Yesterday was a good day, at least for me and a few of the people I love. My daughter is feeling better from her staph infection, my friend out in the cornfields of Iowa got a new job with the Secretary of State’s office, my son is kicking the hell out of a football and this little chocolate puff I have waited months for is finally growing up.
Let’s get to this morning’s reads, here are the latest headlines…I won’t bother to quote from them for you because honestly it is the same old shit, ah…stuff.
I secretly hope they name this kid Geoffrey, but my money is on James or George: Kate Middleton, Prince William emerge with royal baby: ‘We’re still working on a name’ – NY Daily News
Hey, talk about same old shit…only the country changes: General outlines options for U.S. intervention in Syria – CBS News
Meanwhile another rig in the Gulf of Mexico blew up yesterday: Gulf of Mexico natural gas rig blew while completing ‘sidetrack well’ | NOLA.com
And, in Milwaukee, a jury has brought a guilty verdict in another unarmed black teen murder trial: John Henry Spooner gets life sentence in death of black teen | theGrio
A 76-year-old Milwaukee man who fatally shot his unarmed teenage neighbor was sentenced to life in prison Monday, days after telling the court he killed the boy for justice because he believed he stole his shotguns.
John Henry Spooner’s home had been burglarized two days before the May 2012 shooting, and he suspected 13-year-old Darius Simmons as the thief. So he confronted the teen, demanded that he return the guns and then shot him in the chest in front of his mother when he denied stealing anything.
Spooner’s own home surveillance cameras captured the shooting, and prosecutors aired the footage in court.
A jury found Spooner guilty of first-degree intentional homicide last week, a conviction carrying a mandatory life sentence. The judge could have allowed for the possibility of parole after 20 years, but rejected that option, citing Spooner’s lack of remorse and desire to also kill the teen’s brother.
Okay, so I had to quote a bit of that story…
I’ve got another link from the Grio, this makes a lot of sense to me: Why breast cancer kills more black women: They’re sicker | theGrio
And while you read that article, think about the affect all the defunded Planned Parenthood clinics that are closing will have on those statistical averages of fatal cancer rates in black women. Damn, it makes me so mad.
Shakesville blog has a post up about the SCOTUS Voting Rights Act decision, and how North Carolina is making the most out of it: Cool Democracy We’ve Got
The Supreme Court’s garbage voting rights decision last month paved the way for this shit: “North Carolina on Cusp of Passing Worst Voter Suppression Bill in the Nation.” Among the new requirements being proposed to access voting:
Implementing a strict voter ID requirement that bars citizens who don’t have a proper photo ID from casting a ballot.
Eliminating same-day voter registration, which allowed residents to register at the polls.
Cutting early voting by a full week.
Increasing the influence of money in elections by raising the maximum campaign contribution to $5,000 and increasing the limit every two years.
Making it easier for voter suppression groups like True The Vote to challenge any voter who they think may be ineligible by requiring that challengers simply be registered in the same county, rather than precinct, of those they challenge.
Vastly increasing the number of “poll observers” and increasing what they’re permitted to do. In 2012, ThinkProgress caught the Romney campaign training such poll observers using highly misleading information.
Only permitting citizens to vote in their specific precinct, rather than casting a ballot in any nearby ward or election district. This can lead to widespread confusion, particularly in urban areas where many precincts can often be housed in the same building.
Barring young adults from pre-registering as 16- and 17-year-olds, which is permitted by current law, and repealing a state directive that high schools conduct voter registration drives in order to boost turnout among young voters.
Prohibiting some types of paid voter registration drives, which tend to register poor and minority citizens.
Dismantling three state public financing programs, including the landmark program that funded judicial elections.
Weakening disclosure requirements for outside spending groups.
Preventing counties from extending polling hours in the event of long lines or other extraordinary circumstances and making it more difficult for them to accommodate elderly or disabled voters with satellite polling sites at nursing homes, for instance.
Go to the link to read more of what Melissa thinks about this crap… you can probably already surmise what her conclusion to the post said.
Ross Douchehat published a biggie yesterday, I have two links that tackle his latest opinion piece on abortion:
In the New York Times this week there was a very interesting article about generations climbing up the income ladder: In Climbing Income Ladder, Location Matters
A study finds the odds of rising to another income level are notably low in certain cities, like Atlanta and Charlotte, and much higher in New York and Boston.
The study — based on millions of anonymous earnings records and being released this week by a team of top academic economists — is the first with enough data to compare upward mobility across metropolitan areas. These comparisons provide some of the most powerful evidence so far about the factors that seem to drive people’s chances of rising beyond the station of their birth, including education, family structure and the economic layout of metropolitan areas.
Climbing the income ladder occurs less often in the Southeast and industrial Midwest, the data shows, with the odds notably low in Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Raleigh, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus. By contrast, some of the highest rates occur in the Northeast, Great Plains and West, including in New York, Boston, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and large swaths of California and Minnesota.
“Where you grow up matters,” said Nathaniel Hendren, a Harvard economist and one of the study’s authors. “There is tremendous variation across the U.S. in the extent to which kids can rise out of poverty.”
That variation does not stem simply from the fact that some areas have higher average incomes: upward mobility rates, Mr. Hendren added, often differ sharply in areas where average income is similar, like Atlanta and Seattle.
The gaps can be stark. On average, fairly poor children in Seattle — those who grew up in the 25th percentile of the national income distribution — do as well financially when they grow up as middle-class children — those who grew up at the 50th percentile — from Atlanta.
Geography mattered much less for well-off children than for middle-class and poor children, according to the results. In an economic echo of Tolstoy’s line about happy families being alike, the chances that affluent children grow up to be affluent are broadly similar across metropolitan areas.
There are interactive maps and other goodies at that link, please be sure to check it out. One phrase that is used a lot in the article is “income mobility”
…earlier studies have already found that education and family structure have a large effect on the chances that children escape poverty. Other researchers, including the political scientist Robert D. Putnam, author of “Bowling Alone,” have previously argued that social connections play an important role in a community’s success. Income mobility has become one of the hottest topics in economics, as both liberals and conservatives have grown worried about diminished opportunities following more than a decade of disappointing economic growth. After years of focusing more on inequality at a moment in time, economists have more recently turned their attention to people’s paths over their lifetimes.
I will leave any commentary on this article to Dr. Dak.
Since I’ve got a link here from the New York Times, you will find this next read intriguing: New York Times Quotes 3.4 Men for Every Woman | The Jane Dough
When the New York Times broke the absolutely shocking news on Sunday that many college-aged women like to have sex, some ladies called for an end to “women’s stories” that do nothing but foster “worry” about women in society. However, before completely dismissing this genre of journalism, we need to realize that these “women’s stories” are some of the only stories where women are actually being quoted and being heard.
In January and February of this year, University of Nevada Las Vegas students Alexi Layton and Rochelle Richards, under the guidance of their professor Alicia Shepard, scoured the 325 front-page stories published in the New York Times and found that the paper quoted male sources 3.4 times more frequently than female ones. Even in areas that are perceived to be more female-dominated — style, arts, education, health, etc. — male sources vastly outnumbered female ones.
Perhaps this phenomenon shouldn’t be surprising since men continue to dominate newsrooms and the Times is no exception. Of the 325 stories published on the front page, 214 were written by men (65.8 percent); their stories mentioned four times as many male sources as female sources. Female reporters perpetuated the bias as well; of the 96 stories written by women, men were quoted twice as frequently as women. So, as Amanda Hess at Slate pointed out, “hiring more female reporters could help lift the Times’ sourcing ratio from terrible to just bad.”
Yup, more at the Jane Dough link…go read it.
Hey, down here in Georgia a Democrat has announce she is running for Saxby’s seat:
Gee, I can only hope she has a chance…but I know how strong the redneck vote is, I mean how strong the red GOP vote is within the state.
Now for a few links that are more along the lines of special interest, or just plain non-newsy reads to start your day off right.
In the Appalachian foothills of western North Carolina, archaeologists have discovered remains of a 16th century fort, the earliest one built by Europeans deep in the interior of what is now the United States. The fort is a reminder of a neglected period in colonial history, when Spain’s expansive ambitions ran high and wide, as yet unmatched by England.
If the Spanish had succeeded, Robin A. Beck Jr., a University of Michigan archaeologist on the discovery team, suggested, “Everything south of the Mason-Dixon line might have become part of Latin America.” But they failed.
Researchers had known from Spanish documents about the two expeditions led by Juan Pardo from the Atlantic coast from 1566 to 1568. A vast interior seemed open for the taking. This was almost 20 years before the failure of the English at Sir Walter Raleigh’s “lost colony” near the North Carolina coast or their later successes in Virginia at Jamestown in 1607 and at Plymouth Rock in 1620 — the “beginnings” emphasized in the standard colonial history taught in American schools.
One of Pardo’s first acts of possession, in early 1567, was building Fort San Juan in an Indian town almost 300 miles in the interior, near what is known today as the Great Smoky Mountains. It was the first and largest of six forts the expedition erected on a trail blazed through North and South Carolina and across the mountains into eastern Tennessee. At times Pardo was following in the footsteps of Hernando de Soto in the 1540s.
Pardo was ordered to establish a road to the silver mines in Mexico…without maps or a true understanding of the New World’s geography, the belief at the time was that the Appalachians where the same mountain range that ran through central Mexico.
After years of searching, archaeologists led by Dr. Beck, Christopher B. Rodning of Tulane University in New Orleans and David G. Moore of Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C., came upon what they described in interviews as clear evidence of the fort’s defensive moat and other telling remains of Fort San Juan. The discovery in late June was made five miles north of Morganton, N.C., at a site long assumed to be the location of an Indian settlement known as Joara, where military artifacts and burned remains of Spanish-built huts were also found.
While excavating a ceremonial Indian mound at the site, the archaeologists encountered different colored soil beneath the surface. Part of the fort’s defensive moat had been cut through the southern side of the mound. Dr. Beck said that further excavations and magnetometer subsurface readings showed that the moat appeared to extend more than 70 to 100 feet and measured nearly 12 feet wide and 6 feet deep, in a configuration “typical of European moats going back to the Romans.”
In the area north of Banjoville, up into North Carolina they have found Spanish conquistador artifacts along the rivers, like helmets and various swords and axes and other weapons that have been dated back to de Soto. Also, some of the Indian tribes mention the Spanish visitors in their stories. Furthermore, many of the Spaniards settled in the area with the Cherokee Indians as well. There’s some interesting history in these mountains, that’s for dang sure!
This next link is to a picture gallery: Broken dreams: Walker Evans’s 1930s Americana
New York molls, Negro churches and the barbershop home of Perfecto Hair Restorer … this enchanting series of photographs shows us 1930s America through the eyes of photographer Walker Evans as he travelled from Alabama to New York City, documenting life during the Great Depression. His images earned him the first solo exhibition ever to be held at MoMA in New York. Now, 75 years later, they’re back on public view, in Walker Evans American Photographs, which runs until 26 January 2014
42nd Street, New York, 1929
And finally, what would all this history stuff be without a bit of Medieval nuggets thrown in?
The March in the Islands of the Medieval West, Brill Academic Publishers, November 16 (2012)
The Scandinavian migrations of the early Viking Age imprinted in European minds anenduring image of vikings as marauding heathens. As descendants of these ‘salt water bandits’ settled into their new homes, they adopted traits from their host cultures. One such trait was the adoption of Christianity. This was perhaps the biggest change whichaffected vikings in a colonial situation as it entailed a new system of belief and way of understanding the world. Vikings in Ireland have often portrayed as late converts, with christian ideas only taking hold over a century after vikings settled in the island. Nevertheless in this paper I seek to argue that vikings of Dublin began to adopt christianity at an early stage, although the process of conversion was protracted and possibly uneven across social ranks. The stereotype of Hiberno-Scandinavians as staunch heathens may need revision.
Ninth-century literature from Ireland expresses fear of vikings as slave-raiders and heathens. It was not however until the eleventh century that vikings ‘burst onto the Irish literary stage’ by which time (as Máire Ní Mhaonaigh has demonstrated) astereotype of heathen, plundering vikings had evolved which did not always reflectcontemporary realities. It is in accounts from the eleventh century and later that we get colourful descriptions of heathen activity linked with ninth-century vikings, for example the satirical account of the ‘druid’ Ormr who is hit by a stone and foretells his imminent death, or Auða, the wife of the viking leader Þórgísl, who was said to issue prophecies while seated on the altar at Clonmacnoise. These accounts were on the one hand meant to be entertaining, but on the other they were intended as negative publicity for contemporary viking groups which helped to justify their subjection to Irish kings.
To read the paper in full click the link here: The March in the Islands of the Medieval West
On the subject of Moons: The Night the Moon exploded and other Lunar tales from the Middle Ages
When writing about the events of the the year 1178 in his Chronicle, Gervase of Canterbury interrupts his account of kings and wars to relate a very unusual occurrence in the night sky:
This year on the 18th of June, when the Moon, a slim crescent, first became visible, a marvellous phenomenon was seen by several men who were watching it. Suddenly, the upper horn of the crescent was split in two. From the mid point of the division, a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out over a considerable distance fire, hot coals and sparks. The body of the Moon which was below, writhed like a wounded snake. This happened a dozen times or more, and when the Moon returned to normal, the whole crescent took on a blackish appearance.
This account has puzzled modern astronomers – some suggest that the monks saw an asteroid crashing into the moon, while others believe that it was a meteorite that had entered the Earth’s atmosphere at just the right spot – between the monks and the moon – making the observers believe that what they saw was happening on the moon.
For the monks who saw this phenomenon this event would be very worrying indeed. For medieval people the moon was an ever-present, fascinating and mysterious object. The moon not only brought light to the night sky, but it also marked the passage of time and could determine the personality of man or woman.
That particular blog post is full of cool things and drawings go read it because you will be amazed at some of the advanced discoveries during a time known as the “dark ages.”
Ooof, this post turned out longer than I had planned. Hope you have a great day, stay cool and please let us know what you are reading and thinking about this morning.
What a week!
As you can imagine the cartoonist have been busy…so with sooooo many cartoons this week, I have to break them up into two posts. This first one will focus on the decisions rendered from the Supreme Court, primarily dealing with the Voting Rights Act and DOMA. They are in no particular order, and some are better than others, but I think y’all are going to get a kick out of them.
Let’s get the party started!
God’s really going out of his way to mess with opponents of same-sex marriage.
Photo via @MarkZinni
(Actually, I would have drawn that with two elephants.)
This next cartoon is the most sinister but it is depicting the real situation down South, at least in my opinion…
Just look at those dark faces in the windows…
This is an open thread!
This is going to be a quickie post, because I’m feeling kind of sick this morning.
Although I’m thrilled with the DOMA decision yesterday, I still can’t get past my anger and sadness about the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act. So I’m just going to post the (above) “official 2013 photo” of the U.S. Supreme Court and some accompanying links that demonstrate the damage the Court has done in its horrendous decision on the Voting Rights Act.
I’ll begin with this excellent post by Linda Greenhouse at The New York Times: Current Conditions, which neatly summarizes the Court’s “conservative” wing’s blatant “judicial activism,” to quote a frequent charge of conservatives against “liberal” judges.
These have been a remarkable three days, as the Supreme Court finished its term by delivering the only four decisions that most people were waiting for. The 5-to-4 decisions striking down the coverage formula of the Voting Rights Act and the Defense of Marriage Act will go far toward defining the Roberts court, which has concluded its eighth year. Monday’s place-holding ruling on affirmative action in higher education, although it decided very little, is also definitional, for reasons I’ll explain. There is a great deal to say about each decision, and about how each reflects on the court. My thoughts are preliminary, informed by that phrase in the chief justice’s voting rights opinion: current conditions.
By this phrase, the chief justice meant to suggest that there is a doctrinal basis for drawing a boundary around Congressional authority, for judicial insistence that a burden that Congress chooses to impose on the states has to be justified as a cure for a current problem. In the context of voting rights, an area over which the 15th Amendment gives Congress specific authority, this is a deeply problematic position that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion demolishes.
Please go read the whole column–it’s difficult to get Greenhouse’s thesis into an excerpt. The blatant hypocrisy of the “conservative” justices–especially Scalia is mind-boggling, especially when the stunning effects of the Voting Rights decision on “current conditions” are already obvious and dramatic–just as were the disastrous effect of the Citizens United decision. A few examples.
Officials in Texas said they would rush ahead with a controversial voter ID law that critics say will make it more difficult for ethnic minority citizens to vote, hours after the US supreme court released them from anti-discrimination constraints that have been in place for almost half a century.
The Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott, declared that in the light of the supreme court’s judgment striking down a key element of the 1965 Voting Rights Act he was implementing instantly the voter ID law that had previously blocked by the Obama administration. “With today’s decision, the state’s voter ID law will take effect immediately. Photo identification will now be required when voting in elections in Texas.”
Greensboro News and Record: NC senator: Voter ID bill moving ahead with ruling
Voter identification legislation in North Carolina will pick up steam again now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, a key General Assembly leader said Tuesday.
A bill requiring voters to present one of several forms of state-issued photo ID starting in 2016 cleared the House two months ago, but it’s been sitting since in the Senate Rules Committee to wait for a ruling by the justices in an Alabama case, according to Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, the committee chairman. He said a bill will now be rolled out in the Senate next week.
The ruling essentially means a voter ID or other election legislation approved in this year’s session probably won’t have to receive advance approval by U.S. Justice Department attorneys or a federal court before such measures can be carried out.
Northwest Ohio.com: Voter ID and restricted early voting likely after SCOTUS ruling
ATLANTA (AP) — Across the South, Republicans are working to take advantage of a new political landscape after a divided U.S. Supreme Court freed all or part of 15 states, many of them in the old Confederacy, from having to ask Washington’s permission before changing election procedures in jurisdictions with histories of discrimination.
After the high court announced its momentous ruling Tuesday, officials in Texas and Mississippi pledged to immediately implement laws requiring voters to show photo identification before getting a ballot. North Carolina Republicans promised they would quickly try to adopt a similar law. Florida now appears free to set its early voting hours however Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP Legislature please. And Georgia’s most populous county likely will use county commission districts that Republican state legislators drew over the objections of local Democrats.
MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision clears the way for Alabama’s new photo voter ID law to be used in the 2014 elections without the need for federal preclearance, state officials said.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange and Secretary of State Beth Chapman said they believed the voting requirement, which is scheduled to take effect with the June 2014 primaries, can simply move forward.
“Photo voter ID will the first process that we have gone through under this new ruling,” Chapman said today.
Memphis Business Journal: Mississippi voter ID law could start next year
Voters in Mississippi may have to start showing a photo ID to vote by the middle of 2014, according to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.
According to the Associated Press, Hoseman spoke Tuesday after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that certain state and local governments no longer need federal approval to change election laws. That ruling opens up the possibility that Mississippi will implement a voter identification requirement.
According to Think Progress, Arizona and South Dakota will likely be trying to pass Voter ID laws soon. I’m sue that won’t be the end of it.
Just a few more links:
Joan Walsh: The ugly SCOTUS voting rights flim-flam
I’ll end there and leave it up to you guys to link to other important news stories. What are you reading and blogging about today?
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!!
Here’s an fresh thread, since the morning reads one is getting so long. I have several updates for you on the Snowden/NSA story.
Eli Lake of The Daily Beast got some disturbing news from Glenn Greenwald: Snowden’s Files Are Out There if “Anything Happens” To Him. I posted this link on the previous thread, but it should be highlighted. According to Greenwald, Snowden gave complete copies of the the secret NSA files he stole to “many people around the world.” Supposedly the files are encrypted, but from what we know of Snowden’s spycraft knowledge, I don’t think that’s a guarantee that they’ll stay secret. From The Daily Beast article:
Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian Newspaper journalist Snowden first contacted in February, told the Daily Beast Tuesday that Snowden “has taken extreme precautions to make sure many different people around the world have these archives to insure the stories will inevitably be published.” Greenwald added that the people in possession of these files “cannot access them yet because they are highly encrypted and they do not have the passwords.” But, Greenwald said, “if anything happens at all to Edward Snowden, he told me he has arranged for them to get access to the full archives.” [....]
A former U.S. counter-intelligence officer following the Snowden saga closely said his contacts inside the U.S. intelligence community “think Snowden has been planning this for years and has stashed files all over the internet.” This source added, “At this point there is very little anyone can do about this.”
Greenwald assured Lake that although he (Greenwald) is in possession of top secret information about “the technical specifications of NSA systems,” but that he won’t publish them. I wonder how well Greenwald’s computer is protected?
On Snowden’s aforementioned spycraft skills, let’s see what a real former spy thinks. From Foreign Policy:
We reached out to FP contributor David Gomez, a former assistant special agent-in-charge and counterterrorism program manager with the FBI, to get his take. When was Snowden being savvy — and when did it seem as if he’d just watched a few too many spy movies?
Cell phones in the fridge
While it’s true that cell phones can easily be compromised and turned into recording devices, Gomez says it’s unlikely that anyone seeking to record Snowden would have used a phone anyway. If someone had wanted to eavesdrop, Gomez explains, he or she more likely would have worn a concealed wire. Or, if a government’s agents had been trying to listen in from outside of the room, they might have deployed a long-range microphone, among other techniques. The bottom line: a refrigerated cell phone probably wasn’t stopping anyone who wanted to listen badly enough — though it may have extended the phone’s battery life.
Lining the hotel door with pillows
While not particularly effective at stopping anyone actively seeking to spy on Snowden, pillows could have muffled the sounds of any conversations going on in his Hong Kong hotel room enough that an unsuspecting person passing by wouldn’t overhear something alarming, Gomez says.
Wearing a hood while entering computer passwords, to avoid hidden cameras
The danger while entering computer passwords is unlikely to come from a hidden camera planted in the hotel, Gomez says, but rather from keystroke-logging software, against which a hoodie provides little protection.
Signaling his identity to reporters by carrying a Rubik’s Cube through a hotel
While spies do at times use signals to identify one another, the idea in doing so is to not draw attention to yourself, Gomez explains. Thus, when arranging a meeting, as Snowden did with a group of journalists in Hong Kong, it is both unhelpful and unnecessary to carry something as out of place as a Rubik’s Cube. It would have been better, Gomez adds, for Snowden to have simply described, say, his clothing in detail. “If you’re going to meet with all these people, what’s the point of being Sneaky Pete?” Gomez asks.
Gomez says Snowden seems to be an amateur.
I think y’all know by now that I was raised culturally southern. I was born in the South. I live in the deep South and have for nearly two decades. We’ve been regaled recently with the news that Southern Cuisine maven Paula Dean still longs for the good ol’ days of smiling black servants or slaves. We ‘ve heard Haley Barbor talk up the old Southern institutions that were the institutional face of the KKK as being positive community builders. I still can’t believe that Mississippi doesn’t celebrate Memorial Day because it is a “Yankee Holiday” and enshrines the Confederate version by declaring April “Confederate Heritage Month”. But, you do not need these folksy stories of the obvious racism in the South to understand why today’s SCOTUS decision is a complete sham. Scalia has said that the Voting Rights Act is a “racial entitlement” in the past. It is not. It protects disenfranchised voter’s most basic right in a democracy. This is another example of the hypocrisy of the ‘conservative’ wing of the court. This is pure judicial activism.
Here is a list of things from Bader Ginsberg’s scathing dissent that lets you know exactly why the VRA is still necessary and is about protecting rights not creating entitlements.
Ginsburg’s dissent also rattled off these eight examples of race-based voter discrimination in recent history:
- “In 1995, Mississippi sought to reenact a dual voter registration system, ‘which was initially enacted in 1892 to disenfranchise Black voters,’ and for that reason was struck down by a federal court in 1987.”
- “Following the 2000 Census, the City of Albany, Georgia, proposed a redistricting plan that DOJ found to be ‘designed with the purpose to limit and retrogress the increased black voting strength…in the city as a whole.’”
- “In 2001, the mayor and all-white five-member Board of Aldermen of Kilmichael, Mississippi, abruptly canceled the town’s election after ‘an unprecedented number’ of AfricanAmerican candidates announced they were running for office. DOJ required an election, and the town elected its first black mayor and three black aldermen.”
- “In 2006, the court found that Texas’ attempt to redraw a congressional district to reduce the strength of Latino voters bore ‘the mark of intentional discrimination that could give rise to an equal protection violation,’ and ordered the district redrawn in compliance with the VRA…In response, Texas sought to undermine this Court’s order by curtailing early voting in the district, but was blocked by an action to enforce the §5 pre-clearance requirement.”
- “In 2003, after African-Americans won a majority of the seats on the school board for the first time in history, Charleston County, South Carolina, proposed an at-large voting mechanism for the board. The proposal, made without consulting any of the African-American members of the school board, was found to be an ‘exact replica’ of an earlier voting scheme that, a federal court had determined, violated the VRA…DOJ invoked §5 to block the proposal.”
- “In 1993, the City of Millen, Georgia, proposed to delay the election in a majority-black district by two years, leaving that district without representation on the city council while the neighboring majority white district would have three representatives…DOJ blocked the proposal. The county then sought to move a polling place from a predominantly black neighborhood in the city to an inaccessible location in a predominantly white neighborhood outside city limits.”
- “In 2004, Waller County, Texas, threatened to prosecute two black students after they announced their intention to run for office. The county then attempted to reduce the avail ability of early voting in that election at polling places near a historically black university.”
- In 1990, Dallas County, Alabama, whose county seat is the City of Selma, sought to purge its voter rolls of many black voters. DOJ rejected the purge as discriminatory, noting that it would have disqualified many citizens from voting ‘simply because they failed to pick up or return a voter update form, when there was no valid requirement that they do so.’”
To those who will be distraught, outraged, or fearful, the essential question at stake in the Court’s decision – and in the continuing vitality of Section 4 — is whether we believe racial discrimination in voting still exists in the South. The question being framed this way, the Court’s decision today will appear to be, at best, a denial of reality and a reflection of a naïve “post-racial” view that in the Obama era, racial discrimination in voting has ended. Justice Sotomayor, at oral argument, perfectly reflected this perspective on what the decision represents when she posed this pointed question to the VRA’s challengers: “Do you think that racial discrimination in voting has ended, that there is none anywhere?” The answer to that question must be no. From this vantage point, then, as long as racial discrimination in voting still does take place at all in the South, Section 4 of the VRA – the part the Court invalidated – remains not just justifiable, but essential.
In addition, to many people, the VRA symbolizes protection of the crown jewel of rights, the right of access to the ballot box. For those who know the history, this right was born from the blood and the bodies of all those who had been given the last full measure of their devotion to secure full access for all to the ballot box – those beaten on the bridge from Selma, Alabama in 1965, the three civil rights workers lynched in the Mississippi summer of 1964, and many others. How can the Court find unconstitutional an Act that plays any role at all in ensuring political equality regarding this most sacred right? And why should the Court second-guess Congress on these issues?
Yet to others, including the Court’s pivotal actor, Justice Kennedy, the essential question at stake is whether our political system is frozen in place on issues concerning race. Do our political institutions and culture have the capacity to recognize that dramatic changes at the intersection of race and voting have taken place over recent decades? Section 4 was created in 1965 as a short-term measure for five years; in initially upholding that system, the Court called it “an uncommon exercise of congressional power” justified by the “exceptional circumstances” of the massive disfranchisement of black voters (and many poor whites) that existed when the VRA was enacted. In 1970, Congress extended this system for another five years; in 1975, for another eight; and in 1982, for twenty-five more years. Then, in 2006, in the provision the Court struck down, Congress re-authorized this system for another twenty-five years, until 2031. Thus we moved from a five-year regime in 1965 for exceptional circumstances to a sixty-six-year regime that continues to single out nine states (and fifty-three other counties) for unique federal control.
But of even more symbolic significance, from this perspective: these areas all became covered because of their voting practices in 1964 or, at the latest, 1975 – nearly forty years ago. And these are the same areas, and nearly the only areas, that have remained covered ever since. Though the Act formally creates a mechanism to permit these areas to prove their current entitlement to be relieved of coverage, this part has never been a meaningful way for the Act to unwind itself from within: fewer than one percent of all the counties originally covered that have significant minority populations have ever emerged from the Act. From this vantage point, the question the case was “about,” then, is this: how can Congress act as if nothing significant enough has changed in the last forty years to justify any meaningful change at all in Section 4? Even if areas of discriminatory voting practices remain, surely they cannot mirror so exactly the areas of which this was true forty or fifty years ago.
From this starting place, Section 4 symbolizes that the issue of race remains so charged that our political system lacks the capacity to move forward to any extent at all. As Justice Kennedy put it at the argument: Congress “should use criteria that are relevant to the existing [conditions] – and Congress just didn’t have the time or the energy to do this; it just re-enacted it.” And despite the popular image that Section 4 is about protecting access to the ballot box, Section 4 long ago in practice became more about racial redistricting than access to the ballot box. While the Justice Department in recent decades blocked access changes on average fewer than twice a year, it blocked redistrictings nearly fourteen times as often. Indeed, in the 2006 Act itself, Congress itself did not rely primarily on ballot-box access problems to justify renewing Section 4, but on issues like redistricting. If Section 4 is “about” access to the ballot box in the public imagination, to the Court majority, I suspect, Section 4 is about racial redistricting.
Can this decision bring about any good? Well, it is possible because it should be clear now there is a total Republican assault on modernity and a world where white men don’t get to tell every one else what to do. The last election showed that the nation’s minorities and women were not about to let that happen again.
On its face, this looks like a big victory for Republicans. But is it really? I suspect it will turn out to be a poisoned chalice. Many of the GOP’s current problems stem from the fact that it is overly beholden to its white, Southern base, at a time when the country is rapidly becoming more racially diverse. In order to expand its base of power beyond the House of Representatives, the GOP needs to expand its appeal to minority voters. As the ongoing battle over immigration reform demonstrates, that process is going poorly and looks like it will be very difficult.
The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a central provision of the Voting Rights Act will make it easier for Republicans to hold and expand their power in those mainly Southern states. That will, in turn, make it easier for them to hold the House. But it will also intensify the Southern captivity of the GOP, thereby making it harder for Republicans to broaden their appeal and win back the White House.
There is only so long that these neoconfederates can continue to push their backwards agendas through the federal government. They need to be thrown out of statehouses too. This seems to me an odd continuation of the Civil War. Nixon’s Southern Strategy will divide this country for decades to come. The hypocrisy of judicial overreach in this decision and most others that are penned by Scalia, Alito, Thomas, or Kennedy just oozes political scamming and it makes us all look bad. This is just another embarrassing attempt to stop the future. Future Courts will make hay of it.