September 2011

Breaking: SB 48 Supporters Ask Harris To Investigate Signature Gathering Tactics For Repeal

By Dan Aiello
California Progress Report
A complaint was filed this morning with state and local offices by the equal rights advocacy group, Courage Campaign, after a video surfaced showing Stop SB 48 volunteers gathering signatures by describing the legislation as protecting child molesters. 

According to Courage Spokesperson, Ana Beatriz, her organization filed the complaint with State Attorney General, Kamala Harris, and John Mullen, the City Attorney of Oceanside where the incident occurred, on behalf of Campaign Courage member and Oceanside resident, Max Disposti. Reached by phone Friday afternoon, Oceanside City Attorney John Mullen told CPR he had not yet seen either the video or the complaint.

“Not Every Human Problem Deserves a Law” - But Sometimes Existing Laws Are The Problem

By Laura Thomas
Drug Policy Alliance

Governor Jerry Brown has proclaimed that, “Not every human problem deserves a law.”

He’s definitely right.  However, there are laws on the books right now that worsen human suffering, contribute to contagion, and burden the state’s healthcare budget.  We’ll need his help fixing those.

Case in point: state drug paraphernalia laws make it a crime to possess a syringe for personal drug use, and also make it illegal for a pharmacist to sell, or a physician or public health worker to provide a sterile syringe without a prescription. Back in the 70s—before AIDS--these laws were intended to reduce heroin use.  

That didn’t work.   However, government-created syringe scarcity did contribute to the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis among people who use drugs, who were infected by shared syringes, as well as their partners and children.  

Honest Officer, I Didn’t Do Anything Wrong

By Sam Gold
Injured Workers Television Network

In Part 2 we talked about how justice always seems to be meted out in favor of the insurance companies because they’re the ones who pump the Fraud Assessment Commission bucket full of cold hard cash. When is the last time, if any, you ever heard of an insurance carrier being prosecuted by the state or any DA for that matter, for committing fraud against an injured worker and violating his/her constitutional rights? And after all isn’t there a definite conflict of interests in our District Attorney offices when a monetary incentive is offered for successful prosecutions? You be the judge.

Many Californians Exposed To Smoggy Air, Some For 100 or More Days Per Year

By Alan Kandel

Over the last several weeks in the San Joaquin Valley and elsewhere in California, there have been numerous smog episodes. Thursday is no exception. In fact, a Valley Air Alert notification was issued.

When the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (Air District) issues an Air Alert, it is important to take heed. According to the Air District, “An Air Alert is a notification that the Valley is currently experiencing conditions that may lead to exceeding a health-based ozone (smog) standard. Air Alerts are issued Valley-wide.”

“When an Air Alert is called by the Air District, Valley residents and businesses are advised to put into place measures that reduce vehicle use. These can include carpooling, vanpooling, using alternative transportation, avoiding the use of drive-through services and refraining from vehicle idling,” the Air District emphasized.

As of late just how bad has Valley air been?

Secretary of Education Duncan “Waives” His Hands

By Lisa Schiff
Parent Teach Association

No matter how much the Department of Education tries to spin the message, the end result is the same – more testing and less focus on really educating kids. Continuing in this vein is the latest big announcement from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about the opportunity for states to apply for “waivers” that are supposedly designed to provide “relief from provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act — or No Child Left Behind (NCLB)…”

When The System Fails, Lives Are Destroyed

By Sam Gold
Injured Workers Television Network

In Part 1, we talked about how treatment and even the request for simple basic diagnostic procedures are now totally controlled by the insurance carriers. No longer does the opinion of your treating doctor matter if it is contradictory to what the insurance company thinks. And no longer can you be treated by your own personal physician unless he of course agrees in writing to treat you and you pre-designate him on a form submitted in advance to your employer. Why is this?

It’s all about CONTROL. Cost controls are now more important than the well-being and welfare of the poor injured worker. The insurance money talks and our legislators seem to want their piece of the action in the form of PAC and election contributions.

Waiting For The Governor on Key Health Bills

By Anthony Wright
Health Access California

Governor Jerry Brown is now considering which bills to sign, and which to veto, of the hundreds that were passed earlier this month by the California Legislature in their final week of the 2011 session. A handful of health consumer protection measures are on his desk. If signed by the Governor, many of these health bills will implement and improve some provisions of federal health care reform law and make other improvements to prepare California for a health system of the future.

Why We Are Taking a Stand Against an Immoral Foreclosure

By Rose Mary Gudiel
Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment

Last Friday, the moment I had been dreading arrived: my family was served an eviction notice by the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department. OneWest Bank and Fannie Mae believe this is the final chapter of the foreclosure on our family’s home of almost 7 years. But myself, my mother Rosa Maria, my brother Herbert, and my father Miguel have decided that we will not leave. Fannie Mae will not take our family home!

It is hard for us to believe the manner in which we have been treated by first Indy Mac, then One West bank and now Fannie Mae. After the unfortunate passing of our youngest brother, our family fell behind two weeks on our mortgage payment. During this time, in the wake of the Wall Street meltdown, I was also furloughed from my state job helping others to find employment. It was a miracle that we made it through that time, but we did. We did it by staying focused, working hard, making sacrifices and most importantly coming together as a family.

Students, Teachers Push to Halt Methyl Iodide Use in California Farms

By Li Miao Lovett
New America Media

Sal Lua remembers the reactions he and his fellow Brown Berets encountered when they first spoke out against methyl iodide at the Watsonville City Council meeting last December. “They were surprised that someone this young would go to the City Council,” he said.

The council later passed a resolution against the fumigant, but the students’ elation was short-lived. The next day, methyl iodide was approved for use by California’s State Department of Pesticide Regulation, which overrode the findings of the agency’s own scientists. While many Brown Berets, a Chicano activist group dating back to the 1960s, lost their enthusiasm upon graduating from high school, activists like Lua and his teachers continue the David vs. Goliath battle to reverse the approval.

A Father's Request: Stop Stores From Selling Expired Baby Food: Sign AB 688

By Dale Proctor

Why are major drug stores and grocery stores fighting for the right to sell expired baby food and infant formula to the public? Why are they trying to shirk any responsibility for monitoring their shelves for products that are well past their expiration dates? As a parent whose seven month old son Kai became very sick after consuming outdated baby food, I cannot begin to explain their actions.

Maybe the answer is: because they can. Although infant formula and baby food have expiration dates there is no state or federal law requiring stores to take these products off their shelves. No fine, no penalty, nothing. Even if the product is months or years past the expiration date. Assembly Bill 688 (Pan), which is sitting on Governor Brown’s desk, would make it unlawful for stores to sell these children’s products past the labeled expirations dates. Both the California Retailers Association and the California Grocers Association have asked for a veto.

Nursing Home Nightmares Recur As California Enables More Customers

By Assemblymember Mariko Yamada

Recent front-page Sacramento Bee headlines about tragedies in California nursing homes should be glaring reminders about the reasons California pioneered the Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) alternative to nursing home care forty years ago.   If you are old, or are planning to be – pay attention – because this system is about to vanish.

Facing severe budget pressures, the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) is currently dismantling the ADHC program in California.  This proven cost-effective program that has worked well to keep Californians out of nursing homes for the past four decades has fallen victim to an annual game of “budget chicken”.

How did this happen?

California Should Lead Nation and Stop Building New Prisons and Jails

By Emily Harris and Isaac Ontiveros

Across the country, headlines show a new trend of nationwide prison closure. A recent report by the Sentencing Project notes that, to date, 13 states in the US have closed or are considering closing some of their correctional facilities, reversing a 40-year trend of prison expansion. States initiating prison closures include New York, Texas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin. Michigan, for example, has closed 21 facilities and has prioritized re-entry services for people returning to their communities from prison.

Why Our Experiences Cannot be Discounted

By Mario Lopez and Catherine Eusebio

Only in Berkeley does a bake sale incense the masses, spur yet another protest, and garner national media attention. I’ve devoured dozens of cookies and cupcakes in my lifetime, but never before have they motivated me to discuss race, politics, and education with my peers.

On Thursday evening, the Berkeley College Republicans (BCR) invited Facebook users to their “Increase Diversity” bake sale on Sproul. Their event is scheduled to occur simultaneously during campus efforts to support the passage of California legislative bills, including the controversial bill SB 185. SB 185, if signed by Governor Brown, would allow the UC’s and CSU’s to consider “race, gender, ethnicity, and national origin, along with other relevant factors, in undergraduate and graduate admissions.

We Like to Move It, Move It -- San Francisco Bay Area Rallies for Solutions to the Climate Crisis

By Rachele Huennekens
Sierra Club

Saturday, September 24 was the day that the San Francisco Bay Area put the “move” in the climate justice movement.   

The massive parade down Market Street and rally at Civic Center were part of  Moving Planet, a global day of action demanding solutions to climate change. The SF mobilization was organized by the Sierra Club,, California NOW and a broad coalition of 50 Bay Area sustainability, peace, environmental and social justice, conservation, faith, women's, bicycle, clean tech, and community groups, and was by far the largest climate justice demonstration to take place in the Bay Area in recent years.  

Troy Davis Protesters Occupy Wall Street

By Ryan Devereaux

Less than twenty-four hours after the state of Georgia injected a cocktail of lethal drugs into the bloodstream of Troy Anthony Davis, the repercussions of his death hit the streets of New York City this Thursday with full force. A rally that was billed online as a “Day of Outrage,” lived up to the name as it snowballed into a massive impromptu march through lower Manhattan.

People young and old, of all classes and colors, joined hands in a moment of silence to honor a man whom many believed died for a crime he didn’t commit. Some cried, many chanted. With references to Jim Crow and legalized lynching, the collective indignation was palpable. There were impassioned monologues from anti-death penalty advocates, poets and people who simply found themselves moved by the moment.

Call It Whatever, But Don’t Call It Workers’ Compensation

By Sam Gold

The last person who gets served by this supposed social insurance program and state mandated insurance coverage is the occupationally injured or diseased worker, and that is sadly a reality, an anthem of how far that we have NOT progressed in the 21st century.

A hundred years ago this system was created in states all around the nation and the occupationally injured are still waiting for employers and their insurers to keep their word and deliver the benefits that were promised. Instead of a quick diagnosis and treatment, some injured workers have had to wait months and in one case, a year for a simple MRI that revealed the immediate need for surgery.

To Rebuild a Fair Economy, We Must Tackle the Underground Economy

By Caitlin Vega
California Labor Federation

With so many people out of work and jobs few and far between, those of us still earning a paycheck feel pretty lucky. But nobody feels very secure. We all know that in this economy, we could easily face cutbacks and we'd be in the unemployment line with millions of other laid off workers.

So imagine what times are like in California's underground economy. That's what we call the sectors that operate under the radar of enforcement agencies. Where employers pay in cash, don't carry workers' compensation, and treat workers like they are disposable.

Rating California Schools: Not by Tests Alone

By Peter Schrag

It probably could have been predicted a decade ago:  The way the American political system judges schools – indeed the whole center of gravity of educational accountability – is shifting again: From a rigid reliance on test-based numbers, which was the fashion of the big state and federal education laws of the George W. Bush era, the pendulum is slowly swinging back toward breadth, flexibility and moderation.

In California, the most recent example, and the most encouraging, is Senate President pro-tem Darrell Steinberg’s SB 547. The bill would replace API, the 12-year-old Academic Performance Index, which, in rating each school and district, narrowly focused on standardized tests in reading and math, with a much broader set of standards. .

Industry’s Last Gasp Efforts to Stop Regulation of Toxic Chemical

By Bill Allayaud
Environmental Working Group

Health advocates are waiting to see if Governor Brown will sign Assemblymember Betsy Butler’s AB 1319 that would ban the chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA, from baby bottles and sippy cups. Consumer Union’s Elisa Odabashian’s editorial at this site (September 22, 2011) laid out the basic facts about the known health effects of BPA and that the medical community has come around in calling for it to be removed from baby products. But while we are hopeful the Governor will sign the bill, nothing is assured given the amount of money the chemical industry is willing to spend to keep the cash-cow chemical BPA as unregulated as possible. 

Troy Davis Executed, While CEO Responsible for Deaths of 29 Miners Sails Free

By Mike Elk

Wednesday night at 11:08, Troy Anthony Davis was executed in the State of Georgia for the 1989 murder of a police officer. Much doubt existed in the case as seven of the nine witnesses recanted their testimony (one even claimed that an eighth murder witness was guilty) and no DNA or other physical evidence linked Davis to the crime.

Former FBI Director William Sessions wrote, “The evidence in this case — consisting almost entirely of conflicting stories, testimonies and statements — is inadequate to the task of convincingly establishing either Davis’ guilt or his innocence.” Davis maintained his innocence up until his death, telling the family of the murdered police officer, “I was not the one who took the life of your father, son, brother.”