Too little, too late

Too little, too late
March is Women’s History Month. The news should be filled with glowing stories of women’s rights and the successes women have achieved. The mantra “We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby” makes us all feel good, but upon reflection, is it really true?  
President Barack Obama owes his presidency to women, who gave him the votes he needed to offset the preferences of our XY-chromosomed citizens. Yet what has he offered to achieve a more balanced — let alone “perfect” — union for his female supporters, who remain second-class citizens when it comes to wages?
Yes, we won the abortion battle by helping re-elect President Obama. With likely openings to fill on the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade promises to remain the law of the land. 
But what about the elephant in the room barely mentioned since his election? Remember the call for “equal pay for equal work?” 
It’s been a half-century since women demonstrated in the streets for passage of the 1963 Equal Pay and 1964 Civil Rights Acts; for Republicans, that passage was enough. In 1963, women earned 59 cents for every dollar men made doing the same job. At last count, women earned 77 cents on the dollar. It has taken more than 50 years to make just 18 more cents. 
 
In his second presidential debate, Obama expressed hope that his daughters would be paid as much as a man for the same job, and repeated that call during his recent Valencia College address on economics. He called the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act early in his administration a big step toward ending that disparity. No doubt the legislation won him some votes. But the Ledbetter Act only offered narrow relief, giving women the right to file complaints against company pay decisions that the US Supreme Court had rejected on the grounds of timeliness in Ledbetter’s case.
Meanwhile, the Paycheck Fairness Act has been rejected by Congress along party lines numerous times, as recently as last year. That bill would have enabled women to demand fair treatment by giving employees information about salaries in their company and requiring employers to justify any wage discrepancies. 
According to legislative experts, the bill now has a less than 1 percent chance of being enacted. Obama said the solution to this stalled legislation was to elect more women to Congress, and is using his political clout to “Give America a Raise” by increasing the minimum wage. 
 Testifying before Congress in 2010, an economist reported that studies “always find that some portion of the wage gap is unexplained,” even after controlling for measurable factors assumed to influence earnings. That unexplained portion of the wage gap is attributed to gender. 
Why then should women have to wait any longer for equal pay?
A big reason for the pay differential may be the cost equalizing wages would impose on small businesses. However, the marketplace explanation has always been that this is due to women interrupting their careers to give birth or raise their children. Yet, if women are working the same job and are equally or better educated, just as experienced and equally productive as men, then why aren’t they getting the same wages? It’s not a matter of giving women raises. It’s a matter of ending discrimination.
The Great Recession and the long crawl back have highlighted the need for economic parity. During the recession, employers were slower to fire women, but the subsequent losses of public sector jobs forced large numbers of women to join the lines at unemployment offices. During the recovery women have been hired last and now outnumber unemployed men, resulting in more women in poverty than ever before — 17.8 million at last count. Of these, 7.8 million are in extreme poverty with incomes beneath half the poverty line.
The prevailing explanation for these frightening trends is this: Society does not value women’s occupations, such as teaching and nursing, so these jobs are not a priority in the recovery. The government is prohibited from wage discrimination, so women in public service jobs are paid the same as men (and both earn more than in the private sector). Once their public sector jobs were eliminated, women were forced into private sector jobs that not only were lower paying, but did not pay the sexes equally, pushing many previously self-sufficient women into poverty.
Statistics clearly show the importance of women in the economy. Since 2010, women have accounted for more than 50 percent of the workforce. American women now earn 57 percent of bachelor degrees and 59 percent of master’s degrees. More than half of medical students and nearly half of law school students are women. They are also the sole supporters of millions of families. Women shouldn’t accept a system that doesn’t value their work and forces them to seek food stamps and other welfare rather than pay them their due. 
Instead of waiting for the system to decide that women are worthy, women should wield their economic clout. Forget burning bras a la the 1960s. All women need do is stop buying them — or anything else — from companies that don’t give women equal pay for equal work.
 
Isn’t it time for women to act once again in their own best interest? 
Danielle Elliott is a Pasadena resident and longtime community activist. Contact her at srmanagerl@hotmail.com.

Too little, too late

Too little, too late
A Pasadena Superior Court judge this week dashed a longtime resident’s hopes for freedom after refusing to vacate the conviction that led to his deportation by federal authorities. 
Andres Romero, a former Pasadena gang counselor, was found guilty of burglary in 2004, served nearly nine years of an 11-year sentence and was then immediately turned over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to face deportation proceedings upon his release from prison a few days before Christmas.
Although the 53-year-old Romero has been married for more than 33 years to an American citizen, with whom he’s fathered four now grown children, and has lived in the Pasadena area since he was a child, he never became a naturalized citizen. 
After a number of hearings conducted over the past six months in federal administrative court in downtown Los Angeles, US Immigration Judge Anna Ho found that Romero did not qualify for any special consideration, primarily because immigration rules mandate deportation of “aggravated felons,” or convicts who commit crimes drawing sentences of more than five years behind bars. 
Despite claims that he was the victim of sexual abuse as a child, a crime, if proved, that might have allowed him to temporarily remain in the United States, that he was attacked twice by men he identified as police officers while visiting Mexico on two separate occasions and that he does not speak Spanish, Ho ultimately ordered the deportation of Romero, who is currently being held at the Adelanto Detention Facility near Victorville.
Ho, who heard testimony from Romero, his mother and his wife, Cheryl, found that, while Romero’s claims of being detained, beaten and robbed by police officers in Mexico on two separate pleasure trips there in the 1980s and ’90s were credible, they were not enough to prove that he would be tortured by government forces if he were to be sent to that country, as Romero contended. “The Court finds [that] Respondent’s statements in his asylum application and his oral testimony are believable, consistent, and sufficiently detailed to provide a plausible and coherent account of his asylum claim. Accordingly, the Court deems Respondent’s testimony to be credible,” Ho wrote. In his testimony, Romero called deportation a “death sentence.” The judge also later denied Romero’s request for bond while waiting for word on his appeal to Ho’s decision. Romero filed an appeal to Ho’s mid-June deportation order with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in Virginia. A decision from that court could take up to six months.
In a novel legal move, Romero filed a request with the state Superior Court to set aside his original conviction and reduce the charge to trespassing, a misdemeanor. The idea was to be resentenced under those provisions, with credit for time served. 
On Monday morning, one of Romero’s sons, 27-year-old Andres Romero III, stood before Pasadena Superior Court Judge Elaine Lu to plead his father’s case. Since he is not a lawyer, he was not allowed to speak on his father’s behalf. In papers filed with the court, the elder Romero explains his plight, telling the judge that he represented himself in the burglary case, that the crime was much more of a trespassing beef, and that he was forced to take the long sentence as a way of avoiding a life sentence under now-reformed provisions of the state’s three strikes and you’re out law. Romero had been previously convicted of nonviolent drug-related offenses. 
But in her analysis, a patient and seemingly understanding Lu explained to Romero’s son that his father was advised at the time of his trial that there might be adverse consequences with immigration officials following a conviction, that too much time had passed since the conviction to change it, and that the elder Romero was no longer an inmate of the state, therefore ineligible for habeas corpus, a legal principle which means a person in custody must be brought before a judge in order to be released from unlawful restraint. In addition, because Romero represented himself, he could not claim he had ineffectual counsel. 
“That would be like a surgeon conducting surgery on himself and then complaining that he did a bad job,” as one deputy district attorney explained to the younger Romero afterward.
Romero, who wrote columns about gang life in Pasadena for this newspaper before and after going to state prison, said he was being punished twice for the same crime, violating the longstanding legal principle of double jeopardy. “In essence, I am being detained and prosecuted for the same offense that led to my incarceration in a state prison,” he wrote in a column that appeared n January. He also criticized Ho, who said Romero was a potential flight risk and a danger to the community before denying him a chance to post bond.
“As for being a flight-risk, this is my America. This is where I have lived my entire life, 40 years alone in Pasadena,” he wrote in a letter that appeared in the paper’s Aug. 1 edition. “A danger to my community? I am not, nor have I ever been a violent offender, let alone a terrorist and a threat to our national security. Prior to my 2004 conviction, I spent years as a youth and peace advocate, preventing gang and racial violence, protecting (our) youth by speaking out against child and sexual abuse. I have given years of volunteer service in my community and schools in the prevention of violence.”
“Unfortunately,” Judge Lu said Monday morning, concluding the hearing in Pasadena Superior Court, “I have to deny the motion to vacate.”
After attending most of the federal immigration court hearings downtown, and now this last-ditch effort in state court, Romero’s son’s thoughts turned to his mother, Cheryl.  
“He’s strong,” he said of his dad. “It’s my mom that I’m worried about. She’s the heart of our family, and there is only so much she can endure.”
A nearly 20-year employee of Avon in Pasadena, Cheryl expects to be among those laid off when the company closes in January. Andres III said his younger brother, a US Marine, was married recently, a few weeks before he is scheduled to ship out to Egypt.
“Even when we are having a good time, you know what she’s going through, so she can’t even enjoy things like this,” said the devoted son. “So I said to my mom, ‘Are you ready to move to Mexico?’” 

Too little too late

Too little  too late

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has quietly revised the Sheriff’s Department’s nighttime release policy, a move that comes more than a year after the discovery of the remains of Mitrice Richardson, an honors student at Cal State Fullerton who was arrested by deputies for failing to pay a bill at a Malibu restaurant in September 2009, then released from custody shortly after midnight without a phone, money or a car. Richardson’s skeletal remains were found 11 months later in a wooded area less than six miles from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station.

Following a Nov. 9 meeting with Pasadena women’s rights advocates Gerda Govine-Ituarte and Shirley Spencer, an officer with the League of Women Voters Pasadena Area, Richardson’s psychiatrist, Ronda Hampton, and her aunt, Lauren Sutton, Baca announced that the department’s nighttime release policy had been changed back in May, which was news to Richardson’s family and friends, according to Spencer.

Titled “Property Retained at Time of Arrest,” the policy reads: “The arresting deputy shall, when practicable, book with the arrestee certain personal items or items of personal identification in possession of the arrestee at the time of arrest (e.g. driver license, passport, credit cards, cellular telephone, etc.) when the items would provide proof of identification and/or facilitate the identification/booking or release procedure.”

Richardson’s friends and family members said Baca’s policy change is not enough. They called for an independent committee to investigate the death and the circumstances surrounding it. They also called for the disbanding of the Office of Independent Review, a county agency that reviews incidents involving the Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement agencies. The OIR investigated the performances of sheriff’s personnel involved in the Richardson case and found that, while things could have been done better, the deputies did nothing improper in processing Richardson at the lockup and later releasing her.

Too little too late?

Too little too late?
Our cover story this week could not have been timelier, with head injuries capturing the attention of fans of America’s most-watched sport the week of the Super Bowl.
 
For decades, the NFL has been glamorizing the kind of hits to the head and body that make great television viewing, with those thrilling slow-motion action shots lovingly compiled for the league’s youth marketing machine by veteran football documentary maker Steve Sabol. 
 
What no one saw, or what was never shown, was how participants in some of those jarring collisions got along later in life after they retired, after suffering what would turn out to be life-changing brain injuries.
 
Few other players took more vicious hits to the head while going over the middle than Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey of the Baltimore Colts, who was the go-to guy for the Colts during its Johnny Unitas glory years of the 1960s and early ’70s. 
Mackey remains the 6-foot, 2-inch, 225-pound giant of a guy he was back then. Albeit a little grayer, at age 69, he appears to be in good physical shape. Mackey’s mental condition, however, is another story. 
 
Nearly a decade’s worth of headshots to help make the Colts — then the San Diego Chargers in his last year — look good have taken their toll, leaving Mackey not only suffering from frontal temporal dementia, but, as Pasadena Weekly City Reporter André Coleman learned last week, unable to speak.
 
As Coleman reports, four years ago Mackey was forced to live in assisted living facilities, one of the latest ones in Altadena. But his former bosses in the NFL were in denial about the damage their stock-in-trade violence was causing some players in their golden years, refusing to recognize any links between dementia and other mental illnesses with injuries caused by head-on collisions with hands, arms, legs, torsos and other heads. 
 
Unfortunately, Mackey is not the only former player afflicted by symptoms of dementia years after hanging up his cleats. Far from it. The Associated Press reported on a telephone survey in 2009 that asked NFL retirees if they had ever been diagnosed with memory-related diseases. Nearly 2 percent of former players ages 30 to 49 said yes — 19 times the rate for the same age group in the general population, the AP reported. The rate was five times higher for retirees over 50, according to the AP.
 
This year, NFL referees started strictly enforcing new rules prohibiting direct head-to-head contact, all the while 159 players were benched either permanently or temporarily due to head injuries suffered while playing. The number is actually 167 if you include preseason play. 
 
Increased fines for head-to-head contact will certainly limit some of the more flagrant violations. But it’s hardly going to stop all the head-slapping and hand- and arm-to-chin contact going on between defensive and offensive linemen, who this year tied with tight ends at 15 benched with concussions. Defensive linemen were worse, with 17. Wide receivers suffered the most on the offensive side of the ball, with 28, according to the Concussion Blog, operated by Justin Fink, an Illinois-based certified athletic trainer who’s been tracking head injuries in the NFL. By far, defensive backs suffered the most. Forty-four reported concussions, with 25 linebackers being sidelined. According to Fink, Super Bowl opponents Pittsburg Steelers had seven players benched last year due to concussions, and the Green Bay Packers had five.
 
There’s really no telling how many other guys who played over the years suffered the way Mackey is suffering now. You have to wonder: How many of those “old-timers” drew their last breaths unable to remember the team they played for, the game-changing plays they made, or even their own names? Perhaps an even more pertinent question is how many college, high school and Pop Warner players suffered cranial injuries as kids and now as adults have trouble remembering the names of their children and wives? Where can they turn for help without a players union or a millionaire team owner looking out for them?
 
No doubt a lot of mothers and fathers are rethinking their family’s commitment to midget and high school football programs and directing their kids to less violent pursuits, like baseball and soccer. So much the better, if the way Mackey was treated is any indication of what those men might expect in years to come if they make it to the top colleges or the pros, as many athletes from talent-rich Pasadena and Altadena have over the years. 
 
When Mackey and his wife, Sylvia, tried to get the NFL Players Association, an organization that Mackey once commanded, to help him pay for his care, they were denied. But both the league and the union finally “came around” and started what they call the “88 plan,” so-called for Mackey’s number. The “88 plan” provides $88,000 a year to impaired players for nursing home care and up to $50,000 annually for adult day care.
 
But isn’t that really too little too late?
 
Being a former player representative, Mackey probably would have had an opinion about that question. But don’t bother asking. These days, he wouldn’t know the answer. And even if he did, this once eloquent and foreceful advocate for every player’s rights wouldn’t be able to tell it to you. 

Too little too late?

In this week after Christmas, an army of volunteer workers
is putting last-minute touches on all those spectacular flower-laden floats for
Tuesday morning’s 119th Rose Parade.

But unlike other times, this year’s parade will feature additional,
politically tinged events that Tournament of Roses Association officials
neither wanted nor adequately anticipated, namely those sparked by the
inclusion of a float honoring the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing that is being
sponsored by Pasadena-based Avery Dennison Corp. — which does a booming
business in China — and formally backed by the Chinese government.

Some argue that the Rose Parade, much like the Olympics, is
an international affair, one featuring floats, bands, personalities and
performers from other countries, but not political.

They say this even though the parade’s grand marshals over
the past six or seven decades have included an American president, a vice
president who became president, Supreme Court justices, foreign dignitaries, local
politicians and an assortment of public officials and military figures.

If the demonstrations in Pasadena up until now over this
float — and the ones sure to come over China’s abysmal human rights
record in the months leading up to the Olympic Games — do not disprove
both of these contentions, then probably nothing ever will.

The fact is both events are highly political occasions, and
have always been so to varying degrees. Only this year the distance separating
the pomp from the politics of both the Rose Parade and the Olympics isn’t as
easy to bridge as it’s been in years past, primarily because China, for all the
wealth it offers American businesses, remains a brutal totalitarian regime that
cares nothing for human rights or even the welfare of its own citizens.

This isn’t the first time the Tournament has found itself
enmeshed in political controversy over a controversial selection. In 1991, the
organization came under fire after choosing Cristobol Colon, a Spanish duke and
ancestor of Christopher Columbus, to lead the 1992 parade. That year marked the
500th anniversary of the “discovery” of the New World by Columbus, and Colon’s
selection seemed to fit the theme, “Voyages of Discovery.”

Only this time out, it would be the
Tournament discovering something: That people of color —

ancestors of the first folks Columbus met then enslaved and then killed —
weren’t thrilled with Columbus or that choice. Nor were most other people very
happy to learn that up to that point the Tournament was actually
comprised of what former Councilman Rick Cole accurately described as a bunch
of “aging white men.”

To its credit, the Tournament quickly recognized its critics
and set about appeasing them, first by selecting Ben Nighthorse Campbell, the
only Native American in Congress, to be in the parade as co-grand marshal, and
then opening its ranks to women and minorities.

But nothing like that happened this time around. When the
first hints of protest to the Chinese-backed float surfaced in June following
our story on the reaction from practitioners of Falun Gong, a movement that is
banned in China and whose members living in China are detained and executed,
Tournament officials assumed a bunker mentality, taking refuge in their own
substantial rose garden on Orange Grove Boulevard.

Today, in the final moments leading up to the parade, and
with other religious and human rights groups lining up behind local Falun Gong
members, Tournament and city officials are only now considering some sort of
compromise in order to let the parade — and that float — go on its
way.

Whether that’s a pre-parade demonstration or something else,
we do not yet know. We only hope these half-hearted last-minute gestures of
recognition are not too little late.

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