Thursday Reads: Aftermath of SCOTUS Voting Rights Decision


Good Morning!!

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.

The Guardian:  Texas rushes ahead with voter ID law after supreme court decision

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 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.  Alabama photo voter ID law to be used in 2014, state officials say

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

Ari Berman: What the Supreme Court Doesn’t Understand About the Voting Rights Act

Stephen Hill: So the Voting Rights Act Is Gutted—What Can Protect Minority Voters Now?

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?

Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I’ve been a little absent the last few days.  There’s a conference in town and I’m presenting a paper this afternoon and trying to hunt up a tenure track position.  (So far Kuwait and Cleveland are on the plate.) The best thing is that nearly all the folks I went to graduate school with for some time are in town from all over so it’s fun to catch up with everyone.  All this making nice is tiring however!

Anyway, BB helped me find links so I owe a lot to her this morning .  This one has my name written all over it since I’ve railed about the Southern Strategy and the GOP fixation on transporting us all back to the 19th century.  It’s from Alternet.

Between the near record number of state anti-choice bills, the growing Personhood movement, those stupid billboards branding abortion as Black genocide and recent skirmishes over Obama’s co-pay free contraceptive policy, 2012 is looking more and more like 1873, when Congress outlawed the interstate sale and mailing of birth control via the Comstock Law.

For decades conventional wisdom has been that reproductive healthcare is a white feminist issue, that it’s a dangerous distraction from the “real” struggles of people of color. I believe that kind of thinking has been quite comforting for folks of all races who traffic in made-up nostalgia for a time when so-called traditional values were the bedrock of American society. When I hear black stylecasters revering Old Hollywood glamour as if we weren’t “The Help” and “Strange Fruit” during that period; when I watch country groups like Lady Antebellum and The Civil Wars get love at the Grammys; when girls on the Internet joke that Chris Brown can beat them anytime, it’s clear that many of us either don’t know or care about how strong the backlash has been against the ever-intertwined struggles of racial and gender justice.

It’s a pipe dream, I know. But I sincerely hope that the surge of sometime GOP presidential frontrunner Rick Santorum will clear up a few things about how race and gender justice aren’t two different issues.

I really hope we move forward with this move to push us backward.  I’d love to see a united nations full of women of all colours realize it’s time we work together as women for our common interests and our children’s future.

I was having a conversation yesterday about some of the aspects of Shari’ah banking and finance that I find highly appealing with a friend who teaches finance in Kuwait. First, dispersed ownership–or people that invest money in a business but don’t share in its responsibilities and pitfalls–is considered highly immoral.  Gambling is also prohibited so much of what really tanked our economy in 2007 and right before The Great Depression is not allowed in Islamic banks or equities markets.  It’s considered usurious and not doing right by your community to just lend money and collect interest.  Part of your responsibility as a shareholder and lender is to provide guidance and take responsibility for all the businesses’ actions.  You’re also supposed to give some of those profits to windows and orphans.  Satyajit Das has a guest post at Naked Capitalism denouncing financial innovations which served as extreme gambling for many. Das accomplishes this by taking on a near propaganda article in The Economist. Financial innovations has become the tag for any unusual investment vehicle that’s usually hard to price and for which standardized markets usually do not exist.

The Economist sees financial innovation as positive; regarding it in the same sense as charity and goodwill to one’s fellow creatures. The reader is told that: “Finance has a very good record of solving big problems, from enabling people to realise the value of future income through products like mortgages to protecting borrowers from the risk of interest-rate fluctuations.” The definition of the “big problems” of our time is obviously subjective.

The Report lacks doubt: “The evidence of this special report suggests that the market does a brilliant job of nurturing and refining instruments that people want.” A closer review of the evidence suggests that the authors of the Report have followed Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic candidate for president in the 1952 and 1956 elections: “Here is the conclusion on which I base my facts.”

The approach is puzzling as the Report repeatedly admits the difficult of actually measuring the benefits of financial innovation: “… quantifying the benefits of innovation is almost impossible” and “To sift through the arguments on both sides is to confront a basic problem with any financial innovation: the difficulty of measuring its benefits.”

The Economist quotes a 2011 NBER paper by Josh Lerner and Peter Tufano which argues the impossibility of quantifying the impact of a financial innovation because finance involves many (often unintended) externalities. Instead the paper proposes a “thought experiment”, imagining what the world would look like without a particular innovation. The Report undertakes this thought experiment, without the requisite imagination and with a pre-disposition to the self evident benefits of finance.

In David Hare’s play The Power of Yes, Adair Turner, head of the English FSA, is asked whether the fact that nobody understood what was going on was an issue. Turner responds that no, it wasn’t a problem as, for people like Alan Greenspan, it was just a matter of faith. The Economist follows their mentor’s modus operandi.

I’ve talked a lot about externalities here in terms of passed on social costs.  Pollution from fossil fuels, addicts and their behaviors from consumption of alcohol and drugs, and  having to bail out extreme gamblers (e.g. some investment banks) because of risk decisions are all part and parcel of some businesses/households doing their business that can pass costs to the rest of us.  I’ve noticed libertarians who don’t have standard economic theory never recognize all the work done on social costs.  It seems odd given that the aforementioned Shari’ah concepts are straight from Old Testament ideas so having society constrain the causes of these costs is hardly a new idea.

There’s a movement afoot in NJ to put Gay Marriage up to a vote since Chris Christie refused to sign a law that would do that.

New Jersey voters support gay marriage and back a proposal by the state’s Republican Governor Chris Christie to put the issue to a vote in a November referendum, according to a new poll released Thursday.

The Quinnipiac poll of 1,396 Garden State voters showed that 57 percent supported gay marriage while 37 percent oppose it.

The poll found that women in the state support gay marriage 61 percent to 32 percent while men support it 51 percent to 44 percent.

Catholics also support it 52 percent to 43 percent, though white Protestants were opposed 50 percent to 42 percent.

The poll found that an overwhelming majority — 67 percent — supported the governor’s decision to let voters decide the issue in the fall. Twenty-eight percent were opposed to a referendum.

Meanwhile, Maryland’s governor signed a same-sex marriage law.

Amid cheers and camera flashes from a crush of onlookers, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law Thursday his bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Maryland — legislation that raises his national profile and, advocates say, gives momentum to those pushing similar measures in three states.

“The way forward is always found through greater respect for the equal rights of all,” said O’Malley, giving brief remarks before signing the legislation. “If there is a thread that unites all of our work here together, it is the thread of human dignity. … Let’s sign the bill.”

Okay, one more link and then I have to go refresh myself on cointegration analysis and my results on so I can handle questions.

Ah, those crazy hackers!  It seems that some one got a laptop with some NASA codes and got into the Jet Propulsion Lab.  Some one may have control of the international space station even.

Hackers seized control of networks at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory last November, gaining the ability to install malware, delete or steal sensitive data, and hijack the accounts of users in order to gain their privileged access, according to a report from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s inspector general.

The breach, originating from Chinese-based IP addresses, allowed the intruders to compromise the accounts “of the most privileged JPL users,” giving them “full access to key JPL systems,” according to Inspector General Paul K. Martin in a report to Congress (.pdf).

The investigation of the breach is ongoing, but Martin says the intruders had the ability to modify sensitive files; modify or delete user accounts for mission-critical JPL systems; and alter system logs to conceal their actions.

“In other words, the attackers had full functional control over these networks,” Martin writes.

But this wasn’t the only breach NASA experienced. In 2010 and 2011, the agency had 5,408 computer security incidents that resulted in the installation of malicious software and the theft of export-controlled and otherwise sensitive data, with an estimated cost to NASA of more than $7 million. Some of the breaches “may have been sponsored by foreign intelligence services seeking to further their countries’ objectives,” Martin writes.

Christie asserts that marriage equality is not about ‘gay rights’.  Interesting.

CHRISTIE: I did veto a bill on gay marriage, not on gay rights. And gay rights are protected and protected aggressively in New Jersey. But listen, this is something I feel strongly about. I think marriage is between one man and one woman, but I also know that people have very different opinions about that in our state. So what I’ve said to folks after vetoing the bill, let’s put it on the ballot. If a majority of people in New Jersey want to have same-sex marriage, then vote for it and I’ll be governed by it. But I don’t think that’s a decision that should be made by 121 people in Trenton alone. It’s a major change in the way we’ve governed our society.

A group of Democratic legislators are asking Boehner to repudiate Limbaugh’s “slut” slamming.

The Democrats signed a letter to the speaker over comments Limbaugh made on his show on Wednesday calling a Georgetown University law student and women’s health advocate a “prostitute” and a “slut” after her testimony before a mock Congressional hearing on birth control coverage.

Using the airwaves to launch a “direct attack on a private citizen is unacceptable,” New York Rep. Louise Slaughter wrote to Speaker Boehner. “Mr. Limbaugh repeatedly used sexually charged, patently offensive, and obscene language to malign the character of this courageous young woman who has chosen to be the voice for many of her peers,” the letter said.

Boehner’s spokesperson declined to comment on on the letter.

Fluke’s testimony barely mentioned sex. She said a year’s worth of contraception costs up to $3,000 over the course of law school, and for many women, birth control is used to treat medical issues, including polycystic ovary syndrome.

Okay, that’s for it for me this morning!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?