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By Charles A. Rubin
With the U.S. presidential election only weeks away, Facebook and other social media companies are struggling to show that they take the use of their platforms to spread misinformation and hate speech seriously, Facebook announced on October 6, 2020 that it had removed nearly 1,000 QAnon conspiracy theorist groups and promised to halt political ads after the polls close on November 3
Brief #139—Civil Rights
By Rod Maggay
On October 13, 2020 the United States Supreme Court issued an order that stayed an order from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the suspension of the September 30, 2020 deadline for finishing the 2020 census count. And, on October 16, 2020 the Supreme Court announced that it had set for argument on November 30, 2020 to consider whether the census can exclude undocumented immigrants from the overall tally of persons.
By Taylor J Smith
After the Trump Administration’s July announcement requiring all hospitals to submit COVID-19 data to private company, TeleTracking Technologies, exclusively sharing data with the Department of Health and Human Services, critics opposed the White House’s move to bypass the Centers for Disease Control, raising transparency concerns. However, the requirements have continued, and President Trump has become dissatisfied with the level of compliance amongst the nation’s hospitals.
Brief #21 – Technology
By Charles A. Rubin
As Social Media Giants Move to Curtail QAnon Trump Steps Up His Misinformation Campaign
October 21, 2020
With the U.S. presidential election only weeks away, Facebook and other social media companies are struggling to show that they take the use of their platforms to spread misinformation and hate speech seriously, Facebook announced on October 6, 2020 that it had removed nearly 1,000 QAnon conspiracy theorist groups and promised to halt political ads after the polls close on November 3. YouTube, owned by Google, followed suit on October 15, 2020 updating its hate-speech and harassment policies to prohibit “content that targets an individual or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify real-world violence.” These follow the July announcement by Twitter that it had begun taking sweeping actions to limit the reach of QAnon content, banning over 7,000 of the conspiracy theory’s followers because of concerns over harassment and misinformation.
At the same time the President has been using Twitter and Facebook to flood the public discourse with unsubstantiated pronouncements about the unreliability of mail-in balloting and amplifying conspiracy theories about his political opponents and the origins of the Coronavirus.
Throughout the Trump presidency Twitter has been exploited to manipulate the news cycle by providing a direct unfiltered avenue to a large audience. The medium has been used to spread rumors, amplify the President’s positions and shift the focus to a different outrage when convenient. The platforms have taken little responsibility for the content posted on them arguing that these are free speech issues. As long as posts do not violate rules regarding pornogrpahy or violence they are left alone unless there is a complaint and those are sent to third party moderators to judge their propriety.
Under public pressure, the social media giants have attempted to moderate the content by employing artificial intelligence to root out factually incorrect information and posts that incite to violence. It is an art more than a science. With an average of over 500 million posts a day on both Facebook and Twitter this is a huge and ever moving body of work to monitor.
More importantly, though, the social media companies do not see this as their role. They see themselves as primarily corporations that provide a service but ultimately turn a profit by engaging their users. Engagement means recommending the types of material the user has read before and stoking controversy. The more the platform engages the user by “suggesting” similar content and reinforcing an already held view, the more revenue they earn.
The Federal government has failed in gauging and regulating the negative externalities of a company’s behavior. If a company pollutes the air or its service harms citizens it is the government’s responsibility to protect the public. If social media companies, through the spread of misinformation or incitement to violence, are harming our democratic processes then we should have an expectation that the government will move to regulate that behavior.
As we have seen with environmental regulations, civil liberties, workplace safety and many other spheres this administration’s priority is protecting the corporations. Add that to the fact that Trump has a vested interest in discrediting the election and the institutions that work to protect these institutions we can expect little regulation or meaningful discussion.
- AccessNow provides resources on keeping the internet safe and open.
- A group of prominent Facebook critics has launched a RFOB (Real Facebook Oversight Board) as a check on the internal Oversight Board that Facebook has created to police itself.
- The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world.
The Center for Digital Democracy’s mission is to ensure that digital technologies serve and strengthen democratic values, institutions and processes. CDD strives to safeguard privacy and civil and human rights, as well as to advance equity, fairness, and community
Blog Post # 26
The Corruption of John Ratcliffe
By Sean Gray
The Corruption Blog digs into the details of the all-encompassing corruption of the Trump administration.
Director of National Intelligence is a position created in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The new post was intended to streamline the sharing of key information concerning national security threats between the country’s intelligence agencies. Based on the responsibilities the job entails, it is necessarily apolitical. John Ratcliffe, currently serving in the role, is not, which compromises its function and ability to adequately respond to urgent threats.
Prior to his appointment, Ratcliffe was a three term Republican representative, and one of the most vocal Trump allies in Congress. He gained national profile for his combative interaction with Robert Mueller, when the Special Counsel was called to testify before Congress. Like many Trump supporters on the Hill, Ratcliffe expressed skepticism of Mueller’s findings critical of the president and hurled less than subtle insinuations of investigatory malfeasance at the career civil servant. His line of questioning was tethered closer to right-wing conspiracy theories than our shared reality.
Ratcliffe was first tapped to succeed Dan Coats as DNI in July of 2019. The nomination was withdrawn in the wake of intense media backlash and even some bipartisan concerns about his chances for confirmation. His political biases were a matter of public record. His intelligence credentials were troublingly ambiguous. George W Bush had appointed Ratcliffe to serve as Chief of Anti-Terrorism and National Security in Texas’s Eastern District within the Department of Justice. When campaigning for a House Seat, his website boasted the claim that he had personally overseen the investigation of dozens of terror-related suspects. However no evidence exists that Ratcliffe was ever involved in the prosecution of a terrorist case. A misleading claim of that nature is dishonest, but boilerplate on the campaign trail. In the confirmation process for the US’ top intelligence post, it only underscores how ill-equipped Ratcliffe is for the position. His nomination was reintroduced on February 28th of this year, less than a month after Trump was acquitted by his feckless allies in the Senate. Emboldened by the Congress’ inability to hold him accountable, Trump was able push forward with Ratcliffe’s nomination where it had previously seemed untenable.
Blind loyalty were his only qualification, Ratcliffe has done nothing to quell the concerns that delayed his confirmation by six months. Since taking the post in March he has prioritized the whims of the White House over the faithful execution of his responsibilities.
The US intelligence community has concluded that Russia is again actively seeking to influence the presidential race to the benefit of the incumbent. In late August, (a bit over two months before the polls close) Ratcliffe announced the termination of in-person briefings regarding election security. The move was met with outrage from Congressional Democrats and seen as an attempt to prevent leaks inconsistent with Trump’s worldview. Ratcliffe promised to keep the House/Senate Intelligence Committees abreast of relevant developments through written briefs.
Lawmakers maintain in-person briefings are essential to allow them to ask critical questions to better understand and assess threats facing the upcoming election. The closure of hearings came less than a month after the intelligence community issued a public letter equating Russia, China and Iran as potential bad actors in November’s contest, although only the Kremlin is working directly to the benefit of its preferred candidate. Ratcliffe endured backlash similar to that of his original nomination, and acquiesced to the demands to provide continual briefs to a bipartisan committee of eight Congressional members. It is difficult to interpret Ratcliffe’s initiative as anything other than an attempt to conceal any information potentially upsetting to Trump. Nevertheless, that he hoped obscure election interference threats as a form of Executive Appeasement underscores the concerns about his loyalties and fitness for office.
John Ratcliffe had little in the way of national profile before Robert Mueller’s appearance before Congress. That changed following his exchange with the Special Counsel. Ratcliffe spent his allotted time attacking Mueller and the legitimacy of his work. He claimed Mueller denied Trump the presumption of innocence in not charging him with a crime, but explicitly stating that he also could not exonerate the president either. Long-standing Justice Department policy dictates that a sitting president may not be indicted. Additionally, the report was written for attorney general, who then released a redacted copy for public consumption. Ratcliffe could not have plausibly been unaware of either fact, which means his indignant line of question was most assuredly a blindly partisan defense of the president. In doing so he shirked his responsibilities in the name of cheap political theater. It was effective. Four days later his name was first mentioned to fill the DNI position.
Ratcliffe also has been contributing to Trump’s long-standing vendetta against Hilary Clinton. Last week Ratcliffe declassified handwritten notes by former CIA-director John Brennan from a brief with President Obama. The brief contained US intelligence originating form Russia that Hilary Clinton had tried to connect the Russian hack of her emails to the Trump campaign. It was never verified and is hardly a pressing matter of public concern. Aside from the alleged tactic not constituting a crime, Ratcliffe acknowledged that the tidbit was unsubstantiated. In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the US spy chief acknowledged he ‘’does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication. This is especially troubling because it appears Ratcliffe is boosting one of Trump’s many lines of lines of misdirection under a dubious stamp of approval from the intelligence community. Trump’s insinuation of wrongdoing on the part of Clinton and other Obama administration officials during the 2016 campaign are lame and feeble. That makes it no less egregious that the Director of National Intelligence seems to be lending credence to them. Information of questionable authenticity and of an obviously political nature should not be coming from a man in Ratcliffe’s position. It may also represent the man at the top of the US’ spy apparatus perpetuating Russian disinformation through official channels.
Last week Trump took to Twitter to call for the declassification of all info pertaining to Russian election interference in the 2016 election. Despite the DOJ arguing in court that Trump’s cyber outbursts don’t constitute official Executive Orders, Ratcliffe obliged his boss by releasing 1000 pages of previously secret information that Trump expects him to benefit him politically. That may have come to fruition anyway, but once again Ratcliffe has demonstrated a blind fealty that to Trump which was his most important, and only, credential.
October 19, 2020
The recently published revelations regarding the status of President Trump’s tax record hardly come as a surprise. Many of us have the vague notion that the tax structure is unfair, but how bad is it? And, how is it structured?
It is very unfair. The burden on the wealthy versus everyone else is very little. As stated in The Guardian, “there is one set of rules for the richest 0.1% and another for everyone else.” President Trump exemplifies the former group. For the 15 years between 2000 and 2015 Trump paid no taxes for ten of those years and little for the remaining years. In 2016 and 2017 he paid $750 which he described, in a recent interview, as a filing fee. He has carried over business losses to multiple years accruing extra tax credit for the same losses. He has not denied that he owes more than 400 million plus in debt, due in the next four years, and he will not state whether any of this is to foreign banks or foreign governments. The NYT articles detailing his tax status have asserted that he has failed to make any payments on the principal of a 100 million dollar loan, from 2012, to fund the Trump Tower. They also report that Trump depends on money from businesses which represent significant conflicts of interest with the office of the Presidency. The full picture of his tax status is still missing in action since he asserts that he is under an audit and therefore cannot supply his records though there is no prohibition against him doing so.
Individual federal taxes are structured so that theoretically the more income you have the more taxes you will pay in terms of the percentage levied on your income. This rarely plays out, in fact, and so frequently the working and middle classes are paying more income tax than the wealthy. In 2018, the 400 top earners paid an average federal income tax rate of 23%, rather than their theoretical level of 37%. One wealthy banker reports paying a tax rate in the high teens. The bottom half of earners paid an average of 24%.
Tax levels for wages and salaries are greater than those levied on investments and property taxes. Capital gains from investments, certain dividends, and long term capital gains are capped at 23.8%. The tax burden is supposed to be “progressive” but the wealthy pay a similar portion, or less, than the middle groups and this imposes a far smaller burden on them. Those who can least afford to do so pay a bigger portion of their relatively low income to taxes. This is especially true in other “regressive” taxes such as Social Security and sales taxes. The social security tax is increased as incomes go up but only to 137,000 dollars and then there are no additional charges. Sales taxes, for example on food and gas, are equal for all though they are more costly to a household with a lower income. These tax differentials are adding fuel to the fire igniting the ever widening gap in wealth in the US and the stagnation of the financial picture of the working classes. The persistent separation of the very wealthy, from everyone else, is the most dramatic it has ever been and far outpaces the situation in other advanced democracies.
Trump and Biden favor different approaches to the tax structure. Overall, Biden seeks to make it more equitable and simple to utilize. Trump seeks to advance the interests of business and capital. A few highlights from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) exemplify these differences. Trump wants to maintain the theoretical tax celling of 37% whereas Biden wants to return it to the pre-2018 level of 39.6%. He feels the affluent should pay more because they can. Trump suggests that the 22% rate on the middle groups be lowered to 15% or the brackets be modified so that more people fall into the lower groupings. He has advanced no specific plans. Trump would move the investment rate down to 15%, from a ceiling of 23.8%. 15% OF WHAT? Taxes on investments..He also suggests tying the tax rate to the inflation index. Biden would like to see the rates be the same or similar for all types of income.
The TCJA doubles the standard deductions on annual federal taxes and limits the itemized deductions a person can claim. This has caused most people to stop itemizing. The rate went from 31% to 14%.WHAT RATE? Of people who bothered to itemize…Those with large mortgages and significant charitable contributions still benefit from itemizing. BUT ABOVE YOU SAY PEOPLE HAVE STOPPED ITEMIZING/EXPLAIN Wealthy who have the means to buy huge homes and significant contributions to charities The Act also increased child deductions to $2000 for children under 17 and $500 for other dependents. The Act, with regard to personal income taxes, expires in 2025. Biden seeks to increase the deduction to $3000 for children 6-17 and $3600 for children under 6. Trump would leave it as is.
Biden proposes increasing payments to Social Security, often referred to as the payroll tax for incomes up to $400,000 rather than the current stopping point of $137,000. Trump has suspended social security payments for September through December. These deferred payments would be due in 2021 unless Trump eliminates the debt with a tax holiday. A Congressional mandate is required to make these permanent. The deferments only accrue to those making less than $100,000.
The portion paid by corporations versus the overwhelming mass of individual taxpayers continues to plummet. Corporate taxes, under the TCJA, are at a flat rate of 21% rather than the previous range of 15-35%. These modifications are permanent under the Act. Trump prefers a set rate of 20% though he has made no proposal yet. Biden supports a 28% rate and a limit to how long a business can claim little to no income. A significant portion of corporate taxes are paid by employees, shareholders, and consumers rather than by the company.
Suggestions for improving the tax structure include: that the tax subsidies for failing businesses be limited to six years; preferential treatment for investment income should end; a 10% sur tax should be placed on incomes over two million dollars regardless of its source; and large charitable donations should not have repercussions which accrue to the personal lives of their donors outside of the tax deduction. It is estimated that the current set of rules results in 574 billion dollars of lost revenue annually and the wealthy comprise 70% of the noncompliant. Can we afford this?
References: Learn More
https://joebiden.com/ Biden campaign website
https://americansfortaxfairness.org/national-organizations-working-families/ Organizations seeking to change the federal tax structures
By Linda F. Hersey
October 21, 2020
Presidential Campaign Update is an occasional series of Briefs on the US 2020 presidential election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump
President Donald Trump’s recent comments to the press about what his next move will be if he loses the presidency to Democrat Joe Biden underscores the nervousness of the Trump team just days before the Election.
“Could you imagine if I lose?” Trump said at a campaign stop in Georgia, Politico reported. “My whole life, what am I going to do? I’m going to say, ‘I lost to the worst candidate in the history of politics.’ I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country. I don’t know.”
The most recent national polls show Biden in the lead but Trump gaining ground in battleground states.
Real Clear Politics released on Oct. 20 an average of national polls that gives Biden an eight-point advantage over Trump. The average gives Biden 51.1 percent and Trump 42.5, with the remainder voting for a third party candidate or undecided.
Those polls were done between Oct. 6 and Oct. 19 by the following organizations: Investor’s Business Daily, New York Times, JTN/RMG Research, the Economist, The Hill, Reuters, National Public Radio, USC Dornsife Presidential Election Poll, NBC News/Wall Street Journal and Rasmussen Reports.
Each of those polls gave Biden the advantage. The election is far from being called. If 2016 is an indicator, the polls four years later could be off again, as they were in predicting that Hillary Clinton would beat Donald Trump.
In key battleground states in2020, the race has narrowed, according to the most recent polling data by state, with Trump gaining ground over Biden, and undecided voters having a bigger role in deciding the outcome. Here is a quick look at the most recent polling results in five key states and where the candidates rank as Election Day nears.
- Florida: Biden maintains a narrow lead over Trump, with a University of North Florida poll showing the candidates as Biden, 48.3 percent; Trump, 47.3. The poll was released Tuesday, Oct. 20. The poll was conducted from Oct. 12-Oct. 16. Florida is considered a swing state.
- North Carolina: Biden also has a one-point lead over Trump in North Carolina, according to a poll by the Washington Post and ABC News conducted from Oct. 7-Oct. 17. According to the website Real Clear Politics, Biden averages a 2-point lead over Trump, based on five key polls that the news site examined: the Washington Post-ABC News, the New York Times, Emerson College Polling, Monmouth University and Reuters. “There has been some shifting within the electorate but the overall picture remains the same – another tight presidential contest in North Carolina,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, in a press release issued by the university.
- Arizona: An Arizona poll by CBS News, in partnership with YouGov, conducted from Oct. 13-Oct. 16, awards Biden a three-point lead in the presidential race.
- Ohio: Biden has a narrow two-point lead in Ohio, according to Rasmussen Reports. A telephone and online survey was released Tuesday, Oct. 20, for Ohio, which historically votes Republican. The poll was conducted on Oct. 18 and Oct. 19.
- Wisconsin: Biden has a two-point lead over Trump in Wisconsin, according to the Trafalgar Group, which gives Biden, 47.6 percent, over Trump, at 46.3 percent. The poll was conducted between Oct. 14 and Oct. 16.
Politico: The political news website offers comprehensive national reporting on Washington, D.C., politics and policymaking.
Real Clear Politics: The political news website has a thorough look at the most recent polling in national campaigns, including the race for president.
Rasmussen Reports: National polling company that surveys voters and also looks at consumer confidence.
Emerson College Polling : According to the polling company, Emerson Polling “uses a combination of landline respondents and online panels that creates a representative artificial sample.”
American Association for Public Opinion Research: The nonprofit helps journalists and public understand the polling process and polls.
Investor’s Business Daily: The news company, which covers business and the economy, is predicting a tight election for president.
By Linda F. Hersey
October 21, 2020
Deshawn Grange says he is proud to have not just one but two jobs. He is a part-time worker assembling vehicle doors at a Tesla plant in California. He also is a monitor at a public restroom owned by the City of San Francisco.
Grange, a San Francisco native, said he landed the jobs through assistance from a prison re-entry program that connected him to life-skills training, job preparation and employment. “I work all the time now,” said Grange, who did not use his real name for this story.
With two thirds of state prisoners in the U.S. re-arrested within 36 months of their release, prison-to-work or so-called re-entry programs are a path for former offenders to enjoy a law-abiding life. The goal is to provide wraparound services, from help with housing to finding a job, to lower the risk of returning to jail or prison.
A growing body of evidence shows that offenders need a diverse range of support services as they transition from incarceration to their communities, to lessen the chance of re-arrest and landing back in prison or jail, according to the National Institute of Justice.
Research shows that the better educated and/or older offender is less likely to re-commit crimes, according to the Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization.
HIGH RATE OF INCARCERATION
Incarceration numbers in the U.S. are staggering for a western nation. More than two million people are behind bars in the United States, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
More than a half-million Americans each year are released from prisons and jails after serving time.
Many go back to the communities and friends they left when they originally broke the law and got into trouble. The return to their former lives poses risks and challenges.
The ex-offenders face significant barriers:
- Having a criminal record makes it hard to find work.
- Many have a history of drug addiction.
- Offenders are less likely to have completed high school or have the skills to sustain a job.
- Many have no place to live.
Advocates for people who have served time focus efforts more and more on education, employment and housing. These support services, studies show, can determine whether a former convict succeeds or fails after release.
To reduce the $40 billion spent by state governments annually for corrections without compromising public safety, advocates say it is critical to identify programs and services like these that improve outcomes.
FAITH-BASED PROGRAMS REACH OUT TO EX-OFFENDERS
An array of nonprofits in the U.S., many of them faith-based, aim to help offenders post-release. Saved by Grace of the San Francisco Bay area, for example, is staffed by ex-felons and focuses on both the spiritual and economic needs of former offenders.
The agency offers case management, job training, education resources and help with writing resumes and contacting employers. The agency provides a positive and welcoming community with church pastors, employers, caseworkers and advocates who represent a new network of friends and associates for the former offender.
The agency not only directs former offenders to education and employment, it also tries to provide a constructive alternative to peer pressure and negative influences former offenders may encounter again in their communities.
“Throughout my life I have made some good and bad decisions, but through it all I truly believe God had, and still has, his hand on my life,” Pastor Ronnie Muniz states about his former criminal life and his founding of the prison-re-entry agency, Saved by Grace.
A FOCUS ON OUTCOMES
Nationally, two initiatives known as SVORI and the Second Chance Act, have shown the most promise and continue to evolve, according to research by the National Institute of Justice.
- SVORI – the Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative — is considered the pioneering federal grant program for integrating support services for former offenders, including job and life-skills training, education, and treatment and release plans. Research shows that participation in SVORI-funded programs have resulted in fewer re-arrests and longer times between arrests, compared with former prisoners who did not participate. Women, especially, experienced better outcomes in the areas of employment and overcoming substance abuse.
- The Second Chance Act, reauthorized by President Trump in 2018, is a follow-up to SVORI. Its goal is to improve outcomes for former offenders. In looking at outcomes for close to 1,000 former offenders in Second Chance, the National Institute of Justice found that the men and women had better rates of long-term employment and earnings but were not less likely to be re-arrested. Researchers are trying to determine why and how to change that. The legislation signed by Trump provides federal funding to programs considered essential to an offender’s re-entry.
Now a new generation of programs and research aims to identify high-risk populations that are more prone to re-offend and land back in jail or prison, according to the National Institute of Justice. Former offenders in this at-risk group may have literacy challenges, dropped out of high school, struggled with drug addiction, and a long rap sheet, including with the juvenile justice system.
The First Step Act (FSA), also signed into law in 2018, centers on developing a risk and needs assessment for the Federal Bureau of Prisons to better identify this high-needs population. Increasingly, a strong body of research shows that successful outcomes do not depend on just one factor but a whole host of supportive services and positive connections in the community.
Trauma During Re-Entry Study: This report by the Institute for Justice Research and Development looks at the effects of violence and trauma on offenders returning to their communities after serving time.
National Institute of Justice and Recidivism: The institute researches, reviews and evaluates programs for the U.S. Department of Justice.
Prison Policy Initiative: The nonpartisan, nonprofit organization offers research and advocacy around prisons and prison reform in the U.S.
Saved by Grace is a nonprofit California agency that provides supportive services to former inmates returning to their communities.
The Marshall Project is a nonpartisan, national news organization that covers the criminal justice system.
Policing in America
“Police Wall of Shame” is a Policing in America series by Laura Plummer.
October 15, 2020
The New York Police Department (NYPD) is the largest police department in the U.S. and the second largest in the world after Tokyo. It has over 36,000 sworn officers, equal to the population of a small city, with approximately one officer for every 233 people.
When the NYPD killed Black man Eric Garner in 2014, it helped transform the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter into a national movement. Since then, the department has not done much to improve its reputation. In fact, its shocking antics continue to dominate headlines. From discriminating against women to planning assaults on protestors, it’s no wonder the NYPD finds itself in our Police Wall of Shame.
Date: June 4, 2020
Incident: Officers assaulted protestors in what was called the “most aggressive police response” to the George Floyd murder protests in the U.S.
Date: August 11, 2020
Incident: A female chief quit and sued the department for rampant gender discrimination. She alleged that women were systematically prevented from reaching top positions.
Date: September 1, 2020
Incident: Officers pushed back against the department’s new disciplinary measures, which are meant to improve transparency and accountability in the department. They complained that such measures would prevent them from doing their jobs.
Date: September 9, 2020
Incident: The president of the sergeants union posted a homophobic tweet about an openly gay city councilman. The councilor called for the union leader’s resignation.
Date: September 10, 2020
Incident: The department continued to promote an officer who was accused of invasive, inappropriate strip searches of Black and Latino men.
Date: September 17, 2020
Incident: Reporting showed that officers were still ticketing street vendors in September, despite Mayor de Blasio’s June declaration that the department would be relieved of this duty.
Date: September 25, 2020
Incident: The department suddenly suspended its funding for a crisis intervention training meant to reduce violent conflict with the mentally ill by teaching officers empathy.
Incident: The state attorney general declared that the department should cease making traffic stops, due to a history of stops escalating quickly into fatal violence.
Date: September 26, 2020
Incident: Officers aggressively charged at a group of protestors, diners and pedestrians, arresting 12 people. Protestors were responding to having their music equipment seized by the department during a raid of a peaceful art protest earlier in the evening.
Date: September 28, 2020
Incident: An officer was arrested for allegedly punching and pointing a gun at his girlfriend. The officer had a long history of domestic violence and was previously arrested in 2014 for threatening a woman with knives.
Date: September 29, 2020
Incident: Officers refused to wear face masks, despite it being law. Gov. Cuomo pointed out the hypocrisy of a group that is tasked with enforcing mask-wearing and yet refuses to cover their own faces.
Incident: A judge ordered a judicial review into the department’s killing of Eric Garner in 2014. Officers put Garner in a chokehold despite the fact the chokehold had been banned since 1993.
Date: September 30, 2020
Incident: A report revealed that the department planned the assault on protestors on June 4 (see above.) The attack was led by the highest-ranking uniformed officer on the force.
Incident: The department was lambasted by a former officer. The man uploaded a video in which he criticized its modern tactics and militarism, comparing it to the Call of Duty video game.
Date: October 2, 2020
Incident: Several dozen officers dressed in riot gear disrupted an outdoor concert. Neighbors were shocked, stating they had never seen such an overwhelming show of force.
Incident: The department broke the law by failing to enforce illegal placard parking. Officers are required to investigate placard abuse and turn the evidence over to the Department of Investigation.
In early summer 2020, New York City saw an increase in protests against police brutality and calls to defund the NYPD. While these outward demonstrations seem to have waned in recent months, local advocacy groups like Brooklyn Movement Center, Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) and The Gathering for Justice are still hard at work organizing for tangible change in policing.
One way in which residents can have their voices heard is by voting in the city’s 2021 elections. Up for election are mayor, city councilors, public advocate, borough presidents and district attorneys. New Yorkers are urged to support progressive candidates who back comprehensive police reform. A list of current candidates can be found here.
- Brooklyn Movement Center – A campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) – A campaign working against discriminatory and abusive policing in New York
- The Gathering for Justice – An organization working to expose the NYPD’s unfair targeting of people of color
This brief was compiled by Laura Plummer. To add an incident involving the NYPD to this article, please contact email@example.com.
By: Shannon Q. Elliott
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
According to the Trump Administration they have been successful in “cutting the red tape” of Obama era environmental policies and protections. While boasting about the strides they have taken to promote economic growth, create jobs, and give industries more flexibility, they fail to recognize that these particular policies are contributing to environmental degradation. The deterioration of the environment will have adverse effects on the “strong economy” as new policies threaten habitats, clean water, fresh air and wildlife, it’s just a matter or time before the economy suffers a catastrophic crash.
Two policies that are being deconstructed under the Trump agenda, are protections for air and water. The Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE) and The Navigable Waters Protection Rule, (NWPR) have been amended in an effort to allow industries and businesses to operate without government interference. ACE replaced the Clean Power Plan (CPP) which set a target for coal industries to adjust their emissions and comply beginning in 2018, with strict compliance by 2025. Coal plants are responsible for 43% of mercury emissions, and 30% of toxic water pollution; CPP would have removed 1.4 billion pounds of toxic pollution, which would have given the environment a chance to rebound. ACE allows more flexibility with their carbon emissions, requiring compliance by 2030. ACE is only applicable to the coal industry, and by extending the deadline for compliance, ACE allows toxic pollution to gain more momentum.
The Navigable Waters Protection Rule reduced the number of federally protected waterways. This leaves smaller bodies of water, including streams, wetlands, and habitats vulnerable to pollutants. The rule was rewritten to provide clarity over waterway jurisdiction. Under NWPR, the states retain jurisdiction over smaller bodies of water, leaving the larger waterways regulated by federally. The President contends that the NWPR will allow states to manage their resources in a way that is supportive of farmers and ranchers. By redistributing water protections, this creates a disproportioned system, cleanliness of drinking water will vary by state, an influx of pollution will intrude on rivers and streams, and flood risk increases.
It should not come as a surprise that the two aforementioned rules are tied up in litigation. Environmentalist groups, scientists, and States are lobbying to have these rules amended to support a healthy environment. Not only are they rallying for public health, but they are also trying to prevent an economic nosedive.
How does environmental failure affect the economy? When the administration decides to slash conservation protections, their short-term gains cause an irreversible domino effect. ACE is less restrictive than the 2015 CPP, granting the coal industry the ability to operate 5 years longer resulting in more American deaths vs. jobs saved. According to thirdway.org, Trump’s new plan could result in “1400 premature deaths, 430 non-fatal heart attacks, 48,000 cases of exacerbated asthma, 500 cases of acute bronchitis, 42,000 lost workdays, and 60,000 school absence days annually by 2030.” People who become ill will be unable to work, resulting in a mass health crisis and bankruptcy. The climate will continue to warm, while emissions are being pumped into the air, which paves the way for disastrous acts of nature such as wildfires, hurricanes, tornados, and inclement weather events that will pummel parts of the world. When these events take place, there is substantial damage caused to roadways, airports and infrastructure. Climate volatility will drive up the cost of labor, economic goods, and the supply chain. In North America alone, Morgan Stanley reported that from 2017-2020, events associated with climate change cost about $ 415 billion dollars.
What about clean water? Clean water is essential to a thriving society, and under the NWPR, clean water is in jeopardy. Farmers and landowners are thrilled with the new rule that grants them the freedom to use pesticides, without fear of government interjection. In the short-term, the relaxed rule permits them to grow more crops and raise livestock, but ultimately, the contamination and toxins released into the groundwater will put their farms at risk of flood, unstable climates will kill crops, and agricultural sectors will suffer disruptions in supply and demand.
Climate effects agriculture, infrastructure, tourism, global markets, and human productivity, just to name a few. “We will pay for climate breakdown one way or another, so it makes sense to spend the money now to reduce emissions rather than wait until later to pay a lot more for the consequences… It’s a cliché, but it’s true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Joseph Stiglitz Noble Prize Winner; Economist Columbia University.
Analyzing Trump’s “Affordable Clean Energy” rule using the EPA’s own data. https://www.thirdway.org/memo/analyzing-trumps-affordable-clean-energy-rule-using-the-epas-own-data
Trump Administration Cuts Back Federal Protections For Streams And Wetlands. (2020, January). NPR.org
US report warns climate change could create economic chaos. (2020, September). https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/09/business/climate-change-economy-cftc-report/index.html
- Climate Group : https://www.theclimategroup.org/partner/state-california
- The World Bank : https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/climatechange/overview
- Environmental Defense Fund : https://www.edf.org/
Policy Summary: On October 13, 2020 the United States Supreme Court issued an order that stayed an order from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the suspension of the September 30, 2020 deadline for finishing the 2020 census count. And, on October 16, 2020 the Supreme Court announced that it had set for argument on November 30, 2020 to consider whether the census can exclude undocumented immigrants from the overall tally of persons.
Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution requires that enumeration of all persons shall be done every ten years which will then determine how congressional Representatives will be apportioned among the several States. However, on July 21, 2020 President Donald J. Trump issued a presidential memorandum that directed the Secretary of Commerce to exclude illegal aliens from being counted for the apportionment base following the 2020 census. In response to this directive multiple lawsuits were filed by a number of plaintiffs asking the court, among other things, to not exclude illegal aliens from the overall census tally and the Commerce Department to not transmit any citizenship or immigration status data to the President for apportionment purposes. The multiple lawsuits were consolidated and at trial Judge Lucy Koh of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California sided with the plaintiffs. She issued an injunction that suspended both the September 30 deadline for finishing the census and the December 31 deadline for reporting the final census tally to the President. A number of groups had advocated for an extension of time to continue with the census count as the process had been upended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The injunction issued by Judge Koh helped to give more time to conduct a more thorough count as the deadline to report the numbers to the President was pushed back to April 2021.
The government’s argument has been more of a technical argument. The finalization and reporting deadlines are set in federal law. So, the government was merely arguing against an extension because it did not want to agree to an extension and then be accused of not following the law. Only Congress can change the deadlines which wasn’t going to happen.The injunction was appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which upheld the injunction and extension of the reporting deadlines. The case was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which issued an order overturning the trial court injunction. This in effect will allow the Commerce Department to end census operations by the September 30th deadline and report the final census tally by the December 31st deadline. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
Policy Analysis: The latest orders issued by the Supreme Court are just the latest twist in the ongoing saga of the 2020 decenniel census. The importance of this census is staggeringly high as an accurate tally of the American population and where persons are living in the country will be used to determine how many Congressional Representatives a state will have for the next ten years, how many electoral votes it will have in upcoming presidential elections and how federal monies will be divided and doled out to states to use.
The Supreme Court case that issued the order that permitted the government to cease census operations in order to comply with deadlines to finalize and report and send the final tally numbers to the president is an erroneous decision. This is because it does not consider that accuracy and thoroughness is much more important than simply complying with the deadlines to report the data. Census operations were disrupted with the COVID-19 pandemic causing delays and even a temporary suspension of field data collection activities. Due to these unforeseen circumstances the Supreme Court should have upheld the injunction issued by the trial court, allowed the collection of information to continue and emphasized that accuracy and thoroughness of census data is preferable over submitting inaccurate and incomplete data just to meet a deadline.
While the Supreme Court’s decision seemed like it would be the last word on the 2020 Census, the Court stepped into the census fray again a few days later by agreeing to hear arguments on whether President Trump can exclude undocumented immigrants from the final 2020 census tally. President Trump’s plan is to collect two tallies – one for everyone in the U.S. and another that would leave out the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. He would then report the tally that excludes undocumented immigrants to Congress for apportionment purposes. This plan is completely flawed as it is settled American law that “persons” are to be counted and not just “citizens.” This has been borne out from the historical record as prior debates in Congress considered counting only “citizens” but those proposals were rejected in favor of counting all “persons” regardless of their citizenship. Additionally, since the usage of “persons” is established in Constitutional Amendments, President Trump’s efforts to try to unilaterally decide on his own to only count citizens is a clear violation of the separation of powers principle. Laws are made by Congress and the President can only execute the laws within the boundaries of those laws. President Trump cannot do what Congress has not authorized under law and for President Trump to decide to not count undocumented immigrants for purposes of the 2020 census is in violation of what Congress clearly intended – that all “persons” and not just “citizens” be counted. As it now heads to the highest court for review the Supreme Court should provide clarity on this issue and rein in President Trump’s actions in what look to be an end – around Congressional powers for political purposes. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – infopage on 2020 Census.
- Brennan Center for Justice – infopage on group’s litigation efforts regarding the 2020 Census.
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
Brief #82 – Health and Gender
Author Taylor J Smith
After the Trump Administration’s July announcement requiring all hospitals to submit COVID-19 data to private company, TeleTracking Technologies, exclusively sharing data with the Department of Health and Human Services, critics opposed the White House’s move to bypass the Centers for Disease Control, raising transparency concerns. However, the requirements have continued, and President Trump has become dissatisfied with the level of compliance amongst the nation’s hospitals. Such dissatisfaction has prompted an emergency rule threatening Medicare and Medicaid funding for hospitals’ non-compliance. Hospitals that fail to comply with federal requirements on COVID-19 and influenza data are at risk for losing U.S. funding. Hospitals will be given 14 weeks, from the late August announcement, to make adjustments and comply before enforcements take effect. Nursing homes and labs are also included under this rule and therefore subject to fines and punishments.
The information the White House wants completed is a general report on hospitals’ COVID-19 and influenza data. Among the data requested is the number of Covid-19 patients in each hospital and availability of medical equipment such as ventilators and protective gowns for employees. One of the most difficult requirements for hospitals, especially small ones, is that they are required to submit reported data every day, even on weekends. Should a hospital worker responsible for completing the form be sick or out of the hospital, partially fill out the form, or simply forget to complete the form, the hospital falls into noncompliance.
Previous to this crackdown, hospitals were participating in the voluntary reporting system, however, full compliance has been low, only 24% of hospitals reported all required elements every day. As mentioned, the Administration was not satisfied with the 86% reporting rate, by implementing this rule, Trump leaves hospitals no choice but to reach a 100% reporting rate.
Supporters of this rule emphasize how critical the data is in understanding the severity of the coronavirus and how central the data is for the national response to the pandemic. Seema Verma, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator, said the changes “represent a dramatic acceleration of our efforts to track and control the spread of COVID-19”.
However, withholding of Medicare and Medicaid funding would be a major blow to almost any hospital and would be too hard on the communities they serve, many experts say. For many hospitals, Medicare and Medicaid account for 40-60% of total funding and revenue. The American Hospital Association immediately denounced the rule, highlighting the risk of hospitals going out of business, and noting the penalty would be “too severe a penalty on a community”, a community that should not suffer because of subjective rules.
This rule is detrimental to the very institution serving as the American people’s first line of defense against the coronavirus. While the pursuit for COVID-19 and influenza data is just, the penalty is excessive and unnecessary. Such penalties jeopardize patient access to hospital care during a pandemic, likely resulting in widespread complications, suffering and/or deaths, which can only be exacerbated by the current pandemic.
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Blog Post # 3 Steven Crowder and Sam Seder’s take on the Amy Coney Barrett Nomination
By John McCabe
October 17, 2020
With just two weeks until the General Election, coverage of the Amy Coney Barrett hearing has dominated the web. Naturally in the online world, independent commentators on the left and right offer different viewpoints of the nomination. As the right argues that the Senate has constitutional authority to confirm Barrett, the left argues that the Senate is being hypocritical due their rejection of Merrick Garland’s nomination in 2016, a decision Republicans at the time claimed was valid on the basis that Supreme Court nominees should not be confirmed amid an election year.
This week, right wing commentator Steven Crowder published an episode in one of his “Change My Mind” series to YouTube, a segment where he sits at a table with a sign including the phrase “Change My Mind,” inviting people, oftentimes college students, to change his mind on a particular topic.
In his latest installment, Crowder challenge college students at Texas Christian University to change his mind on the Barrett nomination, where much of his arguments in favor of the nomination had to do with the Senate’s constitutional power.
“Merrick Garland was not confirmed by the Senate because it was a Republican Senate,” said Crowder speaking to a student named Samantha. “Donald Trump nominated A.C.B., and of course, it’s a Republican Senate, so it’s very likely she’ll be confirmed…I hear a lot of people saying ‘we feel like we should wait until the next election’ but I’m not hearing any justification…there’s no reasoning, there’s no constitutionality behind the idea that we need to wait.”
Crowder’s claim is peculiar considering the outpour of resurfaced videos of 2016 Republicans arguing why Supreme Court nominations should be postponed during an election year. Among these leaders were Sen. Lindsay Graham, who stated, “if there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say, ‘Lindsay Graham said let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination,’ and you can use my words against me and you’d be absolutely right.”
In an exchange with a student named Kit, Crowder added that Garland was not confirmed in 2016 due to the Senate and the Presidency being of different political parties.
“I’m not in favor of them doing it because I think it would be hypocritical of the Senate’s argument they made with Obama…” said Kit.
“No, no,” said Crowder, interrupting Kit, “their argument was that it was a split government…Their argument wasn’t just that it was an election year, their argument was that it was unprecedented in an election year to try and force a divided government to confirm…”
However, the resurfaced videos of 2016 Republicans arguing against Garland seem to be making the central argument that a new judge should not be confirmed during an election year.
On March 16, 2016, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas pointed out that the Senate has the power to withhold the consent of a nomination, but not to the extent or specification that that power has anything to do with the Senate and the Presidency being of different political parties.
Nevertheless, Crowder was adamant that the opposing 2016 Senate and Presidency, even more so than a nomination taking place amid an election year, was the principal point as to why Garland’s nomination was ultimately rejected. Crowder did not go on to cite any Republicans that had made this contention their central claim in 2016 when arguing against Garland’s nomination.
Meanwhile, progressive talk show host Sam Seder of the Majority Report criticized Democratic lawmakers for attending the Barrett nomination in the first place. In Seder’s view, had the Democrats on the committee not attended the meeting, it would’ve created a message to the American people that the nomination was a sham.
“If you want to signal to the American public that something is a sham, then you don’t participate in it,” said Seder. “You have a press conference or you have some type of rally out in front of the Senate of the building, a socially distant rally, where you say, ‘We’re not going to go into that building because what they’re doing is a sham.’ You need to show, not just tell.”
Seder then speculated that a lot of Democrats are not in favor of expanding the court, even if Biden is elected. He believes that centrist Democrats are against packing the court as a political decision and that they do not want any political pressure of having to pack the court if Biden wins. His contention is that by attending the hearing, centrist Democrats are able to broadcast their reservations against Barrett without having to declare to a divided base of constituents, that would probably be in favor of packing the court if Biden wins, whether they support its expansion.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in 1983, Biden referred to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s attempt to pack the court decades prior as a “bonehead idea”. But despite Biden’s past reservations against packing the court, Crowder, like many other right wing pundits, has voiced worry that a Biden presidency would pack the courts. Seder, on the other hand, does not seem optimistic that Biden would pack the courts if he were elected.
“…there’s every reason to believe based upon his [Biden] history,” said Seder, “based upon the people that support him, Chris Coons, that they do not have an intention to expand the size of the court…they don’t want that political pressure…they wanted to activate people who are concerned about the A.C.A. and concerned about a woman’s right to have sovereignty over their own body…but they don’t want to activate people too, too much so that they are beholden to actually taking material, legitimate steps in the future to prevent these things from happening.”
Prior to becoming political talk show hosts, both Crowder and Seder began their careers as stand-up comedians. In the world of online punditry, they are without a doubt two of the biggest players. In the past, Seder has challenged Crowder to debate multiple times, often ridiculing Crowder for allegedly only debating college students that aren’t media trained or as politically educated.
Reportedly, Crowder backed out of a debate with Seder at Politicon 2018. At this time, Crowder has not publicly commented on the accusations that he dodged a debate with Seder, or even acknowledge that Seder had challenged him to a debate at all.