Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bush reappoints Peter Kirsanow to civil rights post - "What happened to the Civil Rights Commission?"

Yesterday, President Bush reappointed attorney Peter Kirsanow to the US Commission on Civil Rights.



This is tragic... But before I "go there", first some background...




The US Commission on Civil Rights was created in 1957 under President Eisenhower. It is a Federal investigative agency whose stated mission is:


  • To investigate complaints alleging that citizens are being deprived of their right to vote by reason of their race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin, or by reason of fraudulent practices.
  • To study and collect information relating to discrimination or a denial of equal protection of the laws under the Constitution because of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin, or in the administration of justice.
  • To appraise federal laws and policies with respect to discrimination or denial of equal protection of the laws because of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin, or in the administration of justice.
  • To serve as a national clearinghouse for information in respect to discrimination or denial of equal protection of the laws because of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin. To submit reports, findings, and recommendations to the President and Congress.
  • To issue public service announcements to discourage discrimination or denial of equal protection of the laws.
The US Civil Rights Commission was once a powerful agency that significantly influenced groundbreaking legislation. Its 1961 report was considered by the Congress and the Supreme Court as the intellectual and factual grounding for the provisions of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. Its hearings on the disenfranchisement of African Americans in southern precincts and parishes formed the basis of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1978 a Commission report challenging law enforcement agencies to recognize domestic violence as a crime put the issue on the national agenda. By the late 1980s Congress mandated the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration to focus on the “role of the criminal justice system in preventing and controlling violence and abusive behavior in the home.” Moreover, Congress relied on a 1983 Civil Rights Commission report on the challenges disabled persons faced in their daily lives in enacting the Americans with Disabilities Act.

However, despite its history and noble goals, the Commission has since been transformed into an extension of conservative policy making. In its current composition, it serves as little more than a rubber stamp, one which provides the necessary illusion of validation for conservative efforts to eliminate Civil Rights era and racially progressive policies and laws.

While it is intended to serve as a "fact-finding" agency, according to the data listed on their website, they investigated only two (2) complaints of racial employment discrimination between 2002 and 2005, both investigations took nearly a year, and neither was found for the complainants nor resulted in any action on the part of the commission. In fact, the data shows that there were actually 5 pending cases at the start of 2002 and additional cases that were filed with each succeeding year, yet by the end of the report only 3 had been processed (1 age related and 2 race related)

So given the extremely low levels of activity in the area of investigating discrimination, you may be wondering 'what exactly has the Commission on Civil Rights been doing these past few years?..'
  • They've investigated whether or not HBCU's are effective
  • They've presented a position paper urging the Legislature to vote against SB310 the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2007 which would have extended the rights of of self-governance and self-determination to Native Hawaiians in a manner parallel to that of American Indians and Alaska Natives.
  • They've issued a position paper stating that voting rights issues "have virtually disappeared" (tell that to the residents of Florida, Ohio, or New Orleans)
  • They've issued a report on school desegregation that lists as one of it recommendations that The Department of Justice should continue to provide guidance to assist small or moderately-sized school districts to qualify for and obtain unitary status (thereby releasing them from any court ordered deseg programs and dismantling Brown vs Board) Interestingly enough, their next recommendation was that "Social scientists, academics, and relevant government agencies should pursue underlying explanations for differences in measured desegregation among the states. By way of example, researchers might explore whether state differences arise from district autonomy; state law, policy, and guidance or federal processing of unitary status matters". (So the DOJ should help districts achieve unitary status, then afterwards, Social Scientists should study whether the levels of segregation in public education were the result of having done so)
  • and they've issued a position paper stating that Affirmative Action programs may be hurting minority law students by "setting them up for failure".
It is a tragic irony that the 8 member "civil rights commission" is now populated by 6 members who are ideological opposed to virtually all of the programs and policies that came out of the Civil Rights movement. While they each espouse the 'ideals' of the movement, ideals without action or implementation amount to nothing more than thoughts and words. These 'thoughts and words' are then liberally sprinkled throughout reports and recommendations that are in fact designed to eliminate the very policies and programs intended to bring about their realization.

Commissioners Melendez and Yaki jointly dissented the approval of the commission's position on affirmative action in Law programs and described the functioning of the commission as follows:


We respectfully, but vehemently, disagree with the findings, recommendations, and focus of this report issued by the Commission’s conservative majority and (misleadingly) entitled Affirmative Action in American Law Schools.

In a misguided attempt to regain influence in civil rights policy, the Commission majority, for the past two years, has ceased holding formal investigative hearings in favor of informal briefings. Their apparent goal is to influence decision making, free of the pesky quality control procedures and thorough background research that hearing reports require. Agency reports have focused on affirmative action programs and education, reactively advocating an end to all race-conscious policies.

Briefing reports like this one are typical, containing predetermined findings and recommendations that target a particular policy while turning a blind eye to scientific and legal evidence that contradict that policy. This report is a sterling example of the lack of serious scholarship that marks these new briefing reports.

No attempt was made by the Commission to assess the consensus positions of the scientific or legal community on these issues. No independent research was done by the Commission on these issues, nor did they perform a comprehensive review of others’ research. This report does not even fairly reflect the testimony of the informal briefing that is the only basis of this report—the statements of two of the four speakers appear to have been ignored in developing these findings and recommendations.

The agency’s process for drafting reports is fundamentally broken. In place of scholarship, the Commission has gamesmanship. In an unprecedented act, after having voted to publish this report with all dissenting and concurring opinions submitted by May 29, 2007, the Commission majority reopened the record on this report at its May 1, 2007 meeting. Upon motions by Commissioners Taylor and Heriot, the Commission majority postponed publishing this report for two months and allowed all Commissioners to resubmit new opinions. Why?

Commissioner Heriot, after first stating she had an unspecified ethics issue that she wanted a chance to look into and change her comments, tacitly admitted that she wanted a chance to add to her comments in response to our dissent. As with so many votes on our nominally bipartisan Commission, procedures were set aside on a 6-2 vote to allow the six Republican-appointed Commissioners an opportunity to write or rewrite their concurrences to attack our dissent. Such is the integrity and respect for basic procedures at work in generating the agency’s reports.

Now to the reappointment of Commissioner Kirsanow. I find the reappointment of Commissioner Kirsanow particularly troubling and revealing considering that he outwardly opposes affirmative action programs, supports voucher programs for public and private schools and believes that Ronald Reagan should be on Mount Rushmore. He also testified in support of the nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. In short, he is far from an advocate; he is a political ideologue.

Commissioner Kirsanow was chosen to serve as a federal Civil Rights watchdog, not because of his Civil Rights background or work in the field, in fact, quite the opposite is true. Kirsanow was a partner with the Cleveland, Ohio law firm of Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan, and Aronoff LLP which focused on representing Management in employment-related litigation. Placing Kirsanow on the Civil rights Commission is analogous to placing a tobacco lobbyist in the Office of the Surgeon General.

Put simply, Kirsanow was chosen, and now reappointed, specifically because he is a black face willing to give voice to anti-black/neo-negro policy. Not merit, not experience, and not opportunity; this is promotion based on ideology, and that's the only kind of affirmative action that gets a pass...

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