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Looking at Lynching – posted 9/17/2017 and published in the Concord Monitor on 9/24/2017

September 17, 2017 Leave a comment

Probably like many readers, I was shocked by the Claremont, New Hampshire incident where an 8 year old bi-racial boy was nearly lynched by a group of teenage boys. You have to ask: how could that be happening?

The boy’s grandmother told local press that he and others were playing in a yard in their neighborhood when the teenagers who are white started calling racial epithets and threw sticks and rocks at his legs. Then the teens decided to hang the little boy, putting a rope around his neck and pushing him off a picnic table. According to published accounts, the boy swung back and forth by his neck three times before he was able to remove the rope. None of the teens came to his aid.

The story is beyond disquieting. It is impossible to see it as “boys will be boys” or as simple teen mischief. Somehow it connects to the larger racial zeitgeist reflected by events in Charlottesville and the growth of the alt-right. Hate seems to have a green light.

When was the last time there was a lynching in New Hampshire? Never.

Lynching is an act with deep historical roots in America. The act dredges up a history that is ignored, minimized, and buried. In my own school experience, lynching barely rated a mention. I do recall, from my own outside reading, seeing pictures of large crowds of white people surrounding the body of a black man hanging from a tree or a makeshift gallows.

In 2015, the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit organization based in Montgomery Alabama and started by the lawyer Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, produced a report on the history of lynching in America. Equal Justice Initiative staff had spent 6 years researching and documenting terror lynchings in America.

They documented 4,084 racial terror lynchings in twelve Southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950. They also documented 300 racial terror lynchings in other states during the same period. This was significantly more lynchings than had previously been recognized.

They define a terror lynching as a horrific act of violence (not just a hanging) where perpetrators were never held accountable. The murders were carried out with impunity, often on a courthouse lawn. These acts were tolerated by both state and federal officials who allowed a bypass of the existing criminal justice system. The terror lynchings were designed to create a fearful environment where racial subordination and segregation were controlling.

Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, and Arkansas had the highest number of lynchings. Right behind were Alabama, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Virginia. Outside the Deep South, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, West Virginia, Maryland, Kansas, Indiana, and Ohio also had lynchings.

Equal Justice Initiative analyzed the pattern of these lynchings. They found nearly 25% of lynchings of African Americans in the South came from wildly distorted fear of interracial sex; more than 50% were killed under accusation of committing murder or rape; many others were based on minor social transgressions such as speaking disrespectfully, refusing to step off a sidewalk, using an improper title for a white person or bumping into a white woman.

From 1915 to 1940, lynch mobs targeted African Americans who protested being treated as second-class citizens.

Particularly horrifying were public spectacle lynchings in which large crowds of white people gathered to witness murders that featured prolonged torture, mutilation, dismemberment and burning of victims. Equal Justice Initiative says these events had a carnival-like atmosphere with vendors selling food, printers producing postcards for sale featuring photographs of lynching and corpses, and body parts being collected as souvenirs.

It was not unusual for public spectacle lynchings to have large crowds numbering in the thousands. The killings were not conducted by Klansmen hiding in a swamp. They were typically very public, advertised events implicating entire communities.

Equal Justice Initiative documents numerous terrifying stories. In one story, in Paris Texas in 1893, a 17 year old black man named Henry Smith was accused of killing a 3 year old white girl. About a week after the child’s death, a posse located Smith in Arkansas and returned him to Paris by train. Two thousand men had combed the countryside looking for Smith. When they found Smith’s stepson and he failed to reveal Smith’s location, the stepson was lynched.

When Smith was returned to Paris on February 1, 1893, a mob of over 10,000 white people from all over Texas met the train. Smith was placed on a carnival float where he was paraded through town to the county fairgrounds. A parade of citizens followed the float, including children who had been dismissed from school for the event.

When Smith made it to the fairgrounds, the mob leaders forced him to mount a ten-foot-high scaffold to allow maximum visibility. The mob ripped Smith’s clothes off and proceeded to torture him for the next hour. Red-hot iron brands were placed against Smith’s feet, then up his body until they reached his face where his eyes were burned out. The mob then poured kerosene on Smith and set him afire. Smith was burned alive.

It must be noted that Smith pleaded his innocence until the end according to the great anti-lynching crusader, Ida B. Wells. After these events, Wells hired Pinkerton detectives to investigate what happened. While Wells did not find evidence that exonerated Smith, she did discover that Smith was mentally imbalanced

Twenty-seven years later, Paris, Texas hosted a second lynching. Two brothers, Irving and Herman Arthur, decided to leave their jobs on a white-owned farm. They wanted better working conditions. The farm owner tried to stop them. The conflict resulted in the arrest of the brothers. Shortly after the arrests, local whites posted signs advertising an impending lynching.

On July 6, 1920, 3,000 people watched as both men were tied to a flagpole at the county fairgrounds, tortured and burned to death. After the lynching, the Arthurs’ corpses were chained to a car and driven through Paris’s black community.

Today there is no historical marker to document either lynching. However, there is a large Confederate memorial on the courthouse lawn in Paris. Equal Justice Initiative reports that of the 4,084 Southern lynchings they document, the overwhelming majority took place on sites that remain unmarked and unrecognized.

I do think the absence of a prominent public memorial acknowledging the brutal lynchings is a public statement that America does not think black lives matter. Equal Justice Initiative points out that the South is littered with statues, markers, and monuments celebrating Confederate leaders who perpetrated violent crimes against black citizens.

As a country, we still seem unable to face the dark side of our own history. There is a continuing culture of silence about our history with lynching. This is particularly true in the states where lynching occurred. There is an absence of acknowledgement.

While we cannot yet know exactly why the Claremont near-lynching happened, the context is concerning. The growth of white supremacist movements, the increase in vicious internet bullying by racists and anti-semites, and our past American history of lynching all situate it. We can only hope what happened in Claremont was a freakish aberration that could never happen again.

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Democrats Floundering – posted 9/3/2017 and published in the Concord Monitor on 9/10/2017

September 3, 2017 Leave a comment

Since their election defeat last November, the Democrats remain in a rudderless, traumatized state of disbelief. Losing to Trump was unthinkable but then the unthinkable happened.

At this point, the Democrats still show little sign that they grasp the reasons for their defeat. Being in the political wilderness can be confusing. Like being lost in the woods, it can be hard to know which way is the way out.

Early signs are not promising that Democrats will figure the best direction to go. In late July, after doing months of polling and after consulting focus groups and enlisting political consultants, Democrats came up with a new slogan: “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.”

As was pointed out in the media, the slogan bore a strong resemblance to Papa John’s Pizza: “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza. Papa John’s”.

The slogan appeared to have its origins from a May 24 USA Today op-ed authored by Sen. Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate. Sen. Kaine had used the phrase “Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages”.

The slogans are an embarrassment. They were rightfully mocked on social media. After a historic defeat, after no shortage of soul-searching, the Democrats came up with something so uninspiring. Is a faux pizza ad the best that can be offered up?

The truth is that since the Bill Clinton era the Democrats have run on what I would call a minimalist change agenda. They want to make clear they are not Republicans but all too often, they look like Republican-lite. They have a history of feeding at the same corporate trough as the Republicans.

It has been very hard to know what Democrats stand for. The Hillary Clinton campaign was the absolute embodiment of this approach. The belief was that it was enough to be anti-Trump because he was so uniquely disgusting.

The Hillary campaign slogan was “Stronger Together”. That has to be the apogee of meaninglessness.

Let me offer a suggestion: the Democrats must be the party of progressive change – not a status quo party. We already have one conservative party, the Republicans. Democrats need to provide a stark contrast to the Republicans. Clintonian triangulation is not a progressive vision of the future.

One of the most maddening aspects of the last election was Trump’s ability to seize the mantle of being a change agent. The Democrats mistakenly ceded that territory because they were caught up in defending the progress made under President Obama. In touting the status quo, the Democrats utterly misread the public and its anxieties.

Even though Trump is a fraud and a pathological liar, he had the political horse sense to know people were hurting badly. Siding with “forgotten” Americans was smart politics. The Clinton campaign lost touch with the public mood at the same time as it played it safe.

While he did not win, Bernie Sanders had a much more accurate read on the public. His populist message attacking Big Money did strike a nerve. He showed the possibility of running without reliance on millionaires and billionaires. His millenial support grew, in part, because of his awareness of crushing student loan debt and the need to address that.

Democrats need to learn from what was positive about the Sanders campaign. The America Sanders described was much closer to the mark than Clinton’s take. The Democrats’ continuing cluelessness about the reasons for Sanders’ popularity is sad. Maybe they should not be so ready to dismiss the candidate who has the highest approval rating of any politician in the country.

I know this will be unpopular to say but, along with Hillary Clinton, I blame President Obama for the Democratic defeat. Obama bailed out banks more than working people. His justice department never prosecuted the white collar criminals who crashed the economy. Nor did he do much to help the five million people who lost their home to foreclosure.

During the 2016 election campaign, President Obama and Secretary Clinton emphasized all the economic progress made. They praised the recovery made from the recession, saying 15 million jobs had been created.

The problem is this narrative did not ring true to millions of working people across America because it wasn’t true. Much of Middle America remains a post-industrial wasteland. Many worry their jobs will be automated or shipped to the Third World. The jobs created are typically a far cry from the jobs lost. A college degree now guarantees nothing and people are legitimately anxious about the future. They have been screwed by the system and the future hardly looks rosy.

Too many jobs do not pay enough. And they lack good benefits. Twenty-somethings cannot make enough to move out of their parent’s homes and fifty-somethings are put out to pasture early. Health insurance is too expensive (if people have it) and now looks even more tenuous. Student loans are a killer, like carrying a second mortgage payment. Contrary to Clinton and Obama’s assertions, it is not a pretty picture.

The Democrats need to look at where in America they have done poorly. This includes small cities, towns and rural America. The Democrats need a respectful and compelling message that can appeal nationally. Too often, to the rest of America, the Democrats look like an economically ascendant coastal elite, disconnected from working class people.

Message to the Democrats: not everybody went to Harvard and Yale.

If they want to win, the Democrats need to totally overturn their present leadership. It needs to be said: that leadership failed. It does not denigrate past leaders like the Clintons and Pelosi to acknowledge that they are the past. It is time for a new generation of Democratic leaders who can make a fresh start. Whatever the merits of past leaders, they all have too much baggage and they are heavily implicated in the wave of Democratic defeats leading to the Trump debacle.

The Democrats need to stop pretending they can simply repackage their failed timid policies. Those policies never seriously challenged income inequality.

The scope of Democratic defeat requires a new humility. Considering all the defeats, there may be nothing more ridiculous and obnoxious than self righteous posturing by progressives. I hope the party advances in a far more progressive direction but the party must have no litmus tests and it should be welcoming to a wide range of divergent views.

I believe the Democrats can turn it around. But, without self-critical evaluation of their mistakes, they could very well repeat them.

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A Charlottesville Reaction – posted 8/22/2017 and published in the Concord Monitor on 8/27/2017

August 22, 2017 Leave a comment

I grew up in Lower Merion, a largely Jewish neighborhood outside Philadelphia. Both my parents were Jewish. I was raised in the reform Jewish tradition and I was bar mitzvahed and confirmed at Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood, Pa.

Like many American Jews, my family was pretty secular. My dad had been raised Orthodox but he rebelled against that. He and my mom felt more comfortable in a reform congregation. Honestly, we did not go to synagogue very often. Still, after ten years of Hebrew School, I had some background and knowledge in things Jewish. I was also a reader, so as I got older, I read widely in Jewish history and literature.

For me, being Jewish is, in part, about identification with the historical experience of the Jewish people. It also ties in with love and appreciation of Jewish culture and tradition.

Growing up, anti-semitism was a seeming distant reality. Philadelphia has a large, diverse and secure Jewish community. My dad had a business friend who was a Holocaust survivor. I remember the concentration camp number tattooed on his forearm. In seventh grade, I got into a fight with a kid who called me “a dirty Jew”. Other than that, anti-semitism was something I read about. It was not part of my daily existence.

So I have to say that the recent events in Charlottesville were jolting. Seeing that many people identify as Nazis and Klansmen, while chanting “Jews will not replace us” was surreal. Not to worry: I would never want to replace the likes of you. It would be impossible to be that gross.

Then to hear President Trump’s unscripted comments after Charlottesville was, without a doubt, the low point of his presidency. Photos of the Charlottesville march show so many in the crowd wearing “Make America Great Again” hats as they apparently dream of that white ethno-state. You now have to wonder: how low can the President go?

Trump mentioned all the “very fine people” who were marching along with the Nazis and Klan. According to Trump, they just oppose taking down those “beautiful” Confederate statues.

These people are Nazi collaborators. Anyone who finds themselves in an alt-right march, carrying tiki torches and chanting “blood and soil”, needs to take a good look at themselves. Whether they have explicitly joined any white supremacist and anti-semitic group or not, they have aligned themselves with hatred. They are not passively going along. They are far worse. They are abetting the evil.

I have seen some people on the internet explain these Nazi collaborators as losers who cannot get a date to save their lives. That seems overly generous to me. They are making an active choice to align with something monstrous.

Supposedly, Trump’s ratings actually jumped from a 34% approval rating to 39% last week. All you Trump supporters out there who love how politically incorrect he is, maybe you need to ask yourselves: did you sign up to collaborate with Nazis?

Going back to Germany in the 1930’s, there were many conservatives who thought they could use the Nazis to advance their ends. History shows that the Nazis ended up using people like that far more than they used the Nazis.

And as for the “beautiful” Confederate monuments, Trump said that taking such statues down was “changing history”. He tweeted that taking down statues of Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson would lead to demands to take down statues of Washington and Jefferson since they also owned slaves.

Given Trump’s earlier comments about Frederick Douglass, you have to wonder what he knows about Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson. Are they also doing a fabulous job?

James Grossman, the executive director of the American Historical Association, said that Trump’s comments failed to recognize the difference between history and memory. Grossman said when you alter monuments “you’re not changing history. You’re changing how we remember history”.

Most Confederate monuments were built in two periods: the 1890’s to 1920’s and the 1950’s. In the 1890’s, Jim Crow was being established and consolidated. In the 1950’s, the South was massively resisting the early civil rights movement.

It is not an accident that Confederate monuments were built then. They were built to commemorate and glorify the Confederacy and white supremacy. They were also built in passionate opposition to the Black freedom struggle. They were sending a message of intimidation to Black people and all civil rights supporters. That message was: get back!

Whatever their merits as military tacticians, Lee and Jackson fought to maintain a vicious social system founded on the institution of human slavery. They were leaders of a secessionist rebellion against the United States government.

After the Civil War, Lee never spoke up against those who lynched Black people. Nor did he ever support black voting rights.

Jackson’s family owned six slaves in the late 1850’s. After the Civil War, he appears to have hired out or sold all his slaves. Jackson’s biographer, James Robertson, wrote that Jackson never apologized nor spoke in favor of the practice of slavery. Robertson felt Jackson probably opposed slavery but he also felt that God had sanctioned slavery and man had no moral right to challenge its existence.

Interestingly, Jackson’s great-great grandsons, Jack Christian and Warren Christian, just wrote an open letter to the mayor of the city of Richmond Va asking for removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue as well as all other Confederate statues there.

There is a big difference between Founding Fathers like Washington and Jefferson and leaders who led a treasonous revolt against the government they helped found. While you can find people who advocate taking down Washington and Jefferson monuments, I think Trump’s comments were simply a red herring. It is only Confederate monuments which are seriously under scrutiny now.

This last week has been the least reassuring week of this bumper-car ride of a presidency. As a Jewish American, I have to say I have never experienced a president in my lifetime who made me wonder if he really was a Nazi sympathizer. Up until now I did not think Trump believed in anything – only money. Now I am not sure.

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Shady, summer 2017 – posted 8/18/2017

August 18, 2017 1 comment
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NFL Blame-Shifting on Brain Injuries – posted 8/6/2017 and published in the Concord Monitor on 8/10/2017

August 6, 2017 Leave a comment

Players have reported to NFL training camps, exhibition games are underway, and we are already back to football. Along with the players reporting, we also get new updates on the grim toll of brain injuries. The two are now inextricably linked.

The big news for this season is the major new study of football’s effects on the brain. A team of researchers led by neuropathologist Anne McKee examined the brains of former NFL players and found that almost all – 110 out of 111- showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.

As Daniel Engber, a writer for Slate has pointed out, that statistic can be misleading. The brains in Dr. McKee’s study were not randomly selected. They were donated by family members who suspected that researchers might find evidence of damage.

Still, even if the numbers are not as spectacularly high as show up in the new study, it is hard not to see them as significant.

CTE has cognitive symptoms like memory loss, violent mood swings and attention deficit; behavioral symptoms like depression and suicidality; and inflated rates of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

In a recent series, the Associated Press put a human face on many previously undisclosed CTE stories. The AP reporters talked to family members of many former players who were diagnosed with CTE after they died. One story I would mention is Ollie Matson’s. Matson was an Olympic medal winning sprinter in the 1952 Helsinki games, a College and Pro Football Hall of Fame player, and a very great running back for the Cardinals, Rams and Eagles. He played pro ball from 1952 to1966.

Matson’s story is remarkable. He played college football for the University of San Francisco. In 1951, Matson’s team went undefeated but they were not allowed to play in any bowl game because Matson and another teammate were black. In that era, the Orange, Sugar, and Gator Bowl committees would not invite any teams that had black players. Matson was the prototype big back before that was common. He was a great receiver, punt and kickoff returner, and open field runner. When Matson retired from the pros, he was second only to Jim Brown in all-purpose yards.

In the AP story, Matson’s son said his father barely spoke in the last four years of his life. He only said “hi” and “bye”. He could not tell a $10 bill from a $100. The dementia symptoms worsened in the years before he died. Matson needed a wheelchair and a nurse for the final five years of his life. The family did not know what to make of his symptoms. Matson’s son now says he now feels robbed of his father’s last years. No one knew about CTE then.

Unfortunately, science still does not have a way to test the prevalence of CTE among living players. That would tremendously improve the science but we do now know for a certainty that there is a neurodegenerative brain disease that is found in individuals who have been exposed to repeated head traumas. The disease is pathologically marked by an increase in abnormal tau protein in the brain. We now know that some significant percentage of players are adversely affected.

With that knowledge, we need to look at how the NFL has responded to the increased awareness of CTE. While the League has taken some steps, especially a concussion protocol, what they have done is grossly inadequate.

Not nearly enough has been done to protect the players. The concussion protocol is a good idea but in practice it has been less than effective. Too often players who are clearly wobbly on their feet end up staying in games.

I think Sally Jenkins, a sports writer for the Washington Post, has most clearly explained the complex reasons this happens. Jenkins explains that the NFL’s compensation structure forces players to play hurt or get cut.

Most NFL players are not superstars with eye-popping contracts. Many are relative unknowns fighting to have a career. The average NFL career across all positions is about two and a half years. Players need playing time to have a chance to succeed. Concussions can get in the way of the opportunity to play. That is a strong disincentive against reporting any injury.

Jenkins argues that the NFL shifts responsibility for head injuries onto the players and away from management. If a player commits a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit, he will get a heavy fine and even a suspension. Think Kam Chancellor of the Seahawks who got a $23,152 fine for spearing. When the medical and coaching staff ignore the concussion protocol, the NFL typically looks the other way.

Jenkins uses the example of Case Keenum, a backup quarterback for the Rams. In a very close 2015 game, with one minute left, the Ravens sacked Keenum and his head bounced violently off the turf. Keenum immediately clutched his head. He could not get up for a while after the play and was down on all fours.

The protocol required Keenum to be removed from the game and to be examined by an independent concussion expert. That did not happen. A Rams trainer briefly talked to a wobbly Keenum. The Rams coach, Jeff Fisher, said Keenum “felt he was okay” and he also said “it was a critical point in the game”. Keenum never was pulled from the game. After the game, doctors diagnosed Keenum with a concussion. The NFL had a conference call about what happened but decided to do nothing. No coach or medical staff got fined or punished for leaving Keenum in the game.

This type of scenario, which is not uncommon, is an occupational health and safety issue which requires further regulation. The League will fine players for spearing and for roughing the passer but it has not fined coaches, trainers, and team doctors for flagrant violations of the concussion protocol. Nor has it penalized owners for countenancing health and safety violations.

Maybe if management took a serious financial hit, more attention would be paid to the correct implementation of the concussion protocol. Now it seems like only the players get fined.

Jenkins calls it “blame-shifting”. The League skates through its own liability by placing all consequences on the players.

There is a need for harder-edged rules that mandate a protocol where players are automatically pulled off the field and examined by an independent concussion expert. The doctors who make the call about a player returning to the game must not be connected to any team or the NFL power structure. The desire to win at all costs is corrupting.

In the realm of occupational health and safety, I think of NFL players as equivalent to coal miners. People may say players or miners assume the risk of their jobs but both occupations are inherently dangerous. Where the players face CTE and orthopedic injury, the miners face black lung, not to mention the danger of mine accidents and cave-ins.

Since the late 19th century, the federal government has regulated coal mining. As fatalities in mines increased (between 1900-1910, coal mining fatalities exceeded 2,000 annually) federal coal mine health and safety law became more comprehensive and stringent. Not surprisingly, with the tougher laws, mining fatalities dramatically dropped.

Football owners have the same kind of control over their business that mine owners have had over the their industry. A big difference is that the NFL owners patrol themselves without much interference. Indifference to player health and safety is a by-product of this brand of laissez-faire capitalism.

I would suggest that NFL owners are modern-day equivalents to 19th century robber barons. According to Forbes Magazine, the NFL’s ten richest owners are worth a combined $61 billion. I probably do not need to say that is an astounding figure. With those kind of resources, it is wrong to assume that far more could not be done to make the game safer. Safer equipment, more protective rules, consequences for coaches, trainers and owners, and better medical research into harms to players could change the game in a very positive way.

I remain doubtful the League will adequately police itself. After all, a few years ago the League denied the very existence of CTE. Now it pushes sole responsibility on the players. Over the history of the NFL, you have to wonder how many thousands of former players suffered from CTE who we will never know about. That is a legacy of suffering that goes far beyond the concussion lawsuit.

No one can deny football is exciting and supremely athletic. But, the human cost remains needlessly high. It does not have to be that way.

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The Dilemma of the Undocumented Domestic Violence Survivor – posted 7/23/2017 and published in the Concord Monitor on 7/30/2017

July 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Since Donald Trump became president, one focus of his administration has been a crackdown on undocumented immigrants. As has been widely reported, the crackdown goes much farther than deporting violent criminals, gang members and drug dealers.

Any undocumented immigrant, regardless of circumstance, can get deported.

This shotgun approach has provoked widespread fear of deportation in immigrant communities in the United States. In that community, no group has been more adversely affected than domestic violence survivors.

Like other undocumented people, domestic violence survivors are afraid to come forward and draw any attention to themselves. They legitimately fear they will be deported if they show up on any radar screen so they decide to live with the abuse. Considering the actions of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) this year, the fear is understandable.

In February, there was a domestic violence case in El Paso, Texas, that drew national attention. A woman known by the initials IEG sought a protective order alleging she was a victim of domestic violence. IEG had filed three police reports in the preceding year alleging that she had been punched, kicked and chased with a knife. The Family Court granted IEG a protective order based on the domestic violence.

On the way out of the courtroom, six federal immigration agents arrested IEG for her immigration violations. The El Paso County Attorney, Jo Anne Bernal, whose office represents domestic abuse victims when they seek court orders against their abusers, said:

“We suspect it’s the (alleged) abuser who tipped off ICE about the woman.”

Bernal said that IEG’s offense appeared to be re-entering the country illegally after being deported.

Judge Yahara Lisa Gutierrez, who oversees the court that issued IEG’s protective order, stated that ICE agents should avoid effectively assisting domestic abusers by acting on their tips against their partners. It creates a collaboration relationship between the government and the abuser.

Because the story was widely reported, it had a seismic impact in immigrant communities across the country. It drove victims further into hiding. Now many victims are even afraid to call 911.

IEG’s case is not isolated. In Denver earlier this year, four domestic violence victims did not go forward on their cases because the victims refused to cooperate with law enforcement. A video had surfaced showing ICE agents poised to make arrests at a Denver courthouse. The victims were afraid of drawing the attention of ICE and then subjecting themselves to deportation.

Cases like IEG’s can fan the flames of fear so that victims and potential witnesses are more reticent to talk to the police or cooperate in criminal cases. Even under the best circumstances, domestic violence victims are often afraid to seek restraining orders because the perpetrators of their abuse threaten retaliation. Add the fear of deportation into the mix and you have a recipe for continuation of domestic violence.

It is quite common for abusers to use a victim’s undocumented status to control her. The abuser typically threatens to tell ICE and turn the undocumented partner in if she tries to escape the relationship.

The abuse can take many forms besides threatening to report her to the authorities to get her deported. The abuser will tell the victim no one can help her and that as an undocumented person, she is a nobody in America. He will isolate her from friends and family. He will not allow her to learn English. He will threaten to report her if she works under the table. He will destroy her important papers. He will call her a prostitute and a mail order bride. Belittling and emotional abuse are universal abuser tactics designed to wear down and immobilize the victim.

It is no wonder many women feel trapped. Lack of financial resources and language barriers play a role. The fear of having children taken away in the context of deportation also acts as a major disincentive from escape.

Unfortunately, there is more than anecdotal evidence that the Trump crackdown is moving domestic violence victims further into the shadows. In May, a coalition of national organizations focused on domestic violence and sexual assault surveyed 700 advocates and attorneys from 46 states and the District of Columbia about the issues confronting immigrant survivors seeking services.

78% of respondents said that survivors expressed concerns about contacting police due to fears it would open them up to deportation. 75% said that survivors had expressed concern about going to court for a matter related to their abuser. 43% of respondents said that the survivors they have worked with have dropped criminal or civil cases related to their abuse because they are fearful of potentially opening themselves up to deportation.

In light of the immigration crackdown, there is likely confusion about what protections remain in place for domestic violence victims. Under the Violence Against Women Act, immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking can qualify for special protection. They can possibly get immigration protection through a U visa, which is reserved for victims of abuse. To obtain a U visa, a law enforcement official must certify that the U visa applicant has been helpful to an investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. I would be surprised if the immigration crackdown has not had a chilling effect on the number of victims willing to seek a U visa.

One disturbing thing that happened in May: the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s new Victim Information and Notification Exchange – an online database created to track when criminals are released from or into ICE custody – publicly listed the names and detainment location of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking who have applied to stay legally in the United States on special protective visas. The Department of Homeland Security is legally prohibited from releasing identifying information about immigrants seeking these visas.

It took a couple months for this error to be corrected so that protected names were removed from the database. While the error was almost certainly inadvertent, it could not have reassured victims.

While I know there are many who may not care what happens to undocumented domestic violence victims, I believe that view is short-sighted. Federal law has long recognized our communities are more secure if crime victims can come forward. Survivors of domestic violence should not face dire consequences for contacting law enforcement.

It is dangerous to create a strata of subterranean crime victims who are without any legal protection.

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The Destruction of Medicaid – posted 7/9/2017 and published in the Concord Monitor on 7/16/2017

July 9, 2017 1 comment

Since the Republican Senate health care bill was released, there has been much discussion about its worst aspects. Is it the cutting 22 million people off health insurance? Is it doing away with pre-existing condition protections? Or is it the attack on essential benefits so health plans would no longer include key content like mental health or substance abuse treatment? I think it is none of these.

The worst aspect is what the Republican bill does to the Medicaid program.

Medicaid currently provides care to 74 million people, including the most vulnerable among us. The Republican Senate bill strips the entitlement from Medicaid. That alone would be devastating to low-income people, women, children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

What does that mean to strip the entitlement? It means that there will be no guarantee of Medicaid services for the needy and vulnerable in New Hampshire and across America.

At present, Medicaid benefits cannot be taken away without due process of law. Individual Medicaid recipients have statutory and regulatory rights and a property interest under the Constitution.

As a result, Medicaid recipients also have strong notice and appeal rights. These protections have been built up over the last half century. There is an extensive body of case law delineating these rights. Medicaid recipients can appeal any unfair or improper denial of service through an administrative process, including fair hearings. If needed, Medicaid applicants and recipients, pursuant to their rights, can appeal to federal and state court as well.

The Republican health care plan in either the House or Senate version does away with these rights and demolishes a 52 year body of law. Instead of an open-ended assurance for states, Medicaid would become a discretionary program. Whether the Republican plan is based on block grants or per capita caps, both of which would cap the federal funding for Medicaid, access would depend on money not running out.

These changes would be a huge deal to all individuals on Medicaid as well as those applying for the program. You would go from being a claimant with a well-defined set of rights to being a beggar and a pawn in rich peoples’ political games. Since these changes are buried in the complexity, claimants will not know until it is too late that their rights have been eviscerated.

This is an example of the deconstruction of the administrative state Steve Bannon has talked about. It is also Paul Ryan’s Ayn Rand dream come true.

In contrast to current Medicaid which was designed to be a countercyclical program able to respond to downturns in the economy and state-level emergencies, the Republican plan would set a base year spending level. Then an index would be used to set yearly growth rates. These capped spending levels would cover a falling share of actual costs over time. If and when money ran out, and it would, the consequence would be cuts. States would have to decide whether to terminate eligibility categories (such as pregnant women, children, seniors or people with disabilities) or eliminate coverage for vital services (like prescription drugs, mental health, inpatient medical services or cancer treatment).

Block grants and per capital caps set a fixed allotment for each state. They leave states at high risk for enrollment increases and for numerous other cost drivers such as medical innovations, new health conditions, disease outbreaks, and the health impacts of any natural disaster.

Credible experts at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimate the Republican Senate bill would cut Medicaid by $772 billion and reduce enrollment by 15 million people over 10 years. You have to ask: what happens to those people?

The Republican Senate bill also would end the Medicaid expansion which has allowed 31 states and the District of Columbia to provide coverage to 11 million low income adults. Because of the Medicaid expansion, we are at an all-time low in the number of uninsured people in the United States.

The Medicaid expansion has been a tremendous bargain for the states that have adopted it. While some complain that states pay any share of the cost, the Medicaid expansion limits state matching dollars to only 10% of the total cost. The federal government picks up 90% of the cost. By any fair evaluation, that is a great deal for the states. Typically in Medicaid, the federal government match is 57%.

Overall, Medicaid is now the largest source of health insurance coverage for individuals with substance abuse disorders, including opioid addiction. Since mid-2014, 23,000 people in New Hampshire have received substance abuse services from Medicaid. Given the magnitude of the substance abuse epidemic, it makes zero sense to end such an effective source of treatment.

I do not believe the far-reaching consequences of the Republican Senate bill have been sufficiently grasped. The bill goes much farther than repealing Obamacare by cutting and restructuring the Medicaid program as a whole. It undermines what has been an essential component of the safety net.

To comprehend the harm, more needs to be said about the value of the current Medicaid program. It is not well-understood.

New Yorker writer Atul Gawande had this to say about Medicaid:

“It is immensely popular and works well. It provides coverage for sixty per cent of disabled children, and maternity coverage for half of pregnant women. Two-thirds of nursing-home residents end up relying on Medicaid coverage after their savings are spent. Among adult Medicaid recipients, sixty per cent work, and eighty per cent are part of working families.”

Medicaid is really the only insurance affordable for low-income people. It has been a successful joint federal/state partnership. Still, states have much flexibility in how they design their Medicaid program. There are both mandatory and optional services. States already decide what optional services they desire.

Medicaid services have to be sufficient in amount, duration, and scope to reasonably achieve the rehabilitation and treatment purposes of the statute. Also, services have to be state-wide so that care is geographically available.

Medicaid has been designed to serve underserved and vulnerable populations. Much thought over many years has gone into the evolution and improvement of Medicaid which has a lengthy history of popular and bipartisan support. President Ronald Reagan, a hero to conservatives, increased Medicaid coverage for lower-income and vulnerable Americans three different times. It is hardly conservative to take a meat cleaver to this intricate structure.

The Republican Senate bill uses the savings from Medicaid and from cutting marketplace subsidies to pay for $563 billion in tax cuts primarily for the wealthy, insurers, and drug companies. It is no surprise the Senate has had no public hearings and did the bill-writing entirely behind closed doors.

The history of block grants is that their structure enables deeper cuts over time. I see no reason why that would not be true with Medicaid.

We are at a truly fateful time for health care in the United States. President Trump campaigned on a specific promise not to cut Medicaid. The Republican Senate bill must be defeated.

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