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Susan Estrich - The teacher's ex

She lost her job for reasons having nothing to do with her and everything to do with her ex-husband.
Carie Charlesworth is a teacher and a mother. She has 14 years of experience working for the San Diego Diocese and four kids.
Her ex is a felon, due to be released from prison later in June. In January, he came to the Catholic school where she was teaching, in violation of a restraining order. The school was put on lockdown. The teacher was put on paid leave.
The school director let her know they would not be offering her a contract for next fall. "Please understand," the director told her, "that this was a very difficult decision to make, and we are deeply, deeply sorry about this situation. We will continue to pray for you and your family."
"I followed all the things they tell domestic abuse victims to do," Charlesworth told the press in going public with her story. "Now I feel I was the one who got punished. This is why other victims do not come forward."
After the first incident at school, school officials had their lawyer check her ex-husband's record. It turned out to be a long one: a 20-plus-year history of violence and abuse. He pleaded guilty to felony counts of abuse and stalking. His lawyer says he still loves his wife. God help her.
Should Charlesworth be punished because of her ex-husband's violence? Of course not.
And how would you feel if your child was assigned to her second-grade class?
After the January episode, a number of parents apparently told school officials that they would pull their children from the school if steps were not taken.
After the news broke last week that she was being terminated, causing a public uproar, a group of about 30 parents rallied to support the school's decision, saying they feared for their children's safety. "Decisions had to be made that would protect all of our kids, her kids included," one of the parents told a local television station. "Those were hard decisions, and our principal and the Diocese had to do the best they could. And they did."
As I write this, news has just broken that an unidentified private school in the Los Angeles area has offered Charlesworth a job. "If nothing else, I'm more than happy to simply say to her, 'There's somebody out there that cares,'" the official at the Los Angeles school told the press.
Actually, my guess is that there are plenty of people who care about Carie Charlesworth and her children. Caring isn't the problem. Protecting her is.
Two other news stories this week make clear just how big a challenge that is. On Saturday, Michelle Kane, a 43-year-old mother of two, was stabbed to death by her estranged husband — the day after the victim went to LAPD to complain that he had violated a restraining order. Her husband, by the way, was a teacher. On Monday, an Orange County man, John Agosta, was convicted of shooting his estranged wife nine times in the chest after following her from the preschool where she worked as a teacher's aide.
Much has changed in public attitudes toward domestic violence, once considered a "private" matter and not the serious crime that it is. Laws have been changed. Police cars in Los Angeles sport bumper stickers promising zero tolerance. Women are encouraged to come forward — the way Michelle Kane did, the way Carie Charlesworth did. Police do their best, which may not be enough.
Agosta's attorney, Frederick Fascenelli, told reporters the shooting was a crime of passion and his client will appeal.
A crime of passion? I don't think so. An act of utter savagery is more like it — and by a man no parent would want within a thousand miles of their children.
The answer can't be that women with dangerous ex-husbands become professional outcasts. They cannot spend the rest of their lives in shelters, unemployed and unemployable. The alternative is that we do a better job of protecting them and of permanently incarcerating their dangerous husbands.
This week, at least, you can understand why the San Diego parents were worried. Of course it's wonderful that Carie Charlesworth has been offered a job teaching in Los Angeles. But that's easy for me to say. My youngest is in college. I don't know what I'd be saying if he were going to be in Ms. Charlesworth's class this fall.
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Michael Barone - Is libertarian trend a good thing for America?

Are Americans becoming more libertarian on cultural issues? I see evidence that they are, in poll findings and election results on three unrelated issues — marijuana legalization, same-sex marriage and gun rights.
Start with pot. Last November voters in the states of Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana, by a 55 to 45 percent margin in Colorado (more than Barack Obama's margin in the state) and by 56 to 44 percent in Washington.
In contrast, California voters rejected legalization 53 to 47 percent in 2010. These results and poll data suggest a general movement toward legal marijuana.
State legislatures in Denver and Olympia have been grappling with regulatory legislation amid uncertainty over whether federal law — and federal law enforcers — override their state laws. But marijuana has already become effectively legal in many of the states that have reduced penalties for possession of small amounts or have legalized medical marijuana. You can easily find addresses and phone numbers of dispensaries on the Web.
Same-sex marriage, rejected in statewide votes between 1998 and 2008 and most recently in North Carolina in May 2012, was approved by voters in Maine and Maryland in November 2012, and voters then rejected a ban on it in Minnesota. Since then, legislators in Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode Island have voted to legalize same-sex marriage. A dozen states and the District of Columbia now have similar laws that would have been unthinkable two decades ago.
I have yet to see signs of political backlash. Polls show that support for same-sex marriage is well nigh universal among young Americans, but it has also been rising among their elders.
To some it may seem odd to yoke together marijuana and gay rights, generally thought of as causes of the left, with gun rights, supported more by the political right. Yet in all three cases Americans have been moving toward greater liberty for the individual.
One landmark was the first law, passed in Florida in 1987, allowing ordinary citizens to carry concealed weapons. Many, including me, thought that the result would be frequent shootouts in the streets. That hasn't happened. It turns out that almost all ordinary citizens handle guns with appropriate restraint, as they do with the other potential deadly weapon people encounter every day, the automobile.
Concealed-carry laws have spread to 40 states, with few ill effects. Politicians who opposed them initially, like former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, have not sought their repeal.
In contrast, voters have reacted negatively to gun control proposals, even after horrific events like the Newtown massacre. That was apparent in the Senate's rejection of the Toomey-Manchin gun registration bill.
What about the cultural issue that most pundits mention first, abortion? Attitudes have remained roughly the same: Most Americans think abortion should be, in Bill Clinton's phrase, safe, legal and rare.
Young Americans, contrary to their libertarian leaning on same-sex marriage, are slightly less pro-abortion rights than their elders. They've seen sonograms, and all of them by definition owe their existence to a decision not to abort. And from the point of view of the unborn child, abortion is the opposite of liberating.
Back in the conformist America of the 1950s — a nation of greater income equality and stronger labor unions, as liberals like to point out — marijuana, homosexual acts and abortion weren't political issues. They were crimes. And opposition to gun control measures in the 1950s and 1960s was much less widespread and vigorous than it is today.
Is this libertarian trend a good thing for the nation? Your answer will depend on your values.
I'm inclined to look favorably on it. I think the large majority of Americans can use marijuana and guns responsibly. Same-sex marriage can be seen as liberating, but it also includes an element of restraint. Abortions in fact have become more rare over a generation.
But I do see something to worry about. In his bestseller "Coming Apart," my American Enterprise Institute colleague Charles Murray shows that college-educated Americans have handled liberating trends of the 1970s like no-fault divorce with self-restraint. But at the bottom of the social scale we have seen an unraveling, with out-of-wedlock births, continuing joblessness, lack of social connectedness and civic involvement.
In conformist America the old prohibitions provided these people with guardrails, as The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger has written. In today's more libertarian America, the guardrails may be gone.
(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Jim Hightower - Repeal the Patriot Act

It's back. The Patriot Act — that grotesque, ever-mutating, hydra-headed monstrosity from the Bush-Cheney Little Shop of Horrors — has risen again, this time with an added twist of Orwellian intrusiveness from the Obamacans.
Since 2006, Team Bush, and then Team Obama, have allowed the little-known, hugely powerful National Security Agency to run a daily dragnet through your and my phone calls — all on the hush-hush, of course, not informing us spyees. Now exposed, leaders of both parties are piously pointing to the Patriot Act, saying that it legalized this wholesale, everyday invasion of our privacy, so we shouldn't be surprised, much less upset by NSA's surreptitious peek-a-boo program.
When the story broke, Obama quickly began dissembling, calling these massive and routine violations of the Fourth Amendment "modest encroachments on privacy" that are "worth us doing" to make us more secure. He added disingenuously that Congress is regularly briefed about the program. In fact, however, only a handful of members are briefed, and even they have been lied to by Obama's director of national intelligence, James Clapper, who flatly denied in Senate testimony in March that NSA was gathering information on hundreds of millions of our citizens' phone calls. Yet, Sen. Diane Feinstein, chairwoman of the intelligence committee, loyally defends spying on Americans, claiming it protects us from terrorists. But she then admitted she really doesn't know how the mountains of data are being used.
This is nothing but the "Great Bottomless Trust-Us Swamp," created by the panicky passage and irresponsible reauthorization of the Patriot Act. Secretly seizing everyone's phone records is, as the ACLU put it, "beyond Orwellian." A New York Times editorial rightly says, "The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue." But no administration can be trusted to restrain itself from abusing the unlimited power of the Patriot Act.
It's not enough to fight NSA's outrageously invasive spying on us — the Patriot Act itself is a shameful betrayal of America's ideals, and it must be repealed.
When whistleblower Eric Snowden literally blew the lid off NSA's seven-year, super-snooper program of rummaging electronically through about a billion phone calls made every day by us average Americans, Al Gore tweeted: "Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?" It's definitely not just you, Al — this latest explosion of the Fourth Amendment is so mega-awful that authorities had to conjure up a new word for the process: Metadata mining.
Most shocking, however, is the tin-eared, who-cares reaction by both Republican and Democratic leaders to this outrageous meta-surveillance. For example, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham blustered that, "It doesn't bother me one bit that NSA has my number." Hey, Lindsey, it's not your number we're worried about. It's NSA's collection of our entire country's numbers. Then came Sen. Saxby Chambliss: "We have not had any citizen who has registered a complaint," he blathered. Hello, Sen. Clueless: No one knew to complain since y'all kept the program secret from us! Remember?
Even more ridiculous was President Obama's feeble effort to rationalize this spookery by declaring that Congress knew about it, as did a special spy court that routinely reviews and blesses it, so it's all legit. In a perplexed voice, Obama added: "If people cant trust the executive branch, but also don't trust Congress and don't trust federal judges ... then we're going to have some problems here."
Gosh sir, We the People have now learned that all three branches of government have furtively conspired for seven years to violate our privacy — so, no, we don't trust any of them. And, yes, that is a biiiiiiig problem.
(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Pat Buchanan - Obama tiptoes toward war

Barack Obama has just taken his first baby steps into a war in Syria that may define and destroy his presidency. Thursday, while he was ringing in Gay Pride Month with LGBT revelers, a staffer, Ben Rhodes, informed the White House press that U.S. weapons will be going to the Syrian rebels.
For two years Obama has stayed out of this sectarian-civil war that has consumed 90,000 lives. Why is he going in now?
The White House claims it now has proof Bashar Assad used sarin gas to kill 100-150 people, thus crossing a "red line" Obama had set down as a "game changer." Defied, his credibility challenged, he had to do something.
Yet Assad's alleged use of sarin to justify U.S. intervention seems less like our reason for getting into this war than our excuse. For the White House decided to intervene weeks ago, before the use of sarin was confirmed. And why would Assad have used only tiny traces? Where is the photographic evidence of the disfigured dead? What proof have we the rebels did not fabricate the use of sarin or use it themselves to get the gullible Americans to fight their war?
Yet, why would President Obama, whose proud boast is that he will have extricated us from the Afghan and Iraq wars, as Dwight Eisenhower did from the Korean War, plunge us into a new war? He has been under severe political and foreign pressure to do something after Assad and Hezbollah recaptured the strategic town of Qusair and began preparing to recapture Aleppo, the largest city.
Should Assad succeed, it would mean a decisive defeat for the rebels and their backers: the Turks, Saudis and Qataris. And it would mean a geostrategic victory for Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, who have proven themselves reliable allies.
To prevent this defeat and humiliation, we are now going to ship arms and ammunition to keep the rebels going and in control of enough territory to negotiate a peace that will remove Assad. We are going to make this a fair fight.
What is wrong with this strategy? It is the policy of an amateur. It treats war like a game. It ignores the lessons of history. And, as it continues a bloodbath with no prospect of an end to it, it is immoral.
In every great civil war of modernity — the Russian civil war of 1919-1921, the Spanish civil war of 1936-1939, the Chinese civil war of 1945-49, one side triumphs and takes power. The other loses and lives with the consequences — defeat, death, exile.
What is the likely reaction to our escalation from humanitarian aid to military aid? Counter-escalation. Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are likely to rush in more weapons and troops to accelerate the progress of Assad's army before the American weapons arrive.
And if they raise and call, what does Obama do?
Already, a clamor is being heard from our clients in the Middle East and Congress to crater Syria's runways with cruise missiles, to send heavy weapons to the rebels, to destroy Assad's air force on the ground, to bomb his antiaircraft sites.
All of these are acts of war. Yet under the Constitution, Congress alone authorizes war.
When did Congress authorize Obama to take us to war in Syria? Where does our imperial president get his authority to draw red lines and attack countries that cross them? Have we ceased to be a republic? Has Congress become a mere spectator to presidential decisions on war and peace?
As Vladimir Putin seems less the reluctant warrior, what do we do if Moscow answers the U.S. escalation by delivering on its contract to provide A-300 antiaircraft missiles to Damascus, which can cover half of Israel?
Obama has put us on the escalator to a war already spilling over Syria's borders into Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, a war that is now sundering the entire Middle East along Sunni and Shia lines. He is making us de facto allies of the Al-Qaida-like al-Nusra Front, of Hamas and jihadists from all across the region, and of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi just severed ties to Syria and is demanding a "no-fly zone," which one imagines the United States, not the Egyptian air force, would have to enforce.
Our elites shed tears over the 90,000 dead in Syria. But what we are about to do will not stop the killing, but simply lengthen the duration of the war and increase the numbers of dead and wounded.
At the top of this escalator our country has begun to ascend is not just a proxy war with Iran in Syria, but a real war that would entail a disaster for the world economy. If the ouster of Assad is what the Sunni powers of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt demand, why not let them do it?
Anti-interventionists should demand a roll-call vote in Congress on whether Obama has the authority to take us into this Syrian war.
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 June 2013 09:28

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Froma Harrop - Medicare blowing whislte on another way we overpay

Little victories in curbing health care costs can add up. In truth, they seem little only next to the titanic $2.6 trillion Americans spend a year on health care. So let us salute them.
Case in point, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (Medpac) proposes ending a ridiculously expensive practice: Medicare paying hospital outpatient departments vastly more than it does doctors providing the same routine service in their offices.
Here are two examples, courtesy of The Seattle Times: Woman goes to a dermatologist at Seattle's Roosevelt Clinic for the same treatment she received in an earlier visit to a doctor's office. But this time she gets two bills — $109 for the doctor and $228 for the privilege of seeing the doctor in real estate owned by the hospital. This is the "facility fee."
A retired Seattle doctor offers a similar story. His wife consulted a doctor — no procedures done — in a hospital clinic and received a facility charge of $177 in addition to the doctor's bill of $139. The sum total came to $316 — this for a 15-minute chat in a 10-by-10-foot office space, no water view.
Small wonder hospitals have been buying up physician practices. That way they can drag more patients onto their premises and tack facility fees onto their bills. In Washington state, for example, 2 percent of the cardiologists were employed by hospitals in 2007. Now 42 percent are.
You know the echocardiogram, that test where the doctor sticks those thingies on your chest to check out your heart. For Medicare beneficiaries, the government and patient pay a total of $188 for an echocardiogram in a doctor's office. They are charged $452 for the same thing done in a hospital outpatient department.
There is no conceivable reason for doing a routine echocardiogram in a hospital setting other than improving the hospital's revenue stream. In answer to the question, "What risks are there from the (echocardiogram) test?" the Harvard Medical School responds, "There are no risks."
So Medpac has come up with an eminently reasonable proposal: "Medicare should base payment rates on the resources needed to safely treat patients in the most efficient setting, adjusting for differences in patient severity." Translation: Go to the least expensive setting, while taking the patient's condition into account.
Some private insurers are already on the case. Seattle-based Group Health Cooperative has told the hospital systems it contracts with that it will no longer pay their fees for ordinary visits to the doctor. And, as a nice touch, it won't let them saddle patients with them, either.
Naturally, hospitals don't like this kind of talk. They moan of the costs of their emergency rooms, their expensive regulations and the allegedly paltry sums Medicare pays them for outpatient care (all the while advertising for Medicare patients).
Left unspoken is the soaring compensation of hospital executives. Some get multimillion-dollar pay packages tied to how many bodies they get through the hospital door. Theirs is a good business.
We were speaking of how minor victories in curbing medical costs can add up to healthy savings. Medpac identified 66 groups of services performed in hospital outpatient departments that could be done in a doctor's office.
By paying the doctor's office rate for them, Medicare and its beneficiaries would save $900 million a year. Another $600 million a year could be saved for 12 groups of services commonly performed in ambulatory surgical centers but often done in more expensive hospital settings.
Put these numbers together, and you have $1.5 billion a year in savings. That's not a shabby number, even when floating in the ocean of American health care spending.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

Last Updated on Monday, 17 June 2013 09:37

Hits: 249

 
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