Monday Reads

Good Morning!

There are so many ways that my city and state are being used as an incubator for unholy ideas that it’s not even funny.  I’ve got a series of rather depressing links this morning.  However, I think we should all think about the common thread here.  Didn’t many of our immigrant ancestors come here hoping that this new country would not fall prey to an aristocratic group of assholes who inherit stuff just because of the privilege of birth? Do these news items strike you as something you’d read about in a country founded on the idea of government by the people instead of government over the people? Let’s begin our search for the ways plutocracy is changing our lives.

Our public school system in New Orleans has been decimated and turned into one big charter school education experiment.  Part of the “detritus” that the state washed out with the Katrina waters were our teachers. They were just some of the folks that were thrown over when a natural disaster was turned into a way to turn a purple state red.   They’re getting their day in court.  Will they really get Justice? A recent court decision has given many fired teachers some back pay. But, justice runs deeper than a few dollars to teachers.  What about the children set adrift in libertarian, for profit incubators that cherry pick the best and leave the rest far behind?

But aside from recompense for “disaster leave,” New Orleans public schools will remain adrift in a flood of drastic reforms. After Katrina, the city became an incubator for non-unionized charter schoolsand “experimental” restructuring plans.

But rather than “saving” New Orleans schools from failure, the overhaul has aggravated divides between black and white, wealthy and poor, by pushing schools to operate more like corporations.

Maynard Sanders at the Bankstreet College of Education wrote last year about the New Orleans Recovery School District as a case study in de facto segregation between “selective schools” and those serving poor students of color. Often, he added, the charters that many have hailed as an emblem of progress “are run like private schools by self-appointed boards without any parent, community, or teacher representation… There is no transparency in charter school operations, finances or hiring while they receive public money and operate rent free in public school buildings.”

One major plank of the agenda for restructuring New Orleans schools–which reflects national reform trends promoted by the Obama administration–is “decentralization” of the system and the expansion of “choice” of schools across districts. But critics say a decentralized school system can become dangerously fractured, and choice is constrained by feudal social barriers.

Here’s proof that it’s just not enough to elect any woman to an office.  Jan Brewer—the throwback governor of Arizona–is at it again.  She’s asking SCOTUS to overturn a ruling allowing benefits for same sex partners.  Republicans are routinely asking courts to remove rights from citizens and assign them a lesser-than status.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) has requested that the Supreme Court overturn a ruling that allows state employees to keep their same-sex partners on their benefits, including health insurance.

Brewer filed a petition for a writ of certiorari on July 2, requesting that the high court overturn the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s September 2011 ruling in Diaz vs. Brewer. The pushback comes three months after the Ninth Circuit denied a request by Arizona state lawyers to re-hear the case with an 11-judge panel.

Last September, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling prevented Arizona from implementing a law that would have barred state employees’ same-sex partners from remaining on their health plans. The ruling affirmed a lower court’s decision to place a preliminary injunction on the law.

Black Americans will likely suffer long term consequences for the financial damage caused by the subprime crisis. Think of all the billions of dollars spent on bailing out banks while huge numbers of families have lost the hope of ever owning their own home again.  Will property ownership once again be the province of the aristocrats?

For blacks, the picture since the recession has been particularly grim. They disproportionately held subprime mortgages during the housing boom and are facing foreclosure in outsize numbers. That is raising fears among consumer advocates, academics and federal regulators that the credit scores of black Americans have been systematically damaged, haunting their financial futures.

The private companies that calculate credit scores say they do not consider race in their formulas. Lenders also say it is not a factor when deciding who qualifies for a loan; federal laws prohibit the practice. Still, studies have shown a persistent gap between the credit scores of white and black Americans, and many worry that it is only getting wider.

The impact of strict voter ID laws pushed by ALEC and Republicans is having an impact and could block thousands from voting. It’s all about vote suppression and electing Romney. No better way to ensure your interests are enshrined in law than through disenfranchisement of minorities, the elderly, and the poor, is there?

The numbers suggest that the legitimate votes rejected by the laws are far more numerous than are the cases of fraud that advocates of the rules say they are trying to prevent. Thousands more votes could be in jeopardy for this November, when more states with larger populations are looking to have similar rules in place.

More than two dozen states have some form of ID requirement, and 11 of those passed new rules over the past two years largely at the urging of Republicans who say they want to prevent fraud.

Democrats and voting rights groups fear that ID laws could suppress votes among people who may not typically have a driver’s license, and disproportionately affect the elderly, poor and minorities. While the number of votes is a small percentage of the overall total, they have the potential to sway a close election. Remember that the 2000 presidential race was decided by a 537-vote margin in Florida.

A Republican leader in Pennsylvania said recently that the state’s new ID law would allow Romney to win the state over President Barack Obama.

Supporters of the laws cite anecdotal cases of fraud as a reason that states need to do more to secure elections, but fraud appears to be rare. As part of its effort to build support for voter ID laws, the Republican National Lawyers Association last year published a report that identified some 400 election fraud prosecutions over a decade across the entire country. That’s not even one per state per year.

ID laws would not have prevented many of those cases because they involved vote-buying schemes in local elections or people who falsified voter registrations.

Susie takes on George Will at C&L.  He evidently thinks all this heat is just typical balmy summer weather and wants us all to get over it.  Yes, we’re all just whining about the weather and it’s all in our little heads.  Read her classy zing!

This is how broken, distorted and hackish our public political dialogue has become: George Will, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist (his record for coasting on that one accomplishment continues), actually responds to concerns about the national’s killer heat wave with “it’s summer, get over it!”

Not only is this disingenuous, it’s an outright lie. Will knows better (for one thing, in his world, “summer” is a verb, not a noun) but just doesn’t care. His job is to rubber stamp whatever comes out of the right-wing noise machine, no matter how absurd, far-fetched, or (most importantly) harmful. George Will gets his money no matter what, and that’s all he cares about …

Meanwhile, Romney donors are proving as enlightened as ever.  Where else but in the Hamptons?

A money manager in a green Jeep said it was time for Romney to “up his game and be more reactive.” So far, said the donor (who would not give his name because he said it would hurt his business), Romney has had a “very timid offense.”

A New York City donor a few cars back, who also would not give her name, said Romney needed to do a better job connecting. “I don’t think the common person is getting it,” she said from the passenger seat of a Range Rover stamped with East Hampton beach permits. “Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them.

“We’ve got the message,” she added. “But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies — everybody who’s got the right to vote — they don’t understand what’s going on. I just think if you’re lower income — one, you’re not as educated, two, they don’t understand how it works, they don’t understand how the systems work, they don’t understand the impact.”

Gee.  I wonder whose child got into the ivies because of legacy slots instead of brains this year?  Look Mavis!  It’s the Upper Class Twit of the Year show! Can they walk along the straight line without falling over? Don’t forget to kick the beggar!

Speaking of Louisiana, here’s Bobby Jindal’s plantation economy at work.

It is time to banish the idea that forced labor and sweatshop exploitation are problems of bygone eras or distant countries. These conditions exist within America’s borders. On June 29, Wal-Mart said it had suspended one of its seafood suppliers in Louisiana for violating its workplace standards. The action came as an advocacy group for foreign guest workers announced that it had uncovered appalling abuses at the company, C. J.’s Seafood, and at a dozen other Wal-Mart suppliers too.

The workers said the company forced them to work 16- to 24-hour days, and 80-hour weeks, at illegally low rates, sometimes locked in the plant, peeling crayfish until their hands felt dead. Some were threatened with beatings. Federal agencies and Wal-Mart are investigating the charges; C. J.’s Seafood did not respond to The Times’s request for comment.

These workers are not unauthorized immigrants toiling off the books. They came here legally under the H-2B program, which grants visas to low-skilled seasonal workers in industries that supposedly cannot find enough Americans to do the job. The program has been dogged by charges of wage abuses, fraud and involuntary servitude, including in investigations by the Government Accountability Office.

New rules protecting workers’ rights were supposed to have taken effect in April, but have been blocked after business owners sued the Department of Labor and a group of senators from both parties shamefully voted to deny the department funding to enforce them.

Under the rules, employers would be barred from confiscating immigration documents and blacklisting workers who complained about working conditions and consulted with unions. Employers would have to try harder to hire Americans and cover migrants’ transportation costs and visa fees. Though the new rules do not go far enough (they should allow workers to change jobs if employers abuse them), they are a crucial step forward.

So, those are my suggestions this morning.  I really didn’t set out to weave this story but rather noticed it evolve as I looked for things.  Doesn’t it look like we’re devolving into a lesser country? What’s on your reading and blogging list today?