America’s Shame, Conservative Supreme Court Justices Gut Voting Rights and Freedom

The Oztoticpac Lands Map

The Oztoticpac Lands Map, c1540. This is both a map and Mexican legal document concerning a lawsuit involving the estate of Don Carlos Ometochtli Chichimecatecotl, an Aztec lord and one of the many sons of Nezahualpilli, ruler of Texcoco. Don Carlos was charged with heresy and publicly executed by the Spanish authorities on November 30, 1539. An old political trick, still in use today. Though political hitmen do not tend to have their victims hanged, if someone has something the powers that be want, trump up some spurious charges to get rid of them. The outcome of that lawsuit is not known. The map-document is historically important as the lower left is a gloss of European fruit trees and grape vines grafted onto indigenous tree stock, the only such image of this agricultural technique known to exist in any Mexican indigenous pictorial document.

On Voting Rights, A Decision As Lamentable as Plessy or Dred Scott

Let’s be clear about what has just happened. Five unelected, life-tenured men this morning declared that overt racial discrimination in the nation’s voting practices is over and no longer needs all of the special federal protections it once did. They did so, without a trace of irony, by striking down as unconstitutionally outdated a key provision of a federal law that this past election cycle alone protected the franchise for tens of millions of minority citizens. And they did so on behalf of an unrepentant county in the Deep South whose officials complained about the curse of federal oversight even as they continued to this very day to enact and implement racially discriminatory voting laws.

In deciding Shelby County v. Holder, in striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the five conservative justices of the United States Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, didn’t just rescue one recalcitrant Alabama jurisdiction from the clutches of racial justice and universal enfranchisement. By voiding the legislative formula that determines which jurisdictions must get federal “preclearance” for changes to voting laws, today’s ruling enables officials in virtually every Southern county, and in many other jurisdictions as well, to more conveniently impose restrictive new voting rules on minority citizens. And they will. That was the whole point of the lawsuit. Here is the link to the ruling.

In a 5-4 ruling over liberal dissent, the Supreme Court today declared “accomplished” a “mission” that has become more, not less, dire in the four years since the justices last revisited the subject. They have done so by focusing on voter turnout, which surely has changed for the better in the past fifty years, and by ignoring the other ruses now widely employed to suppress minority votes.

As expected there are some specious conservative rationale for bringing back part of Jim Crow; well now Congress can just go back and fix the law. This is a weird circular argument. The Voting Rights Act was the law that fixed disenfranchisement of some voters. Though mainly thought of as a civil rights laws concerning minority voters, the law also protected students and women voters. To go back and draft a new version of the same law is the legal equivalent of a hamster wheel. Repealing Section 4 places more burden on some voters, including African-Americans, Latinos, the elderly and women – women as a group frequently have name changes because of marriage. That means restrictive laws, enforced by people who like Jim Crow-lite are more likely to turn away a female voter because, hey, the name on your new license is different from the one on your voter registration. Conservatives may see some short term gains in like the 2014 mid-terms, but if Democrats run on it, and they will, those gains might be canceled out by a very motivated base of more progressive voters – The Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Decision Is a Poison Chalice for the GOP. Though Josh Green is right as far as he goes, he does not address changing demographics. Texas is going to be purple by 2016. Very good chance a good Democratic candidate can take Texas in 2016. Florida, a state that drifts between purple and blue is, after the Romney-Ryan plan to gut Medicare, pretty much a lock in 2016 for Democrats. Scott Walker and the Koch brothers better take lots of pictures to enjoy the memories because Wisconsin, with its working class American base will go back to its progressive roots. That leaves conservatives with an ever shrinking base of hardcore regressive southern conservatives. Recently someone said that Republicans were the party of the Confederacy. After which there was the usual round of faux outrage. The conservatives on the SCOTUS just made the Confederacy accusation all that much obvious than it already was. Since I don’t believe in crystal balls it is nice that the regressive conservatives in Texas did not make it necessary to put out some invalid predictions resulting from striking down Section 4. We know what will happen because it is already happening, Two Hours After The Supreme Court Gutted The Voting Rights Act, Texas AG Suppresses Minority Voters

Just two hours after the Supreme Court reasoned that discrimination is not rampant enough in Southern states to warrant restrictions under the Voting Rights Act, Texas is already advancing a voter ID law and a redistricting map blocked last year for discriminating against black and Latino residents. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued a statement declaring that both measures may go into effect immediately, now that there is no law stopping them from discriminating against minorities.

In 2012, the Justice Department blocked these measures under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Federal courts agreed that both the strict voter ID law and the redistricting map would disproportionately target the state’s fast-growing minority communities. Still, Texas filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court over the Voting Rights Act case complaining that the DOJ had used “abusive and heavy-handed tactics” to thwart the state’s attempts at voter suppression.

In the case of the new electoral map, a panel of federal judges found that “substantial surgery” was done to predominantly black districts, cutting off representatives’ offices from their strongest fundraising bases. Meanwhile, white Congress members’ districts were either preserved or “redrawn to include particular country clubs and, in one case, the school belonging to the incumbent’s grandchildren.” The new map was also drawn in secret by white Republican representatives, without notifying their black and Latino peers. After the court blocked the map, the legislature approved small changes to appease Democratic lawmakers last week. Now that they are free to use the old maps, however, Gov. Rick Perry (R) could simply veto the new plan and use the more discriminatory maps.

The strict photo ID requirement blocked by the DOJ and a federal court would require Texans to show one of a very narrow list of acceptable photo IDs. Expired gun licenses from other states are considered valid, but Social Security cards and student IDs are not. If voters do not have an ID — as many minorities, seniors, and poor people do not — they must travel at their own expense, produce their birth certificate, and in many cases pay a fee to get an ID.

Thanks to the Supreme Court, the DOJ no longer has any power to block these laws, even with the backing of federal judges who found blatant discrimination. Under the remaining sections of the Voting Rights Act, individuals may sue to kill these measures, but only after they have gone into effect and disenfranchised countless Texans of color.

According to the 2010 Census, non-Hispanic whites have become a minority in Texas, down from 52.4 percent to 45.3 percent of the population. Latinos have accounted for 65 percent of the state’s population growth over the past decade. Projections show that the eligible voter pool will shift to roughly 44 percent white voters and 37 percent Hispanic voters by 2025. Faced with this demographic reality, conservatives have alternated between changing their messaging to appeal to Latino voters, who overwhelmingly supported Democrats in 2012, and making it harder for them to vote.

The examples roll in almost daily of why conservatives of color like Ben Carson ‘Racist’ white liberals want me on ‘the plantation’ and Herman Cain ‘I Left The Democrat Plantation A Long Time Ago’, are not just politically clueless, but malevolent denialists. They remind me of George W. Bush who read the Presidential Daily Brief that said Bin laden likely to attack and did nothing. Reality, decency and acting for the common good, just doesn’t penetrate the conservative mind. The movement itself suffers from a permanent case of cognitive dissonance.

Speaking of Texas. Not everyone there is a knuckle dragger,

The victory was the result of an extraordinary effort from Wendy Davis, a Democratic state senator from Fort Worth, who, in a back brace, filibustered the measure for nearly 11 hours — and would have kept going had Republicans not shut her down, saying her speech strayed from the chamber’s filibuster rules.

…As for the bill that Davis and her allies helped kill, GOP lawmakers in the state intended to ban all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and close all but five of the 42 abortion clinics in Texas.

For proponents of reproductive rights, last night offered a genuinely inspirational moment, but it’s worth noting that this fight may soon have another round.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who’s eager to sign the sweeping new restrictions, may very well call state lawmakers back to work for another special session, at which point the same proposal will be considered once more.

Dewhurst hinted that this scenario is, in fact, quite likely. “It’s over. It’s been fun. But see you soon,” he said.

Regardless, I don’t think anyone will soon forget what we saw from Wendy Davis, or just how many people were eager to #StandWithWendy.

Davis tweeted her victory. Thus far she has 17,000 retweets. Way to go Wendy.

As Pawlenty Exits The Corrupt Rick Perry Takes The Stage

Pawlenty Drops Out of Republican Race

Mr. Pawlenty, who had been weighing a presidential campaign for years, had developed a robust plan to win the Republican nomination. But his strategy did not take into account the rising popularity of a fellow Minnesotan, Representative Michele Bachmann, whose candidacy had overshadowed Mr. Pawlenty’s. He had staked his entire campaign around a strong finish at the Iowa straw poll, which he did not achieve.

In my last post about the Iowa debates I was going to hazard a prediction that Pawlenty would stay in the race through at least a couple of primaries as a way to set himself up for the VP slot on the Republican ticket in 2012. Who knows he might still lobby for VP especially if it looks as though Romney would lead the ticket. T’Paw is pretty far to the Right, but he is the natural fire-breathing fanatic that is the flavor of the season among the tea smokers. Huntsman will also likely be gone soon or also try to make a deal with Romney.

By now everyone has heard Texas Governor Rick Perry is running. He and Bachmann are cut from the same crazy mold. Conservatives are as interesting as a box of crayons that only has few shades of beige to choose from. They’re only interesting in a four car pile up kind of way. In that sense Perry versus Bachmann has some dark entertainment value. One the Right’s eye rolling qualities is their ability to believe their own hype. Bachmann on Pawlenty dropping out and why she won the straw poll,

“I’m talking about what people really care about,” she told Jake Tapper, the host of the ABC program. “You saw a big message sent to Washington. They really want someone they can trust and can believe in.”

Bachmann was one of the reasons for the S&P downgrade. So other conservatives who have a deep emotional investment in further wrecking the economy feel Bachmann is a kindred spirit. Makes perfect sense.

The great thing about Gov. Rick Perry is he is to deranged what gravity is to falling objects. He cultivates, believes in, attracts and magnifies the worse of right-wing nationalism, bigotry, misogyny, injustice, wage-slave economics, dog-eat-dog culture, the perversion of religious values and butt sniffing pandering to special interests:

Five Questions for Rick Perry

Despite his mediocre approval ratings [2], national conservatives credit Perry with governing Texas as a right-wing mecca: low taxes, few regulations to protect the environment, no mass transit, a bare bones social safety net, with guns and executions aplenty. (They also wrongly believe, a misconception Perry actively encourages, that Texas has experienced unusually strong economic growth and that this is attributable to Perry’s policies. As Brad Plumer demonstrated [3] in The New Republic, neither claim withstands scrutiny.)

[  ]…As Governor you’ve presided [7] over 230 executions. Of the thirty death row inmates whose sentences you commuted, twenty-seven were juveniles after the Supreme Court outlawed executing juveniles in 2005, and two were developmentally disabled adults after the Supreme Court outlawed executing that group. Do you think executing juveniles and the developmentally disabled should be legal? Is there anyone who you think should not be executed? Do you think it’s possible Texas has executed anyone who was innocent? [8]

Perry has also said Texas has the right to succeed. Here again right-wing originalists such as Perry claim they have the last word on the Constitution. The question of Texas or any state succeeding from the Union was decided in the Civil War and even in a legal suit involving Texas. In a case called Texas v. White the SCOTUS ruled that under the Articles of Confederation, adopted by the states during the American Revolution, was the law of the land – “the Union was solemnly declared to ‘be perpetual.’ The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase (a Republican appointed by Lincoln). This is not a matter of opinion but of the law of the land. We are not a free country in the sense that anything goes. We as citizens are bound by a legal and social contract. I can’t find the link, but in commenting on who were the best U.S. presidents I read a conservative write that one of the reasons he admired Lincoln is because Abe saved the Union. Perry and most of the rabid Right no longer feels that way, if they ever did.

Want to pray for rain. That is well within America’s social and cultural norms. Stuck on a rooftop during hurricane Katrina, afraid you and your family may die, and praying to be rescued. Even many atheists might pray just in case. A member of the government use the weather as a dog whistle to gather the religious extremists to your cult of personality. Not acceptable or even respectful to Christianity, Five Scriptures You Won’t Hear at Rick Perry’s Prayer Event

God doesn’t withhold rain because we’ve done something wrong

“God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45)

Perry recently called Texans to pray for rain, which implies that God steers clouds toward the worthy. According to Right Wing Watch, one of the events co-sponsors has said the earthquake in Japan happened because the emperor had sex with the Sun Goddess. It may be a part of our lower nature to blame disasters on people we don’t like or understand, but Jesus taught that God sends rain on the just and unjust.  Furthermore, he said our love should be equally nonselective.

I have chosen Christianity as my life’s religion, but when nonjudgmental love is taken out of its center, it becomes poisonous and predatory.

 

If one buys into the framing of the drought created by Perry and his exploitative co-believers than maybe Texas is in  one of its worse droughts in decades because Perry is acting like an arrogant and false prophet. If anyone thought Bush 43 injected too much of his peculiar brand of right-wing religion marinated politics into government just wait for the Perry presidency – New Exposé Reveals Rick Perry’s Close Ties to Radical Evangelicals and Self-Proclaimed Prophets

The Texas Observer has just published an explosive new article titled “Rick Perry’s Army of God.” It exposes how a group of radical Christians and self-proclaimed prophets from a little-known movement known as New Apostolic Reformation have been quietly pushing for Perry to run for president. The author of the article, Forrest Wilder, is a staff reporter at theTexas Observer. He’s joining us from Austin.

[  ]..FORREST WILDER: Well, as I write about in the article, the organizers and the endorsers of the event largely come out of what’s called the New Apostolic Reformation movement. And the founder of this movement, the sort of intellectual godfather, is a guy named Peter Wagner, and he’s termed it “the most radical change in the way of doing Christianity since the Protestant Reformation.” Little bit of a grandiose statement, but it is really this movement that’s happening at the bleeding edge of evangelical Christianity in this country. And it wasn’t—it’s not really widely known, although it does have growing influence.

And I think one of the defining characteristics of it is this idea that there are modern-day prophets and apostles, that the prophets and apostles didn’t end in the Bible, and we have them now walking amongst us. And so, the leadership of the movement are self-proclaimed prophets and apostles. They hold themselves out as such, and they’re recognized as such by their followers. So this was, by and large, the set of individuals and organizations that were running The Response.

Perry also has close ties to the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), an affiliate of the American Legislative Exchange Council. The Koch brothers in turn are one of the powers behind ALEC. Rick Perry Pushes ALEC-Backed Education Policies To Turn Texas Universities Into Businesses

The perils of running higher education like a business, meanwhile, are well-known. The nation’s for-profit college system — which targets efficiency and profits the way Perry hopes Texas’ universities will — is rife with fraud and abuse of students, promising quick degrees and quality job opportunities at low prices. In reality, they more often leave students with “crushing debt and bleak job prospects,” hardly the situation one finds in the current Texas university system, which is regarded as one of the nation’s top statewide university systems.

One of the things I wish more of the general public understood about education is that the tax dollars spent are the nation’s way of training workers. Business gets someone who has a good basic skill set and in the case of professional undergraduate/graduate degrees, some specialized skills. Asking business to pay back the expense of providing that training (taxes) is a reasonable arrangement for a modern enlightened civilization. Universities already have a close relationship with business. Which is fine, but universities already provide services off which businesses and workers make a profit. In a report by the very conservative Texas Comptroller’s office the Texas economy receives $5.50 for every dollar spent on education. What Perry and his sycophants want to do is turn the university system into one of those commercial paper-mill type schools where the standards are so low the degrees are sometimes meaningless. Basic economics – when you remove the value from something( a degree in this case) no one will want it anymore.

Remember K-Street, Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay, Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed and the Conservative Culture of Corruption. They have nothing on Rick Perry – Rick Perry’s Crony Capitalism Problem

The Emerging Technology Fund was created at Mr. Perry’s behest in 2005 to act as a kind of public-sector venture capital firm, largely to provide funding for tech start-ups in Texas. Since then, the fund has committed nearly $200 million of taxpayer money to fund 133 companies. Mr. Perry told a group of CEOs in May that the fund’s “strategic investments are what’s helping us keep groundbreaking innovations in the state.” The governor, together with the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the Texas House, enjoys ultimate decision-making power over the fund’s investments.

Among the companies that the Emerging Technology Fund has invested in is Convergen LifeSciences, Inc. It received a $4.5 million grant last year—the second largest grant in the history of the fund. The founder and executive chairman of Convergen is David G. Nance.

In 2009, when Mr. Nance submitted his application for a $4.5 million Emerging Technology Fund grant for Convergen, he and his partners had invested only $1,000 of their own money into their new company, according to documentation prepared by the governor’s office in February 2010. But over the years, Mr. Nance managed to invest a lot more than $1,000 in Mr. Perry. Texas Ethics Commission records show that Mr. Nance donated $75,000 to Mr. Perry’s campaigns between 2001 and 2006.

So a conservative politician sets up what seems on the surface to be a kind of Keynesian fund to stimulate business and job creation. Conservatives always swear government does not create jobs. So hypocrisy one. Said fund is milked of funds by  friends of Rick’s ( one went completely sour and tax payers left with the losses). Why would a conservative even take money from the government for a private business. That is not simply hypocrisy but an action fundamentally opposite what conservatives say they believe in. There is more about the uses and abuses of Ricky’s little scheme at the link. Let me reiterate that this fund is only Keynesian on the surface. It has turned out to be largely a fund for Ricky’s conservative Texas cronies or welfare queens in ten gallon hats.