Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Next 100 Days

I am exhausted frankly after the first. Between the anxiety, the sleeplessness and the endless wine glasses I am not sure I can handle another 10 let alone 100.

To review the President's bully pulpit would just only confirm to those he is getting the mostest things done ever in the history of the largest electoral college and inaugural crowds ever seen by a President who is not dead or Democrat ever.

The bizarre inability to speak coherent sentences, know history and actually comprehend something unless he experiences it is truly amazing and terrifying.  And yes even I don't need to actually to be President to know it is a lot harder than most jobs.  Gosh who woulda thunk it?

I read and subscribe as in pay for The Washington Post and The New York Times (which still is delivered to my door daily), donate to  The Guardian UK and listen to BBC News, watch the American version and try to get to the national news daily.  I do watch and glance at the local news mostly to laugh at as there is where Journalism went to die.  I don't watch the Nerd Prom nor have ever cared about it but usually the President the last 8 years and the varying hosts have been worth a perusal but again it is like all professions the need for attention, recognition and awards seem to be in some sort of compensation for failing to actually provide actual compensation.  The only exception is the Oscars but some of those nominees and winners go to the same places we do after the awards.  Remember the Pirate in the movie with Tom Hanks?  The French dude, the Italian dude and that chick?  Yeah see.

So you want to hold Journalism accountable and responsible? Well try reading and paying for it. And in turn as all customers can demand that the truth be told and all stories shared - good, bad or ugly.  We don't need awards we need cash it is what makes the world go round. And the real bosses of America, Wall Street, get that better than anyone on Main Street.

Do they give the best Banker an award? I bet that is done secretly and the types must be fascinating.  The award for best amount of foreclosures, the best fake accounts to dead people (beats Voter fraud and way more lucrative).

Tech sort of does this as one can see a sort of rivalry between the white males to prove who has or is the biggest dick.  How about if the check clears you win and your company is now valued at 100 Billion dollars without ever selling, doing or building anything!! 

Awards are prizes you give to kids when they do something good or well. We have overdone that but the idea was to encourage and foster competition and supposedly cooperation. Well big F on that one as the rise of bullying is again a direct reflection of the larger society that schools mirror.  So when I read this story of bullying at a school it was at first a "so?"  Then you realize it was two Teachers who were responsible.

Now there are issues here that need to be addressed that are not in the article.  The Teachers are black women.  I am guessing that this is school with largely poorer students as identified by the numbers that qualify for free or reduced lunch and that the history as to how it began is missing.  Did the first Teacher actually start the bullying towards the student for no reason? Or was this some bizarre misguided attempt to toughen this kid up as that student was being bullied?  Or some combination of both.

I have seen and heard the most bizarre reprimands since relocating to Nashville.  Teachers who called kids retarded. an Administrator say to kids that they will probably never make it to High School given their behavior and watched as they yell, lecture and berate the kids all of which is pointless and falls upon deaf ears.  The restorative justice plan is just another bizarre band aid in which to reduce suspensions that affect students of color predominantly more than those white.  Well I hate to say this but there are few white kids in public schools so that in this case makes them the minority and that would explain the number disproportion.  Funny I was at an alternative school on Friday and the one white kid was stoned out of his gourd, utterly uncooperative and left the room to never return.  I was relieved as the two young black kids were working and we ended up talking for about 10 minutes on retail markups, commissions and payment percentages.    Poverty and anger crosses across color lines and I have said that at some point it is less about race and more about economics and I see it and experience crossing the social experiment that is called Education here in Nashville.

So what about these two women?  Well as I read the book Locking Up our Own - Crime and Punishment in Black America, by James Forman Jr., I have a better understand of the cultural norms that exist within the black community and that the role of class and religion have strong pulls on how they wish to be seen, to be protected and be served.  And in turn the role of the white community to work around that and then enable them to take over and in turn enable them to fail. By intent or by design or simply just because when left to one's own we always go to the most basic and base level responses - the strong survive and dominate - versus finding ways to work together to resolve and repair broken communities.    I see it here with regards to how those in lower class level look to the other to see competition and threat and it explains Trump as he plays to those lowest base fears and beliefs.

As I said I read. I am informed. I make cognizant decisions based on what I interpret and believe.  My relocation here did do the one thing I knew it would - change my beliefs.  I was just surprised at how badly those beliefs would be shaken and not in a good way.   I can't wait to leave as I turned all that inward for quite some time and then you can no longer and in turn you wonder what will emerge when you  finally open the floodgates.  I have a pretty good idea as that is why I left Seattle and I can't leave here in the same state.  Tennessee and its burdens line the streets with every sign marker of history, the constant obsession with the past firmly places the South as unable to ever get past it. 

Blame white people, blame slavery, blame Democrats, Republicans, whoever.  You live in the now then actually live in and start changing the NOW to fix the next.  Trump could try that.  Oh who are we fucking kidding here.  Trump is like the South - incalcitrant, petulant, ignorant and angry.   The only thing missing is his love for Jesus but he has Pence for that one.  I can't wait for the next 100 days as it pushes me closer to leaving.

"Go and kill yourself" a Louisiana Teacher told an 11 year old student.
For months, an 11-year-old girl was bullied.

Authorities say other students were forced to start a fight with her.

At one point, they say, she was told to “go and kill yourself.”

The person responsible, according to investigators, is the girl’s seventh-grade teacher, Ann Shelvin, who now faces criminal charges. Another school employee, Tracy Gallow, who replaced Shelvin after she was escorted off school grounds, faces charges for continuing the bullying, St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby J. Guildroz said.

The two are employees at Washington Elementary School in Opelousas, La., about 60 miles west of Baton Rouge.
Guildroz said the 11-year-old’s mother first came to his office in February to report the bullying, although it apparently had been going on since the fall. The mother was told to report the incident to the St. Landry Parish School Board.

More than a month later, the mother returned to the sheriff’s office because the bullying had continued. Guildroz said an investigation revealed that Shelvin had told the 11-year-old to kill herself and threatened to fail three of her students if they didn’t start a fight with the girl.

One of the students admitted to detectives that Shelvin forced her to take part in the fight and that she did so because she was scared she would be treated like her classmate and fail seventh grade. Several students were sent to the principal’s office because of the fight.

Earlier this week, the girl’s mother told investigators Shelvin has been bullying her daughter since October of last year, when the teacher threatened the 11-year-old that she’d fail her if she didn’t fight another student, Guildroz said. But instead of doing what Shelvin said, the girl, whom authorities did not name, reported her teacher to the principal.
Shelvin was then escorted out of the school. Gallow, a teacher’s aide who replaced her, was later seen on school video surveillance pushing the girl at the school gym, authorities said.

Shelvin, 44, was charged this week with two counts of encouraging or contributing to child delinquency, one count of malfeasance in office and two counts of intimidation and interference in the operation of schools. Gallow, 50, was charged with one count each of malfeasance in office, simply battery and intimidation and interference in school operation.

It’s unclear whether they have attorneys.

“Students should not have to attend school and be bullied especially by teachers that are there for their education, guidance and safety,” Guildroz said in a statement. “The parents did the right thing, they reported it to the school board, and continued to monitor and talk to their children. The bullying continued and they took the next step by contacting law enforcement again.”

Anthony Stanberry, member of the St. Landry Parish School Board, told local news outlet KLFY that school officials will not tolerate such incidents

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Thank a Teacher

Teacher Appreciation Week I believe is coming up.  Do I care? Did I ever? No it is just absurd and I am not alone in that thought.

That said the Oscars of Teaching were given and this week the winners were flown to the White House to be honored by the Il Douchebag in Chief and the Secretary of Education who have pledged to utterly destroy public education as we know it.  And given the reception, the war has begun.  Well the American Schools are a part of the "carnage" so in war times do you expect anything else? 

And while I never liked Arnie Duncan, a man whose tenure on the job did little to benefit public education and was truly given the gig as he was the Basketball partner of Obama, so you cannot say that Trump is alone is awarding gigs to buds; however at least Obama knew him and Duncan was sort of kind of connected to Education via working in Charter schools as was his wife, so that alone counts.   But I have connected the link to the Obama Presidency's same event and see the difference?  Well it was the greatest bestest event ever in the history of the Teacher's Oscars EVER.  And they give it to black people and everything! 

Is any meeting with Trump normal? No so at least the Teachers were actually not treated any different. Well they didn't get the greatest chocolate cake ever and maybe that was a good thing because that is usually the aperitif to a bombing. 

Trump’s rather weird meeting with the 2017 Teachers of the Year
By Valerie Strauss  The Washington Post  April 27  2017

It’s a time-honored tradition: U.S. presidents, every year, take some time to meet the 2017 state Teachers of the Year and single out the national winner. But things went a little differently Wednesday when President Trump welcomed this year’s winners to the White House.

Usually, the National Teacher of the Year speaks. This year, that didn’t happen. Usually, the president spends some time talking with the teachers, giving many of them individual attention. That barely happened Wednesday, according to several participants who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because they said they fear Trump addressing them on Twitter or press secretary Sean Spicer bringing them up at a daily briefing. Usually family members join the winners to meet the president. This time few were allowed — and relatives of the teachers, some who had traveled at their own expense for many hours to attend, were left to wait in a building near the White House, with, as one said, “no water in the hot rooms.”

Rather than a ceremony in the East Room or the Rose Garden, as past presidents have done, Trump invited the teachers into the Oval Office, where he asked them all to gather around him, standing, while he sat at his desk. In the crowd were first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Pence, second lady Karen Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. It was the first lady’s birthday, and the teachers sang “Happy Birthday” to her.

At one point, one of the state winners, Abdul Wright from Minnesota, asked Trump whether the group could sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often called the “Black National Anthem.” Trump, according to the Star Tribune, agreed, and thanked Wright for leading the song. Wright was quoted by the newspaper as saying:

“Yesterday superseded politics. Yesterday was about values, yesterday was about the human experience, yesterday was about the human heart. And I think we got caught up in that.”

The White House did not respond to a query about the event.

In the Oval Office, with the teachers and others standing around him, Trump spoke about the teachers and engaged with a few of them (see video above), and briefly singled out the 2017 National Teacher of the Year, Sydney Chaffee, from Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester, Mass. A ninth-grade teacher, she is the first national winner from a charter school in the program’s 65-year history, and the first from Massachusetts. While the other teachers applauded, she accepted a trophy from Trump, who remained seated during the presentation.

Chaffee was not invited to offer remarks.

According to a pool report from White House reporters, Trump said to Chaffee: “That is really something special,” and he thanked the teachers for singing to his wife. He also said, continuing to remain seated, “You’re all great, great teachers,” and “Each of you has dedicated yourself to inspiring young lives and putting our children on a path to happiness and success.”

One teacher began to cry near the end of the event, and she said to Trump, “Sorry, I’m always crying.” He responded: “I’ve had some of the biggest executives in the world, who have been here many times, and I say have you been to the Oval Office? No. They walk into the Oval Office and they start crying. I say, ‘I promise I won’t say to your various stockholders [that they cried].’ ”

Meanwhile, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next door to the White House, were family members of the teachers, most of whom were not allowed into the ceremony, participants said. Chaffee’s husband and young daughter were kept waiting in a hallway before being allowed to enter the Oval Office, according to participants. A state school superintendent had flown to Washington to support the winner of his state, but he wasn’t allowed in either. DeVos met with the family members, some of whom were upset, for pictures, according to several participants.

A parent of one of the teachers said in an email:

“There was no planning, no care, no water in the hot rooms, and no respect for the families…. One state coordinator who had been working on her job since 1999 said it was a disgrace and the most terrible thing she had witnessed.”

The event was obviously different from those put on in recent years by other presidents.

Last year, President Barack Obama hosted a ceremony for the 2016 Teacher of the Year, Jahana Hayes from Waterbury, Conn., in the historic East Room of the White House. Pop-music artist Nate Ruess sang some songs; Hayes stood at the podium with Obama and was tasked with introducing him to the crowd; the president then gave a speech praising the teachers and calling for more federal funding for public education.

Obama then listened to Hayes, a veteran high school history teacher at a high-poverty school, give a speech. She described how her experience as a teen mom who grew up in the projects surrounded by poverty, drugs and violence fueled her passion for teaching.

Obama had significant ceremonies for the Teachers of the Years during his tenure, and Vice President Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, sometimes hosted the teachers in their residence before the White House event.

President George W. Bush spent time with the winning teachers too. In 2004, for example, he hosted the Teachers of the Year at a seated ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, where first lady Laura Bush spoke first and then the president gave a speech, noting:

Every President since Harry Truman has presented this award — Teacher of the Year Award. And there’s a good reason for that. When you’re in the company of some of the nation’s finest citizens, our greatest teachers, you’re in the company of people who give their hearts and their careers to improving the lives of children. You’re in the company of the best of our country.

Bush recognized Teacher of the Year Kathy Mellor from Rhode Island, who then spoke while the two Bushes and the rest of the crowd listened.

This year, Trump angered many teachers by proposing a 14 percent budget cut to the Education Department. Many also are skeptical of his education secretary, DeVos, a longtime advocate of private school vouchers. During his inaugural address in January, Trump characterized public education as a “system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge.” This system, he said, was part of an “American carnage” that he pledged to stop.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Daze of Nashville

As I try to navigate my way through swimming in the deep red sea I spend most of my time shaking my head or simply bursting out laughing. A much better improvement than what was tears, rage and confusion. I truly want to point out that most of that is connected to the public schools here and what I experience as the farce of education but there are other elements that lend to those feelings.

Yesterday I had to run an errand to the Jewelers to get my watches repaired. The woman behind the counter was "nice" but of course a moron. When she asked what I do I said, "For now I Substitute Teach." I explained I just moved here and in the process discovered what a swamp mess that the school system is and for now it is job I do but as my sell by date and license conveniently expire in three years that will mean time to move on and out.  This confused her and then proceeded to do what most people do when they hear I teach, inform me about kids these days and then in turn trash talk them.  Which my response is, "Children are only mirrors of the adults around them." Here that confuses them and they don't see it as the insult it is intended to be.  I say it regardless of whom says it to me, it must be akin to when someone finds out that they are a Doctor and then proceed to ask for medical advice.  It is presumptive if not boring to talk about work when you are not at it and expect to give advice to someone about a child they know nothing about.

The woman also shared her fear about me walking around taking buses and such as how "safe" is that.  I said well if taking public transport and walking on public sidewalks is that much of a risk then am I the problem or is there something wrong here where one cannot do so and do safely.  As the real risk is that over 300 pedestrians were killed here last year and the transit is only part of the problem as also getting to it requires crosswalks and access, two other things missing here, so getting car jacked and robbed as that is the real crime happening here is what less worse?  She, like all the residents I meet here are totally unaware of any news or facts in their own community.  No wonder they are afraid, they are stupid and uninformed.  Hmm so are Trump voters.

She also did not understand why I moved here and why I will be leaving once my purpose here is done.  As if any of that is her business. Could you just fix my watches?  People are not used to anyone who moves as I do. I met one man from New York and his response to me in just a brief conversation was, "you'll be gone in 4 years." Yes I agreed and had the sole singularly pleasant exchange with a random stranger since moving here.

I am exhausted in trying to figure out the script to introduce myself of even have pleasant exchanges with the populace here but I am at odds. Unless I am "on" as in performing a false speech and fake smiling and dancing like a minstrel, shows clearly once popular here, I lose the audience. My tone, my resting bitch face, my black clothing and just my overall personality is not something the Southern folk get at all.

I do believe that age and gender have a lot to do with it and that those who recall me actually call me by name at the coffee shops, planting stores and other retail outlets I frequent. At first I was shocked now I just realize they do actually note that and do respect when you communicate with them as I do with anyone who serves and assists me. That said you find yourself exhausted trying to find the right tone and demeanor to please everyone all of the time.

Tuesday brought me to my hairdresser who is a nice gal but dumb as a rock. She and her husband who wants to be a Teacher/Artist/Musician/Lyft Manager/Band Manager/fill in the blank are like many of the people I meet here. The pull to be in the industry is the prime reason most relocate here. The others are from businesses literally who relocate their employees as there are few skilled workers to do the work they need to run them. I had to explain to her that the wages and housing costs are not coinciding and that the wages which have remained stagnant for a decade and with the great approval by the Chamber of Commerce who really run the show here.    She truly did not understand the basic math of costs of living and how the costs for housing can reflect a bubble and most of it due to the outside investment (as the property across the street from the salon is by the rich son of an out of state real estate developer who is making a sound studio.. a business he has no experience, training or familiarity with. Again that is So, Nashville) who are buying and flipping properties right and left which adds to inflated costs and hysterical buying.   When you have people getting mortgages underwritten  and/or co-signed by parents, the income or stated income "belief" is akin to fraud.    And when you see this much property turnover and the costs being over financed by largely out of state banks this is 2008 all over again, but in largely commercial real estate. It is as if Donald Trump is running it here!

She truly expressed confusion when I explained what a median wage is and what that means with attracting the kind of educated and trained individuals who would willingly relocate here and be able to build a business or industry that attracts again more educated and trained individuals. And that the appeal of no state income tax is not enough as Washington State has that and in Seattle the median wage is now 75K up 10K from just two years ago; that Portland has no sales tax and is one of the top draws for new residents and of course San Francisco Bay area that has yes a state income tax and sales tax and sees no slowing of growth with regards to industry or business. Why would anyone come here with a red state government, average public schools and okay Colleges, no legal Marijuana, no open minded attitude about sexuality and of course the whole Christian thing and race thing. So unless you are in the "industry" there is no draw here. She seemed confused about what a median wage is. That sums it up. She and her husband are from Arkansas, that proves my point

Which brings me to the largest employer - Vanderbilit. And that is not about actual education or even medical treatment, their focus is the research field and that is their biggest concern over the Trump Budget, not the ACA as one would believe. The cuts to the NIH affects them in a greater magnitude versus the ACA as well Tenneesse never expanded Medicaid and 35% of Nashville residents have no insurance as we have zero choice regarding insurance. This is again the constant quandary that exists - the reality and the possible - they are not in the least connected. And it is why the care is affordable but also challenging to get done. The lack of qualified professionals assisting the heavy lifters is a never ending rotating cast of characters.

As the week wore on and they do here despite perhaps having the most perfect weather I could wish for, the schools were the same and the kids are in their testing mode which is laughable as again the reality is that again less than than 30% of them will go on to College and that is based on those who finish. And this is despite the sheer magnitude of Colleges/Universities that align the roads here giving the City another moniker other than Music City, the Athens of the South.

Last night I went to the Frist to Volunteer again, the last three times were a fiasco. For a special event I sat in the volunteers room and waited for 30 minutes for the coordinator to come to assign me and that was a no show so I left. I was not sure what I expected for this was a showcase for the Nashville Public Schools Art and as I had subbed in many of the schools in those very classes so I was curious if not excited. Of course the other volunteers were a no show and that is largely due to the reality that they are trying to staff an entire "Museum" with volunteers and with wages, traffic and the reality of how boring it is, few show up. But I put on my best Liza and met many excited families, some Teachers and the great Artists whose worked lined the walls. It was for me a joyous 90 minutes that I had game face and great speech and felt better about once again trying to make small talk with the locals.

The reality is that they want to know what brought you here. And I am in an uncomfortable reality that telling people I am here for cheaper oral maxxofacial surgery and to run away from the horrid memories of living in Seattle that I could never escape unless I left, so I did. So in other words: None of your fucking business. I am still experimenting with that script.

The Mayor who was hat the Art show as it was named after her was an engaging presence from what I observed and she had come from her State of the City (well Town) speech reflecting on the growth the city-town has had the last decade.  The 8% annual growth (which does not mean 85 people a day moving here as frequently cited) means new demands on both infrastructure as in transit, roads and sidewalks and schools.  I applaud one and thought "don't go there on schools it is a lost cause."  But once again as I read a normal transit plan that two years ago hit the wall is again facing a challenge. By whom? Again, a non resident who does not live in the county but cares about how we spend our money here.  He wants to propose a non-debt referendum in the State Legislature.  Gee thanks.  And as the local paper interviewed the real community about the plan they found the one naysayer, ironically again an owner of a bike store so it was highly amusing that he was anti transit, and he concluded with the the mantra here: Who'se gonna pay for it?  Uh we will asshole or we will in other ways but again math, logic and critical thinking not a strong suit here.

And yesterday I read more about our local news and of course the State Legislature is as busy as a Beaver could be as they "inadvertantly" passed legislation that honors a slave trader and infamous statue on I-65, Bedford Forrest. The other was the "natural and ordinary" law that is typically So, Nashville, in that passive aggressive manner that claims one thing does another.

All of this I was reading while in a "fake" Magnet school during a test and I busted out laughing at the irony of how idiotic that once again our legislature demonstrates they are as good as the idiots who elect them. The kids asked if I was reading the comics and I said no the news and then I was asked if there was a word call prejudicism. And he is in honor AP class! What an honor.

There is some good out of this. Two books, one about being a Substitute Teacher and the material at this point writes itself. The other about living and swimming in the deep red sea. That I think will be flash fiction just short bursts of tales of the people I meet. They are not worth more than a passing glance and then I just need to let you all swim by.

What more can I say about living in Tennessee? Well it's So, Nashville. And that is one thing means another and it always contradicts never compliments the other. It is a permanent state of daze in which I function. And I learned you can't run from something you are only running into something else. So my next move will be more of a stroll and not a race. Turtles were always my spirit animal.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ivanka Who?

The strange idolization and odd belief that the daughter of Il Douchebag-in-Chief has any real relevance or offers perspective about issues that might be of import with regards to Women, the Environment, or any type of progressive modern thinking needs to think again. 

John Oliver did an amazing takedown of both her and her husband, the dude who seems to be in charge of everything other than Health Care, the Tax Code and Human Cloning, is not only brilliant but spot on.  And to say Complicit is more than a scent it is a lifestyle.

The odd vagueness of specificity of what even job titles they have seem again to clearly confuse and obfuscate that they are mere gatekeepers. They are the listening totem poles in which to filter the confusing facts, figures and information that a President is presented with on a daily basis.  They are to dilute, simply and compound that so that Daddy bear gets it.  Ivanka cried about the Syrian babies so he bombed them. That is her role as special policy advisor.  Next up Jared picks a fight with Justin Trudeau so that we can place a tariff on Canadian lumber.  I go with who has the better hair.

Trump is in pre senile dementia.  His referring to Paul Ryan as "Ron" during a speech last week in Kenosha continues to demonstrate how stress affects the cognitive functioning.  His inability to hear that request to shake Angela Merkyl's hand during their meet and greet was again excused and explained as well everything the Il Douchebag says and does.  Don't expect Jared or Ivanka too they are there to provide the gloss to the ever dulling sheen on the figure head we call Trump.

This trip to Germany is again an insult and absurdity wrapped in a riddle of why?  Next up off to Africa to exploit I mean adopt a Malwai orphan. I hear Madonna has one you can borrow. Desperate times, desperate measures.

Ivanka Trump in Germany: First Daughter Leaves Some Women Scratching Their Heads

by Alexander Smith NBC News

BERLIN — Ivanka Trump was in Germany on Tuesday on her first international trip as a member of her father's presidential team. In doing so, the billionaire's daughter stepped into a land that prides itself on meritocracy.

This is a country run by Angela Merkel, a veteran politician with a doctorate in quantum chemistry: someone who grew up in communist East Germany, was elected German leader three times, and who is regularly referred to as the most powerful woman on the planet.

Alongside her husband, senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner, 35-year-old Ivanka Trump has emerged as one of the key powerbrokers in what has become a distinctly family-oriented White House.

The First Daughter traveled to the German capital, Berlin, on Tuesday after being invited by Merkel to participate in a panel discussion at the Women20 summit — an international event that aims to "promote women's economic empowerment." She arrived having become a prominent champion of working women, and after co-writing an article on the importance of the economic empowerment of women that appeared in the Financial Times newspaper.

While Ivanka Trump was in Berlin to promote women, the president himself was front and center during a panel discussion at the summit. The first daughter defended Donald Trump after a handful of attendees booed and groaned when she mentioned his name, saying he had encouraged "thousands" of women who worked for him.

"As a daughter, I can speak on a very personal level knowing that he encouraged and enabled me to thrive," she said. "I don't take that lightly as a parent now myself. And there was no difference for me and my brothers."

Ivanka Trump would have reason to know how her father treats women. Before moving into the White House, Ivanka Trump graduated cum laude from her father's alma mater, the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania. And after a brief modeling career, she went into the family business — the Trump Organization.

Some commentators have speculated Merkel's personal invitation to Trump was the German leader's way of opening a channel to President Donald Trump, after an awkward meeting last month in which he appeared to decline her handshake.

But many German women do not share their leader's welcoming spirit.

Some, including 49-year-old creative director Inga Meyer, question Ivanka Trump's contribution at an affair featuring other uber-qualified speakers such as International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

"I think it's outrageous," Meyer, the creative director, told NBC News on Monday. "Why does she have the power and the position to meet Angela Merkel?"

Meyer stopped to chat with NBC News before cycling to an appointment along one of Berlin's wide, cobbled streets, where bikes and trams are given equal billing alongside compact European cars and tourist buses.

"It's not clear exactly what her position is," Meyer added, referring to Ivanka Trump's role as an unpaid presidential adviser. "She obviously has more power than what her official role suggests."

As well as her presidential duties, she still owns an eponymous clothing and jewelry line.

Insofar that Wednesday's summit is about women in business, she is a good fit given her previous experience, according to 35-year-old Sandra Toepke.

But "on a political level — I guess not," said Toepke, who works at the International Film Festival and spoke while walking her dog near Berlin's Alexanderplatz.

"It's pure nepotism that she's in that position," she added. "She's partaking in negotiations at the White House and has security clearance."

Lea May, a 22-year-old medical student walking on her way to class, added: "I just don't know if she's really into politics like Angela is."

That a number of successful, professional woman in Berlin expressed dismay that Ivanka Trump was joining such accomplished set should perhaps not come as a surprise.

President Donald Trump is deeply unpopular in Europe but particularly so in Germany, where just 6 percent of people said they had confidence in him when it came to world affairs, according to a Pew study last year.

Germany also has a far higher rate of intergenerational social mobility than the United States, according to a study of OECD countries in 2015. This means the future salaries of German children are less dependant on what their parents bank — they make their own way.

Merkel, 62, fits this mold. The daughter of a pastor and a teacher, she was born in the West German city of Hamburg but moved to the rural, communist East after her father was posted to a church there. She later earned a doctorate in quantum chemistry and worked at a science academy. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, she climbed up the ranks of the center-right CDU, the political party she now leads.

In contrast with Merkel's understated style, many Germans find Donald Trump's persona-driven politics unpalatable.

"It's ridiculous, what's happening in U.S. politics," said Thyra Guenther-Luebbers, a 21-year-old college student who's also interning at an art gallery in the German capital. "It's something that's never going to happen in Germany or anywhere else in Europe."

Taking a stroll down the Unter den Linden boulevard, Guenther-Luebbers gave a similar view of Ivanka Trump: Would she be so successful if it weren't for her last name? "I don't think so."

That's not to say that everyone on Tuesday's panel is elected. Among the high-profile guests is Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, who is married to the country's king. Like Ivanka Trump, she too has a background in business, working in banking before meeting her prince.

It would also be inaccurate to say everyone in Berlin shared dislike for Ivanka Trump and her family-boosted resume.

"I like her because she has the ability to influence Donald Trump," said 68-year-old Molly Schultz, who runs a book stall outside the Humboldt University of Berlin. "It doesn't matter so much to me that she isn't so qualified."

The ability to influence her father — or at least be a significant voice in his retinue — is something that appears to have been seized upon by Merkel.

The German leader endured an excruciating first official visit to the Trump White House last month, when the president appeared to decline to shake her hand for the cameras. In 2015, the president said Merkel was "insane" to relax Germany's borders to welcome migrants fleeing war and persecution in the Middle East and Africa. (Although the same year he also called her "probably the greatest leader in the world today.")

During Merkel's visit to Washington last month, some political commentators criticized the decision to seat her next to Ivanka Trump at an official meeting with business leaders, again citing Ivanka Trump's lack of credentials. A photo of Merkel looking at her neighbor was described by Politico as "a look of bewilderment tinged with disdain enveloping her face."

The key relation btw #Germany & #USA is a serious matter. It shall not be family business. I disagree with #Ivanka #Trump presence. #Merkel
— Siegfried Muresan (@SMuresan) March 18, 2017
But it was off the back of this meeting that Merkel invited Ivanka Trump to Berlin, perhaps eager to nurture an ally in a new and unknown White House. In return, the president's daughter would likely get to increase her international profile and champion a cause she says has long since been close to her heart.

While in Berlin, Ivanka Trump will also visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

In spite of her schedule, editorials and clear hard work, nearly everybody NBC News spoke to here remained unconvinced by their American guest.

"Everybody is someone's daughter but the question is, 'Is she qualified for the job?' And I don't think being the daughter of Trump qualifies you for this job, you know?" said 33-year-old sports science student Jennifer Benz.
ain how genital mutilation hurts women.   I can see an Malwai orphan coming into the picture soon.  Madonna has one they can borrow.  Desperate times desperate measures.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Teacher or Predator

The last several weeks here in Nashville have been blazing stories about the Teacher, Tad Cummings and his student that ended this weekend with the two being apprehended/rescued in a remote cabin in Northern California. I have been utterly sick of the story with the sad Father, "friends" and a brother (one of her nine other siblings) being quoted or interviewed in the local media. There is something predatory about that behavior when disaster hits the media descending on the town and voraciously swallowing anything thrown in their path as if a Twister has gone nuts and dumped endless trash in the road. It is this that I believe contributes to the fake news,\ anti media theme that dominates the discussion about the validity of said media.  Funny, however, when that media is working a crime story and lends itself to help solving it then they are the angels from heaven.

When you read the book Ghettoside you have a better understanding of the double edged sword of the media and how law enforcement itself uses the media as the legs on the ground to help in a convoluted fashion to solve the crime. And in this case the two were caught as Amber Alerts are only State by State not regional as even the Attorney of said family admitted in his press conference the same afternoon  her location was disclosed.   Note: Press Conference.   And of course the national media had no problem relaying the story as she was a young white girl and much like the pretty nurse stabbed in Nashville a couple of months ago, her story and the subsequent air play was largely another reason the killer was caught. The story is secondary, the subject is primary as we have come to learn when the media picks and chooses their byline.

And to provide an example there was a sudden attention to missing DC black girls and then suddenly not. Why well the reality that social media, the demand for equal justice and an over zealous Cop. Well there you go but there are clear disparities when it comes to media attention and those issues regarding race and often sexuality when it comes to framing a story.

So as I continue to be obligated to follow the story I note that as always the media picks and chooses details in which to highlight and which to subvert. The Teacher already under investigation for being seen kissing "a student" (we can assume Elizabeth whose name has now changed per the family informing the media) was still employed on not on leave; the girls mother was also removed from the home due to an allegation of abuse by one of the 10 children she has with the same father who is on the news nightly; and she is now forbidden to even discuss this due to a newly issued restraining order about  the allegation.  And Jesus is being thrown about quite a bit as both savior and in my world more of a cause of the problem.  And in turn more questions about the  legitimacy of said abuse has already been in question in the community itself but not the media who is not in the business of investigating all sides to this very complex story.

 Then we have varying family members and "friends" discussing the case with the media, but not the friend who dropped the girl off that night with a caution about not being back home by 6. Why has that girl not been paraded in front of a camera? Or the endless failures to find them despite the fact that they did not hide their names and checked into a motel using their ID? Really?

And lastly why is the girl not home and instead at some undisclosed location supposedly  for therapy? I find all of this odd and one can see why many who hear of children and later allegations of abuse arise they are quick to dismiss them or suppress them. And none greater than the most recent at Choate. Again I suspect that as this a school that serves the wealthy elite it is front page story. But if you have seen Spotlight you know the very paper that broke the story also earlier suppressed the story for the same reasons they would highlight it. The Catholic Church's role of import in the community and in turn the larger effect.

Since the Times story the other schools involved are seeking information. Yes digging up a decade worth of dirt takes time. But why was it not dealt with immediately. By the year 2000 we were fairly sophisticated on the issue of child molestation and while, yes, I began teaching in the 90s and the laws were clear about age and sexual contact so call it pedophilia or call it rape it was still illegal. And it was then came the Mary Kay Letourneau story and that threw it all in the blender. And they are together to this day. Go figure. I find it personally repugnant and sad for them both.

I have been around kids for a long time. I started teaching at age 35 so the oldest kids were still nearly 15 years younger than me. The idea of hanging out with them then and now is so repugnant that I can't imagine why you would go out of your way to do so unless required by the school. Recently, I spoke with a young Teacher who said she started her career in a high school realized that at 24 she was too young, the kids were too close in age to respect her and that the boundaries one needs to establish respect and discipline were not going to happen so she went to elementary. That was astute observation and while I have at my age had many attractive and intelligent kids that seem wise beyond their years I see them as kids. Okay I have seen some of my kids a decade later but I think that is much like parents it is an odd experience to recognize that transition without still seeing them as the kid they were versus the adult they are now. But it is nice to see them regardless. Run away with them no.

I don't know what this man was thinking but in my day MaryKay was not the first woman I heard of marrying a former student and sure enough I ended up subbing for Teacher was also involved with a current student. I recall that class vividly and the way the boys spoke at the time in provocative adult like manner I did find odd but given Garfield High School and the history of weirdness at that school over the years I took no notice. Nor did I with the drawer full of condoms. I assumed they were there for any number of reasons and truly I am not in the business of accusing people as kids do that regularly. So you see the Catch 22 there when it comes to actually believing the accuser.

It is the odd line to cross and to have a child confess to you about such is another position I would not wish to be in. I recall when a student told me of her rape by a date and that was enough. I like kids, I like Teaching but I am not a Priest in the good sense nor a Therapist. And without the safety net of legal protections I do not want children telling me anything other than where they left their homework.

And as I read the article below I have many questions about the Teachers, their history and background and can anyone recall them other than the Students? I find the investigation lacking in detail and why I don't doubt the veracity of the claims it has been decades and one cannot hide this type of behavior from those around them or why were there no other Teachers, either formerly employees or even current ones willing to step forward with recollections, memories or concerns.

I am exhausted reading about Educators and Students. I am exhausted reading about rape and assault between individuals of authority and their underlings. I am exhausted reading and writing about what it means to be a woman and how it feels to feel alone and afraid every time one meets a man. It is exhausting.

This Cummings moron should go to jail and that should be the end of the story. I don't want a Lifetime Movie, I don't want an exclusive interview with the girl and I don't want to hear about this again. But this is what presses as news. A troubled young girl and an equally troubled sick man will be another headline soon enough. In the meantime step up sexual education, step up therapy and counseling and access to Social Workers and others to be involved in Schools so both Teachers and Students have the opportunity to get the help they need from one in the place to provide it.

And as in any case I want schools, colleges and businesses to stop handling this in house. For both the accused and the accuser they need to know and experience first hand the system and what that means so that it will end any false premises or history of nothing happening to remind those of what it truly means to be a part of a system that is less about protection and more about harm.

Ousted Over Sexual Misconduct Claims, and On to the Next Teaching Job


For many years, when teachers at private schools were forced out over claims of sexual misconduct, administrators let the accused quietly move on to teach elsewhere. The pattern was so common it earned its own grim moniker: “passing the trash.”

A report released this month by Choate Rosemary Hall, an elite Connecticut boarding school, is filled with instances of men who had been accused of sexually abusing students, yet were allowed to keep teaching. Now accusations have emerged that two of the men may have abused students at other schools.

Two women have come forward to accuse one former teacher, Frederic Lyman — who was forced to leave Choate over claims of sexual misconduct in 1982 — of inappropriate behavior while he was on the faculty at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., before he came to Choate.

After leaving Choate with a recommendation, he got a job at a school in Colorado, Kent Denver.

Officials at The Gunnery, another boarding school in Connecticut, say they are investigating a possible instance of misconduct by another teacher, Jaime Rivera-Murillo.

He taught at The Gunnery before he went to Choate. Mr. Rivera was accused of raping a Choate student in 1999, according to that school’s report, and was fired.

Like Mr. Lyman, Mr. Rivera moved on to teach again — in this case at public schools, leaving Choate off his résumé.

Mr. Lyman did not respond to multiple attempts to contact him. Through a lawyer, he declined to speak with Choate’s investigators at the firm Covington & Burling, the report said. Mr. Rivera did not respond to phone calls or a request for comment through his lawyer. He told Choate’s investigators that he drank with his students the night of the alleged assault that let to his dismissal, but denied any sexual misconduct.

Mr. Lyman spent two years at Choate, from 1980 to 1982. He is accused of having sexually abused two students, having sex with them in his apartment, in his car and on a school trip, and of eventually giving at least one of them herpes, according to investigators. The Choate report said that his behavior had been discovered and that he had been forced to resign.

But now two women have come forward to raise troubling questions about his behavior before he arrived at Choate, when he was at Andover.

One woman approached the school with a report about him, which was passed along to a law firm the school employs to “fully investigate her concerns,” a spokeswoman for Andover said in an email. Andover declined to provide details on the allegations.

A second woman, who attended Andover’s summer session in 1980, brought her account to The New York Times. That woman spoke on the condition of anonymity as a victim of sexual misconduct.

The woman said that Mr. Lyman had given her alcohol, and that they had held hands and walked with their arms around each other. He tried to kiss her. She had been flattered that her teacher had taken an interest in her, she said. On a group camping trip, the student woke up in the middle of the night to find Mr. Lyman kissing and stroking her arms. She said she had pretended to be asleep.

“It would have been so easy for things to happen, but I drew the line,” she said.

“He groomed them,” she said of young women at Choate with whom Mr. Lyman is said to have engaged in sexual relationships. “And if I had been with him for longer, he may have groomed me, too. I was only there for six weeks.”

Andover said that Mr. Lyman was a teaching fellow at the school during the 1978-79 academic year, and that he taught at the summer session in 1979. A spokeswoman said that because the school had “limited records” of who taught at summer sessions during that time, it could neither confirm nor deny that he was on the faculty during the summer of 1980.

Jan Thomas, a spokeswoman for Kent Denver, said Thursday that the school had no knowledge of Mr. Lyman’s issues at Choate until contacted by a reporter last week, and that there was no evidence that he had engaged in “physically inappropriate” behavior at Kent Denver, she said. He left the school, and education, in 1984, after two years at the Colorado school.

Then, on Friday, Rand Harrington, the head of school at Kent Denver, sent an email about Mr. Lyman and sexual abuse to members of the school community, including alumni. The school received a response that evening, Ms. Thomas said, but she would not say whether Mr. Lyman was the subject of the response, citing confidentiality.

Five states, including Connecticut, have enacted “pass the trash” bills that aim to keep teachers who commit abuse from cycling to other schools. Some of these laws prohibit school districts from entering into agreements with abusers that may suppress information about sexual misconduct, for example, or they might require applicants to disclose if they were ever the subject of a sexual misconduct investigation, unless the charges were proved false.

“Some schools were doing the exact same thing that the Catholic Church did if they had an abuser in their midst,” said Jetta Bernier, the executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children, a nonprofit advocacy group, and a member of an “educator sexual misconduct” task force convened by two private-school organizations. “It’s the same human dynamic. If we just get rid of him, it’ll be O.K.”

In Connecticut, educators have been required to report any allegations of sexual abuse to the state authorities since 1967. But Choate made no reports until 2010, even when it forced teachers out.

Mr. Lyman left Choate with a letter of recommendation. The dean of faculty at Choate, Charles Twichell, who is now dead, wrote the letter, in which he described Mr. Lyman’s “easy familiarity with students.”

Mr. Twichell also appears to have provided a phone reference for Mr. Lyman and was able to skirt any difficult questions about Mr. Lyman. The Choate report describes handwritten notes by Mr. Twichell dated April 19, 1982, that described a 10-minute conversation: “He asked good questions, which I could answer without any except very mild cautions about ‘distance.’”

In 1999, while on a school trip to Costa Rica, according to the Choate report, Mr. Rivera is said to have grabbed the breasts of one student, and raped another student in a pool. The school’s dean of students was immediately dispatched to Costa Rica; Mr. Rivera was recalled to Choate and fired within days.

Choate administrators did not report the allegations about Mr. Rivera’s behavior to the authorities, leaving him free to work in education again because no red flags were placed in his record.

By 2000, Mr. Rivera was again teaching, this time at Henry Abbott Technical High School, a public school in Danbury, Conn. The state said it no longer had his original résumé on file, but when he applied for a supervisory position in 2003, Choate was not on it, though he did list another private school where he had taught, The Gunnery in Washington, Conn.

On Saturday, The Gunnery sent an email to alumni and parents alerting them to an allegation it received about Mr. Rivera “during his employment at The Gunnery in the 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 school years.” The message went on, “We are moving quickly to investigate this allegation and determine the facts around the circumstances of his departure to Choate.”

When asked whether Mr. Rivera had received a letter of recommendation from The Gunnery, Ken Mason, a spokesman for the school, declined to comment beyond the emailed statement.

Mr. Rivera went on to work in public schools in Connecticut and New York, becoming principal of Wamogo Regional High School in Litchfield, Conn., at the beginning of this school year. Regional School District 6 provided Mr. Rivera’s résumé to The Times at The Times’s request. The earliest teaching job Mr. Rivera listed was at Henry Abbott Technical High School, where, he said, he started in 2001.

None of the schools where he worked after Choate say they have received complaints against him.

Edward Drapp, the superintendent, said the district had run the required background check, which includes fingerprinting, and called people beyond those Mr. Rivera had listed as references. But the hiring committee, made up of 12 people, found nothing.

A letter Mr. Drapp sent out to the community this month said Choate’s investigator had contacted the district’s lawyer on April 5 to say that witnesses had corroborated the allegations against Mr. Rivera. He resigned from Wamogo the next day.

“Choate put us in the middle of something we should not have been in the middle of,” Mr. Drapp said.

“I don’t think there’s anything more we could have done to have found out the nature of the allegations or that they were out there,” he continued. “The system is only as good as the people using it.”

So Quit

Last week I read about the first accredited law school in the nation, Whittier, finally closing its doors as they were unable to sustain their school.

Whittier Law School Says It Will Shut Down

Trustees of the Whittier Law School said on Wednesday that it would close down, making it the first fully accredited law school in the country to shut at a time when many law schools are struggling amid steep declines in enrollment and tuition income.

The trustees of the school, in Costa Mesa, Calif., said in a statement that they had voted not to enroll new first-year students in the fall but were “committed to ensuring that students currently enrolled will have an opportunity to complete their degree in a timely fashion.” The trustees did not set a date for when the school would close.

Marc Stevens, a spokesman for the school, which is affiliated with Whittier College, said that officials were exploring ways to allow nearly 400 current students to complete their education but had not yet arrived at a solution.

Whittier is the first law school fully accredited by the American Bar Association to announce plans to close. Indiana Tech Law School, in Fort Wayne, which had only provisional accreditation from the bar association, has announced that it will close in June.

Other law schools grappling with financial problems have chosen different ways to try to survive. Two law schools in St. Paul, Hamline and William Mitchell, merged in 2015. Charlotte Law School in North Carolina, which the A.B.A. placed on probation in November, has suspended the admission of new students. Thomas M. Cooley Law School, in Lansing, Mich., closed its Ann Arbor campus after enrollment dropped.

At Whittier Law School, which opened in 1966 and was accredited in 1978, minority students, many of whom come from California, made up about two-thirds of the student body. Last July, only 22 percent of the school’s graduates passed the California bar exam, according to state data. The employment rate for long-term jobs requiring a legal degree was 29.7 percent among Whittier graduates, according to Law School Transparency, a nonprofit that compiles data on the 205 law schools in the United States.

Students who graduated from Whittier last year had an average of $179,000 in pre-interest debt, the second-highest total among all law schools in the country, according to Law School Transparency.

The Whittier College board of trustees formed a subcommittee in 2015 to explore options for the law school’s future. As part of its efforts, the panel engaged in conversations “with entities capable of investing in, merging with, or acquiring the law school,” according to the trustees’ statement on Wednesday.

“We believe we have looked at every realistic option to continue a successful law program,” said Alan Lund, the board’s chairman said in the statement. “Unfortunately, these efforts did not lead to a desired outcome.”

The board voted on April 15 not to enroll first-year students in the fall, to find a way for those already enrolled to finish their education and to discontinue the school’s legal education program, he said.

“We don’t know how that will occur,” Mr. Stevens, the law school’s spokesman, said. “We are going to do whatever it takes.”

The reasons were unclear so I started to look around to the varying "blawgs" to see what insight they could provide. And I found this on Above the Law:

What’s critical to note here is that, as detailed in the faculty’s TRO application (posted on the next page), the Board sold off the land upon which the law school is built in January 2017, for a $13 million profit. Faculty were allegedly led to believe that the money would be reinvested back into the law school, but here we are just a few months later, and the Board is crying poverty, claiming that there isn’t anything they’re able to do to save the law program at the school to make it academically viable.

While the facts about Whittier Law seem absolutely dismal — the qualifications of its entering classes have tumbled since 2010, only 22 percent of its graduates passed the California bar exam last July, only 29.7 percent of the class of 2016 was employed in full-time, long-term jobs where bar passage was required 10 months after graduation, members of the class of 2016 had an average of $179,000 in pre-interest debt — it’s difficult to understand why this devastating news was delivered to students one week before final exams. It’s almost as if the Board wants these law students to do poorly.

Add to this: A majority of its 392 students are women and a majority are nonwhite, according to August 2016 data. They include single mothers with full-time jobs, immigrants and low-income students of color.

And in turn language barriers, academic history and other mitigating factors that should have pre-empted them from being admitted or at least cautioned them about the expectations and reality  seemed to not bar them in the least (yes pun intended) putting them in debt, allowing them to pursue an education that did not fully qualify them or enable them successfully pass the bar exam or professional hurdles as any future Lawyer faces regardless of their background.  So the real problem is the students?

 I see so instead of finding ways to ensure success shutting the doors work out and they debt they incurred, the education half met does what exactly?  And what about the faculty and staff? What is the message to them?  I read this article today about how a Community College professor feels there are insufficient counselors and advisors qualified to help students navigate the system and make appropriate choices for the long term.

But then when you read the article below it makes sense.

The Only Job With an Industry Devoted to Helping People Quit

So many lawyers want out that there are consultants and coaches who specialize in getting them pointed in a new direction.

Leigh McMullan Abramson
The Atlantic Jul 29, 2014

I went to law school because I didn’t know what to do after college and I'm bad at math. Law school seemed like a safe, respectable path and gave me an easy answer to what I was going to do with my life. And, as part of the millennial generation obsessed with test scores and academic achievement, I relished the spoils of a high LSAT score, admission to an Ivy League law school, and a job offer from a fancy corporate law firm.

I spent my first year as lawyer holed up in a conference room sorting piles of documents wearing rubber covers on my fingertips that looked like tiny condoms. Eventually, I was trusted with more substantive tasks, writing briefs and taking depositions. But I had no appetite for conflict and found it hard to care about the interests I was serving. I realized I had never seriously considered whether I was cut out to be a lawyer, much less a corporate litigator. After a few years, I just wanted out, but I had no idea where to begin.
Law school is very often the default choice of people who don't know what else to do.

I knew that I was not alone. Law-firm associate consistently ranks at the top of unhappy-professions lists and despite starting salaries of $160,000, law firms experience significant yearly associate attrition. What I didn’t realize was that the plight of burnt-out attorneys, particularly those at law firms, has recently spawned an industry of experts devoted to helping lawyers leave law. Attorneys now have their choice of specialized career counselors, blogs, books, and websites offering comfort and guidance to wannabe ex-Esqs.

“Law is the only career I know that has a sub-profession dedicated to helping people get out of it,” says Liz Brown, author of the help manual, Life After Law: Finding Work You Love with the J.D. You Have, published last year.

This sub-profession has found a market among lawyers for whom the moment of desperation to get out of the law firm is the first time they have had to think critically about their careers.

The problem can begin with the choice to go to law school, which is often made for reasons having nothing to do with the actual practice of law and without diligence about whether the profession is really a fit. “I like to joke that I’m a Jewish kid who didn’t like blood so I couldn’t go to medical school, so I went to law school,” says Casey Berman, a former attorney and founder of the blog Leave Law Behind, who admits, “I spent more time thinking about my iPhone purchase years later than a degree that was expensive and took three years out of my twenties.”

Law school is very often the default choice of people who don't know what else to do, explains veteran New York City career consultant Eileen Wolkstein, who sees many unhappy attorneys in her practice. There’s an assumption that the degree will easily open doors in many professions, and law school acts as a socially acceptable procrastination technique to delay more definitive career choices.

Once in law school, however, joining a law firm can seem like the only choice. “The types of people who go to law school seem to chase ‘the best’ like addicts,” says Marc Luber, founder of J.D. Careers Out There, a website for lawyers in career transition. “They want the best grade, the most prestigious workplace, the highest salary.”

Through formalized on-campus recruiting (particularly at top schools), the path to the law firm is so well-paved that students can navigate it on auto-pilot. “My law school made it so easy to get a job at a firm that I barely had to do any work at all to generate several associate position offers,” says one of my former University of Pennsylvania Law School classmates. The appeal of the law firm is only enhanced by the reality of student loans. “Big law was really the only path I considered. With the level of debt I incurred by going to law school, taking the highest paying job felt like the only real, responsible choice,” says another Ivy League grad.

While law schools are efficient at funneling students into law firms, much of the curriculum is based on theoretical analysis, and, as a result, there’s a disconnect between the training students receive and the skills required in practice. “People graduate from law school not knowing what lawyers actually do,” says Luber.
“You can’t just talk about quitting,” says Brown. “That’s crazy talk at a firm.”

Though there are those who find it fulfilling, practicing at a law firm can be rough. Associates are expected to keep up a grueling schedule of billable hours and must be at the beck and call of partners and clients. These working conditions, Brown points out, can be at odds with the expectations of many millennials who feel that they should have more control over their lives.

Young lawyers are also often unprepared for the adversarial nature of practice. It’s common for people to go into litigation because they write and speak well, but “they don’t realize you have to go in and fight every day,” says Berman. And many feel disappointment that there is not more social good in the work they do for corporate clients.

Faced with the realities of life in a law firm, discontented lawyers confront for the first time, often many years after they made the decision to go to law school, that law, or at least practicing in a law firm, may not have been the right choice for them. “Put someone who wasn’t really chasing a specific path into a job that is very demanding and stressful and they eventually question why they’re there,” says Luber.

Attorneys often feel trapped, however, by what Brown terms the “twin bonds of money and status.” Many lawyers start out in a firm job with the intention of paying-off loans (which, in 2012, averaged $140,000 for undergrad and law school combined), but quickly become accustomed to the lifestyle comforts their hefty paychecks afford. And for a type-A, trophy-collector lawyer, not being associated with an elite, if much maligned, profession is almost unthinkable. Then there’s the guilt at walking away from a degree in which they've invested so many resources, says Kate Neville, founder of Neville Career Consulting, a Washington D.C.-based firm specializing in transitioning attorneys. Plus, lawyers are frequently operating in a bubble where there is very little recognition of the validity of alternative careers. “You can’t just talk about quitting,” says Brown. “That’s crazy talk at a firm.”

Given these stumbling blocks, many attorneys need hand-holding from outside sources in redirecting their careers. After seven years at a leading New York law firm and “realizing I had no life plan and having a slight breakdown about it, I decided to go to a career therapist,” explains one client of Dr. Wolkstein's. It’s not uncommon, Dr. Wolkstein told me, for lawyers who’ve been at firms for years to come to her feeling “so beaten down that they need help to regain their sense of themselves.”

This help often begins with circling back to the questions these attorneys failed to ask themselves before they went to law school. “I advise everyone that the first step of finding the right path is to figure out who you are, what you want, and what you’re good at,” says Luber, who provides any visitor to his site J.D. Careers Out There with The Career Mirror: Reflection Questions for your Job Search. Meant to aid the introspection, the questionnaire asks lawyers to ponder, “what does ‘success’ mean to you?” and “if you won the lottery how would you want to spend your time?” For membership fees of $24.97 per month or $199 per year, lawyers can also gain access to Luber's trove of career advice videos, and for additional fees, enlist Luber as a private career coach. In Brown’s book, Life After Law, she provides advice and inspiration in the form of real-world stories of former J.D.s who’ve found happiness in careers ranging from media consultant to acupuncturist to rabbi.

Of course, transitioning lawyers must not only engage in soul-searching, but also figure out concrete strategies for breaking into a new field, a task that might seem daunting to those who went the law-school-straight-to-law-firm route. “Law school doesn't teach you how to market yourself,” explains Neville, who coaches clients in networking skills and articulating and reframing their abilities for prospective non-legal employers. Wolkstein’s work with clients often includes assigning homework in the form of putting together lists of potential networking contacts, sending out emails to university alumni, and attending industry events.

“For the first couple months, I barely did what she suggested at all because it seemed too time consuming,” says a former big law attorney who enlisted Wolkstein’s help in transitioning to an in-house position at a media company. But after realizing “I didn’t have much of a choice if I wanted to find a new job, I slowly started to follow her instructions, and began to see results shortly thereafter.”

Attorneys who want to break into entirely new fields must sometimes also engage in additional education or at least lengthy volunteer or intern experience. For lawyers used to excelling and collecting accolades, as well as the cushy perks of having secretaries, firm-provided meals, and town cars, starting low on the totem pole can be a bitter pill to swallow. “It’s a long and hard journey that requires the person to be persistent,” says Wolkstein.

The good news is that for those who do persevere, the change can be incredibly rewarding. “I have not met a single former lawyer who regrets changing professions,” writes Brown in Life After Law. “Most wish they had done it sooner.” And whether a lawyer goes into government or starts a business or becomes or a Lego sculpture artist, the skills learned as attorneys, such as hard work, attention to detail, and thinking strategically become assets in new professions. “You always use the analytical skills and writing skills,” says Don Shacknai, a former lawyer who now the holds the title of first deputy commissioner at New York City’s Housing Preservation & Development agency.

Following the financial crisis, which saw the implosion of several major law firms, the grassroots alternative career movement is gaining traction in the broader legal world. “The bar is starting to realize that every law school is not going to be able to place students in law firms the way they used to, so there have to be other avenues,” says Amy Impellizzeri, author of the forthcoming Lawyer Interrupted, a guide for lawyers looking to make career changes within or outside the law, to be published next year by the big daddy of the legal establishment, the American Bar Association. And law-school career centers are now occasionally referring students to sites like J.D. Careers Out There.

While for some the corner partner office may still represent the pinnacle of legal achievement, the expectations for a successful career are changing and there are now ever-expanding resources for J.D.s who want out of the law. For those of us who still get flashbacks of that conference room full of documents, that’s a good thing.

Shh, My Stories are On

Ah the days of Soap Operas when your Mother or Grandmother would hush you in order to watch her stories. My mother worked but when she discovered Phil Donahue in her retirement that was a whole new ballgame. My father was that way with the news and Walter Cronkite and later with CNN. Ah those were the days!

But when I read this article and the bizarre transcript of another interview by the AP with the Il Douchebag in Chief, I had no idea how truly brain damaged he is. I assume that he is in pre-dementia where there moments of clear lucidity but it is clear now that he has no functioning skills that enable him to effectively process data and information. Hence this explains the Kushner and Daughter moving into the West Wing to shield or at least screen some information that can be explained to him. Or not. I doubt he has ever had to actually process information and it appears with the comments from the varying Saturday Night Live cast/crew he struggles with reading and comprehension, two clear markers of dementia. And this too was discussed during his Apprentice years so perhaps it is another type of disorder or he has been in decline for some time. And when insulated it is possible to do so to even a higher degree than most.

We have a President run by cable news. And by those whom manipulate that and garner his attention for stretches long enough to have an impact. This is our country and this is not a soap opera.

Everyone tunes in’: Inside Trump’s obsession with cable TV

By Ashley Parker and Robert Costa The Washington Post April 23 2017
During a small working lunch at the White House last month, the question of job security in President Trump’s tumultuous White House came up, and one of the attendees wondered whether press secretary Sean Spicer might be the first to go.

The president’s response was swift and unequivocal. “I’m not firing Sean Spicer,” he said, according to someone familiar with the encounter. “That guy gets great ratings. Everyone tunes in.”

Trump even likened Spicer’s daily news briefings to a daytime soap opera, noting proudly that his press secretary attracted nearly as many viewers.

For Trump — a reality TV star who parlayed his blustery-yet-knowing on-air persona into a winning political brand — television is often the guiding force of his day, both weapon and scalpel, megaphone and news feed. And the president’s obsession with the tube — as a governing tool, a metric for staff evaluation, and a two-way conduit with lawmakers and aides — has upended the traditional rhythms of the White House, influencing many spheres, including policy, his burgeoning relationship with Congress, and whether he taps out a late-night or early-morning tweet.

Those Trump tweet-storms, which contain some of his most controversial utterances, are usually prompted by something he has seen on television just moments before. The president, advisers said, also uses details gleaned from cable news as a starting point for policy discussions or a request for more information, and appears on TV himself when he wants to appeal directly to the public.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer speaks during an interview outside the West Wing. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Some White House officials — who early on would appear on TV to emphasize points to their boss, who was likely to be watching just steps away in his residence — have started tuning into Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” because they know the president habitually clicks it on after waking near dawn.

But Trump’s habits have consequences far beyond being the quirky, unchanging ways of a 70-year-old man who keeps an eye on cable as he goes about his day, as his confidants describe his behavior. Foreign diplomats have urged their governments’ leaders to appear on television when they’re stateside as a means of making their case to Trump, and U.S. lawmakers regard a TV appearance as nearly on par with an Oval Office meeting in terms of showcasing their standing or viewpoints to the president.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said Trump’s intense monitoring cuts both ways. “At times, it’ll lead to mistakes,” he said. “Other times, it lets him move with astounding speed.”

“It’s all part of him being this work in progress who is constantly listening and evolving,” Gingrich added.

Explaining his decision to launch 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base, Trump even cited, publicly and privately, the gruesome images of dead and dying Syrian children poisoned with the nerve agent sarin, images that dominated television for several days.

“President Trump is someone who comes to the White House with a sophisticated understanding of how to communicate, the power of television, the power of imagery, the power of message, and how message, messenger and delivery all work together,” said Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president.

The president’s fascination with television is born of personal experience. Trump, long a fixture in the New York tabloids, did not become a household presence until 2004, when he began hosting NBC’s hit reality TV show “The Apprentice.” He relished the attention, boasting about and fretting over his ratings, much as he now handles political polls.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer talks with the media in early March. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

He is also a natural showman. During the campaign, he riveted viewers with his raucous rallies, where he often spoke for more than hour without any notes or teleprompters. And in TV interviews, he sometimes offers tips on matters including lighting and chair placement, with an intuitive sense of what makes for good TV.

“He is very attuned to the fact that cable networks have 24 hours a day that they need to fill — and if you’re interesting, you are gold,” Gingrich said.

Trump’s quotidian viewing is unremarkable, based on his profile. Fox News’s average prime-time viewer last year, for instance, was 68 years old and mostly white, and the average American watches more than four hours per day, according to Nielsen data.

On his campaign plane, Trump watched television on full volume — usually Fox News, sometimes CNN — almost constantly, said someone who flew with him, shushing his aides whenever he himself came on the screen and listening with rapt attention. When Hillary Clinton appeared, he’d similarly quiet his team, often before pointing a finger at the TV and scolding: “She’s lying! She’s lying!”

To relax, however, he would occasionally watch the Golf Channel, while on his plane or in the clubhouses of some of his private courses.

Now that he’s in the White House, friends and aides describe a president who still consumes a steady diet of cable news. During an intimate lunch recently with a key outside ally in a small West Wing dining room, for instance, Trump repeatedly paused the conversation to make the group watch a particularly combative Spicer briefing.

Trump turns on the television almost as soon as he wakes, then checks in periodically throughout the day in the small dining room off the Oval Office, and continues late into the evening when he’s back in his private residence. “Once he goes upstairs, there’s no managing him,” said one adviser.

Sometimes, at night, he hate-watches cable shows critical of him, while chatting on the phone with friends, said someone familiar with the president’s routine — a quirk a senior official jokingly called “multi-teching.”

In the morning, the president typically flips between “Fox & Friends,” Maria Bartiromo’s show on Fox Business and CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” West Wing aides assert that the president stopped watching MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” after the show’s hosts grew increasingly critical of his presidency, but some confidants think he still tunes in, especially for the top of the program.

His feelings toward CNN and its president, Jeff Zucker, who greenlighted “The Apprentice” when he was running NBC Entertainment, are similarly fraught. Trump is furious with Zucker for what he thinks is the network’s unfair coverage but admires Zucker’s business bona fides and ratings growth, said a friend.

Most of the televisions in the West Wing display four channels at all times — CNN, Fox, Fox Business and MSNBC.

The president also likes One America News, a conservative-leaning channel whose correspondent often gets questions in Spicer’s daily news briefing, and before the campaign told an aide that he occasionally enjoyed watching Al Jazeera.

He is still in touch with Roger Ailes, the former Fox News chairman who was ousted amid charges of sexual harassment and who unofficially advised Trump near the end of the presidential campaign. But, Trump has told friends, he thinks Fox News is “nicer” to him in the post-Ailes era. Fox News host Sean Hannity, meanwhile, is especially close to Trump’s two older sons, as well as to the president.

“For all the talk about how the media is so tough on Trump, which they are, the most interesting thing about Trump and the media is that in the end, Trump totally manipulated the media,” said Stephen Moore, an economist for the Heritage Foundation who served as a senior adviser to the Trump campaign. “The media is why he won — because he completely dominated the media. That’s the irony of the whole thing.”

West Wing staffers have begun including local news clippings in his morning briefing, said one, noting that an issue such as rolling back environmental regulations may earn the president poor press nationally but a more positive headline — “Trump saves coal jobs,” for example — in a local paper.

But Trump — who has boasted to several advisers and friends about having “the world’s best TiVo” — remains most focused on what he sees on his flat screens, going so far as to compliment print reporters on their television appearances.

He can also be critical. When Spicer did his first briefing-room appearance in an ill-fitting gray pinstripe suit, the president made his displeasure known, and Spicer returned the next week more crisply attired. Trump often asks his West Wing staff whether they happened to catch their colleagues’ TV hits, praising dramatically confrontational or cool and smooth appearances.

“He prefers facts and figures; he likes when people are defending but also explaining. He likes toughness but also appreciates polish, poise and positivity,” Conway said. “He appreciates when you don’t look like people are bothering you or getting the best of you. He loves when you call out media bias, or what the anchors have said or not said.”

Trump was especially incensed, said a senior adviser, by what he saw as cable news’ blanket coverage of his campaign and what was portrayed as his administration’s overly cozy ties to Russia.

Another time, Trump took particular issue with the aesthetics of a male commentator who appeared sometimes as a guest on “Morning Joe,” and began pestering the hosts, imploring them to dump the analyst who so offended his visual sensibilities, said someone with knowledge of the episode.

But Trump’s interest in TV has proved a welcome — and at times surprising — point of entry to the White House for lawmakers and even pundits.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) once appealed to Trump directly on “Morning Joe,” addressing the camera to implore the president to call him so the two could chat about prescription drugs. A day or so later, Cummings said, the president himself responded.

“I was a little surprised that he called — I thought his secretary would call, but he actually called,” Cummings said. “But it’s the way he operates. And he does watch television and he’s very critical of television, and I thought we had a good conversation.”

Gingrich added that sometimes after an appearance on “Fox & Friends,” he’ll have just left the studio and not even reached his car when his cellphone will ring: the president calling to tell him, “That was good.”

Indeed, it is now a running joke in television green rooms that if a trade association or special-interest group wants to reach the president, the smartest use of their money is to buy morning television ad time or book a representative on air.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), a friend of the president’s, said he has been impressed with how Trump will call attention to individual lawmakers in meetings, recalling who said what about him or his policies on TV.

“I’ve watched him in rooms where he goes through person by person. He clearly keeps track,” McCarthy said. “He’s not just watching big shows, either. He has called us up after watching our news conferences here at the Capitol.”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a nattily dressed 39-year-old former Air Force pilot who now serves in the Air National Guard, was taken aback when Trump singled him out during an Oval Office meeting with several House Republicans during health-care discussions, telling the group to pay attention to how sharply attired and articulate Kinzinger is on TV.

“We all come into the Oval, and right when he sees me, he goes, ‘You’re really good on TV,’ ” Kinzinger said, confirming the anecdote with a chuckle. “Then, during our meeting, he eventually gets to me, and that’s when he tells the whole group. It was fun to hear.”

Not everyone appreciates Trump’s television obsession. Some of his tweets, often prompted by TV segments, have left his aides scrambling to reverse-engineer information to support his dubious assertions. Others worry about a president who can seem to be swayed by the last thing he sees on TV, a medium geared more for entertainment than actual policymaking.

Rick Wilson, a veteran Republican consultant and vocal Trump critic, said a number of Republicans in Congress and in establishment party circles find the president’s habits bizarre to the point of alarming, although they rarely say so publicly because they do not want to draw his wrath.

“There are many conversations where it ends: ‘But of course, God knows, he could watch Fox News tomorrow and change his whole position,’ ” Wilson said. “They don’t get him, because he’s a creature of television and they’re creatures of politics. They care about the details, he cares about what’s on TV.”

The president, Wilson added, “is a TV character to them, and they have to navigate around it.”

Either way, Trump’s viewing habits have seeped into the ether of both the White House and the nation’s capital. During the Republicans’ failed health-care push last month, Trump invited a small group of conservative activists to meet with him in the Oval Office. .

When the meeting was over, said someone with knowledge of the gathering, the president made a plea to the participants: “I know you have already said it’s a bad deal, but Kellyanne is going to walk you out to the microphones and I’d love it if you could say it’s great,” Trump said.

The group never did embrace the health-care proposal. But speaking briefly to reporters that evening, the attendees were polite and took pains not to criticize Trump himself.

And later, as they began doing television appearances to gin up opposition to the bill, they were always careful to mention that they appreciated the open dialogue with the president and his inviting them into the West Wing to chat.

After all, they knew he’d be watching.

Death Be Not Proud

I am virulently anti Capital Punishment. Eye for an Eye leaves the whole world blind.

I refer to this as extermination by state, a method by Government to rid themselves of those deemed "unsalvageable." But it also is an extradorinarly costly process that drags on for years, costing the tax payers and the families financial and emotional costs that serve no purpose and in turn is it its own form of cruel and unusual punishment for all involved.

There is not one thing here that doesn't demonstrate how perverse and unjust our system is. From the abuse and neglect of a child, to the Prosecutorial Misconduct, Defense Lawyers untrained, incapable, Judges equally incompetent, Police failures and sheer ignorance and racism as a part of the Jury and their own decision making process which is often flawed by the laws and directions which they are given.

I was sick reading this. I hope you are as well.

The debacle in Arkansas reaffirms that the death penalty is arbitrary, unchecked and unfair
By Radley Balko The Washington Post April 21 2017

Thursday night, the state of Arkansas executed Ledell Lee for the 1993 murder of 26-year-old Debra Reese. It was the first of what the state had initially hoped to be eight executions carried out over the course of 11 days. The reason for the binge is that the state’s supply of one of the drugs it uses in such executions is about to expire.

When death penalty supporters defend state executions, they tend to point to the most heinous of crimes, the most remorseless of killers and the most slam-dunk and irrefutable of convictions. Just today, conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg defended the death penalty in light of the Arkansas executions by referencing “Facebook killer” Steve Stephens.

The suspect was Steve Stephens, the so-called Facebook Killer, who videotaped himself admitting that he was about to murder someone randomly. He then got out of his car, walked up to 74-year-old Robert Godwin, a father of ten and grandfather of 14, and casually executed him. Stephens then posted the video on Facebook.

Stephens killed himself two days later. But say he hadn’t. Obviously, he would have gotten a trial. Let’s suppose he was found guilty and got the death penalty. We would still be subjected to all of the sleight-of-hand rhetoric about the risk of executing innocent people, the costs, etc., even though there would be zero doubt in this instance.

In practice, we know that this isn’t how the death penalty operates. In practice, the factor that overwhelmingly drives the death penalty isn’t the severity of the crime or the strength of the evidence. It’s politics — the politics of the county in which the murder trial takes place, the politics of the prosecutor and the politics of the state. According to a 2013 report by the Death Penalty Information Center, just 2 percent of counties in the United States account for a majority of the death row population. (Those counties also seem to have a disproportionate share of prosecutorial misconduct — and, interestingly, killings by police officers.)

But that is just death sentences. When it comes to actually carrying out executions, the politics of the surrounding state add an additional layer of geographic distortion. For example, according to that 2013 study, five of the 10 counties that produce the most death sentences in the United States are in California. But California hasn’t executed anyone since 2006. If you reside in Riverside or Los Angeles County and are accused of murder, you’re more likely to get a death sentence than anywhere else in the United States. But you’re less likely to actually be executed than those condemned to die in just about any other county in any other state in which the death penalty is still operational.

Arkansas’s unprecedented plan to execute eight men in 11 days this month is as good an illustration of the randomness of the death penalty as any. The men the state wants to kill this month were convicted between the years of 1990 and 2000. In that time, there were about 230,000 murders in the United States. Of those, around 2,800 resulted in death sentences — or a little over 1 percent. They’re unlucky to have been convicted in the 1990s, when death sentences peaked at about 300 per year. They’ve been steadily falling since about 2000. Last year, there were just 30 new death sentences in the entire country. (If you were unlucky enough to get a death sentence in the 1990s but are still alive on death row, your odds of avoiding execution look to be improving, at least outside of Arkansas and a few other states — the number of executions has also been dropping steadily, from a high of 98 in 1999 to just 20 last year.) The 1990s were also the decade that saw the enactment of the the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), which severely limited the ability of federal courts to oversee the states’ administration of the death penalty.

The intersection of time and place provides an additional layer of randomness. These men weren’t just unlucky to have been convicted in the 1990s and in Arkansas, but in the 1990s in Arkansas. Of the state’s 33 death row inmates, 16 were sentenced in the 1990s. The president who signed AEDPA was Bill Clinton, a former governor of Arkansas. It was Clinton who jump-started the death penalty in the state with an execution in 1990, the first in more than two decades. Clinton would then ride his blue-dog-Democrat, law-and-order reputation to the White House. During the 1992 presidential campaign, he made a show of taking a break from the trail to go back to Arkansas to oversee the execution of Ricky Ray Rector. Over the next five years, Arkansas would carry out the modern era’s first “double execution” — two killings in one night. The state followed with triple executions in 1994 and 1997.

But perhaps most random of all is the reason for the state’s plan to kill eight men in April. Arkansas wanted to kill as many people as possible before one of the executions drugs expires at the end of the month. As Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in a dissent last night, that’s about as arbitrary as it gets.

Arkansas set out to execute eight people over the course of 11 days. Why these eight? Why now? The apparent reason has nothing to do with the heinousness of their crimes or with the presence (or absence) of mitigating behavior. It has nothing to do with their mental state. It has nothing to do with the need for speedy punishment. Four have been on death row for over 20 years. All have been housed in solitary confinement for at least 10 years. Apparently the reason the State decided to proceed with these eight executions is that the ‘use by’ date of the State’s execution drug is about to expire. In my view, that factor, when considered as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die, is close to random.

In fact, of the three drugs the state uses to execute the condemned, one is set to expire and one was “donated” by a mysterious supplier. The third was supplied by a company that says the state acquired it under false pretenses, and has stated in court fillings that had it known the drug was to be used it executions, it would never have sold it to state officials. Not to mention that we know little to nothing about how these drugs actually work, as evidenced by the series of horrifying botched executions over the past few years. Proponents of lethal injection say it’s the most humane method of killing available, but given that we don’t know what actually happens to the condemned after the paralytic agent sets in, they seem to be more concerned about the appearance of humaneness — that these executions look as little like what they are as possible — than minimizing the pain and suffering of those who are executed.

But then there are the cases themselves. Far from the open-and-shut, worst-of-the-worst stories death penalty advocates often point to, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of the biases, deficiencies and utter randomness with which the death penalty is applied.

The state’s plan to execute eight men in 11 days took a hit early in the month when the Arkansas Parole Board recommended clemency for Jason McGehee, who was convicted of abducting and killing a teenager in 1996. McGehee’s own case shows how unevenly death is meted out as a sentence. He and two friends carried out the crime. One of his accomplices was sentenced to life without parole. The other, a juvenile at the time, received an adjusted sentence of 40 years. Only McGehee received a death sentence. The judge in McGehee’s case was among those who recommended clemency. He told the New York Times earlier this year, “I tried a lot of capital murder cases in my years, and I saw people that I thought were much worse individuals get life without parole as opposed to the death penalty. I didn’t see him as the worst of the worst. As a matter of fact, he was a very young man.”

But the same parole board also denied clemency to Marcel Williams. As Liliana Segura reported at the Intercept*, while — as with McGehee — there’s little doubt about Williams’s guilt, the details of his background and upbringing are just devastating. At his clemency hearing, Williams’ attorney showed a video about Williams’ life.

In interview clips, two of Williams’s cousins described Williams’s childhood home in a violent part of North Arkansas. “The first thing you would notice would be the odor,” Shannon Carthron said. There was a stench of sewage and spoiled food. “There were roaches. Most of the time they didn’t have electricity.” Williams never knew his father; his mother was often absent. When she was at home, she was brutally abusive. One time, Williams’s mother made him strip naked and beat him with an extension cord. His cousins saw him burst through the door screaming; he ran into the backyard, naked and bleeding. “I was scared,” Carthron said. “I thought that he was gonna die.” In another incident described in Williams’s clemency petition, his mother burned him with a pot of boiling water. “The scars are still visible on Mr. Williams’s body,” according to Dr. David Lisak, a clinical psychologist and expert on childhood trauma. Lisak reviewed Williams’s history and interviewed Williams’s mother. In his subsequent statement, he said she began pimping her son out to older women in exchange for food stamps and other necessities, which he described as a form of incest. By the time Williams was 12, she did so “routinely.” He was also sexually abused by men who his mother brought home.

By the time the video ended, Williams was weeping.

But it wasn’t just family who failed Williams. The state did, too.

If the odds were stacked against Williams, at least one former board member had known him as something other than a sexual predator. Longtime board chairman Leroy Brownlee, who retired last year, had known Williams when he was a counselor at the Pine Bluff Training School, a juvenile reform facility. In the 1980s, he met Williams, who was 12 or 13 at the time. As Brownlee recalled in a 2006 statement, it became clear he was not used to receiving attention; he thrived in the structured environment and was even reluctant to leave. “The downfall for Marcel was the environment that he was released to go back to,” Brownlee wrote. According to his clemency petition, Williams “immediately committed a robbery,” intending to be sent back to the training school. But at 17, he was sent to an adult prison, where he was gang raped by older men. “As Marcel’s prison record show, he began committing infractions so he could be placed in solitary confinement, as a way of protecting himself.”

In death penalty cases, defense attorneys are supposed to present this sort of mitigating information to juries at the sentencing portion of the trial. Williams’s attorney, who was just two years out of law school and handling his first murder case, failed to do so. He told the board, “I mean, we completely and absolutely dropped the ball. I think there was huge amount of mitigation that could have been brought forward.”

There were also enormous problems with how the state prosecuted Ledell Lee, the man Arkansas executed last night. During one of Lee’s two trials, the judge was having an affair with the prosecutor. His post-conviction attorney was an admitted alcoholic who showed up to at least one hearing intoxicated. Lee, too, was accused of at least one other murder and two other rapes, so perhaps he isn’t the most sympathetic of those on death row, but in the case for which he was sentenced to die, the physical evidence against him was weak. He was implicated, for example, by a method of hair fiber analysis that has since been discredited. He was also implicated by testimony from a serologist about a blood spot on his shoe. Unfortunately, the analyst used up the sample, preventing Lee’s own attorneys from having it tested. There was a wealth of other physical evidence at the scene, none of which matched Lee, and which his attorneys tried to get tested for DNA. Such a test could have exonerated Lee, or it could well have gone a long way toward confirming his guilt. The state and the courts refused.

Untested DNA is also an issue in the case of Stacey Johnson, another of the eight men Arkansas wants to kill this month. Johnson’s innocence claim is even stronger. He was convicted primarily due to the eyewitness testimony of a girl who was 6 at the time of the crime. Again from Segura:

Though she was found incompetent to testify at Johnson’s first trial, in 1994, Ashley was deemed ready to take the stand for the retrial in 1997. The 10-year-old delivered testimony that seemed heavily influenced by relatives and prosecutors — a fact that alarmed members of the Arkansas Supreme Court who reviewed the case years later. In a 4-3 ruling leaving the conviction intact, the dissenting judges noted that Johnson’s defense attorneys had been denied access to therapist records that showed “Ashley’s stories were profoundly inconsistent and that she had been under considerable pressure from her family and the prosecutor to convict Stacey Johnson.” Among passages they quoted: “The DA says she’s the only one who can ‘keep him behind bars’”; “Her grandmother told Ashley that she ‘has to keep him behind bars,’ because if he gets out he’ll try to kill Ashley next.”

The only physical evidence against Johnson was a hair found at the crime scene. DNA testing at the time could determine only that Johnson couldn’t be excluded as the source of the hair. Today’s more sophisticated technology could come up with a more definitive conclusion, but here again, the state refuses to order testing, and the courts have refused Johnson’s request to compel it.

There are more problems with just these eight cases. The Fair Punishment Project recently reviewed the case files. Among the group’s findings:

Jason McGehee has bipolar disorder and comes from a family with a history of mental illness. His own mother thought he was “possessed by the devil.” His father was physically abusive with both Jason and his mother, and when Jason was young, slit the throats of Jason’s dogs as the boy watched. At one point, Jason’s mother forced him to live outside in a dog coop. When he was 7, his stepfather kicked Jason’s dog to death as he looked on in horror.
Bruce Ward has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. A psychiatrist once testified that he believed his death sentence was “harassment by evil or demonic forces which God has temporarily allowed [in order] to prepare him for a special mission as an evangelist.” Ward, too, was abused. His mother once covered him in tar and forced him to sit in ice water. When the roof to their home began to leak, she forced him to lay under the leak for an extended period of time as the water dripped onto him.

Kenneth Williams has an IQ of 70. He stayed at six different foster homes as a child. His father once abducted his mother at gunpoint for several days. He also cut open her stomach with a broken bottle.
Jack Jones suffers from bipolar disorder, depression and hallucinations. He has tried to kill himself several times.

In most of these cases, this sort of information came out only in post-conviction. In most cases, the defense attorneys presented appallingly little mitigation evidence at trial.

Importantly, these eight cases were not cherry-picked by death penalty opponents to illustrate the deficiencies in how we apply capital punishment in the United States. They were selected by the state of Arkansas for the relatively arbitrary reason that these men happened to be close to execution at a time when one of the state’s execution drugs happened to be near its expiration date, and the state has enough of the drug on hand for eight executions.

In other words, this pool of eight death penalty cases was selected nearly at random. Yet included among them are disturbing deficiencies such as severe mental illness and disability that were never presented at trial, ineffective defense counsel, prosecutorial and judicial malfeasance, and untested but possibly exculpatory DNA. Most of these problems pervaded several of the eight cases. If this pool of eight cases thrust into the spotlight only by the state of Arkansas’s rush to carry out executions could be so rife with problems, one could imagine you could pick any eight cases from the population of death row inmates and find a similar proportion of deficiencies.

Factor in the arbitrariness of when, where and by whom a defendant was convicted — and that the likelihood of a conviction and death sentences seems to be affected by the race of not only the accused but also the victim — and you begin to see a system that metes out death not on merits of the evidence or the severity of the crime, and certainly not in a way that demonstrates any measured and equal distribution of justice.

Instead, we see a system that appears to impose death on a whim.