Monday, April 14, 2014

Nancy Grace and the Death of Decency.

*Trigger warning* 

Over the weekend, Utah authorities found the remains of seven infants, allegedly killed by their mother, Megan Huntsman.  According to reports, she admitted to killing six of them by strangulation or suffocation. The seventh was allegedly still born.

This is a tragedy rarely seen.  As a twenty year veteran of Child Protective Services, I've been to far too many autopsies of babies and children. Going to seven at one time? Even for my thick skin, that would be a challenge.

Fortunately, though, we have Nancy Grace to guide us through the gruesome details.  Ms. Grace has a history of taking a special interest in nationally known cases that involve the death of children.  Her Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman coverage were nonpareil, because no-one in major media today likes to pick the bones of dead children like Ms. Grace.

Tonight it what can only be described as a window to her soul  empty place where her soul should be, her official Twitter Account tweeted this:

Shocking new details: Cops say a Utah mom admits to strangling or suffocating her 6 newborn babies http://on.hln.tv/7sn7nG 


And the Hash Tag #BoxesofBabies has gone unchecked.

While many people chalk this up to normal TV sensationalism, I take personal offense.  The death of children is not a glib, funny tweet. It's not an alliterative hash tag. It's real life.

After seeing the tweet from Ms. Grace's account I went on a Twitter rant that probably means nothing to her. Unfortunately what Ms. Grace deems as a good news story and a ratings grabber, has far more serious consequences outside the TV studio.

The people who responded to the home, be they Sheriff's deputies, CPS, Firefighters or paramedics, aren't going to forget this scene any time soon.  They won't be spreading heartless tweets or being glib about headlines that say boxes of babies.  They are men and women, human to the core that will take this to the grave.

Maybe Ms. Grace and her staffers are unaware of PTSD, because you know, it's never in the news.  People who do this for a living, who deal with horrors that Ms. Grace can only blab about, have a very high rate of PTSD.  Rolling up on the death of one person is hard enough.  Seven babies? Don't even want to think about the nightmares.

These were seven tragic souls, their mother, most certainly mentally ill, or as Nancy Grace likes to call them: ratings.

I'll end this post with a simple question with regards to Joseph Welch.  Have you no decency Ms. Grace? I think we all know the answer.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

For Shame: Matt Lauer's Interview of Dottie Sandusky

In what can only be described as the worst kind of sensationalism, NBC's Today Show Host, Matt Lauer conducted an interview of Dottie Sandusky, the wife of convicted child rapist, Jerry Sandusky.  As most people with a brain would surmise, Mrs. Sandusky thinks her husband is innocent despite being found guilty of 47 counts of child sexual abuse.

The interview was conducted at the Sandusky home. Sitting next to to a forlorn and tearful Sandusky was John Ziegler, noted grifter, scam artist and Joe Paterno apologist.  While the interview as ostensibly about Sandusky, Ziegler was able to work in " the unjust firing of Joe Paterno" about halfway through.

The entire thing was distasteful for many reasons. Dottie Sandusky said her husband is innocent of the chargers against him.  They're not charges, he was convicted.  Ziegler said he's met with Sandusky and now believes he's innocent.  Even Matt Lauer got in on the fun, at one point outside the basement bedroom in which at least one boy was raped, Lauer said that "this is the bedroom in which some of the accusers say the abuse happened".  Sorry Matt, they're not accusers, they're victims and they don't say things happened. They happened. Sandusky was convicted.

I have known many Dottie Sanduskys in 20 years of child abuse investigation. It may sound incredible to the average person, but there are spouses every day who don't believe their spouse sexually abused a child.  The number of spouses/paramours who believe the adult over the child would truly shock most of you. I don't know if Dottie is naive, mentally ill, in denial or all of the above. What I do know is that her response wasn't a surprise to me.

What was a surprise was NBC's decision to green light the story.  They gave a fringe element of truly horrible people led by the Snidely Whiplash of Paterno apologists, John Ziegler, a national platform. The entire interview ran for 51 minutes. 51 minutes of calling the victims liars, Dottie: "I didn't say they lied, I said I don't believe their story". 51 minutes of calling the victims grifters, again Dottie: "I think they were manipulated by the lawyers for money". 51 minutes of Ziegler saying things like "Its not PC to call a victim a liar".

My question for all involved is simple. Do you have any idea how hard it is for victims, especially male victims to disclose sexual abuse? I do. Hundreds of children have told me about their sexual abuse. Without exaggeration, boys who were abused as adolescents are almost impossible to get to disclose.

Current statistics indicate that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys have been or are being sexually abused. The numbers are skewed because of the lack of  disclosure by boys. Boys often don't tell because the stigma that can be attached to their abuse.  Unfortunately society teaches boys to be tough and being violated is the antithesis of being tough in their minds. Getting them to tell what happened takes patience and skill.

Now imagine that you've disclosed a horrible thing.  You've survived a long and contentious trial. Your abuser was found guilty, and a major network calls into question your honesty, your motivation, and allows two people to continue peddling a narrative that is completely false. Imagine how you'd feel when Dottie Sandusky hinted at "evidence that can't be revealed yet".

Victims already feel shame because they were abused. Victims blame themselves without any help from the media. If you were a victim and hadn't disclosed, would the treatment of the Sandusky victims by Lauer and NBC make you more or less likely to tell?

What Lauer and NBC fail to realize, or maybe they realize it and don't care, child sexual abuse cases are almost always about child disclosure vs. perpetrator denial. There is seldom physical evidence or confessions. In the Sandusky case, a jury heard the testimony of the victims and found Sandusky guilty.  This is not a case in which "both sides" are valid.

Jerry Sandusky is an evil man, his wife is either a naif, a patsy or a co-conspirator.  John Ziegler is the lowest form of human sleeze, one step removed from the pedophile he supports.  They don't get to argue their 'side' of the story because their side is a lie.

Unfortunately, for the victims of Sandusky and victims everywhere, NBC, The Today Show and Matt Lauer decided that lie needed 51 minutes.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

An Investigative Look at The Woody Allen Case

Author's Note: This Blog Post May Be Triggering

The subject of child abuse and in particular child sexual abuse, is not something that people like to talk about. Most people don't like to even  think about it. Unfortunately it is real, it is happening right now, and frankly shouldn't be ignored.

This weekends open letter from Dylan Farrow to her father Woody Allen, and Hollywood in general, about the sexual abuse she suffered at his hand, set off a firestorm.  It is frank, it is heartfelt and it is powerful. It may also be triggering for some people. If you haven't read it, I recommend you do so.

Since the post went up yesterday there has been an outpouring of support for Ms. Farrow and condemnation of Woody Allen.  There have also been numerous supporters of Allen asking for more "proof".  Twitter and Facebook quickly rent down the middle by those survivors and their supporters, for whom Dylan's accusations ring true, and those who either support Allen or want more evidence than just Farrow's word.

Filmmaker and author Bob Weide, wrote a piece in the Daily Beast outlining questions, that might exonerate Allen.  The questions Wiede asks seem logical and objective.  They also illustrate how little  the average person knows about the disclosure, investigation and prosecution of child sexual abuse.

As most of you know, I investigate child abuse for a living. I've been doing it for 20 years.  I've done hundreds of sexual abuse cases with thousands of victims.  I'm a certified forensic interviewer, advanced forensic interviewer and trainer of the forensic interview techniques.  It's with this knowledge and training that I look at the Allen case.

A Botched Investigation

One of the first questions that people have had about the Allen case usually has something to do with Dylan's disclosure.  In the original story in Vanity Fair in 1993 and in  the follow up in November, Dylan's appeared to garbled and contradictory.  She told the first doctor that she spoke to that Allen had touched her shoulder.  The next day she disclosed a more descriptive account.

This often happens with the outcry of abuse.  In the Allen case, Dylan should NEVER have been questioned by a doctor in a hospital room with her mom there. Unfortunately, it was 1993.  Now children are interviewed in safe one on one settings, for the most part.  Doctors know that if a parent brings a child in for possible sexual abuse, they are to take the minimum amount of information they need for an exam and let the professionals do the interview.

Weide makes quite a point that the Investigative Team of 3 doctors who conducted a 6 month investigation concluded that no sexual molestation happened. They claimed in part that Dylan was "emotionally disturbed child whose story became fixed in her head" or that she was coached or both.  They outlined inconsistencies in Dylan's statement about being touched on the vaginal area.

The idea of a team of 3 doctors interviewing a frightened 7 year old child individually or as a group over 6 months is reprehensible. There's a reason we do one interview on tape. Asking Dylan to relive and retell the account of her abuse over and over again victimized her even further.

It's not shocking that she said first she wasn't touched, then she was, then she wasn't.  Children who are repeatedly interviewed about the same incident often change an answer to please the person doing the interview.  We see this in custody cases all the time. When the kids at mom's they say they hate dad, when they're at dad's vice versa.

It's not a giant leap to think that Dylan was confused and scared by these three adult men asking her questions about her private parts for SIX MONTHS.  It's inconceivable to anyone who practices social work today.  It's entirely possible that she was "emotionally" disturbed because of the way she was dealt with by people who should have known better.

Many people, including Weide point out that medical examinations were done and there was no evidence of trauma to the anus or the vagina.  This doesn't rule out molestation.  In fact it doesn't even rule out penetration. The vagina heals remarkably fast and any doctor who knows how to conduct a sexual abuse exam of a child will tell  you that.

Charming and Sneaky

Weide also seems to think that the fact that some of the abuse happened during the time when Allen had to be on his "best behavior" on visits precludes the possibility that he abused Dylan.  Again a common fallacy among those who don't know a whit about how abusers work.

Abusers are charming. Especially when they are grooming the child.  Much of what Dylan described like getting under the covers with Allen, or Allen making her suck his thumb are mere precursors to abuse which could have followed.

In fact, the visits at the Farrow home would be the perfect time for Allen to abuse Dylan for the very reason that people think it was the worst possible time.  Nobody would expect Allen to do that while he was under intense scrutiny after his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn became public.

Weide also casts doubt on Allen being able to do it in a house full of children and nannies. Again abusers are good at what they do, and sexual abusers are the best.  Mikki Kendall, AKA @Karnythia a feminist, mother and author pointed out on Twitter,  that only the sloppy or the stupid sexual abusers get caught.

Prosecution Questions

Prosecution of child sexual abuse is notoriously tricky. It's no surprise that there was no criminal charge in the Allen case.  The prosecutor at the time, said he had probable cause to believe Dylan.  People wonder why charges weren't pressed.  A valid question with no easy answer.

The first problem with prosecution is almost every child sex abuse case is the child's word against the adults.  I mentioned forensic interviewing earlier.  We interview children in this manner to get a statement that is as credible as possible. The video of the interview is also a good tool to use to try to get a confession, and if there are charges filed, its an excellent tool for a judge and jury to see.

Once you get past the hurdle of the child's credibility, there are structural concerns with the criminal justice system that make things difficult.  Some cases can linger for a year or two until they come to trial. In that time, the victim and the victim's family may have decided that court may be too overwhelming.  Even in relatively quick cases, the family is hesitant.

Can you imagine the circus if Dylan Farrow had to testify against Woody Allen? Not only would she be dragged by a defense attorney, but Mia Farrow's life and previous history would also be fair game.  Weide mentioned Mia Farrow's previous affairs, imagine what an attorney that Woody Allen could afford would have done.

Another common misconception is that if there is no prosecution, there is no guilt. Every state has some form of Child Protective Services.  All of them have a name for reports of child abuse that are FOUNDED. In Illinois, we use the term Indicated. In other states they use Confirmed. The level of evidence in these founded reports is usually "reasonable person" which basically means  that a reasonable person would conclude that abuse or neglect occurred.

A friend on Twitter mentioned that he would like to believe that Allen is innocent until proven guilty.  Unfortunately for the overwhelming majority of these cases there is no court.  There is only the child welfare system and the findings of the professionals. Those cases are never made public due to confidentiality, but they are no less important than cases that go to court.

A Final Thought

Dylan Farrow's statement this weekend opened up a lot of wounds. So many victims have their victimization dismissed by everyone from family to authorities, its not surprising there were a lot of angry outbursts.  Victims never really get over it no matter that other's would like them too.

People seem willing to give Woody Allen the benefit of the doubt, and that is certainly their right.  Just keep in mind the raw feelings of a lot of people.  Keep in mind that there are an awful lot of people like Dylan Farrow, living with a horrible past and feeling like nobody believes them.

We've come a long way in the way we investigate and prosecute child sexual abuse.  If the Woody Allen case was investigated today, the outcome may have been completely different.  Given what we know, Dylan Farrow may have gotten justice.







Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What The Woody Allen- Mia Farrow Case Illustrates about Investigating Sexual Abuse

This article could be triggering.

Over the last several days there have been many articles and arguments about the tweets made by Mia Farrow and her son Ronan regarding Woody Allen being honored at the Golden Globes.  The Farrows are convinced that Woody Allen molested Dylan Farrow.  Dylan made a statement when she was 19 that Allen molested her at the age of 7, she made similar statements when she was 7 and there was no real investigation.

There have been op-ed's about this matter written both in support of Allen and in defense of the Farrows.  Unlike The Daily Banter's Chez Pazienza, I've never been a huge fan of Allen, his writing or his movies. Unlike Vanity Fair's Maureen Orth I haven't had an extensive sit down with the Farrows.

What I can tell you is this situation is far too common.  Sure, the principals in this case are larger than life, but at is very most basic core, this story is played out time and time again in Child Protection. For every case that's founded by CPS, there are a dozen cases like Allen's.

The problems with the Allen case from an investigative standpoint are many and varied, from the statement by the victim, to taking the child to a doctor and not child abuse professionals, to the weird, neurotic behavior of both Farrow and Allen.

Any case against Allen was going nowhere fast, because the professionals involved didn't do things correctly.  The good news in the last 20 years, Child Protection Professionals nationwide have gotten a whole lot better at our jobs.

There has been a lot of talk about Dylan's statements as a 7 year old possibly being coached, and her memories as a 19 year old being false.  Those are certainly a possibility, but what I see when I read the account of Dylan's disclosure and the lawyers advice that she be  taken to a doctor, my first thought was "huge mistake".

A lot of comment has been made about Dylan pointing to her shoulder when asked about her private part by the doctor and later telling her mother that she was embarrassed to tell the doctor.  This absolutely consistent with hundreds of cases we've investigated.  Children have to be made to feel safe in a welcoming one on one interview, not the cold sterile impersonal environment of the doctor's office.

It's also not surprising that the next day they went back to the doctor and made a statement consistent with being molested.  This happens all the time. Children are afraid, embarrassed, confused. Also children generally don't want to get "in trouble" because they're sharing a secret.

The professionals around the country who conduct forensic interviews with child victims never and I mean never just ask what part the private part is.  We're trained to build rapport with the child, taking several minutes to get information about their home, their family, their school. Sometimes we draw face pictures.

After the child is more comfortable we might ask them why they are there to see us, if  the respond with something regarding body parts, we introduce a body chart and have them name body parts.  That way when they say "he touched my private" we can refer to the chart to ask what they mean.  Sidebar: Parents please teach your children the word vagina.  You have no idea how many names for vagina I've been told by children. From hoo-ha to pocketbook to monkey.  Also teach them the word penis, not winky, not pee pee, not dick, PENIS.

The other problem with proving that Allen did or didn't do something is quite frankly, Mia Farrow.  In the Vanity Fair article she was described as never wanting to make the allegations public, and her behavior showed a hesitance to go to authorities, instead telling a psychiatrist dealing with Allen.  Even in the early 90's this should have been completely handled by CPS and Police. People trained to investigate.

The fact that both adults Farrow and Allen are veritable baskets of neuroses also doesn't help the case.  Allen's affair and subsequent marriage to Soon-Yi Previn have devastated the Farrow family.  Allen's neurosis is the basis of his entire professional career.

Regarding Soon-Yi Previn, Allen stated that he didn't see Soon-Yi as his daughter. While that is technically true he was the predominant male figure for a significant portion of her childhood.  Her father figure.  Allen traded on these feelings and groomed her. While not technically a crime, since we don't know of any sexual contact between the two when she was a minor, it certainly is creepy.

Allen's behavior with Dylan as witnessed by several people, could certainly be construed as grooming at the very least, but we'll never know beyond a reasonable doubt that he molested Dylan. It's very possible that he did, but what happened with this case from the professionals was sadly wanting.  As to the Farrow's believing Dylan, I would expect no less.

So there it is, this case is a mess. Many child sexual abuse cases are a mess. The reasons this case is a mess aren't all that different than what we see on a daily basis.  Parents who despise each other, partial statements by a child that seem inconsistent, professionals who dropped the ball and failed to properly interview the child, all these things are a daily problem in Child Protection.



Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day 2013. Grandpa's letter's from Italy 1944 and 1945

It's Veteran's Day, and as a change of pace, I'm dedicating a piece to my Grandparents Tom and Edith Luce.  Grandpa served in the 10th Mountain Division in WWII in Northern Italy in 1944 and 1945.  He left my Grandma home with my Mom aged 4, Uncle Joe 1 and Uncle Roy on the way.  He felt it was his duty to serve and my Grandma went to work at a factory, Rosie the Riveter style.

People often compliment me on being a good dad and a good husband.  I come from a long line of people who had good strong marriages and raised me right.  Grandpa by the way was an amazing athlete, played baseball and football and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds as a pitcher. He also was an sharp shooter and could hit a golf ball a country mile. Grandma, all 5 foot 2 of Irish fury kept my Grandpa 6 foot 4 and country strong in check.  He called her Babe, Honey and Squirt. I  honestly can't remember what she called him, but she gave him the stink eye like nobody's business.  They were made for each other.

Here's a picture in the late 60's





Any way while he was away at war, Grandpa wrote a letter every day.  I picked out two to share.   This willmake the blog a little long, but it's an amazing read.  At the end of the piece I'll add photos of the originals. These are the folks that helped make me who I am.  I added emphasis in places I thought were funny or touching.



Letter 1:
                                                                                                     Somewhere in Italy
                                                                                                      November 30, 1944

Dear Babe,

  Well Honey here I am again, I'm a little late to nite but I guess it is better late than never.  Boy I never saw such writing conditions as these, there I go crabbing right off the bat. Well Honey another day and no mail aint that hell, boy I ought to go all night when I start getting them again, hadn't I hon? How have you been feeling Sweetheart, sure hope you are okay.

  Doggone it do you know what, we worked all day making a little stove and then some blokes went and burned their tent down, so all we had to do was go and tear it down again, aint that hell? And we were just figuring on keeping nice and warm to nite, if you ever saw some mad boys, you should have saw us. Dam Hon it sure is hard to find anything to write about if I would just get a letter maybe I would have some questions to answer you see honey. I know that you can still ask questions cant you?

  How are my two or three younguns getting along, God I'd to know for sure which it is for sure.  But I suppose someday I'll know all about it , won't I.  Well Hon, here it is the last of November already, the old time is moving along pretty fast at that. It can't go fast to suit me if it will bring me back home faster, thats all I care about is getting back where I belong. Sounds like I'm trying to write a song, don't it. How are all the folks back home hope all of them are okay, is Edith ( grandpa's sister), still getting around a little, it sure would be swell if she would get going again wouldn't it Babe, I suppose that the folks have their place fixed up pretty good by now haven't they. I'll bet they are glad of that.

  How is the old man doing is he still griping about everything in general, him and I are going to have a date with a barrel of beer when I get home, and you are going to be right with me, how will that be Babe, you are never going to get out of my sight again as long as I live, if I can help it and I don't me maybe. Say Hon I know we've got some birthdays in December but Im damned if I can remember who they are, can you help me out.

  You know days and dates just seem hard to remember over here, we can't hardly remember what day it is, I guess it dont make much difference anyhow, theres only one day I want to see roll around anyhow.  Well Honey it is getting late and my eyes are getting sorta tired, it isnt too easy to see by these damned lights so I guess I'll have to close for this time. So for this  time I'll have to say Goodnite and God Bless you and the little ones I love  you all very much.

                                                                              Your Loving Husband
                                                                                                   Tom
  Bye till tomorrow Sweetheart, I can't put down any X's anymore cause the think we might be talking in code, aint that the nuts

                                                                                  Bye Now
                                                                                         Tom

Letter 2

                                                                                              May 28, 1944
                                                                                                     Italy

Dearest Babe,

       Well Darling the dam thing is almost over around here, aint that something to shout about but they are doing plenty of that aren't they.

       Seems as the boys birthday was a busy one wasn't it. How are my three little ones, growing like weeds I'll bet. did I ever tell you that I love you Squirt, well I do, so there.

       Now I don't know how to tell you this, but I'm in the field hospital, sleeping on nice white sheets with a pillow and everything, its the life of Reilly Babe, Ha! Ha! I'd just as soon not told you about it, but I'm afraid The War Department would, and then you would be worried.

I had a little fragment in my leg, and they took it out, it is only a scratch and I'll be back with the outfit in a few days, so don't worry about it will you Darling. I'm going to gave to close for now so I'll write tomorrow. Good Bye and God Bless you all.

                                                                                             Your loving husband Tom.

Here's the copies of the letters:




What Grandpa didn't write in the second letter is that his buddy was cleaning his M1 and there was a round in the chamber.  The gun went off and killed his buddy and the round ended up in Grandpa's leg.  He was awarded the Purple Heart.

I never had the chance to have a date with Grandpa and a barrel of beer, but I'd like to think he and Grandma are enjoying one somewhere.  Here's to them and here's to all the Veterans, today and every day.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Bully Pulpit

Fat Pat, Cherion, Fat Albert, Perkins, Three eyed fag. Cry Baby. That's a short list of the names I was called as a child by classmates, school mates and even some adults. I was bullied mercilessly for many years. It didn't really end until college.  That's why the tale of Richie Incognito and Jonathon Martin of the Miami Dolphins strikes a nerve.

If you haven't heard, Incognito is a bully who made threats and slurs towards Martin to the point that Martin left the team, and Incognito has now been suspended indefinitely. We're hearing anecdotes that Incognito was bullied as a child and his father, who has been posting slurs of his own, is said to have been a cruel man to his son.

Whatever  the reason for Incognito's behavior, its time for the NFL and other sports leagues to ban the hazing of rookies or severely curtail it. Perhaps there's still room for some mild teasing like making rookies carry the pads or buy donuts or sing their college fight songs, but there's no reason rookies should buy 40000 dollar team meals or be taped to a goal post.

The bullying and hazing in the NFL is a national story now, but the bullying that is going on every day in schools across the country is insidious and has caused many kids to take their own lives. This is becoming a crisis.  Due to the prevalence of social media, bullying is now carried out every waking hour of the day. When I was being bullied, I could at least leave the bullies at the door of the school and go home to peace and quiet.

At the open of this piece I mentioned a few of the names I was called.  Fat Pat was pretty obvious, cause you know I was fat.  Cherion is a play on my last name and being a "cherry" (aka pussy).  Fat Albert was the name given me by the lunch lady when I was in 1st grade and had a Fat Albert lunch box.  The fucking lunch lady.

Perkins was again a play on my last name and the character Perkins from Sheriff Lobo.  See Perkins was a bumbler and also fat, so there you go. Three eyed fag came in High School when I had a zit between my eyebrows.  Cry Baby was due to the fact that when I was teased, which was often I cried. My Junior High School Principal referred to me by that moniker.

The point of sharing these things is not a play for pity, because I think I'm doing pretty damn well. Instead it's an example of what kids take with them from bullies.  All of these things happened to me 30-40 years ago, but I still remember them all.

Take the time to take interest in  your kids day at school.  Ask them about their friends. Make sure that they understand that the can tell you anything, and feel safe.  Make sure you're monitoring and limiting your kids on social media. They may find it intrusive, but you're the still the adult.

If the school calls you and suggests that your child may be a bully, don't scoff and dismiss it. It may be unpleasant for you to deal with, but it must be dealt with. You're kid is in need of some redirection if they're bullying other kids.

The Incognito-Martin dust up has opened a necessary dialog, but they're both grown adults and will no doubt land on their feet.  The suicides of so many young people are far more concerning to me.
Bullying is not a joke, not a passing thing and often not easily overcome.

I was lucky, I forgave a lot, but I haven't forgotten.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Poor Excuses

I've waited a few days to weigh in on Congresses decision to cut SNAP funds as part of trying to pass the Farm Bill.  It was hard enough to not splutter on in impotent rage on Twitter and Facebook, so a few days delay seemed like a good idea.

In the intervening days, I've seen what can only be called an assault on the poor by a lot of people on the right. One friend, Herb Lawrence, over on Facebook wrote persuasively about the need for programs like SNAP and his mentions included a number of people who generally think that lazy no-goods get all the free food they want.

I have a special empathy for poor people.  Part of it is because I work daily with people who are poor and are just scraping buy. True some of these people have issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, but most do not.  They're just people who lost a job, or are working for minimum wage and trying to raise kids.  Contrary to popular belief they're not all deadbeat people of color looking for a handout from Uncle Sam. In fact a significant part of the population I see are white. National statistics bear this out as 60 percent of SNAP recipients are white.

The other reason that I'm particularly sensitive to the issues of the poor, is that for a significant portion of my childhood, I was poor.  Not just white people poor, not able to get Nike's every 3 months, I mean government cheese poor. My parents were hardworking people who did everything they could to improve our station.

My earliest memories of my parents working was when I was 5 or so, Mom worked at Pennys and Dad was a tire salesman.  They worked long hours to put food on our table and that was supplemented occasionally by my grandparents giving us meat from cattle they had slaughtered.  We had cars that barely ran and rented places that were cheap and drafty. Mom made my velour shirts and there were plenty of yard sale pairs of pants.

Dad continued on at the tire store and mom worked at Penny's until I was in the 4th or 5th grade. Dad got a job at a corn refinery in Clinton IA, Clinton Corn, which later became ADM.  He worked rotating shifts but made a good wage and mom didn't have to work if she didn't want to.

Then came 1982 and the Farm Crisis.  Dad along with a lot of other people lost their jobs,  the economy of Clinton, IA took a massive hit.  We lived on unemployment, borrowed from family and accepted government handouts of cheese, butter and peanut butter. I remember how tormented my parents were about accepting handouts. These were proud people who felt that they somehow failed.

About a year later, Dad did get a job in housekeeping at the local hospital and mom went to work as the TV rental lady at the same hospital.  Later she hooked on as an admissions clerk at the hospital.  Total combined salary was a little over 20K per year.

The current crop of me first Republicans and Libertarians don't have the first idea about poor people.  They think and by extension their constituents think that poor people are lazy, stupid and black.  They're wrong. An overwhelming number of poor people are white just like my parents. No matter what their race, poor people are proud and hardworking but need assistance getting back to middle class, to help their kids get ahead and maybe retire before they're 90.

Stripping 4 Billion dollars a year from SNAP is a infinitesimal amount of the Federal Budget. This is a symbolic shaming of poor people for being poor.  They claim that people need to take responsibility to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.  How in the world are poor people supposed to do that when like my parents they go through times that they have no bootstraps left?

Congress and especially Teaparty conservatives might see all of this as excuse making for poor people.  As my dear departed mother once said, "for being so called leaders, these idiots in Congress are a poor excuse."