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Justice and Injustice in The Big City — Part One

 (NB: This article was based on interviews with attorneys, court employees, police officers, defendants, and personal observations by this reporter in actual courtrooms.)

You probably watch “Law & Order.” Most people do. There you get to see the justice system chugging along like a sausage factory. The police think someone has committed a crime. A detective digs through the facts, interviews witnesses, and examines all of the evidence before going to a prosecutor to seek an indictment. The accused is brought before a judge in person to be charged in a wood-paneled courtroom, a defense attorney protests their innocence, the prosecutor must show what they have to indict, and if the judge thinks it’s more likely than not that a crime has been committed the defendant is charged, and a reasonable bail is usually set. The bail is paid, and the defendant is able to return to their life and assist in their defense. Their attorney has the resources to investigate the alleged crime, find exculpatory evidence, and go to trial. A trial eventually happens, all of the facts are put before a judge and jury, and if they are innocent, they will walk away full of puppies and rainbows – because the system worked. You turn off the tv basking in the glow of the American Justice System. All is right – or white – with the world, and you’ll sleep soundly knowing that the rule of law works for everyone.

That is a terrible lie. You’ve been suckered. That’s not what happens. It’s a fantasy. Let’s use the example of my hometown – Philadelphia.

So, the police hear that you’ve committed a crime. Maybe someone called in a tip. Maybe your neighbor was mad at you and wanted to get even. Maybe your girlfriend is mad at you. Maybe the police were simply bored and needed to look good to their commanding officer. They don’t investigate it. Based solely on a statement against you they go to the Charging Unit of the District Attorney’s Office and ask for a arrest warrant. They usually always get one. It’s a rubber stamp.

Handcuffs and a car (houstondwiPhotos mp FLIKR CC)

You’re arrested. You get put into a van and taken to a police station. You are scared. Nobody tells you what’s happening. Your things are taken from you. You’re photographed and fingerprints are taken. You may get an invasive body search. You’re led to a cell. If you’re lucky you get a few cheese sandwiches (one slice of processed cheese and two slices of bread) and water. You’ll have to ask (beg) for toilet paper. The cell will be filthy, the sink and toilet a horror show, and you’ll sleep on a hard metal bench with no pillow or blanket. There are cockroaches. There are rats. If it’s night time, the lights will remain on and it will be impossible to sleep. One person told me of police who enjoyed keeping a radio blasting gospel music all night at the cells because “Y’all need Jesus in your life.” Jesus is nowhere to be found. If you called The Hague you’d have a good case for a crimes against humanity charge.

Exhausted, you will suddenly be taken to a room with a monitor. You’ll be arraigned via closed-circuit television. No wood-paneled courtroom. No attorney by your side. In fact, you haven’t spoken to an attorney yet. You can’t utter a word during this arraignment. You begin to pray. You might cry. If you’re lucky you’ll get bail.

I hope you thought to bring change. If you did, you get one phone call to get someone to pay your bail. Do you remember their phone number? It may be late, and no one will answer. Too bad. It sucks to be you. If you get someone who can pay your bail, they have to travel to the bail payment window in a far away building to do so. Then you wait for the system to grind along before you’re released. The police won’t call anyone for you. Your partner is probably freaking out and has no idea where you are.

Huzzah! You got someone to pay your bail and you’re released! You get your things back. Never mind the money that’s missing from your wallet and the fancy watch that’s not on your property sheet, you’re free to go.

How will you get home? You’re in a strange neighborhood late at night. How will you explain it to your boss if your missed work? How will you afford an attorney? You probably can’t, so you’re assigned a public defender.

You get home. You are shaking. “How did this happen to me? I didn’t do it!” you’re asking yourself. You look at the paperwork and see that you’re expected to go to the Public Defender’s Office to discuss your case. You and your wife argue. Your children cry. The whole neighborhood knows by now that you’ve been arrested. They stare.

You lose another day from work to go speak to the public defender (do you still have a job?). You wait for your name to be called. You have about ten minutes to tell the harried public defender your tale of woe. They ask questions as if they assume you’re guilty. You can’t believe this is happening to you.

They suggest a deal right off the bat. They don’t have the time or resources to investigate every crime, and just want to clear their desk for more serious cases. They’ll urge in very strong terms to take a deal. In fact, 63% of cases in one year in Philadelphia ended in defendants taking plea deals. If every case went to trial, the system would collapse, and the system knows it. Forget your right to a trial and to confront witnesses against you. Take the deal, they urge.

But you didn’t do it! The public defender will not-so-patiently explain that innocence is not a defense. The deck is stacked against you. Take the deal.

You refuse, because you don’t want to be a convicted criminal. You’ll never find a good job or place to live with a criminal record.

Exasperated, the public defender prepares for a trial. During your first hearing weeks later (more lost work), the District Attorney calls their witness against you. They aren’t there. The case is continued for another month or so.

During the second hearing, the witness still doesn’t appear. It’s continued again. If you some much as look at anyone in the courtroom you are yelled at. You’ve been arrested – you must have done something.

Finally, at the third hearing, the witness shows up. But the ADA needs to collect more evidence. Another date is set. More missed work. More stress. More relationships under enormous pressure. Have you been evicted yet? At this point they’ve offered a deal more than once – they may even have lowered the charges to sweeten the pot. Your public defender begins to pressure you to take it. You still refuse – but you’re tempted because you just want it to end. All you have to do is sign this paper and it will all be over. You’ll probably argue that you didn’t do it.

It. Doesn’t. Matter. Your public defender gets angry but tells the ADA and the court you want a trial.

Courtroom Karen Neoh – Flikr CC

Fast forward a few months. The date is finally here, you’re going to trial! For the sake of brevity, let’s assume that you’re going with a bench trial – where a judge and not a jury decides your fate – because your public defender knows that this particular judge is fair. Many aren’t. Many have no criminal trial experience before running for judge (yes, ours are elected). You’re in luck because this judge was a criminal defense attorney and actually knows the law. Fingers crossed!

But wait. Your subpoena said you had to be there at 9:00 am. Where is everyone? If you were late you’d be in contempt of court, your bail could be revoked, and you’d in a lot of trouble. So you, your lawyer, the ADA, the police witnesses, the state’s witnesses, and a gaggle of court employees sit and wait. And wait. And wait.

Finally at 11:00 am the judge finally wanders in. They chat up the clerks. Two hours you’ve waited. An no one dares say a word of complaint to the judge. I asked dozens of attorneys to talk about this on the record. They were all afraid to – for fear of never being able to try a case and win again. But I did find one criminal defense attorney, Zac Shaffer, to explain the dire impact on these delays on defendants and the police:

“Consistent start times help defendants, witnesses and police officers. Defendants and witnesses may have a job to run back to. Many of these people are living paycheck to paycheck. An entire day off of work might mean a missed rent check or a utility turned off. Shaffer continued, “I have personally seen alibi witnesses with a  9:00AM subpoena leave court before testifying because they cannot miss a whole day of work and their case wasn’t even statused, let alone     started, until 11:00AM when the judge takes the bench. Oftentimes last out officers are in court after finishing a shift that started at midnight just to find out they are not needed for court at 10:30AM or 11:00AM. An earlier start time lets them leave to rest up for the next shift. Their job requires split second decision making where being rested can mean the difference between life and death.”

After waiting for hours, you have your trial. If you’re lucky, your public defender has prepped for the case. They may have spent an entire hour on it. Did I mention that because of the rotation system that this is your third/fourth/fifth public defender, and that they probably forgot what you even look like? Before the trial they’ll pressure you again to take the damned deal. You argue. This is the person who’s supposed to zealously defend you and they’re mad at you for making their life harder.

The trial goes on. It’s obvious that the police have been coached. I’ve seen this with my own eyes, as ADA’s hand the case file to them before the trial to “refresh their recollection.” They even have a tiny special room for this purpose. Their testimony sounds like a script – because it is. Shocker: the police are trained to lie. They do it every day.

After everyone’s testified and been cross-examined, and evidence presented, the state rests. It’s in the hands of the judge. You start praying.

Court Gavel (wp paarz – FLIKR CC)

You’re stunned. You heard “Not Guilty on All Counts.” You’re free to go. You shake hands with your lawyer and wander out into the sunlight. You might cry in the hallway on the way there.

You’re free!

No apology. No help getting home. No one will even acknowledge you. Your reputation is destroyed and there’s no one you can sue. No place to get your good name back.

You go home. A month later your bail check finally arrives. For one last insult, the court keeps 1/3 of your bail monies for “processing.”

You file the papers to expunge your record. If you’re lucky, the DA’s Office won’t fight it. This process takes months. Meanwhile, your record is still there for every employer to see – and good luck getting a job.

Your life destroyed and you have nowhere to turn for help.

Ok. You’re probably white and wondering how this applies to you. You think anyone who’s been arrested probably did something, and deserves to go to jail. You’ve never committed a crime. Or so you say.

Have you ever added up your checking account wrong and bounced a check? Have you ever forgotten to pay a parking ticket? Have you ever argued with your wife? Have you left home without your wallet and don’t have identification when you blow through a red light? Has someone ever stolen your identity? Can you prove you were home at 9:24 pm three months ago when your neighbor claims you stole their snowblower after the argument you just had over their dog?

Then congratulations! You’re going to jail!

Start carrying quarters. You’re going to need them.


(Part Two of this series, publishes on Feb 27th at 4pm, will be about the office that’s trying to put you away: the prosecutor. You won’t believe it until you read it.)

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Dobbins: “Dear Becky”

Singer and Songwriter Beyonce

Dear Becky:

I’ll wait while you put down your yoga mat.

You voted for Trump. After these past few weeks, I really have to ask, “What the hell were you thinking?” Seriously, Trump? The shouting guy on the TV?

I know, you were so concerned about those email servers. Do you even know what an email server looks like? And Benghazi! Find Benghazi on a map unassisted and I’ll eat a bug.

You overlooked the fact that he broke two marriage vows but somehow think he’ll keep his oath of office.

You overlooked his addiction to tweeting – and tweeting – and tweeting.

You overlooked a lot that would have set your hair on fire had President Obama done the same.

And because of you, every thinking person in this country is freaking out. But not you.

Because you are safe behind your yoga mat of white privilege.

You didn’t join the millions of people who crammed our streets to protest. Because you were busy. Because Emma had a lesson. Because Noah had a game. Because you had to get the oil changed on your SUV. Because you were busy being white. Because it doesn’t affect you – and it never has.

By now you’re sputtering, “But I have black friends,” “I’m not racist,” and my personal favorite, “I’m not privileged.”

Yes, you are. You’re privileged, and probably racist too. Most white people are and don’t even know it – or do, and don’t care.

Here’s a simple way I use to test white privilege. Can you go an entire day without interacting with a person of color if you tried? I’m betting the answer is yes. That’s the bubble of white privilege that you think will protect you. But it won’t. Not by a long shot.

So you want to keep those “nasty hombres” out of our country by building a wall? When the price of your food skyrockets because white folks won’t pick crops, you’ll care then. Because it affects you.

So you think by insulting foreign leaders our nation looks stronger? You equate shouting with strength – because you have always had the microphone and always think you will. How many times have you shouted “I want to see your manager,” when you didn’t get what you wanted, then, at that moment?Now Trump is the manager and there’s no one else to call.

So you think defunding Planned Parenthood will make abortions go away? When Emma comes home someday with bad news, you’ll always have a way to fix that problem. A poor woman’s abortion is Emma’s D&C. Most people won’t have those choices. But you will. That’s why it’s called “pro-choice.” Because we want the choices you have always had – and always will.

By now you’re probably angry and about to write something nasty in the comments section. I hope you do. I want you to be angry. As I promised in my first column, I’ll probably make you mad from time to time. This is one of those times.

But stop for a moment and think.

Could I be just a little bit right?

And could you be just a little bit white – and privileged?

Regards,

Mark

PS: We’ll talk more about this in the upcoming months. I’m just laying the groundwork for that conversation. I hope you’ll stick around.

(Featured Image: Katrina In Yoga Pose, by Earl McGee on Flikr CC)

Mark Fernald: How Do We Keep Guns Away From “Bad Guys”

“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” So said NRA President Wayne LaPierre just after the Sandy Hook massacre. If a ‘bad guy’ pulls out a gun and starts shooting, the only answer, according to Mr. LaPierre, is for someone to pull out another gun and take the ‘bad guy’ out.

The NRA and the Republican Party advocate what they call “Constitutional carry”—allowing anyone to carry a gun, openly or concealed, at any time and anywhere (excluding, one presumes, people with felony convictions). Republicans all over the country are attacking background checks, gun-free zones, and laws that require a permit to carry a loaded, concealed weapon.

The Democratic Party approach is different; it focuses on preventing people likely to misuse guns from getting them in the first place. The background check law has stopped over 1.5 million ‘bad guys’ from buying guns since 1994. That law passed after a Republican filibuster failed.

Unfortunately, our background check system has a couple of glaring loopholes. It does not cover sales of guns by unlicensed sellers at gun shows or sales between private parties, so any ‘bad guy’ who wants to buy a gun has an easy workaround.

Republicans have repeatedly blocked efforts by Democrats to require a background check for all gun sales. Republicans seem to value easy access to guns over a system that would keep guns out of the hands of felons and people with severe mental disabilities.

This is not about Constitutional rights. Background checks and concealed carry permits are Constitutional. In the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, the US Supreme Court ruled that citizens have a Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, explained that the right to bear arms is limited: It is not “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Justice Scalia specifically referenced prior court decisions that upheld restrictions or bans on carrying concealed, loaded weapons.

For 94 years, New Hampshire has required a permit to carry a loaded, concealed weapon in a car or on your person. The permits are issued by the chiefs of police in each city and town. The law states that permits can be issued to “a suitable person to be licensed.”

Our chiefs of police have taken their responsibility seriously, seeking out the record and the reputation of those applying for a concealed carry permit. Sometimes an applicant is an irresponsible citizen who is not suitable for a permit: a person who has a history of getting drunk in bars and picking fights; a person who has threatened someone with a gun in the past, though never convicted of a felony; a person who has been involved in road rage incidents; a person who has been the subject of multiple domestic violence calls to 911.

Under current law, if a person has committed an act of violence below the felony level, it is legal for that person to have a gun at home. But if that person wants to carry a loaded concealed weapon in public, New Hampshire has a higher standard implemented by our chiefs of police.

The State Senate and the House have now passed SB12, which eliminates the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed loaded weapon. In the Senate, the ten Democrats were the only no votes. Thirteen Republicans voted yes. The vote in the House was nearly as lopsided. Only two Republicans voted no, and only ten Democrats voted yes.

The effect of SB12 is to remove the discretion of chiefs of police to deny permits. Republicans talk about law and order; they should trust the chiefs of police to exercise good judgment in determining who should be allowed to carry a loaded, concealed weapon. This is what Republicans and the NRA have now abolished.

The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police spoke out against SB12. Their arguments fell on deaf ears. The Governor has indicated he will sign SB12.

If you have a chance to speak to your Representative or Senator or the Governor, ask these questions: Should an alcoholic with multiple DWI convictions be allowed to carry a loaded concealed weapon? How about the man who punched his neighbor during an argument? Or the woman who has been diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic, and sometimes fails to take her meds?

Once Republicans have succeeded in passing SB12, almost anybody could be carrying a loaded, concealed weapon—even people with violent histories. And our only defense, in this Republican world, will be to avoid the first shot, and try to return fire.

 

Mark Fernald is a former State Senator and was the 2002 Democratic nominee for Governor. He can be reached at mark@markfernald.com.

Mark Dobbins: I’m Not Ready To Make Nice

As I sat down this week to write my first column, I wanted to make nice, I really did. In the wake of the disastrous first weeks of the Trump administration, conservatives across the political spectrum called for unity, saying “Give Trump a chance.” I was going write about how we can bridge the ever-growing divide that is tearing our nation apart. It was even going to be intersectional.

I had planned on listing what I, as a “big city liberal,” believed. I’m from Philadelphia, a predominantly Democratic city on the East Coast. We don’t always agree. Like most Democrats, we argue. But there are some things we do all agree on. Good paying jobs that let families do more than just survive. Not choosing between medicine for our children and paying the rent. An educational system that works. LGBTQ rights that let us live our lives without fear or prejudice. Police who don’t murder people of color and get away with it. Strong unions. Politicians that don’t pat us on the head while picking our pockets. We want to be happy. We’re not asking for special privileges – just the basic rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” we all learned about in school. That’s what I was going to write about.

Then I started covering the protests that swept Philadelphia and realized that the time for kumbaya was over.

Image by Mark Dobbins

I heard mothers tell me how, for the first time, they were afraid for their children. That a madman now controlled the White House, and instead of spending his time fixing our problems, takes to Twitter to call people names. Who hangs up on world leaders. Who tweets every time someone dares to disagree with him. Who needs a timeout.

I heard people of color tell me that this wasn’t new to them. America has always been and still is a racist country. It’s just come out of the closet for everyone to see. And now it’s respectable for white supremacists to sit next to the President of the United States without shame and whisper sweet nothings into his ear.

I heard my LGBTQ friends tell me how fear for their lives. Just a few years after we got the right to marry each other, we suddenly are afraid to hold hands in public. In Philadelphia.

Image by Mark Dobbins

I heard transgender individuals tell me how their friends are being murdered – daily – across this country, and how they wonder if they’ll be next.

I heard fear. But I also heard resistance.

I saw the crowds marching in the bitter cold to shut down the streets. The words they shouted differed from day to day, but the sentiment was the same – we will fight back. We will not allow this to happen – again. That our voices will be heard. That this isn’t the America we believed in – and that we want our country back.

In the upcoming months, I’ll be writing about those voices, and how they’re fighting. As a journalist, it isn’t my job to make people comfortable or happy, but to speak the truth. My columns may make you angry. Good. I hope that they do. I probably will poke a few hornets’ nests. I may get stung. I may sting. But I’ll always be honest with you.

All I ask is that you listen. Because, like the song goes, “I’m not ready to make nice.”

Leo W Gerard: Speak Loudly And Carry A Big Aluminum Bat

During this very month last year, aluminum smelters across the United States were closing, one after another. It was as if they produced something useless, not a commodity crucial to everything from beverage cans to fighter jets.

In January of 2016, Alcoa closed its Wenatchee Works in Washington State, costing 428 workers their jobs, sending 428 families into panic, slashing tax revenue counted on by the town of Wenatchee and the school district and devastating local businesses that no longer saw customers from the region’s highest-paying manufacturer.

That same month, Alcoa announced it would permanently close its Warrick Operations in Evansville, Ind., then the largest smelter in the country, employing 600 workers, within three months.

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Worker at Alcoa’s Warrick smelter in Evansville, Ind., before it closed in 2016. Photo by Steven Dietz, Sharp Image Studios, Pittsburgh.

Then, Noranda Aluminum fell. It laid off more than half of the 850 workers at its New Madrid, Mo., smelter in January, filed for bankruptcy in February and closed in March. The smelter was a family-supporting employer in a low-income region, and when it stopped operating, the New Madrid County School District didn’t get tax payments it was expecting.

This devastation to workers, families, communities and corporations occurred even after Ormet had shuttered a smelter in Ohio in 2013, destroying 700 jobs and Century closed its Hawesville, Ky., smelter, killing 600 jobs, in August of 2015.

It all happened as demand for aluminum in the United States increased.

That doesn’t make sense until China’s role in this disaster is explained.

That role is the reason the Obama administration filed a complaint against China with the World Trade Organization (WTO) last week. In this case, the president must ignore the old adage about speaking softly. To preserve a vital American manufacturing capability against predatory conduct by a foreign power, the administration must speak loudly and carry a big aluminum bat.

The bottom line is this: American corporations and American workers can compete with any counterpart in the world and win. But when the contest is with a country itself, defeat is virtually assured.

In the case of aluminum, U.S. companies and workers are up against the entire country of China. That is because China is providing its aluminum industry with cheap loans from state-controlled banks and artificially low prices for critical manufacturing components and materials such as electricity, coal and alumina.

By doing that, China is subsidizing its aluminum industry. And that is fine if China wants to use its revenues to support its aluminum manufacturing or sustain employment – as long as all of the aluminum is sold within China. When state-subsidized products are sold overseas, they distort free market pricing. And that’s why they’re banned.

China agreed not to subsidize exports in order to get access to the WTO. But it has routinely and unabashedly flouted the rules on products ranging from tires to paper to steel to aluminum that it dumps on the American market, resulting in closed U.S. factories, killed U.S. jobs and bleak U.S. communities.

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Worker at Alcoa’s Warrick Operations in Evansville, Ind., before the smelter closed in 2016. Photo by Steven Dietz, Sharp Image Studios, Pittsburgh.

In 2000, China produced about 11 percent of the aluminum on the global market. That figure is now 50 percent. A big part of the reason is that China quadrupled its capacity to produce aluminum from 2007 to 2015, and increased its production by 154 percent.

When China threw all of that extra, cheap, state-subsidized aluminum on the global market, it depressed prices. In that eight-year period, the price sank approximately 46 percent.

To compete, American smelters tried cutting costs and getting better deals on electricity. But even as U.S. demand increased, U.S. production declined 37 percent. And capacity decreased 46 percent.

What capacity decrease means is closed plants. The number of smelters dropped from 14 in 2011 to five last year, with only one operating at full volume.

Many of these manufacturing workers, thrown out of their jobs by what is clearly unfair trade, saw President-elect Donald Trump as a champion. Donald Trump said he would hold China to account on trade. He promised he would impose massive tariffs on goods imported from China. He said he would confront Beijing on currency manipulation, a practice that makes Chinese goods artificially cheap.

Many of those manufacturing workers voted for Donald Trump. Monroe County, Ohio, is a good example. That was the home of the Ormet smelter. The workers, who belonged to my union, the United Steelworkers, and the company asked Ohio Gov. John Kasich in 2012 and 2013 to intervene with the utility to get lower rates to help Ormet survive.

Kasich refused. The smelter closed. Monroe County’s unemployment rate now is the highest in Ohio at 9 percent, nearly twice the national rate.

Monroe County voters didn’t forget. Theirs was among the counties in Ohio that went for Donald Trump in the Republican primary. Though Trump didn’t win the Ohio primary, he got 35.9 percent in the crowded GOP field, and he took virtually all of the places in Ohio that, like Monroe, would say Kasich and other politicians turned their backs on them.

President-elect Trump carried 29 of Ohio’s Appalachian counties in the primary, those described as “geographically isolated and economically depressed.” These are counties that, like Monroe, lost family-supporting jobs in steel, manufacturing or mining. For the workers who haven’t left, the jobs that remain, in retail and fast food, don’t pay much, don’t provide benefits and aren’t secure.

When Donald Trump came to town talking tough about China, that sounded a hell of a lot better to those workers than their governor telling them he wouldn’t help with electrical rates – especially after they watched the governor in New York work a deal to save an Alcoa smelter and 600 jobs for 3 years in Massena.

And, of course, Donald Trump won Ohio in the General Election.

Workers across America, from Sebree, Ky., and Mt. Holly, S.C., where Century smelters are threatened to Wenatchee, Wash., where Alcoa has held out the possibility that the smelter could be restarted, were galvanized to support Donald Trump by his promises to confront China on its predatory trade practices.  If he fulfills those pledges, he will have the back of the blue-collar workers who had his.

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Worker at Alcoa’s Warrick smelter in Evansville, Ind., before it closed last year. Photo by Steven Dietz, Sharp Image Studios, Pittsburgh.

5 Signs That Your Windows Are In Need of Repair

Sponsored Post with tips to save money on your energy bill this winter. 

 

When it comes to the east coast, its long frigid winters, tropical storms and annual hurricanes, your windows have most likely seen their fair share of beatings from mother nature. The resulting damage can vary from swollen window frames, or leaky windows to deteriorated seals, but it is not always easy to tell when they actually need to be repaired or replaced. If you aren’t sure what to look for, we will outline the 5 most common signs of window damage to look out for.

Save Energy

If you do regular inspections on your windows to ensure that they are functioning properly, you can save a lot of money not only on your maintenance bill but on your energy bill as well. High energy bills are commonly attributed to run down, drafty old windows, which can push the figure up as much as 25%! Examine your windows with this handy checklist to find how much money and energy you could potentially save.

The Tell Tale Signs

Mother nature, in the form of the ever-changing weather, speeds up the wear and tear of most parts of your home, but your windows are particularly at risk as they are the thinnest barrier between you and the outside world. Is it time to renovate, repair or replace? Here are the signs;

  1. There is a Draft coming Through the House

Drafty windows are generally the result of failed weather-strips on your windows’ sashes, but may also be caused by cracked windowpane or where the glazing putty on the glass has decayed. The offending elements should be replaced, but until you can find a long term and possibly costly solution, using caulk to seal these gaps is a cost-effective and easy solution.

  1. The Windows are Chipped, Cracked or Broken

This is the easiest and most obvious issue to detect; cracks, chips and scratches usually come from storm damage. These should be placed as soon as possible to reduce the risk of shattered glass getting into your home and causing damage or injury.

  1. The Windows are Old, Run Down and Rotten

It is quite easy to tell if a home is old, just old by looking at windows. Old windows tend to have cracked, rotten or discolored frames which have taken damage over the years. Before simply repainting, ensure that none of weathered sections are worn or rotten, as painting may mask the issue but will not prevent further deterioration. Decayed frames often require a completely new window.

  1. The Windows have Fog or Water Condensation

When the window seals are broken, then water droplets will begin to form on the inside of the glass. When this happens, the window pane has allowed air into the space between the panes of glass. When moisture also finds its way in then you will get foggy windows, due to the condensation. It is highly recommended that you replace your frames when the deterioration has reached this point.

  1. The Windows are Leaking Water

If your window doesn’t want to close properly all this way this will usually be the chief cause of water leaking in. If the window has a locking mechanism, then locking it may help. If it doesn’t help, then chances are that the frame is compromised and will need to be replaced. Ensure that the roof isn’t leaking down onto the window to rule out other possibilities.


About the Guest Author

This article was provided by a Chicago window repair company, Apex Window Werks. The company specializes in home window repair, glass repair, window defogging and replacement services. Visit their website for more details.

Leo W Gerard — Coming Soon: American Made Battle Of The Heavyweights

Screenshot from CNN Video

Screenshot from CNN Video

Virtually every time President-elect Donald Trump performs in cities across America on his thank you tour, he mentions, to grand applause, his preference for Made in America.

He describes his plan to create jobs with a federal infrastructure spending project – that is improvements to the likes of crumbling roads, bridges, waterlines and airports – and then says, “We will have two simple rules when it comes to this massive rebuilding effort. Buy American and hire American.”

That American-job-creating, buy-American thing is supported by 71 percent of the American public. But it is a smack in the face to GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who just made it clear in the Water Resources Development Act that he’s fine with creating slave-wage iron-and-steel-making jobs in China with U.S. tax dollars so long as a few fat-cat iron-and-steel importers make a profit on the deal.

So, clearly, there’s a battle brewing between the President-elect and the Speaker of the House. This is the President-elect who has repeatedly promised the working class men and women who elected him that he’d support Buy American provisions in federal law to create jobs for them. And it’s a GOP Speaker who wants to ship taxpayer-financed work overseas and let the working class wait a couple more decades to just possibly feel a tiny pinch of trickle down from the largess of filthy rich iron and steel importers. This, also, is a clash between a New York real estate titan who won the presidency and a Wisconsin lawmaker who lost the vice presidency.

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By advocating night after night for American Made, President-elect Trump essentially warned Ryan not to strip the Buy-American provisions out of the Water Resources Development Act. But Ryan did it anyway early in December when he got the act from the Senate.

The act contained strong, permanent Buy America language when the Senate sent it over. These provisions are significant because they use tax dollars to create 33 percent more U.S. factory jobs, something that is, again, important to voters, 68 percent of whom told The Mellman Group  & North Star Opinion Research in November in a national survey conducted for the Alliance for American Manufacturing that they were worried that the country had lost too many manufacturing jobs.

In addition, and President-elect Trump knows this from the response he gets at his rallies, Buy American policies are very popular. Seventy-four percent of voters say large infrastructure projects financed by taxpayer money should be constructed with American-made materials and American workers. And those who voted for President-elect Trump agree more strongly – 79 percent of them say American-made should be given preference over the lowest bidder.

This is a very big deal to iron and steel producers and workers in the United States. Far too many mills are closed or partially shuttered because of unfairly traded imports, and more than 16,000 steelworkers across this country have been laid off over the past year.

China is the main culprit, but there are others. China produces so much steel now that it has managed to inundate the world with more steel than anyone needs. It is dumping steel on the world market at such low prices that no one can compete. As a result, producers from places as far flung as Mexico, the U.S., Canada, India, the U.K. and Spain are shutting down and throwing workers out of their jobs.

China props up that excess steelmaking capacity with methods that are illegal under the terms of the agreements it entered into to gain access to the World Trade Organization and Permanent Normalized Trade Relations with the United States. If steel is sold domestically, a country can provide steel firms with subsidies like exemptions from utility payments and taxes, interest-free loans and free land.

But those free market-warping subsidies violate international trade agreements when the steel is exported. That’s what China is doing. And it’s killing American steel companies and American jobs.

When Ryan eliminated the permanent Buy American provision in the Water Bill, essentially saying it’s fine to import illegally subsidized Chinese iron and steel for taxpayer-financed water projects, he was also saying it is fine to bankrupt American steel companies and destroy American jobs.

If the United States is reduced to buying steel from China to build its military tanks and armor, that’s okay with Ryan, as long as he maintains a great relationship with the lobbyists for the foreign steelmakers. They pushed him hard to drop the Buy American provision through Squire Patton Boggs, a Washington, D.C. lobby and law firm employing Ryan’s predecessor Speaker John Boehner and numerous former top GOP aides.

He got hit with a Tweetstorm after he chose Chinese jobs over American jobs, though. Buy American supporters and members of the Congressional Steel Caucus began pointing out on Twitter just how good #BuyAmerica is for American jobs and the economy and cited @realDonaldTrump, the President-elect’s Twitter handle on every Tweet, which means his account was alerted.

This, for example, came from Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown:

.@RealDonaldTrump: Tell @SpeakerRyan to put #BuyAmerica back in Water bill. American tax dollars for American jobs.”

And Steelworkers wrote protests on Ryan’s Facebook page and hundreds called Ryan and his anti-American-made Congressional crew.

Ryan responded. Sort of. He restored one-year Buy American language to the bill. Nothing like the permanent provisions achieved in other federal laws, but it does keep the jobs for 12 months and the issue alive until President-elect Trump can take on Ryan mano-a-mano on Buy American after the inauguration.

Ryan has made clear his anti-American preference, so this will be a royal rumble. But the Speaker should beware. The last time the President-elect stepped into the ring with a heavyweight, it was with the ring’s owner, World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Vince McMahon. And the former professional wrestler McMahon left bald and defeated.

Letter to the Editor: State’s Pension Recapitalization Effort Hurts Schools

We should all be concerned about the future of Nashua’s public school system if the State Government does not help alleviate the burden of rising pension costs on municipal budgets. As I see it, the easiest way state lawmakers could help out would be to adopt legislation that would reduce the pension recapitalization target of 100% by 2039, to a more reasonable target like 85%. Also realize that this legislation would not increase taxes and would still achieve the State’s goal of creating a sustainable pension system.

The consequences of doing nothing are rather grim. Last month, Mayor Donchess asked the heads of Nashua’s municipal departments to estimate what services would need to be cut in light of the new increases in pension costs. In her budget estimate, Nashua Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Cornelia Brown, stated that significant cuts to staff, busing services, and maybe even closing an elementary school would all have to be considered to meet the mayor’s request. After presenting her recommendations, Brown did not believe that any of these cuts were a good idea but they were the options that would have to be considered if nothing changed budget-wise.

I agree with Dr. Brown’s assessment that these cuts should not be made; moreover, they are also completely unnecessary. Nashua’s students deserve a well-funded education system; and in order for that to happen, help needs to come from the State.

Gary Hoffman
Nashua, NH

Leo W Gerard: Fire Ants Killed The TPP

The defeat of the TPP is a tale of ants slaying a dragon.

It seemed a fearsome task, challenging the powerful behemoth that is Wall Street, Big Pharma, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Big Ag, Big Oil, all their lobbyists, and all the Congress critters they’d “campaign-financed” to support their money-grubbing 12-country trade scheme.

The battle was engaged, though, for the sake of workers’ rights, clean air and water, food safety, reasonably priced pharmaceuticals, national sovereignty, internet freedom, financial regulation, public control of public lands, the right of governments to pass laws for the public good without corporations suing for so-called lost profits in secret tribunals adjudicated by hand-picked corporate jurists, and the freedom of local governments to buy American-made products for taxpayer financed projects to create American jobs. And, frankly, so much more.  For a righteous, just and equitable society. That’s why there were so many ants.

Literally thousands of civil society groups coalesced to combat the TPP. These included labor unions, health care organizations, food safety advocates, environmentalists, churches, family farmers, social justice societies, indigenous rights organizations and allied groups in the 12 TPP partner countries. My union, the United Steelworkers, was among them. It was an overwhelming number of groups with an overwhelming number of members who conducted an overwhelming number of events over years to make it clear to lawmakers just how strongly citizens opposed the TPP.

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USW members at a 2016 anti-TPP rally in Washington, D.C. organized by the USW Rapid Response Department. Photo are by Steve Dietz of Sharper Image Studios

It began slowly with warnings about the secret negotiation process itself. Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign, which was instrumental in organizing the collaborative action against the TPP, said groups started telling politicians early on that they weren’t going to tolerate another NAFTA. No one listened. As a result, he wrote:

“. . .first thousands, then tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands and then literally millions of Americans signed letters and petitions urging the Obama administration and Congress to abandon TPP negotiations that gave corporate lobbyists a seat at the table, while keeping the public in the dark.”

Let me tell you about the fire ant. They mostly live in mounds. If an animal steps on the mound, the ants will attack. A few ants are irritating. A bunch are annoying. Half a million fierce fire ants with tiny venomous stingers working together can kill a 10-pound animal. That’s what happened to the TPP.

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USW members at a 2016 anti-TPP rally in Washington, D.C. organized by the USW Rapid Response Department. Photo by Steve Dietz of Sharper Image Studios

The anti-TPP forces conducted call-in days that resulted in hundreds of thousands of calls to Congressmen and women. When Congress was weighing whether to fast track the TPP, in other words to approve it without even bothering to amend it to fix it, the anti-TPP forces conducted an encampment on Capitol Hill for three weeks. This, and many other anti-TPP demonstrations, occurred a year before either party chose its presidential nominee.

The USW Rapid Response, Legislative and Political departments worked with USW members to send to Congress more than 350,000 postcards protesting the TPP. USW members met with their Senators and Congressmen 1,500 times this year to oppose the deal. They held rallies, demonstrations, town hall meetings and even rock concerts to inform their communities about the problems with the TPP. They conducted large rallies and other events in Washington, D.C. They built support with their state legislatures and local governments, persuading cities and towns across the country to pass resolutions officially opposing the TPP.

And that’s only what the USW did. The AFL-CIO was an important leader on this issue. And many other unions were just as active, and so were groups like the Sierra Club and the BlueGreen Alliance. The effort was relentless and concerted. And that’s why it was successful.

For the USW, this win was a long time coming. It began 22 years ago when the USW took on NAFTA. The union filed a federal lawsuit trying to overturn that scheme. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court refused to hear it, and the USW lost. Workers continue to suffer devastation from NAFTA today, as manufacturers close profit-making American factories and re-open them across the border in Mexico where greedy corporations can make even more profit by destroying the environment and paying slave wages then shipping the goods duty free back to the United States.

For example, Carrier announced in February that it would close two profit-making factories in Indiana and reopen them in Mexico. The result is 2,100 workers, members of the USW, will lose their good, family-supporting jobs.

That’s NAFTA. That’s a trade deal negotiated by corporations for corporations. After that came Permanent Normalized Trade Relations with China in 2000. The USW strongly protested that as well, because the union believed none of the hype about how China was a huge market, and the United States was going to do all of the selling there.

As it turns out, the USW was right. China has relentlessly dumped government-subsidized products on the American market, baldly defying the international trade laws it agreed to abide by when it signed that agreement in 2000. That has devastated companies that want to manufacture in America, including steel, aluminum, paper and tires producers. These manufacturers have repeatedly had to pay untold millions to file trade cases to obtain limited relief in the form of tariffs, and tens of thousands of workers have paid in the terrible form of lost jobs.

The USW has protested virtually every so-called free trade scheme proposed since NAFTA, most particularly those with Korea and Colombia. In the case of Colombia, where more trade unionists were murdered than in any other country in the world, we asked for a delay in approval of the deal at least until safety for collective bargaining could be assured. We were ignored. And more trade unionists have been murdered every year since the deal took effect.

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Image from the Rock Against the TPP concert in Pittsburgh and is by Chelsey Engel, writer, photographer, singer.

Photo are by Steve Dietz of Sharper Image Studios

Photo are by Steve Dietz of Sharper Image Studios

Then came the massive, hulking dragon of a TPP, the likes and size of which had never been seen before. This time, the corporatists really stepped in it. This time it wasn’t just a few angry trade unionists stinging their ankles. This time the self-dealing free traders had pissed off far too many civil society groups. And they were organized. And they weren’t going to take it anymore.

It’s not over, though. None of us oppose trade. We just want trade deals that, as economist Jared Bernstein and trade law expert Lori Wallach put it, are “written for all the cars on the road, not just the Lamborghinis.” For that to happen, all the groups that protested this deal must be at the table to negotiate the next deal – not just the corporations. The Lamborghinis are one interest group. We are many.

When I was a kid, Frank Sinatra sang a song called High Hopes, and the most famous verse was this:

“Just what makes that little old ant

Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant

Anyone knows an ant, can’t

Move a rubber tree plant.”

No ant can move a rubber tree plant. But let me tell you, a couple million ants just killed a TPP monster. There’s high hope in concerted action.

UNIONS MATTER: The Real Purpose Behind The Charter School Movement & The Ethical Opposition

img_4941-copyBy Barbara McClung and Lauren Phillips for Unions Matter

As charter schools expand and seek to gain more ground, so has the opposition to that movement been increasing throughout the country. From California to Massachusetts, there is intense questioning both of the educational effectiveness of these schools and how they are using public funds. For example, as reported in The Washington Post on October 15th, the NAACP “ratified a resolution calling for a moratorium on the expansion of charters.” Summarizing what is behind the NAACP’s move, the article states:

“Opponents say that too many charter schools promote racial segregation, are poorly run and siphon public funds from traditional public schools, which educate the neediest students.”

And on election day, the people of Massachusetts—the state in which public education in America began— overwhelmingly voted NO on a ballot initiative to increase the number of charter schools in their state.

The Boston Globe writes:

“The vote is a major victory for teachers unions and civil rights organizations, which argued that charters are diverting too much money and attention from traditional public schools that serve the overwhelming majority of students.”

And they quoted Barbara Madeloni, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association who stated:

“It’s really clear from the results of this election that people are interested in public education and value [it]….There should be no conversation about expanding charters,” she added, until the Legislature moves to “fully fund our public schools.”

As proud UFT members and New York City public school teachers who use the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method in our classrooms, we are sure that: 1) EVERY child has a right to the best education possible; and 2) Education should never be for the profit of any individual or corporation. Eli Siegel, the great philosopher and founder of Aesthetic Realism, presented the most important question concerning economics: “What does a person deserve by being a person?” This question has everything to do with the right of children to be educated.

Now, more than ever, we feel it is vital for Americans to know what Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, explains with enormous clarity and passion about the purpose of charter schools. In an issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, titled “For Education to Succeed,” she writes:

“The push for charter schools is an attempt to make public education exist to supply profit to various individuals. An August 21st New York Times article described charter schools as “financed by taxpayers but privately run” – which means run for the profit of those “private” persons. The charter school movement is a fraud, and depends on the collusion of politicians who withhold needed funds from public schools so as to make those public schools as miserable and unattractive as possible. Charter schools turn teachers, as well as children, into fodder for someone’s private profit—because the vast majority of charter schools do not have unions and therefore do not have the justice to working people that unions make possible. The campaign for charter schools is one of the cleverest and cruelest instances of propaganda in US history. Part of the propaganda is the creation of “success rates” by simply expelling students who don’t succeed.”

And Ms. Reiss continues:

“The fundamental ugliness is having schools be based, not on that beautiful thing, the need and right of a child to learn, but on whether those children can put money in the pockets of some wealthy individuals.”

Also in this same issue you can read a tremendously important paper by New York City high school social studies teacher Christopher Balchin, who tells of the success of the Aesthetic Realism teaching method. We’re grateful to have seen in our own classrooms—from elementary school to middle school, from New York’s Lower East Side to Harlem and beyond—that this teaching method can meet the hopes of students and educators everywhere.

Our children represent our nation’s future. In answer to Eli Siegel’s kind urgent question, “What does a person deserve by being a person?,” they deserve the best public education possible. As parents and educators, we see it as our responsibility to protect and preserve this fundamental right!

Barbara McClung is a science teacher in a NYC elementary school and was a Chapter leader for seven years.

Lauren Phillips is a New York City middle school Humanities teacher.

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