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CIVIL RIGHTS POLICIES, ANALYSIS, AND RESOURCES

The Civil Rights Domain tracks and reports on policies that deal with voter rights, police brutality, free speech, the right to privacy, and other human rights enshrined in our constitution. This domain tracks policies emanating from the White House, the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and state legislatures. Our Principal Analyst is Rod Maggay who can be reached at rod@usresistnews.org.

Latest Civil Rights Posts

 

The “Politics” of Fighting For A Supreme Court Seat

On July 9, 2018, President Donald J. Trump nominated Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Kavanaugh was nominated to replace Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy who stepped down after thirty years on the Court.

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Independent Redistricting Commissions Is Becoming The New Big Trend To Fight Abuses In Gerrymandering

On November 6, 2018, Proposition 4 in Utah and Amendments Y and Z in Colorado will be on the ballot to vote on for residents of each state. Proposition 4 in Utah is known as the Independent Redistricting Commission Initiative and if approved by voters will establish an independent redistricting commission that will be in charge of drawing the state map for congressional districts and state legislative districts.

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Voter Suppression Accusations Takes Center Stage In 2018 Georgia Gubernatorial Race

Voter Suppression Accusations Takes Center Stage In 2018 Georgia Gubernatorial Race

Brief #67—Civil Rights

Policy Summary
On October 11, 2018, a federal lawsuit was filed in a federal district court in Georgia to prevent the “exact match” protocol used by the Elections Division of the Georgia Secretary of State Office, which organizes and oversees all election activity in the state. The lawsuit was brought by a coalition of civil rights organizations including the NAACP and a number of Asian – American and Latino groups. The lawsuit was prompted by a report from the Associated Press that approximately 53,000 voting registrations in the state were “pending” because of the “exact match” policy. That policy can deny an eligible voter’s voter registration application if any personal information in the application does not match exactly the voter’s personal information when cross – checked with information in motor vehicle and Social Security databases. An analysis by the Associated Press found that nearly 70% of those pending registrations were from Black voters while 80.15% of the registrations were from Black, Latino and Asian – American voters. The Georgia Secretary of State overseeing the Elections Division is Mr. Brian Kemp who is a white man currently running for Governor of Georgia in the upcoming 2018 election. His opponent is Ms. Stacey Abrams, an African – American woman looking to become the first African – American female governor in United States history. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis: The “exact match” protocol is a controversial voter verification technique but with the upcoming 2018 gubernatorial election in Georgia the flaws of the policy has been magnified even more because of the racial background of the election. The potential to bar nearly 53,000 eligible voters from casting a vote in the upcoming elections is disturbing enough on its face. But when the Associated Press’s analysis of the 53,000 “pending” voter registrations revealed that 80.15% of the applications were from people of color, the discussion took on a racial element and raised questions of voter suppression of minority voters especially considering that minority voters traditionally vote Democratic. (Stacey Abrams is a Democrat while Brian Kemp is a Republican).

The problem with the “exact match” protocol is that any small or minor error can prevent the voter from successfully registering to vote. A missing hyphen, a couple of transposed numbers in an address or phone number or a data entry error by a voting official can bar a registration application. This system is not reliable because of errors that can be made that are not under the control of the voter – data entry errors from the official, errors in a third – party database (DMV or Social Security offices) or name, phone number or address changes (marriage/maiden names, new cell phone, students with numerous addresses in college). It is a system that Georgia had implemented once before they were sued and agreed to make changes in a settlement agreement. However, Georgia went ahead and re-enacted a different version of the same law with the only major change being how many months a voter has to correct their application.

Due to the Georgia governor’s race being between a white male and an African – American female and the “pending” voter registrations affecting mostly people of color, it is hard to ignore the accusations that the Georgia GOP are trying to suppress minority votes and gain an unfair advantage. Those accusations seem to gain more traction with Republican candidate Brian Kemp in charge of the elections as Secretary of State while simultaneously running for governor, which raises a serious conflict of interest issue. There was also the bizarre incident where Georgia Republican Senator David Perdue grabbed a college student’s cell phone when asked a question about voter identification policies which goes on to contribute to the image of the GOP being hostile to efforts to encourage everyone to vote. With the re-enactment of the controversial “exact match” policy, conflict of interest issue with one of the candidates and the racial elements of the election, it is becoming more difficult to see if the GOP has any real interest in tearing down barriers that permits every eligible voter to cast his or her ballot without regard to race or partisan politics. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org

Photo by Arnaud Jaegers

When Sexual Assault Survivors Demanded To Be Heard The U.S. Senate Deliberately Chose To Ignore

When Sexual Assault Survivors Demanded To Be Heard The U.S. Senate Deliberately Chose To Ignore

Brief #66—Civil Rights

Policy Summary
President Donald J. Trump, on July 9, 2018, nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the United States Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy had announced his intention to retire after thirty years on the court. The Senate Judiciary Committee commenced hearings on September 3, 2018. The hearings later took a dramatic turn when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward to testify that Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both students were in high school in the early 1980’s. Dr. Ford stated that she was 100% certain her assailant was Judge Kavanaugh. Judge Kavanaugh denied the accusations and stated, “I swear to God” that he did not assault Dr. Ford or anyone else. Prior to the scheduled end of the hearings, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) asked the White House to ask the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation into the allegations made by Dr. Ford and other women who came forward with similar stories of sexual assault at the hands of Judge Kavanaugh. (The FBI had already conducted a standard background check of Judge Kavanaugh after he was nominated). President Trump then ordered an additional investigation that would focus only on the sexual assault allegations. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis
When Senator Flake asked the White House to direct the FBI to conduct an investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Judge Kavanaugh there was a sense that Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court was in peril and might ultimately be defeated. However, the parameters and limited scope of the supplemental investigation have instead raised the issue of whether the Senate Judiciary Committee and other members of the Senate were truly interested in discovering the facts of the allegations. When Dr. Ford came forward with her allegations many of her supporters rallied to her side with variations of the phrase “I Believe Her.” This phrase is significant because in the context of a sexual assault allegation, victims were often portrayed as fabricating their story, exaggerating what happened and of being crazy and/or mentally unstable. It was a technique used to minimize or diminish what happened with the result that the perpetrator would get away with doing what they did to the victim. Listening and believing a sexual assault survivor or victim has become a central point in the national discussion on sexual assault today.

But when the supplemental investigation undertaken by the FBI was limited it illustrated that lawmakers at the highest levels of government may have been willing to put aside the concerns of those sexual assault survivors and their supporters for political purposes. If a central concern of these groups is in having victims of sexual assault be heard and believed and not be dismissed so easily, then the decision to limit the supplemental investigation into the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh was an unfortunate decision. The investigation did not interview Dr. Ford or look into her list of witnesses that she claimed could have corroborated her story. The FBI did not interview Julie Swetnick, another accuser who alleged she was assaulted in a sworn affidavit. Nor were other classmates of Judge Kavanaugh in high school and at Yale were allowed to testify to Judge Kavanaugh’s heavy drinking habits and tendency to black out from too much alcohol. This testimony could have gone far in establishing that Judge Kavanaugh may have been untruthful in his Senate committee testimony and could have helped to establish the truth of the allegations of the accusers. Instead, the Senators of the committee blatantly ignored the demands of sexual assault survivors to be heard and allowed an investigation probe in a way that appeared that the result was pre-determined. The investigation lent the impression that the Senators did not want to find anything against Judge Kavanaugh. It was not a thorough investigation but was instead a sham and did a great disservice to sexual assault survivors across America who are still struggling to have their stories heard. If lawmakers at the highest level showed that they did not want to listen to sexual assault survivors for a confirmation hearing, then how can these survivors believe that the government will help them change the culture and start believing women in these types of incidents? LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org

Photo by rawpixel

The “Politics” of Fighting For A Supreme Court Seat

The “Politics” of Fighting For A Supreme Court Seat

Brief #64—Civil Rights

Policy Summary
On July 9, 2018, President Donald J. Trump nominated Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Kavanaugh was nominated to replace Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy who stepped down after thirty years on the Court. President Trump’s nominee was then sent to the U.S. Senate which only needs a majority vote to approve the nomination. Prior to the whole chamber voting on the selection, the Senate Judiciary Committee, with twenty-one members, reviews the nomination and decides if the person should be referred to the entire Senate chamber for a vote. The committee began hearings on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination on September 4, 2018 and proceeded with questions for Judge Kavanaugh about notable Supreme Court cases and other areas of constitutional law. On September 27, 2018, the committee held a hearing to discuss allegations by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were high school students. The committee eventually voted along party lines (11 Republicans in favor and 10 Democrats against) to submit the nomination to the full Senate. However, a vote by the entire chamber was delayed due to a request by Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona that a supplemental FBI investigation be undertaken, specifically to the additional allegations from different women that emerged prior to and after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. LEARN MORE

Analysis
The hearing into the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court should have been a routine confirmation until it was rocked by allegations of sexual assault by one of Judge Kavanaugh’s high school acquaintances. What those allegations did was expose the extreme politicization of the selection of judges to the United States judiciary and what the long lasting effects of this could be. Judges are supposed to be impartial and handle the facts and cases as presented to them at trial and to interpret the words and meaning of statutes as presented in the appellate record. Problems begin to arise when judges start to make policy decisions and interpret statutes according to their own political beliefs and personal worldview. The legislative branch in each individual state and Congress at the federal level are charged with policy making and if any changes need to be made to existing law, then in theory, citizens should take their case to their respective legislatures.

However, recent years have seen a frustration with the work of state legislatures and Congress. There is a general feeling that elected representatives are not responsive to the wishes of their constituencies and so taking an issue to court is seen as preferable than “going to your Congressman.” Courts, especially the Supreme Court, are now seen as the last word on hot button issues. Knowing that any issue that reaches the Supreme Court can become the final word at the appellate level on policy issues has only raised the stakes as to which judges will be permitted to sit on the court.

Religious people with objections against LGBT and same – sex marriage have seen the Supreme Court invalidate anti – sodomy laws in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas and allow same – sex marriage in 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges. Civil rights activists have touted the work of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 only to see the Supreme Court invalidate one of the major provisions of that statute in 2013 with Shelby County v. Holder, which weakened that voting protection law considerably. And in Citizens United v. FEC in 2010, the Supreme Court overturned established law going back more than fifty years and opened the door to unlimited campaign contributions from corporations.

What judges are being asked to do is take sides on a policy issue when they should instead strive to be impartial. Instead of calling your representative – who may or may not ignore you – to make a policy change, the preferred route now is to go to court and have a judge rule on the merits of a policy that probably should have been heard by the legislature. This is why the selection of judges and Supreme Court justices has become such a bruising fight. Their personal beliefs or worldview could very well have major consequences as to the validity of policy issues as the same sex, civil rights and campaign finance cases mentioned above make clear. It is unclear if these sexual assault allegations will derail Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the highest court in the land but knowing that he may have a say on important issues – the future of abortion or a ruling on whether or not a president can be indicted – has caused Republicans and Democrats to not give an inch and play for keeps and see this fight for a Supreme Court seat all the way to the bitter end. LEARN MORE

  • Engagement Resources:
  • Brennan Center for Justice – resource for info and topics on the federal judiciary.
  • Cato Institute – research institute’s blogpost on the effects of “politicizing the judiciary.”

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org

Photo by Claire Anderson

California’s Landmark Gender Law Is A Boost For Women In Corporate Boardrooms

California’s Landmark Gender Law Is A Boost For Women In Corporate Boardrooms

Brief #41—Civil Rights

Policy Summary
On January 3, 2018, California State Senators Toni Atkins and Hannah – Beth Jackson introduced Senate Bill 826. This bill sought to make additions to California’s Corporations Code regarding the composition of a company’s board of directors.

Beginning in 2019, publicly held corporations whose principal executive offices are located in California must have a minimum of one female person serving on the board of directors.

In 2021, California will implement a tiered system based on the total number of directors on the board. If there are four or fewer total directors on a board, one director must be female. If the number of total directors is five, the board must have a minimum of two female directors. If the total number of directors is six or more, the board must have a minimum of three female directors. On September 30, 2018, Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown signed the bill into law. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis
In his signing statement, Governor Brown acknowledged that the new law may have some “serious legal concern” because of its gender – based classification and how that may be treated under the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. That clause provides that “No State shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” which has been interpreted to mean all persons are to be treated equally under the law. Under the current legal analysis of gender based classifications, a state is granted a loophole to deviate from providing equal treatment if there is “an important government interest and the means undertaken are substantially related to that government interest.”

Despite the constitutional legal hurdles, the California bill is a landmark bill and the first of its kind in the United States. It is loosely modeled on a number of laws found in countries in Europe. (Germany requires corporate boards to be 30% female while France and Norway require company board of directors to be 40% female). This new law has a good chance of satisfying the legal test mentioned above and not be overturned because of the policy considerations underpinning the new law. When the law was introduced, State Senator Atkins cited recent studies by UC Berkeley, McKinsey and Company and Credit Suisse that showed that companies that had strong representation of women on boards and top-level management positions performed better in terms of innovation, profitability and productivity. The government interest here is in promoting a modern business trend of encouraging more female directors. As the examples in the Europe have shown, more females in positions of power have helped maximize business revenue and processes while encouraging inclusiveness and diversity. Male directors are not being discriminated and completely shut out of positions on corporate boards. This law is simply seeking to encourage companies to look toward qualified females and give them an opportunity after historically being under valued and under utilized in the United States. And as the studies have shown, encouraging women can be profitable and have a positive influence. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org

Photo by Brooke Lark

Is “Anti – BDS” Legislation Compatible With Free Speech and the First Amendment?

Is “Anti – BDS” Legislation Compatible With Free Speech and the First Amendment?

Brief #61—Civil Rights

Policy Summary
In June 2005 one hundred seventy (170) Palestinian civil society organizations called for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a form of non – violent protest against illegal activities of the State of Israel against the Palestinian people. This movement became known as the BDS Movement. In subsequent years, numerous state governments and the federal government of the United States enacted legislation to try and oppose this movement. Twenty – five states have enacted legislation that oppose the BDS movement with a federal bill pending in the U.S. Congress.

In Texas, Obi Dennar, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, worked a two – day debate tournament to make some extra money. After the tournament was over, Mr. Dennar was getting ready to sign papers certifying his work for the tournament so that he would get paid. In his contract was a clause that “stated and verified” that he would not boycott Israel. Mr. Dennar refused to sign the certification and instead forfeited $150 for his time spent working at the debate tournament. LEARN MORE

Analysis
In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware, Co. In that case, white store owners sued the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for damages they suffered from the loss of business because of boycotts against their stores. The store owners initially won damages but when the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court the court overrruled the lower court decision and held that boycotts were protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and that “boycotts and related activities to bring about political, social and economic change are political speech” and one of the highest and protected values of the First Amendment.

Despite this clear ruling from the highest court in the United States, it appears that the federal government and numerous state governments are simply ignoring the case. The twenty – five states that have enacted anti – BDS legislation are engaging in viewpoint discrimination and are putting up barriers to a healthy and free discussion of an important issue in order to force citizens to adopt a point of view they do not agree with. In the case of Mr. Obi Dennar, the point was illustrated most forcefully by having Mr. Dennar choose to receive payment for work he had already done or stick to his heartfelt beliefs. In another incident, an NYU professor had been invited to the University of Houston to share her research but had her talk cancelled when she refused to sign a certification that she would not boycott Israel. And at the federal level, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights, Mr. Kenneth Marcus, has re-opened an investigation into a complaint from Rutgers University that looks to controversially expand a definition of “anti – Semitism” in order to suppress criticism and protests of the State of Israel on college campuses.

It is becoming painfully clear that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become a new battleground in the war for the values of the First Amendment, Free Speech and honest and open discussion. It would seem that politicians at both the state and federal level would look to uphold and champion free speech but even they are becoming conflicted on the issue. Many politicians publicly campaign on the right to free speech and protest but then turn around and vote for bills that seek to stifle the protests and boycotts of the BDS Movement. Instead of ignoring the Claiborne Hardware case, politicians should permit all the protests and boycotts instead of trying to impose a particular viewpoint. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said it best when he said, “[T]he ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas” and “The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.” The solution is never to silence or punish anyone simply because they have a difference of opinion that the government does not agree with yet it seems that the United States is tilting in this dangerous direction with these anti-BDS bills. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.

Photo By Melany Rochester

Independent Redistricting Commissions Is Becoming The New Big Trend To Fight Abuses In Gerrymandering

Independent Redistricting Commissions Is Becoming The New Big Trend To Fight Abuses In Gerrymandering

Brief #62—Civil Rights

Policy Summary
On November 6, 2018, Proposition 4 in Utah and Amendments Y and Z in Colorado will be on the ballot to vote on for residents of each state. Proposition 4 in Utah is known as the Independent Redistricting Commission Initiative and if approved by voters will establish an independent redistricting commission that will be in charge of drawing the state map for congressional districts and state legislative districts. In Colorado, Amendment Y is the Independent Commission for Congressional Redistricting Amendment. Amendment Z is the Independent Commission for State Legislative Redistricting Amendment. Both are proposed amendments to the Colorado State Constitution and are proposals to change the method for drawing the congressional map and state district map for Colorado. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis: These proposals on the ballots in Colorado and Utah are part of a growing national trend to counter the effects of abusive gerrymandering in the United States. State legislatures have the power to draw the congressional district and state legislative districts of their state but the maps lately have been drawn with the intent to keep a political party in power and dilute the voting power of the electorate in the state. Instead of a true expression of an electorate’s preferred candidate the state map is drawn and designed in a way that manipulates the maps to ensure that a certain candidate will win by shifting voting blocs to other districts where their votes will not have an impact on an election.

Instead of allowing the state legislatures to continue to be in charge of drawing the maps, these initiatives will instead take this power away from them. In Colorado, the initiatives would place the power of drawing these maps in the hands of a twelve (12) member independent commission and there must be a reasonable chance for members to change hands every few years. The goal would be to try and eliminate entrenched candidates and make candidates more responsive to the concerns of their districts. In Utah, Proposition 4 would appoint a seven (7) member independent commission to draw the state legislative maps. It would also bar prior state government officeholders from serving on the commission.

These initiatives are potential game – changers and are currently gaining steam in various states around the country. Citizens have become fed up with being unable to vote out state representatives that seemingly stay in office for long periods of time and who have become unresponsive to their concerns. The Brennan Center of Justice has a list of non – partisan groups that have sprouted up in various states to combat gerrymandering. The goal of these groups is to reform the redistricting process in their respective states. Letting the representatives of the state legislature decide the maps to use for future elections is clearly a personal and professional conflict of interest and creates the perception that American elections are not as independent and transparent as we think they are. With this growing trend of independent redistricting commissions, Utah, Colorado and other states can come one step closer to having elections and chosen representatives that are more reflective of how their states vote overall. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

  • Terminate Gerrymandering – Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Crowdpac page to raise money and fight abusive gerrymandering in the U.S.
  • Common Cause – non – profit group’s webpage on their efforts to combat gerrymandering.
  • Reclaim The American Dream – non – profit group’s webpage listing groups engaged in the fight against gerrymandering.
  • Represent OK – state non – partisan group that is trying to combat gerrymandering in Oklahoma.

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org

Will California’s New Data Protection Privacy Law Become A Model For The Rest of the Country?

Will California’s New Data Protection Privacy Law Become A Model For The Rest of the Country?

Policy Summary
At the end of June 2018, California passed Assembly Bill (AB) 375, which is known as the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018. In May 2018 California voters filed the California Consumer Personal Information Disclosure and Sale Initiative (the “Initiative”) that sought to prevent businesses that do business in California from selling or disclosing a consumer’s personal info. The ballot initiative was signed by 600,000 residents and was scheduled to be on the ballot in California’s November 2018 election.

However, California state government officials decided to try and pass their own version of a data privacy law. The organizers of the Initiative agreed to remove their initiative from the ballot if California enacted a data privacy law. To ensure that the bill introduced by the legislators would not be superseded by the ballot initiative AB 375 would have had to be approved before June 28, 2018, which is the deadline to have the Initiative removed off the November 2018 ballot. The California Legislature approved the initiative which was then signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. The ballot initiative was subsequently withdrawn. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis
The data privacy law passed by California is modeled on the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). What this new law does is that it (1) requires notice be given  to consumers on data companies collect and what they use it for (2) a “right to be forgotten” (3) new notice and opt – out provisions if personal data is sold to third parties and (4) protection for consumers from being excluded from services if they exercise any of these new privacy rights.

The notice required to be provided to users is unique because it narrows down how a company can use a consumer’s personal data. A company must inform consumers how their personal data will be used. If a company wants to use the same personal data for another business purpose, it must then give notice to the consumer again for the different use of the personal data. This should help restrain companies from acquiring a consumer’s personal data once and then using it for multiple purposes for years afterward.

The “right to be forgotten” requires that a business must delete the personal data of the person if the person requests it. This requirement has a similar component to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation and is one of the most popular features of the new law because it affirmatively gives a consumer direct control over their personal data.

The notice and opt out provision is another provision that gives the consumer more direct control over their personal data. Most companies sell personal data to third parties but with this provision a company is prohibited from reselling personal data to a third company unless they give notice to the consumer and give her an opportunity to opt – out of the sale. Additionally, there are more restrictive requirements when the personal data is of minors under the age of 16.

And finally, the new California law prohibits a company from refusing to provide goods or services if a consumer chooses to exercise their privacy rights. A company can provide incentives for a consumer to provide their personal data but again the California law requires that the consumer must opt in and must have the option to opt out at anytime afterwards.

This new privacy law is easily the most stringent privacy law passed in the United States. There are still some flaws that have been discussed (if a person wants to sue a company for violation of the law, it must be done with a confusing process that might instead end up limiting an individual person’s options in court) but it appears that California has taken a huge step forward in protecting data privacy for their residents. It remains to be seen if these new regulations are what American citizens want and if other states and the Federal Government will follow suit by updating their own laws and regulations or by passing new and more relevant laws. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org

Photo by unsplash-logofreestocks.org

The “Coordinated Response” To President Trump’s War On The Press; Free Speech Concerns

The “Coordinated Response” To President Trump’s War On The Press; Free Speech Concerns

Brief #59—Civil Rights

Policy Summary: Since the day President Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States he has become a vocal critic of various news groups. Over the following twelve months CNN calculated that the President used the word fake more than 400 times in connection with news, polls, stories and media to imply that all of those things could not be trusted as valid. Due to the President’s ongoing attacks, the editorial board of the Boston Globe proposed an editorial initiative where newspaper editorial boards around the country would publish a “coordinated response” on August 16, 2018 to counter the President’s attacks on media outlets. On August 16, 2018 more than 300 newspaper outlets participated and published editorials that expressed differing levels of disappointment towards the President’s rhetoric against the media. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis: The President’s attacks on the media are another low point in a presidency that has had a number of low points. It is understandable that not everybody, including this President, will agree with any number of stories that are written about his administration. The use of “fake news” as a slur or insult to throw at a story or journalist helps illustrate the President’s mindset – that he should not be criticized in any way.

This is a very dangerous approach and a direct threat to American democracy. The media and newspapers that report the news act as an unofficial watchdog on the activities of the government bureaucracy in order to hold them accountable for what they are doing. It is also so that government actors stay within the accepted limits of their official job duties. But President Trump does not see it that way and instead is using the tactic of labeling everything “fake news” in the hopes of discrediting specific journalists and stories even if they may be truthful. But discrediting a story should be made on the merits of the story and not because of a personal animus toward a journalist or because President Trump simply does not like what is being reported. And as of August 2018, the President has never offered a reasoned argument as to why any story he does not like is “fake news.” He merely labels it as such and leaves it at that. And that doesn’t include many of the President’s tweets and factual statements that have proven to be false.

The American people deserve good factual reporting in order to make informed decisions. Having an independent and free press that is willing to contradict and criticize the current presidential administration contributes to an informed electorate. Knowing President Trump’s struggles with being truthful, the concerted response and effort by more than 300 newspaper editorial boards illustrates the wide disapproval of the President’s “fake news” tactics. This move by newspaper editorial boards across the nation helps to clarify that reliable news and info can come from other sources than just the President and that the best approach to confronting critical stories is with reasoned and merit based arguments instead of dismissing them out of hand with an insulting label. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org

Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST

Nationwide Prison Strike Highlights Deplorable Conditions in US Prisons

Nationwide Prison Strike Highlights Deplorable Conditions in US Prisons

Brief #58—Civil Rights

Policy Summary
In 11 states, prisoners and prison organizers have organized hunger strikes, work stoppages, and commissary boycotts to protest deplorable prison conditions and to demand the end of what they call “prison slavery” for 19 days of peaceful protest. The strike is being spearheaded by incarcerated members and organizers of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS). The last nationwide prison strike took place on September 2016 when more than 20,000 inmates refused to show up for work across 12 states.

On August 12th, JLS organizers released a statement calling for fellow prisoners to stop their senseless violence and to collectively organize around issues focused on their basic human and political rights. In April of this year, Lee County correctional facility in South Carolina experienced the deadliest prison riot in a quarter-century that went on for over seven hours without any staff intervention and resulted in several inmates’ deaths.

JLS listed 10 demands to improve prison conditions, including an end to life without parole sentences, increased funding for rehabilitation services, and the end to disenfranchisement. The statement explained how prison conditions are a human rights violation due to their inherent violence and further incitement of prison violence because of understaffing, exploitation of labor, and lack of comprehensive rehabilitative programs. For instance, most U.S. prisons lack basic mental health services and resources, like libraries and workshops, to help occupy prisoners’ times and improve their emotional, social and career development while in prison. Incarcerated workers are also some of the most exploited in the world because there is no minimum wage for their labor. The average wage is 20 cents/hour, with some states not paying anything. 80% of wages can still be withheld by prison officials. States such as Louisiana pay a horrific wage of 4 cents/hour. LEARN MORE

Analysis
The 13th amendment abolished “slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime.” In the documentary Thirteenth, director Ava DuVernay explores the historical context of this one exception, which has allowed the exploitation of prisoners who have no constitutional rights as a result of the amendment. According to the ACLU, 1 out of 3 black men can now expect to be incarcerated in their lifetimes; that’s compared to 1 in 17 white men. Furthermore, according to 2017 Prison Policy Initiative report, women – especially young black women – are the fastest growing incarcerated population, and 60% of women in jail have not even been convicted of a crime and are merely awaiting trial. Despite being only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. has 25% of the world’s prison population. Since 1970, this statistic has increased by 700% with 2.3 million people in jail and prison today.

Unsurprisingly, the national strike has been blacked out by the mainstream, corporate media. According to Integrated Workers Organizing Committee ( IWOC), “ The government spends as much as an elite college tuition per person to keep each of us incarcerated, but this money does not develop us as human beings, reduce crime or make our communities safer.”

Resources

  • Jailhouse Lawyers Speak – Organization where prisoners providing mutual help and legal training to other inmates.
  • Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) – IWOC led the first prison strike in U.S. history on September 9, 2016. The committee is a prisoner-led section of the Industrial Workers of the World working to abolish prison slavery with external allies and organizers.
  • Prison Legal News (PLN) – Monthly magazine since 1990 covering prison labor, sexual abuse, misconduct by jail staff, prisoners’ constitutional rights, racial and socioeconomic disparities in the justice system, medical and mental health care for prisoners, disenfranchisement, rehabilitation and recidivism, prison privatization, and much more.
  • ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice – Multiyear campaign to reduce U.S. jail and prison population by 50% and to combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
  • National Lawyers Guild (NLG) – The oldest and largest progressive bar association and the first to be racially integrated. NLG unites lawyers, law students, legal workers, and jailhouse lawyers to function as an effective force in the service of the people by valuing human rights over property interests.

Further Education

Submitted by USRESISTNEWS Analyst Tina Lee; ContactTina@usresistnews.org

Photo by Hédi Benyounes

Who Should Decide Industry Standards For Privacy Recognition Software To Prevent Misuse and Abuse?

Who Should Decide Industry Standards For Privacy Recognition Software To Prevent Misuse and Abuse?

Brief #56—Civil Rights

Policy Summary: In July 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published a blog post about the results of an experiment they conducted using Amazon.com’s facial recognition software known as “Rekognition.” The ACLU purchased the software directly from Amazon.com just as an ordinary purchaser would and then used Amazon’s recommended default settings to build a face database and search tool. The ACLU used a publicly available database of 25,000 arrest mugshots for its face database. The ACLU then scanned photos of every current Member of Congress. 28 Members of Congress were falsely identified as having previously committed a crime. LEARN MORE

Analysis: The results of the ACLU’s bold experiment appear to have set the stage for a battle on the future of facial recognition software. Amazon.com has been engaged in the testing, marketing and sale of its facial recognition software since late 2016 and since that time Congress had been reluctant to get involved in the policy discussion regarding the use of the technology tool. In response to the test conducted by the ACLU, Amazon.com released a statement that said, “The ACLU continues to distort the facts to suit [its] purposes.” The statement went on to list the successes the tool has had in helping to find missing children, fight human trafficking, fight financial fraud as well as a number of other incidents that contributed to public safety. On July 27, 2018, twenty – five Members of Congress co – signed a letter to Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos asking him to address the concerns of the software’s impact on communities of color. While Congress finally waded into the issue of facial recognition technology, although belatedly and only after being prodded by the ACLU’s test, it was Amazon.com’s response that caught everyone’s attention.

In a blog post, Amazon.com stated, “It is a very reasonable idea, however, for the government to weigh in and specify what temperature (or confidence levels) it wants law enforcement agencies to meet to assist in their public safety work.” This statement referred to the recommended confidence level setting that users of the software should use because the confidence level setting determines the rate of error. A higher setting should logically have a lower error rate while a lower setting increases the chances of false positive matches, as when the ACLU’s test (conducted at a lower setting) falsely identified members of Congress of having committed a crime. This is significant because Amazon.com was now stating that the government and law enforcement agencies alone should determine any standards for the proper use of the software. However, this is contrary to what Amazon had been doing when they had been marketing the software to law enforcement agencies. They had been recommending to the government the proper setting to use to prevent inaccurate face matches but now it was being forced to backtrack when Members of Congress were falsely identified. The contrary actions and statement by Amazon illustrate that the next stage in the future of facial recognition technology is going to be what standards will be implemented to prevent abuse and who will ultimately decide on those standards – the government or the tech companies themselves. The decision is far from settled and could have far reaching consequences. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org

Photo by Illia Cherednychenko

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