Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tell Choice Hotels to Prevent Child Prostitution in Their Hotels

You can take action to prevent child prostitution by sending a letter to Choice Hotels CEO Steve Joyce, telling him to sign the ECPAT Code of Conduct and commit to preventing child sex tourism in Choice Hotel hotels.

Choice Hotels are the owners of the Comfort Inn where Shaniya Davis was sold for sex. They are also one of a number of hotel chains that have not signed the ECPAT Code of Conduct, a commitment to preventing child sex trafficking, which disproportionally affects minority children in America.

I urge you to sign the petition HERE:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Buffet of Ideas

We are nearing that time of year when people seem to be winding down a little bit at work and focusing on holiday fun and family madness. Some of us (the lucky ones) get days off during this period to celebrate and rest up for the New Year. But there is no rest for those of us in the world of advocacy-- there are always cases or issues that need a big mouth to call them out.   But in an effort to spend little more time at home I am taking a very brief hiatus from Sax Facts (two weeks off). I will return with guns-blazing the first week of January!

I thought I would do a short round-up of a few news pieces from this week for you… a sample buffet of ideas, if you will (to match our upcoming holiday feasts), so sit back, take a sip of egg nog and let's review the week:

Little Girl Whose Braid Was Cut Off By Teacher: at first I was blown away when I saw the image of the little girl whose braid was cut off – but that was mostly because I couldn’t figure out what I was looking at on the screen. The teacher was clearly at fault for assaulting and humiliating the child with a scissors in front of her classmates. However, I couldn’t get my head around the outrage coming in during the coverage. Parents were expressing their absolute disgust over the act and calling for the resignation of the teacher. I can’t help but wonder why parents jump to protect the child in this case, but in cases of sexual assault by teachers on students the parents in some schools go right for protecting the teacher. For more of my thoughts on this, read my Huffington Post article this week (link).

Tiger’s Incessant Coverage: there really isn’t too much more to say about this (I mean ‘common, hasn’t it all been said already!). But I will add my two cents to the pile. I was driving along the other day and I saw a sign that read “Jet Blue has more coverage then TMZ.” That is how I know TMZ has made it big – they are being satirized in a major airline’s ad campaign. I think that is why this Tiger scandal is reigning in the media… we are in the age of TMZ domination. That’s what the people want, so that’s what the media provides. And unfortunately Tiger is TMZ gold.

Antidotes for Good Holiday Cheer: I heard a great interview on HLN this week with a young clergyman who said we should “Spend Less and Give More.” He went on to share a great example of a son who gave his father a bag of coffee beans as a holiday gift with a note that said ‘You can only drink this coffee with me while we reminisce on the past, catch-up on the present, and dream about the future’… Sweet! The example seeks to draw our attention to the blind and meaningless consumerism going on today in America and how Christmas and Hanukkah, etc. should be about celebrating with family and appreciating each other. I completely agree! Unfortunately, in order for our economy to continue to rebound (and to validate Bernanake’s status as Time’s Person of the Year) we do have to spend money on stuff!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Impact of Tiger on Our Kids

Are you secretly (or overtly) obsessed with the Tiger Woods scandal? Or are you sick of it? Do you think it’s ridiculous or relevant? Whatever you may feel personally about the coverage, it is an issue worth examining from a cultural perspective as well as from that of a parent.   I really wonder about the state of our country (and media culture) when we are in a historic health care debate in Congress, conducting two wars, and all you see on TV commentary shows for the last few days is discussions about Tiger’s “transgressions”  (I guess that what can call affairs nowadays).  

We have all seen a lot of commentary about the impact this will have on the game of golf, and on his endorsements. We have also seen quite a bit about the events of that fateful evening-- the police report, the many mistresses, the voice messages, text messages, and the speculations of why he is not admitting anything in public, etc., etc.   None of this really matters, does it?  But the one thing I have NOT heard about is  the impact of this scandal on children—his, mine, yours, and everyone else’s.  

How many young kids (of all colors and creeds) looked up to Tiger as a hero? Hundreds? Thousands? And it was not because he had a beautiful wife, and not even really because he had a lot of money. The kids looked up to Tiger because he is one of the BEST athletes in the world in his specialty—golf. He was the definition of a “hero.” Once you reach the top echelons of any sport worldwide, you inevitably have a following of young people who admire you for your status as an archetypal great.   So when great men fall as hard as Tiger did (in the adult world), it also shatters a small part of the innocent admiration our children feel towards these human heroes.

Coincidentally, it was my daughter’s current event date on November 30 and she wanted to share the news of his accident.  And even at the young age of seven, her first question was, “Mommy, why was he driving at 2:25 AM?”  I chose to emphasize that people can drive at all hours of the night--which would have worked if Tiger’s story wasn’t on the news nonstop.   Joy Behar said last night on her show that “Tiger is not out of the woods yet” … Well neither are WE. While the media continues to obsess about Tiger’s many sexual exploits, we have to address the aspect of the fallen hero to our kids. When great men fall, we all feel the earth shake a little. If your kids are old enough to have found a hero in Tiger, they are old enough to hear from you why it will all be OK.   

Hopefully the coverage will end soon! 

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bringing Back Miss G

I know many people don’t read the paper as much as they used to, particularly my favorite part, the California section of the Los Angeles Times.  But you should!  By way of update, Monday there was a truly inspiring story about a Hamilton High School office administrator (Miss G) who was laid off by LA Unified School District and then brought back though an organization of student activists (link).

I was so inspired by these young kids who found their voices and collectively took action to save the job of a school official they were all close to. The students said they felt “Miss G really cared about them” and that it was “unfair” she should be fired.  Not willing to accept Miss G’s layoff, they came up with a plan to show their dissatisfaction at the district’s decision.  They had meetings, utilized social media and respectfully protested at school and then went to the School Board where they presented a succinct, inspiring argument as to why she should be rehired.  And guess what?  They were heard and their argument was successful.     

Back in September President Obama gave a back-to-school speech in Arlington where he asked students to be committed.  He said: “Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.”  Well, these students answered the call and accomplished what they set out to do. 

I am writing this not merely to say “go kids go.”  I am writing this because what they did was truly remarkable.   They got LAUSD, one of the most bureaucratic, political entities, to listen. They argued fairness, kindness, and appealed to reason.  The kids didn’t buy the district’s answer laying-off Miss G was a good solution to a school budget crisis – not when Miss G had not only always done good work but also genuinely cared about students, education, and the school. They tactically argued that her low seniority status was not a good measure to use as a basis for the layoff.  And their voices were heard! Steve Zimmer of the LA School Board broke protocol by commending the students in their presentation to the Board. Then, Miss G returned to Hamilton High!  

This story illustrates an opportunity - a teachable moment if you will. So, please share this story with YOUR children.   Encourage your kids to find their voices and highlight how their voices can be heard.  Kids need to know that they have a place, space, and voice in not only their world, but our world too!  Let them know that kids can make change and be the source of admiration amongst us crotchety grown-ups. Tell them that when you are dedicated to a good cause, you can make good things happen. Give your kids a reason to believe that THEIR voices will be heard by you, as well.

Having authentic dialogue with your kids - using these kinds of news stories -reminds them that their opinions matter. You can provide positive reinforcement and a reason for your kid to care enough to express themselves (to you, and to the world)! 

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Musings

“Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.”  ~W.J. Cameron  

I share the above quote with you for two reasons: First, I want us all to take a moment to truly appreciate the things we have, not just by saying “Thanks” but by taking action. You can show gratitude with a kind word, a charitable donation, or a change of mind/heart.  During this special holiday, we all could stand to be a little more selfless and a little less hectic.  And a little more “doing.”

I chose W.J. Cameron specifically to quote because he was a pretty notorious red-headed gentleman. Red-heads are supposed to be hot-headed, right? Well, apparently this trait isn’t limited to read-heads.

Have you heard about the tragic beating of a young child because of his hair color? Read the story here 

I absolutely cannot believe that kids would be “inspired” by a cartoon character to beat up on a classmate -- just because he had red hair.  Apparently, a 12-year-old boy was beaten up on the campus of A.E. Wright Middle School in Calabasas by as many as 14 of his classmates! The students who participated in the attack were allegedly motivated by a Facebook message telling them that November 20th was “Kick a Ginger Day.” (A ‘ginger’ is a label that was used in a South Park episode for people with red hair, freckles and fair skin). This episode aired in 2005 to satirize racial intolerance – but the 12-year-olds evidently didn’t understand the satire and took it literally.

I want to echo the comments of several HLN experts who said very clearly that it is not the “fault” of the TV cartoon, but rather the fault of the parents for not explaining the different between TV satire and real life. There is always going to be violence and intolerance portrayed in the media (online, on TV, in videos, and in the movies). It is the job of every parent to help their kids distinguish between a “joke” and real-life hateful/unacceptable behavior.   So this weekend, while you are taking time to be thankful, perhaps you can use this example around the family dinner table to talk about tolerance with your kids! 

Finally, I received another one of those gratitude lists via email called “Why I Am Thankful”, and I thought it was apropos (and actually worth sharing):

I am thankful for the teenager who is complaining about doing dishes, because it means she is at home.

I am thankful for the taxes I pay, because it means that I am employed.

I am thankful for the mess to clean up after a party, because it means I have been surrounded by friends.

I am thankful for the clothes that fit a little too snugly, because it means I have enough to eat.

I am thankful for all the complaining I hear in the media, because it means I have freedom of speech.

I am thankful for the huge heating bill, because it means I am warm.

I am thankful for the pile of laundry and ironing because it means I have clean clothes to wear.

I am thankful for the parking spot at the far end of the lot, because it means I am capable of walking.

I am thankful for the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours, because it means I am able to get up.

I am thankful for too much email because it means I have friends and colleagues who are thinking of me!

Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving! 

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It Happens Everyday: Cases of Abuse

It Happens Everyday.  It really does.  I am not just saying it because it’s the title of my book, I am saying it because it is so.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t get a word of a new a case of abuse.  Many of you are thinking of course you hear about it everyday you are a DA.  Well, actually I am not anymore (always will be at heart but not in profession) yet I still am inundated with stories and cases of abuse.  

For whatever reason in the last few months my worlds of sex crimes and legal commentating has merged as several high profile cases made there way to the news.  But even as much as it is “out there” from a news place it is amazes how many people are still too “icked” out to even talk about it. 

Who am I talking about when I say people have a hard time stomaching sexual assault. I am referring to a very specific group---the media.  Not all media, but a lot of it.  I probably sit in two meetings a week talking to different producers,  production companies,  networks, etc.  with the people who have the ability to choose programming only to be found that this topic is just to darn tough.  I am not saying I disagree and I understand it feels tough to find a sponsor who wants to put their brand on this issue but someone has to!   

Last week I was on Dr. Phil. It was so refreshing to hear him say it like it is he said something to the effect of this is difficult television, not television that everyone wants to hear but it is responsible television.  Amen, Phil!  Thank goodness you have the cajones to use your space, your platform, your stage to give light to such an important issue.  And not just for a segment, not just for the high profile cases, but for a whole show highlighting real cases, real people.   

As a society, we can talk about all kinds of crimes-murderers, gangs, and domestic violence with no problem.  We don’t think twice about preparing kids about what to do in a fire, earthquake, or tornado.  We observe and discuss the media and over-sexualization of teenagers.  We go to the movies and laugh at slapstick, dark, and inappropriate humor and even go to horror and thriller movies with sick enjoyment.   We watch CSI, Law and Order with ease and barely flinch at the Dr. 90210.   

Yet despite all of this people are constantly telling me they are scared to talk to their kids or even each other about protecting us and our children from sexual abuse.  But, it’s time.  Just like the time was about 10 years ago to make breast cancer a focus of national concern amongst women and men, it is time for people to feel just as comfortable talking about keeping our bodies safe as it is to wear pink, admit we have fought and beat cancer, and stand strong together.

In order victims—children and adults alike to become survivors they need to have a place to speak and the place begins with recognizing that there is an epidemic of sexual abuse in our society.  And even if you don’t buy into the statistics put out by organizations or even the government, I can tell you from my own case load, working in the trenches of Los Angeles County that sexual assault is rampant.  It is rampant amongst whites, blacks, Hispanics, men, women, children, and crosses all socio-economic boundaries.  And while the preference is to think that the sexual abuse occurs in dark alleys by random strangers the fact is that at least 85% (if not more) is perpetrated by someone the victim knows.   

So as much as people want to bury their heads in the sand it is time to recognize there is an issue and start talking about it.  As soon as we have the conversations with each other and our kids, we will be able to do more to prevent it as well as help allow victims to come forward so they can make their way towards healing and survival.    

Friday, November 13, 2009

An Example of Expedient Justice

As most of you already know, John Allen Muhammad, 48, was executed this past Tuesday night for terrorizing the D.C. area for three weeks in 2002 with sniper attacks that left 10 people dead.

In 2003, a Virginia jury sentenced him to death for one of the murders, specifically that of Dean Harold Meyers. The victim was killed while pumping gas at station in Manassas, Virginia. Muhammad’s defense lawyers argued that he was not mentally competent to stand trial, but the courts disagreed and he was found guilty.

Muhammad hunted people going about their daily chores, but why he chose his victims, including a middle school kid on his way to class, and how many victims there were still remains a mystery. Muhammad was silent as he was executed, leaving the victims who survived and the survivors of those frustrated. They had hoped for some insight as to why and how he plotted the killings, as had the public at large. They would not get their wish.

But overriding this disappointment is the good news: in this case, justice has been served!

Muhammad changed his name from John Allen Williams after converting to Islam. He had been in and out of the military since he graduated from high school in Louisiana and entered the National Guard. He joined the Army in 1985 and was a Gulf War veteran. Although he did not take special sniper training, he did earn an “expert” rating in the M-16 rifle (the military equivalent of the .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle used in the shootings).

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down Muhammad’s final appeal on Monday evening and Governor Timothy Kaine denied clemency Tuesday afternoon. Muhammad was executed that night, much to the relief of those who felt that justice often moves too slowly.

I am so impressed by the expediency of justice in this case. It was only six years from conviction (2003) to execution (2009). The way this case went through the system is impressive. No matter what you think about the death penalty itself, no one can deny that it is a sad case all around. The deaths, the loss for the families of the victims, are truly heartbreaking – it’s the worst part of being human when we see senseless killings occurring and are unable to stop them.

In Muhammad’s case, we have an excellent example of how such cases can quickly move through the justice system! We can actually resolve a death sentence case of this magnitude without giving up anyone’s legal rights.  Six years is a reasonable period for a case to run, and for true justice to be provided. The sniper had every legal right available to him, and used them. The ultimate resolution--the death penalty--was handed down with sureness and relative speed, just as it should be.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Online Safety During the Holidays

There has been a lot of banter on the news this week about online safety (at least until the arrest  of Anthony Sowell, accused serial murderer, with the potential bones of 11 missing women’s bodies found in the walls of his home)!

Every day, online safety comes up in some form, whether it’s questioning the benefits of technology or contemplating the worst fate possible for mankind. There is a continuing debate about how technology helps or hurts crime, so we can’t help but be aware of what goes on in the land of the world-wide web.

A CNN report explored this issue this week in the article, Social Networks and Kids: How young is too young? (link) As many of you already know, this is my area of specialty and my passion.  Whatever we may think, the good, the bad, the productive, the addictive—internet technology is here to stay!

We all know how important it is to take precautions to keep our kids safe online (and if you don’t know, I’m telling you now)! As our President said to a group of students, “Be careful what you post on Facebook”… So, what precautions are you taking for yourself, as well as your children? Identity theft, among other hazards, is a very real and scary online problem, so don’t give your credit card numbers (or any other personal information) to any sites unless you’re 100% sure they’re legitimate.

Many of you will be cruising online this month for special holiday deals—(and cheers to you for helping fortify our economy)! Now, have any of you heard of Cyber Monday? I hadn’t--just a sign that Hallmark doesn’t make cards for that holiday!

Anyway, this is what I learned: the “official definition of Cyber Monday is:

“…..the Monday immediately following Black Friday, the ceremonial kick-off of the holiday online shopping season in the United States between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Whereas Black Friday is associated with traditional brick-and-mortar stores, "Cyber Monday" symbolizes a busy day for online retailers. The premise was that consumers would return to their offices after the Black Friday weekend, making purchases online that they were not able to make in stores. Although that idea has not survived the test of time, Cyber Monday has evolved into a significant marketing event, sponsored by the National Retail Federation's Shop.org division, in which online retailers offer low prices and promotions.”

I just wanted to educate you about this new “holiday” and remind you all to exercise safety when you’re shopping online. I also wanted to note how cyber-culture has made its way into our traditional holiday shopping sprees. This is a clear indicator to me that we are moving more and more towards becoming an online community, and that, as in any developing community, we need to include additional safety measures as the demand grows.

On the lighter side, Cyber Monday is offering really good deals online -- most of you know that my other passion, besides kids’ safety, is fashion and deals/finds! Here is your link to some great online deals: http://www.cybermonday.com/

Happy Shopping and be safe!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I Hate Halloween

Let me just say it - I hate Halloween.  I didn’t always hate it, but I do now.  Ok, I never really loved the holiday to begin with... but over time dislike turned to hate. I think it stems from when I was a student at UC Santa Barbara (back in the day).  Don’t get me wrong, I loved my days at ‘SB - but I hated specifically what the costumes did to the kids on campus.  Perhaps, I am little bah-humbug in that I hate the New Years holiday too... It’s just that big holidays like that always seem to bring out the worst in people. There are so many crazy expectations and everyone sets-up the day to be so “important.”

But, Halloween also has added the element of disguise that I really can't stand. I have always fancied myself of somewhat of a trendsetter -- but who knew that I would be thinking 10 years ago what everyone is writing about now: the disgustingness of Halloween costumes. People are obsessed with how kids as young as four-years-old are dressing up in overly sexualized, scantily clad outfits (think short skirt Britney Spears, short top Hannah Monana, low cut Barbie, or za-za gypsy costumes). Not to mention the inappropriate dress of adults who go for that look. These outfits are at best promiscuous and at worst down right offensive (for any age, but especially the younger ones). 

The thing that I crack-up about is that people are writing about this like it’s a new phenomenon. Duh, people - this is not new!! This is just the “women’s rights” version of what men have been doing for years.  For years, men have worn masks, capes, or other disguises and have used their cloaking as an excuse to act-out and go wild. 

It is this acting out business (now both by men and women) that has made me truly hate Halloween.  For whatever reason, it seems to give people a license for one night to act in ways that they normally wouldn’t every act. I am against any institutionalized day that gives permission to people for behaviors that, under “normal” circumstances, would not be acceptable.   

Whatever the excuse or justification may be, I hate what costumes do to people.  Sorry – no Happy Halloweenie message from me people! I’m just being real here!  

On a serious note: be safe out there tomorrow with your kids and with yourself.
For more of my thoughts on costumes (and Marge Simpson - ooo! preview) visit: http://womenincrimeink.blogspot.com/

Friday, October 23, 2009

Balloon Boy Busted

We all know that adding helium to a balloon makes it light, and we now know that adding a lot of helium to a big chef-hat-shaped balloon makes it take off into the skies!   But, helium is no laughing matter.
For those of you who didn’t know what I am talking about maybe you have been smoking too much of what LA is trying to ban (but more of that in the next few weeks). But, let me refresh your recollection, last Thursday there was a little six year boy, Falcon Heene, who for all intents and purposes was treated as though he was a trapped boy inside a giant alien balloon thing (that his father built) which was mysteriously un-tethered and flew up into the air.

The whole nation was captivated for two hours, with people praying and calling into various major Prime Time stations with tremendous concern. Top newsmen and women were racing to get the latest “Breaking” updates on the story, including CNN and HLN – notably, Fox News was not covering the balloon chase.  I watched as CNN got together in the Situation Room and put up the “Smart Board” to try to find where the kid could have fallen out -- setting up a tracking parameter for the miles the balloon had covered, and bringing in helium experts to assess how far the balloon could travel and what kind of injuries the boy could sustain upon impact, etc. etc. It was very serious, so serious in fact that one might think it was a PARODY of the news, not actual news.

Although I was, of course, concerned for the boy – especially if he was really in that little compartment –  I was shocked that so many news stations (almost all of them!) were covering this loose balloon chase with SO MUCH intensity.  I mean it was surreal I felt like we were watching a giant chef Boyardee cap sweeping the skies. 

Those of you who know me, know that I use humor (albeit dark and sometimes jaded humor) as a way to find levity and enjoyment in life.  It is not to uncommon for those of us in the dark world of crime to poke fun at things that we shouldn’t, laugh at inappropriate jokes, or find a way to giggle at something socially incorrect. 

So, while Operation Balloon Hoax was going on I was in the middle of posting an article to my Facebook page when one of my “friends”  popped up saying, “Robin, stop working and start praying.”   And as the child advocate I am, I immediately felt guilty for working during this national tragedy. 

Then the balloon came down, phew I was relieved.  I could go back to work again without the guilt of my Facebook “friends.”  But “uh-oh” where was the kid?  Back to panic mode.  As the talking heads were trying to figure out where Falcon was I was shocked that the whole world was mesmerized (and still is) by the giant balloon –that was built to do exactly what it was supposed to do—FLY. 
What is wrong with this picture?  So much and so much more as each day unfolds.

Now that we know the boy is fine, I think it’s ok for me to say what a lot of us were thinking during the whole “saga”: What The Heck!?!?  [And/or add in your own “!?!?” questions…you guys all know I am “f” word fan but I am trying to clean up my act]. Are you kidding me!? There is no other pressing news going on right now? Do you know how many kids go missing, are starving, are in danger of death, in this nation everyday? But they don’t go floating up in a weird silver flying machines – maybe they should, maybe then we’d pay more attention.

But I really don’t want to rant about the dangers and disasters faced by kids daily in this country (not in this post at least); nor do I want to make fun of Falcon Heene (maybe his dad) who although did not go flying through the air is probably facing something equally scary now that the nation’s eyes are upon him and his family.

I just want to say that the whole flying-chef-hat incident was hilarious as it was being covered. THERE, I said it! I actually laughed. NO, I’m not a horrible, insensitive, beyatch.  I am just being honest and open. There were some laughable moments.  And while it may not be okay to talk about them in the moment or even a few moments after the moment, I have to say that my style works for me.  Laughing keeps me sane.  Laughing keeps me from jumping of a bridge. And if Id didn’t laugh I would spend all my day crying at the sick, evil, and sadness in our society. 

And while there is no happy ending at the end of the flying chef balloon case for the Heene family, it certainly reminded me that sometimes the joke is not in the people who intended it but the real joke is on those of us who are watching and reporting this. 

I mean did you see that man on the ground racing after the chef-hat balloon as it was coming down to the ground. Why did he do a baseball dive onto the dirt ground? Why did Wolf Blitzer need an aerodynamic specialist to map out the trajectory of the balloon fall?  (I know that at the time they didn’t think it was a hoax but STILL…..how many other cases that need it get that kind of attention?????)

Since it seems the Heene’s actually did perpetrate the incident for a “show”,  I definitely have a word or two that I would like to share with the family (and the public) about EXPLOITATION.  This is not just about exploiting a child but it is also about abusing police resources and wasting public energy.   But, again, that is an article for another day. 

And while the Heene parents are surely not laughing as they are awaiting which of the potential charges are coming their way, the instant popularity of the balloon boy saga really did get me laughing (albeit with guilt).   But  really, is it okay to ever laugh at crime?  Clearly, there is a time for everything and that means a time to laugh, smile, and giggle no matter how dark things are.  So, I give you permission.  If a smile or laugh makes YOU feel better, go for it.  There is humor in everything and sometimes it’s just plain OKAY to use it.  Know that others may not find your jokes funny but know that humor can be your friend. So, ladies and gentleman, if you ever need to smile think of the flying Chef Boyardee hat and Wolf Blitzer in the “situation room.”  OY!!! 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Obama Peace Prize Ordeal

I want to give a caveat right away: I am really not that political. Those of you who know me understand that although I am a former prosecutor, I can come down on issues in a way you wouldn’t expect. And I usually don’t weigh in strongly on current political events. But the Obama Peace Prize ordeal caught my attention.

Some background: The Peace Prize has been awarded 90 times to 120 Nobel Laureates between 1901 and 2009 – 97 times to individuals and 23 times to organizations. The receipts are as varied as humanity itself: from Yasser Arafat (a Palestinian leader who participated in Peace talks with Yitzhak Rabin, but also committed terror acts against Israelis), to Elie Wiesel (a Romanian Jew who was deported to a German concentration camp during WWII, survived the Holocaust, and went on to publish several books and speak out on human rights). Some of the most well known recipients of the Peace Prize are Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Woodrow Wilson, Al Gore, and now Barack Obama.

Most of us when we think of the NOBEL PEACE PRIZE we assume (and rightfully so) that it includes a component of MERIT.

So what about it?  In the case of the most famous recipients, the accomplishments speak for themselves: Martin Luther King didn’t just talk of civil rights, dream of it, he actually marched, rallied, inspired, and accomplished tangible changes in this country. Mother Teresa didn’t just wish for sick people to be healed, she went out in the world and nursed the ill to health – offering tangible “hands-on” help. Woodrow Wilson was a President forced to join in war, who then went on to bring about the convention on League of Nations – arguably a seminal international covenant. And Al Gore brought us “An Inconvenient Truth”, a campaign that truly changed the international conversation on global warming.  What exactly has Obama done to earn this HUMONGOUS honor? Somebody please tell me.

I’m not making any policy comments on Obama, his administration’s plans, or his rhetoric.  Trust me, I voted for him and am happy that I did!  But geez Louise…isn’t bestowing this honor a bit premature?   I mean how about giving the dude a chance to actually accomplish something.  Trust me-- I love how he talks about bringing nations together, restoring America’s place in the world, and getting us out of war… but has he actually done any of those things yet? I thought the Nobel Prize was for incredible accomplishments in peace, not just honorable aspirations for peace!

This piece of news bothers me not just as a citizen but bothers me as yet another example of inconsistent modeling and messaging to our kids.  What does bestowing this prize say to we our kids? I am disappointed that Obama won the prize NOW.  “Now” being the key word. That’s not to say that he might have EARNED it later. I just worry that kids around the country (and around the world) are getting the wrong message: you can win a prize just based on your intentions, your “celebrity factor” or because there is no one else better. What about putting in the hard work? What about recognizing the less known people who pour the hearts and souls in their work and actually accomplish what they set out to do?
In an elementary school in Hempstead, NY (renamed Barak Obama Elementary after his election) kids weighed in on Obama winning the prize:

“I was proud, because Barack Obama did a good job,” said fifth-grader Ashley, 9. “He was definitely for peace - he wanted countries at war to come together. He knows that teenagers are getting hurt.” Another fifth-grader, at the school Tiara, 10, said her uncle is serving in the Army, either in Iraq or Afghanistan. “I was excited because he's my inspiration,” she said of Obama. “He earned it, because he wants peace in Iraq for our soldiers.”

The language of these students concerns me – as I’m sure it reflects the thoughts of children in schools all across the country … that is, he “earned it” just because he wants it. I don’t give my daughter her allowance just because she wants her room to be cleaned. I give her the reward when she actually gets the work done.  (Not so often by the way.)

What was the hurry? Why couldn’t the prize have been awarded in a few years, after Obama spent a few years in office? I really don’t understand it. It seems that most of the past Peace Prize honorees have been given recognition for a lifetime of work, or participation in a truly memorable/significant event in history.

Pablo Triana made an excellent point, summarizing the issue, in his recent Huffington Post blog:
…this Nobel may be transformed into a Trojan Horse: an excuse to forever demean the award as merely a propaganda affair… It seems to me that by rushing things a bit too much, those Northern Europeans have shut themselves in the foot. Read more

I know what some of you are thinking: but Obama will bring a better, more peaceful world…! Ok! But, as a prosecutor, I just want him to prove it and DO IT!
On a lighter note, take a peak at Maureen Dowd's satirical article on the subject published in New York Times... "Gandhi Wuz Robbed" at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/11/opinion/11dowd.html?em 

Friday, October 9, 2009

Kudos to Letterman

I can no longer can call it a “bombshell” since it’s been a week since David Letterman went on national television and came clean about having sex with some of his staffers.  Perhaps the most unbelievable part of this story was not that he was extorted, not that he had sex while having a girlfriend, not that Robert Halderman actually tried to cash the 2 million dollar check.  Oh no, it was the response of his audience that intrigued me the most. 

You saw it…..his audience laughed at what they thought was a punch line, but this was no joke ….just one look at the strain and lines in Letterman’s forehead and one could easily see that this was no laughing matter.  

Despite his obvious stress, I say “kudos to Letterman” who had probably one of his most difficult appearances in his career.  To come clean before the whole nation is something that we don’t see very often.  Actually, I don’t even remember the last celeb, public figure or politician who has had the guts to do it.

Probably not even ten years ago, this type of transparency would mean the beginning to the end of a career. But honesty goes a long way today, and I immediately thought: What if more people, companies and products actually communicated this way?   Why do people think that the admission of error or bad judgment is equivalent to death?

And what if people stopped lying and stopped the cover-up? 

Everyone can learn from Letterman’s example.  He wanted to ensure that  he wasn’t going to be extorted again, so he did the right thing: he shaped the message instead  around  being a victim. Companies today should do the same. Some already have, using social media to listen and respond to them. They are transparent about what they need to improve.

Others still pretend “it never happened” and then have to lamely apologize when it’s proved that “yes, it did!”  Fact is: today, people will find out about your mistakes and talk about it. They will shape the message themselves unless you are transparent about it. And you know what? If you’re honest, just like Letterman, you will even get applause, and you won’t become a neurotic organization, government, company or city that no one can trust.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Roman Polanski: Man-Up!

It is a crazy week here in Los Angeles -- it’s not very often that LA makes headlines on every network, every day, in a whole week, about more than one case.  It’s a good thing that the Michael Jackson case has taken a momentary rest, because we are inundated with other LA crime news: Roman Polanski, Manson Murderer Susan Atkins’ death, Mitrice Richardson still missing after being released by the Lost Hills Sheriffs Department, Randy Quaid accused (again) of ripping off a hotel….and on and on!

But even with all of these stories percolating, we have to take a moment to recognize that we are in the throes of the beginning of a new FASHION season!

It’s Fall, so boots are the rage!  The “must have” this season is the flat over-the- knee boot (or high thigh boot), a feature at NYC Fashion Week. Once you decide on the right style, don’t wait – go shopping!!  To avoid buyer’s remorse, carefully consider the boots and examine the deal you’re getting. Once you purchase those On Sale/No Exchanges pair, you’re stuck with that deal.  And while those over-the-knee boots are HOT…HOT….HOT, next season they be NOT….NOT….NOT.   Moral of the story:  buyer, beware!

Speaking of deals and buyer’s remorse… What’s up with Roman Polanski deciding he didn’t like the deal he cut, so his response was to split? Folks, remember: HE cut the deal, HE agreed to a plea bargain and then HE fled the country because he had “buyer’s remorse” over his own deal!

And, by the way, don’t think for a moment that if he cut that deal today, all the yakking heads would be sitting around quietly.  Oh, no!  If he pleaded to that deal today, we would all be commenting on how he got the “celeb blue light special” --because he got a freakin’ BARGAIN!

Legal experts are quoted in an AP article today saying that “if Roman Polanski were charged with child rape today, DNA evidence, stiffer penalties, outcry over childhood sexual abuse and tougher scrutiny of celebrity justice would make prosecutors much less willing to cut the plea deal the director received more than 30 years ago.”

I was quoted in the article as well, pointing out that changes in state law since the 1970s would give prosecutors other options in pursuing charges, including a law that includes a mandatory 15 years-to-life in a state prison for rape or a lewd act with a child coupled with certain circumstances (such as the use of a controlled substance).

But it’s really about more than the facts of the case and Polanski’s offenses  (which are indeed major)… It’s about the fact that he stole time, resources, and energy from the State of California. It’s about the fact that Polanski did not accept responsibility for his actions and the deal HE decided to strike—and WON.

The best case would be for Polanski to come back and face a California judge, take his medicine, and receive the same sentence/deal he bargained for in the first place….assuming the LADA would be game for that.  So, what do I say….

I say, Polanski – MAN UP!   The return policy is long gone and you should be skipping with excitement if the deal you struck is still on the table. The time has come to accept responsibility--and no receipt is required for that, my friend!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Find Out About P.A.V.E

The mission of PAVE (Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment) is refreshingly simple: “Shatter the silence of sexual violence through social, educational, and legislative tactics.”  As a society, we can talk about all kinds of crimes, including murders, gangs, and domestic violence, with no problem. We don't think twice about preparing kids about what to do in a fire, earthquake, or tornado. We observe and discuss how the media over-sexualizes teenagers. We go to the movies and laugh at slapstick or dark, inappropriate humor; we even watch horror movies with a sense of enjoyment.

As to “CSI,” “Law and Order”--piece of cake! And we barely flinch at “Dr. 90210” as he works away at the human body in search of perfection.

Yet despite all this, people are incredibly uncomfortable when the subject is abuse—particularly sexual abuse. Well, it's time. Just as it was time about 10 years ago to make breast cancer a focus of national concern, it is time for us to feel just as comfortable discussing how to keep our bodies safe.  And the best way to do it is to hear from those  who have experienced abuse so we can listen to their stories and learn. 

As the world has been mesmerized over the dramatic return of Jaycee Dugard, we all need to be reminded that sexual assault happens every day. Maybe there aren’t the dramatic abductions or climatic returns, but every day women, men, boys and girls are abused. They’re joined by the young, the old, the white, black, brown, the religious and the non-religious. 

And while many people think only those who have been assaulted care about this issue, I am here to tell you that is not so.  Each of us, whether abused or not, personally affected by sexual assault or not, can help shatter the silence by being involved, being active, and supporting amazing organizations like
PAVE (www.pavingtheway.net).

“How?” you may ask. Well, you can begin by commenting on articles that are outrageous, sending cases that need to be publicized to Justice Interrupted (a radio show that brings media attention to the crimes where justice has been interrupted), supporting organizations, and spreading the word and news about such cases. 

This week, you can help protest sexual assault by helping
PAVE…. Join me at an event TONIGHT: Thursday, September 17. PAVE will be holding an benefit event of art, empowerment, and star power.  “Removing the Mask: Art and Soul to Shatter the Silence of Sexual Violence” from 7:00-10:00pm at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 Grand Ave, Los Angeles. This year’s event promises to be a highlight of the season with celebrities, elected officials, and performance art! Learn More Here
If you can’t make it, you can still send a donation or show your support by passing the information on to others. Make this your day to do something to help shatter the silence…..and give your support to your friends at PAVE (www.pavingtheway.net).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The “My Education, My Future” Speech

Last week I couldn’t wrap my brain around all the hoopla that surrounded President Obama’s speech to students. According to the White House, the stated goal of the President’s remarks (Titled “My Education, My Future”) was to inspire students to get engaged “on the importance of taking responsibility for their education, and to challenge them to set goals and do everything they can to succeed.”

HELLO, am I missing something!? What was the big deal…!

Now that it’s behind us, I still don’t understand why pundits were berating the President, parents were blasting emails, and bloggers were getting their panties in a bunch over this speech.

Seriously, what was the fuss was about? I want to understand why it is really such a bad thing to urge our children to go to school, to use government as a means to inspire our young ones, and to then have follow-up lessons that relate to the concepts the President laid out in his speech?  I keep searching for the rationale as to why parents would keep their children home in efforts to protect them from the “outrageous” themes of the power of education and the benefits to being involved in a government effort.

President Obama urged students to consider this year their opportunity to succeed,  regardless of the past. Why was this a bad thing?

A suggested lesson plan that called on school kids to write letters to themselves about how they can help achieve what President Obama suggested (remember, it was that they take their education seriously) -- this was “troubling” to some education experts! Why? Because they claimed it “establishes the president as a ‘superintendent-in- chief’ and may indoctrinate children to support him politically.”

Are you people serious???

If one speech by the President is now considered indoctrination, we are in real trouble here in the United States. The speech should be an opportunity to open-up some good old-fashioned discussion. Come on -- kids K-6 aren’t going to be discussing politics in the classroom! For those middle school and high school students – it should bring up a healthy debate (about education).

But is anyone really debating that education is important? Focusing on doing well in school is a positive value that should be bi-partisan!

Aren’t there things that are so much more worthy of angry blogging and our society’s collective energy?  I mean, the President was just trying to encourage our kids to go back to school. Can’t we set aside our political bickering to focus on our kids for one day? To really focus on the idea that our kids deserve inspiration and that our President was trying to provide some?

Couldn’t we use the energy everyone expelled to blast the President to do good things, to invoke change, to be involved – rather than just expressing venomous criticism?

If you are a parent out there who is really convinced that Obama’s speech indoctrinated your child… go ahead and correct the President’s message: tell your kids that focusing on education is not important, that being a serious student will not actually pay off, and that engaging in your studies is futile – that should help to combat Obama’s “offensive” words!!

Usually, I’m really not that politically oriented, as most of you know! I’m just trying to point out that if all those trigger-happy adults put down their cell phones, got up from their computers, and looked over at their children (who just heard our President’s speech) – they might see something rare these days—the glow of an inspired child who “got it”-- even though some  so-called “adults” didn’t.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back To School Excitement

“It’s the most wonderful time of year.”  Yes, we’re talking about back-to-school. But don’t feel guilty: you know it’s true!  And it’s not just the most wonderful time of year for you -- it’s the most wonderful time  for our kids, too.  Why?  Because kids love stucture!  They love schedules, certainty, and routines.  And since we’re all kids deep down inside, we like structure, too!  

So, as your kids begin their school year, take a moment to add a “New School Year” resolution.  Perhaps it’s setting clothes out the night before, waking up 10 minutes earlier, coming up with a homework regimen. Whatever it is, don’t wait for January 1st to make a subtle (but meaningful) change or two. 

And for all you non-parents, or parents of adult children, use this as a time to reconfigure your life!  Think of one small thing you can do to relieve the stress, the craziness, or tensions in your life.  Maybe it’s adding an automatic email response on weekends that says, “It’s the weekend. I am relaxing/am with my family, and I’ll return your email on Monday.” 

If that’s too extreme, you can include an evening stroll with a loved one, a spouse, a friend or just solo after dinner.  Whatever it is…take a moment to make this new school year a happy one!

I know you’re probably wondering why Robin, the true crime expert, is writing about  such “fluffy” stuff.  Well, as I read the LA Times today about the snafus that VH1 made in identifying Jasmine Fiore’s (alleged) killer, Ryan Jenkins, when checking his background, I wondered how these “snafus” could keep happening time and time again. 

VH1 blamed it on “clerical” errors. Hmmm. This is the third story of “clerical“ errors in the LA Times in one month that resulted in a tragic death: Lily Burke, Dea’Von Bailey, and now Jasmine.  And while I address these in more detail in my Huffington Post piece, I still can’t help thinking that if people (clerks, included) made meaningful changes in their lives—both professionally and personally—perhaps we would see a newspaper with no reports of deaths due to “clerical” errors.

For that matter, let’s all take inventory, make changes, and make this the most wonderful year we’ve ever had.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Crimes Against Children’s Conference

I just spent four days in Dallas at the Crimes Against Children’s Conference where 4,000 people (mainly law enforcement, prosecutors, and social workers) gathered together to work towards bettering our system and society on behalf of children.  The energy and the people were phenomenal.

But what struck me so forcefully was the need to network, connect, and lean on our colleagues.  Despite the fact that we are in an economic crisis, professionals, advocates, and others should get together and meet to share ideas , to brainstorm, to vent….to grow. I have found that you can always find someone you can connect with, regardless of the makeup of a group.

In addition to the educational benefits at seminars, there is another, more important benefit: getting to know your colleagues and hang out with them, both professionally and person.  There is tremendous gain for everyone when you take the time to get to know the people around you.

In a time where we achieve most of our connectedness via digital devices—computers, pda’s and cell phones, I suggest we get out of our offices, off our chairs, and away from our computer screens to get out and meet people.  Whether an author, advocate, lawyer, entertainer, a business person, or a parent—all of us need the support of others.   Whether you have a conference or seminar to go to or not, create opportunities to meet people.  Make coffee dates and lunch plans and connect with people.  There are amazing people out there doing amazing things and you should know about them!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Debate Over My Economist Article Response

Most people know that I am no shrinking violet! People use words like outspoken and opinionated when they talk about me.  And, yes: unlike most I don’t just think about issues, mull them over, and quietly decide them in my head.  I think about issues, mull them over, and usually publicly express them. 

But more than coming up with an idea or an opinion, I relish the opportunities to hash them out, learn from others, and put my theories to the test.  This week, I did that in my article in The Huffington Post where I (un)objectively weighed in on a recent article about sex crimes in The Economist.

I loved that both my article - as well as the original article in The Economist - has caused much banter (in comments) between very passionate and opinionated people.  I loved that opinions make people think, question, and decide their own mind.  Frankly, debate and sparring is good.  Just ask my friends Darren Kavinoky, Mark Geragos, David Diamond, or Mark Werksman about how we can agree to disagree. We can be passionate about our opinions and our ideas while still being respectful to each other as people. 

The thing that really makes no sense to me is that there are a countless number of people who have no problem blogging, commenting, and emailing with only venomous, mean spirited, and shallow things to say. I guess I should feel good that my opinions evoke hate mail because at least my words have left an impression and are making an impact.  However, I wish that as we look at the issues that evoke so much passion we all could stop and listen so as to make positive steps forward in our society. Instead, decisions are often made on impulse, emotion or fueled by anger and hatred. That is no way to make progress.   

Friday, August 7, 2009

Lily Burk Tragedy

The case of Lily Burk continues to shake my family, my kids’ school, and the city of Los Angeles.  As I wrote my article for the Huffington Post, I tried my best to focus on the issues of proactive safety, awareness, and empowerment.

But just after I put the final touches on my piece, the Los Angeles Times printed an article highlighting the criminal history and the snafus that allowed Charles Samuel, a violent criminal, out on the streets, our streets, to kill one of our own.  This was not the first time this month that a government agency messed up. I’d like to draw your attention back to six-year-old Dae'von Bailey, who was murdered by his mom’s ex-boyfriend’s, Marcas Fisher, despite a dozen phone warnings to the Department of Children Services.

This is unacceptable! Yet, where is the outrage?  Where is the disgust?  Why aren’t these unforgivable omissions being discussed national networks?  We have all heard about the exchange between
Professor Henry Louis Gates and Sergeant James Crowley.  And while that may have been a case of mutual snafus, poor manners, and according to some (not me) “racism,” the event drew international attention, climaxed by a “beer summit!”

Why, then, aren’t we demanding a summit addressing the accountability of government agencies to ensure that our children are safe?

As a loyal saxfacts reader, I invite you to share my outrage.  Blog, write, or speak up and share your stories.  Share the stories of incompetency, injustice, unfairness.  Don’t keep them in—let them out, share them, and make your voices heard!!!

The only way to create change is to speak up and protest the agency laxity that leads to the death of innocent children.  If you don’t know where to write, email me at
robin@robinsax.com.  I have tons of suggestions for where your voice can be heard and your thoughts can be shared!