Tuesday Reads: SCOTUS and Voting Rights, Iraq War Buildup, and Reno Saccoccia

morning paper cat dog

Good Morning!!

There’s a great big sloppy white mess outside my house this morning–something like 6 or 7 inches of heavy, wet snow. I’m not sure how I’ll get out of here; I may have to try to hire someone to dig me out. Anyway, I’m resigned to being stuck in the house for today at least.

Soooo… let’s see what happening in the news.

I’m going to start out with some news from the Supreme Court. Yesterday the court debated another voting rights case, and once again Sonya Sotomayor went toe-to-toe with right-wing judicial activist Antonin Scalia. This time it was a case from Arizona over whether a state can require proof of citizenship beyond what is required by federal voter registration forms. Here’s some background from Spencer Overton at HuffPo:

The latest case involves the simple question of whether Arizona can refuse to accept a federal voter registration form. But the stakes are much higher. A victory for Arizona could accelerate a nationwide trend of political operatives attempting to manipulate election rules for political gain, and could undermine the power of Congress to protect voting rights.

The National Voter Registration Act requires that all states “accept and use” a single, uniform voter registration form for federal elections. States can still use their own registration forms, but they must also accept and use the Federal Form. The purpose of the Federal Form is to increase participation by preventing states from erecting barriers to voter registration.

The Federal Form requires that prospective voters check a box and sign the form affirming they are U.S. citizens under penalty of perjury. Arizona, however, adopted a state law requiring “satisfactory proof” of U.S. citizenship to register, such as a birth certificate, U.S. passport, or state driver’s license that shows citizenship.

As a result, Arizona initially rejected over 31,000 voter registration applications — including citizens who registered using the Federal Form. Community-based registration drives were hit especially hard, because they rely on approaching individuals who may not be carrying a birth certificate or similar documentation (or unwilling to give a photocopy of these sensitive documents to a registration-drive volunteer). For example, community-based registration drives in Arizona’s largest county — Maricopa County — dropped 44%.

chair_sonia_sotomayor1

Obviously, if Arizona wins the case, other red states would pass similar laws that would trump federal voting regulations. Yesterday, Sotomayor and Scalia “clashed” over the Arizona law. Talking Points Memo:

Much as they did weeks ago during arguments over the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act, the two justices on Monday each led the charge on opposite sides of the case — Scalia for less federal involvement in states’ ability to set their voting laws, and Sotomayor for broad national authority to protect citizens’ right to vote.

Sotomayor’s opening volley began immediately after Arizona Attorney General Thomas C. Horne stepped up to defend his state’s law. She fired off a series of questions, which she would continue asking in different flavors throughout his argument, about inconsistencies between Arizona’s Prop 200 and the NVRA.

“If I see the purpose of the NVRA to simplify registration, how are Arizona’s provisions consistent with that objective and purpose, given that … many people don’t have the documents that Arizona requires?” Sotomayor said. She asked Horne why he thinks Congress would have required states to accept a voter registration form if states can then turn around and require additional information like a passport or birth certificate.

“Why isn’t that just creating another form?” she demanded. Arizona, she said, may object to the fact that proof of citizenship isn’t required, but “that’s what Congress decided.”

As for Scalia:

The conservative jurist wasn’t convinced requiring people to attest under oath was sufficient.

“So it’s under oath — big deal,” Scalia said. “If you’re willing to violate the voting laws, I suppose you’re willing to violate the perjury laws.” He posited that only “a very low number” of voters would be harmed by a requirement to submit proof of citizenship.

Well that makes sense–not. Why bother having witnesses swear to tell the truth in court cases then?

Of course Anthony Kennedy was his usual waffling self. Again from TPM:

At one point, Kennedy wrestled with whether Arizona’s proof-of-citizenship requirement crosses a line. He asked the state’s attorney general, who was defending the law, whether states may also require proof of one’s address or date of birth when registering to vote. If so, he posited, then the federal requirement “is not worth very much.”

At another point, he launched a defense of Arizona’s actions in principle and took issue with some of the reasoning by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled against Arizona.

“The state has a very strong and vital interest in the integrity of its elections,” Kennedy said, “even when those, and perhaps especially when those are elections of federal officials. And it seems to me the Ninth Circuit’s new test did not give sufficient weight to that interest.”

Roberts is apparently “leaning slightly” toward Arizona’s point of view. It’s really frightening that voting rights are in the hands of this conservative court. Thank goodness for Sotomayor’s willingness to be vocal in her arguments. Here are couple more interesting tidbits:

“Let me give you this example,” Alito said. “A person rides up to a place to register on a bicycle and gets out and hands in the federal form. This boy looks like he is 13 years old and he is carrying school books, he is wearing a middle school t-shirt, but he has filled out the form properly. Are they required to register him?”

Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a native Arizonan who in 2010 ruled against her statein this case from a lower court on which she occasionally sits, was present in the chamber.

In the final moments, Scalia warned the Obama administration’s lawyer, who was arguing against Arizona, that if the constitutionality of the NVRA form is challenged in broader terms, “You’re going to be in bad shape — the government’s going to be.”

There was a little bit of good news from the Court yesterday, according to HuffPo: Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Goldman Sachs’ Appeal To Financial Crisis Lawsuit.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc suffered a defeat on Monday as the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a decision forcing it to defend against claims it misled investors about mortgage securities that lost value during the 2008 financial crisis.

Without comment, the court refused to consider Goldman’s appeal of a September 2012 decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. Goldman shares sank more than 2 percent.

That court let the NECA-IBEW Health & Welfare Fund, which owned some mortgage-backed certificates underwritten by Goldman, sue on behalf of investors in certificates it did not own, but which were backed by mortgages from the same lenders.

Goldman and other banks have faced thousands of lawsuits by investors seeking to recoup losses on mortgage securities.

The bank has said that letting the 2nd Circuit decision stand could cost Wall Street tens of billions of dollars.

{{applause}}

David Frum posted a fascinating article at The Daily Beast late yesterday on the lead-up to the Iraq War. Frum was a speechwriter for George W. Bush at the time. You should read the whole thing, but I’ll just quote this one intriguing portion:

The first time I met Ahmed Chalabi was a year or two before the war, in Christopher Hitchens’s apartment. Chalabi was seated regally at one end of Hitchens’s living room. A crowd of nervous, shuffling Iraqis crowded together at the opposite end. One by one, they humbly stepped forward to ask him questions or favors in Arabic, then respectfully stepped backward again. After the Iraqis departed, Chalabi rose from his chair and joined an engaged, open discussion of Iraq’s future democratic possibilities.

The last time I saw Chalabi was in his London apartment, on the very eve of war. My little group arrived past midnight. Chalabi was listening to the evocative strains of Sufi music. He showed me a black-and-white photograph of seven men, wearing the clothes of the 1940s. They were the board of directors of a company his father had founded: a mixed group of Sunni, Shiite, and Christian, and even a Jew. Chalabi remarked that this picture was taken while Europe was tearing itself apart in genocidal violence. He didn’t add that it was taken shortly after British forces defeated a pro-Axis coup in Baghdad—but failed to prevent a murderous pogrom against Baghdad’s Jewish population.

I was less impressed by Chalabi than were some others in the Bush administration. However, since one of those “others” was Vice President Cheney, it didn’t matter what I thought. In 2002, Chalabi joined the annual summer retreat of the American Enterprise Institute near Vail, Colorado. He and Cheney spent long hours together, contemplating the possibilities of a Western-oriented Iraq: an additional source of oil, an alternative to U.S. dependency on an unstable-looking Saudi Arabia.

You might imagine that an administration preparing for a war of choice would be gripped by self-questioning and hot debate. There was certainly plenty to discuss: unlike the 1991 Gulf War, there was no immediate crisis demanding a rapid response; unlike Vietnam, the U.S. entered the war fully aware that it was commencing a major commitment.

Yet that discussion never really happened, not the way that most people would have imagined anyway. For a long time, war with Iraq was discussed inside the Bush administration as something that would be decided at some point in the future; then, somewhere along the way, war with Iraq was discussed as something that had already been decided long ago in the past.

I’m running out of space, so I’ll leave you with this follow-up to the Steubenville rape trial.

Reno

From Deadspin: Fire This Asshole: Why Does Steubenville’s Football Coach Still Have His Job?

Reno Saccoccia is a local legend, in the way that 30-year coaches of football powerhouses in economically depressed Ohio Valley towns tend to be legends. He’s in the Ohio Coaches Hall of Fame. He’s won three state titles. When Saccoccia won his 300th game last year, a sellout crowd of more than 10,000 people packed Harding Stadium—christened “Reno Field” in 2007—and chanted “Reno, Reno, Reno” as he left the field.

He breakfasts regularly with the sheriff. His sister-in-law works in the county’s juvenile court, where he is licensed as a mediator. He “molds young boys into men.” So how did Saccoccia react when he got word that two of his young boys were accused of raping a passed-out student?

On the night of the assault, a Steubenville student recorded this video joking about it. Off-camera, someone says “Trent and Ma’lik raped someone.” Among the text messages released at the trial of Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, one sent by Mays indicated that Saccoccia had seen the video:

Deleate that off You-tube. Coach Sac knows about it. Seriously delete it.

Saccoccia would later claim he was unaware of the social media evidence, angrily telling a reporter that he didn’t “do the internet.” But a flurry of texts sent on August 13, the day after the incident, indicated that Saccoccia had heard what had happened.

Even as all of Steubenville gradually heard the rumors, even after a local blogger alerted the country to what had happened in Steubenville, those involved in posting and sharing the photos and videos continued to play. They were only suspended eight games into the season, more than two months after the assault and arrests.

Less than a month later, Saccoccia testified on behalf of Mays and Richmond in a hearing to determine whether they would be tried as adults.

As we all know, the “boys” were tried as juveniles and got off easy. Seriously, this asshole has to go!

I have some more stories to share, but I’ll put them in the comments . . .   What are you reading and blogging about today? I’m stuck in the house, so I have all the time in the world to click on your links and read!


35 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: SCOTUS and Voting Rights, Iraq War Buildup, and Reno Saccoccia”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    Interesting that Chalabi all but disappeared from view after the reports that no WMDs were ever found.

    An evil man with another evil puppet master in Cheney, these two concocted reasons for undertaking a useless war that has led to more violence and instability in a region that has borne the brunt of their greed for over 10 years. Neither one has ever been charged with accountability. Both live the life a kings in exile when they should be on a chain gang putting the pieces of their destruction back together.

    Chalabi was slated to take over the control of Iraq after Saddam and Cheney was expecting to reap the benefits of oil contracts that would have further increased the profits for his donor base.

    The best laid plans………..

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    It would be a shame if the Ohio grand jury does not come back with indictments against those who sought to “cover up” these crimes. And this includes the parents who allowed their homes to be used as “playgrounds” for these young men.

    Yet not much has changed. Two teen girls have been arrested for making threats against the victim by way of Facebook. One is the sister of one of the convicted, the other her best friend.

    Far more important that we “protect” athletes who may bring a winning title to the school rather than to feel the outrage at the crimes they committed. And this stuff goes on everyday across the nation and is not unique to Steubenville, Ohio by any means.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Pew report on the media, released Monday: Many Americans Abandon News Outlets, Citing Less Information

    Nearly one-third—31%—of people say they have deserted a particular news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information they had grown accustomed to, according to the survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults in early 2013. And those most likely to have walked away are better educated, wealthier and older than those who did not—in other words, they are people who tend to be most prone to consume and pay for news.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Seven marines killed in explosion in Nevada

    An explosion at the Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada late Monday killed at least seven Marines and injured several more, the Marine Corps confirmed in a statement.

    Officials say it was a Marine Corps training exercise accident, and involved servicemen from the 2nd Marine Division.

  5. Pat Johnson says:

    bb, don’t try to shovel the snow. My son in law just plowed and it is wet and heavy. Even for the few feet we got here in Western MA it’s like ice.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    Diaper Dave Vitter plans to block Obama’s Labor Dept. appointee, Thomas E. Perez.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    This is interesting, from the NYT: Cyprus Set to Reject Bailout, Citing Tax on Bank Deposits

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/20/business/global/cyprus-set-to-reject-tax-on-bank-deposits.html?_r=0

    NICOSIA — Cyprus’s Parliament is likely to reject an international bailout package that involves taxing ordinary depositors to pay part of the bill, President Nicos Anastasiades said Tuesday, despite a revision that would remove some objections by exempting small bank accounts from the levies.

    Lawmakers were scheduled to vote late Tuesday on the €10 billion, or $13 billion, bailout.

    Should the measure fail in Parliament, Mr. Anastasiades and his E.U. partners would have to return to the negotiating table. Analysts have also raised the possibility of bank runs and a halt in liquidity to Cypriot banks from the European Central Bank if the measure did not pass.

    Angela Merkel will be hopping mad! Maybe we should send Dubya over there to give her a shoulder massage.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Under a new plan put forward by Mr. Anastasiades early Tuesday, depositors with less than €20,000 in the bank would be exempt, but the taxes would remain in place for accounts above that amount.

      But Mr. Anastasiades said that the changes probably would not be enough to secure a majority in the 56-member legislature to approve the bailout plan.

      “I estimate that the Parliament will turn down the package,” he said on state television as he headed into a series of meetings.

      A government spokesman, Christos Stylianides, echoed that opinion, telling state radio, “It looks like it won’t pass.”

    • RalphB says:

      I want to see the actual fallout from turning it down, as opposed to the predicted armageddon from the EU banksters.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Some people are saying that if they steal money from Russian mobsters, there will be hell to pay. Maybe those mobsters should have a talk with Merkel.

      • RalphB says:

        Hard to argue with the Russian mob I’ll bet.

      • RalphB says:

        Gartman Warns Cyprus: One Does Not Steal Russian Mafia Money And Get Away With It

        Ah, but now you’ve stolen Russia money… or soon shall depending upon the vote in the Cypriot parliament… and that is dangerous… very. One does not steal Russian mafia money and get away with it. There are fewer statements of fact that are more certain, more factual, more unyielding than this statement. Russian Mafia figures do not take well to being stolen from, and they take even less well to be made fools of. We see no reason to mince words at this point: People will be hurt over this decision; some shall be killed.”

  8. roofingbird says:

    It’s a little odd to see that photo of Chalabi smiling next to a statue of a starving child.

  9. bostonboomer says:

    Joe Weisenthal: Former Cyprus Central Banker Goes Off On The EU And Says The European Project Is Dying

    Exerpts from the interview:

    Orphanides on Cyprus bailout:

    “We are witnessing historic times. What we are witnessing is the slow death of the European Project. We are in a situation that some European governments are essentially taking actions that are telling citizens of other member states that they are not equal under the law.”

    “What we have seen in the last few days is a very serious blunder by European governments that are essentially blackmailing the government of Cyprus to confiscate the money that belongs rightfully to depositors in the banking sector in Cyprus. It is not clear how this can affect in a positive matter the European project going forward.”

    On EU making a mockery of Banking Union

    “Cyprus did not have a problem before earlier blunders that were made by European governments.”

    “We have had decisions taken by the strongest government in Europe that is spreading misery sequentially to citizens in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, in Spain, in Italy and this is not going to end the way that European governments are handling this. We need to have a decision making process where governments are asked to care for citizens in other states.”

    • RalphB says:

      Reuters: A much better alternative for Cyprus

      Felix Salmon reports a not quite painless, but much better plan to recapitalize Cyprus. I’m reminded that Andrew Ross Sorkin will defend anything on behalf of banksters.

      • RalphB says:

        We know that it’s workable because it has been put forward by none other than Lee Buchheit, the godfather of sovereign debt restructuring, and for decades, in dozens of sovereign contexts, every time that Lee Buchheit has said something can be done, he’s been absolutely right.

        First, leave all deposits under €100,000 untouched. Hitting those deposits was by far the biggest mistake of the Cyprus plan as originally envisaged, and everybody would be extremely happy if guaranteed depositors could be kept whole.

        Second, term out everybody else by five years, or ten if they prefer.

        That’s it! That’s the whole plan, and it’s kinda genius. If you have bank deposits of more than €100,000, they will be converted into bank CDs, with a maturity of either five years or 10 years — your choice. If you pick the longer maturity, then your CD will be secured by future Cypriot gas revenues, which could amount to hundreds of billions of dollars.

        This is the deal that no one had the imagination to put on the table during all-night negotiations last week, and it makes a lot more sense than what we’re looking at right now. In the first round of negotiations, the Germans had the upper hand, presenting Cyprus with a take-it-or-leave-it deal. Buchheit and Gulati have now given the Cypriot parliament the opportunity to turn the tables: pass a bill along these lines, and tell the Germans to take it or leave it.

        Most importantly, guaranteed depositors will remain unscathed.

      • bostonboomer says:

        The huge overall problem is that Europe is focusing on austerity, and it simply isn’t working for countries like Spain, Greece, and Italy.

      • RalphB says:

        Yep, that’s the biggie. Merkel and the austerians should get their comeuppance one of these times.

    • dakinikat says:

      More like the Germans are killing it …. they’re running roughshod over every one and it’s their banks that tanked the set up

  10. bostonboomer says:

    RAF is flying 1 million pounds in cash to Cyrus–more cash could be on the way.

    Vote in Parliament delayed till Wed.

  11. dakinikat says:

    Right wing rag Washington Examiner bites the dust. http://ow.ly/jdDqS