Saturday, April 30, 2016

U.S. Child Welfare Takes It's First Steps To Admitting It Has A Civil Rights Problem

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Serevices, Administration for Children & Families, Children's Bureau has put out a "how-to" guide to file a child welfare grievance.

Unfortunately, the guidesheet has omitted filing complaints with elected state representatives such as the state attorney general who is in charge of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, in situations of Medicaid fraud in child welfare.

With the same misfortune, the State Medicaid Fraud Control Units have no authority to address Medicaid Fraud in child welfare due to privacy laws as many, if not the majority of child placing agencies are contractually privatized, as religious non-profits, and everyone know, you cannot audit God.

State elected officials have the duty to provide constituency services, meaning the can navigate the muddled administration to direct the grievance, but cannot intervene in the matter as it is under the jurisdiction of a court, a very fine line which has yet to be addressed.

Remember, one is considered guilty until proven innocent, devoid of opportunity to face one's accuser.

Without analyses of the rest of the States, I will only speak upon my favorite egregious violator of civil rights, Michigan.

In Michigan, the grievances are now dealt with in house, meaning the grievances are investigated by the agencies which have committed the possible violations.

Lest not we forget that the Michigan Office of Children's Ombudsman has a "valid yet not opened" grievance category.  This means that there was a violation but the Office will not investigate, nor will it refer to the attorney general, either due to a lack of resources, policy ignorance, or it would jack up the federal consent agreement.

At least this guidance is small baby steps, yet it is a start in admitting there are no civil rights in child welfare.
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Friday, April 29, 2016

Will Governor Snyder Release His Transcripts For Dark Money?

It's campaign season and we all know what that means,  dark money!

Dark money is considered backdoor access for major financial conglomerates to manipulate socioeconomic policy development for the purposes of profiting from the poverty industrial complex, otherwise known as privatization.

Unlike the actual vote, the voices being heard are by those who stand to directly profit from an election.

In the case of Moving Michigan Forward, no one knows who is contributing nor what is being done with the money to directly help the people of Flint, except that it is paying for his PR firms whose work so far sucks in crafting a public image legal defense.

This model of dark money is not just in elections, it is also in policymaking of child welfare privatization and thy name is the Michigan Children's Trust Fund.

I wonder if Rick Snyder is going to release the transcripts of his speeches?

Anonymous donors boost Snyder's Flint relief efforts

LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder has used his nonprofit fund to raise $270,000 for relief efforts related to the Flint water crisis so far this year. But Snyder is not disclosing the names of the individuals and corporations who donated most of the money, despite promises of greater transparency when he shut down his controversial NERD Fund.

Snyder created the Moving Michigan Forward Fund in 2013 in response to widespread criticism of his NERD (New Energy to Reinvent and Diversify) Fund, which had accepted more than $1.6 million in donations from corporations and other donors, with no disclosure about who the donors were and how they might be linked to state contracts or important policy decisions.

"Let’s wind it down and go forward in a fund where all the donors will be disclosed and the information will be online," Snyder told reporters in October 2013.

Of the $295,000 Moving Michigan Forward reported raising in the first three months of 2016, $270,000 was designated for Flint relief, Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said Thursday. But $225,000 — or 76% of the total amount raised in the quarter — came from another Snyder-related nonprofit fund, Making Government Accountable, which does not disclose its donors.

"We don't have true transparency, because the money is being run through other nonprofits that don't really disclose their donors," said Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

"People are giving to organizations tied to the governor and the public has no idea who they are, how much exactly they're giving, and whether there are any potential returns on that giving."

Making Government Accountable, which Adler said is still active, was formed by Snyder supporters in March 2015 — around the time Snyder was exploring a national tour promoting Michigan's economic comeback and a possible GOP presidential run.

Its donors "are not going to be disclosed because they gave money with the understanding that their information would not be disclosed, in accordance with state law," Adler said.

"No information about MMF needs to be disclosed either, according to state law, but it is (disclosed) because of the governor’s decision to volunteer information and provide more transparency for that fund," he said.

The stated purpose of MMF is reducing the financial burden of state government and improving Michigan's social and business climate.

Early this year, a notice was posted on the MMF website saying every donated dollar designated for the fund's "MMF for Flint" effort would be spent on Flint-related resources, particularly "advocacy efforts aimed to increase awareness of ... where to find water resource sites, bottled water, water filters for individual homes and businesses, replacement filter cartridges, water testing kits and more."

First-quarter donors to MMF who were disclosed include Robert S. Taubman, chairman and CEO of retail giant Taubman Centers, who gave $25,000; Perrigo  director and former CEO Michael Jandernoa and his wife, Susan, who gave $25,000; Jackson-based Alro Steel, which gave $10,000; and Kalamazoo-based scrap processing firm Schupan & Sons, which gave $10,000.

Moving Michigan Forward reported spending just over $179,000 on "Flint outreach" in the first quarter of 2016, including direct mail, telephone town halls, automated phone calls, text alerts and billboards.

Snyder officials earlier said that an out-of-state public relations firm hired to assist with Flint, Mercury LLC, would be paid from the MMF and not with taxpayer funds. Adler said the Mercury LLC expenses are included in "Flint outreach."

Mauger said the lack of detail in the MMF reports make it impossible to tell exactly how the money was spent.

Adler said more than $200,000 of the $225,000 that the Making Government Accountable fund donated to the Moving Michigan Forward fund was earmarked for Flint relief.

Despite the new emphasis on Flint, "the MMF is used for other things, as it always has been, including office travel expenses, etc." Adler said.
In 2015, $350,000 of the roughly $410,000 that Moving Michigan Forward raisedcame from a third Snyder-related nonprofit, Celebrating the Power of Michigan, which is used to finance his inaugural events. Snyder releases a list of the names of inaugural donors, but does not say how much each donor gave.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Human Trafficking Of Foster Kids Is A Lesson In Age-Out Survival

As we wind down Child Abuse Propaganda Month, allow me to present something that the nation refuses to speak upon.
Sexual Abuse of Foster Kids.

Yes, children in foster care are drugged, raped, beaten, attempt suicide, commit suicide, everyday in foster care and the States will do nothing about it.

Then, when these kids age out the child welfare system, these experiences prepares to hopefully survive a life on the streets.

For your viewing pleasure, or for those who are having a hard time grappling over the concept that foster children experience sexual abuse and the States do nothing about it, allow me to water the idea down with pretty, colorful, moving pictures from our friends over at Legally Kidnapped.

Many victims of human trafficking aged out of foster care.

Just to be fair, the reason why no one will discuss the sexual abuse in foster care is due to privacy laws and the simple fact that, if this really made national headlines, no one would support a system which is too big to fail.

Justice Department Releases National Guide for Sexual Abuse Medical Forensic Examinations of Children

The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) today released the National Protocol for Sexual Abuse Medical Forensic Examinations – Pediatric (Pediatric SAFE Protocol).  The Pediatric SAFE Protocol is a guide for health care providers who conduct sexual abuse medical forensic examinations of prepubescent children, and other professionals and agencies/facilities involved in coordinating with health care providers to facilitate medical forensic care in cases of sexual abuse of juveniles.

The Pediatric SAFE Protocol recommendations are organized into two broad sections.  The first section focuses on guiding communities in laying a foundation of approaches and practices that support successful response during the exam process to disclosures or suspicions of sexual abuse in prepubescent children.  The second section focuses on the various components of the sexual abuse medical forensic exam process.

According to the Pediatric SAFE Protocol, the primary goals of a pediatric sexual abuse medical forensic examination are threefold: address the health care needs of prepubescent children who disclose sexual abuse or for whom sexual abuse is suspected; promote their healing; and gather forensic evidence for potential use within the criminal justice and/or child protection systems.
The protocol builds upon existing state, federal, tribal and national and international resources, as well as research related to community response to child sexual abuse and pediatric sexual abuse medical forensic examinations, and is intended to supplement, not supplant, existing protocols. 
The Pediatric SAFE Protocol was created to supplement the National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, Adults/Adolescents (SAFE Protocol). First released in 2004, it is a voluntary best practices guide for criminal justice and health care professionals responding to adult and adolescent sexual assault victims.  In 2013, the Attorney General released a second edition of the SAFE Protocol that reflected the latest scientific advancements as well as the changes in practice since 2004.  In August, 2013, OVW issued a companion document to the SAFE Protocol, which was focused on assisting correctional facilities to implement the SAFE Protocol.  Following the release of the second edition, OVW partnered with the International Association of Forensic Nurses to develop the Pediatric SAFE Protocol to address the unique challenges of sexual abuse medical forensic examinations of prepubescent children.

OVW, headed by Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson, provides leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to reduce violence against women through the implementation of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and subsequent legislation.  Created in 1995, OVW administers financial and technical assistance to communities across the country that are developing programs, policies and practices aimed at ending domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.  More information is available at  Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason for the Office of Justice Programs and Principal Deputy Director Hanson also authored a blog post today on the importance of the Pediatric SAFE Protocol.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Families and Childrens Justice: Judge Deborah Geraldine-Bledsoe Ford Interview

 Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Monday, April 25, 2016

What Happens To Kids When Parents Get Locked Up?

So much for the successes of PRWORA and ASFA.

In the fight for justice reform, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has published the following report on the impact of welfare reform and criminal justice on child poverty of the last 24 years.

It is not good.

What is not mentioned in this report is the rate of incarceration of parents who cannot afford child support.

When a parent cannot afford to pay child support, they go to jail, even though jail is not the same as prison, it is still incarceration.

What other thing this report does not mention is that, through the promotion of the privatization of prisons, many are stripped of their right to vote in most states, as they have been convicted as a felon.

So where do many children go when a parent is incarcerated?

Foster care and adoption.  Yes, that is correct.  Children of the incarcerated are placed in an economic environment of poverty, leaving many children no choice but to approach the child welfare system, voluntarily, of course, to be reported as child abuse and neglect, for "failure to provide for the necessary needs of the child".

Poverty is the crime of child abuse.

The other kids, if lucky, will live with the one parent, a relative or on the streets.

In some situations, parental rights are terminated.

Guess who pays for child poverty?  You do.
As the U.S. prison population surged during the past several decades, so too did the number of children and families experiencing the consequences of having a loved one incarcerated. 
From 1980 to 2000, the number of kids with a father in prison or jail rose by 500 percent. 
Now more than 5 million children have had a parent incarcerated at some point in their lives, including 503,000 in California, 477,000 in Texas and 312,000 in Florida.
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Michigan Senate Committee Might Discuss Medicaid Fraud In Child Welfare

Michigan Senator
Jim Marleau
Do my eyes deceive me?

It seems we have a brave soul in the Michigan Senate who is willing to throw on the public discussion table, the issue with audits and reporting violations in child welfare.

Slow, my beating heart.  I believe I am in love with Senator Jim Marleau.

The Gentleman has recently introduced legislation to allow, and I quote:


The Act is the Michigan Child Protection Act.

This is historic and this is going to be messy.  Here is why:

Child welfare administration and policy in Michigan sucks.

Even if there are found violations of law and policy does not necessarily mean that these questionable actions and inactions will be referred to the Attorney General, state or federal, for sanction, contractual disbarment, license revocation, prosecution or recovery.

The operations of a state child welfare program are so secretive that even if there are found, substantial material violations in under GAGAS and OMB Circular A-133 guidelines, there are no mechanisms to go after Medicaid fraud in child welfare for the State Medicaid Fraud Control Unit or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The reason is that child welfare is protected under the exclusions and exemptions of child welfare privacy law and policy.

Federal may financially penalize, but the state is left with its hands tied as the matter will only be addressed behind closed doors of the backrooms of administrative meetings and super special child welfare committees, not privy to the Open Meetings Act.

Then, there is that rather pesky factor of the Office of Children's Ombudsman never referring found, or even questionable violations of law and policy to the Attorney General for investigation, even though there was an official opinion stating the Office did have the authority.

For your viewing pleasure, and a bit of constructed history on the lack of addressing Medicaid fraud in child welfare, I present a couple of my art projects to inspire a spirited discussion in the Michigan Senate Committee of Families, Seniors and Human Services.

Notice how "children" are excluded from the original purview of the committee.

Just as a side note, this writ went no where because there was an error is the court rules for the Court of Appeals and I just wanted to put it on front street.

You cannot file ex-parte in the Michigan Court of Appeals, which is one of the most crucial components of the mandamus, to have the court issue a show cause or its alternative.

Even the Auditor General is limited in reporting and referring found violations in child welfare programs.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Michigan Medicaid Child Welfare Audit Neglects Foster Kids

I am going to just cut to the chase.
Michigan's Children's Special Health Care Services Audit 2016

The only reason Michigan Children's Special Health Care Services passed its audit with flying colors, meaning no material conditions were found, is because you cannot audit foster care.

Yes, that is correct.  Foster care is a privacy-protected state run program, for the best interests of the child, of course which means there is no ability to even properly conduct random sampling, let alone verify the legitimacy of services and billing.

Then, the audit reported that, as of June 2015, there are 4,005 delinquent accounts totalling $1,434,633 which should be referred to the Department of Treasury for collections.

For starters, if an individual, mostly parents, qualify for the this Medicaid funded program, more than likely, there is a strong possibility, the cannot afford to make the payments.

Remember, Children's Special Health Care Services provide services to children in poverty.

Poverty means they cannot afford traditional insurance.

Then, the audit neglects to state that this child welfare program also covers special health care for children in foster care, and everyone knows, you cannot audit foster care, particularly mental health services.

This would mean that the parents who have had their children placed under the auspices of the state, face the financial gauntlet of paying for billings of the foster care services or face termination of parental rights.

Then, my favorite question to beg is, "If the state collects the reimbursements of services for a child in foster care from the original parents, does this mean the state reimburses Medicaid?"

Quintessentially, this audit is fallacious crap.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Dying Food: A Michigan Charity Profit Model Of Child Poverty

Do not get me wrong.  Gleaners is a wonderful organization doing important work, but I am here to exam the model.

The model of which I speak is the trend of for-profit corporations partnering with non-profit counterparts for the purposes of tax write-offs and consumer loyalty.

Businesses in the food industry, including small farmers, can contribute their excess stock for a tax write off.  This is a very encouraging business model to increase productivity but what happens when there is abuse of the charity model?

Here you have the State of Michigan demonstrating it is, through its policies, that it is neglecting the economic well-being of children instead of focusing on why children are hungry.

What happened to the federally allocated funds to the state for purposes of schools providing free school lunch programs or were the educational cuts sloshed into the state's rainy day surplus to expand the business tax cuts to create more jobs for the industry of child poverty?

Instead of addressing the multitude of factors which lead to child poverty, the model only benefits businesses in the long run.

Business can intentionally overproduce, then donate their surplus and waste, food which does not have an extended shelf life, to write-off 100% of the costs.

Dying food is better than no food.

Where are these so-called power women when it comes to advocating the amelioration of child poverty and making sure others do not profit from the perpetuation of a child's impoverished condition?

Child poverty is a multi-billion dollar industry, too big to fail.

Gleaners' Women's Power Breakfast raising money for hungry children

The event was downtown at Eastern Market. Attendees heard from a kindergarten teacher in Detroit whose students are impacted by Gleaners backpack program, and a grandmother who helped her granddaughter's school get food support from Gleaners.

Gleaners currently serves more than 130 schools in the metro area, but another 200 are on the waiting list. Gerry Brisson with Gleaners says very generous gifts of $15,000 and $20,000 were given at the breakfast to help those schools on the waiting list, as well as many other smaller donations.

"I am sure we're going to exceed our million meal goal today because of the generosity and true outpouring of faith by this group of people," he says.

For more information on Gleaners' school programs, or to make a donation, visit

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Conyers Praises $188 Million Hardest Hit Fund Allocation for Michigan Homeowners

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Treasury Department announced today that it will allocate an additional $188 million in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds to the Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) program in the second phase of funding.  The additional funding into the HHF program, which is the result of recent bipartisan cooperation in Congress, will assist homeowners who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads and help stabilize impoverished neighborhoods.

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
After the funding was approved by Congress, Rep. John Conyers sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, advocating on behalf of Michigan as the Obama administration designed a process for distributing the funds between states. He urged the Administration to take into consideration Michigan’s “disproportionate economic challenges resulting from the Great Recession,” including continued high unemployment and underemployment, and the ongoing impact on Michigan families of the drop of housing prices caused by the economic collapse.  Rep. Conyers also highlighted the “expeditious manner that Hardest Hit Fund resources have been disbursed in our state,” as the funds enabled Michigan to conduct more blight removal than any other state, in addition to providing important assistance with those at risk of losing their homes due to property tax foreclosure.

After the second phase of funding was announced, Rep. Conyers made the following statement:
“The people of Michigan and I are deeply grateful for the work of the Treasury Department and our Michigan Congressional delegation for this significant infusion of funding to the Hardest Hit Fund and to Step Forward Michigan.  As the aftermath of the Great Recession continues to cause severe hardship for many Michigan families, I am thankful that Secretary Lew and the Obama Administration shared my perspective that the additional funds should provide special assistance for our state. Due to this fair formula devised by the Department of the Treasury, the first phase of new funding provided Michigan with one of the largest portions of funds, per capita, of any state receiving assistance. In the second phase, which was announced today, Michigan will receive the largest allocation of any state. I look forward to witnessing the impact of this funding as our communities continue to heal and rebuild.”

The process announced by the Department of Treasury allocated $1 billion using a formula based on state population and the state’s use of their HHF allocation to date. In the second phase that was announced today, Treasury focused additional resources on those states “with significant ongoing foreclosure prevention and neighborhood stabilization needs, a proven track record in utilizing funds, and successful program models to address those needs,” mirroring the criteria Rep. Conyers urged Treasury to consider in his February 2016 letter.

The Hardest Hit Fund was created in 2010 to provide $7.6 billion in targeted aid to 18 states and the District of Columbia, deemed hardest hit by the economic and housing market downturn.  The program has funded numerous initiatives in Michigan that have made significant progress for the people of Michigan. As of January 17, Michigan’s Blight Elimination Program had successfully demolished 8,022 blighted properties, the most of any state in the country. And aside from California (which has a population four times greater than that of Michigan), Michigan has used the Hardest Hit Funds to assist the greatest number of homeowners of any state, surpassing 30,000 in January 2015. 
Visit the Treasury Department’s website for more information on how the Hardest Hit Fund is helping communities and homeowners across the country.

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Conyers: Charges in Flint Water Crisis are not the Final Resolution to Long-Standing Inequities

WASHINGTON – Today, Representative John Conyers, Jr. released the following statement in response to the charges filed against three government officials (two state officials and a city employee) in Michigan in connection with the Flint Water Crisis.

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“Today’s news demonstrates the regrettable consequences of encouraging state and local workers to put the health and safety of Michiganders behind cutting costs, pleasing industry, and fighting federal authorities.  The decision to charge low-level employees is one that may give the people of Flint some small sense of reckoning—but under no circumstances should these charges or this trial be seen as bringing either closure or justice to the people of Flint.”
“Charging these individuals and even convicting these individuals may be the legally correct course, but it does not one single thing to address the fundamental inequality that communities like Flint and Detroit have to face every single day—and will do so regardless of the outcome of this case.  Tomorrow, they will still live in toxic homes, send their children to toxic schools, and be forced to plan for a future with a dwindling safety net and fewer ladders of opportunity.”

“The simple truth is that we are seeing action on Flint because there is a trail of evidence that leads to the conservative ideology currently in power. For those who have pushed a deregulatory, anti-environment agenda, it appears that their outrage and compassion begins and ends with their own legal culpability—and their support vanishes once the blame is fixed on someone else. Were that not true, we would see the governor taking a substantial part of that billion-dollar surplus and rebuilding Flint’s infrastructure.  Were that not true, we would see the state investing in Detroit’s literally toxic public schools in the way that they invest in the schools where they send their children.  Were that not true, we would see the Attorney General’s office stop wasting resources fighting to permit mercury pollution in Michigan.

“While I want to see people held accountable, I am worried that people are being charged today so that tomorrow the problem can be swept under the rug and the conservatives running Lansing can again focus on their most important issues: eliminating worker and environmental protections, cutting public support services, and usurping the political power of urban and low-income communities.  We cannot afford any more of the governance that has brought places like Flint and Detroit to their knees, and charging low-level civil servants will not prevent that.”

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Voter Fraud Has Gone High Tech In Michigan

Please, someone, anyone, correct me if I am wrong on this.
Maura Corrigan could use this to vote.

Michigan Representative Peter Lucido has introduced a Bill to streamline driver license and voter registration by making it electronic.  Great.

The matter has been referred to the House Elections Committee.  Fabulous.

Now, someone, anyone, tell me there are not inherent issues when addressing voting rights?

Look at it like this.  I can obtain official State of Michigan identification in the form of a driver's license which has me, for legal purposes, as a resident of a municipality, yet I can, in the same breath, register to vote in a different city?

Ok, I know some have listed a different address as permanent residences on driver's license in order to secure cheaper auto insurance as Detroit and its enclaves are still under pervasive redlining schemes of the auto insurance industries, stemming back before the civil rights era.

When this was done this, voting behavior drastically changed as an individual was obliged, neigh, restricted, to vote in the jurisdiction of record with the State of Michigan in accordance to the address on the state identification of choice, the driver's license.

This also led to population shifts in the calculations of redistricting.

What we have here, now, is a Bill which would allow an individual to list a legal residence for the purposes of state identification via the driver's license while, contemporaneously, granting an individual to register with the state, an absolutely distinct, secondary address for purposes of voting.

Of course, I shall be gracious and provide for the benefit of debate that college students were meant to be included in this discussion as many may live on campus for a few semesters a year yet maintain a permanent legal address at the home of their family, but I am going to say that this represents a relatively small population in relation to the rest of the state and may be resolved in other fashions.

And just to season up the debate, I am going to toss in a dash of partisan politics by speculating that this dual registration initiative is a foreboding tale of a preemptive strike to preserve the possible the demise Republican leadership for the next opportunity of electronic gerrymandering, oops, I mean, redistricting.

If by chance Democrats come into power for the 2022, as forecasted by many, the Republican plan of obviation must already be in the file cabinet, ready to go, and here it is:  electronic gerrymandering.

Dare I not utter the term of voter fraud, which is what I believe this Bill to be.

All the Michigan Secretary of State has to do is coordinate intra agency and with the Department of Health and Human Services, electronically, inclusive of a layer of encryption technology, state identification, voter registration, or EBT card.  It can be as simple a cute little box on the state issued identification, whether it be a driver's license, a BRIDGE card, or just a regular ID, the same as the organ donor box.

But then again, information technology and departmental services do not go together well in Michigan.

House Bill 5539: Create electronic drivers license
Introduced by Rep. Peter Lucido (R) on April 12, 2016, to require the Secretary of State to create an electronic drivers license option for smart phones and other electronic devices.
House Bill 5540: Allow different drivers license and voter registration addresses
Introduced by Rep. Peter Lucido (R) on April 12, 2016, to allow a person to have a different address on their drivers license than the one at which they are registered to vote.
House Bill 5541: Allow different drivers license and voter registration addresses
Introduced by Rep. Peter Lucido (R) on April 12, 2016, to allow a person to have a different address on their drivers license than the one at which they are registered to vote.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Monday, April 18, 2016

Too Small To Fail Is Too Big To Fail

What Senator Bernie Sanders speaks upon is what the child welfare industry does not want to hear.

In the U.S., along with the countries which have imported Michigan's child protection model, poverty is considered the crime of abuse and neglect for the failure to provide for the necessary needs of the child.

Child poverty has been monetized through polices of privatization, of which there are neither civil rights nor any federal, state or local oversight exists.

Poverty is a multi-billion dollar industry.

This is what is called social impact bonds, the oldest form of survival.

This is why Too Small To Fail is Too Big To Fail.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (April 13, 2016) – According to a just-released update of the Human Needs Index (HNI), the level of American need rose in 2015 by 15 percent and reversed the trend in improvements seen from 2012 until 2014. The HNI, created by The Salvation Army in partnership with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, is a multidimensional measure of human needs based on objective monthly service data compiled by the national nonprofit.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Conyers: Time to rein in Michigan’s emergency managers

By John Conyers, Jr.

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
A task force appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder confirmed last month what we had suspected all along — the water crisis in Flint was caused by emergency management. It’s time Michigan reins in its out-of-control emergency manager law. The questions now are: how our state got to this point, and what the lessons for reform are going forward.

When Snyder had just been elected governor and the Republicans took control of the Michigan Legislature in 2011, one of their first orders of business was to radically expand the Michigan financial distress law. The new statute granted EMs unprecedented powers to take over all aspects of local government — not just finances — and unilaterally reject collective bargaining agreements. Under Snyder, the frequency of EM appointments greatly increased due to the Great Recession and state-imposed cutbacks in local revenue sharing.

The result has not only led to public health disasters, such as Flint and the Detroit Public Schools, but numerous instances of conflicts of interest and abuse. This includes documented mismanagement by EMs in Pontiac (potential loss of $1.4 million in federal grant money), Highland Park (terminated for making $200,000 in unauthorized payments to himself), and Benton Harbor (exceeded budget and failed to make required pension contributions).

Worse still is the law’s encroachment on our constitutional rights, most notably by disproportionately targeting African-American voters. A recent academic study found that while 73 percent of black residents were subject to emergency management over the last decade, only 21 percent of whites were covered over the same period.

The EM law has also been found to contravene constitutional protections for collective bargaining agreements. Professor Kenneth Klee, a pre-eminent bankruptcy expert, testified at a 2011 forum I held that “no prior legislature has had the audacity to legislate the unilateral termination, rejection, or modification of a collective bargaining agreement” and that the law “is violative of (the U.S. Constitution’s) Contracts Clause.”

I, along with U.S. Reps. Brenda Lawrence and Dan Kildee, recently introduced legislation responding to the most problematic features of the EM law. We had little choice given that Snyder and Republicans in Lansing had previously overruled a voter referendum repealing the statute.
The “Emergency Financial Manager Reform Act” would authorize the U.S. Attorney General to withhold a small portion of law enforcement funds from the state if the EM fails to adequately protect against discrimination in voting, harm to public health, conflicts of interest and mismanagement, or unilaterally denying collective bargaining rights. Adoption of these incentives would allow the state the ability to assist financially troubled local governments without jeopardizing our citizens’ safety or constitutional rights.

We cannot retroactively undo the damage already done in Flint or Detroit’s schools, but we can help make sure the unaccountable emergency managers are not permitted to inflict further harm on our citizens.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers for the Hearing on H.R. 4924, the “Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2016"

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
H.R. 4924, the “Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2016,” is the latest attempt to erode the constitutional right to an abortion guaranteed by Roe v. Wade more than 40 years ago.

Among other things, the bill would make it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion if she or he knows that the procedure is being done because of the race or sex of the fetus or the race of one of the parents, regardless of viability.

As I noted in the 112th Congress, when we last considered this bill, the bill is deeply flawed for a number of reasons.

To begin with, the bill is patently unconstitutional because it bans certain pre-viability abortions.
Roe is clear that a woman has an absolute constitutional right to have an abortion prior to fetal viability.

This legislation is simply yet another deliberate attempt by anti-choice activists to undermine and ultimately overturn Roe.

In addition, this measure has nothing to do with civil rights.

For instance, the bill’s proponents offer no evidence that women are choosing race-selective abortions.

Indeed, these proponents do not even bother to make the claim that African-American women, for example, choose to abort their fetuses because the fetus or one of the parents is African-American.
They do not make this argument because it is absurd on its face.  Yet, that is exactly the type of conduct that the bill supposedly prohibits.

The bill’s proponents try to sidestep this obvious flaw by arguing instead that the bill is needed because abortions are disproportionately common in communities of color.

But to the extent abortions are performed disproportionately in minority communities, the disparity points to broader socioeconomic inequalities that banning abortion will not solve.

The African-American and Hispanic communities are underserved when it comes to prenatal, maternal, and child health care services.

This lack of access to reproductive health care results in African-American women being 3 to 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.

And, barriers to effective contraceptives and effective sex education, among other things, leads to the unintended pregnancy rate for African-American women being 67% versus 40% for white women.
Minority communities lack access to adequate health care, yet rather than addressing these disparities, the bill only reinforces them through its criminal penalties, which will create a chilling effect on doctors serving these communities.

Finally, I reject in the strongest possible terms the slander that Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are inherently racist.

Planned Parenthood is a leading provider of high-quality health care for women, serving 2.7 million Americans a year.

It provides many critical health services, such as annual wellness exams, cancer screenings, contraception, and the study of sexually transmitted diseases.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. strongly supported the work of Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood’s founder, and emphasized the importance of access to family planning resources for African-Americans.

On accepting the Margaret Sanger Award from Planned Parenthood in 1966, Dr. King stated:
There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts. She, like we, saw the horrifying conditions of ghetto life.  Like we, she knew that all of society is poisoned by cancerous slums. Like we, she was a direct actionist—a nonviolent resister. . . .[African-Americans] have no mere academic nor ordinary interest in family planning. They have a special and urgent concern.

I concur with Dr. King and reject the sponsors’ preposterous and offensive argument that legalized abortion and its providers are racist.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

 We Need to Build a Voting-Rights Movement

The time has come to translate widespread outrage about voter suppression into momentum for an actionable voting-rights agenda.

By John Conyers, Jr. and Barbara Arnwine

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
The spring of 1966 was a harrowing yet hopeful period in America’s electoral history. In March of that year, the Voting Rights Act survived a Supreme Court challenge from the attorney general of South Carolina. Civil-rights campaigners could finally breathe at least a tentative sigh of relief as public officials across the country began initial preparations for the first federal election following passage of the landmark law for which King and countless others had toiled for years.

Fast-forward 50 years, and the scene is just as harrowing, but—tragically—far less hopeful. Voter-suppression tactics in 2016 are spreading like a virus in our body politic. In the first presidential primaries since the Supreme Court gutted Section 5 of the VRA and opened the floodgates for passage of voter-suppression laws in states, the impacts are already evident. Whereas voting rights were ascendant in 1966, voter-suppression tactics are spreading in 2016. Whereas Congress was moving in the right direction in 1966, in 2016, it’s often conspicuously absent.

The challenge this year—the 50th anniversary of the implementation of the VRA—isn’t just

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©
protecting free and open access to the ballot; it is also rekindling the fire that forced federal action on voting rights. This means reigniting a national movement for restoration of the Voting Rights Act, vigorous federal enforcement of electoral rights, and a reversal of anti-democratic state voter-suppression laws. With our country at a political turning point, time is of the essence.

As The Nation’s Ari Berman and others have methodically reported, the far-right’s well orchestrated voter suppression strategy—focusing on voter ID laws, purging of voter rolls, polling place reduction, and rolling back early voting requirements—has actually resulted in a rekindling of Americans’ 1960s-style resolve in defense of the right to vote. Look at Aracely Calderon, a naturalized citizen from Guatemala, who stood at the back of a 700-person, four-block line and waited five hours to vote in the Arizona primary. Or Dennis Hatten, an African-American Marine veteran, who endured seemingly endless bureaucratic hurdles to get a Wisconsin photo ID after being told his other forms of identification—including a veteran’s ID—were insufficient under that state’s new draconian voter-ID law. There is no shortage of courage and grit in the face of these abuses.

However, we need more than individual resolve to overcome the systemic injustice of voter suppression. We need a broad-based movement for legislative change. Many voter-ID laws—which 36 states have now enacted in varying forms—will have their first test in the 2016 general election. An analysis by Nate Silver for The New York Times shows that these laws can decrease turnout by between between 0.8 and 2.4 percent—a potentially decisive amount in highly competitive elections. Other academic research supports anecdotal findings that voter-ID laws have disproportionate impacts on minorities and immigrants, expanding the participation gap between white and nonwhite members of the electorate.

The time has come to translate widespread outrage about voter suppression into momentum for an actionable voting-rights agenda. The first step is building awareness of the legislative fixes that are available right now.

In the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Shelby ruling—which paved the way for widespread state voter suppression by eliminating the requirement that jurisdictions with histories of discrimination obtain Department of Justice preclearance for any changes to voting laws—there was hope that Congress would act to mitigate the damage. Then-House majority leader Eric Cantor traveled to Selma with Representative John Lewis’s civil-rights pilgrimage and declared his intention to find a bipartisan solution. Unfortunately, in the wake of Cantor’s departure, the Republican Congress has balked at even discussing the issue. Both the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendments Act, HR 885, and the Voting Rights Advancement Act, HR 2867, are viable options for Congress to turn the tide against state-based voter suppression tactics. While not a panacea, these proposed post-Shelby VRA fixes would help end voter-access crises of the kind already on display in Arizona, North Carolina, and elsewhere by restoring the preclearence requirement in up to 13 states.
Voter protection is just the start of a legislative agenda for election integrity–which must also address issues like modernization of voting machines, absentee balloting, willful misinformation, felon disenfranchisement, partisan election administration, untrained election staff, and many others. On April 21, we’ll be participating in a special briefing on Capitol Hill—including the Rev. William Barber, Ari Berman, and others—to draw attention to the crisis of election integrity and to identify policy options for restoring our democratic institutions. This is the first of a series of efforts to bring the rising passion for voter protection to the halls of Congress.

The cause of voter protection is unique in that it can unite people from across the disparate areas of the progressive movement. Whether someone cares most about civil rights, campaign finance, climate change, reproductive rights, or global peace—fair and transparent elections are an absolute requirement for success. Election protection demands a fusion movement.

We’ve seen what happens when people are mobilized and organized in strategic action to defend the right to vote. Though African Americans were nearly absent from voter rolls in the deep south in the early 1960s, by late 1966, just four of the traditional 13 Southern states had African-American voter-registration levels under 50 percent. By 1968, even Mississippi had a 59 percent registration rate among African Americans. That progress was directly attributable to an indefatigable people’s movement that achieved tangible legislative change.

This year, voting-rights advocates are rightfully rushing to address the short-term barriers to the ballot box—getting people the required IDs, ensuring the presence of adequate polling sites, and protecting people from being purged from voter rolls. This is essential work. But we must also seize this moment and build broad momentum for a long-term election integrity agenda that can take hold in municipal buildings, in statehouses, and on Capitol Hill. 

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©