Thursday, November 15, 2018

Has the use of registrants as a political weapon spiked this year?

The use of Predator Panic as political footballs is nothing new but it seems to be a lot more commonplace this year. If you watch any TV at all or even caught news online that you whitelisted on your Adblock, you likely saw quite a few political ads. Living in Ohio, I was bombarded with this ad:

THE AD: “Bad Deal,” a 30-second spot financed by the Democratic Attorneys General Association that targets Republican Ohio attorney general candidate Dave Yost about his record as Delaware County prosecutor, a post he held from 2003 to 2011.

WHERE TO SEE IT: The $1.2 million buy will run in markets across the state through the Nov. 6 election, a spokeswoman for the association said.

VIDEO: Full-color images of a little girl crying, then of a little boy, followed by muted shots of Yost and jail cells.

SCRIPT: “As a prosecutor, he failed to keep our kids safe. Now Dave Yost wants to be our attorney general. Time and again, Yost offered plea deals for child predators. A deal for a man indicted for raping a young girl. Released after just six months. A deal for a child pornographer. Released after 90 days. Now Dave Yost is running for attorney general. That’s a bad deal for Ohio families.”

ANALYSIS: In elections involving lawyers — especially those for judicial positions or offices that enforce the law — it’s common practice to dredge up old cases that candidates either prosecuted or defended. The point of the exercise, of course, is to find cases that make the candidate look as bad as possible.

But this wasn't limited to any one candidate or any one party. THIS AD was run in GA:

In the tight race for governor, supporters of Republican Brian Kemp launched a new television ad Friday targeting female voters on the issue of sexual assault.

The ad features a mother of two, identified only as Amy, who backs Kemp and blasts Abrams over her response, as a legislator, to proposed legislation dealing with human trafficking and sex offenders. Amy says she was a victim of sexual violence.

The 30-second spot is paid for by the Georgia Republican Party.

The plot

The ad opens with Amy telling viewers she’s known Kemp, a former state lawmaker and Georgia’s current secretary of state, for 10 years.

“He’s incredibly decent and honest — almost to a fault,” she says. “That’s why I’m so proud to support Brian.”

Amy then declares that Kemp’s Democratic opponent, former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, “should be ashamed of her false attacks.”

She assails Abrams for supporting legislation “letting sexual predators work near our schools” and opposing a bill “cracking down on human trafficking.”

“Abrams even voted against collecting DNA from registered sex offenders,” Amy says as Abrams’ picture appears. “Victims of sexual violence deserve better. I know because I am one.”

The context

Both candidates or their supporters have made claims suggesting that the other has been soft on criminals who prey on women. Both deny the other’s claims.

Abrams has repeatedly hammered Kemp for failing to revoke the state license of a massage therapist for sexual misconduct, something Kemp says he can’t even do.

The GOP’s new TV ad renews criticism of Abrams on votes on bills dealing with restrictions on where sex offenders can live and work, human trafficking and DNA testing of registered sex offenders. It targets her votes in 2008 on Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 908, her refusal in 2017 to vote on House Bill 341 and her opposition in 2007 to House Bill 314,

Let’s look deeper.

Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 908: House Bill 908 would have reinstated a range of restrictions that limited sex offenders from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of places where children congregate, including schools and churches. The other, Senate Bill 1, was originally proposed to prohibit registered sex offenders from photographing children. HB 908 was pushed by Republican lawmakers as an answer to a Georgia Supreme Court ruling in 2007 striking down broader restrictions that were hailed as the toughest in the nation. Some Democrats and civil liberties groups said the bill was too onerous. For instance, when school bus stop locations can change from year to year. These groups also expressed fear that the legislation could drive many sex offenders to desolate areas where few services are available.
The provisions of HB 908 were later tacked on to SB 1, which ultimately cleared both chambers and was signed into law by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue.

House Bill 341: State Rep. Bert Reeves, a Kemp backer, has said that Abrams “deliberately avoided taking a public position” on House Bill 341, a measure he sponsored in 2017 to crack down on sex trafficking. He said Abrams did not vote on the measure even though she was at the Capitol at the time of the vote. Reeves also said he had listened to Abrams’ guidance and “accommodated her requests” to try to ensure that the bill had bipartisan support. The measure allowed prosecutors to charge people soliciting a victim of sex trafficking with human trafficking violations. An Abrams spokeswoman responded at the time of Reeves’ press conference, saying the candidate opposed the bill because it limited the discretion of judges.

House Bill 314: Abrams was one of two House members who voted against this bill. Seven others were excused from voting. The bill requires a DNA analysis for anyone placed on probation from a felony conviction for crimes including rape, sodomy, child molestation and armed robbery.
Abigail L. Collazo, a spokeswoman for Abrams, said Friday in response to the new ad: “These tired and misleading attacks by Brian Kemp continue to show just how desperate he is to hide from his record of failing women — refusing to restore funding to a rape crisis center and renewing the license of a massage therapist who pleaded guilty to sexual assault.”

She said Abrams was recently given an award by Tabitha’s House, a testament to “her work supporting survivors of sex trafficking.”

“She is the only candidate for governor who voters can trust to take decisive action to keep our families and communities safe,” Collazo said.

These ar merely two examples. Male or female, Democrat or Republican, no one is immune. I know there are many more examples but I could be here all week just trying to list it.

The question now is-- can we do anything about it?

Educating the legislator is an ongoing project. This obviously includes candidates for state and federal legislators. (I personally find Attorneys General and Prosecutors to be lost causes. They're inherently evil.) If you are trying to follow legislation, following legislators (or potential legislators) is important for that task. If a candidate is running a negative ad weaponizing the registry, Of course, we can always attend campaign rallies and hopefully get to ask questions, so that would be a good time to put these pols on the spot.

I welcome more ideas on how to address this issue.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The use of registrant status as a weapon is something we don't discuss enough

If you are a registered citizen, you are highly likely to experience the use of the registry as a weapon against you at some point in your life. There are many ways we expect this to happen, such as vigilantes and legislators. It is a different story when the people who use the registry to attack you is a friend or family member. 

I'm a rather reclusive person, but I still have friends and at one time, a family. When my mother passed away in 2010, I lost my last real family. We had made amends for her abandoning me in a hotel room, leaving me to the foster system as a child, and so my mother and I had gotten close again. Her death was my first real experience with someone close to me dying, as I had lost connections long ago It was a rough time for me, and my ex-wife decided to leave me 2 days after the funeral. She then used the registry status as a way to cause me a great deal of emotional pain during a low point of my life. Her father worked for the town in which we lived so I began suffering harassment from local authorities as well as an online vigilante group. But I endured and moved on, never looking back. 

I have done well in those pas 8 years. I've always told people I have no living family all this time. The truth is, I simply had no connection to a family I never knew existed and never knew I existed. My mother tasked me before she died in 2010 to find her daughter up in Canada and gave me some info, but the info she gave me was not enough to find anyone, so over the years, I put that request on the backburner and turned my attention back to activism. 

But I have a living "half brother," a person I do not consider family. He's the type of person that thinks of me when he needs me to cosign to get his utilities turned on because I have stellar credit and he doesn't, or when he's getting a divorce and asks me what the Alabama divorce law reads about alimony. So in the 8 years since my mother passed away, I've maybe had 3 conversations with this guy. I don't consider him family at all. 

Well, out of the blue, I get a series of text messages. It seems someone on my mother's side of the family contacted him after finding records on one of those genealogy sites. (As an aside, it seems leaving me out of mother's obituary made it harder for folks to connect my name to hers, as intended.) So my alleged half-brother forwarded the info but then decided to start drama. I have enough drama in my personal life without adding whatever petty dispute he was having, so I told him I wasn't interested in hearing about his complaints. He was triggered and after a few choice words, he stopped texting. Good riddance, I thought. I reached out to those he sent info about. One of those people was a clown named Frank, and apparently, this alleged half-brother of mine informed him of my registry status, so my simple request to connect was met with insults about my registry status. (So much for Canadians being polite, BTW.) 

Well, I can take solace knowing that mother's request to connect with her lost family was eventually completed, albeit by someone else, but as far as i'm concerned, I still have no REAL family. You want to know who I consider my REAL family? My true allies in this movement. Y'all are my real family, because DNA alone isn't enough to make someone family.

But the point is that in both these instances, once by my ex-wife and once by this other person my mother gave birth to, but definitely not family, the registry was thrown up in my face as a way to attack me on a personal level and attempt to harm me. Of course, I tell this story not because it did anything more than to piss me off in the same way seeing Rick Scott win the FL Senate race did last night, but because it is yet another aspect of life on the list we are forced to endure. Hell, this has even happened to people I have tried to help in the past who were also registered persons, people like Clay Keys (T-Sand), that hippy guy from Oregon I tried to help, or Shaun Webb. I actually find it more reprehensible for someone on the list to use the registry as a weapon than for a victim cultist like Lauren Book or even a family member to abuse the label, since they should know better. 

I think this is one aspect of life on the list we haven't spent much time discussing. Perhaps you get into a family feud or argue with a friend, and the next thing you know, he's leading online protests against you or turning friends and family against you. We all handle it in our own way. I have a support network that blood ties certainly cannot provide, and that is good enough for me. But in our future discussions, we should bring this issue to light.