Saturday, June 30, 2007

Christians are called to welcome strangers

Giles Fraser, writing for the Church Times in the UK, reminds readers that Christians are called to welcome strangers, especially refugees. He criticized Lord Carey's attitude towards refugees as being out of step with Christianity; Carey is the conservative ex-Archbishop of Canterbury.

It was Sunday morning. I was thinking up my sermon in the bath, as usual. There wasn’t much to do: as it was the last day of National Refugee Week, there was a guest preacher, the chairwoman of the Wandsworth Refugee Network, which my parish supports.

My part in the sermon was just to introduce the preacher. Perhaps the right thing would be to remind the congregation how the whole idea of welcoming the stranger is woven deeply in the Judaeo-Christian ethic. The Bible is full of stories on the moral imperative of hospitality to the foreigner.

As I was mulling over this, the unmistakable drawl of Lord Carey emerged from the radio. He was asked what he wanted from Gordon Brown as Prime Minister. “I hope that he will impose stricter controls on those entering the United Kingdom,” he said.

The majority of those coming to seek refugee status originate from seven countries: Iraq, Somalia, Zimbabwe, China, Afghanistan, Iran, and Eritrea. You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to guess why many of them are running away. Often they have been victims of torture. Many are children. Even when they get here, things can be dreadful. Many are locked up as if they were criminals. Worse can await them if they are released.

In the first three months of this year, 320 asylum-seekers were denied basic support, even though they are not allowed to get a job either. The Refugee Council has organised a number of sleep-outs to highlight the fact that many asylum-seekers have no means of support and end up sleeping rough. Now the Government is thinking of cutting back on funding for English lessons for refugees.

Tim Finch, the spokesman for the Refugee Council, could not understand Lord Carey’s remarks, given that, he said, “controls on immigration and asylum were so strong already.” He continued: “Lord Carey would seem to be out of step with the Church of England and other Christian and faith groups, which have been in the forefront of calls for more generosity to be shown to migrants and refugees.”

In church we sang “Once in Royal David’s City”, to remind ourselves that our Lord was himself a refugee. We read of the Jews as a wandering people, dependent on others for hospitality. I swapped the Gospel reading to Matthew 25: “in as much as you did this to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.” Lord Carey out of step? Too right.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Vatican denies Catholic teachers' union efforts in St. Louis

The Church fully supports the right of workers to form unions or other associations to secure their rights to fair wages and working conditions. This is a specific application of the more general right to associate. In the words of Pope John Paul II, "The experience of history teaches that organizations of this type are an indispensable element of social life, especially in modern industrialized societies."
Economic Justice for All #104
Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986

And yet, we get this story from the SE Missourian:

The highest court in the Roman Catholic church has ruled against St. Louis Catholic elementary school teachers in their quest to unionize and bargain with the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Church judges in Rome upheld Archbishop Raymond Burke's decision in 2004 to deny elementary school teachers the right to unionize and negotiate with the archdiocese, the teachers' group said Tuesday.

In a letter to teachers, Burke had said the archdiocese and individual parishes will not recognize or bargain collectively with any teachers organization.

The Association of Catholic Elementary Educators Local 1312 said it was the third and final appeal. It said the court gave no reasons for the ruling.

Association President Mary Chubb said it was sad to see Burke deny elementary teachers the rights to representation when the church has championed them for other working people, including secondary teachers in the archdiocese.

The archdiocese released a statement endorsing its Parent Teacher Committee, calling it the best way to involve elementary teachers in negotiating compensation and working conditions.

The church has said that since the committee was formed in 1998 by Burke's predecessor, now Cardinal Justin Rigali, salaries have increased and gains have been made in retirement, health and other benefits.

Teachers have maintained it's not enough.

The archdiocese recognizes unions representing three other groups of its employees: Catholic high school teachers, editorial staff for the Catholic newsweekly St. Louis Review, and Catholic cemetery workers.

The Association of Catholic Elementary Educators formed more than 12 years ago. An attempt in the 1970s to have union representation also failed.

In August 2004, the elementary teachers' association filed a complaint with the Vatican, accusing Burke of not following Catholic social teaching on workers' right to organize.

The icon is of Cesar Chavez, died Apr 23, 1993. He founded the first successful farm workers' union in the US, and died as president of the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO.

Credit for the image below, and the story, to Madpriest

Health care and immigration

Do undocumented - illegal - aliens have a right to health care? I view health care as a human right. However, the fact is that it is not free under the best of times, that the American health care system is inefficient and very expensive, and that many Americans lack health insurance. Many move in and out of insurance when they change jobs (and although their employers are required to keep offering insurance after employees leave, they aren't required to subsidize it any more, so many ex-employees can't afford the bills). Under these circumstances, access to health care is seen as a limited good. Many Americans will, understandably, not be particularly eager to extend coverage to undocumented immigrants.

This Marketwatch article discusses some of the efforts to secure care for undocumenteds.

Despite widespread belief to the contrary, documented and undocumented immigrants don't overburden taxpayer-funded health insurance programs, according to a report released earlier this month by the Center for American Progress, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank in Washington.

Noncitizens don't consume many health-care resources, nor do they drive up the costs of care, said Meredith King, the report's author and a health policy analyst at the center. That's partly because many illegal immigrants are reluctant to seek care for fear they will be deported or it will hurt their chances of becoming citizens.

Under federal law, undocumented immigrants aren't eligible for Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Legal immigrants have to wait five years after entering the country before they become eligible for those programs.

States can opt to change those regulations, but it means they have to fund the programs without federal matching dollars, King said, noting that 22 states cover children and pregnant women who have legal status.

About 44% of documented immigrants were uninsured in 2005, more than three times the rate among the native-born, the study found. Although federally funded community and migrant health centers served more than 675,000 migrant and seasonal farm workers in 2004, many noncitizens lack preventive-care services.

Federal law requires emergency rooms to accept and stabilize anyone who seeks emergency medical care. But areas such as Cleveland and Little Rock, Ark., that have smaller immigrant populations see higher ER use than do Miami, Phoenix and Orange County, Calif., which have much larger numbers of noncitizens, according to the study.

"Especially along the Mexico-U.S. border you can see [immigrants are] actually not going to emergency rooms as much as the public commonly thinks," King said. "But when they do go they're sicker, and that's the issue. That does increase the costs, but it's not because they're going more often. They're putting off health services until it's absolutely necessary."

Hospitals' uncompensated care costs that result from people unable or unwilling to pay their medical bills amounted to $26.9 billion in 2004, or 5.6% of total expenses, according to an AHA survey of nearly 5,000 hospitals.

There are some undocumented immigrant families with, say, one child born in the US, and one born abroad. The child born here is a US citizen and eligible for SCHIP (the state children's health insurance plan, administered separately by each state with federal matching funds). I have heard that some families, out of fairness, will choose not to cover both children in this case. (And by the way, the parents and family members of a child born in the US can apply for permanent residency and later naturalization based on the child's citizenship, but they have to wait until the child turns 21. And staying illegally in the country can pose a severe barrier to achieving legal status.)

In Massachusetts, which is rolling out a landmark universal coverage initiative that forces government, employers and individuals to share the costs of health insurance, low-income, legal immigrants now have access to coverage, said Brian Rosman, research director of Health Care for All, a Boston nonprofit advocating for universal care.
"They're eligible for the new subsidized coverage program even if they're ineligible for Medicaid. That was a real positive aspect of the law," Rosman said. "It's letting some low-income legal immigrants get coverage, and they pay on a sliding scale."
Undocumented immigrants can get emergency care that's paid for out of an uncompensated-care pool, he said. "There needs to be some place, to protect the public health, where undocumented people know they can get care."

Several competing bills in California are looking to emulate the compromise that Massachusetts has forged, though the Golden State has 6.5 million uninsured to consider. All but one of the bills, which calls for a single-payer system, falls short of reaching everyone, said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a nonprofit consumer advocacy coalition in Sacramento.

"One of the areas of consensus among the governor and legislators is expanding coverage to all children, and by all children we mean up to 300% of the federal poverty level and without regard to immigration status," Wright said. "There's a desire for us not to weed out the children who are undocumented."


If immigrants fail to get coverage that may affect U.S. citizens' way of life as well, King said. Those who don't have preventive care are likely to forego doctor visits and vaccinations, which may increase public health risks.

That's cause for concern, said Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for NumbersUSA, a Washington nonprofit that advocates for immigration reduction.
"With illegal immigrants, we don't screen them at all, and they're coming from countries where health-care systems are very bad, generally," Jenks said. "There are significantly large numbers of people with [infectious] diseases," especially tuberculosis.

Other challenges include mixed-status households, where low-income, foreign-born parents don't have access to health care but their American-born children qualify for public programs.

"Obviously there's a lively policy discussion and a question of values and priorities about whether that's appropriate or not," said Marian Mulkey, senior program officer at the California Healthcare Foundation in Oakland.

Reshma Shamasunder, director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, an advocacy group in Los Angeles, said Americans want both immigration and health-care reform.
"Everyone needs some form of usual, preventive care," she said. "That's just common sense and good fiscal sense."

"There's lots of forms of thinking about this issue, but the bottom line is there should be affordable, comprehensive care for all residents of our country," said Shamasunder.

The California debate is volatile and could change at any minute, Mulkey said. "These are really complicated issues....I think a lot of people are waiting and seeing at this point."

Just because you don't see it in the price tag doesn't mean you're not paying

One concept in economics is the notion of opportunity cost - from, the cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action. Put another way, the benefits you could have received by taking an alternative action.

This leads us to accounting profit vs economic profit. You start a business, and it's your first year, and you've managed to keep costs down while gaining market share. You break even - zero accounting profit. But you have made an economic loss, because you could have been at your old job, making money. And you gave up that opportunity to start a business.

Hopefully, your business does well. But this example highlights the fact that some costs don't come in the price tag or on the financial statement. This article on MSN Money tells us how to go green on a budget, but it also has a little blurb about how the true costs of conventional food may not all be in the sticker price:

Some economists argue the true costs of conventional food are not reflected in the price consumers pay. The negative effects of conventional agricultural production on water, soil, air, wildlife and humans total $5.7 billion to $16.9 billion a year, economists Erin M. Tegtmeier and Michael D. Duffy of Iowa State University concluded in a 2004 study published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. The study shows "consumers pay for food well beyond the grocery store checkout" in higher utility bills, taxes and in declining environmental and personal health.

Such "hidden" costs are part of the reason why advocates for green buying practices argue consumers need to rethink their consumption patterns and focus less on the cost of individual items.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

US Supreme Court votes for segregation

This is overstating slightly. However, if you brought these same nine people up forty years back, they would indeed vote for segregation. The Supreme Court struck down racial integration plans in Kentucky and Seattle schools. De jure segregation is illegal, but school children in these states somehow still end up in segregated schools.

Here, I'm going off memory, but White students typically attended schools that were 80% White, while Black and Hispanic students attended schools that were roughly 50% Black or Hispanic. The schools imposed target racial compositions to combat this. One parent sued when her daughter couldn't attend the school of her choice, and her right to do so was upheld by the Supreme Court. To people of color, it's impossible to say that this particular parent was openly racist, but when you essentially have richer White folks fleeing schools where there are many students of color, we have to wonder. We wonder if White folks are thinking, deep down inside, "There's too many Latinos there." And we worry that when they leave, they'll take their financial resources and political clout with them.

And, by the way, I would be reluctant to put my kids in schools that were majority Black or Hispanic. Yes, that's racist, and part of the issue is that I've absorbed, just by being in the US, the stereotypes against Hispanics and Blacks. And the other part of the issue is that if the school is majority Black or Hispanic, how good is the education? Is the school board devoting enough resources there? Or are the rich White parents managing to siphon away funds for their majority White schools, using their greater political influence? We can get rid of that problem, at least, by integrating the school system.

In this article, Deborah Stallworth, who sued successfully in 2000 to stop bussing (bussing students to schools where they met people of other races), said, "We send children to school to be educated, not as a social experiment."

She is wrong, and she is an idiot. If you don't meet and interact with people who are different from you, then you cannot possibly call yourself educated. You don't have to like them. You don't have to end up dating them. But you have to learn that you have prejudices, and you have to learn to put them aside, because you will be working with people of color (and LGBTs, and people with disabilities, etc) in the workforce. It is not pleasant to deal with people in an integrated workforce who have never dealt with people of color as equals. And if such people make it to management positions, you get a de facto segregated workforce. And they will de facto segregate the workforce, while saying "it shouldn't matter what color your skin is." Kathleen Brose, one of the Seattle parents who sued her school district, said, "I believed so much in what we are doing, I just felt we had to win. The goal here is to make sure all kids have access to great schools." She can continue to think that, but the fact is that increasing racial segregation in schools will, in this economic climate, slowly but surely lead to worse schools for minorities (especially African-Americans and Hispanics).

Ever since Alito and Roberts were nominated to the Court, liberals have lost most fights. Stephen Breyer was reportedly rolling his eyes and shaking his head as Roberts read the ruling.

``So few,'' Breyer said, ``have so quickly changed so much.'' He ended his dissent, saying that ``this is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret.''

However, Senator Ted Kennedy reminds us that the Court did not close the door on racial integration completely. Here's an excerpt from his opinion piece in the Seattle PI.

In the more than 50 years since Brown declared that "separate but equal has no place" in our society, voluntary efforts by local school boards have benefited all of us. As explained in a brief to the court in Thursday's cases that was written by more than 500 social scientists, the work of local school boards such as Seattle's to overcome segregation has helped children enjoy the enormous benefits of diversity in education -- including enhanced academic success for African American students, greater parental involvement in public schools and cross-cultural understanding. One of the nation's leading conservative judges, Alexander Kozinski, described Seattle's integration plan as an "eminently sensible" "stirring of the melting pot," which helps children learn how to interact as citizens of our multicultural society. Without integrated schools, children will not learn those important lessons. That would be a far greater harm to society than considering race in order to prevent segregated classes.

It is disappointing that the effective programs in Seattle and Louisville, Ky., have been struck down. Fortunately, in ruling against the voluntary integration programs in Seattle and Louisville, the court did not close the door on all efforts to bring students of all races together in our schools.

Many measures remain available to pursue integration and inclusion in schools, and Congress is not powerless to address the harm that Brown declared unacceptable. We must find new ways to support school districts that want to achieve diversity in public schools. By doing so, we will continue the racial progress of the past 50 years, so that America will truly become one nation, undivided.

George Bush, in the first Presidential debate in 2004, claimed that we needed good judges. John Kerry reminded him that previously, he'd said we needed "good conservative judges." Well, we need good judges of a mix of political persuasions. It's a fantasy to imagine that judges can separate their deeply held beliefs from the law - ambiguous cases like this one will bring those opinons out.

Pslam 10, dedicated to the victims of Yale-New Haven Hospital, and other hospitals with abusive billing, financial aid, and collections practices

Psalm 10, dedicated to:
A prayer for the overthrow of the wicked
(New American Standard Bible)
1 Why do You stand afar off, O LORD?
Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?

2 In pride the wicked hotly pursue the afflicted;
Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.

3 For the wicked boasts of his heart's desire,
And the greedy man curses and spurns the LORD.

4 The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him.
All his thoughts are, "There is no God."

5 His ways prosper at all times;
Your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
As for all his adversaries, he snorts at them.

6 He says to himself, "I will not be moved;
Throughout all generations I will not be in adversity."

7 His mouth is full of curses and deceit and oppression;
Under his tongue is mischief and wickedness.

8 He sits in the lurking places of the villages;
In the hiding places he kills the innocent;
His eyes stealthily watch for the unfortunate.

9 He lurks in a hiding place as a lion in his lair;
He lurks to catch the afflicted;
He catches the afflicted when he draws him into his net.

10 He crouches, he bows down,
And the unfortunate fall by his mighty ones.

11 He says to himself, "God has forgotten;
He has hidden His face; He will never see it."

12 Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up Your hand.
Do not forget the afflicted.

13 Why has the wicked spurned God?
He has said to himself, "You will not require it."

14 You have seen it, for You have beheld mischief and vexation to take it into Your hand.
The unfortunate commits himself to You;
You have been the helper of the orphan.

15 Break the arm of the wicked and the evildoer,
Seek out his wickedness until You find none.

16 The LORD is King forever and ever;
Nations have perished from His land.

17 O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear

18 To vindicate the orphan and the oppressed,
So that man who is of the earth will no longer cause terror.

Dear Representative Dingell...

From Actfotchange:
Tell Representative Dingell -- Support Better Fuel Economy Standards Better fuel efficiency is the biggest single step we can take to address the global warming problem; it may also be the only way to save the American auto industry from the poor choices of its overpaid executives. When gas prices are through the roof, and the competition is introducing cars that get 125 miles per gallon, Detroit needs to start facing reality.

However, a powerful obstacle stands in the way of our efforts to improve fuel efficiency and American competitiveness: your representative in Congress, John Dingell. Maybe it's due to the fact that he's taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the auto industry over the years. Or maybe it's because his wife Debbie is a top-level executive with both General Motors and the GM Foundation.

National security imperatives, progress on global warming, and air pollution reduction goals are all tightly linked to building a more fuel-efficient fleet. So Representatives Markey and Platts have introduced legislation to raise fuel economy standards 4% per year, to a national average of 35 miles per gallon by model year 2018. According to experts at the National Academy of Sciences, this goal is entirely achieveable with current technology.

Tell Congressman Dingell to defy his auto-industry donors and support what his constituents and the American people want -- significant increases in fuel economy standards, on an accelerated schedule.

Here's what I sent.
As your constituent, I'm writing to ask that you publicly announce your support of the fuel economy bill proposed by Representatives Markey and Platts, and agree to co-sponsor this legislation in the House. Better fuel economy standards are the biggest single step we can take to start addressing the global warming problem, and our standards are far behind many other countries. If Al Gore is right, our fuel economy standards lag even China's.

Many are concerned that this will seriously affect the viability of the American auto industry. But American workers and businesspeople are smart and resourceful. We will be able to adapt to higher fuel standards. But global warming is something we cannot adapt to. If I were in the auto industry, I would rather have high fuel standards than global warming.

Additionally, the Markey-Platts bill (and counterpart "Ten-in-Ten" legislation in the Senate) has been carefully crafted by your fellow Democrats so as not to detriment U.S. automakers. In fact, because the demand for better-mileage cars is so high right now -- and only going to get higher as gas prices continue to rise -- this legislation could help move U.S. automakers in a more profitable direction.

I thank you for all your hard work on progressive issues over the years, and I hope you'll do the right thing on THIS important issue. We cannot only look after our own interests. We are all in this together.

I look forward to your reply to my letter.

If you're one of Dingell's constituents, please send him a letter at this link.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Yale-New Haven Hospital and unjust debt practices

"Think before you choose where to be treated" - Yale-New Haven Hospital's intro says that they are a leader in clinical care, and asks patients to think about where they want to get treatment. In an ideal world, uninsured patients would avoid YNNH as if the administrators had Ebola, but patients in medical emergencies rarely have the time to think about where they would rather go. They trust that doctors will abide by their oaths to treat patients to their utmost ability. However, the medical system is not, and cannot, just be clinicians. There have to be administrators. Doctors and administrators both can go bad, and here I focus on the administrators.

YNNH is a non-profit hospital, one of the best in the US, and is the primary teaching hospital for Yale Medical School. As a non-profit hospital, it is also a safety-net hospital, meaning that it caters to the un- and under-insured. It is true that even for-profit hospitals are required to give emergency care to all who present to the ER, regardless of insurance status; a for-profit hospital could otherwise refuse a patient at the ER if their treatment costs were expected to be high, and dump them on a non-profit hospital (or a non-profit hospital could dump on another non-profit). This is a requirement of the EMTALA act. Safety net hospitals often receive government funding apart from Medicare and Medicaid, like Disproportionate Share Hospital payments, which compensate hospitals for providing disproportionately high amounts of care to the medically indigent.

Nonprofit hospitals also generally have policies stating who is eligible for free or discounted care. Trinity Health's hospitals will offer a full write-off to uninsured patients below the Federal Poverty Limit (FPL). A sliding scale discount is offered to uninsured patients going all the way up to 4x FPL, which is about $40,000 for a single person, or $60,000 for a family of 4.

YNNH, it seems, also has free bed funds, which are donor-restricted funds designated for people who cannot otherwise pay for care. In 2003, they were available to patients below 2.5x FPL. YNNH also had the Yale-New Haven Fund, an internally-funded free care program for patients below 1.5x FPL.

However, Uncharitable Care: Yale-New Haven Hospital's Charity Care and Collections Practices, a report written in 2003 and available here, finds that:

While the resources Yale-New Haven has available for free care have increased dra-
matically in recent years, the amount of free care offered at the Hospital has dimin-
• From 1996-2001, Yale-New Haven’s donor-restricted “free bed funds,” the income
from which must be used for free care, more than doubled in size, to $37 million.
• Payments to Yale-New Haven from Connecticut’s Uncompensated Care Pool and
related state programs nearly tripled over the past four years (after related taxes), to
$24 million in 2001.
• A non-profit, tax exempt institution, Yale-New Haven also realizes significant rev-
enues in excess of expenses, reporting $20 million in 2001 (a healthy 3.6% margin).
• From 1996-2001, Yale-New Haven’s free care offerings dropped 46%, even as
unpaid accounts classified as “bad debt” increased by 50%.
• After accounting for subsidies, Yale-New Haven’s $1.5 million in free care expense
for 2001 dwindles to a mere $12,000.

Yale claimed $66 million in uncompensated care in FY 2001. $3m was free care - services for which payment was not anticipated because the patient had successfully applied for either of the free care programs. $33m was Medicaid shortfall - Medicaid pays a pittance, and it is kosher in Catholic hospitals to count Medicaid shortfalls under community benefit. The other $30m was bad debt, accounts unpaid for a maximum of 90-120 days which were then transferred to a collection agency. Bad debt is considered to be a result of patients being unwilling, as opposed to unable, to pay. The Catholic Health Association does not consider it kosher these days to count bad debt under community benefit, although things may have been different then. In any case, this bad debt is what got them under scrutiny.

Uncharitable Care found that in FY '00, YNNH's two highest paid independent contractors were Tobin and Melien, a New Haven-based collections law firm, and Century Collection Agency, in North Haven. They were paid $1.7m and $1.2m respectively. YNNH's policy was to consider as bad debt "accounts of patients who have jobs or assets such as a house or investments that indicate that there is an ability, but an unwillingeness, to pay the bill." Indeed, in FY 02, YNNH was a lead plaintiff in 426 civil suits, 99% of which were collections or foreclosure suits. In FY01, most suits were won by default.

On Halloween night, 1997, Velma Williams’s step-son was shot and
taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital for emergency treatment. Although
Ms. Williams had health insurance through her clerical job at Yale
University, the child was uninsured, and his father, Mr. Greene, was
billed for the $6,000 in hospital charges. Soon after, Ms. Williams
divorced Mr. Greene, who moved to in South Carolina. “I still received
some of his mail, including the Yale Hospital bills, and I would forward
them to him,” Ms. Williams said.

In 1998, Yale-New Haven sued Mr. Greene for the bills and won a default judgment. About a month later, without Ms. Williams’s knowledge, Yale-New Haven placed a lien on the house Ms. Williams had won in the divorce settlement. “I found out about the lien when I went to refinance my mortgage,” Ms. Williams explained. When she tried to convince Yale-New Haven’s attorneys that she was not responsible for the hospital bills and the lien should be removed, “They told me I couldn’t contest the lien because my name wasn’t on the lawsuit.”

In early 1999, Yale-New Haven filed a foreclosure suit against Mr. Greene, won a
default judgment, and began preparations to auction Ms. Williams’s home. Charging
$175 per hour, Yale-New Haven’s attorneys at Tobin & Melien began to rack up over
$2,500 in legal fees that were added onto the outstanding debt (including $35 for a 12-minute phone call to Ms. Williams). Another $550 was added for appraisal costs.
In 2000, a couple of weeks before the auction date of May 27, Yale-New Haven’s
foreclosure committee placed a foreclosure sign in front of Ms. Williams’s house.
Desperate, Ms. Williams removed the sign and contacted Yale-New Haven’s attor-
neys, and in order to save her home, signed a contract agreeing to make a $10,342
lump-sum payment toward the total debt of $13,634 (the original $6,000, plus accrued
interest and the foreclosure costs). She agreed to pay off the remainder in $250 per
month installments (later lowered to $125). The contract states that the former judg-
ment lien (which was in Mr. Greene’s name) was to be replaced by a new one for the
unpaid balance (this time, in Ms. Williams’s name). The contract also states that Yale-New Haven retains the right to foreclose if Ms. Williams does not make the payments as agreed.

Ms. Williams made the lump-sum payment by refinancing her home, bringing her
mortgage rate up to 12%. “Now I pay $1,200 a month for the mortgage and it only
pays the interest.” Due to the lien and her ruined credit, she can’t find a bank that will agree to a second refinancing that would lower this payment. “I try to make the
monthly payment to Yale whenever I can, but sometimes I just can’t make ends meet,
because of the mortgage.”

In 1996, when Renee Trotman was working at Yale University on a
“casual” basis without benefits and her only health insurance was
Medicaid, she went to Yale-New Haven Hospital and learned that a pro-
cedure she needed wouldn’t be covered. A Hospital staff person helped
her fill out a form for what Ms. Trotman remembers as Yale-New
Haven’s “hardship program.” Ms. Trotman went in for the procedure,
and remembers never hearing from the Hospital’s billing office again.
“All I know is I did everything right and I never heard anything. So I
assumed everything was fine.”

In 1997, without Ms. Trotman’s knowledge, Yale-New Haven filed a lawsuit against
her for $6,500, plus interest and court costs, for the bills she thought had been taken care of. The court records show that a summons was left at her residence, but Ms. Trotman says she never received it. “We were sharing a mailbox with the folks on the first floor,” she said, and the papers were probably misplaced. Yale-New Haven won a default judgment against her for $7,600 (including retroactive interest and court costs).

The years passed, and Ms. Trotman never found out about the judgment until August
2002, when she suddenly found 25% of her Yale University paycheck missing due to a
wage garnishment. By this time, ironically, Ms. Trotman was working as a full-time
account assistant for the Yale School of Medicine’s own medical services billing department. Her job is to make sure that insurance companies are billed correctly. “That’s why I know there should’ve been steps to get in touch with me.”

Ms. Trotman appealed to the court to have the garnishment lowered to $25 a week:
“Did not know about outstanding bill or judgment. Hospital has purged records and is
unable to tell me why insurance at the time did not pay bill.” Due to the 10% interest that has accrued for nearly six years, she now owes over $11,000. “I’m still catching up now,” she said of the surprise wage deductions. Ms. Trotman is a single mother with two children, a 2 year old baby and a 7 year old. “It threw me off on the balance for day care, and I was doing pretty good on my utility bills, but now I’m behind again.”

YNNH's policy on free care is that patients must apply for public assistance and show proof of denial before receiving free care funds. Yet, Uncharitable Care found that there was considerable evidence that many patients were below YNNH's maximum income guidelines, and still were denied funds. Hospital and Medicaid enrollment paperwork is complex, and some patients fell through.

Some interviewed debtors said they had
applied for and been denied public assistance, or qualified
for aid that would not cover a Yale-New Haven charge.
One interviewee followed the Hospital’s instructions and
applied for public assistance after his discharge. Although
unemployed, he was rejected, twice, but was still stuck
with a $10,000 debt. Another interviewee successfully
enrolled in Medicaid after her Hospital stay, but too late
to receive retroactive coverage for her $3,000 in charges.

Aside from the free bed funds and DSH payments mentioned earlier, YNNH is free from federal, state and local taxation. Its debt is free from taxation, which means it can offer debt at lower rates, meaning that it pays less to borrow money. Graduate Medical Education funding also goes to teaching hospitals. And yet, the amount of free care, at charge, that YNNH has provided has decreased from $5.3m in 1996 to $2.9m in 2001. Bad debt increased from $20.1m to $30.3m. In FY 01, 0.29% of hospital charges were free care, compared to a statewide average of 0.51%. YNNH's free bed funds also grew (and they couldn't use them for anything other than free care), and their DSH subsidies, after taxes, grew from $8.1m in FY 01 to $24.4m in FY 03. This would be complicated to explain, but hospitals were able to game the DSH system and attract more payments than they should have.

Uncharitable Care found that YNNH had - accidentally or deliberately - failed to inform many patients about potential eligibility for free care. Their income restrictions may have been too low, because Connecticut isn't a cheap place to live. And YNNH had only sent notices in English, which places a special burden on people of limited English proficiency, who are also less likely to have knowledge of America's complex legal system and the rights available to them.

One does not count bad debt as charitable care. This gives incentive to inflate charitable care amounts by playing fast and loose with the definition of bad debt - which can place unusual burden on people of limited English proficiency, and people of color and the poor who are more likely to be uninsured. You look good in the eyes of the public, but God sees all.

Episcopal Public Policy Network: Urge Senate to push for Israeli/Palestinian Peace

Violence in Gaza and the dissolution of the Palestinian unity government have marked a new and difficult time in the Holy Land. As we search for a glimmer of hope in the Middle East, we are grateful that a bipartisan group of Senators is co-sponsoring an important resolution recognizing the responsibility of the United States, Israelis and Palestinians to take steps toward peace and calling upon President Bush to engage in "robust" diplomatic efforts to secure a two-state solution.

Polls show that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians want peace with one another – an end to violence and the beginning of a serious peace process. For their sake we ask that you write your Senators asking them to co-sponsor the bi-partisan S. Res. 224 introduced by Senator Feinstein (D-CA) and co-sponsored by Senators Lugar (R-IN), Akaka (D-HI), Byrd (D-WVA), Baucus (D-MT), Casey (D-PA), Dodd (D-CT), Hagel (R-NE), Leahy (D-VT), Lott (R-MS), Reed (D-RI), Sununu (R-NH), Voinovich (R-OH), Webb (D-VA), and Whitehouse (D-RI).

Click here to contact your Senators and urge them to co-sponsor bipartisan Senate resolution S. Res. 224 recognizing that it is in the vital interest not only of Israelis and Palestinians, but the United States as well, to end the violence and find a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. S. Res. 224 also recognizes that a two-state solution remains the only viable option to the conflict and that US leadership is key to restarting negotiations. US action will strengthen moderate Arab allies and weaken extremists, and it will give hope to Palestinians and Israelis as they live amidst fear for their future.

Mother Jones: Senate energy bill "Running on Empty"

Emphasis in the document is mine. For Michigan residents, I wish to highlight Sen. Dingell, who was mentioned as a longtime opponent of increased fuel efficiency standards. American auto manufacturers are indeed facing problems, but they aren't stupid, and they should be able to adapt - they have to, if they want to keep from destroying the planet. And while I normally strongly sympathize with unions, it is extremely disappointing that the UAW has joined the Big 3 in consistent opposition to increased fuel efficiency standards.

Is Dingell working for Americans, or is he working for narrow interests? Are auto manufacturers and labor concerned about preserving the environment, or about their pocketbooks? Stringent environmental standards will force the auto industry to adapt. They will not force automakers out of business.

Senate Democrats were engaged in much backslapping and grandstanding last week over their passage of an energy bill that raises motor vehicle fuel efficiency standards for the first time in 30 years. "It's the beginning of a revolution in American energy policy," John Kerry said Friday of the bill, which is being positioned as a serious response to climate change and carbon fuel consumption in general. Much of the press rushed to echo such claims: The San Francisco Chronicle, for example, headlined its article "Energy bill reflects shift in political power," with the subhead, "Victory in November allowed Democrats to move focus from drilling to conservation."

There are just two problems with the Senate Democrats' self-congratulatory take on their energy bill. The first is getting anything like it passed by the House of Representatives. This week the House Energy and Commerce Committee will review the Senate bill with plans to move its own legislation, from which fuel efficiency standards are conspicuously absent. The committee's chair, Michigan Democrat John Dingell, also happens to be the man who’s perhaps most responsible for blocking increases in such standards over more than three decades. His district includes major car manufacturers as well as thousands of auto workers, and his wife, Deborah Dingell, is a onetime GM lobbyist who continues to serve in a high-profile role at the company.

The second problem is that the proud Senate Dems are measuring their achievement on the energy bill — as they do on so much else — against the past performance of the Bush administration and congressional Republicans, rather than against the possibilities for what can and should be accomplished. Senator Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat, proudly compared the Senate's new energy bill with its most recent predecessor—a bill passed in 2005 that bore the mark of Dick Cheney's so-called energy task force and gave huge tax breaks to oil, gas, coal, and nuclear power companies. "Take a look at the last energy bill and then take a look at this energy bill, and take a look at the contrast," Durbin said last week. "Global warming wasn't even supposed to be mentioned in polite Republican company." This celebrated victory, then, comes in producing an energy bill superior to that of the carbon-fuel-industry shill group organized by a vice president who once said, "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy."

The underwhelming energy bill passed the Senate by a vote of 65 to 37. Eighteen Republicans signed on to the rise in fuel efficiency standards—some, from the Middle West, clearly doing so in exchange for a huge federally mandated increase in ethanol use over the next 15 years. The new fuel standards would demand that automakers produce new cars, light trucks, and SUVs that get an average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. (The average today is 25 miles per gallon.) The United Auto Workers union and the Alliance of Auto Makers, the industry trade group, have arrayed themselves against the bill. As Bruce Andrews, Ford's vice president of government affairs, told Reuters recently, "Major changes are still needed to make this bill achievable."

While the vote was generally greeted by the Washington press as a victory for environmentalists, it is receiving mixed reviews from environmentalists themselves. Vermont's independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who has one of Congress' strongest records on environmental issues, gave the bill his reserved approval: "While this energy bill is not as strong as I would like, it is certainly a major step forward in breaking our dependence on fossil fuels and moving us toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy."

However, Tyson Slocum, one of Public Citizen's energy experts, has a harsher analysis, pointing to what he believes are the bill's fatal loopholes: "Lawmakers let automakers off the hook by not requiring them to provide real and achievable improvements in fuel economy. Instead, the bill allows for a size-based sliding scale that enables manufacturers to set their own standards. It also would allow President Bush and future administrations to go below the target of 35 miles per gallon by 2020 if they produce a cost-benefit analysis justifying a lower goal—thereby rendering the target meaningless." (Public Citizen has produced a detailed analysis of the legislation.)

The bill also lacks the meaningful levels of support for renewable energy that most environmental groups were seeking. (Remember that this is the strongest draft this bill is likely to see. The final version, which needs to be hashed out in conference between the Senate and the House, and signed by President Bush, will certainly be weaker on environmental concerns.)

Even if it does bring about token improvements, the new energy legislation represents, at the same time, just how faint-hearted the Democrats really are, even when they claim to be taking bold action. For evidence of this, we need only consider the possibilities for what could be done, given the political will.

In a July 2006 issue of the State Department’s electronic journal, Economic Perspectives, Amory B. Lovins, CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit that advocates energy efficiency, described the advances that have been made possible by new materials and innovative design: "For example, an uncompromised mid-size sport utility vehicle (SUV) designed in 2000, equipped with the most popular efficiency-doubling hybrid-electric drive system, could carry five adults in comfort and up to two cubic meters of cargo, haul a half-ton up a 44 percent grade, accelerate from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in 7.2 seconds, be safer than a steel SUV even if it hits one, yet use less than a third the normal amount of gasoline, getting about 3.56 liters per hundred kilometers, or 67 miles per U.S. gallon."

And that's a modest proposal. There are more audacious ones, too. By 2009, Loremo AG, a German firm, plans to roll out the sporty Loremo LS, which gets 157 miles per gallon. As early as 2002, the Times of London reported the unveiling of Toyota’s brand new Eco Spirit, "a cheeky little coupe" that got 104 miles per gallon, "a record for a four-seat car.".

But that was the last anybody ever heard of the Spirit, which was described to one disappointed inquirer as a "concept car" with no plans for actual production in the foreseeable future.

These examples show, once again, how much these matters have to do with politics, and how little with technological or engineering capabilities. Over the last half-century there have been great strides made in electronics, space exploration, genetics, plastics—but cars just never change much. The November 1941 issue of Popular Mechanics reported: "The average gasoline consumption in the 1930s and 1940s was 15-20 miles per gallon, slightly higher for some cars."

With vast leaps in technological know-how since, the automakers, aided by their allies in government, have managed to achieve what is surely an astonishing feat: accomplishing next to nothing on fuel efficiency.

Warren Buffett: super-rich pay lower tax rates than everyone else, and $1m to the person who proves me wrong

I previously posted an article on how those with political power (the rich) use their influence to write the tax laws in their favor. Warren Buffett says the same thing to Hillary Clinton here. He says that, on an income of $46m a year ($100,000 salary as CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, plus income he makes as a board member for several corporations, plus income from whatever other investments he has), he pays a federal 17.7% tax rate. He claims his subordinates typically pay around 32.9%. The top tax bracket is 35% for income above about $200,000, but there are numerous deductions available, and long-term capital gains and qualified dividends are taxed at 15%.

Many Republicans wish to simplify the tax code, and that would certainly do the nation a lot of good. However, they also complain about how the tax system is unfair (read: somehow unfair to the rich), and that taxes should be lowered. Mitt Romney has the gall to say: "I want to get rid of all capital gains taxes for middle-income taxpayers. I also think it's fundamentally unfair that you get taxed when you've earned it, taxed when you save it, and taxed when you've died. So I'd get rid of the death [estate] tax, too, for middle-income Americans."

The problem is, the estate tax only applies to estates over $2m through 2008; the exempt amount should go down to $1.5m in 2009 barring tax law changes. Romney is not stupid, so the only other explanation is that he is blatantly lying. The estate tax rate is 45%, which sounds like a lot, but various deductions are available, people typically make gifts during their lifetime that reduce the size of their estate, and there is an exemption of $2m. People pay effective tax rates far less than 45%.

By David Ellis, staff writer
June 27 2007: 12:22 AM EDT

NEW YORK ( -- Presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton was all ears at a fundraiser Tuesday evening when famed billionaire investor Warren Buffett suggested ramping up the tax code on big businesses and the super rich.

The Berkshire Hathaway (Charts, Fortune 500) chairman touched on a variety of issues in a question and answer session with Clinton, including his disdain for private equity firm power brokers.

"The people that earn their living doing that should be subject to taxes that reflect their labors," he said in the gathering at a hotel in midtown Manhattan.

Recently private equity firms have become targets of Congress, who claim that fund managers benefit from unfair tax advantages. One Senate committee has proposed raising taxes on publicly traded private equity firms such asBlackstone Group (Charts).

Speaking to several hundred supporters of the U.S. Senator from New York, Buffett revealed his puzzlement that he was taxed at a lower rate than many of the lesser-paid individuals working for his company.

Buffett said he makes $46 million a year in income and is only taxed at a 17.7 percent rate on his federal income taxes. By contrast, those who work for him, and make considerably less, pay on average about 32.9 percent in taxes - with the highest rate being 39.7 percent.

To emphasize his point, Buffett offered $1 million to the audience member who could show that one of the nation's wealthiest individuals pays a higher tax rate than one of their subordinates.

"I'm willing to bet anyone in this room $1 million that those rates are less than the secretary has to pay," said Buffett.

The Berkshire Hathaway chairman remained relatively positive about the U.S. economy overall, and remained doubtful that the recent woes in the subprime mortgage market would spread to the rest of the housing sector and the larger economy.

"Overall if the unemployment rate doesn't increase and interest rates don't increase then I don't think it will have an effect on the rest of the economy," he said.

Buffett, however, did not explicitly back Clinton in her bid for the White House during Tuesday night's event - although he has made a number of contributions to her different political campaigns, according to the Federal Election Commission

Today is National HIV Testing Day

From the director of the Office of LGBT Affairs at the University of Michigan:
Why should I get tested?

National HIV Testing Day is critical to the fight against HIV/AIDS because it presents an opportunity for people nationwide to learn their HIV status, and to gain the knowledge they need to take control of their health and their lives.

National HIV Testing Day also provides an invaluable opportunity to dispel the myths and stigma associated with HIV testing, and to reach those who have never been tested or who have engaged in high-risk behavior since their last test.

1 out of 4 people who are living with HIV/AIDS do not know that they are infected.

Senior Republican Senator attacks Bush over troop surge

Richard Lugar, a senior and influential Republican on the Senate's foreign relations committee, has criticized President Bush over the troop surge. It is becoming increasingly obvious to Americans regardless of political persuasion that the war is being poorly prosecuted.

One of America's most influential Republicans rounded on George Bush over Iraq yesterday, saying the "surge" begun in February had little chance of success.

Richard Lugar, senior Republican on the Senate's foreign relations committee, said the war put vital US interests in the Middle East at risk and could end in disaster unless a coherent withdrawal plan for US forces was agreed "very soon".

Mr Lugar had previously been a supporter of the action. In a sign of spreading rebellion another Republican senator, George Voinovich, backed him last night. "We must not abandon our mission, but we must begin a transition where the Iraqi government and its neighbors play a larger role," he said.

Another party figure, Senator John Warner, predicted more top Republicans would soon desert Mr Bush. "You'll be hearing a number of statements from colleagues after the July 4 holiday," he said.

"In my judgment the current surge strategy is not effective," Mr Lugar told the Senate. "It relies on military power to achieve goals that it cannot achieve, and it lacks domestic support. The political fragmentation in Iraq, the growing stress on our military, and the constraints of our own domestic political process, are converging to make it impossible for the US to engineer a stable, multi-sectarian government in Iraq in a reasonable timeframe."

In this context, he added, "our security interests call for a downsizing and redeployment of US forces ... A course change should happen now, while there is still some possibility of constructing a sustainable bipartisan Iraq strategy."

Harry Reid, Democrat majority leader in the Senate, praised Mr Lugar's speech as "courageous" saying it was an historic turning point .

Senator Joe Biden, a Democrat presidential candidate, said it was a "watershed". He predicted a dozen or more Republicans would also jump ship because, like Mr Lugar, they now accepted Mr Bush's policy was "an abject failure".

Mr Reid will test Republican support for Mr Bush's policy next month by forcing a series of votes on a withdrawal deadline, a funding cut-off, and restricting the length of combat tours. Until now only a handful of lesser-known Republicans in the House of Representatives have dared to publicly challenge Mr Bush's conduct of the war. But latest polls suggest that 38% of Republican voters now support a withdrawal, and pressure on the party's elected politicians is beginning to tell.

The White House last night described Mr Lugar as a "thoughtful man" but asked him and other critics to be patient as the surge unfolds.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

US Central Intelligence Agency's skeletons in the closet

WASHINGTON — The CIA released hundreds of pages of internal reports Tuesday on assassination plots, secret drug testing and spying on Americans that triggered a scandal in the mid-1970s.

The documents detail assassination plots against foreign leaders such as Fidel Castro, the testing of mind-altering drugs like LSD on unwitting citizens, wiretapping of U.S. journalists, spying on civil rights and anti-Vietnam war protesters, opening of mail between the United States and the Soviet Union and China and break-ins at the homes of ex-CIA employees and others.

The 693 pages, mostly drawn from the memories of active CIA officers in 1973, were turned over at that time to three different investigative panels — President Ford's Rockefeller Commission, the Senate's Church committee and the House's Pike committee.

The panels spent years investigating and amplifying on these documents. And their public reports in the mid-1970s filled tens of thousands of pages. The scandal sullied the reputation of the intelligence community and led to new rules for the CIA, FBI and other spy agencies and new permanent committees in Congress to oversee them.

Among the more famous misdeeds were these:

_Castro plot: In August, 1960, the CIA recruited ex-FBI agent Robert Maheu, who was a top aide to Howard Hughes in Las Vegas, to approach mobster Johnny Roselli and pass himself off as the representative of international corporations who wanted Castro killed. Roselli introduced Maheu to "Sam Gold" and "Joe," who were actually 10-most wanted mobsters Momo Giancana, Al Capone's successor in Chicago, and Santos Trafficant. The CIA gave them six poison pills, and they tried unsuccessfully for several months to have several people put them in the Cuban leader's food. This particular plot was dropped after the failed CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, but other plots continued against Castro. Details of this plot first appeared in Jack Anderson's newspaper column in 1971.

Last week, CIA Director Michael Hayden told a conference of historians that "the documents provide a glimpse of a very different time and a very different agency."

CIA spokesman George Little said Hayden has been declassifying historic documents as a way of demonstrating CIA's accountability. "The collection was reviewed exhaustively by the Rockefeller Commission and congressional committees in the 1970s. Moreover, many of the documents have been released to the public on prior occasions," Little added.

These documents also were one of the products of the Watergate scandal. Then-CIA Director James Schlesinger was angered to read in the newspapers that the CIA had provided support to ex-CIA agents E. Howard Hunt and James McCord, who were convicted in the Watergate break-in. Hunt had worked for a secret "plumbers unit" in Richard Nixon's White House. The unit originally was tasked to investigate and end leaks of classified information but ultimately engaged in a wide range of misconduct.

In May 1973, Schlesinger ordered "all senior operating officials of this agency to report to me immediately on any activities now going on, or that have gone on the past, which might be construed to be outside the legislative charter of this agency." The law establishing the CIA barred it from conducting spying inside the United States.

The result was 693 pages of memos that arrived after Schlesinger had moved to the Pentagon and been replaced as CIA chief by William Colby. Colby ultimately reported the contents to the Justice Department.

"These are the top CIA officers all going into the confessional and saying, `Forgive me father, for I have sinned,' " said Thomas Blanton, director of the private National Security Archive, which had requested release of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act.

Inside the CIA, Colby referred to the documents as the "skeletons." But another name quickly caught on and stuck: "family jewels."

They first spilled into public view on Dec. 22, 1974, with a story by Seymour Hersh in The New York Times on the CIA's spying against antiwar and other dissidents inside this country. The agency assembled files on some 10,000 people.

From Triangle Foundation: Support the Employee Non-Discrimination Act today!

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would make employment discrimination against G, L, B or T workers illegal, is under attack by right-wing, religious extremists who are telling lies about this vital legislation.

Here are the facts: In thirty states, including Michigan, your boss can fire you if s/he even thinks you're gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. And a recent survey of over a decade of research by the UCLA School of Law has found that job discrimination happens to a huge number of people in our GLBT community nationwide.

Please, help us support efforts by the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to protect you - and our nationwide GLBT community - from employment discrimination.

There are three things you can do:

You can send a letter to our U.S. Senators and your Congressperson here.

You can help your friends, family and co-workers receive important news about this and other issues here.

Finally, you can support our work to protect you - your job, your life, and your family - with a donation here.

Yale New Haven Hospital: A non-profit, safety net provider whose leaders deserve fire and judgment

By Paul Barr, dated Dec 13 2006, for New Haven Independent: an expose on union-busting at Yale-New Haven Hospital. In 2003, the hospital also came under very heavy and richly deserved fire for its billing and collection practices for the uninsured and underinsured. I will detail how they screwed the poor later, we'll do the union-busting first.

Next week's long-awaited union election among Yale-New Haven Hospital's 1,800 blue-collar workers was postponed as an arbitrator ruled that the hospital engaged in "serious violations of federal law" by pressuring workers to vote no. Mayor John DeStefano, steamed, called for a campaign to remove some of Yale-New Haven's special tax breaks.

A temporary labor peace once and for all unraveled Wednesday night in the largest, most bitter, and hardest-fought unionizing battle in New Haven since the 1983 formation of Yale University's pink-collar union.

It was shattered by a ruling issued by Margaret M. Kern, a neutral arbitrator chosen jointly by Yale-New Haven Hospital and District 1199 of the Service Employees International Union to adjudicate disputes leading up to the election scheduled for Dec. 20 and 21.

The two sides chose the arbitrator as part of a landmark peace treaty they struck earlier this year. For almost nine years organizers have tried to form a union among the workers who clean bed pans and rooms and otherwise do the dirty work at the hospital, in some cases having to hold two jobs to afford to feed their families. Most of those nine years have seen bitter warfare between the two sides. That warfare was holding up approval of Yale-New Haven's plans to build a $430 million cancer center in town; so on March 22 the hospital reached an agreement with the union, brokered by Mayor DeStefano, on ground rules for a fair election. That agreement led to government approval of the cancer center. It also led to a remarkable period of peace between the two sides as the campaign neared.

That abruptly changed a few weeks ago, after the Dec. 20 and 21 election dates were set. Suddenly, organizers complained, hospital management was holding continual captive meetings with workers complete with threats of lost pay and even lost jobs if the union wins. Organizers said the continual meetings violated their peace agreement. The hospital denied it. So they brought the complaint to the arbitrator.

Kern held a hearing on the complaints on Dec. 8. She issued her seven-page ruling Wednesday.

"[T]he employer has engaged in serious violations of federal law, the election principles agreement and prior arbitration awards..." Kern wrote. "[It] appears the employer has given permission to over 200 managers and supervisors to conduct mandatory meetings on work time to discuss the union with employees."

Her ruling recounted how one hospital supervisor, Judy Grant, who oversees 165 employees, summoned a group of them to a mandatory meeting, on work time, about matters unrelated to the union. After 15 minutes, she told workers they were "free to stay or leave." She then spent 45 minutes trashing the union, saying, among other things, that workers stood to lose a $1.75 per hour pay differential if the union wins, that their union dues would go up, and that unionized workers at a nursing home in town lost their jobs after they voted in a union.

Such meetings took place throughout the hospital the past few weeks. Organizers argued they were mandatory, not voluntary, because workers would be targeted as pro-union if they stood up to leave. Arbitrator Kern agreed. She also agreed that Grant's claims about the union, echoed by other managers in what appeared to be a coordinated hospital-wide campaign, were false and constituted threats. She called the practice a violation of not just the hospital's agreement with the union, but federal law as well.

"The employer thus put employees in the position of having either to accept or reject the employer's proffer of listening to an anti-union presentation, thereby pressuring them to make an observable choice regarding their sentiments about the union. The Board and courts have found this type of subtle pressure to constitute unlawful polling."

Double Disappointment

Hospital spokesman Vin Petrini, reached late Wednesday night, defended the hospital's meetings. "Voluntary meetings are something this hospital has conducted for years, well before the hospital organizing drive," he said.

In the past few days, after District 1199 filed 200 complaints with the arbitrator and after pro-union clergy met with hospital President Marna Borgstrom, the hospital directed managers to stop holding the meetings. But the damage was done.

"We're disappointed," Petrini said. "Our employees have waited for nine years to vote on this issue. I hope they can vote on it in a timely matter."

DeStefano, too, said he was "disappointed" Wednesday night. He also sounded angered. He had taken considerable heat in his gubernatorial campaign for pressing for a fair union election as part of the deal for Yale-New Haven to build its cancer center. He spent long hours negotiating the peace agreement, which all sides celebrated as a good-faith beginning of a new relationship. The hospital got its permits; the cancer center is being built. But now the election's off, the union piece of the agreement in tatters.

"I am incredibly disappointed in the management of the hospital, and I'm saddened by the potential consequences this is going to have," DeStefano said. "They have poisoned the water as to whether there can ever be a free and fair election because of their intimidation and coercion."

The city can't stop the cancer center at this point. But, at least Wednesday night, it sounded like the hospital may face renewed political trouble.

"It's time for the elected officials of New Haven and the state of Connecticut to look at the governance structure of this hospital," DeStefano declared. "It enjoys substantial tax benefits that other hospitals in other states do not enjoy." He cited property tax and income-tax exemptions.

The hospital had struck the March peace agreement not just with the union, but with City Hall, Yale University, and an activist group seeking local jobs and other community benefits from the cancer center. The clergy who met with Borgstrom Monday -- and who were active members of the activist group, called CORD -- released a letter to her Wednesday prior to the announcement of the arbitrator's ruling. It accused the hospital of "betrayal of the principles" of the March agreement. Click here to read the letter.

Hospital spokesman Petrini said it was too early Wednesday night to comment on the specifics of the arbitrator's ruling. "We haven't had a chance to review it in depth yet. We want to take a close look," he said. Debate over the ruling -- and the fallout -- should continue in force in coming days.

Completely unrelated to the last post

Psalm 94:20-23 (New American Bible - copyright US Conference of Catholic Bishops)

Can unjust judges be your allies, those who create burdens in the name of law,
Those who conspire against the just and condemn the innocent to death?

No, the LORD is my secure height, my God, the rock where I find refuge,
Who will turn back their evil upon them and destroy them for their wickedness. Surely the LORD our God will destroy them!

An alternate take on this part of Psalm 94, which I believe originates in El Salvador:

Should the wrong change places with right
and the courts play host to corruption;
should the innocent fear for their lives
while the guilty smile at their scheming;

still the Lord will be your refuge,
be your strength and courage and tower.
Though your foot should verge on slipping,
God will cherish, keep and protect you.

George Bush got what he wanted: good conservative judges in the Supreme Court

Court Takes Sharp Right Turn in Monday Decisions

by Mike Leonard

WASHINGTON, June 25—In a series of 5 to 4 decisions, the United States Supreme Court today veered sharply to the right. The Court voted along strict ideological lines to side with the Bush administration in deciding four contentious, high-profile cases.

The four cases ran the jurisprudential gamut. They included challenges to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, the Endangered Species Act, and taxpayer-funded faith-based initiatives, as well as a free speech case involving an Alaskan student who waved a sign reading “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” in front of television cameras during an Olympic ceremony. In the end, the Court opened loopholes in McCain-Feingold and in the Endangered Species Act, dismissed a suit objecting to publicly-funded religious programs, and upheld the suspension of the Alaskan student.

In all four cases, the majority consisted of the same conservative bloc and the minority of the Court’s left wing. The conservative majority in all four cases included Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and the two Bush appointees, Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts. John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer dissented.

One of the decisions is receiving particular attention due to its direct political implications. In Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, the Court struck down a provision of McCain-Feingold barring television ads financed by corporations or unions from mentioning political candidates by name within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts said that case-by-case consideration of an ad’s substance should override “amorphous considerations of intent and effect.” The decision went on to say that since the anti-abortion ads in question “may reasonably be interpreted as something other than an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate,” they failed, in the opinion of the majority, to qualify as “express advocacy,” which is legalese for an advertisement endorsing or opposing a political candidate.

“The court should give the benefit of the doubt to free speech, not censorship,” in setting the threshold for “express advocacy,” the majority wrote.

The four dissenters expressed their frustration at the reasoning of the majority, which they said has opened a gaping loophole in the ability of government to regulate campaign contributions. “After today,” they wrote, “the ban on contributions by corporations and unions and the limitation on their corrosive spending when they enter the political arena are open to easy circumvention, and the possibilities for regulating corporate and union campaign money are unclear.”

The uncertainty introduced into standards for determining “express advocacy” could also eliminate the law’s deterrent effect, since corporations and unions may now challenge attempts at regulation on a case-by-case basis, at worst earning an ex post facto rebuke or nominal fine.

Justice Breyer, writing for the minority, warned that today’s decision might indicate the end of McCain-Feingold.

The decision represented a reversal a 2003 decision by a more ideologically balanced roster of Justices.

Critics have noted that this Court has been unusually willing to contradict recent precedent. Just last month, a divided Court upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban after the Court’s previous lineup struck down a nearly identical Nebraska law as unconstitutional. Since the Supreme Court decided the presidency in 2000, there has been widespread concern among legal scholars that increasing politicization of the judicial branch could lead to a Court less concerned with interpreting the constitutionality of laws than with the short-term political ascendancy of its majority ideology.

Spurring the fear of Justices playing politics was the seemingly inconsistent line the Court took with respect to “[giving] the benefit of the doubt to free speech, not censorship.” The same majority that struck down McCain-Feingold’s blanket-proscription of corporate advertising on free speech grounds today failed to extend that courtesy to a high school student suspended for an off-campus prank.

In the most sensational of the four cases decided today, the Court sided 5 to 4 against a student suspended for unfurling a banner declaring, somewhat ambiguously, “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” as the Olympic torch passed through Juneau, Alaska in 2002. The student appealed his 10-day suspension, and the case reached the Supreme Court earlier this year.

Chief Justice Roberts, again writing for the majority, declared that “deterring drug use by children” is a compelling enough cause to circumvent the usual free-speech protections enjoyed by students.

Justice Stevens, dissenting, noted that the banner comprised “nonsense” speech “never meant to persuade anyone to do anything,” rather than a cogent pro-drug argument or a rebuttal of the school’s anti-drug policy or message. In a tongue-in-cheek allusion to the Court’s famous 1969 proclamation in favor of student speech, Justice Stevens declared that students had capable enough minds to discern a harmless prank from a propaganda message. They “do not shed their brains at the schoolhouse gate,” he said.

“Students do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech…at the schoolhouse gate,” the 1969 opinion read.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Deal to release CPL Shalit seems to have fallen through - prayers needed

The military wing of Hamas today released an audio message from Corporal Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier it kidnapped after a cross-border raid a year ago, in which he claimed he was unwell and needed an "extended period" in hospital.

In a message broadcast on the website of the Islamists' military wing, Corporal Shalit - who was abducted after his attackers burrowed through a tunnel from Gaza to an Israeli Army post - accused the Israeli Government of not showing enough interest in securing his release.

The recording, which marks the first time any message has been released by Hamas from the captured soldier, was unveiled at the same time as a video that the group claimed showed the operation which led him being captured. It shows a soldier being dragged away by what appeared to be Hamas fighters dressed in Israeli Army uniforms.

The recording was released as another Islamist group, the radical Army of Islam, posted another video of Alan Johnston, the BBC correspondent abducted in Gaza three months ago.

Corporal Shalit's capture led to major Israeli military reprisals in the Gaza Strip but was hailed by radical Islamist groups as an example of how to hurt the Israeli Army. A similar cross-border raid in southern Lebanon by Hezbollah last July saw the capture of two more Israeli soldiers, prompting the 34-day conflict in southern Lebanon.

“I’ve been in prison one year. My situation is deteriorating. I need an extended period in hospital,” Corporal Shalit said, in Hebrew, in an audio clip posted on the website of Hamas's Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades.

“I am sorry that the Israeli Government has not shown more interest. It should meet the demands of my kidnappers so I can be released."

A text printed in Arabic on the website said: “I am Gilad Shalit. I’ve been arrested by Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades. Mother, father, sisters, brothers, my friends in the Israeli army, I send you from my jail my regards and I miss you."

The rmessage was released only a day after after Corporal Shalit's father, Noam, said that Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, should stand down if he failed to negotiate a deal to free his son.

"It's the test of a leader," said Mr Shalit at a rally marking the year-long anniversary yesterday. "If you do not know what to do, give your portfolio to someone who can bring about results immediately."

Its release also appeared timed to coincide with a summit between Mr Olmert, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah of Jordan and President Mubarak of Egypt in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Shiekh aimed at boosting Mr Abbas's Fatah party. Hamas drove Fatah forces out of the Gaza Strip and seized control of the area after a round of intense gun battles earlier this month, in an operation described by Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, as a "coup d'etat".

Despite boasting of holding Corporal Shalit, Hamas today reiterated that it wanted to win the release of Mr Johnston, whom the Army of Islam showed wearing a suicide belt in today's video.

The BBC journalist said his captors would murder him if there was any attempt by Hamas to free him by force. The Army of Islam is believed to be part of the powerful Dagmoush clan, which operates in a no-go area just outside southern Gaza.

"As you can see I’ve been dressed in what is an explosive belt, which the kidnappers say will be detonated if there’s any attempt to storm this area," Mr Johnston said in the video.

"They say they are ready to turn the hideout into what they describe as a death zone if there’s an attempt to free me by force.”

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Why do we hate?

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. - Galatians 3:28, NRSV

"O Mankind, we created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you in to tribes and nations so that you may know each other (not that you despise each other). Verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is he who is most righteous of you." (Al-Quran, Chapter 49, Verse 13)

"And amongst his signs is the creation of heaven and the earth, and variation in your language and colours; Verily, in there are signs for those who know" (Al-Quran, Chapter 30, Verse 22)

It's pretty clear to me that God considers racial discrimination to be forbidden. I originally wanted to say racial prejudice, but I have stated before that we are all racists, or racists in recovery. So, if you're in recovery from racism, God is happy.

However, not all people realize that they need to start a recovery program. Why do we hate people of other races?

In social psychology, the realistic group conflict theory states that when resources are limited (or perceived to be so), groups that are competing for that limited resource will come into conflict, which will breed prejudice and discrimination. In America today, undocumented immigrants are perceived to be taking American jobs and driving down American wages. In Vincent Chin's time, Japanese automakers were perceived as taking market share from American companies, and thus placing American jobs at risk.

In social psychology, the prescription to prevent or heal conflict is to get both groups to work cooperatively, towards a common goal, as equals. In real life, these solutions can be hard to come by. However, I believe that integrating the American armed forces was one such situation. Once they stopped forming all-Black units, White and African-Americans had to fight against a common enemy. In Vietnam, racial hatred was transferred to the Vietnamese, but attitudes within the Army did improve, relative to the past.

As to the immigration situation, I have said several times before that all those who are not full-blood Native Americans (ie, almost everyone in America) are immigrants, or descended from immigrants. Immigrants have given this country a vibrant culture. Chinese immigrants built the railroads. Japanese cars are made in America by Americans(not to mention that some of the Big 3 American automakers outsource to Mexico). Mexican and other Latino immigrants have, like the other immigrant groups, contributed in their own myriad ways ... one particular person who springs to mind is Edward James Olmos, an accomplished actor (currently starring as William Adama on Battlestar Galactica), and activist on behalf of the Latino community (among other things, he got arrested during protests in Puerto Rico over the US Navy using the island of Vieques as a bombing range).

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Vincent Chin, murdered June 23, 1982

By Alethea Yip for Asianweek, a story about the murder of Vincent Chin. This was at a time when Japanese auto manufacturers were making significant inroads into the US. Resentment developed, and perhaps I can understand it; we all try to defend our own when we perceive that resources are limited, and we're in conflict with another group.

These days, the Japanese manufacturers hire American workers and build Toyotas and Hondas in the US. That said, while driving back, I did see a Ford pickup with a sticker that said, "That Asian vehicle you drive is starving American families!"

It was an unlikely place for a pivotal point in Asian American history. A young draftsman named Vincent Chin was attending his bachelor party at a suburban Detroit strip club called Fancy Pants. With the party in full swing, Chin and Ronald Ebens, a white autoworker, began trading insults across the bar. "It's because of you little motherfuckers that we're out of work," witnesses later remembered Ebens yelling at Chin.

Chin struck Ebens, and an altercation ensued. Ebens' stepson, Michael Nitz - who had been recently laid off from his job at an autoplant - jumped in. But it was soon broken up by a parking attendant. Chin and his friends left the bar and went their separate ways. Twenty minutes later, Ebens and Nitz caught up with Chin in front of a fast-food restaurant. Ebens grabbed a baseball bat and delivered a blow to Chin's leg. Nitz held the wounded Chin, while Ebens struck his head with the bat, bashing his skull in.

Before he slipped into a coma, Chin murmured to a friend, "It's not fair." Four days later - and five days before his wedding - Chin died as a result of the injuries he sustained during the beating.

The incident on June 19, 1982, seemed an almost perfect metaphor for anti-Asian sentiment in America. It was ignorant; Ebens and Nitz presumed Chin, a 27-year-old Chinese American, was Japanese. It was economically motivated; the two autoworkers blamed the Japanese - and, mistakenly, Chin - for the ailing U.S. auto industry and the consequential loss of jobs. And it was horribly violent; the use of a baseball bat as a murder weapon was a brutal act and an equally brutal reminder of Americana.

But if the beating itself was emblematic of the racial prob-lems in America, the subsequent trial challenged many Asian Pacific Americans' faith in the American way.

Ebens and Nitz were charged with and pleaded guilty to manslaughter. For this, they each received a sentence of three years probation and a $3,000 fine - a sentence that many APA community leaders perceived as a slap on the wrist.

Later federal civil-rights cases brought against the two defendants were appealed, and the juries acquitted each of them. Neither served a jail sentence.

The first judgment against Ebens and Nitz outraged a group of APAs and motivated them to form American Citizens for Justice (ACJ), a pan-Asian American activist group that mobilized to demand a retrial against the two men.

It was the first time, according to APA advocates and academics, that people who traced their ancestry to different countries in Asia and the Pacific Islands crossed ethnic and socioeconomic lines to fight as a united group of Asian Pacific Americans. They were Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Filipino; they were waiters, lawyers, and grandmothers who were moved by the incident that heightened their awareness of discrimination and racism directed toward the APA community.

Vincent Chin became a contemporary martyr of the APA movement. Fifteen years later, his death remains a turning point for many Asian Pacific Americans.

"I think that the Vincent Chin case ... was a watershed moment for all Asian Americans," said Helen Zia, a longtime community activist and ACJ co-founder. "Previously, there were mostly college and progressive activists who had taken up the name 'Asian American,' but as far as the average person in the Chinatowns, Japantowns, Koreatowns, they considered themselves their own ethnicity.

"For the first time, we considered ourselves as a race, a minority race in America that faced discrimination and had to fight for our civil rights. The Vincent Chin case marked the beginning of the emergence of Asian Pacific Americans as a self-defined American racial group."

For William Wei, who started teaching a course in Asian American history at the University of Colorado at Boulder in the 1980s, the Chin case offered his students a tangible example of anti-Asian violence.

"It was understood in an abstract sense that people could, throughout the study of history, read about these problems - stereotyping, the problem of violence, and scapegoating," Wei explained. "But [Chin's] murder made it real for people. ... The kids can relate to it more readily than to the violence that occurred in the 19th century. We have lots of examples from that time period, but none hit home more or had the depth of information than the Vincent Chin case.

"It continued to inform the consciousness of Asian Americans in classrooms and in the community that it was a symptom of a larger problem - racism and its violent expression. And in spite of our self-congratulatory image as the model minority, in the final analysis, Vincent Chin was simply a gook to those men."

The five-year legal battle that followed the shock of the initial verdict was conducted by APA advocates who had little experience dealing with national civil-rights cases, said Stewart Kwoh, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Asian American Legal Center, which was organized the same year the Chin case went to court.

"It was really a wake-up call in the legal community as to what we needed to do - to fight for justice in an effective way," said Kwoh, whose organization served as a co-counsel for ACJ. "Anything you could think of that could go wrong in the criminal justice system went wrong. ... People did a good job, but people didn't have the civil-rights experience and it was hard to anticipate what was going to happen."

In the first trial in Wayne County Criminal Court in 1983, the prosecutor of the case did not show up for the sentencing hearing; there were no advocacy groups present; and neither Lily Chin, Vincent's mother, nor any of the witnesses was called to testify.

With only the defense lawyer making a case for his clients, Judge Charles Kaufman handed down his verdict of a $3,000 fine, $780 in court fees, and three years probation for each of the men. Kaufman reasoned that Ebens and Nitz did not have criminal records and were not likely to violate the terms of their parole. And at the same time, Kaufman ignored the pre-sentence report that identified Ebens as an alcoholic with a history of alcohol-related problems. The report also recommended that in addition to incarceration, Ebens undergo detoxification and counseling for his problem.

The decision sent shock waves throughout the national APA community. Civil-rights leaders interpreted Kaufman's decision as judicially condoning anti-Asian violence.

"It was an intense time," said Henry Der, a longtime community activist and then-executive director of San Francisco-based Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA). "Here these murderers were sitting out there literally smirking at the whole situation.

"Before Vincent Chin, people dealt with hate violence at the local level. But Vincent Chin galvanized the political consciousness among Asian Americans - that's the only way it can be described. The lack of a meaningful penalty for the murder was egregious. It was something that could not be ignored."

ACJ, with help from several other APA groups - including CAA, Japanese American Citizens League, Organization of Chinese Americans, Filipino American Community Council of Michigan, and Korean Society of Metropolitan Detroit - staged rallies, organized demonstrations, and launched a massive letter-writing campaign. They wrote to politicians, the press, and the U.S. Department of Justice demanding that the two men be charged with violating Chin's civil rights.

Lily Chin, who barely spoke English, traveled the country raising money to pay the costs involved in bringing about a civil suit. Many credit her appeal to the APA community for bringing forth seniors and immigrants - who could identify with her - into the movement.

After an FBI investigation that was ordered by the Department of Justice gathered sufficient evidence, federal charges were filed and a federal grand jury indicted the men in November 1983 on two counts: one for the violation of civil rights, the other for conspiracy.

In June 1984, Ebens was found guilty only on the first count and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He also was told to undergo treatment for alcoholism, but was freed after posting a $20,000 bond. Nitz was cleared of both charges.

But in September 1986, Ebens' conviction was overturned on a legal technicality; one of the lawyers for ACJ had been accused of improperly coaching the prosecution's witnesses.

The Justice Department ordered a new trial in April 1987, but this time in a new venue: Cincinnati. But while the change in venue was meant to increase the chances of a fair trial, in some important ways it made that almost impossible.

Cincinnati was, in the early '80s, a city that had had little exposure to Asian Pacific Americans. Out of 200 prospective jurors interviewed, only 19 said that they had ever encountered an Asian American. They were quickly dismissed.

According to Zia, the actual jury had little if any understanding of the hostility people in Detroit harbored against Japanese cars and Japanese-looking people. The nation's trade imbalance with Japan had been blamed for the closing of or cutbacks at many auto plants in Detroit.

"The whole mood was total anti-Japanese," Zia said about Detroit, where she lived when Chin was killed. "People who had Japanese cars were getting their cars shot at, and it didn't matter if they were white. And then if you were Asian, it was assumed that you were Japanese just like Vincent and there was personal hostility toward us.

"So, when Vincent was killed it was a confirmation to all Asian Americans there in Detroit, the antagonism that we were feeling. I felt totally like a moving target."

In May 1987, the jury of 10 whites and two African Americans acquitted Ebens of all charges. He never served a jail term for his crime.

The whole experience had taken its toll on Lily Chin. Disheartened, she left the U.S. and returned to her native village in the Guangzhou province in China.

Later in 1987, a civil suit ordered Ebens to pay $1.5 million to Chin's estate. But shortly before the verdict, Ebens had disposed of his assets and fled. He has been evading officials for the past 10 years.

The manner in which the case was prosecuted still bothers many who were involved with it. "One of the things that we realized was that had we had an experienced civil-rights attorney working on the case throughout the case, the result could have been different," Kwoh said of the three trials. "It's kind of a haunting notion. But no one knows for sure. ... I have a suspicion that we didn't do a good enough job as we could have had we had people experienced with civil rights."

Today, things are different, said Roland Hwang, current board member and former president of ACJ. Now the APA community has national lobbying organizations based in Washington, D.C., and several agencies throughout the country that investigate and follow hate crimes against APAs locally.

"Asians and Asian Americans have always been subject to hate crimes, going back to the lynchings in the 1870s and Chinese being run out of towns in the West, the history of the Chinese Exclusion Act [of 1882], and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II," said Hwang, an attorney for the state of Michigan. "The progress has been in organizing and networking. The incidents still occur."

In fact, the number of hate crimes against APAs is on a steady rise, with violent hate crimes against APAs up 11 percent in 1995 compared with the 1994 rate, according to the 1995 Audit of Violence Against Asian Pacific Americans compiled by the Washington-based National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium (NAPALC). The most recent report from the consortium, which is scheduled to be released within the next few months, showed a similar rise in overall hate crimes in 1996.

Cases that are currently on the radar screens of national APA advocacy groups include the recent assault on a group of APA students outside of a Denny's restaurant in Syracuse, N.Y.; the fatal shooting of a Chinese American man in Rohnert Park, Calif., by a police officer; and the stabbing death of a Vietnamese American man in Los Angeles.

"Now, anytime an Asian American is killed under suspicious circumstances that possibly involve race, Asian American groups are there - immediately investigating the case, alerting the police department to be sensitive to race, the district attorney, politicians," said Renee Tajima-Peña, a filmmaker who produced the documentary Who Killed Vincent Chin?, which chronicled the Chin story and its legal battles and included interviews with witnesses of the beating. "That didn't happen when Vincent Chin was killed. The prosecutor didn't show up for the sentence hearing, there was no translator for Lily Chin, and no advocacy groups were present. People were caught off guard.

"Now there are national lobbying groups in Washington and people on the Internet, and there is this consciousness now that Asian Americans are a distinct race and have been victims of racist violence. That consciousness didn't necessarily exist 15 years ago."

The case helped spawn a number of APA organizations devoted to tracking and investigating hate crimes, including ACJ, the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence in New York, the National Network Against Anti-Asian Violence in Washington, Asian Americans United in Philadelphia, and Break the Silence Coalition Against Anti-Asian Violence in San Francisco.

Although these groups have been effective in dealing with hate crimes on a local level, Zia said that Asian Americans still lack a national organization of the stature of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or the Anti-Defamation League.

"That is the one piece of unfinished business," Zia said of the need for a strong national APA organization that deals with hate crimes. "Otherwise we are reinventing the wheel in different regions where hate crimes occur. So in Rohnert Park, Coral Gables, Florida, and Syracuse, we have to start all over again.

"They just end up being local cases and there is no national group to call a press conference to say that we see the incidents as part of a chain of events and that we won't stand for it. We don't have a vehicle to say that. And I think it is very much needed."

Nonetheless, in recent years a whole generation of APA civil-rights lawyers whose inspiration was the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the Chin case have come of age.

For Karen Narasaki, who was in law school when Chin was killed, the case helped her decide to use her law degree to fight for civil rights.

"It was such a powerful story that brought home how fragile our existence here as Asian Americans is and the need to be vigilant," said Narasaki, executive director of NAPALC. "I know that the incident shaped a lot of people who are currently involved in civil rights, including myself."

Liz Ouyang, a staff attorney at the New York-based Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, who was also inspired by the incident to work in the civil- rights field, felt a personal connection to the Chin case.

"When I heard about Vincent Chin, it made me think of my brothers," said Ouyang, who was a senior at the University of Michigan in 1982.

Growing up in Rochester, N.Y., Ouyang recalls the neighborhood bully taunting her brothers with racial slurs. One day the bully attacked one of her brothers, tying a lasso around his neck and dragging him down the street when he tried to flee.

When the Chin case drummed up memories of what happened to her brother, Ouyang knew what she had to do.

"The legacy of Vincent Chin has left very deep impressions on my work today," she said. "It clearly has influenced me in what I am doing today, representing victims of anti-Asian violence and police brutality. And I tell my clients, 'I will represent you like you were my brother,' because, in a way, they are."

Despite the gains made since Chin's killing, Asian American studies professor Wei warned that the lessons learned from the Chin case must not be forgotten, that the community must continue to remind and teach future generations about Vincent Chin because it is such a significant milestone in the APA community's quest for political empowerment, racial equality, and social justice. It gave the struggle context, a face.

"It was an important event, but I do worry about whether in the passage of time it will become abstract for succeeding generations," Wei said. "For our generation, it was a real event. At some point it becomes history. It's not as real. It's no longer today's news, it becomes a historical footnote."

The Trials of Vincent Chin

June 19, 1982 - Vincent Chin attends his bachelor party at Fancy Pants, a strip club in suburban Detroit. Autoworkers Ronald Ebens and his stepson, Michael Nitz, enter the bar. Ebens taunts Chin, who he mistakenly thinks is Japanese and blames for the ailing U.S. auto industry. A fight ensues. After the fight is broken up, Chin leaves the club. Twenty minutes later, Ebens and Nitz find Chin in front of a McDonald's. Ebens knocks Chin down and beats him with a baseball bat.

June 23, 1982 - Vincent Chin dies as a result of his injuries.

March 16, 1983 - Wayne County Judge Charles Kaufman finds Ebens and Nitz guilty of manslaughter after a plea bargain and sentences each of them to three years probation, a $3,000 fine, and $780 in court fees. The prosecuting attorney is not present and neither Chin's mother nor any witnesses is called to testify.

November 1983 - The U.S. Justice Department, following an FBI investigation, files charges and a federal grand jury indicts Ebens and Nitz on two counts - one for violating Chin's civil rights, the other for conspiracy.

June 1984 - Ebens is found guilty of violating Chin's civil rights but not of conspiracy. He is sentenced to 25 years in prison, but is released on a $20,000 bond. Nitz is cleared of both charges.

September 1986 - Ebens' conviction is overturned by a federal appeals court on a legal technicality; an American Citizens for Justice attorney is accused of improperly coaching prosecution witnesses.

April 1987 - Under intense public pressure, the Justice Department orders a retrial, but this time in a new venue: Cincinnati.

May 1987 - The Cincinnati jury clears Ebens of all charges.

July 1987 - A civil suit orders Ebens to pay $1.5 million to Chin's estate as part of a court-approved settlement. However, Ebens disposes of his assets and flees the state. He has not paid any of the settlement.

September 1987 - Disgusted with the country's legal system, Lily Chin, Vincent Chin's mother, leaves the U.S. and moves back to her native village in Guangzhou province in China.