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Archive for September, 2015

The Painful Facts, State-by-State: How We’re Victimized by Corporate State Tax Avoidance

September 28, 2015 Comments off

Source: The Painful Facts, State-by-State: How We’re Victimized by Corporate State Tax Avoidance

Paul Buchheit keeps state and local tax dodges in the limelight… This is one of the stealth means of corporate welfare that undercuts the public schools’ ability to provide services to children in need.

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Drug Laws Based on “War” Sent Millions to Prisons, Failed to Treat the Disease

September 28, 2015 Comments off

Today’s NYTimes has an op ed piece by CCNY professor Michael Javen Fortner who’s book Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment” was recently reviewed in the New Yorker. The Times essay, “The Real Roots of the 70s Drug Laws”, asserts that a silent majority of blacks fully supported the need for tougher laws to remove pushers, pimps, and prostitutes from their neighborhoods. Fortner peppers his article with quotes from black activists of the early 1970s who call for increased police presence, tougher treatment of pushers, and longer sentences for muggings and the sale of drugs. He expresses concern that the current movement to repeal the laws that led to the wholesale incarceration of many blacks will lead to an increase in crime which, in turn, will lead to even more repression.

Fortner’s essay is compelling, but I the recent New Yorker article noted that only a handful of black NYS legislators voted for the Rockefeller Laws and none voted for the laws that led to the so-called War On Drugs. As a teacher in Philadelphia in the early 1970s I DO believe black parents in that time were appalled at how gangs were luring their children into crime and drug use and would support faster and more certain justice for those whose values did not match the ones they held. But I also believe the disconnect between the laws that were written and the way they have been enforced has led to the Black Lives Matter movement and the sense that we’ve gone way too far in dealing with drug abuse. It seems likely that one of the quotes Fortner used to support his argument, a call to “Take the junkies off the streets and put ’em in camps”, was issued in the spirit of rehabilitation and treatment and not in the spirit of the Rockefeller Laws that led to long-term incarceration for petty drug users. Ultimately, the decision to choose incarceration over treatment has been a disaster for drug users of all races…. but once the increased use of illegal drugs was framed as a “war” instead of the “spread of a disease” we started “taking prisoners” instead of “treating patients”.

If we really want to “bolster religious and civic organizations that cultivate stronger social ties, mitigate disorder and fight crime” we should re-define our “War on Drugs” as an effort to “Prevent the Spread of Disease”. Such a re-definition would lead to the expansion of medical and social services instead of the expansion of police forces and encourage self-control instead of external control.

We Need Infinite Compassion Instead of Zero Tolerance

September 27, 2015 Comments off

I have vivid memories of the impact of the Columbine shootings in 1999. At the time I was serving as Superintendent in Duchess County NY and we were in the midst of convening several public meetings on our budget in anticipation of the annual vote in mid May. Once the images of children vacating a suburban Denver HS appeared nightly on the news, though, parents were less concerned about the initiatives included in our budget and overwhelmingly concerned about the safety of their children in school…. because unlike the earlier reports on school violence that focused on urban schools, Columbine looked a lot like the neighborhoods in our school district and the children vacating the school dressed the same and looked the same as the children in our schools.

Pando writer David Forbes posted an article titled “The Zero Tolerance Generation” that describes the history of the “zero tolerance movement” that he traced back to Columbine. (NOTE: you can only read the initial paragraphs of because it is now behind a paywall). The article reinforces the premise of many posts I’ve written: in the name of safety we’ve spent millions on surveillance equipment, door locks, and police presence in school. With more police in school, we’ve criminalized “disobedience”, and created a school-to-jail pipeline that becomes, in the term used by Yves Smith, a self-licking ice cream cone.

To break out of the zero tolerance mentality we need to get parents and politicians to focus on the root causes that lead to violence in schools instead of spending time reacting to the violence itself. If the funds sent providing armed guards in schools, surveillance cameras, and door locks had been spent on early intervention and mental health services we’d be further along in preventing the random acts of extreme violence that occur in school. Most importantly, we’d be limiting the day-to-day misconduct that stems from the problems children face growing up in our  hyper-competitive country. Instead of zero-tolerance we should strive for infinite compassion.

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