Justice Department To Sue Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio Over Civil Rights Abuses

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, with Cold Case Posse lead investigator Michael Zullo by his side.Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, with Cold Case Posse lead investigator Michael Zullo by his side.


RYAN J. REILLY  876 10

The Justice Department has given up on settling with Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaioand is planning to sue the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for systematic civil rights abuses of Hispanic residents, a DOJ official indicated in a terse letter to Arpaio’s lawyer on Wednesday.

“It is clear that DOJ’s concerted effort to attain voluntary compliance by your client has failed,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division wrote in a letter to Arpaio lawyer Joseph Popolizio obtained by TPM.

“It is also clear that we should not discuss anything else by telephone because you will not accurately portray those conversations,” Austin wrote. “At this point, it is best to let a court determine the appropriateness of appointing an independent monitor as well as imposing other relief in order to address MCSO’s constitutional and federal statutory violations.”

Arpaio’s office first came under federal scrutiny back in 2008, and DOJ announced in Decemberthat its probe found that Arpaio had “promoted a culture of bias” and that his officers had discriminated against Latinos. DOJ and Arpaio have been in contentious negotiations over the findings for months, but prospects now appear dim for a negotiated settlement.

Austin was writing Wednesday in response to a letter that Popolizio sent to DOJ earlier in the day. Popolizio’s missive “so obviously misstates the course of dealings between the parties that it is not worthy of a point by point refutation,” Austin wrote back. Popolizio’s letter has not been released publicly.

In opposing a federal monitor, Arpaio’s office has said that a monitor “essentially usurps the powers and duties of an elected Sheriff and transfers them to a person or group of persons selected by the federal government.”

DOJ has said that a federal monitor was a non-negotiable part of any agreement. Austin’s letter said the monitor was the first item that came up when the government summarized a proposed agreement to Arpaio’s team on Feb. 6.

“The Proposed Settlement Agreement that we presented to you is entirely consistent with the summary provided to you on February 6 and what you agreed to on February 6,” Austin wrote.

“The Agreement explicitly limits the power of the monitor to the terms of the Agreement; establishes that the monitor shall operate under the supervision and orders of a federal court; and includes specific language ensuring that the monitor will not replace the role and duties of the Sheriff,” he continued.

“Your characterization of the terms of our Agreement is inaccurate and clearly designed to mislead,” Austin wrote. “Considering that the word ‘monitor’ appears throughout the Agreement and you never gave us an opportunity to negotiate the exact language of the Agreement, it is silly for you to pretend that I or any other DOJ employee defined exactly what the duties of the monitor would have at the end of negotiations. Nothing of the kind was ever said and you know it.”

Outmigration: Only District 6 Retains Its Black Population

By Chris Roberts Wednesday, Mar 14 2012

San Francisco’s Boom 2.0 is in real estate as well as technology. While some of the condominium high-rises built in South of Market over the last decade remain half-full, new construction continues, and more residential skyscrapers are planned. This makes District 6 — which includes SOMA, South Beach and Mission Bay — the city’s most populous and most densely populated.

District 6 is also the city’s lone exception to a troubling sociological phenomenon. African-American residents continue to vacate San Francisco, with the city’s black population shrinking from 60,000 in 2000 to 48,000 in 2010, according to census figures — a decrease of 20 percent. But there’s no such exodus in District 6, where 15 percent of the city’s overall black population now lives, up from 10 percent in 2000. And that figure grows if you include residents who identify as black and another race.

Fred Noland

But that doesn’t mean these newcomers are moving on up next to Joe Montana and Willie Brown in SOMA high-rises: Many are instead moving into SROs in the Tenderloin and along the Sixth Street corridor. The city’s Skid Row — and Treasure Island in the bay, also counted as District 6 — houses 5,421 of the district’s 7,500 black people. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a Philadelphia lawyer to figure out why,” says Rev. Amos Brown, the pastor of Third Street Baptist Church and president of the local chapter of the NAACP.

“I don’t think it’s by choice,” said organizer Macio Lyons, who sits on the city’s Osiris Coalition, a council of black leaders. “They’re getting in where they can get in.” According to a pair of reports on this issue, the African-Americans moving to the Tenderloin are either poor, just out of jail, or without the support of family or community structures. The unemployment rate for black San Franciscans is double that of non-blacks even in boom years, which is partially why the median income for blacks is about half that of whites.

A staggering 14 percent of black men have been arrested for a felony; with the black middle class long since fled to Vallejo or Antioch, the families who stay often take public or subsidized housing, which isn’t open to people with a criminal record. That leaves the TL, with its cheap or city-subsidized rooms operated by nonprofits or slumlords.

What stings the most is that this is nothing new: One of the reports, on economic disparity, was published in 1993; the other, dealing with the crisis of outmigration, was released in 2009. Both identified jobs and education as key issues.

To its credit, Mayor Ed Lee’s administration addressed jobs in the Tenderloin with one of his very first moves in office, but economic benefits from the much-ballyhooed Twitter tax break have yet to trickle down to black residents, who “are not tied into the economic pipeline of this city,” said Sharen Hewitt, a longtime organizer and activist for Visitacion Valley’s notorious Sunnydale housing projects, who sat on the task force that created the outmigration report.

If the city’s current leadership can figure it out, it will have solved a problem that dates to the 1960s. And if it can’t? “The endgame,” Hewitt said, “is total removal,” for which the TL and District 6 are merely a way station.

Voter registration policy may depress minority participation in electoral politics

An article released by Social Forces indicates that voter identification requirements have a substantially negative impact on the voting of all groups except for Asians. Particularly strong negative effects are seen for Blacks and Hispanics: a decrease in voting by 18 percent and 22 percent respectively. Even Whites show dampened turnout associated with voter ID policies. Yet for Asians, strikingly, voter ID has the opposite effect, boosting turnout by nearly 30 percent. This is an intriguing instance in which Asian participation patterns markedly differ from that of other groups.

The authors of the article, Brown University Professor of Sociology, John R. Logan, Jennifer Darrah and Sookhee Oh, use  data in federal election years from 1996 through 2004 for this study to examine voter registration and voting. It shows that racial/ in socio-economic resources and rootedness in the community do not explain overall group differences in electoral participation. It contradicts the expectation from an assimilation perspective that low levels of Latino participation are partly attributable to the large share of immigrants among . In fact net differences show higher average Latino participation than previously reported. This research was sponsored by the Russell Sage Foundation.

The authors have shown that all else equal, Blacks register and vote at higher rates than Whites. Among the largely  with lower levels of participation, Latinos register and vote at higher rates than . Unexpectedly, though, they showed that these group differences are conditional on nativity, because among immigrants Latinos participate more than either Whites or Asians and almost as much as Blacks. The study indicates that, “Although there has been speculation that the high share of immigrants in the voting-eligible Latino and Asian populations could help to explain their lower political participation, the impact of nativity is not uniform across groups and does not account for the differences between groups in participation . . . Race, Hispanic origin and immigration status apparently combine to produce distinctive collective influences on people’s understanding of the political system and their engagement in it.” Their results confirm that Latino and White participation were boosted, but only for registration and surprisingly with the opposite effect on voting. Minority political representation (our measure of co-ethnic public officials in the metropolitan region) is a related factor, and they found strong positive effects for Blacks along with some evidence that there may be an effect also for Latinos. Although the direction of causality in this finding is not certain and the Asian results run in the opposite direction, these findings should encourage further efforts to bring measures of group-based organizational activity into analysis of individual political behavior.

Waffle House Executive Pushes Georgia Anti-Picketing Law That Would Put Founding Fathers in Jail

by: Zaid Jilani, Republic Report | Report
To many in the South, Waffle House is a family-friendly restaurant that serves up some of the best grits and hashbrowns around. But behind that iconic sunny yellow sign is a corporate agenda aimed at stripping Americans of their rights.

State Senator Don Balfour of Snellville, Georgia — a Waffle House vice president who serves on the board of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce — is pushing a bill in his state’s legislature that would effectively outlaw picketing outside of private homes. Although the bill is aimed at suppressing union protests at the “private residences” of business executives, its scope is actually much further reaching.

The bill is written to make it illegal for picketers to take part in actions that would be “interfering with the resident’s right to quiet enjoyment.” But historically, one group of activists took part in protests aimed at private residences intended exactly to disrupt the peace to make their point: the Founding Fathers.

Prior to the Revolutionary War, Sam Adams and other Founding Fathers formed a group called the Sons of Liberty to protest the Stamp Act and similar oppressive legislation. The Sons of Liberty regularly protested outside of the homes of British colonial officials, including the homes of tax collectors. If Balfour and Georgia’s Big Business titans have their way, these protests would be illegal, and Adams and many of the other Founding Fathers would’ve been arrested.

Think about that next time you dig into those delicious Waffle House waffles.

Number of US Hate Groups Is Rising, Report Says

by: Kim Severson, The New York Times News Service | Report
Atlanta – Fed by antagonism toward President Obama, resentment toward changing racial demographics and the economic rift between rich and poor, the number of so-called hate groups and antigovernment organizations in the nation has continued to grow, according to a report released Wednesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The center, which has kept track of such groups for 30 years, recorded 1,018 hate groups operating last year.

The number of groups whose ideology is organized against specific racial, religious, sexual or other characteristics has risen steadily since 2000, when 602 were identified, the center said. Antigay groups, for example, have risen to 27 from 17 in 2010.

The report also described a “stunning” rise in the number of groups it identifies as part of the so-called patriot and militia movements, whose ideologies include deep distrust of the federal government.

In 2011, the center tracked 1,274 of those groups, up from 824 the year before.

“They represent both a kind of right-wing populist rage and a left-wing populist rage that has gotten all mixed up in anger toward the government,” said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center and the author of the report.

The center, based in Montgomery, Ala., records only groups that are active, meaning that the groups are registering members, passing out fliers, protesting or showing other signs of activity beyond maintaining a Web site.

The Occupy movement is not on the list because its participants as a collective do not meet the center’s criteria for an extremist group, he said.

Black Students Face More Discipline, Data Suggests

Published: March 6, 2012

Black students, especially boys, face much harsher discipline in public schools than other students, according to new data from the Department of Education.

Although black students made up only 18 percent of those enrolled in the schools sampled, they accounted for 35 percent of those suspended once, 46 percent of those suspended more than once and 39 percent of all expulsions, according to the Civil Rights Data Collection’s 2009-10 statistics from 72,000 schools in 7,000 districts, serving about 85 percent of the nation’s students. The data covered students from kindergarten age through high school.

One in five black boys and more than one in 10 black girls received an out-of-school suspension. Over all, black students were three and a half times as likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers.

And in districts that reported expulsions under zero-tolerance policies, Hispanic and black students represent 45 percent of the student body, but 56 percent of those expelled under such policies.

“Education is the civil rights of our generation,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in a telephone briefing with reporters on Monday. “The undeniable truth is that the everyday education experience for too many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise.”

The department began gathering data on civil rights and education in 1968, but the project was suspended by the Bush administration in 2006. It has been reinstated and expanded to examine a broader range of information, including, for the first time, referrals to law enforcement, an area of increasing concern to civil rights advocates who see the emergence of a school-to-prison pipeline for a growing number of students of color.

According to the schools’ reports, over 70 percent of the students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement were Hispanic or black.

Soldiers Are Said to Face Punishment in Koran Burnings

By  and  Published: March 2, 2012

KABUL, Afghanistan — Five American service members and an Afghan-American linguist may face disciplinary action in the burning of Korans at a NATO base, an event a week ago that plunged Afghanistan into days of violent protests, according to the preliminary conclusions of a joint military investigation.

“All six will be referred to the proper U.S. authorities for further action,” said an official familiar with the joint Afghan-American investigation intothe Koran burnings, who was not authorized to speak about it publicly.

Significantly, the five service members include military “leaders,” according to the report. While it was unclear whether that meant any senior officers would be held to account, it was taken as a sign here that the investigation was focusing more on decision-making along the chain of command rather than simply focusing on soldiers who may have been carrying out orders with little understanding of their potential impact.

The preeminent religious authority in Afghanistan, the Ulema Council, said Friday that those responsible for the burning of the Korans and other religious texts should be put on trial and punished. And it called for the American-led coalition to respond by handing over all Afghan prisoners in its custody and ceding control of its prisons.

The Ulema Council, which is made up of scholarly mullahs, made its recommendations following its own investigation into the Koran burning incident last week in a statement released through President Hamid Karzai’s office late on Friday evening.

The burning of the Korans and other religious texts, seized from Afghan prisoners at an American-run detention center, triggered days of deadly protests. At least 29 Afghans have been killed in the violence, and the outpouring of popular fury coincided with the shooting deaths of six American soldiers.

Gen. John R. Allen, the NATO commanding general in Afghanistan, and President Obama both apologized in the wake of the demonstrations.

New Romney Plan Lowers Taxes Further On Rich, Raises On Poor (CHART)

Mitt Romney




When Mitt Romney unveiled his revised tax and debt plan last week, his camp sold it as a bid to preserve fairness to the middle class.

He proposed an across the board 20 percent cut to everybody’s current rates, and to make up the lost revenue by limiting deductions, credits and other tax benefits for wealthy Americans. But he declined to specify exactly how he’d broaden the tax base. And a new analysis by the Tax Policy Center shows that without those details, his proposed cuts would actually be more regressive than his first plan.

Compared to the original proposal, the new one — or at least the pieces of it Romney’s specified — would actually lower taxes further on the wealthy, while slightly raising them on the poor. If Romney does ultimately specify which popular tax benefits he plans to eliminate, it’ll have to be a long list. According to TPC, “in the absence of such base broadening…the Romney plan would lower federal tax liability by about $900 billion in calendar year 2015 compared with current law, roughly a 24 percent cut in total projected revenue. Relative to a current policy baseline, the reduction in liability would be about $480 billion in calendar year 2015.”

Here it is in chart form:

Israel raids West Bank TV stations

Israeli troops have raided two Palestinian television stations in the West Bank, seizing transmitters and other equipment. The Palestinian PM denounced the operation, calling it “an oppressive and monstrous” move which violates “all international laws.”

Thirty Israeli soldiers took part in Wednesday’s pre-dawn raid which targeted the privately-owned al-Watan TV outlet. The Israeli military accused the broadcaster of interfering with legal broadcasters and aircraft communications, AP reports.

The operation also targeted Jerusalem Educational TV, which is owned by the Palestinian Al Quds University.  No reason was given for the second raid.

Both stations are based in Ramallah, the de facto administrative capital of the Palestinian Authority.

Visiting al-Watan later in the day, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said the operation was nothing short of “an attack against what is left of the Palestinian Authority’s status in the West Bank.”

His comments apparently refer to Israel’s tightening grip over the territories’ overall security.

Fayyad further called on international Mideast mediators to make Israel stop initiating such raids.

A Palestinian NGO director and legislator Mustafa Barghouti believes the raid was connected with the station’s regular reports on Palestinian demonstrations against Israeli actions in the West Bank.

“This is an act of repression of the freedom of the media in Palestine, and of repression of the popular resistance that we believe in,” Barghouti said.

Did the NYPD’s Spying on Muslims Violate the Law?

Did the NYPD’s Spying on Muslims Violate the Law?


by Justin Elliott ProPublica

Last August, the Associated Press launched a series detailing how the New York Police Department has extensively investigated Muslims in New York and other states, including preparing reports on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses, apparently without any suspicion of crimes being committed.

The propriety and legality of the NYPD’s activities is under dispute. Mayor Michael Bloomberg – who claimed last year that the NYPD does not focus on religion and only follows threats or leads – is now arguing that, as he said last week, “Everything the NYPD has done is legal, it is appropriate, it is constitutional.” Others disagree. In fact, Bloomberg himself signed a law in 2004 prohibiting profiling by law enforcement based on religion.

This week, Attorney General Eric Holder told a congressional committee the Justice Department is reviewing whether to investigate potential civil rights violations by the NYPD.

To get a better understanding of the rules governing the NYPD – and whether the department has followed them in its surveillance of Muslims – we spoke to Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center at NYU Law School.

The NYPD did not respond to our request for comment about allegations it has violated the law.

So Mayor Bloomberg and police commissioner Ray Kelly say everything that the NYPD did was legal and constitutional. Other people have disagreed – Newark Mayor Cory Booker, for example, said the wholesale surveillance of a community without suspicion of a crime “clearly crosses a line.” What restrictions is the NYPD operating under?

They are operating under at least three sets of rules. The first and most basic set of rules is the consent decree from the Handschu case – the so-called Handschu guidelines. This was a 1970s-era political surveillance case that was settled through a consent decree. The NYPD had been conducting surveillance of a number of political groups in the 60s and 70s. The initial consent decree regulated the NYPD’s collection of intelligence about political activity. It first said the NYPD can only collect intelligence about political activity if it follows certain rules. For example, the NYPD had to get clearance from something called the Handschu authority, which was a three-member board that consisted of two high-level police officials and one civilian appointed by the mayor.

Then, post-9/11 the NYPD went to court and asked a judge to review the consent decree because they wanted to have greater freedom in their counter-terrorism operations. What they wound up doing was adopting guidelines based on the FBI’s guidelines from 2003, issued by Attorney General John Ashcroft. These were different in several important ways. The first was that there was no pre-clearance, at all. There was no requirement that the NYPD get approval from the Handschu authority before they undertook any intel gathering about political activity. The second was that the guidelines explicitly say the NYPD can attend any public event or gathering on the same basis as another member of the public. So if I can go to a church, the NYPD can go to a church. But it goes on to say that the NYPD can’t retain the information it gathers from going to such public events unless it is connected to suspected criminal or terrorist activity.

So if you look at, say, the NYPD’s guide to Newark’s Muslim community obtained and published by the AP – which maps out mosques and Muslim-owned businesses without mentioning and suspicions of crimes – aren’t the police retaining exactly this kind of information?

There are a couple of documents that suggest they may have violated Handschu. For example, the [2006 NYPD report] on the Danish cartoon controversy, which is a collection of statements in mosques and other places that have been taken down by undercover officers or confidential informants.

What are the other rules the NYPD operates under?

The second set is that the NYPD has a profiling order in place, and New York City also has a racial profiling law. They are slightly different. The NYPD order [issued in 2002] does not include religion among the categories that they define as profiling. But the New York City lawdoes. It prohibits police officers from relying on race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin as a determinative factor in initiating law enforcement action. Normally you have quite a difficult time in racial profiling cases showing they’ve used one of these factors as the determinative factor. In this case, if you look at the documents, it seems quite clear that the NYPD had its eyes quite firmly on the Muslim community. So it’s possible it is also in violation of this law.

The third set of rules is, of course, the U.S. and the New York state constitutions. Within the Constitution you’re looking at least two broad categories of provisions – potential First Amendment claims for free speech, freedom of association, and free exercise of religion. The other piece of it would be potential equal protection claims.

There was another AP story this week reporting that a bunch of federal grant money and equipment used as part of surveillance and investigation of the Muslim community. Does that muddy the legal questions about whether they were following federal rules as well?

The federal program that was giving them money is the HIDTA program – High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. It’s geared toward providing funds to combat drug trafficking. HIDTA itself does allow for counter-terrorism spending to be an incidental purpose. It requires the HIDTA Executive Board to basically make sure that funds were being used for the purposes that they were supposed to be used for. So I think there’s a real issue about accountability and oversight of the use of HIDTA funds here.

So if the NYPD did potentially violate the Handschu guidelines and city law you mentioned, what are the penalties?

Well the Handschu lawyers already went to court last year and told the judge that the documents that had been released by the AP suggested that there had been violations of the Handschu decree. They asked for discovery so they could check the files of the NYPD to see whether they had violated the prohibition on keeping dossiers. I believe that that discovery will likely be starting soon. So there’s clearly a remedy through the Handschu mechanism. Because it’s a consent decree, it’s an ongoing thing. The judge has supervisory jurisdiction. There are also issues under the racial profiling law and under the First Amendment.

We’ve also turned to the question of oversight. The FBI, for all its faults, does have a fair amount of oversight – an inspector general internally and congressional oversight. We think a similar thing would be a great idea for the NYPD.