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 Opinion:scrap the Civil Rights Commision

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UncleFrank
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PostSubject: Opinion:scrap the Civil Rights Commision   Sun Jan 02, 2011 5:47 am

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By WILLIAM YEOMANS | 12/23/10 8:54 AM EST
The United States Commission on Civil Rights has been on life support far too long.

Created more than 50 years ago, as an independent voice on civil rights, it has been captured by the extreme right and converted into a partisan mouthpiece that ignores the nation’s pressing civil rights problems.

The commission – once dubbed the conscience of the nation – long ago lost its credibility as an independent, trusted voice on civil rights. Its recent rushed vote to issue an incomplete report on its investigation into the New Black Panther Party voting incident should spur Congress finally to pull the plug.

The Bush administration manipulated commission appointments to ensure a partisan bias. The charter dictates that no more than four of the eight commissioners can belong to the same party. Yet, under President George W. Bush, two conservative GOP commissioners switched their voter registrations from Republican to independent.

This allowed Bush to appoint two more Republicans — creating a 6-2 split in favor of Republicans, and making a mockery of the commission’s charter.

Ever since, the commission has careened from one partisan abuse to another, from scouring state statutes to urge elimination of provisions favoring minorities to opposing legislation addressing health care, paycheck fairness and hate crimes. All the while, it ignored the hard work of addressing the nation’s civil rights problems.

With its decision to make the New Black Panther Party report its central activity this year, the commission dropped all pretense, and threw in its lot with the GOP’s far right. Even one GOP commissioner, Abigail Thernstrom, balked at pursuing this investigation, saying her colleagues saw it as a way to bring down President Barack Obama. She was absent from the vote to issue the report.

With a major assist from Fox News, the commission has exploited the image of two African-American men in paramilitary garb outside a Philadelphia polling site in 2008. This pushes the absurd thesis that the Obama administration will not enforce civil rights laws against minorities — and, therefore, is racist.

In reality, the unseemly incident was small potatoes. The man standing outside the overwhelmingly African-American polling place with a baton left that morning, when told to by a police officer. His companion had credentials to serve as a poll watcher and the police allowed him to stay. No voter complained of being intimidated. That’s it.

Yet, the Bush Justice Department, led by attorneys who had obtained their positions when the Civil Rights Division, according to the department’s inspector general, allowed partisan hiring to trump merit, filed civil actions against the two men — the head of the national party and the party itself.

These attorneys worked in a unit that had gone five years during the Bush administration without filing a single lawsuit to assist African-Americans under the Voting Rights Act’s main enforcement provision. But they did file the first such action on behalf of white voters against African-American officials in Mississippi. That same unit had declined to move against far more serious harassment against minority voters
Two career attorneys managing the Civil Rights Division before Obama’s political appointees arrived – both of whom had spent years working on voting matters – concluded there was sufficient evidence to proceed against the baton wielder, but not the others. The head of the New Black Panther Party had denounced the two defendants’ activities, and there was insufficient evidence that the national party had any role in the Philadelphia event.

Regardless of one’s view of the evidence, the commission’s decision to make this investigation the centerpiece of its work for the year speaks volumes about the panel’s insignificance and misdirection.

In the middle of massive problems involving housing, with subprime lending targeting minority borrowers, as well as education and employment issues, can any responsible person think that the nation’s most important civil rights problem is that two African-American men stood outside a Philadelphia polling place and no voter complained?

The commission did crucial work from its creation, with the Civil Rights Act of 1957, through the 1970s. Its field investigations and reports helped lay the foundation for the civil rights legislation that reshaped American society.

During the 1980s, however, President Ronald Reagan launched an assault on the commission. The White House aimed to fire commissioners, replacing them with ideologues, who would support the administration’s retrenchment in civil rights enforcement.

After toying with killing the commission, Congress and the White House struck a deal to expand the panel from six to eight members, and to allow the president to appoint four, the House leadership two and the Senate leadership two.

This compromise failed. The commission reversed many of its prior positions in favor of the Reagan agenda, serving as a platform for partisan bickering. It suffered serious mismanagement, as documented repeatedly by the Government Accounting Office. Its production plummeted so badly that Congress demanded that it need to produce at least one report a year.

Because of congressional displeasure, the commission has operated without an authorization since 1996, surviving year-to-year on a flat-lined appropriation.

Does the nation still even need an independent civil rights watchdog? Yes. But this commission has demonstrated it’s not up to the task. Though the terms of two right-wing commissioners recently expired, and Obama will get two appointments, the panel – unless it is restructured and its mission is narrowed – is likely to remain a partisan battleground, which will only deepen the nation’s divide on civil rights.

Since the commission’s creation, we have developed multiple avenues for tracking and enforcing civil rights -- including the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the offices of civil rights in each federal agency and various congressionally mandated internal guardians of civil rights and civil liberties. We have also seen the effectiveness of the GAO, the inspectors general and congressional oversight in monitoring civil rights enforcement.

If Congress concludes that an independent body remains necessary, it should start over. It is time to bury this dysfunctional and partisan mess of a commission.

William Yeomans, an American University law professor, served as Sen. Ted Kennedy’s chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee and as a Justice Department official.
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PostSubject: Re: Opinion:scrap the Civil Rights Commision   Sun Jan 02, 2011 6:05 am

This is just one of many excesses of our government! There are so many it is a daunting task just to start to name the ones that need to be eliminated not only for what they do not do but also for what they waste and the problems they create. Typical agenda is to build their own little empires, spend all their budget money so they can ask for more next year and create more ways than you could ever imagins to hide what they are doing so nobody can tell if they are a waste or not!! JMHO!! We are going to have to fire a lot of them to ever get control of this thing again!!

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PostSubject: Re: Opinion:scrap the Civil Rights Commision   Sun Jan 02, 2011 10:14 am

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