I thought I’d try to get off the topic of the midterm elections specifically and get on to some general things about why the U.S. Political System seems so completely screwed up right now. What exactly has led us to the point where the Republicans seem to be a combination of the John Birch Society and Theocrats and the Democratic Party sits idly by and twiddles its thumbs hoping the process works like it used to?
William Pfaff has a few things to say about this in an article titled “How Ronald Reagan and the Supreme Court Turned American Politics Into a Cesspool”. One of the things that does completely amaze me is how the entire Reagan Presidency has turned into a narrative that’s more saga and drama than reality. There’s some really interesting points here. How did this election get so removed from reality in that people voted for one set of priorities when it came to issues like marijuana legalization and the minimum wage but then sent people to the District diametrically opposed to these policies?
The second significance of this election has been the debasement of debate to a level of vulgarity, misinformation and ignorance that, while not unprecedented in American political history, certainly attained new depths and extent.
This disastrous state of affairs is the product of two Supreme Court decisions and before that, of the repeal under the Reagan Administration, of the provision in the Federal Communications Act of 1934, stipulating the public service obligations of radio (and subsequently, of television) broadcasters in exchange for the government’s concession to them of free use in their businesses of the public airways.
These rules required broadcasters to provide “public interest” programming, including the coverage of electoral campaigns for public office and the independent examination of public issues. The termination of these requirements made possible the wave of demagogic and partisan right-wing “talk radio” that since has plagued American broadcasting and muddied American electoral politics.
Those readers old enough to remember the radio and early television broadcasting of pre-Reagan America will recall the non-partisan news reports and summaries provided by the national networks and by local stations in the United States. There were, of course, popular news commentators professing strong or idiosyncratic views as well, but the industry assured that a variety of responsible opinions were expressed, and that blatant falsehood was banned or corrected.
The two Supreme Court decisions were “Buckley v. Valeo” in 1976 and “Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission” in 2010. Jointly, they have transformed the nature of the American political campaign, and indeed the nature of American national politics. This resulted from the nature and characteristics of mass communications in the United States and the fact that broadcasting has from the beginning been all but totally a commercial undertaking (unlike the state broadcasters in Canada and Britain, and nearly all of Europe).
The two decisions turned political contests into competitions in campaign advertising expenditure on television and radio. The election just ended caused every American linked to the internet to be bombarded by thousands (or what seemed tens of thousands) of political messages pleading for campaign money and listing the enormous (naturally) sums pouring into the coffers of the enemy.
Previously the American campaign first concerned the candidate and the nature of his or her political platform. Friends and supporters could, of course, contribute to campaign funds and expenditures, but these contributions were limited by law in scale and nature. No overt connection was allowed between businesses or industries and major political candidates, since this would have implied that the candidate represented “special interests” rather than the general interest.
The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission verdict is well known and remains highly controversial since it rendered impossible the imposition of legal limits on political campaign spending, ruling that electoral spending is an exercise in constitutionally-protected free speech. Moreover, it adjudged commercial corporations as legal citizens, in electoral matters the equivalent of persons.
Don’t think Citizens United made a difference for the GOP in Tuesday’s midterms? The plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case thinks so.
“Citizens United, our Supreme Court case, leveled the playing field, and we’re very proud of the impact that had in last night’s election,” said David Bossie, chairman of the conservative advocacy organization.
He complained that Democratic lawmakers were trying to “gut the First Amendment” with their proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 ruling, reported Right Wing Watch, which allowed corporations to pour cash into campaigns without disclosing their contributions.
Bossie said this so-called “dark money” was crucial to Republicans gaining control of the U.S. Senate and strengthening their grip on the U.S. House of Representatives.
“A robust conversation, which is what a level playing field allows, really creates an opportunity for the American people to get information and make good decisions,” Bossie said.
Voters across the country trying to cast votes in Tuesday’s elections ran into hurdles erected by Republican legislatures, governors and secretaries of state. Along with mechanical glitches and human error — which occurred in states with leaders on both sides of the political spectrum — voters faced new laws and policies that made it harder to vote.
In Alabama, a last-minute decision by the attorney general barred people from using public housing IDs to vote. Voter ID laws in North Carolina and Texas sowed confusion. Georgia lost 40,000 voter registrations, mostly from minorities. In all, the group Election Protection reported receiving 18,000 calls on Election Day, many of them having to do with voter ID laws. The group noted that the flurry of calls represented “a nearly 40 percent increase from 13,000 calls received in 2010.”
In the presidential election year of 2016, it looks unlikely that those problems will subside — especially if Congress fails to restore the Voting Rights Act. The two states that had the closest vote tallies in the last presidential election — Florida and Ohio — will go into the presidential election year with Republicans controlling the offices of governor and secretary of state and holding majorities in their state legislatures.
In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who won reelection yesterday, will be able to appoint a secretary of state and will enjoy the support of a veto-proof Republican majority in the state House.
In Ohio, controversial Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted won reelection on Tuesday, along with Gov. John Kasich. They’ll be able to work with a strengthened GOP majority in the state legislature.
In North Carolina, where a Republican legislature and governor have cracked down on voting rights, the GOP held onto its majority. Republican secretary of state candidates in the swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Nevada also won elections yesterday.
Two influential elections for voting rights also took place in states unlikely to be presidential swing states. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a national ringleader for advocates of restrictive voting laws, won reelection. In Arizona, which has been working with Kansas to defend their states’ respective tough voting requirements, Republican candidate Michele Reagan also won her contest.
Suppression of voting rights and purposeful spread of lies, propaganda, and disinformation are likely to continue as the 2016 Presidential Political season begins.Will the Democratic Party learn anything from the last two disastrous mid term elections?
This fall, Democrats ran like they were afraid of losing. Consider the issues that most Democrats think really matter: Climate change, which a United Nations report just warned will have “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” across the globe. The expansion of Medicaid, so millions of poor families have health coverage. Our immoral and incoherent immigration system. Our epidemic of gun violence, which produces a mini-Sandy Hook every few weeks. The rigging of America’s political and economic system by the 1 percent.
For the most part, Democratic candidates shied away from these issues because they were too controversial. Instead they stuck to topics that were safe, familiar, and broadly popular: the minimum wage, outsourcing, and the “war on women.” The result, for the most part, was homogenized, inauthentic, forgettable campaigns. Think about the Democrats who ran in contested seats Tuesday night: Grimes, Nunn, Hagan, Pryor, Hagan, Shaheen, Landrieu, Braley, Udall, Begich, Warner. During the entire campaign, did a single one of them have what Joe Klein once called a “Turnip Day moment”—a bold, spontaneous outbreak of genuine conviction? Did a single one unfetter himself or herself from the consultants and take a political risk to support something he or she passionately believed was right?
I’m not claiming that such displays would have changed the outcome. Given President Obama’s unpopularity, Democratic victories, especially in red states, may have been impossible.
But there is a crucial lesson here for 2016. In recent years, some Democrats have convinced themselves they can turn out African Americans, Latinos, single women, the poor, and the young merely by employing fancy computer systems and exploiting Republican extremism. But technologically, Republicans are catching up, and they’re getting shrewder about blunting, or at least masking, the harshness of their views.
We saw the consequences on Tuesday. According to exit polls, voters under 30 constituted only 13 percent of the electorate, down from 19 percent in 2012. In Florida, the Latino share of the electorate dropped from 17 to 13 percent. In North Carolina, the African-American share dropped from 23 to 21 percent.
If Hillary Clinton wants to reverse those numbers, she’s going to have to inspire people—people who, more than their Republican counterparts, are inclined toward disconnection and despair. And her gender alone won’t be enough. She lost to Obama in 2008 in part because she could not overcome her penchant for ultra-cautious, hyper-sanitized, consultant-speak. Yet on the stump this year, she was as deadening as the candidates she campaigned for. As Molly Ball put it in September, “Everywhere Hillary Clinton goes, a thousand cameras follow. Then she opens her mouth, and nothing happens.”
A day after the election, officials are still counting ballots and the investigation into who made robocalls that allegedly persuaded many judges not to show up Tuesday is heating up.
Two former Republican committeemen are telling 2 Investigator Pam Zekman they were removed because they objected to those tactics.
Judges of election are appointed by their respective parties and they look at a judge’s primary voting records as part of the vetting process. But in these cases the former committeemen we talked to said that vetting crossed a line when judges were told who they had to vote for in the Tuesdays’ election.
One says it happened at a temporary campaign headquarters at 8140 S. Western Ave, which we’ve confirmed it was rented by the Republican Party where election judges reported they were falsely told they had to appear for additional training.
And a former 7th ward committeewoman says she witnessed the same thing at 511. E. 79th Street campaign workers calling judges to come in for additional training. She says there wasn’t any training.
“They were calling election judges, telling them to come in so they could get specific orders to vote for the Republican Party,” said Charon Bryson.
She says she is a Republican but objected to the tactic used on the judges.
“They should not be be pressured or coerced into voting for someone to get a job, or to get an appointment,” said Bryson.
Bryson says she thinks it is like “buying a vote.”
“If you don’t vote Republican you will not be an Republican judge, which pays $170,” she said.
The Board of Elections is now investigating whether calls to judges assigned citywide resulted in a shortage that infuriated the mayor.
“What happened with the robocalls was intentional. As far as we can tell somebody got a list, a list with names and numbers, called them, not to educate, not to promote the democratic process, but to sew confusion,” Emanuel said.
Scared by polls that show that people do not want Republican policies and by changes in demographics, Republicans have been pulling out the stops to turn back the tide. However, none of these fundamentals seem to be driving voting trends or turnout. WTF is wrong with people? As a member of the White Women Constituency who seem to be one of the groups that continues to vote against their own interest, I can agree that we should all get our acts together now. Nowhere was this more evident than in the Wendy Davis campaign.
Once more, with feeling: Greg Abbott and the Republican Party did not win women. They won white women. Time and time again, people of color have stood up for reproductive rights, for affordable health care, for immigrant communities while white folks vote a straight “I got mine” party ticket—even when they haven’t, really, gotten theirs.
The trend is echoed in national politics; we saw it play out across the country last night. To be sure, there are many factors that contributed to America’s rightward dive over the cliff: In a post-Citizens United electoral landscape, racist gerrymandering and voter ID laws appear to have had their intended effects of dividing and disenfranchising already marginalized voters.
But there’s another factor at play that Democrats fail to grapple with, and the Republican Party capitalizes on, time and time again: the historical crisis of empathy in the white community, one much older than gerrymandered congressional districts or poll taxes.
Let’s talk about what a vote for Wendy Davis meant: It meant a vote for strong public school funding, for Texas Medicaid expansion, for affordable family planning care, for environmental reforms, for access to a full spectrum of reproductive health-care options.
On the flip side, a vote for Greg Abbott meant a vote for the status quo, for empowering big industry and big political donors, for cutting public school funds and dismantling the Affordable Care Act, for overturning Roe v. Wade.
White women chose Greg Abbott Tuesday night. We did not choose empathy. Texas has been red for two decades. We do not choose empathy. We choose the fact that our children will always have access to education, that our daughters will always be able to fly to California or New York for abortion care, that our mothers will always be able to get that crucial Pap smear.
We chose a future where maternal mortality—but not our maternal mortality—rates will rise. We chose a future where preventable deaths from cervical cancer—but not our deaths—will rise. We chose a future where deaths from illegal, back-alley abortions—but not our illegal, back-alley abortions—will rise. We chose ourselves, and only ourselves.
Is white privilege such an enticing thing to us that we’ll sell ourselves out just to protect what scraps we’re thrown?
Anyway, between dark money, voter suppression, and the number of voters willing to vote against their policy beliefs and interests, we’re in trouble as a nation. The Democratic Party just bailed on Mary Landrieu and I’m about to get a Senator that wants to raise Social Security eligibility to age 70, privatize Medicare with vouchers, and defund student loans. This doesn’t even count that he voted no to hurricane relief for his own constituents after Hurricane Isaac. At this rate, every white person in the country should get a tube of astrolube with their ballot. Bend over folks, cause you’ve done it to yourselves!
What’s on your reading and blogging list?
I don’t know about you, but I really missed JJ’s Friday Night Lite post last night, so I thought I’d start out Sky Dancing’s Saturday with some political cartoons. I hope you enjoy these — courtesy of Cagle Post.
A few more on Syria:
March on Washington 50th Anniversary:
Labor Day and Income Inequality
NFL Concussion Lawsuit
I hope everyone has a wonderful Labor Day weekend!! And if you’re not out on the beach or doing something else more exciting, please post links to the stories you’re following today in the comment thread.
I’ve been somewhat out of the loop for the past few days because I’ve had some kind of weird virus that has made it difficult for me to think. If it weren’t August, I’d wonder if it’s the flu. Everything ached. For a couple of days it felt like my skin actually hurt. Anyway I’ve been vegetating in front of the TV watching Criminal Minds reruns and Lifetime movies. I’m feeling better now, although I’m still sleepy all the time.
I’ve been surfing around this morning, and there is quite a bit of interesting news out there. I’ll begin with a fascinating archaeological find. According to a new study reported in Nature, Neanderthals invented tools made of bone that are still used today for leather-working.
Excavations of Neanderthal sites more than 40,000 years old have uncovered a kind of tool that leather workers still use to make hides more lustrous and water resistant. The bone tools, known as lissoirs, had previously been associated only with modern humans. The latest finds indicate that Neanderthals and modern humans might have invented the tools independently.
The first of the lissoir fragments surfaced a decade ago at a rock shelter called Pech-de-l’Azé in the Dordogne region of southwest France. Archaeologist Marie Soressi of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, knew the tool at once, says her colleague Shannon McPherron.
The tools are also known as slickers and burnishers, says McPherron. Soressi contacted luxury-goods manufacturer Hermès in Paris, and found that their high-end leather workers use just such a tool. “She showed them a picture, and they recognized it instantly,” says McPherron. The company’s line includes the wildly popular Birkin handbag, which sells for around US$10,000 and upwards.
McPherron says that a single artefact, however, was not enough for the researchers to draw broad conclusions. “You find one, and there’s always some doubt. You’re worried that it’s not a pattern — that it’s anecdotal behaviour.” But subsequent digs at Pech-de-l’Azé and nearby Abri Peyrony turned up further lissoir fragments, leading the researchers to conclude that Neanderthals made the tools routinely.
The researchers say it’s not clear if these kinds of tools were first invented by Neanderthals or modern humans. It’s even possible that modern humans could have learned how to make and use the bone tools from Neantherthals, although most archaeologists believe that Neanderthals learned the skills from humans. From Live Science:
Neanderthals created artifacts similar to ones made at about the same time by modern humans arriving in Europe, such as body ornaments and small blades. Scientists hotly debated whether such behavior developed before or after contact with modern humans.
“There is a huge debate about how different Neanderthals were from modern humans,” said Shannon McPherron, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
Now, McPherron and his colleagues have discovered that Neanderthals created a specialized kind of bone tool previously only seen in modern humans. These tools are about 51,000 years old, making them the oldest known examples of such tools in Europe and predating the known arrival of modern humans.
Yesterday North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a new
voter suppression voter ID law and the ACLU, NAACP, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice immediately filed suit against it. USA Today:
Republicans who backed the legislation said it was meant to prevent voter fraud, which they claim is both rampant and undetected in North Carolina. Independent voting rights groups joined Democrats and libertarians in suggesting the true goal was to suppress voter turnout, especially among blacks, the young, the elderly and the poor.
“It is a trampling on the blood, sweat and tears of the martyrs — black and white — who fought for voting rights in this country,” said the Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP. “It puts McCrory on the wrong side of history.” [….]
Barber called the Republican-backed measure one of the worst attempts in the nation at voting reform and said the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People considered the package an all-out attack on existing laws long seen as a model of voter participation….
The legislation signed by McCrory and approved last month by state lawmakers requires voters to present government-issued photo IDs at the polls and shortens early voting by a week, from 17 days to 10. It also ends same-day registration, requiring voters to register, update their address or make any other needed changes at least 25 days ahead of an election. A high school civics program that registers tens of thousands of students to vote each year in advance of their 18th birthdays has been eliminated.
On the same day that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed a restrictive voter ID bill into law, Clinton criticized the Supreme Court decision that she believes “stripped out the pre-clearance formula that made [the Voting Rights Act] so effective.”
She noted that Texas, Florida and North Carolina are states whose recent voter legislation has shifted the burden, slamming the North Carolina bill as one that “reads like the greatest hits of voter suppression.”
“In the weeks since the ruling, we’ve seen an unseemly rush by previously covered jurisdictions to enact or enforce laws that will make it harder for millions of our fellow Americans to vote,” Clinton said.
Clinton also went after several provisions of the North Carolina bill that she believes place a greater burden on citizens facing discrimination, including limited voting hours, stricter ID requirements and restricted early voting.
CNN reports that Hillary also plans to discuss national security and transparency in an upcoming speech.
Clinton said her appearance at the annual meeting of the American Bar Association marked the beginning of a speaking series she’ll embark upon that will also include an address on the United States’ national security policies next month in Philadelphia.
Clinton said the September address would focus of issues of “transparency and balance.” The former top diplomat had not yet publicaly addressed the classified National Security Agency surveillance programs that were revealed through leaks at the beginning of the summer.
The move into the political realm marks a new phase in Clinton’s post-State Department life, which was previously occupied by speeches to global women’s organizations and a schedule of paid appearances. She is also writing a diplomacy-focused memoir for release in 2014.
The speeches will likely fuel speculation that Clinton is planning to jump into the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, where she is considered an early favorite.
Well there’s some exciting news! It’s becoming more an more clear that Hillary plans to run for president in 2016.
I’m sure you’ve already heard that James “Whitey” Bulger has been found guilty of murder and racketeering, among other charges. It was always a foregone conclusion. The only surprise is that the jury was only able to find him guilty of 11 murders out of the 19 he was charged with. The New York Times:
BOSTON — James (Whitey) Bulger, the mobster who terrorized South Boston in the 1970s and ‘80s, holding the city in his thrall even after he disappeared, was convicted Monday of a sweeping array of gangland crimes, including 11 murders. He faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison.
The verdict delivers long-delayed justice to Mr. Bulger, 83, who disappeared in the mid-1990s after a corrupt agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation told him he was about to be indicted. He left behind a city that wondered if he would ever be caught — and even if the F.B.I., which had been complicit in many of his crimes and had relied on him as an informer, was really looking for him.
“This was the worst case of corruption in the history of the F.B.I.,” said Michael D. Kendall, a former federal prosecutor who investigated Mr. Bulger’s associates. “It was a multigenerational, systematic alliance with organized crime, where the F.B.I. was actively participating in the murders of government witnesses, or at least allowing them to occur.”
Of course there won’t be any punishment for the FBI except for embarrassment, if that troubles them. And there was only minor punishment for the parade of hit men and other criminals who were given generous deals in exchange for their testimony.
The families of the victims of the 7 murders Bulger was not convicted of were disappointed and angry.
As a clerk read the verdicts in the lengthy and complicated list of charges, Mr. Bulger looked away from the jury and showed no reaction. He was found guilty of 31 of 32 counts of his indictment, the one exception involving an extortion charge. While the jury of eight men and four women convicted him of 11 murders, they found the government had not proved its case against him in seven others, and in one murder case it made no finding, leading to gasps inside the courtroom by relatives of those murder victims and explosive scenes outside the court.
“My father just got murdered again 40 years later in that courtroom,” said the son of William O’Brien, who is also named William….
Perhaps one glimmer of gratification for Mr. Bulger was that the jury reached “no finding” in the death of Debra Davis, one of two women he was accused of strangling. He has long maintained that his personal code of honor did not allow for the killing of women, although the jury did determine that he had killed the other woman, Deborah Hussey. Ms. Davis was the longtime girlfriend of Stephen Flemmi, Mr. Bulger’s former partner in crime who testified against him. Ms. Hussey was the daughter of another of Mr. Flemmi’s longtime girlfriends.
One of the jurors has already talked to local Boston media about how stressful the experience was.
One of the jurors who voted to convict Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger for a string of gangland crimes described how the more than 32 hours of deliberations were “stressful” and involved “all kinds of dissension.”
“Slamming doors,” Scott Hotyckey told CBS station WBZ-TV. “People leaving. Peolpe wanting to get off the jury.” [….]
Hotyckey, juror number 5, said the evidence was overwhelming.
“If you could believe the testimony, and believe what you heard,” Hotyckey said. “I don’t see how you couldn’t find the person guilty.”
But Hotyckey says not all of the jurors believed the testimony they heard – especially from John Martorano, a former hit man who got a plea deal from prosecutors to testify against Bulger.
“There was one juror that constantly said that his testimony was not believable,” Hotyckey recalled. “(He said) over and over again that you couldn’t believe anything (Martorano) said because of the government.”
A study on rats shows that the brain experiences a huge surge of electricity during the moment of death, suggesting that they are experiencing a higher state of consciousness.
It could explain why people claim to see white light or “life flash before their eyes” during near-death experiences.
Dr Jason Braithwaite from the University of Birmingham says that since this surge is happening in rats, it could also happen in humans.
Watch an interview with Braithwaite at the BBC link. More detail on the study:
A study carried out on dying rats found high levels of brainwaves at the point of the animals’ demise.
US researchers said that in humans this could give rise to a heightened state of consciousness.
The lead author of the study, Dr Jimo Borjigin, of the University of Michigan, said: “A lot of people thought that the brain after clinical death was inactive or hypoactive, with less activity than the waking state, and we show that is definitely not the case.
“If anything, it is much more active during the dying process than even the waking state.”
Much more at the link.
Now it’s your turn. What stories have caught your fancy today? Please share your links in the comment thread.
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.
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 Ohio.com: 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.
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
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?
Nate Silver continues to be the best source of poll analysis during this endless presidential campaign season. The Romney path to electoral victory is still pretty nonexistent even if he did give them the old razzle dazzle in Denver last week. I guess the Romney Lie Fest got less of a bump than the usual challenger victory in the first debate.
A 3-point gain for Mr. Romney would be consistent with what candidates received following some of the stronger debate performances in the past. It would also make the national race very close. The FiveThirtyEight “now-cast” had Mr. Obama ahead by an average of about 4.5 percentage points between the conventions and the debate. (This is higher than the average result from the national tracking polls alone, which have been a pinch less favorable to Mr. Obama on balance than the broader consensus of surveys.) A 3-point gain for Mr. Romney would imply that Mr. Obama’s advantage is now only 1 or 2 points, putting Mr. Romney well within striking distance depending on how well the rest of the campaign goes for him and how accurate the polls turn out to be.
However, the fact that Mr. Romney did not make further gains in the polls on Sunday can be read as mildly disappointing for him. The way tracking polls work is to replace the oldest day of interviews with fresh interviews conducted the previous day. In the Sunday release of the polls, this meant that interviews from Saturday were replacing a day of interviewing from before the debate. The fact that the Saturday interviews that entered the polls were roughly as strong for Mr. Obama as the predebate day of interviews that they displaced is an encouraging sign for Mr. Obama — at least as compared with most of the polling news that he has received since the debate.
There’s an interesting article on voter fraud in Washington Monthly. Interestingly enough, the focus is on mail-in ballots which weren’t a focus in any of the voter restriction laws that were passed this year primarily because they frequently favor republicans. There’s actual research now that shows that voter ID laws are likely to increase fraud.
What do forged absentee ballots and vote-buying have in common? They occur more often than in-person impersonation (which is virtually non-existent) and are unaffected by voter ID laws. What’s more, states like Florida and Texas, which recently enacted legislation making it harder to vote in most respects (laws currently being challenged by the courts and the DOJ) feature no-excuse absentee voting, making it easier to commit fraud that way. As Liptak explains, that’s probably no coincidence: “Republicans are in fact more likely than Democrats to vote absentee. In the 2008 general election in Florida, 47 percent of absentee voters were Republicans and 36 percent were Democrats.” (Liptak adds: “Voters in nursing homes can be subjected to subtle pressure, outright intimidation or fraud.”)
The moral of Liptak and Fahrenthold’s stories is this: people just aren’t willing to commit a felony to vote in someone’s place—the only kind of fraud ID laws target. Rather, politicians themselves usually commit the fraud, by forging absentee ballots or paying people to vote for them. In addition, when states enact restrictive voter ID laws, it only encourages them to vote by mail, where errors and corruption is more rife.
I haven’t had any references to good graphs recently so I thought I’d link you to this Chart Book that shows you how serious the Great Recession actually was from CBPP. It also shows how much worse the economy would have been without stimulus. Can you image how much better we could be by now if the Republicans hadn’t gotten in and blocked more efforts to improve the economy?
The Recovery Act was designed to boost the demand for goods and services above what it otherwise would be in order to preserve jobs in the recession and create them in the recovery. The Congressional Budget Office finds that GDP has been higher each year since 2009 than it would have been without the Recovery Act (with the largest impact in 2010 when GDP was between 0.7 and 4.1 percent higher than it otherwise would have been). The economy is still benefiting from the Recovery Act in 2012, although as expected that effect is diminishing as the economy grows; CBO estimates that GDP in the third quarter of 2012 will be between 0.1 and 0.7 percent larger than it would have been without the Recovery Act.
Again, congress appeared absolutely unconcerned about this devastating economic event. WAPO indicates there’s a good reason. Most of them actually got richer or were immune from its impact.
The wealthiest one-third of lawmakers were largely immune from the Great Recession, taking the fewest financial hits and watching their investments quickly recover and rise to new heights. But more than 20 percent of the members of the curren tCongress — 121 lawmakers — appeared to be worse off in 2010 than they had been six years earlier, and 24 saw their reported wealth slide into negative territory.
Those findings emerge from an ongoing examination of congressional finances by The Washington Post, which analyzed thousands of financial disclosure forms and public records for all members of Congress.
Most members weathered the financial crisis better than the average American, who saw median household net worth drop 39 percent from 2007 to 2010. The median estimated wealth of members of the current Congress rose 5 percent during the same period, according to their reported assets and liabilities. The wealthiest one-third of Congress gained 14 percent.
Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez won re-election in on Sunday, quashing the opposition’s best bet at unseating him in 14 years and cementing himself as a dominant figure in modern Latin American history.
The 58-year-old Chavez took 54.42 percent of the vote, with 90 percent of the ballots counted, to 44.97 percent for young opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, official results showed.
Chavez’s victory would extend his rule of the OPEC member state to two decades, though he is recovering from cancer and the possibility of a recurrence hangs over his political future.
Jubilant supporters poured onto the streets of Caracas to celebrate the victory of a man who has near-Messianic status among Venezuela’s poor, and there was relief too among leftist allies around the region – from Cubato Bolivia – who rely on his oil-financed generosity.
“I’m celebrating with a big heart,” said Mary Reina, a 62-year-old Chavez supporter who lives in the hillside slum where the president cast his vote. “Chavez is the hope of the people and of Latin America.”
So, it looks like US conservatives have one more bogey man still standing. Meanwhile, Citizens United has opened up a whole new dimension in corporate donations to candidates. Is this really legal?
A million-dollar donation by a foreign-owned corporation to a Republican super-PAC has raised legal concerns and opened up the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court decision to new criticism.
Restore Our Future, the super-PAC supporting Republican Mitt Romney’s run for president, received a $1 million donation in mid-August from reinsurance company OdysseyRe of Connecticut, a “wholly-owned subsidiary” of Canadian insurance and investment management giant Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited.
Fairfax Financial’s founder is Indian-born V. Prem Watsa. Watsa serves as CEO and chairman and owns or controls 45 percent of the company’s shares. He is also the chairman of the board of OdysseyRe, the American subsidiary.
The law says that any foreign national is prohibited from “directly or indirectly” contributing money to influence US elections. That means no campaign donations, no donations to super-PACs, and no funding of political advertisements.
But campaign finance law is not as clear for US subsidiaries of foreign companies as it is for individuals.
Most of the regulations on political spending by subsidiaries of foreign companies were written before corporations were legally allowed to fund political advertisements or donate to super-PACs. And Republican members of the Federal Election Commission have thwarted the implementation of new rules regarding the practice.
With that, I will turn it over to you. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
My political activism has been shaped by two very disturbing events as well as the women’s rights movement. I watched Watergate unfold on TV as a kid. I watch the Supreme Court Select a President in 2000. It’s one thing for a political party to rig votes within the confines of its apparatus. It’s a completely different thing when your elected government tries to rig the way you can vote or puts up deliberate obstacles to voting. I’ve been watching Rachel Maddow hammer home all the attempts around the country by Republican Secretaries of State to disenfranchise voters. I’ve written about this before. I want to give you some updated information on how the Republican Party actively works to take away your right to vote.
First, the voter ID laws have been shown to not get at the kind of election fraud that we usually experience. THIS is the kind of fraud that’s an issue: Republican Staffers Charged With 36 Counts of Election Fraud.
Four former staffers for resigned House Rep. Thaddeus McCotter have been charged with 36 counts of misdemeanor and felony election fraud. Yesterday one of those staffers, Lorianne O’Brady, pled not guilty to five misdemeanor counts of submitting fraudulent signatures on a ballot petition. O’Brady is the last of the four staffers to be arraigned; the other three, Don Yowchuang, Mary Melissa Turnbull, and Paul Seewald, were arraigned on similar charges on August 10th.
This incident perfectly highlights the dirty little secret about election fraud. Election fraud overwhelmingly happens on the campaign side, not the voter side. It’s far easier – and more rewarding – to cheat while working from within the system than it is to commit in-person voter fraud. The GOP is legislating against cases of voter fraud in which a person would have to give someone else’s name at the correct polling place in order to falsely vote once; meanwhile a Republican Congressman and his staff fabricated 1,756 signatures so that he could run illegally.
Perry, who has been registered to vote in North Carolina since at least 1975, according to election records, was dismayed to receive a letter this month from the Wake County Board of Elections suggesting she may no longer be qualified to vote because she might be dead.
“My initial reaction? I was mad as hell,” Perry said Monday morning.
Her name was one of nearly 30,000 across the state that volunteers with the Voter Integrity Project identified two weeks ago as potentially being dead but still registered to vote. The Voter Integrity Project is a North Carolina offshoot of True the Vote, a national movement that purports to combat election fraud by challenging the voter registration of those they believe should not be on voter lists.
“We’re not really interested in partisan politics,” said Jay DeLancy, a retired Air Force officer and director of Voter Integrity Project. “As an organization, we try to eliminate those kinds of biases in our research.”
However, the subject of voter fraud is inextricably linked to the current political conversation. Republicans in many states, including North Carolina, have led efforts to pass laws that would require people to present picture identification when they go to the polls. That effort failed in North Carolina, but DeLancy recently appeared on a Fox News Channel show calling such laws “common sense”. Democrats have generally pushed back against such laws, saying they would disproportionately affect elderly and minority voters.
The Republicans’ plan is that if they can’t buy the 2012 election they will steal it.
The plan, long in the making and now well into its execution, is to raise great gobs of money—in newly limitless amounts—so that they and their allies could outspend the president’s forces; and they would also place obstacles in the way of large swaths of citizens who traditionally support the Democrats and want to exercise their right to vote. The plan would disproportionately affect blacks, who were guaranteed the right to vote in 1870 by the Fifteenth Amendment; but then that right was negated by southern state legislatures; and after people marched, were beaten, and died in the civil rights movement, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Now various state legislatures are coming up with new ways to try once again to nullify that right.
In a close election, the Republican plan could call into question the legitimacy of the next president. An election conducted on this basis could lead to turbulence on election day and possibly an extended period of lawsuits contesting the outcome in various states. Bush v. Gore would seem to have been a pleasant summer afternoon. The fact that their party’s nominee is currently stumbling about, his candidacy widely deemed to be in crisis mode, hasn’t lessened their determination to prevent as many Democratic supporters as they can from voting in November.
This national effort to tilt the 2012 election is being carried out on the pretext that the country’s voting system is under threat from widespread “voter fraud.” the fact that no significant fraud has been found doesn’t deter the people pursuing this plan. Myths are convenient in politics. Want to fix an election? No problem. Just make up a story that the other side is trying to rig the election—and meanwhile try to rig the election. (Jon Stewart recently concluded a searing segment about the imagined voter fraud by saying: “Next, leashes for leprechauns.”)
There’s states that have been challenged in court, yelled out by voters and organizations like the League of Women Voter’s, and by Good Government Groups. They’re on a mission. They’re targeting groups that traditionally vote Democrat. For example, if you live in the South, chances are that you know that the Sunday before Election Day is the day that most black churches use their church buses to take their elderly and their poor, transportationless parishioners to the polls to vote. Guess how many states are now closing down access to voting on the Sunday before the election? Nothing is stopping this steam roller.
Iowa, Florida, and Colorado tried to purge the voting rolls of suspected unqualified voters, but their lists turned out to be wildly inaccurate. Florida officials compiled a list of 180,000 people whose qualifications were questioned, but after voting registrars checked (some protesting the unfairness of the purge) only 207, or .0002 percent of the state’s registered voters, were found to be unqualified to vote. Nearly sixty percent of the 180,000 names had Hispanic surnames, another 14 percent were blacks. Officials said that whites or republicans were unlikely to be on the list.
While a combination of outraged citizens and legal challenges led all three states to ostensibly give up on the idea of purging voters, Florida and Iowa officials have said that they intend to pursue those who haven’t been proven innocent. As a result, hundreds of thousands of citizens don’t know if they’ll be allowed to vote—which, like a number of the restrictions, could be a disincentive to even subjecting oneself to what could be a hassle or humiliation at the polling place. Florida also enacted a voter ID law, which was struck down by a federal court. Ever on the lookout for ways to keep Democratic supporters from the polling places, the state cut short the number of days for early voting, and established rules that in effect barred outside groups such as the League of Women Voters from conducting registration drives. Though this restriction was later overturned by a federal court, voter registration groups said that important time had been lost while they contested the new restrictions on their activities.
You can learn more about this from Melissa Harris-Perry and her panel. Melissa explains why women, minorities, the elderly and college students are at highest risk of losing their vote. Here’s how Voter ID laws suppress voting by college students.
In Tennessee, a new law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls explicitly excludes student IDs.
In Wisconsin, college students are newly disallowed from using university-provided housing lists or corroboration from other students to verify their residence.
Florida’s reduction in early voting days is expected to reduce the number of young and first-time voters there.
And Pennsylvania’s voter identification bill, still on the books for now, disallows many student IDs and non-Pennsylvania driver’s licenses, which means out-of-state students may be turned away at the polls.
In 2008, youth voter turnout was higher that it had been since Vietnam, and overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. This time around, the GOP isn’t counting solely on disillusionment to keep the student vote down.
In the last two years, Republican-controlled state legislatures have passed dozens of bills that erect new barriers to voting, all targeting Democratic-leaning groups, many specifically aimed at students. The GOP’s stated rationale is to fight voter fraud. But voter fraud — and especially in-person fraud which many of these measures address — is essentially nonexistent.
Here’s a guide on Voter Suppression efforts put out by the National Women’s Law Center. Women often require at least twice the documentation that men do to get Voter IDs because of name changes due to marriage, divorce and remarriage.
Because women’s names often change in marriage, many women lack state-issued photo ID in their current legal names. Although 1 in 10 Americans do not have a valid state-issued photo ID,
ten states have recently passed “no-photo, no-vote” laws that will disproportionately impact women because of these name changes.4 As a result of these new laws, women who do not have a valid state-issued photo ID in their current name may need to first get an official copy of their marriage license before they can get a photo ID—a cumbersome process that may be prohibitively expensive for women hard hit in this economy
Also, women make up a majority of the black voting base, of college students, and the elderly. Any effort to suppress any of these groups disproportionately impacts women. All of these groups–and Hispanic voters–are more likely to be the targets of voter suppression laws and are more likely to vote for liberal causes and democratic candidates.
I want to give a shout out to all Sky Dancers and their friends to please check around your family and neighborhood to see if any folks you know could possibly need a voter ID, a ride to the Polls, or some help to meet the requirements of laws if you live in one of the states that has passed one of these laws. I’ve already gotten on the case of my youngest daughter who could potentially get trapped into this mess. Be prepared to stand up for any one at the polls who is being harassed. Help them get provisional ballots, if necessary. Be especially careful if you have a Hispanic surname. Florida and some other states appear to be targeting Hispanic surnames. Make sure no one has this essential right and privilege of citizenship taken from them!!! Also, check with the League of Women Voters. They’re working actively on this issue in many states.
Before we get to the evening news reads, I have to tell y’all a tale…it is true, every word.
This afternoon, I had to go down to my son’s high school for a Freshman orientation…yes, they have been in school since August 2nd. Anyway, the teachers ushered us into this small classroom…where the lights were shut off. (Must be money-saving thing since it was after school.)
This was a regular classroom, not a special ed or the health class. (See, I have to preface this story with a few details because it is ridiculous and unbelievable.)
The woman, whose classroom we were standing in, began talking. I was looking around the room for any hint as to what kind of class this was. This teacher was also the college prep guidance counselor and she was going on and on about how every student is going to go to college. Blah, blah, blah….they have funding to make sure every kid applies to college. Yadda, yadda, yadda…and all the while she was talking, right behind her back was the day’s lesson. I kid you not…it was a step by step instruction on how to wash hands.
No shit…if I could have taken a picture I would have. On the board were eight steps, and the first one was…
Step 1: Turn Water On.
Step 2: Put Soap on Hands.
Here we are, in a high school classroom. It is not special ed…it is not health…or hygiene, and on the board is this crap. I mean, if you are going to teach kids about the importance of washing hands…teach them why they need to wash them, you know like e.coli… staph…MRSA, etc. These are HIGH SCHOOL students, not kindergarten or first grade. What is on the lesson plan for next week? “How to wipe your ass?”
Step 1: Pull pants down.
Step 2: Sit on toilet.
I am just wondering if the last step of “How to wipe your ass” goes something like this:
Step 6: Wash Hands, see notes from last week’s class.
And as I am watching this woman tell these parents that every student will apply and go to college…my mind is thinking, WTF? If you are teaching these kids how to wash their hands step by step, we will be lucky if they even graduate high school.
Fortunately I went to this “orientation” with my friend, who like me had the same “What the hell is this shit?” expression on her face. She whispered into my ear, “This doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in me whatsoever.” For what it is worth, we got out of going to the kids classrooms… since they are taught by the football and girls softball coaches, and the coaches didn’t stay for the meet and greet.
This classroom is the future my friends, don’t it make you feel great?
Alright, now for a few newsy links.
Did you see, Romney is “gawds” answer to those people, you know…the poor worthless Americans he dissed in his leaked fundraising tapes.
Mitt Romneysaid Wednesday that he would represent “100%” of Americans, striving to dampen a controversy that has dogged him since Monday, when video surfaced of him saying nearly half the nation’s voters were dependent on the government and would never support him because he would not be able to convince them to take responsibility for their lives.
“My campaign is about the 100% in America. And I am concerned about them. I am concerned about the fact that over the past four years, life has become harder for Americans,” Romney said. “… this campaign is about helping people who need help, and right now, the people who are pool in this country need help getting out of poverty. The people in the middle class need help because their incomes have gone down every year for the last four years.”
The GOP presidential nominee spoke at a Univision forum where he was asked whether he regretted the statement he made to donors in a recording that was disclosed Monday by Mother Jones. He did not respond to that part of the question.
I really hate Mitt Romney.
And why should he even bother representing all Americans, when you have things like voter id laws and polling center closures to deal with the unwanted electorate. (This news item is about a county next door to Banjoville.)
While it won’t happen in time for the November General Election, Habersham County is proceeding with consolidation of its 14 polling places.
On Monday, the commission voted 4-1 to consolidate the county’s current 14 polling places to two.
“We spent several months looking at alternatives,” said Interim Elections Board Chairman Pete Davitto as he introduced the issue before the commission. “Quite frankly, I first started looking at having five voting locations, one for each of your [commission] districts. That really didn’t work out. I looked at having six geographically-spread voting locations. We were told that the preferred number was two.”
“After lengthy discussion – I believe last month I told you it went on for almost a year – we determined that two was possible,” Davitto said. “We based that on Rabun County’s reduction from nine to one. Our recommendation at this point still stands that we reduce it to two locations. Those two locations encompass approximately 80 percent of the citizens of this county.”
“Are some citizens going to be upset with it?” Davitto said. “Of course. Are some citizens going to have to drive a little farther to vote? Of course. I’m one of them. I live in Batesville, and we’re recommending the Batesville polling location be eliminated.”
Are you fucking kidding me? Aren’t these polling places staffed with VOLUNTEERS? What about these old folks who have difficulty driving 30 miles of mountain roads to get into town? Oh yeah…they are part of the 47%…so who gives a damn about them.
This is an open thread, let the commentary begin!