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The Principles of John Roberts

[ 0 ] October 21, 2014 |

You might think that the fact that the Supreme Court is willing to allow Texas to conduct an election with a racially discriminatory poll tax reflects a complete disinterest to intervene in the electoral process. Of course, this is not exactly true:

There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in April.

Roberts spoke then for the court’s conservative majority in striking down part of a federal election law so as to allow a wealthy Republican businessman from Alabama to give more money to candidates across the country.

The contribution limit restricted the donor’s free speech, Roberts concluded, and the Constitution requires the court to err on the side of safeguarding that cherished 1st Amendment protection.

But the right to vote, which is the way most Americans participate in a democracy, has gotten far less protection from the Supreme Court under Roberts.

There is no starker example than the high court’s order early Saturday allowing Texas to enforce a new photo identification law that a federal judge had blocked earlier this month after deciding the law would prevent as many as 5% of the state’s registered voters, or 600,000 people in all, from casting a ballot.

Fortunately, the law in its majestic equality permits rich and poor alike to donate great sums of money to political campaigns, which will surely be a consolation to the disenfranchised.

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Scalia Comes Off Rather Well…

[ 8 ] October 20, 2014 |

I’m deeply disappointed that Scott and Paul failed to post this:

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A Movement For Everyone: Alcoholics, the Unemployable, Angry Loners…

[ 150 ] October 20, 2014 |

and now come the grifters. It’s just amazing how important an issue ethics in gaming journalism* has gotten!

*Note: underlying “scandal” unlikely to contain any actual evidence even of unethical journalistic behaviors, although it might involve interminable screeds about how someone you don’t know allegedly cheated on someone you don’t know, and the next person to coherently explain why anyone else should give a rat’s ass will be the first.

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“There Are Too Many Federal Regulations Nowadays. Please Eliminate Many At Random. I Am Not A Crackpot.”

[ 7 ] October 20, 2014 |

Janice Rogers Brown strikes again.

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Your honor, the murder of his parents has left my client an orphan

[ 9 ] October 20, 2014 |

Please take this into account when sentencing him for the crime.

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Today In the Party of Lincoln Becoming the Party of Calhoun

[ 25 ] October 20, 2014 |

The Supreme Court has allowed Texas conduct its midterm elections with a patently unconstitutional election statute:

The fact that Texas’ law is unconstitutional twice over — both by being racially discriminatory and imposing a direct cost on voting — is not a coincidence. Even after racial discrimination in voting was made illegal by the Fifteenth Amendment, for nearly a century states were able to use formally race-neutral measures like poll taxes and literacy tests to disenfranchise minority voters. The Texas law is very much part of this long and ignoble tradition.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decisions in 2013 and 2014 allowing the Texas law to go into effect are part of another long and ignoble tradition: the Supreme Court collaborating with state governments to suppress the vote rather than protecting minorities against discrimination. As long as Republican nominees control the Supreme Court, this problem is likely to get worse before it gets better.

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DON’T FEED THE GAYS AFTER MIDNIGHT!

[ 15 ] October 20, 2014 |

Or get them wet — they love it when you get them wet.

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With the Icky and the Eeeebola…

[ 53 ] October 20, 2014 |

Well, this sounds like a sensible and reasonable precaution:

Navarro College is not accepting any new applications from students residing in Africa – all of Africa, not just those five countries on the continent with confirmed cases of the Ebola virus.

The Texas community college made the news cycles last week for sending rejection letters to Nigerian applicants that said “Navarro College is not accepting international students from countries with confirmed Ebola cases.” Navarro initially apologized for “misinformation” provided to prospective international students, but later, Dewayne Gragg, the college’s vice president of access and accountability, issued an updated statement saying that administrators believe it to be the responsible course to postpone recruitment “in those nations that the Center for Disease Control and the U.S. State Department have identified as at risk…. We are eager to resume accepting student applicants from these countries as soon as possible.”

In an interview Gragg clarified that non-African countries with Ebola cases – which would include Spain and, yes, the United States (where Texas has been ground zero) – are not encompassed by the new application policy. By contrast, he said that the college’s policy is to return new applications from any African country.

And the kicker:

Asked why the policy is so broad as to include prospective students in African countries without any Ebola cases, Gragg said the interview was getting into territory that isn’t relevant, but added, “We have made this decision based on what we feel is best for the safety of our students.”

Pity is, this may well turn out to be a remarkably successfully publicity stunt, with Fox News viewers elbowing each other aside to send their little darlings to Navarro…

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Gillespie ’64!

[ 22 ] October 20, 2014 |

gillespie_dizzy_450p

I was unaware of the Dizzy Gillespie for president campaign in 1964. His idea for Miles Davis as head of the CIA certainly would have made for a funkier agency by the late 60s. And who could oppose that?

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Houston as Urban Ideal?

[ 226 ] October 20, 2014 |

OK, no one would really say that Houston is an urban utopia. But this op-ed in the Houston Chronicle actually does make some good points, even if it can be read as a defense of low-density, auto-intensive sprawl that many of us, myself included, reject. Because if you look at the dense urban centers exploding in the last twenty years, they are not livable for the working and even the middle classes:

The luxury paradigm has worked for some in some cities, but has failed, critically, in providing ample opportunities for the middle and working classes, much less the poor. Indeed, many of the cities most closely identified with luxury urbanism tend to suffer the most extreme disparities of both class and race. If Manhattan were a country, it would rank sixth-highest in income inequality in the world out of more than 130 countries for which the World Bank reports data. New York’s wealthiest 1 percent earn one-third of the entire municipality’s personal income – almost twice the proportion for the rest of the country.

Indeed, increasingly, New York, as well as San Francisco, London, Paris and other cities where the cost of living has skyrocketed, are no longer places of opportunity for those who lack financial resources or the most elite educations. Instead, they thrive largely by attracting people who are already successful or are living on inherited largesse.

They are becoming, as journalist Simon Kuper puts it, “the vast gated communities where the 1 percent reproduces itself.”

Not surprisingly, the middle class is shrinking rapidly in most luxury cities. A recent analysis of 2010 Census data by the Brookings Institution found that the percentage of middle incomes in metro regions such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago has been in a precipitous decline for the last 30 years, due in part to high housing and business costs.

A more recent 2014 Brookings study found that these generally high-cost luxury cities – with the exception of Atlanta-tend to suffer the most pronounced inequality: San Francisco, Miami, Boston, Washington DC, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. In recent years, income inequality has risen most rapidly in the very mecca of luxury progressivism, San Francisco, where the wages of the poorest 20 percent of all households have actually declined amid the dot com billions.

Say what you will about the ideology behind some of this language, the point is something we need to take seriously. Even in cities like Denver, costs are rising so rapidly as to squeeze people out. Are our cities to become places only for the 1%? Where do the poor go who work in New York, Washington, or San Francisco? When good public transportation is built, will it just push out the poor so that the wealthy can take it? And this is hardly just an American problem, as we see here in Barcelona.

This hardly means I think we should all be Houston, Dallas, or Charlotte. But I do think we have to develop housing policies that actually allow everyday people to stay in urban centers. For instance, one way to stop the uber-wealthy from owning 10 luxury apartments in 10 leading cities would be extremely high taxes on second homes, undermining the incentive for extreme luxury apartment building making Manhattan the home of the global elite and no one else. And maybe this isn’t a good idea, I don’t know. But we do need a significantly more robust plan to keep cities livable for everyday people if we want a) to create some level of equity in our urban areas and b) if we want environmentally sustainable urban centers that actually make a difference, as oppose to provide amenities to the 1%.

But don’t tell any of this to the real estate section of the Times, which believes a $1 million apartment is within reach for average buyers.

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Discrimination Against Pregnant Workers

[ 40 ] October 20, 2014 |

Last year, New York City passed a law protecting pregnant workers from getting fired. Unfortunately, employers are trying to ignore it and are firing workers when they get pregnant. There is hope for those workers. For workers who get pregnant in most of the country, they can be fired with impunity. That’s discrimination and it needs to be illegal.

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Title VII

[ 0 ] October 20, 2014 |

Over at LaborOnline, we are opening the pages of Labor: Studies of Working Class History of the Americas so that the public can read and discuss the forum several leading labor historians took part in on the legacy of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Please feel free to read and comment.

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