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Archive for May, 2014|Monthly archive page

TURNING PREDATORS INTO PATRIOTS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 30, 2014 at 12:20 am

A new report from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity concludes that nearly half of the nation’s recent college graduates hold jobs that don’t require a degree.

In short, many of the jobs they have aren’t worth the price of their diploma.

From that report:

Increasing numbers of recent college graduates are ending up in relatively low-skilled jobs that, historically, have gone to those with lower levels of educational attainment. This study examines this phenomenon in some detail, concluding:

  • About 48 percent of employed U.S. college graduates are in jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests requires less than a four-year college education. Eleven percent of employed college graduates are in occupations requiring more than a high-school diploma but less than a bachelor’s, and 37 percent are in occupations requiring no more than a high-school diploma;
  • The proportion of overeducated workers in occupations appears to have grown substantially; in 1970, fewer than one percent of taxi drivers and two percent of firefighters had college degrees, while now more than 15 percent do in both jobs;
  • About five million college graduates are in jobs the BLS says require less than a high-school education.

Click here: Underemployment of College Graduates

And here’s something else to think about: Job recruiters spend exactly six seconds examining your resume.

According to The Ladders’ research, recruiters spend an average of “six seconds before they make the initial ‘fit or not fit’ decision” to interview you.

Not hire you–just meet you.  You’ll still have plenty of chances to get shot down during or after the interview.

Click here: What Recruiters Look At During The 6 Seconds They Spend On Your Resume

The most important truth to be learned from these reports: Most employers claim to respect a college degree, and use the lack of one as yet another excuse for refusing to hire.

Yet after someone has invested years of rigorous intellectual effort and gone into thousands of dollars’ worth of debt to attain that degree, the average employer assumes–if not says:

“Why should we hire you?  You’re just a wet-behind-the-ears snotnose.  You don’t have any experience in this field.  Find another company that’s willing to take you on, and if they’re willing to, come back to us in five years and we’ll talk again.”

I once attended a jobs fair that featured a table for a hospital that was supposedly hiring nurses. A job-seeking woman told me that she had recently graduated from nursing school.  But the hospital was hiring only those with five or more years of nursing experience.

Where–and how–are job-seekers supposed to get that experience if employers refuse to hire?

The fact that the average resume gets a total of six seconds makes a statement employers would prefer to ignore.  Essentially, the employer is saying:

  1. “Your four or five years’ of hard study in a specialized field; and
  2. Your going into thousands of dollars’ worth of debt

is worth exactly six seconds of my exalted time.”

There is no better definition of intolerable arrogance–and no better explanation as to why so many millions of willing-to-work Americans can’t find willing-to-hire employers.

But there is no reason for American job-seekers to continue to tolerate such arrogance–and the human and economic wreckage it leaves in its wake.

Reform starts with facing the truth–however painful–for what it is.  And with seeing one’s enemies–however powerful–for what they are.

For thousands of years, otherwise highly intelligent men and women believed that kings ruled by divine right.  That kings held absolute power, levied extortionate taxes and sent countless millions of men off to war–all because God wanted it that way.

That lunacy was dealt a deadly blow in 1776 when American Revolutionaries threw off the despotic rule of King George III of England.

But today, millions of Americans remain imprisoned by an equally outrageous and dangerous theory: The Theory of the Divine Right of Employers.

Summing up this employer-as-God attitude, Calvin Coolidge still speaks for the overwhelming majority of employers and their paid shills in government: “The man who builds a factory builds a temple, and the man who works there worships there.”

America can no longer afford such a dangerous fallacy as the Theory of the Divine Right of Employers.

The solution lies in remembering that the powerful never voluntarily surrender their privileges.

Americans did not win their freedom from Great Britain–-and its enslaving doctrine of “the divine right of kings”-–by begging for their rights.

And Americans will not win their freedom from their corporate masters–-and the equally enslaving doctrine of “the divine right of employers”-–by begging for the right to work and support themselves and their families.

And they will most certainly never win such freedom by supporting right-wing political candidates whose first and only allegiance is to the corporate interests who bankroll their campaigns.

Corporations can–and do–spend millions of dollars on TV ads, selling lies–lies such as the “skills gap,” and how if the wealthy are forced to pay their fair share of taxes, jobs will inevitably disappear.

But Americans can choose to reject those lies–and demand that employers behave like patriots instead of predators.

WHAT A COLLEGE DEGREE IS REALLY WORTH

In Business, Self-Help, Social commentary on May 29, 2014 at 12:15 am

June is fast approaching–and, with it, an annual rite of passage for tens of thousands of college students.

It’s graduation time again.

And look at what the average college graduate has to look forward to: On average, a debt loan of more than $29,400.

Click here: Average student loan debt: $29,400 – Dec. 4, 2013

But wait!  There’s something even more demoralizing awaiting these “heirs of tomorrow.”

The discovery that for all the “we hire only the brightest” rhetoric by employers, having a college degree actually means little to most CEOs.

A new report from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity concludes that nearly half of the nation’s recent college graduates hold jobs that don’t require a degree.

In short, many of the jobs they have aren’t worth the price of their diploma.

From that report:

Increasing numbers of recent college graduates are ending up in relatively low-skilled jobs that, historically, have gone to those with lower levels of educational attainment. This study examines this phenomenon in some detail, concluding:

  • About 48 percent of employed U.S. college graduates are in jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests requires less than a four-year college education. Eleven percent of employed college graduates are in occupations requiring more than a high-school diploma but less than a bachelor’s, and 37 percent are in occupations requiring no more than a high-school diploma;
  • The proportion of overeducated workers in occupations appears to have grown substantially; in 1970, fewer than one percent of taxi drivers and two percent of firefighters had college degrees, while now more than 15 percent do in both jobs;
  • About five million college graduates are in jobs the BLS says require less than a high-school education;

Click here: Underemployment of College Graduates

But the future isn’t completely bleak–at least not for men willing to transform themselves into glorified boy-toys for decadent rich females.

Consider this recent headline in AOL Jobs:

Women are Using ‘Rent-A-Gent’ To Hire Men To do Chores And Go Out On Dates

The next great job for grads?

From the ad/article:

A service called Rent-A-Gent lets women choose a male companion from a list of “smart and handsome men.”

For $200 bucks an hour, men can serve as handymen, dates, or personal chefs.   The only rule? The relationship can’t get physical on the clock.

So if you want to get physical off-the-clock, that will be your risk–not the company’s

Click here: Women Are Using ‘Rent-A-Gent’ To Hire Men To Do Chores And Go On Dates

The ad claims “there are tons of guys on the site, divided into categories based on their profession.”

Among the categories listed on the Rent-A-Gent website:

Entertainers
Bartenders
Chefs
Comedians
Musicians
Strippers

Daters
Actors
Dating coaches
Philosophers
Pro athletes
Poets
Storytellers

Teachers
Dancers
Dog trainers
Language teachers
Martial artists
Personal trainers

Helpers
Bodyguards
Assistants
Butlers
Drivers
Misters Fix It
Personal shoppers

Click here: Rent gentlemen for events, bachelorette parties, sexy bartenders, handsome chefs, teachers, male strippers and dan

But a glance at their accompanying photos offers the real appeal of this site.

Consider the profile of “Eric, The Actor”:

With his shirt unbuttoned down to his chest in the classic Fabio style, he claims:

I’m an award winning NYC actor who has traveled the World for movies and for pleasure. 

I recently founded my own production company.  I have a vision of not only entertaining people but also of getting people to think and hopefully help foster social change. 

I also love the outdoors and sustainable culture.  I am also active in social causes.

And he’s also available–for $200 an hour.

So if you’re a college graduate who can’t convince an employer within your chosen profession–such as pharmacy of engineering–to hire you, there’s always Rent-A-Gent.

Or some similar agency catering to the whims of the American plutocracy, for whom $200 an hour means what buying a Snicker’s candy bar means for the fast-disappearing middle class.

It should be enough to make you hesitate before signing up for a loan to cover the average $57,000 cost of a public college education.

Or an even larger loan to cover the $132,000 cost of a private college education.

But if you’re still thinking that “employers really respect that degree,” consider this: Job recruiters spend exactly six seconds examining your resume.

According to The Ladders research, recruiters spend an average of “six seconds before they make the initial ‘fit or not fit’ decision” to interview you.

Not hire you–just meet you.  You’ll still have plenty ofchances to get shot down during or after the interview.

Click here: What Recruiters Look At During The 6 Seconds They Spend On Your Resume

According to the study, when scanning a resume, recruiters looked at the following items:

  • Your name
  • Current title and company
  • Current position start and end dates
  • Previous title and company
  • Previous position start and end dates
  • Education

American employers should be legally compelled to hire as responsibly as college students are expected to pursue an education.

Until this happens, those young men and women thinking of committing a big chunk of their time and going into massive debt to pursue a college degree should think twice before doing so.

WHAT AMERICA OWES THE NRA: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 28, 2014 at 12:11 am

In peace, sons bury fathers, but in war fathers bury sons.
–Herodotus

Among the major accomplishments of the National Rifle Association:

  • The NRA has steadfastly defended the right to own Teflon-coated “cop killer” bullets,” whose only purpose is to penetrate bullet-resistant vests worn by law enforcement officers.

  • The NRA and its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, is responsible for the “stand-your-ground” ordinances now in effect in more than half the states. These allow for the use of deadly force in self-defense, without any obligation to attempt to retreat first.
  • In 2012, the NRA rushed to the defense of accused murderer George Zimmerman, the self-appointed “community watchman” who  ignored police orders to stop following 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and ended up shooting him.
  • Police did not initially charge Zimmerman because of Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law, which the NRA had rammed through the legislature.

George Zimmerman

  • On February 26, 2012, Zimmerman shot unarmed Trayvon Martin, who was wearing a “hoodie.”  In March, the NRA issued its own version of a “hoodie”–the Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt, designed to hide firearms.  Selling on the NRA’s website for $60 to $65, it is advertised thusly:
  • “Inside the sweatshirt you’ll find left and right concealment pockets.  The included Velcro®-backed holster and double mag pouch can be repositioned inside the pockets for optimum draw.  Ideal for carrying your favorite compact to mid-size pistol, the NRA Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt gives you an extra tactical edge, because its unstructured, casual design appears incapable of concealing a heavy firearm – but it does so with ease!”     http://www.nrastore.com/nrastore/ProductDetail.aspx?c=11&p=CO+635&ct=e

  • Anyone—including convicted criminals—can buy these “hide-a-gun” sweatshirts, putting both the public and law enforcers at deadly risk.
  • The NRA often claims that law-abiding citizens defend themselves with guns millions of times every year. But the FBI has determined that, of the approximately 11,000 gun homicides every year, fewer than 300 are justifiable self-defense killings.
  • The NRA supports loopholes that allow criminals to buy guns without background checks, or allow terrorists to buy all the AK-47s they desire.
  • The NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, tried to defeat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.  Yet the President has meekly signed legislation allowing guns to be brought into national parks and onto Amtrak trains.  Since becoming Chief Executive, he has made no effort to curb gun violence.

  • High-capacity magazines were prohibited under the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  It expired in 2004. The NRA–aided by the Bush administration and Republicans generally–easily overcame efforts to renew the ban.
  • Political scientist Robert Spitzer, author of the book The Politics of Gun Control, notes that since the passage of the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the assault weapons ban in 1994, state and national laws have been drifting toward more open gun access:
  • “In 1988, there were about 18 states that had state laws that made it pretty easy for civilians to carry concealed hand guns around in society. By 2011, that number is up to 39 or 40 states having liberalized laws, depending on how you count it, and the NRA has worked very diligently at the state level to win political victories there, and they’ve really been quite successful.”
  • On January 8, 2011, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head while meeting with constituents outside a Tucson, Arizona,  grocery store.  Also killed was Arizona’s chief U.S. District judge, John Roll, who had just stopped by to see his friend Giffords after celebrating Mass.  The total number of victims: six dead, 13 wounded.  Severely brain-damaged, Giffords was forced to resign her Congressional seat.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after being shot

  • “The NRA’s response to the Tucson shootings has been to say as little as possible and to keep its head down,” said Spitzer.  “And their approach even more has been to say as little as possible and to simply issue a statement of condolence to the families of those who were injured or killed and to wait for the political storm to pass over and then to pick up politics as usual.”
  • In the spring of 2012, the House Oversight Committee prepared to vote on whether to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for allegedly refusing to provide documents related to “Fast and Furious.”  This was an undercover operation launched by the Bush administration to track firearms being sold to Mexican drug cartels.
  • The NRA notified Congressional members that how they voted would reflect how the NRA rated them in “candidate evaluations” for the November elections.  This amounted to blatant extortion, since the NRA has long accused Holder of having an “anti-gun” agenda.

Summing up the current state of gun politics in America, the April 21, 2012 edition of The Economist noted:

“The debate about guns is no longer over whether assault rifles ought to be banned, but over whether guns should be allowed in bars, churches and colleges.”

That is precisely the aim of the NRA–an America where anyplace, anytime, can be turned into the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral – October 26, 1881

And that is precisely what the United States is fast becoming.

Except, so far, the vast majority of victims have not been armed gunfighters but unarmed innocents.  And it’s been the “gun rights” types whom the NRA supports who have done the killing.

WHAT AMERICA OWES THE NRA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 27, 2014 at 12:02 am

On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

But within less than a month, American warplanes began carpet-bombing Afghanistan, whose rogue Islamic “government” refused to surrender Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks.

By December, the power of the Taliban was broken–and bin Laden was driven into hiding in Pakistan.

For more than ten years, the United States–through its global military and espionage networks–has relentlessly hunted down most of those responsible for that September carnage.

On May 1, 2011, U.S. Navy SEALS invaded bin Laden’s fortified mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan–and shot him dead.

U.S. Navy SEALs

Now, consider these statistics of death, supplied by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

  • One in three people in the U.S. knows someone who has been shot.
  • On average, 32 Americans are murdered with guns every day and 140 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room.
  • Every day on average, 51 people kill themselves with a firearm.
  • Another 45 people are shot or killed in an accident with a gun.
  • U.S. firearm homicide rates are 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population.
  • A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used to kill or injure in a domestic homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense.
  • More than one in five U.S. teenagers (ages 14 to 17) report having witnessed a shooting.
  • An average of eight children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day.
  • American children die by guns 11 times as often as children in other high-income countries.
  • Youth (ages 0 to 19) in the most rural U.S. counties are as likely to die from a gunshot as those living in the most urban counties.
  • Rural children die of more gun suicides and unintentional shooting deaths.
  • Urban children die more often of gun homicides.
  • Firearm homicide is the second-leading cause of death (after motor vehicle crashes) for young people ages 1-19 in the U.S.
  • In 2007, more pre-school-aged children (85) were killed by guns than police officers were killed in the line of duty.
  • Medical treatment, criminal justice proceedings, new security precautions, and reductions in quality of life are estimated to cost U.S. citizens $100 billion annually.
  • The lifetime medical cost for all gun violence victims in the United States is estimated at $2.3 billion, with almost half the costs borne by taxpayers.

In short, in one year on average:

  • More than 100,000 Americans are shot in murders, assault, suicides, suicide attempts, accidents or by police intervention.
  • 31,537 people die from gun violence.
  • 18,783 people kill themselves.
  • 584 people are killed accidentally.
  • 334 are killed by police intervention.
  • 252 die but intent is not known.
  • 71,386 people survive gun injuries.

(These statistics are based on death certificates and estimates from emergency room admissions.)

And who, more than anyone (including the actual killers themselves) has made all this carnage possible?

The National Rifle Association (NRA), of course.

But unlike the leadership of Al Qaeda, that of the NRA is not simply known, but celebrated.

Its director, Wayne LaPierre, is courted as a rock star by both Democrats and Republicans seeking NRA political endorsements–and campaign contributions.

Wayne LaPierre

He frequently appears as an honored guest at testimonial dinners and political conventions.

The largest of the 13 national pro-gun groups, the NRA has nearly 4 million members, who focus most of their time lobbying Congress for unlimited “gun rights.”

The NRA claims that its mission is to “protect” the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

NRA members conveniently ignore the first half of that sentence: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State….”

For the NRA, the Second Amendment is the Constitution, and the rest of the document is a mere appendage.

At the time Congress ratified the Constitution in 1788, the United States was not a world power.

A mere 26 years later, the British seized and burned Washington, D.C., after repeatedly defeating American armies.  On the frontier, settlers had to defend themselves against hostile Indians and marauding bandits.

Only after World War II did the country maintain a powerful standing army during peacetime.

But World War II ended 69 years ago, and today the United States is a far different country than it was in 1788:

  • It boasts a nuclear arsenal that can turn any country into thermonuclear ash–anytime an American President decides to do so.
  • It boasts an Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps that can target any enemy, anywhere in the world.
  • Its Special Forces–Green Berets, Delta Force and Navy SEALS–are rightly feared by international terrorists.
  • American Intelligence has have come a long way since 9/11. The FBI’s top priority is to prevent another such terrorist attack, not simply investigate it afterward.
  • And waging war on criminals generally are about 836,787 full-time sworn local/state/Federal law enforcement officers.
  • If a criminal flees or conducts business across state lines, powerful Federal law enforcement agencies–such as the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration–can put him out of business.

But apparently the NRA hasn’t gotten the word.

CURBING THE ASSASSINS’ LOBBY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 26, 2014 at 12:01 am

The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one – no matter where he lives or what he does – can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.

–Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

Senator Robert F. Kennedy announcing the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What should the surviving victims of the Santa Barbara rampage do to seek redress?

And how can the relatives and friends of those who didn’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

Three things:

First, don’t count on politicians to support a ban on assault weapons.

Politicians–with rare exceptions–have only two goals:

  1. Get elected to office, and
  2. Stay in office.

And too many of them fear the economic and voting clout of the National Rifle Association to risk its wrath.

Second, don’t expect the mental health profession to prevent such future tragedies.

There is simply no definitive way to predict who is likely to commit mass murder.

And even if such a method were developed, it would likely be ruled unconstitutional.  A person can’t be jailed or hospitalized for fear of what he might do.

Third, those who survived the Santa Barbara rampage–and the relatives and friends of those who didn’t–should file wrongful death, class-action lawsuits against the NRA.

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

For decades, the American tobacco industry peddled death and disability to millions and reaped billions of dollars in profits.

  • The industry vigorously claimed there was no evidence that smoking caused cancer, heart disease, emphysema or any other ailment.
  • Tobacco companies spent billions on slick advertising campaigns to win new smokers and attack medical warnings about the dangers of smoking.
  • Tobacco companies spent millions to elect compliant politicians and block anti-smoking legislation.
  • From 1954 to 1994, over 800 private lawsuits were filed against tobacco companies in state courts. But only two plaintiffs prevailed, and both of those decisions were reversed on appeal.

  • In 1994, amidst great pessimism, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry.  But other states soon followed, ultimately growing to 46.
  • Their goal: To seek monetary, equitable and injunctive relief under various consumer-protection and anti-trust laws.
  • The theory underlying these lawsuits was: Cigarettes produced by the tobacco industry created health problems among the population, which badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.
  • In 1998, the states settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related, health-care costs.  In return, they exempted the companies from private lawsuits for tobacco-related injuries.
  • The companies agreed to curtail or cease certain marketing practices.  They also agreed to pay, forever, annual payments to the states to compensate some of the medical costs for patients with smoking-related illnesses.

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

  • For decades, the NRA has peddled deadly weapons to millions, reaped billions of dollars in profits and refused to admit the carnage those weapons have produced: “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  With guns.
  • The NRA has steadfastly defended the right to own Teflon-coated “cop killer” bullets,” whose only purpose is to penetrate bullet-resistant vests worn by law enforcement officers.

  • The NRA has bitterly fought background checks on gun-buyers, in effect granting even criminals and the mentally ill the right to own arsenals of death-dealing weaponry.
  • The NRA has spent millions on slick advertising campaigns to win new members and frighten them into buying guns.

  • The NRA has spent millions on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.
  • The NRA has spent millions attacking political candidates and elected officials who warned about the dangers of unrestricted access to assault and/or concealed weapons.

  • The NRA has spent millions pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws in more than half the states, which potentially give every citizen a “license to kill.”
  • The NRA receives millions of dollars from online sales of ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other accessories through its point-of-sale Round-Up Program–thus directly profiting by selling a product that kills about 30,288 people a year.

  • Firearms made indiscriminately available through NRA lobbying have filled hospitals–such as those in Santa Barbara–with casualties, and have thus badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.

It will take a series of highly expensive and well-publicized lawsuits to significantly weaken the NRA, financially and politically.

The first ones will have to be brought by the surviving victims of gun violence–and by the friends and families of those who did not survive it.  Only they will have the courage and motivation to take such a risk.

As with the cases first brought against tobacco companies, there will be losses.  And the NRA will rejoice with each one.

But, in time, state Attorneys General will see the clear parallels between lawsuits filed against those who peddle death by cigarette and those who peddle death by armor-piercing bullet.

And then the NRA–like the tobacco industry–will face an adversary wealthy enough to stand up for the rights of the gun industry’s own victims.

Only then will those politicians supporting reasonable gun controls dare to stand up for the victims of such needless tragedies as the one in Santa Barbara, California.

FBI DOESN’T SPELL P-O-T: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 23, 2014 at 12:11 am

On November 6, 2012, Americans overwhelmingly re-elected Barack Obama as President of the United States.

And on the same date, Americans in Colorado and Washington state overwhelmingly voted to decriminalize and regulate the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana by adults over 21.

Both measures called for setting up state licensing schemes for pot growers, processors and retail stores.

But at the Federal level, marijuana remains a prohibited, Schedule 1 drug.

And in a marijuana-related decision–King v. Kentucky–the Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that police can force their way into a home without a warrant.

By an 8-1 vote, the Court upheld the warrantless search of an apartment after police smelled marijuana and feared that those inside were destroying incriminating evidence.

Police drug raid

Prior to the November 6 marijuana-legalization votes, the Obama Justice Department had issued a policy for handling states that had legalized “medical marijuana.”

This said that Federal officials should generally not use their limited resources to go after small-time users, but should investigate and prosecute large-scale trafficking organizations.

The result was increased Federal raids on marijuana dispensaries–much to the outrage of potheads and liberals.

Since the legalization of “recreational marijuana” in Colorado and Washington state, senior White House and Justice Department officials have considered taking legal action against those states to undermine their voter-approved initiatives.

The Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in particular sees the legalization of marijuana as a direct challenge to its authority to enforce Federal anti-drug laws.

US-DrugEnforcementAdministration-Seal.svg

The agency’s official position in marijuana is as follows:

Marijuana is properly categorized under Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U.S.C. S 801, et seq. 

The clear weight of the currently available evidence supports this classification, including evidence that smoked marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical value in treatment in the United States, and evidence that there is a general lack of accepted safety for its use even under medical supervision.

The campaign to legitimize what is called “medical” marijuana is based on two propositions: first, that science views marijuana as medicine; and, second, that the DEA targets sick and dying people using the drug.  Neither proposition is true. 

Specifically, smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science–it is not medicine, and it is not safe.  Moreover, the DEA targets criminals engaged in the cultivation and traficking of marijuana, not the sick and the dying.  This is true even in the 15 states that have approved the use of “medical” marijuana.

Click here: http://www.justice.gov/dea/docs/marijuana_position_2011.pdf

Among the DEA’s weapons: Federal asset forfeiture laws allow the Justice Department to seize properties used to facilitate violations of Federal anti-drug laws.

To increase the penalties for violating such laws, Congress amended the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984.

Section 881(a)(7) authorizes the forfeiture of real property “which is used, or intended to be used, in any manner or part, to commit, or to facilitate the commission” of a felony violation of the Federal Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.

Congress intended that section to attack the economic power underwriting illegal drug operations.  As a result, the Justice Department can seize houses and/or land from a landowner owing to a tenant’s illegal drug activity.

This holds true even if the landlord didn’t participate in or claimed to be unaware of the drug-law violations.

Before civil forfeiture can proceed, two requirements must be met:

  • An exchange of a controlled substance; and
  • A substantial connection between the property and the illegal activity.

Once the government has proved the property was used to “facilitate” the violation of Federal anti-drug laws, seizure of the property can occur.

This usually means invoking the “innocent owner” defense: “I didn’t know or consent to what was going on.”

It’s up to the landowner to prove his innocence.  And proving a lack of knowledge and/or consent is extremely hard.

If an “affirmative” defense can’t be proved, forfeiture of the property is virtually inevitable.

The U.S. Attorney General then has the legal right to sell the forfeited property.  The profits from this sale can then be forwarded to various agencies of the United States Government.

Prosecutors and case agents think of this as a tax on criminality.

There is an additional incentive for local and State law enforcement agencies to seize properties involved in drug-law violations: They are allowed to keep some of the proceeds once the property has been sold.

Thus, financially-strapped police departments have found pursuing drug-law crimes a lucrative way to fill their own coffers.

Still, the Federal Government finds itself not only at war with marijuana-legalizing states but with itself.

President Barack Obama has claimed that the affects of marijuana are no different than those of alcohol.  But Michele Leonhart, director of the DEA, opposes legalizing marijuana as “reckless and irresponsible.”

This has reportedly led her boss–Attorney General Eric Holder–to order Leonhart to “get in line” with the administration’s efforts to legalize marijuana and lessen the penalties for people who commit federal drug crimes.

Until there is a concensus by lawmakers and citizens on what America’s policy on marijuana should be, the results will be continued tension and confusion.

FBI DOESN’T SPELL P-O-T: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 22, 2014 at 12:50 am

The FBI has a problem.

The Bureau needs more specialists to combat cybercrime–especially now that the Obama Justice Department has indicted five Chinese military officials for hacking into American companies to steal trade secrets.

On the other hand: Many of the tech-savvy experts the FBI wants to hire are as much into marijuana as they are into computers.

On May 19, FBI Director James Comey tried to inject a note of humor into this situation when addressing a New York conference.

FBI Director James Comey

Comey said the FBI was grappling with balancing its desire to recruit a strong workforce against changing attitudes on marijuana use by states and young adults.

“Some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview,” said Comey.

The comment landed Comey in hot water at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committe on May 21.

“Do you understand that that could be interpreted as one more example of leadership in America dismissing the seriousness of marijuana use and that could undermine our ability to convince young people not to go down a dangerous path?” asked Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama).

“Very much, Senator,” Comey replied. “I am determined not to lose my sense of humor, but, unfortunately, there I was trying to be both serious and funny.

“I am absolutely dead-set against using marijuana. I don’t want young people to use marijuana. It’s against the law.  We have a three-year ban on marijuana.   I did not say that I am going to change that ban.”

By this, Comey meant that the FBI will not hire anyone who has used marijuana during the previous three years.

Comey was referring to marijuana’s still being illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.  Despite this,  many states now allow its use for “medical” purposes.

In Colorado and Washington state, it can be legally used for any purpose.

Which, in turn, brings up a salient point:

The dangers of secondhand smoke are now almost universally accepted, even by smokers.  But from a strictly health-related viewpoint, there is as much reason to restrict exposure to marijuana smoke.

Consider the following from the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment OEHHA) of the State’s Environmental Protection Agency:

“MARIJUANA SMOKE LISTED EFFECTIVE JUNE 19, 2009 AS KNOWN TO THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA TO CAUSE CANCER [06/19/09]

“The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) of the California Environmental Protection Agency is adding marijuana smoke to the Proposition 65 list, effective June 19, 2009.

“Marijuana smoke was considered by the Carcinogen Identification Committee (CIC) of the OEHHA Science Advisory Board at a public meeting held on May 29, 2009.

The CIC determined that marijuana smoke was clearly shown, through scientifically valid testing according to generally accepted principles, to cause cancer.

“In summary, marijuana smoke is being listed under Proposition 65 as known to the State to cause cancer:”

Yet marijuana smoke is treated as something harmless, even as a subject for humor.

On “The Tonight Show,” Jay Leno often joked about the growing number of “patients” who need “medical marijuana” as a remedy for glaucoma.

In San Francisco–long known as a bastion of tolerance for drug-abuse offenses of all types–police are cutting back on the enforcement of drug crimes.

Marijuana

This is especially true in the case of marijuana.

The SFPD claims this reflects a shift to focusing on violent crime,

The decline is also partly due to a 10% staff cut during the past two years, as well as a $600,000 reduction in state and federal grants for drug enforcement.

The president of a property management agency recently told me that if a tenant complains of marijuana smoke pollution from another unit, the police will not enter the unit from which the stench is coming.

Yet marijuana remains illegal under the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), classified as a Schedule 1 substance.

A Schedule 1 substance is defined as having the following characteristics:

  • It has a high potential for abuse.
  • It has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
  • There is a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision.

And despite the unwillingness of the SFPD to enforce anti-drug laws, a 2011 Supreme Court decision allows police to force their way into a home without a warrant.

By an 8-1 vote, the Court upheld the warrantless search of an apartment after police smelled marijuana and feared that those inside were destroying incriminating evidence.

In addition, Federal asset forfeiture laws allow the Justice Department to seize properties used to facilitate violations of Federal anti-drug laws.

On November 6, 2012, Americans overwhelmingly re-elected Barack Obama as President of the United States.

And on the same date, Americans in Colorado and Washington state overwhelmingly voted to decriminalize and regulate the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana by adults over 21.

Both measures called for setting up state licensing schemes for pot growers, processors and retail stores.

On December 6, 2012, hundreds of potheads gathered at Seattle Center for a New Year’s Eve-style countdown to 12 a.m., when the legalization measure took effect.

When the clock struck, they cheered and lit up in unison–as though inhaling cancerous fumes and a skunk-like stench was something to celebrate.

 

HELL IN THE RENTERS’ PARADISE: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 21, 2014 at 12:45 am

San Francisco tenants need not be put at the mercy of greedy, arrogant slumlords.  And the agencies that are supposed to protect them need not be reduced to impotent farces.

The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI)–which is charged with guaranteeing the habitability of apartment buildings–should immediately adopt a series of long-overdue refirms.

Presently, there is no bureaucratic incentive for DBI to rigorously control the criminality of slumlords.  But this can be instilled–by making DBI merely a law-enforcing agency but a revenue-creating one.

In Parts One and Two, I outlined a series of long overdue reforms at DBI.  Here are the remaining four:

  1. Landlords should be required to bring all the units in a building up to existing building codes, and not just those in need of immediate repair.
  2. Landlords should be legally required to hire a certified-expert contractor to perform building repairs.  Many landlords insist on making such repairs despite their not being trained or experienced in doing so, thereby risking the lives of their tenants. 
  3. DBI should not view itself as a “mediation” agency between landlords and tenants.  Most landlords hate DBI and will always do so.  They believe they should be allowed to treat their tenants like serfs, raise extortionate rents anytime they desire, and maintain their buildings in whatever state  they wish.  And no efforts by DBI to persuade them of its good intentions will ever change their minds.
  4. Above all, DBI must stop viewing itself as a mere regulatory agency and start seeing itself as a law enforcement one. The FBI doesn’t ask criminals to comply with the law;  it applies whatever amount of force is needed to gain their compliance. As Niccolo Machiavelli once advised: If you can’t be loved by your enemies, then at least make yourself respected by them.

By doing so, DBI could vastly:

  • Enhance its own prestige and authority;
  • Improve living conditions for thousands of San Francisco renters; and
  • Bring millions ofdesperately-needed dollars into the City’s cash-strapped coffers

And reforms are equally overdue at the San Francisco District Attorney’s office.  Among these:

  • Creating a special unit to investigate and prosecute slumlords.
  • This should be modeled on existing units that attack organized crime, with slumlords targeted as major criminals.
  • Wiretaps and electronic surveillance should be routinely used.
  • Prosecutors should strive for lengthy prison terms and heavy fines.
  • Rewards should be offered to citizens who provide tips on major outrages by the city’s slumlords.

By doing so, it can:

  • Vastly enhance its own prestige and authority;
  • Improve living conditions  for thousands of San Francisco renters; and
  • Bring millions of desperately-needed dollars into the City’s cash-strapped coffers.

But slumlord atrocities are by no means confined to San Francisco.  This is a crisis that needs to be confronted at State and Federal levels.

Many cities lack adequate funding to effectively investigate and prosecute slumlord abuses.  And even when the money exists for such efforts, the will to redress such abuses is often lacking.

Thus, legislation is essential at State and Federal levels to ensure that law-abiding tenants are protected against law-breaking slumlords.

At the core of this effort must be a revised view of slumlords.  They should be seen, investigated and prosecuted in the same way as Mafia predators.

Their crimes are not “victimless.”  And their victims are usually those who are too poor to effectively fight back.

And, like the Mafia, they easily buy public officials–including law enforcement agents–and/or hide their crimes behind teams of expensive attorneys.

At the Federal level, the Justice Department should designate a special section within the FBI to investigate and prosecute slumlord abuses.

Or this could be set up within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

  • This should be modeled on existing units that attack organized crime, with slumlords targeted as major criminals.
  • Court-ordered wiretaps and electronic surveillance should be routinely used.
  • Rewards should be offered to citizens who provide tips on major outrages by the city’s slumlords.
  • Prosecutors should strive for lengthy prison terms and heavy fines.
  • Slumlords’ properties should be sold at public auctions, with the monies divided among various Federal agencies.
  • The tenants living in those properties would not be evicted.  They would instead now live under a new, law-abiding landlord.

At the State level, similar tenant-protection units should be created within the Department of Justice.

As Robert F. Kennedy wrote: “Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.”

HELL IN THE RENTERS’ PARADISE: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 20, 2014 at 12:19 am

Slumlords would have everyone believe that San Francisco is a “renters’ paradise.”  A place where hard-working landlords are routinely taken advantage of by rent-avoiding bums who want to be constantly pampered.

On the contrary: It’s not renters who hold “untouchable” status, but slumlords themselves.

In fact, San Francisco is long overdue for serious reforms in protecting tenants.

Thousands of San Francisco tenants have lived with rotting floors, nonworking toilets, chipping lead-based paint and outright harassment for not simply months but years.

But San Francisco tenants need not be put at the mercy of greedy, arrogant slumlords.  And the agencies that are supposed to protect them need not be reduced to impotent farces.

In Part One, I outlined three overdue reforms needed at the Department of Building Inspection (DBI), San Francisco’s primary tenant-protecting agency.  Here are an additional 17:

  1. If the landlord fails to comply with the actions ordered within 30 days, the entire fine  should go into the City’s coffers–to be divided among DBI and other agencies charged with protecting San Francisco residents.
  2. In addition, he shuld be hit again with a fine that’s at least twice the amount of the first one.
  3. Inspectors for DBI should be allowed to cite landlords for violations that fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Health (DPH).  They can then pass the information on to DPH for its own investigation.
  4. If the DBI Inspector later discovers that the landlord has not corrected the violation within a designated time-period, DBI should be allowed to levy its own fine for his failure to do so.
  5. If DPH objects to this, DBI should propose that DPH’s own Inspectors be armed with similar cross-jurisdictional authority.  Each agency would thus have increased motivation for spotting and correcting health/safety violations that threaten the lives of San Francisco residents.
  6. This would instantly turn DBI and DPH into allies, not competitors.  And it would mean that whether a citizen called DBI or DPH, s/he could be assured of getting necessary assistance.  As matters now stand, many residents are confused by the conflicting jurisdictions of both agencies.
  7. DBI should insist that its Inspectors Division be greatly expanded.  DBI can attain this by arguing that reducing the number of Inspectors cuts (1) protection for San Francisco renters–and (2) monies that could go to the general City welfare.
  8. The Inspection Division should operate independently of DBI.  Currently,  too many high-ranking DBI officials tilt toward landlords because they are landlords themselves.
  9. DBI should create a Special Research Unit that would compile records on the worst slumlord offenders.  Thus, a slumlord with a repeat history of defying DBI NOVs could be treated more harshly than a landlord who was a first-time offender.
  10. Turning DBI into a revenue-producing one would enable the City to raise desperately-needed revenues—in a highly popular way. Fining delinquent slumlords would be as unpopular as raising taxes on tobacco companies. Only slumlords and their hired lackey allies would object.
  11. Slumlords, unlike drug-dealers, can’t move their operations from one street or city to another.  Landlords aren’t going to demolish their buildings and move them somewhere else.
  12. DBI should order landlords to post their Notices of Violation in public areas of their buildings–on pain of serious financial penalties for failing to do so. When DBI orders a slumlord to take corrective action, s/he is the only person who is notified.
  13. Thus, if that slumlord refuses to comply with those directives, s/he is the only one who realizes it.  Given the pressing demands on DBI, weeks or months will pass before the agency learns about this violation of its orders.  Tenants have a right to know if their landlord is complying with the law.
  14. DBI should launch and maintain a city-wide advertising campaign to alert residents to its services.  Everyone knows the FBI pursues bank robbers, but too many San Franciscans do not even know that DBI exists, let alone what laws it enforces.
  15. This should be an in-your-face campaign: “Do you have bedbugs in your apartment?  Has your stove stopped working?  Are you afraid to ride in your building elevator because it keeps malfunctioning?  Have you complained to your landlord and gotten nowhere?  Then call DBI at —–.  Or drop us an email at ——.”
  16. Landlords should be legally required to give each tenant a list of the major city agencies (such as DBI, Department of Public Health and the Rent Board) that exist to help tenants resolve problems with their housing. 
  17. Landlords should be legally required to rehabilitate a unit every time a new tenant moves in, or at least have it examined by a DBI inspector every two years.  A tenant can occupy a unit for ten or more years, then die or move out, and the landlord immediately rents the unit to the first person who comes along, without making any repairs or upgrades whatsoever.

HELL IN THE RENTER’S PARADISE: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 19, 2014 at 12:19 am

To hear slumlords tell it, San Francisco is a “renters’ paradise,” where obnoxious, lazy, rent-evading tenants constantly take advantage of hard-working, put-upon landlords.

Don’t believe it.

On April 25, the tenants of the Fillmore Apartments–a rent-controlled building in the Lower Haight area of San  Francisco–received letters from their landlord.

The letters demanded that those tenants prove that they had a $100,000 minimum annual income and a credit score of at least 725.  Those who couldn’t prove such status would be evicted.

Then fate–in the guise of Hoodline, an online San Francisco newsletter–intervened.

When Hoodline published the story, local and even national media attention was immediate–including ABC News, Fox News and Business Insider.

Suddenly, a “change of heart” overcame the landlord.  In a second letter to his tenants, he stated:

“After reflection and guidance, I hereby rescind the April 25, 2014 correspondence to you.

“The information contained was flawed.

“My apologies for the confusion created.”

Click here: San Francisco landlord apologizes after leaving note saying tenants must make over $100,000 | abc13.com

Although the income and credit score requirements outlined in the original letter could have been legally applied to  new tenants, they would not have been legal grounds for evicting current tenants.

That could be the “flawed” information to which the second letter was referring.

How could a landlord try to pull off such a flagrantly illegal maneuver in a city that’s supposedly a renter’s paradise?

Easy.

Even in the city misnamed as a “renter’s paradise,” slumlords are treated like gods by the very agencies that are supposed to protect tenants against their abuses.

Many landlords are eager to kick out long-time residents in favor of new, wealthier high-tech workers moving to San Francisco.  An influx of these workers and a resulting housing shortage has proven a godsend for slumlords.

The power of slumlords calls to mind the scene in 1987′s The Untouchables, where Sean Connery’s veteran cop tells Eliot Ness: “Everybody knows where the liquor is. It’s just a question of: Who wants to cross Capone?”

Many tenants have lived with rotting floors, bedbugs, nonworking toilets, mice/rats, chipping lead-based paint and other outrages for not simply months but years.

Consider the situation at the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI), which is supposed to ensure that apartment buildings are in habitable condition:

  • A landlord is automatically given 30 days to correct a health/safety violation. If he drags his feet on the matter, the tenant must live with that problem until it’s resolved.
  • If the landlord claims for any reason that he can’t fix the problem within one month, DBI doesn’t demand that he prove this.  Instead, it automatically gives him another month.
  • A slumlord has to work at being hit with a fine—by letting a problem go uncorrected for three to six months.
  • And even then, repeat slumlord offenders often avoid the fine by pleading for leniency.
  • That’s because many DBI officials are themselves landlords.

But the situation doesn’t have to remain this way.

DBI could:

  • Vastly enhance its own prestige and authority
  • Improve living conditions  for thousands of San Francisco renters, and
  • Bring millions of desperately-needed dollars into the City’s cash-strapped coffers.

How?

By learning some valuable lessons from the “war on drugs” and applying them to regulating slumlords.

Consider:

  • At least 400,000 rape kits containing critical DNA evidence that could convict rapists sit untested in labs around the country.
  • But illegal drug kits are automatically rushed to the had of the line.

Why?

It isn’t simply because local/state/Federal lawmen universally believe that illicit drugs pose a deadly threat to the Nation’s security.

It’s because:

  • Federal asset forfeiture laws allow the Justice Department to seize properties used to “facilitate” violations of Federal anti-drug laws.
  • Local and State law enforcement agencies are allowed to keep some of the proceeds once the property has been sold.
  • Thus, financially-strapped police agencies have found that pursuing drug-law crimes is a great way to fill their own coffers.
  • Prosecutors and lawmen view the seizing of drug-related properties as crucial to eliminating the financial clout of drug-dealing operations.

It’s long past time for San Francisco agencies to apply the same attitude–and methods–toward slumlords.

Such reforms must start with the Department of Building Inspection (DBI)–the primary agency charged with protecting tenants.

Presently, there is no bureaucratic incentive for DBI to rigorously control the criminality of slumlords.  But this can be instilled–by making DBI not merely a law-enforcing agency but a revenue-creating one.

And those revenues should come from predatory slumlords who routinely violate the City’s laws protecting tenants.

Among those reforms it should immediately enact:

  1. Hit slumlord violators up-front with a fine–payable immediately–for at least $2,000 to $5,000 for each health/safety-code violation.
  2. The slumlord could reclaim 75-80% of the money only if he fully corrected the violation within 30 daysThe remaining portion of the levied fine would go into the City coffers, to be shared among DBI and other City agencies.
  3. This would put the onus on the slumlord, not DBI. Appealing to his greed would ensure his willingness to comply with the ordered actions.  As matters now stand, it is DBI who must repeatedly check with the slumlord to find out if its orders have been complied with.
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