Monday Reads

Good Morning!

cgrant

Damn! Is it hot down here!

Anyway, it’s really hard to get up the ambition to do much of anything and I have a huge long list of stuff to do.  A lot of it has to do with my house that I have let get seriously out of control over the past year.  I can no longer say, wow, the dissertation comes first.  No excuses!  I have to throw stuff out before the Hoarders TV series shows up at my door!

So, it is again a matter of looking at the same old stories over and over. Our government is really not getting much done.  One of the stories that is so very important is how we deal with the serious threat to voting rights in much of the country coupled with the SCOTUS decision.  Why is Texas at the center of every battle for modernity?

In a federal lawsuit first brought by black and Hispanic voters against Texas over its redistricting maps, the Justice Department relied on a rarely used provision of the act, Section 3, to ask a federal court to require Texas to get permission before making any voting changes in the state.

Until last month, Texas already had to get such permission under the act’s “preclearance” process. This process had long been the most effective means of preventing racial bias in voting laws in states with histories of discrimination. It required state and local governments that wanted to change the laws to first show there would be no discriminatory effect. In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the act as unconstitutional; that provision laid out the formula that determined which jurisdictions had to get permission.

In theory, the court’s ruling allows Congress to update the list of nine states and parts of six others identified by Section 4. But given the dysfunction of Congress, that will not happen anytime soon.

This is why Mr. Holder’s decision to rely on Section 3 in the Texas case is so significant. Section 3 — also known as the “bail-in” provision — may be the most promising tool we have to protect voting rights after Shelby. It allows courts to identify jurisdictions that are passing intentionally discriminatory voting laws and then “bail” them in as needed — that is, require them to get permission before establishing new voting rules.

This is functionally similar to the system the court struck down last month, but Section 3 has several distinguishing features. It does not contain a preset list of jurisdictions, and it is forward-looking: instead of relying primarily on historical evidence of discrimination, it allows individual voters or the government to ask courts to zero in on any jurisdiction, like Texas, that continues to try to impose racially discriminatory voting laws.

Section 3 is also flexible. The period of coverage for preclearance under Section 3 is determined by court order, and may last for only as long as a federal judge deems it necessary to overcome voting discrimination in that jurisdiction.

These features make Section 3 a useful provision, but it has its weaknesses. The preclearance may be imposed only if a federal judge determines that the jurisdiction’s laws are intentionally discriminatory. When the Voting Rights Act was passed, such laws were much easier to identify. But lawmakers have since discovered countless ways to discriminate on the basis of race without saying so explicitly, and will continue to do so.

In the Texas case, a Federal District Court in Washington found that state redistricting maps showed intentional discrimination — among other things, black and Hispanic lawmakers were excluded from the map-drawing process, and districts were drawn to minimize the power of minority voters in ways that “could not have happened by accident,” including one district shaped like a lightning bolt. While the Texas record is full of clear evidence of discriminatory intent, in most places such a claim is harder to show. To address that problem, the Congressional Black Caucus has called for Section 3 to be amended to apply to voting laws that have a discriminatory effect, whether or not intent can be proved. If Congressmarilyn is serious about protecting voting rights, it should pass this amendment immediately.

So,this should be nothing new to any one that isn’t part of the bonus class.  Economic insecurity in the US is rampant. It also shouldn’t be too surprising that this is fueling some of the issues we have with racial resentment and the demand to restrict voting access.

The AP is out with a big analysis today about how the American economy is increasingly delivering security and prosperity to only a tiny fraction of the population:

Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream…

Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families’ economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy “poor.”And here’s their working definition:

The gauge defines “economic insecurity” as a year or more of periodic joblessness, reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent.Probably the most striking finding here is just how many poor whites are out there:

Sometimes termed “the invisible poor” by demographers, lower-income whites are generally dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60 percent of the poor are white. Concentrated in Appalachia in the East, they are also numerous in the industrial Midwest and spread across America’s heartland, from Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma up through the Great Plains.

More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation’s destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.It’s probably fair to say also that poor whites are overwhelmingly Republican, and in large part due to an overhang of racial resentment. After all, the New Deal coalition between poor Southern whites and rich urban liberals was built on racist oppression.

The interesting thing about this particular analysis in the WM is that it is still surprising these folks identify primarily as Republicans.  A lot of it has to do with racial resentment.  However, here is an additional link you may want to check out.

It’s patronising in the extreme to assume that poorer white people don’t understand that. I may disagree with their decisions to vote on issues like abortion and gay marriage, but it’s a different thing entirely to suggest that when they prioritise those things it’s because they don’t know what’s best for them. Paradoxically, given that this argument comes from liberals, it is underpinned by an insistence not that they be less selfish, but more.

Secondly, if they were voting on economic issues alone, that might be a reason not to vote Republican but it’s not necessarily a reason to vote Democrat. With unemployment still about 8%, many of the benefits of healthcare reform still to kick in and bankers still running amok, it’s not like Democrats are offering much that would support the economic interests of the poor, regardless of their race. It was Bill Clinton who cut welfare, introduced the North American Free Trade Agreement andrepealed the Glass-Steagall Act – which helped make the recent crisis possible. If you were going to trade your religious beliefs for economic gain, you could be forgiven for demanding a better deal than that.

Indeed, the people most likely to have voted Democrat four years ago – the young, the black and Latinos – are among the groups that have fared worse under Obama. And all the polls suggest they’re about to do it again, albeit in lesser numbers. One could just as easily argue that they are the dupes. Democrats have no god-given right to the votes of the poor of any race and for the past 30 years can hardly claim to have earned them.

In a country where class politics and class organisations are weak, it’s too easy to dump on the white working class as a bunch of know-nothings when the problem is a political class that is a bunch of do-nothings.

kurt

We may be finding some silence of the jerks on Cumulus anyway. Here are two of the biggest red meat providers of racial resentment and homophobia and misogyny in US culture right now.

In a major shakeup for the radio industry, Cumulus Media, the second-biggest broadcaster in the country, is planning to drop both Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity from its stations at the end of the year, an industry source told POLITICO on Sunday.

Cumulus has decided that it will not renew its contracts with either host, the source said, a move that would remove the two most highly rated conservative talk personalities from more than 40 Cumulus channels in major markets.

Okay, for those of you that like a real life spy adventure, try this:  “This CIA Operative Indicted for Extraordinary Renditions Vanished from the Map—Twice.   After years in absentia, poof! Robert Seldon Lady, convicted of kidnapping by Italy, reappeared out of nowhere. Then he was gone again.”

Recently, Lady proved a one-day wonder. After years in absentia — poof! He reappeared out of nowhere on the border between Panama and Costa Rica, and made the news when Panamanian officials took him into custody on an Interpol warrant.  The CIA’s station chief in Milan back in 2003, he had achieved brief notoriety for overseeing a la dolce vita version of extraordinary rendition as part of Washington’s Global War on Terror.  His colleagues kidnapped Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, a radical Muslim cleric and terror suspect, off the streets of Milan, and rendered him via U.S. airbases in Italy and Germany to the torture chambers of Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt. Lady evidently rode shotgun on that transfer.

His Agency associates proved to be the crew that couldn’t spook straight.  They left behind such a traceable trail of five-star-hotel and restaurant bills, charges on false credit cards, and unencrypted cell phone calls that the Italian governmenttracked them down, identified them, and charged 23 of them, Lady included, with kidnapping.

Here’s one more story about how inequality of opportunity begins at birth. 

Equality of opportunity means that we are not a caste society. Who we will become is not fixed by the circumstances of our births. Some children will do better than others, but this should result from a fair competition. Nearly every American politician espouses a commitment to equality of opportunity. For example, Majority Leader Eric Cantor wrote yesterday that

We must continue to fight for equal opportunity to a quality education for all children.

I wouldn’t be surprised if many American politicians said the same thing yesterday.

But we don’t appreciate how deep inequality runs. The graph below is from a presentation by Angus Deaton which (I believe) reported data from the National Health Interview Survey. The horizontal axis is the logarithm of family income in 1982 dollars, running from about $3600 to over $80,000. The vertical axis is self-reported ill-health (higher numbers reflect worse health). The parallel lines represent different age groups of respondents.

Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 8.59.04 PM

There are three important facts packed into this slide. First, the lines stack up in order of increasing age, meaning that older people reported worse health than younger people. Second, all the lines slope downward, meaning that the poorer you were, the more likely you had poor health.

These facts are unsurprising, until you notice how powerful the income effect is. The leftmost point of the youngest (turquoise) line is above the rightmost point of the oldest (purple) line. This means that the poorest teenagers reported themselves as less healthy than rich middle-aged people.

Lastly, notice how the age lines are much more dispersed on the left (poorest) side of the graph than the right (richest) side of the graph. This means that health deteriorates more quickly with age among the poor than among the rich.

Just in case you aren’t used to the idea of using the log of things, it represents a growth rate.  It’s basically a percentage change in thing over time so it’s a dynamic measurement of what ever is being measured.

liz and eddie

Well, that is longer than I thought! So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today? Oh, and as usual, let’s play guess the celebrities and the singular location!!!!


36 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. ecocatwoman says:

    Cary Grant/Randolph Scott, Marilyn, Kirk Douglas, Liz & Eddie Fisher. Malibu?

    Great post. Leaving shortly for the doctor, will read links later. Can’t wait!

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Apparently Obama doesn’t want to appoint Janet Yellin as Fed Chair, even though Wall St. wants her and she would probably be the best choice. Matthew O’Brien at The Atlantic suggests Roger Ferguson might be Obama’s choice. But why?

    “Yellen has bad blood with Obama’s chief economic adviser Gene Sperling going back to when they served in the Clinton administration”

  3. ecocatwoman says:

    Have ya’ll heard about Caroline Criado-Perez, the British woman who spearheaded the campaign to put Jane Austen on the new 10 pound note? She got bombarded with hateful tweets, threatening injury, rape, death, sometimes as many as 50 per hour. NPR reported it this morning, but there wasn’t a link there, so I found this on MSN: http://news.msn.com/crime-justice/uk-twitter-abuse-case-sparks-online-anger-arrest

    Misogyny knows no nationality – it’s everywhere.

  4. peej says:

    Quite a lot to mull over this Monday morning! 🙂 I’ll take on only one article: Equality of Opportunity. While I appreciate Bill Gardener shining a light on inequality, I can’t help but draw attention to the fallaciousness inherent within his opening statement:

    “Equality of opportunity means that we are not a caste society. Who we become is not fixed by the circumstances of our births. Some children will do better than others, but this should result from fair competition. Nearly every American politician espouses a commitment to equality of opportunity.”

    What Gardener does here is he tacitly accepts the wrongful Conservative (and NeoLiberal) notion that Equality of Opportunity doesn’t necessitate Equality of Outcome. Rather, the latter (or lack thereof) is to go unquestioned as part of the natural order of the “free market” driven by the neutrality of an “invisible hand” grasping that grand principle – “competition.” Wrong on every count.

    Inequality of Outcome, wealth stratification does mean we are a caste society. And opportunity can be rhetorically cast any way one pleases to justify maintaining that caste society – Cantor is an example.

    We see more stratification today then at this nation’s founding in the 18th century. The Framers were well aware of social strata and they were well aware that Europe contained more inequality than the American colonies. Their goal was to diminish that already limited stratification to near equality – knowing absolutely equality was never possible, but the goal was to get as near as humanly possible.

    The principle of competition as an equalizer is not the principle espoused by those who debated the contours of the Constitution. Equality of Outcome not Equality of Opportunity was the goal they were trying to achieve. That they were imperfect in conceiving it or solving it doesn’t change the fact that Equality of Opportunity wasn’t the overriding ideal – Equality of Outcome was marginalized by the need for compromise. Compromise largely centered on Equality of Opportunity.

    Cooperation, not competition was their solution to both Inequality of Opportunity and Inequality of Outcome. Unlimited wealth accumulation was not regarded as a natural right. It was the creation of a public sector, a public commons into which all would contribute, into which all would sacrifice, and from which all could withdraw and benefit – that was their solution. The competitive free market was not the supreme ideal even for proto-capitalists like Hamilton.

    Progressive taxation and even taxing only the wealthy, eliminating heritable advantage by altering (albeit slightly) inheritance laws, and equitable division of property in the long term were their solutions to inequality of outcome. Also maintaining economic diversity so that one sector would not dominate the rest. That fight was particularly hairy in matters of financialization of the economy – a battle now too obviously lost. At any rate, they tried to eliminate strata incrementally, generationally, slowly through time but the ultimate goal was equality of outcome. And moreover that goal specifically imputed a more evenly distributed, but modest outcome.

    I’m just pointing out that “Equality of Opportunity” is fallacious if it is coupled with the idea that “Inequality of Outcome” is inevitable or remotely desirable as Gardner suggests. Massive inequality spurred by Conservative-Libertarian, “Pro-Growth” “Job-Creator Dependent” economics is hardly a new or unstudied phenomenon in Post-Reagan America. Therefore Gardner’s grand proclamation at the end of his article is a bit “Johnny-Come-Lately.”

    Equality of Opportunity, while it has a nice ring to it, is not the key to eliminating inequality of outcome. Government intervention is the key to eliminating both inequality of outcome and inequality of opportunity – and demonstrably so given the New Deal and the Great Society. But those Progressive solutions have been systematically undone, chipped away by both sides of the political spectrum in favor of the “competition” principle. We may wish to look at other areas of the world where “Equality of Outcome” is the value and the goal – when we do we see better conditions for mothers and children, better overall health and happiness, better working conditions, wages, benefits than we do in this dog-eat-dog America.

    Cantor is an excellent example of the fallacious “Equality of Opportunity” – “Competition” – “Choice” principle – his editorial outlines perfectly how private charter schools drain the public coffers thereby weakening the founding ideal of a public commons. Public schools aren’t strengthened when they compete with each other or with private charters. This failed NCLB-World Bank inspired “free market” approach is designed to eliminate public education and to obscure genuinely innovative, alternative, creative pedagogical models that could be achieved within the public education system itself. Cantor is a charlatan espousing demonstrably ineffective education policy. He should be ashamed of himself. Gardner should be ashamed of himself for lending credence to an obscuring perspective antithetical to equality – be it “opportunity” or “outcome.”

    Gardner would do well to revise his angle altogether – he concludes with the idea that “We are farther from equality of opportunity than most of us acknowledge” but what an inert conclusion – his article illustrates how far from Equality of Outcome we actually are, but he dares not name it.

    This is the very same conundrum that the founders found themselves in – much contentious debate was had concerning this “chicken or the egg” phenomenon between “Opportunity” and “Outcome” – their debates largely centered on aristocracy, monarchy, or the wealthy elite – were these causes or effects of stratified wealth and diminished political access? Whatever the causal “first mover” might be – the goal was “outcome” not “opportunity.” If we wish to actually make any headway in this country I should think it’s about time we start challenging unsound principles like “competition” or the conflation of “freedom” and “free market.” “Opportunity” isn’t enough and it is too easily subverted as Cantor’s distortion makes clear. We need government intervention with clearly specified strategical goals to permanently resolve income inequality in this country.

    • dakinikat says:

      That is so right on. Outcome rather than some nebulous idea of opportunity is a much better operating definition. It drives me crazy when I hear Cantor and these other guys swimming in such thick privilege they can’t even see it talk about how every one, given the same opportunity, will have the same outcome. So much is unequal before the opportunity even appears that you’ll never be guaranteed the same outcome with the same effort.

      • peej says:

        Agreed, dakinikat. The opportunity meme is one that really sticks in my craw. You are so spot on too by noting inequality prior to opportunity – that’s integral to the reinforcing cycle of inequality. The opportunity meme never acknowledges what you’ve hit on, and it’s kind of Logic 101… If you start on the lowest rung and you apply “equal effort” – the same effort – you’re not going to make it to the highest rung save some random luck of extraordinary calibre. It’s really insulting actually. The effort required just to reach subsistence level is an unconscionable reality for ever more numbers of Americans. Ascribing value to the highest rung, too, I find particularly distasteful and antithetical to the development of individuality.

        On that note, Cantor’s apparent valuation of diversity among individuals implied by his “choice” fallacy is disgusting. For Equality of Opportunity to work, not only must all people begin on the same rung, but once on the same rung every individual must operate in the same capacity as everyone else. Objective reality tells us otherwise. Even on a level playing field people naturally excel or falter. Competition only exacerbates those two extremes. Now, that’s another area of concern the Founding Fathers had and one way they solved that dilemma was the aforementioned diversity in the economy. Not a complete solution, but still better than the truncated economy we have now, controlled entirely by a supranational elite.

        And somewhere in your commentary you noted that this scrambling competition only exacerbates hostile race relations – I’m paraphrasing. But, I think it is a point worth reiterating because it is critical. Divide and Conquer always works to turn a society or a government against itself. That’s what competition does – it divides so a predatory element can conquer.

    • NW Luna says:

      Well said! I hear a lot of that assumption of privilege in talk about access to health care. Yeah, people have “access” to health care. Unfortunately they can’t pay for that health care, so they don’t access it. Or they can see one provider, but none of the specialists will take their insurance, or the next appointment’s 3 months away, etc.

      • dakinikat says:

        We’re number one! America gets the gold medal in anxiety disorders, prisons, health costs & more http://slnm.us/wDm3bRd #USA

      • peej says:

        Right on, Luna. So, so true. “Access” is a lot like “opportunity” when subjected to objective reality; it’s a principle that doesn’t hold up. I don’t think the Affordable Care Act solved the access problem, though I recognize that having the ACA is a little better than not having it. Yet, it still operates on principles of market and competition which aren’t sound for anything that should function within the public commons – health care, educational institutions, art and culture, even investigative journalism. All need to be grounded in principles of certainty. I tend to think socialized medicine is the way to go – guaranteed access. Or if the insurance industry is to be maintained (though I think it shouldn’t) then health insurance should operate as it did in Ancient China – you pay to be kept well – you don’t pay at all until you are made well. But some provision would have to be made for those who cannot pay from the start – the equality of opportunity conundrum….

    • Damn Peej….that comment was worthy of a blog post in itself. lol

  5. dakinikat says:

    “What leader can stand up & say, my party is a party of principles?” asks @repjohnlewis. No, not in 2013, but 1963. http://ow.ly/nqqYj

  6. dakinikat says:

    Judge reinterprets the Espionage Act in leak case, will make it easier for DOJ to charge and prosecute whistleblowers http://blogs.fas.org/secrecy/2013/07/prosecutors-burden/

    • NW Luna says:

      Just in case there weren’t enough disincentives already.

      • bostonboomer says:

        To me the strongest disincentives would be prison sentences. None of the whistleblowers prosecuted by the Obama administration has gotten a long sentence. Most have plea bargained.

    • bostonboomer says:

      “The prosecution must still show that the defendant “reasonably believed” that the information “could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation” and that the defendant “willfully” communicated it to an unauthorized person.”

      I’d think this would actually be harder to prove than whether the info actually caused damage.

      • bostonboomer says:

        It’s also possible that proving specific harm might involve blowing the cover of agents or people in foreign countries who assisted them.

    • peej says:

      I think Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling is sound. But then I tend toward disincentivizing classified leaks. I don’t regard “whistleblowing” as inherently positive, whistleblowers as heroic, or any press angle wholly trustworthy. I’m more inclined to follow this judge’s observation that second guessing classification isn’t cogent reasoning.

  7. NW Luna says:

    A full Moon can disturb a good night’s sleep, scientists believe.

    Researchers found evidence of a “lunar influence” in a study of 33 volunteers sleeping in tightly controlled laboratory conditions.

    When the Moon was round, the volunteers took longer to nod off and had poorer quality sleep, despite being shut in a darkened room, Current Biology reports.

    They also had a dip in levels of a hormone called melatonin that is linked to natural-body clock cycles.

    Aha! Might sleep deprivation be behind some of that weird behavior around the full Moon?

  8. RalphB says:

    105 children were rescued in these raids. The FBI did a good thing here.

    FBI says it arrested 150 in three days for child prostitution

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The FBI arrested 150 people across the United States for holding children against their will for prostitution, a three-day weekend sweep that officials on Monday called the largest-ever operation of its kind.

    The suspects were arrested in 76 U.S. cities and are expected to face state and federal charges related to sex crimes and human trafficking, FBI and U.S. Justice Department officials said at a news conference.

    • bostonboomer says:

      It’s not the first such bust massive bust either, and the FBI has also taken down child pornography rings spanning the US and other countries in recent months. How much do you want to bet this involved electronic surveillance (PDF)?

      • peej says:

        bostonboomer,

        I haven’t read through your link yet. Having said that, let me just say that if any of the current surveillance programs currently under Libertarian attack would require the government to “intrude” on my phone calls or to access my metadata in the process of pursuing busts like this one, I’d be 150% fine with it. I wouldn’t regard it as government intrusion. As I’ve said before, I think NSA surveillance should be expanded not curtailed. But, unfortunately, the Senate is now in full propaganda-hysteria mode having it in for the FISA Court and the NSA. I’ve been pretty disgusted by the Democratic response altogether – it’s as if they are all rewriting the Bill of Rights with a Libertarian pen, rationalism and empiricism be damned. The Senate letter sent to James Clapper looked like a witch-hunt entrapment scenario just waiting to happen. So narrowly framed as to render any response meaningless, kind of like Issa’s IG investigation, which led to the unnecessary canning of at least one IRS employee as I recall. It’s all reminiscent of the Red Scare and McCarthyism. I’m digressing. I’ll stop there. Sorry.

        • bostonboomer says:

          They wouldn’t need to intrude on your phone calls. They have to have probable cause and a warrant (gasp!). And the NSA doesn’t even collect e-mail anymore. Obama stopped that program a few years ago.

  9. I just gotta say the commentary on this post has been awesome.

  10. I miss Old Hollywood, Damn… it’s hotttttt