Friday, March 28, 2014

Why Democrats Have a Winning Agenda

By John Conyers, Jr.
U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
The conventional wisdom from cable news pundits is that this will be a difficult year for Congressional Democrats. Between website troubles, legislative roadblocks in the House of Representatives, and polls showing Americans' declining faith in government, it seems sensible to expect continued gridlock or conservative drift.
But there's a simple reason why the Democratic agenda has powerful momentum this year:
The Democratic agenda is all about jobs.
In poll after poll, Americans continue to cite unemployment as the number one issue facing the nation. This should be no surprise. There are still more than 20 million people looking for full-time work. There are upwards of 50 million -- including 13 million children -- living in poverty. For every single job opening, there are at leastthree applicants.
Our government has both an ethical obligation and an economic imperative to focus on job creation.

When people are trained, working, earning salaries, and contributing to the tax base, there are more customers for American goods and services, there's less crime, there's more government revenue and lower deficits. Most importantly, workers have greater bargaining power, and everyone's wages rise.
This is why the forthcoming Democratic Budget focuses on needed job-creating investments in infrastructure upgrades, early childhood education, workforce training programs, and scientific research. 

This is why Democrats are committed to restoring emergency unemployment insurance and raising the minimum wage -- actions that would not only restore dignity to millions of people but also inject desperately needed consumer demand into the economy.
This is why Democrats are focused on passing immigration reform -- which would not only bring hard-working people out of the shadows but also boost economic growth by an estimated $1.5 trillion and create up to 900,000 jobs over time.
This is also why Democrats are fighting for comprehensive jobs legislation, including President Obama's American Jobs Act, Whip Steny Hoyer's "Make It in America Agenda," and HR 1000, The Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act -- which I have introduced with support from 57 cosponsors -- to ensure people are trained and able to perform desperately-needed work in areas including healthcare, road repair, energy efficiency, education, and neighborhood renovation.

The Republican agenda, in contrast, is a continuation of the failed experiment of economic austerity. Since winning the House in 2010, GOP leaders have refused to even allow a vote on jobs legislation -- opting instead to focus on dangerous environmental deregulation, healthcare repeals, and harsh budget cuts that ultimately make the economy weaker. The independent economic consulting firm Macroeconomic Advisers has estimated that all the fiscal brinkmanship and brazen budget cuts have cost the nation nearly two million jobs.
The failure of the GOP-led House of Representatives to focus on jobs is not just a political blunder. It's a dereliction of duty and has caused real human suffering.
Having a job is essential to having a home and having healthcare. It's essential for enjoying a life of basic stability and dignity. It's essential for sustaining a family. It's essential for enjoying freedom from anxiety and gaining the power to shape one's own destiny.
America urgently needs a jobs agenda.

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Justina Pelletier ruling is a joke

This is the best example of of a fallacious judicial ruling I have read in quite some time.

For those who do not read it, here is the summary:

Because parents took Justina to Tufts Medical doctors for years of surgery and treatment, Massachusetts  charged them with medical abuse.  As Connecticut, the state of the family's residence, refused to open a child abuse case, Massachusetts kept the girl in protective custody.  Due to the fact that the parents have announced they are going to sue everyone involved, they are no longer allowed to see their daughter again.

Judge Joseph Johnston needs to be removed from the bench.

The parents should get creative and sue the insurance company for authorizing payment for the medical treatment and sue Tufts University for medical malpractice based on this ruling.

That is how you bring in the big guns.
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Conyers: Time is Running Out on Unclaimed Tax Refunds from 2010

(DETROIT) – Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) urged taxpayers in Michigan who may be owed a refund on their 2010 taxes to file by April 15 to ensure that they are able to receive it. Nationwide, an estimated 918,600 taxpayers may be missing out on almost $760 million in tax refunds from 2010. The IRS estimates that half the potential refunds for 2010 are more than $571. Rep. Conyers issued the following statement in advance of the April 15th deadline:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
"For so many families, a tax refund can make a real difference in putting food on the table, paying college tuition, and getting free from debt. In Michigan, an estimated 29,200 people have unclaimed tax refunds from 2010 totaling $24,259,000, that will no longer be available if they do not file their 2010 return by April 15. It is crucial for families and our local economy to ensure that no one misses out on their tax refunds - averaging $597 here in Michigan - as we fight to make our tax system simpler and more fair for middle class families,” said Conyers.

Ø  Taxpayers must file a return within three years to claim a refund.  So to collect the refund, a return for 2010 must be filed with the IRS no later than Tuesday, April 15, 2014.  There is no penalty for failure to file if the taxpayer is due a refund. 

Ø  Current and prior year tax forms and instructions are available on the Forms and Publications page of or by calling toll-free 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). Taxpayers who are missing Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 for 2010, 2011 or 2012 should request copies from their employer, bank or other payer.

Ø  Taxpayers seeking a 2010 refund may have checks held if they have not filed tax returns for 2011 and 2012.  Refunds may be applied to amounts owed to the IRS and also may be used to offset unpaid child support or overdue federal debts such as student loans.

Ø  By failing to file a return, people stand to lose more than just their refund of taxes withheld or paid during 2010. In addition, many low-and-moderate income workers may not have claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). For 2010, the credit is worth as much as $5,666. The EITC helps individuals and families whose incomes are below certain thresholds.

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Linda Pelletier should run for public office

I have been watching this case and for those of you who do not know about it, here it is in a nutshell:

Kid was sick.

Parents called kid's Tuft's University doctor.

Kid's doctor said to see old friend doctor in next State.

Parents went to Massachusetts Boston Children's Hospital.

Boston Children's Hospital said kid's doctor was quack and Massachusetts kept kid.

Court gagged Pelletiers and kept kid.

Here is why Linda Pelletier should run for public office:

  1. When the Court issued a gag order, Linda for a way to access free speech by fainting and being taken out by stretcher and ambulance which was splattered over the front page of national newspapers.

    Justina Pelletier’s mom faints after hearing decision to place sick teen in foster care

  2. Running for public office makes one a public figure where speech is protected and put into historic record.  She can officially curse the hospital staff and courts in public and there is nothing they can do about it except to read the front page of the paper.
  3. While campaigning she can push for compliance of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children and publicize the horrors and financial fraud of foster care by building her database of contacts and advocacy groups.
  4. If she wins, she can build a caucus of other elected officials to call for a full scale investigation on the conflict of interest with the relationship between Boston Children's Hospital and Department of Children and Family Services.
Unfortunately, Justina will never go home.  There is too much money involved and potential lawsuit against the hospital.  As long as the child is under the custody of the state, the original parents have no legal recourse of the child.  This is how a state protects itself and makes money, lots of it.

Linda, you have until 4:00 p.m. EST, April 22, 2014 to collect and submit 1,000 valid nomination signatures to run for Congress.

Lou, you run the campaign and be the spokesperson.

It does not matter if you win or loose, it is the public exposure.

Parents of Justina Pelletier to Appeal Judge’s DCF Custody Decision

Justina PelletierLiberty Counsel is to follow every possible legal process to return Justina Pelletier to her parents in Connecticut so she can get medical care, access to a priest, and an education. This follows a court order late yesterday granting the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) continued custody of the desperately ill teenager until at least June 20 this year. In a press release issued last night, the international nonprofit organization said it would be filing a habeas corpus petition or an appeal against the judge’s custody decision.
Mat Staver, chairman of the Florida-based Liberty Counsel and the lawyer who will lead the appeal, described the situation as a “tragedy” and said the DCF was holding Justina prisoner after they “essentially kidnapped” her in February last year. Staver said he had “never seen a more barbaric overreach by a state agency.” It was not acceptable that the court was yet again “kicking the can down the road,” he said.
The ongoing saga began when Lou and Linda Pelletier took their daughter, Justina to Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) in February last year so she could be seen by gastroenterologist, Dr. Alejandro Flores who had previously treated her at Tufts Medical Center (also in Boston) for severe gastrointestinal problems caused by mitochondrial disease (mito). Instead doctors at BCH decided her problems were psychiatric and not medical, and changed the diagnosis to somatoform disorder, which is psychosomatic but with physical symptoms. Justina was not examined by Dr. Flores, who knew her medical history, and the doctors at Tufts were not consulted.
The court custody battle was initiated by the Pelletiers over a year ago; this is the first ruling in writing that has been issued by the judge, Joseph F. Johnston. The Pelletiers have been waiting for a final decision from Judge Johnston regarding custody since mid-December last year. He had postponed making any decision six times, until yesterday, when he issued the disposition order regarding the “care and protection of Justina Pelletier.”
It is understood that Staver’s application to be admitted officially onto the case as the Pelletier’s lawyer was also denied. He needs court approval because he is from another state and would be taking over from existing counsel, but has said that this is usually a formality. Nevertheless Staver was quick to announce his intention to appeal the judge’s DCF custody decision on behalf of Justina’s parents, stating that she has been refused “adequate medical care,” access to “clergy or communion,” and has not been given “any meaningful education” in the past 13 months.
Judge Johnston’s Disposition Order
Judge Johnston outlined the history of the case and his findings in a four-page written ruling faxed to relevant parties, ultimately stating that he was granting continued custody of Justina to the MA DCF. This order was subject to “the parties right to a review and redetermination” six months from December 20, 2013, which is when the custody case ended and the decision regarding custody should have been made. So the ruling is not “permanent” as stated in some media reports.
Judge Johnston repeated the finding he made on December 20, 2013, that there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Justina was “a child in need of care and protection” because of the “conduct and inability of her parents” to provide for her “necessary and proper physical, mental, and emotional development.”
He ruled that it was necessary for “the parents” to be psychologically and clinically evaluated by the Connecticut DCF. However he stated throughout the report that the CT DCF has refused to become involved in the case from day one. Firstly it refused to accept the case when it was originally filed in Massachusetts 13 months ago, he said. Then it refused to take action when the MA DCF filed a “report of neglect of Justina” by her parents, maintaining the case was “under investigation.” Although the CT DCF notified the court in December that it had “substantiated the parents for neglect,” it would not take responsibility for the case and declined to file in the Connecticut court. In February it was agreed by all parties, including Lou and Linda Pelletier, that the CT DCF would be given temporary custody of Justina Pelletier pending transfer of the case to her home state, he said. But the Connecticut court refused to get involved stating there was no action pending in Connecticut.
The judge maintained that Justina was “ready for discharge” from BCH in June 2013, but was not discharged because her parents “significantly hampered” efforts of the MA DCF to find somewhere suitable to place her. He claimed that since “adjudication,” when the custody case had been heard and a finding was to be given, he had considered granting the Pelletiers “conditional custody.” He said he had decided not to due to the parents’ conduct that included verbal abuse, calling hospital personnel “Nazis,” using “profanity directed at the MA DCF personnel in Justina’s presence,” and claiming “the hospital was punishing and killing Justina.” He also blamed the Pelletiers for the inability of the DCF to be able to place her in a facility in Connecticut, where she would be close to home.
The judge ended the ruling by stating that the MA DCF must make “heightened efforts” to transfer Justina to Connecticut and transfer “both the clinical and legal case to Connecticut.” The court would, he said continue to “assist in the return of Justina to her home state of Connecticut.”
Lou Pelletier Speaks Out
Directly after Judge Johnston’s custody ruling was released, Lou Pelletier was interviewed on Fox TV in Boston. He said he was “very angry” but not surprised because this judge had continually ignored overwhelming evidence. He said Justina needed to be home, because “she is mentally, and more importantly, physically dying” under the care of the state of Massachusetts, the BCH and the MA DCF.
Asked why this was happening, he said, “It’s happening because it can!” All the hospital has to do is have its child protection team call the DCF; and in Massachusetts, the DCF does not have its own medical director which they are required to by law, so they rely on BCH. There were two reasons the child protection team stepped in to their case, he said. Firstly they were not prepared to follow the hospital’s protocol by agreeing Justina be taken off all her medication (including a vitamin cocktail and medicine for a rapid heart rate) – “which no sane person would do.” Secondly, because they were accused of “medical child abuse.” He said Justina had two surgeries, one to remove a congenital band that had become wrapped around her colon and appendix several years ago. The other was to insert a port into her colon. These procedures and all other medication had been prescribed by doctors at Tufts and approved by insurance, he said.
On a positive note, he said the ground swell of support had reached record numbers, with between 13 to 15 million hits on Twitter because, “the country is fed-up with what is happening.” He said “it is a national tragedy” that happens in some hospital every day. People “go down this rabbit hole with no recourse to get recovery.” At least by making people aware of what was happening, they could not ignore Justina’s declining physical condition, he said.
Lou Pelletier said the whole situation was an “infringement of our parental rights” and that the Government was “intruding into people’s lives for no reason.” He said he had absolutely no doubt that Justina suffers from mito, especially since her older sister Jessica has the same condition – confirmed by a muscle biopsy.
Commenting on their decision to appeal the judge’s DCF custody decision, the father of Justina Pelletier said they would go to Massachusetts Supreme Court, the Federal Court, and to the court of public opinion. “The country is enraged” and all parents need to be aware of what is happening, he said.

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Conyers Hails $1 Million in Great Lakes Restoration Grant Funding for Green Infrastructure Projects

(DETROIT) – Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that $1,000,000 in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Shoreline Cities grant funding would be provided to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s Near East Side Drainage District for two green infrastructure projects to ensure clean water in the region by preventing stormwater from contaminating the Great Lakes. In particular, a portion of the EPA grant would fund a program to convert vacant publicly owned lots in Detroit’s Lower Eastside into green space; the remainder of the EPA grant will be allocated towards the installation of green infrastructure at Detroit’s Recovery Park. Both of these green infrastructure projects will also serve to prevent flooding that can occur following harsh weather. After the grant recipients were made public, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“I am delighted to announce that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s Near East Side Drainage District $1,000,000 in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Shoreline Cities grant funding for two green infrastructure projects. These two projects will prevent the Great Lakes from being contaminated by stormwater, and avert flooding after bad weather. Both projects will go a long way towards safeguarding our water and preparing the regional ecosystem for the effects of climate change,” said Conyers.

“Specifically, part of the EPA grant will transform Detroit’s Lower Eastside into green space, teeming with trees and other vegetation. Another portion of the grant will fund the installation of green infrastructure at Detroit’s Recovery Park. The combined impact of these projects will reduce the discharge of untreated stormwater into sewer system by 1,100,000 gallons during significant storms. Unfortunately, as extreme weather events occur with increasing frequency due to climate change, the green infrastructure projects’ handling of stormwater will only increase.

“With the potential to create ‘green collar’ jobs for metropolitan Detroit, the EPA’s Initiative Shorelines Cities grants could have a transformative effect on both the environment and the regional economy. ‘Green-collar’ jobs are not only a boon to the environment, but they are also well-paying and lasting. I applaud the EPA for their work in safeguarding the Great Lakes and the American countryside, as well as for helping guide the United States towards a sustainable clean economy.”

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Conyers, Goodlatte, Sensenbrenner, and Scott Statement on President’s Proposed Changes to Intelligence-Gathering Programs

(WASHINGTON) – House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) and Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Va.) issued the joint statement below following President Obama’s proposal to end the bulk telephone data collection program operated under the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA) and reform other aspects of our nation’s intelligence gathering programs.

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“President Obama has outlined many good ideas to reform our nation’s surveillance programs, including ending the bulk telephone data collection program. However, these ideas need to be implemented through legislation that protects our privacy. As the Committee of primary jurisdiction, we look forward to continuing to work on legislation with members from both sides of the aisle on the House Judiciary Committee to strengthen some of the ideas put forth by the President. It’s imperative that we reform our nation’s intelligence-gathering programs so that we better protect our civil liberties and regain the trust of the American people.”

Background: Over the past several months, the House Judiciary Committee has conducted aggressive oversight of our nation’s intelligence-gathering programs operated under FISA.  In July 2013, the Committee held a public hearing to examine the statutory authorities that govern certain surveillance programs operated under FISA, in which the Committee heard from officials from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and from civil liberties groups. In September 2013, the Committee also held a classified hearing where members of the House Judiciary Committee were afforded the opportunity to further probe government officials from the DOJ, the ODNI, the NSA, and the FBI about our nation’s surveillance programs. And in February 2014, the Committee held a comprehensive hearing to examine the various recommendations to reform or end these programs made by President Obama, the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Conyers Kicks Off Jazz Appreciation Month by Introducing a Bill to Preserve & Promote Jazz

(WASHINGTON) – On March 21st, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) reintroduced his jazz appreciation bill, H.R. 4280, the “National Jazz Preservation, Education, and Promulgation Act of 2014.” Tonight, Congressman Conyers will attend the Smithsonian Institution’s Jazz Appreciation Month kickoff concert featuring Ravi Coltranewho donated a saxophone owned by his father, John Coltrane, to the Smithsonian earlier today. This year’s activities commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the classic album A Love Supreme. Prior the event, Congressman Conyers issued the following statement:

U.S. Representarive
John Conyers, Jr.
“This legislation builds upon H. Con. Res. 57, the landmark jazz legislation passed in 1987, which recognized ‘jazz as a rare and valuable national treasure.’ Passed on September 23, 1987 - John Coltrane’s birthday - it was an incredibly important moment in the history of this most American of art forms. However, like so many important efforts, its potential has not yet been fully realized,” said Conyers.

“H.R. 4280 seizes upon the three goals stated in H. Con. Res. 57 - preservation, education, and promulgation - and actually creates programs to achieve those ends.

“The first element, preservation, creates in the Smithsonian Institution a Jazz Preservation Program that will secure artifacts from jazz history and work with groups across the country to maintain collections that tell the story of jazz from its inception to its present, and which will provide learning opportunities for jazz enthusiasts nationwide.

“The understanding component is achieved through two different means. It establishes an education program, Jazz Artists in the Schools, which will ensure that children have access to an enriched curriculum that builds jazz performances into the students’ education. And it also reconstitutes international cultural exchanges built around Jazz music, called Ambassadors of Jazz, which the U.S. State Department first initiated in the 1950s.

“Finally, H.R. 4280 adds a promulgation prong that responds to grassroots input. It supports this goal ofpromulgation by creating a National Jazz Appreciation Program at the Smithsonian Institution, in coordination with the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which will develop a nationwide series of concerts that showcases the diversity and vitality of jazz.

“H.Con.Res. 57 marked a momentous occasion - the formal recognition of jazz as America’s music and the securing of its place in history. H.R. 4280 fulfills the promise of that recognition, ensuring that our children’s children have access to the music that has influenced so much of our history and so many of our lives.”

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Conyers Announces $752,000 in Grant Awards to Wayne State & the Detroit Institute of Arts

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) announced $752,000 in funding - split between five individual grants - from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for Wayne State University and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Specifically, the National Eye Institute within HHS awarded $380,000 to Wayne State University to research the role of the protein HMGB1 in bacterial keratitis. Wayne State University was also awarded: $60,000 in NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant funding for a project entitled “Ethnic Layers of Detroit: Experiencing Place through Digital Storytelling; $6,000 in NEH summer stipend funding for a “Theoretical and Historical Account of Media Viewership” project; and $6,000 in NEH summer stipend funding for a project on, “Black Women’s Disenfranchisement and the Fight for Voting Rights, 1920-1945.” In addition, NEH awarded the Detroit Institute of Arts a $300,000 grant through their Museums, Libraries, and Cultural Organizations Implementation office to put on an exhibit entitled the, “Art of American Dance.”

After the grant recipients were made public, Rep. Conyers issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“I am pleased to announce that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) have awarded a combined $752,000 in grant funding to Wayne State University and the Detroit Institute of Arts for five deserving projects that will improve public health and showcase Detroit’s rich history,” said Conyers.

“A $380,000 vision research grant awarded to Wayne State by the HHS National Eye Institute will aid medical researchers studying the role of a protein in bacterial keratitis. This funding will go a long way towards understanding the complexities of keratitis, a serious infection in the cornea that can lead to severe vision loss.

“Wayne State was also the recipient of three grant awards to further enrich the University’s humanities offerings. These awards included: a $60,000 Digital Humanities Start-Up grant to fund a historical project entitled, ‘Ethnic Layers of Detroit: Experiencing Place through Digital Storytelling”; a $6,000 summer stipend for work on a ‘Theoretical and Historical Account of Media Viewership’ project; and a $6,000 summer stipend for project studying, ‘Black Women’s Disenfranchisement and the Fight for Voting Rights, 1920-1945.’ Additionally, the Detroit Institute of Arts was awarded $300,000 to organize an ‘Art of American Dance’ exhibit for the community.

“I applaud HHS for their commitment to combating troublesome public health concerns, and I commend the NEH for helping to further enhance the Detroit metropolitan area’s creative culture.”

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Massachusetts Judge raises reform bar in child welfare

Here is the Conclusion of the judge who dismissed Children's Rights' class action lawsuit against Massachusetts:
"This is a dispiriting opinion to write. In alleging 
violations of substantive due process, the Plaintiffs set 
themselves to climb a virtually unscalable peak. They have 
failed in the ascent. Nothing is really resolved. The state 
defendants today avoid the litigation bullet but the stage is 
set for further costly litigation as all attempts at settlement 
have failed. 
 In the process, the Court may have done a disservice to the 
hundreds of overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated case 
workers and foster home providers whose dedication has never 
been questioned here. There is, of course, a certain aridity in 
marshalling the statistics necessary to sustain or refute the 
class-wide institutional claims made in this case. 
 Yet this is not a case about statistics but about children 
-- our children -- and this much is clear, the flaws noted 
herein are more about budgetary shortfalls than management 
myopia. We are all complicit in this financial failure. 
When next you bemoan your tax burden, remember that, at 
that moment, somewhere in Massachusetts there is a youngster who 
Case 1:10-cv-30073-WGY Document 373 Filed 11/22/13 Page 83 of 84 84
has just been taken from her parents’ home.43 She is confused, 
inexpressibly lonely, homesick, and desperately afraid. Because 
of Massachusetts’ penury, her future is murkier than in most 
places in America. 
Do you care?"
 /s/ William G. Young 
Judge Young is raising the bar for reform as the current adversarial models of litigation do nothing but pump more money into a dysfunctional system. There needs to be a new approach to child welfare.  A good place to start would be an economic departure from the out-dated-sunken-costs legal arguments.

"Why keep pumping money into something which has generationally proven not work?  Why not ameliorate the issues which created the need for the system in the first place?"

Poverty is not a crime and foster care should not be the gateway to mental health services.

In the DeShaney v. Winnebago County, SCOTUS rendered its decision to the question:

Does a state's failure to protect an individual against private violence constitute a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
"No. The Due Process Clause does not impose a special duty on the State to provide services to the public for protection against private actors if the State did not create those harms. "The Clause is phrased as a limitation on the State's power to act, not as a guarantee of certain minimal levels of safety and security; while it forbids the State itself to deprive individuals of life, liberty, and property without due process of law, its language cannot fairly be read to impose an affirmative obligation on the State to ensure that those interests do not come to harm through other means."

The Rehnquist Court demonstrated a severe lack of awareness in the parens patriae doctrine in DeShaney v. Winnebago County , because, that defendant did in fact violate the Due Process clause to protect the child, as child protection had been placed under Trade and Commerce Law back in 1976, federally funded by CAPTA in 1974, solidifying the basis of the initial argument that it was the inherent right of the state to protect its heir in perpetuity. Therefore, the state violated federal anti-commerce law and the due process contained within of 15 U.S.C. 15 (c), obfuscated within child welfare policies.

Learn more: BEVERLY TRAN: SCOTUS Errs on Precedent
Stop Medicaid Fraud in Child Welfare 

Advocacy group appeals judge’s decision in DCF suit

The federal judge who handed the state’s embattled child welfare system a victory in a closely watched lawsuit last year set the bar too high for the plaintiffs to meet and either “ignored or misinterpreted” the law, a New York advocacy group charged in a sharply worded appeal of the decision.
Children’s Rights, which unsuccessfully sued state officials in a class action suit first brought in 2010, blasted U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young’s ruling, writing in a massive, 263-page appeal that it should be reversed.
Young’s so-called “two-pronged” approach — in that the group needed to prove the Department of Children and Families’ failures not only veered substantially from accepted practice but “shocks the conscience” — was unnecessarily high, Children’s Rights said.
It also argued that the deference he showed to state lawmakers to better fund the agency, and thus correct its ongoing problems, could set a dangerous precedent.
“Constitutional and statutory violations are rampant in DCF foster care,” Children’s Rights attorneys wrote in the appeal, filed late yesterday. “If this Court were to accept the district court’s view that federal judges must yield to executive and legislative prerogatives when such priorities are inconsistent with the state’s constitutional obligations to the state’s most helpless citizens, the consequences would be far-reaching.”
Furthermore, the group wrote, by putting the responsibility on lawmakers to fund DCF appropriately, “it likewise excused the abject failure by DCF.”
“Vulnerable children who are wholly dependent on the state for their safety and well-being, were erroneously held to a standard of proof no less burdensome than the standard to be met by an incarcerated felon,” the appeal states.
Children’s Rights had accused Bay State officials of failing to protect children under their care from abuse, allowing kids to flounder in the foster care system and doling out too many psychotropic drugs. It has successfully sued more than a dozen other states, and had gone to trial only once before in this type of case, winning against Washington, D.C., officials more than two decades ago.
Young had ripped DCF in his 84-page ruling released in November, concluding it failed to “not only to comport with national standards of care and state and federal requirements but also to comply with its own internal policies.”
But he said the plaintiffs, represented by Children’s Rights, had embarked on a “virtually unscalable peak” to win their suit.
“This is not a case about statistics but about children — our children — and this much is clear: The flaws noted herein are more about budgetary shortfalls than management myopia. We are all complicit in this financial failure,” Young wrote in November. He noted he wasn’t going to substitute his judgment “for that of duly elected Massachusetts lawmakers, who properly are endowed with the power to direct the reserves of the commonwealth’s coffers to whatever issue of public import they see fit.”
State officials have said that DCF’s budget had been cut by roughly $100 million between fiscal year 2009 and fiscal year 2012.
But Children’s Rights argues in its appeal it was wrong for Young to treat “fiscal constraints as a defense” and that he did so without “any valid legal basis.”
Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office, which is defending the state in the suit, will have 30 days to respond.
The situation has thrown the Democrat into an awkward position of balancing the actions of her office and her own calls for reforms at DCF as a leading gubernatorial candidate. Coakley has repeatedly said she feels there is no conflict.
The ruling likely saved the state from a costly court-mandated reform plan and the possibility of shelling out millions more in attorney fees. Last year, a judge ordered Oklahoma officials to launch a $100 million-a-year initiative to fix their system — on top of $6 million in legal costs for Children’s Rights — after the group successfully sued that state.
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Ranking Member Conyers Statement at Child Trafficking Hearing

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held a hearing entitled, “Innocence for Sale: Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking.” During his opening remarks, Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) delivered the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“Today’s hearing examines the growing epidemic of minor sex trafficking, an absolutely abhorrent practice, that each year entraps more than 100,000 minors - roughly between the age 12 and 14 - into prostitution or child pornography. Although these children come from all socio-economic classes, races, and genders, they all share in common their vulnerability. As we begin our focus on this issue, it must be recognized that these children are victims; they are not criminals, and they should not be treated so,” said Conyers.

“Predators seize upon the insecurities and weakness of these children, whether they are runaways and shelter youth, kids in foster care, or just ‘throwaways’ who have been emotionally and psychologically neglected their whole lives. As such, they are particularly vulnerable to pimps, predators, and sex traffickers through violence, coercion, and fraud. And, when children who have fallen prey to the sex trade are treated as criminals rather than victims, this just further compounds their injuries. They become very afraid to seek help, particularly from law enforcement because of the risk that they will be treated as criminals rather than victims. Instead of criminalizing what these children do, we must ensure that they are recognized for what they:  victims.

“Second, much more needs to be done to improve how we assist these horribly exploited children. They are physically traumatized, often being sold for 10 to 15 sex acts per night. One child may be raped more than 5,000 times in a single year. The extent of the resultant emotional and psychological trauma they endure is hard to fathom. These victims - in order to regain their lives - must receive specialized counseling, educational services, and housing to ensure their physical and mental rehabilitation. Without these specialized programs, these young boys and girls often run away to return back to their abusers because of the unique trauma bonding that occurs between the victim and the trafficker. Yet, there are far too few shelter beds available nationwide to provide for the unique needs of children crushed by the commercial sex trade. We owe it to these youngsters and to our society to help them overcome the horrors that they have been put through.

“Lastly, we must consider how technology and the Internet have enabled the minor sex trafficking business and what this industry can do to help law enforcement stop this crime. After our last hearing on minor sex trafficking in 2010, Craigslist shut down its ‘adult services’ section, which was a primary source of online advertising for the commercial sex trade for both adults and minors. However, this may have been a Pyrrhic  victory. Online sex trafficking has continued, but now in a more dispersed fashion. For example, has roughly 70% of the market share of Internet advertising for the sex trade. It is critical that effective ways for law enforcement to collaborate with these companies be developed so that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes are ultimately brought to justice. We must also consider how to rein in the use of decentralized advertising and foreign-based entities that increasingly disseminate this advertising. And, we must also explore how to better educate minors to avoid online predators. More than ever, pimps and traffickers are using social networking sites to coerce and cajole vulnerable children into the sex trade by preying on their insecurities.

“To conclude, I hope that this will be the beginning of a larger discussion that will include human trafficking and labor trafficking. For now, however, I am sure that we can come together in a bipartisan manner to address the evils of juvenile sex trafficking and to find ways that will improve the lives of the far too many children who have already been exploited. We have addressed similar issues in the past, and we should look to such legislation for guidance.  For instance, we should consider effectuating a national standard of care for victims of juvenile sex trafficking, just as past Congresses have for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault, to ensure that the these youths receive proper care. Portions of Mr. Poe’s bill will also serve this cause well, as it recognizes the need to greatly improve services to children affected by the scourge of sex trafficking by setting up a revenue neutral fund to provide them aid and creates block grants for sex trafficking deterrence. We should also take steps to curb demand by assisting state and local agencies enforce laws that are already on the books when it comes to dealing with ‘johns’ who patronize minors, as this is a key component in fighting the exploitation of minors. However, we must be careful in creating new federal laws and mandatory minimums in this area, as new federal mandatory minimums for ‘johns’ may lead to unintended consequences.

Tomorrow, the Task Force on Over-Criminalization will be holding a hearing on the over-federalization of criminal laws, and this is just such an instance where state laws that are in place may be just as, or even more effective, in combating demand when they are enforced than a new federal mandatory minimum. I know that we can work together to bring an end to the evils of juvenile sex trafficking, and I look forward to hearing the testimony of our witnesses.”

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Steven Tyler tells Congress to walk his way on copyright

StevenTyler of Aerosmith, in town to lobby for protection of intellectual property rights of singers and songwriters, performed on the rooftop of 101 Constitution Ave, NW, here with Congressman John Conyers, D-MI, who has argued for copyright law revision . (Photo by Susan Biddle/NMPA)
StevenTyler of Aerosmith, in town to lobby for protection of intellectual property rights of singers and songwriters, performed on the rooftop of 101 Constitution Ave, NW, here with Congressman John Conyers, who has argued for copyright law revision . (Photo by Susan Biddle/NMPA)
Some lobbyists have to pound the sidewalks, while others let lawmakers come to them. If you’re rocker-turned-advocate Steven Tyler, it’s members of Congress who come a-calling — like Rep. John Conyers, who actually hopped up on stage with the Aerosmith frontman at a Tuesday-night concert near the Capitol building to join him on the coda to “Walk This Way.”
Or Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), Ted Deutsch (R-Fla.), and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who dropped by the green room before the concert, sponsored by the National Music Publishers Association, to meet with him.
Onstage, with a view of the Capitol in the background, Tyler capped off a few days of lobbying with renditions of hits like “Cryin’” and “Dream On,” to a crowd of suits who looked like they were reliving their high-school days.  The musician spent his visit to Washington meeting with members of Congress to talk about stronger protection for songwriters in the copyright system, including against having their work used, willy-nilly, in samples or mashups by other artists.
Tyler insisted in an interview before the show that he just wants to be a passionate voice in Washington for songwriters  – not just the “rich rock stars” like him. “Hopefully, I can touch them, like a modern-day Will Rogers,” he says, evoking the folksy actor-turned advocate of the 1920s and ’30s. “He’d stand up and speak and everyone would listen.”
"Had a great afternoon with Steven Tyler - thank you for always fighting for artists, sticking up for creators, and for the complimentary office drum session!", says John Conyers, Jr,

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