Monday Reads

Good Morning!


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.


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!!!!