1960s and 70s. At the time, the system worked. Even affluent citizens occupied social housing. The buildings were affordable and secure, but things began to change in the early 80s.

Margarete Thatcher’s new free market reform saw social housing projects as the enemy of the free market, and took the stance that they should constitute as small a portion of the housing market as possible.

Regulations that mandated the upkeep of buildings like these were stripped away, and the buildings were left to rot, becoming the safety hazards they are today. The right-to-buy scheme allowed new ownership to step in and raise rates, creating a dearth of actual affordable housing nearly all of which was poorly kept.

When these buildings change hands, as Grenfell did when it went to Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Association, they are often renovated to make them more attractive for tenants. The problem is the “corner-cutting” that routinely goes on in the process. Rather than consider the needs of the people who will live in the buildings, the only concern is making space and the illusion that the building is comfortable.

Where Can Londoners Go?

London isn’t a big place relative to the number of people that make their lives there. It is becoming difficult for residents who need them to find real solutions in the way of income-restricted housing.

There were nearly riots following the events at Grenfell. People had been reporting visible safety hazards in the buildings for years. With few options outside of the decaying social housing projects, the problem is worse today than it was before. Where can these people live? Is it realistic to think they can reside in London at all?

Survivors of the fire were relocated to hotels for three weeks as an interim solution, however many are now facing eviction from the hotels. The government was supposed to be assigning them for relocation; however, only 14 of 158 households forced from Grenfell have found host families.

Advocates for the displaced cite that while the government has made over 130 offers, most of them are unsuitable for inhabitants and probably in similar condition to the Grenfell tower before it burned. Some of the proposed new lodgings even have a view of the old tower’s remains.

For the small number who have accepted new living quarters, rent is going up. The government has agreed to cover their costs for a year, but after that they will be faced with higher rental costs than they previously had in Grenfell tower.

A Legacy of Poor Governing

Like the corner-cutting practices that landed KCTMA at the heart of this controversy, the housing crisis London is now facing was entirely avoidable. What it will require is a more even-handed approach towards social housing.

The councils and local governments cannot afford to wade through a continuous mire of negative PR that will come if more accidents like Grenfell are allowed to happen. A change of perspective is required. More social housing must become available soon, and it must be habitable. If it does not, London’s working class will be the first to leave, but they might not be the last.

 

Rick Santorum has a backdoor Obamacare repeal plan that strips funds from Dem states

Rick Santorum

Former Pennsylvania senator and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum revealed this week that he has been working on a plan to effectively repeal Obamacare by stripping money from four Democratic states. In an interview with Breitbart, Santorum said that he had been collaborating with Republican lawmakers to craft legislation that would block grant health care funds… Continue Reading →

Is anybody home at HUD?

OCIO All Hands

This story was co-published with New York magazine. In mid-May, Steve Preston, who served as the secretary of housing and urban development in the final two years of the George W. Bush administration, organized a dinner at the Metropolitan Club in Washington, D.C., for the new chief of that department, Ben Carson, and five other former… Continue Reading →

Governor Malloy’s ground-breaking bail reform bill helps indigent Connecticut defendants

Goshen Fair 2015

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy recently signed a groundbreaking bill to reform bail in Connecticut.   As a result, hundreds of impoverished defendants will no longer stay in jail as they await trial merely because they cannot afford bail.

The bill was widely supported by the State’s Republicans and Democrats and passed with ease in June.

At the bill’s signing, Gov. Malloy noted that the bail reform bill would focus on the “unintended consequences” of a justice system that has had a harmful impact on public safety pretrial.

The Governor noted that the impact of bail laws can be devastating to people who are jailed for even a couple of days who have been accused of crimes and cannot make bail.  They could lose their housing or employment, which can only aggravate the flux in an already stressed life that could lead to committing crime.

For years, and led by Malloy’s criminal reform efforts, Connecticut has been focused on lowering crime rates.

The bail reform law became effective in July of 2017.

It stops courts from ordering bonds on misdemeanor defendants, with exceptions including family violence; or where someone is considered a flight risk, may obstruct the legal system, or harm someone else or themselves.

The Pretrial Justice Institute, which advocates for bail reform expects this bill to have a major impact on the Connecticut justice system, as 75 percent of criminal cases in Connecticut are misdemeanors.

No More Cash Bonds in Connecticut

It also bars judges from assigning cash-only bail, where defendants must pay the entire amount of the bond to be released jail. Now, defendants will have a choice to secure their release by paying part of the bail, while some will be released without any bail at all – just a promise to appear (called “PTAs”) in court for their future court dates.

Bail / Bond Changes in Misdemeanor Cases

The law requires that a defendant alleged to have committed a misdemeanor who stays in jail because they cannot pay bail must have a bail review hearing within two weeks of their arraignment, which was shortened from 30 days.

At later bail hearings, Connecticut courts must remove the financial conditions of a defendant’s release unless the prosecution successfully argues that the defendant is either a danger to the community or has the risk of flight.

At the request of the bail bond industry, there will also be a study exploring the feasibility to impose an additional fee on defendants who can afford bail.

Bail Now Not Only for the Wealthy

Many local and states jurisdictions have passed bail reforms recently supported in part by civil rights groups that have challenged the constitutionality “wealth-based bail practices.”

Daily, across the U.S., 450,000 individuals are in jail pretrial. Many are charged with low-level crimes and are incarcerated only because they cannot afford bail.

This costs taxpayers $14 billion yearly, or $38 million daily.

Connecticut thinks it will save $30 million by 2019 by shrinking the incarcerated population.

Stamford-based criminal attorney Mark Sherman noted, “The new bail reform law helps defendants, especially low-income families, by doing away with a unilateral approach and safely releasing people who are no harm to the community.”

We hear from one of Robert E. Lee’s descendents

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I had no idea that my online colleague Karen Finney had such a complex background. This was so powerful, go read it all:

As the biracial daughter of Jim Finney, a black civil rights lawyer descended from enslaved Virginians, and Mildred Lee, a white social worker and the great-great-great-great niece of Confederate General Robert E. Lee — of whom statues stand in many cities and towns, including, now infamously, Charlottesville — my American story is complicated.

About a year ago, I made a discovery that reminded me of just how complicated both my family’s and our nation’s painful journey on race and equality has been. I found two letters that my maternal grandmother, also named Mildred Lee, had written to my father. In the first, four-page, single-spaced typed letter, she laid out arguments why my dad should leave my mom and not marry her as they’d planned. Not only was marrying illegal in their respective home states of Virginia and North Carolina, in 1967, their forthcoming interracial marriage, she explained, was against the “natural order of things,” in which black and white have their place.”

Quoting the Bible, she argued that their marriage would bring permanent disrepute, shame and irreparable damage not only to my mother’s life but also the lives of the whole family. A month later, my parents were married in a simple ceremony in New York City. In a second letter, sent less than a week before I was born, my grandmother described miscegenation as a sin and a stain that would never be made clean, quoting the Bible and invoking “the way of things.”

The woman who wrote these letters sounded nothing like the loving grandmother I knew and adored growing up, who always brought presents when she visited from North Carolina, and exhaustively searched to find me a beautiful doll that exactly matched my mocha skin color. But her underlying fear and anxiety at the time were bound up with a family tradition that had placed Lee on a pedestal — figuratively, if not literally — in the way she remembered and recounted the Lee family heritage, with great pride and even a sense of superiority. I grew up with heroically framed, but demonstrably false, stories about “The General”: that he was a reluctant warrior who didn’t really want to own slaves or fight the Civil War, stories that were consistent with the 20th century revisionist narrative of the “War of Northern Aggression,” rewriting Civil War and southern history.

Go read the rest.

Sabato: Trump should ‘fire all the white nationalists on his staff, starting with Steve Bannon’

US 57th & 58th Presidential Inaugural Parade - NBC Poll 11/8/16 Clinton President -  NBC : Larry Sabato: Clinton ahead in electoral college votes - 11/8/16 Clinton Wins

CNN’s Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter spoke with Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, this Sunday about Trump’s refusal to condemn the white supremacists at the protests in Charlottesville over the weekend. Sabato had some advice for Trump, but don’t expect him to follow it. He’s never going to… Continue Reading →

Sending fewer juveniles to adult court

William Palmer Trial - Courtroom Drama 

Due to the increased use of community-based programs, Kings County, Washington, prosecutors are sending fewer juveniles to adult court than ever before. 

Several U.S. Supreme Court rulings since 2005 have stated that juveniles are “prone to immaturity and impetuosity, [and] often fail to appreciate risks and consequences” and gave discretion to judges to tailor their sentences for juveniles and not adhere to strict sentencing guidelines.

According to Prosecutor Dan Satterberg’s juvenile-justice report, in 2016 police referred 67 juvenile cases in King County to prosecutors involving 16 and 17-years-old juveniles who were accused of violent crimes.

These crimes were: first degree robbery: 43.3%, murder: 26.7%, drive-by shooting: 16.7%, first degree assault: 6.7% and first-degree burglary: 3.3%. Of these, 34 were charged in juvenile court and 30 were sent to superior (adult) court.

Out of the 30 cases sent to adult court, the majority involved African American youths (43.3%), followed by Hispanic (26.7%), Asian/Pacific Islander (16.7%), and then Caucasian (6.7%) and Native America (3.3%).

King County prosecutors have broad discretion to decide which court the juveniles who commit these violent acts will be prosecuted and how lenient the court is with sentencing.

To decrease racial disparity that is apparent in Satterberg’s report, the county has been successfully using community-based programs to work with these youths outside the court system and decrease the number of cases filed against juveniles.

One such program is the weekend workshops in the 180 Program, which began in 2011 after conversations Satterberg had with Pastor Doug Wheeler. Held monthly and funded by the prosecutor’s office, the program has helped 1,500 youths avoid charges.

Successful completion of the program means that the misdemeanor charges will be waived before they are filed with the court system. In fact, there were 1,600 cases filed in 2016, 16% less than the year before, compared to 8,000 cases twenty years ago.

Using Satterberg’s report as well as individual court records of the cases, the King County Bar are tailoring prison sentences of juveniles whose cases get sent to adult court.

Automatically sending these juveniles into the adult system does increase recidivism, according to the Washington Institute for Public Policy. 

When combined with community custody or supervision, this approach has greatly reduced length of sentences that otherwise would have been much longer.

There is growing support among Washington lawmakers to decrease the number of crimes eligible for automatic jurisdiction in adult court. However, there are risks to being too lenient as the court will lose any jurisdiction over the minor when he or she reaches 21 years of age.

“Cases should be considered on a case-by-case basis, and even violent crimes should not be auto-declined to adult court,” said attorney Stephen Hamilton. “Other factors such as the juvenile’s age and case history should be considered; we should help these juveniles see a better future for themselves rather than automatically sending them to jail, where they will learn to be better criminals.”

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