Monday, July 9, 2012

Last Call

With the Republican party increasingly going the route of The Last Bastion Of White Privilege, the Civil Rights Act of 1965 has outlived its political usefulness to a party that has turned its back on African-American and Latino voters.  In no red state is this battle being fought more fiercely than in Texas, second only to California in population and electoral college votes, and the Lone Star State is suing to get out of the Civil Rights Act's Section V "pre-clearance" laws that allow the Department of Justice to block the state's new voter identification suppression law.  Texas (and national) Republicans want the Civil Rights Act of 1965 gutted if not thrown out completely, and they're depending on the Supreme Court's judicial activist conservative bloc to do it.

It's a race to see which set of numbers wins, Texas's growing and increasingly blue Latino population, or the five conservatives on the Supreme Court.  We get a preview this week with an entire week's worth of oral arguments before the DC Circuit Court.

While it passed with bipartisan support more than 45 years ago, a shift in political preferences along racial lines has turned the landmark piece of civil rights era legislation into a highly charged political issue.

In the 1960s, Democrats held a monopoly of voters in the Southern states. But since then, most white Southern voters have shifted allegiances to the Republican Party, while black and Hispanic voters moved further toward the left.

That shift did not fully manifest itself until congressional redistricting last year, Nathaniel Persily, a professor at Columbia Law School, wrote in a to-be-released article in the Stanford Law & Policy Review. There have been more challenges to the Voting Rights Act in the past two years than in the previous 45 years combined. Among those challenges have been a redistricting case in Alabama and Florida's purging of voter lists of non-citizens earlier this year.

"We're seeing people who previously supported the act and what it stood for are now bringing challenges to it," said Ryan Haygood, director of the Political Participation Group at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

The law is politically inconvenient for the GOP in 2012.  The only way they stay in power with their decrepit, bigoted ideas is if the population allowed to vote stays increasingly white and wealthy and restricted to the fanatical partisans on the right who vote to keep it that way.  So, the Civil Rights Act, preventing states like Texas from implementing near permanent Jim Crow laws on minorities, has to go.

They may get their wish.

More Homeless Shenanigans

A growing number of cities want to tackle the problem of homelessness by outlawing what are known as "acts of daily living" — sleeping, eating and panhandling in public. In Philadelphia, a new rule is targeting not the homeless but those who feed them.
When Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced the ban on serving food in public parks last March, he said moving such services indoors was part of an effort to raise standards for the homeless.
"I believe that people, regardless of their station in life, should be able to actually sit down, at a table, to a meal inside, away from the heat and the cold, the rain and the snow, the vehicle exhaust and all the other distractions of everyday city life," Nutter said at a press conference.
Indoor facilities, Nutter says, also make it easier to connect homeless people with other supportive services.
But many advocates for the homeless are skeptical. "We at the national level see this as a trend much more about restricting activities that really define the homeless experience," says Neil Donovan, the executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.
"We do feel that communities are really, really frustrated with repeated efforts to end homelessness that have been quite unsuccessful," says Donovan. "But we push back and say, you know, that doesn't mean that you simply throw your hands in the air and make criminals out of homeless people."
He argues that the rules, and a growing number of ordinances against loitering, panhandling and camping, don't just marginalize the homeless. "It really takes the focus off of solutions and puts it much more on restrictions," he says.
In the church, groups offer meals three times a week, and at the same time connect guests with on-site health care and social service providers.
Philadelphia's ban was scheduled to go into effect June 1, but the city is delaying enforcement until a judge addresses a lawsuit filed by religious groups that claim it is unconstitutional.
Already, though, the city's hungry say it's getting harder to find meals in their usual spots. Chiekh Dai was waiting at the foot of a statue near Museum Row on a recent afternoon when no one showed up to serve.

They don't get it.   The homeless aren't reading papers and getting Groupon notices about who has the best daily special today.  They depend on the kindness of others, and by hindering that with a bunch of red tape the cities are making it more difficult.  Seriously, are we supposed to believe this is because they feel they deserve better service?  It all sounds like a bunch of bullshit to me.

You can't end homelessness.  You can't make everyone fit your ideals.  What you can do, however, is treat them like people, value them because nobody else has, and give them the best help possible.

Jay Nixon Signs Away Privacy

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Missouri law enforcement agencies could track people's cellphone signals during emergencies more easily under a measure signed by Gov. Jay Nixon.
The legislation enacted Friday requires phone companies to cooperate with police by tracking cellphone signals of 911 callers, or by pinging a phone's location when there is danger of death or serious physical injury.
The law was prompted by the 2007 killing of 18-year-old Kelsey Smith, who was abducted from a shopping center parking lot in Overland Park, Kan. Her body was found four days later in a wooded area in Missouri.
Sponsoring House member Jeanie Lauer, a Republican from Blue Springs, has said Smith might have been found faster if authorities had been better able to track her cellphone signals. 

She might have been found faster.  Maybe.  But because of this maybe, we will most assuredly have abuse of power, and invasion of privacy.

Thanks, Jay.  Glad to see you haven't changed a bit.  Freedom doesn't mean squat when it stands  in the way of government or law enforcement. We're not supposed to believe that there were restrictions put into place to protect us, are we?

Natalie Wood's Death Certificate Changed

(CBS News) LOS ANGELES - Natalie Wood's 1981 drowning is no longer being classified as an "accident" on her death certificate.
In a move that comes more than 30 years after the actress' mysterious drowning off Catalina Island, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office is now re-categorizing her death as "undetermined."
A source who has discussed the case with authorities confirmed to CBS News that the Coroner's Office is changing the official cause of death, and said it is just one step in the continuing probe of the actress' death.
So what exactly is going on?  Nobody knows.  There have been hints of new evidence and testimony, but nothing can be proven yet.  Still, something must have happened for the cause of death to change.

I was just a little girl when Natalie Wood died.  Still, I remember everyone (by which I mean every single person around me) was convinced there was foul play.  By the time I was old enough to check for myself, it was hopelessly hashed to death, any facts buried in the babble of conspiracy theory.

If someone killed her or allowed her to drown, I hope they find out, for her sake and her family.

As Stupid As Stupid Gets

(AP) GREENFIELD, Ind. - A baby girl, just a few months old, has died, and a 16-month-old is hospitalized, in separate incidents near Indianapolis in which children were found trapped in cars during record-setting 105-degree heat.
The baby who died was found by police this afternoon in Greenfield, about 25 miles west of Indianapolis. Police say it appears she had been left in the car for "an extended period of time." Police aren't providing further information, saying the investigation is continuing.

Another child, also in Indiana, was rescued when police were alerted and broke out the car window.  The 16-month-old began having seizures when brought into an air-conditioned place to cool off.  At this time, there is no update on her condition.

Normally, I roll my eyes when I hear someone say "then do it to them so they learn their lesson" but in this case... I think it may be appropriate.  Pets and kids are dying because self-centered jackasses don't care about their misery and danger.  Unforgivable and completely preventable.  Instead of jail time, maybe these useless bags of crap should have to endure what they allow other living creatures to endure, pain and misery, seizures, cracked skin and burns, and eventually death.

The Cake We're Apparently Supposed To Be Eating Is A Lie

The R-Money Koch Block 2012 Tour hit the Hamptons this weekend, and America’s most precious resource, its clueless rich assholes, have something to say to the bourgeoisie.

A New York City donor a few cars back, who also would not give her name, said Romney needed to do a better job connecting. “I don’t think the common person is getting it,” she said from the passenger seat of a Range Rover stamped with East Hampton beach permits. “Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them. 
“We’ve got the message,” she added. “But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies—everybody who’s got the right to vote—they don’t understand what’s going on. I just think if you’re lower income—one, you’re not as educated, two, they don’t understand how it works, they don’t understand how the systems work, they don’t understand the impact.”

On one level, she’s right.   We’re just too dumb to get how we’ve been mauled economically by people in Range Rovers with East Hampton beach permits.  If we truly understood that nearly 95% of the economic income growth over the last few years went to just the top 1% in this country, if we truly grasped what that meant, we’d be out there playing “Who Wants To Pitchfork A Millionaire?” Sadly, a great many of us are engaged in Stockholm Syndrome with these bozos.

Sharon Zambrelli voted for Obama in 2008 but has been disappointed with his handling of the economy and leadership style. “I was very disenchanted with the political process and he gave me hope,” she said, but ultimately: “He’s just a politician,” she said, an “emperor with no clothes.” 
The Zambrellis scoffed at attempts by the Democrats—who mocked Romney in an ad Sunday as “great for oil billionaires, bad for the middle class”—to wage class warfare.  “Would you like to hear about the fundraisers I went to for him?” Sharon Zambrelli said of Obama. “Do you have an hour? ... All the ones in the city—it was all of Wall Street.”
It’s not helping the economy to pit the people who are the engine of the economy against the people who rely on that engine,” Michael Zambrelli said as the couple waited in their SUV for clearance into the Creeks shortly after the candidate’s motorcade flew by and entered the pine-tree lined estate. “He’s basically been biting the hand that fed him in ‘08. ... I would bet 25% of the people here were supporters of Obama in ‘08. And they’re here now.”

I wonder honestly how the Zambrellis have been doing in the last 4 years, because they seem to be saying that 90%+ growth going to people like them is unacceptably low and Obama needs to go because of it.  Loosely translated, I’m seeing “Well McCain/Palin were basically insane and we weren’t going to help them, but this Obama guy actually is talking about making us pay more here.  Who does he think he is?”

And we’re all really just ungrateful, stupid bastards to these people, and they really don’t understand why more of us aren’t eager to worship them as the “engines of the economy” when the reality is our consumer-based economy has been driven by the middle class buying crap at a breakneck pace and putting money in the pockets of these people, and as far as they’re concerned they just don’t need us anymore.  Hey, to an extent they’re right.  There’s plenty of people in China and India and Brazil and whatnot who will buy their corporate crap these days.  We’ve made ourselves obsolete in the grand corporate crap consumption game.  It’s gone global.

If we understood anything, we’d understand that they can make our lives even more miserable and they’ve signaled their intent to do just that.  Of course, if we really understood things, we’d be out there making things extremely miserable for the gilded class while we still could.  It hasn’t occurred to any of them that the rest of us are in trouble, and don’t see why we can’t be like them if we just played our cards right.  Pretty easy to make a royal flush or three with 47 cards in your hand, of course.  It’s a little harder when you have two in your hand and the cost of drawing from the deck is a couple decades of student loan debt or heading out to the Sandbox and hoping most of you comes back in useable condition.

But we’re just all parasites and looters and moochers to these guys, and you’d think with all these gifts they have, one of them would look up how things like this tend to go in the history books, and it always ends up badly for the guys on top of the pyramid when the revolution flips the whole rotten mess over.

Something’s got to give, and soon.

Exchange Of Fire

The Republicans are moving on to the next step in dismantling the post-SCOTUS Affordable Care Act in a presumptive President Obama second term:  wrecking the insurance exchange subsidies.

At issue is whether the subsidies will be available in exchanges set up and run by the federal government in states that fail or refuse to establish their own exchanges. 

Critics say the law allows subsidies only for people who obtain coverage through state-run exchanges. The White House says the law can be read to allow subsidies for people who get coverage in federal exchanges as well. 

The law says that “each state shall” establish an exchange. But Washington could be running the exchanges in one-third to half of states, where local officials have been moving slowly or openly resisting the idea. 

The dispute has huge practical implications. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that 23 million uninsured people will gain coverage through exchanges and that all but five million of them will qualify for subsidies, averaging more than $6,000 a year per person. Subsidies, in the form of tax credits, will be available to people with incomes from the poverty level up to four times that amount ($23,050 to $92,200 for a family of four). 

And if the states that refuse to set up exchanges have the federal government come in to do it for them, and then the GOP turns around and sends yet another case to the Supreme Court where the federal exchanges can't work because there's no subsidies, it will be a disaster.  And yes, the Republicans figure all the people screwed out of health insurance will blame Obama and the Democrats.

So yeah, they don't mind playing with people's lives.  It's politics, dammit.


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