Monday, June 24, 2013

Last Call For Snowden's Motives

If this story from the South China Morning Post is true, young Edward Snowden is in a crapload of trouble (wherever he is).

Edward Snowden secured a job with a US government contractor for one reason alone – to obtain evidence on Washington’s cyberspying networks, the South China Morning Post can reveal.

For the first time, Snowden has admitted he sought a position at Booz Allen Hamilton so he could collect proof about the US National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programmes ahead of planned leaks to the media.

“My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked,” he told the Post on June 12. “That is why I accepted that position about three months ago.”

During a global online chat last week, Snowden also stated he took pay cuts “in the course of pursuing specific work”.

In other words, Snowden specifically took the job so he could leak.  That was always his intent.

He's done.  The only question is who else he brings down with him.  Yes, Mr. Greenwald, I'm looking at you.  Greendwald supposedly has been in contact with Snowden for months.  If Snowden's sole purpose was to get at classified material with the intent to leak it, what Greenwald knew and when suddenly becomes very germane.  He's not a journalist at this point.  He's a possible accomplice and possible co-conspirator.

Things just got real interesting.


The Supreme Court handed down a number of big rulings today, including Fisher vs. Texas.  In the case of Fisher however it was a non-ruling, the summary judgment of the 5th Circuit sent back down for further ruling.  Kevin Drum:

Well, the Supreme Court has finally handed down a ruling in one of this year's high-profile cases, punted. In a case challenging affirmative action at the University of Texas, the Supremes ruled that the Fifth Circuit court failed to apply strict scrutiny when it upheld the university's claim that affirmative action was necessary as way of promoting diversity. Key quote: "The reviewing court must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity."

So now it goes back to the Fifth Court, and then most likely back up to the Supreme Court someday. For now, nothing has changed.

Clarence Thomas made it clear though that if the court had ruled, he would have eliminated all affirmative action nationally:

While it does not, for constitutional purposes, matter whether the University’s racial discrimination is benign, I note that racial engineering does in fact have insidious consequences. There can be no doubt that the University’s discrimination injures white and Asian applicants who are denied admission because of their race. But I believe the injury to those admitted under the University’s discriminatory admissions program is even more harmful.

He goes on to basically say that affirmative action now is as legally indefensible as Jim Crow laws, segregation, slavery, and the Confederacy were in America's past.

It was the other decisions that made things worse, particularly for those seeking a course of action to fight workplace discrimination.  Two decisions, Vance v. Ball State University and UT Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, made it much harder to bring workplace discrimination (Vance) and retaliation (Nassar) cases. Both were 5-4 rulings written by Justice Kennedy (natch.) Vance addressed this question: who's liable for harassment in a company, supervisors or co-workers?

Under Title VII, an employer’s liability for workplace harassment may depend on the status of the harasser. If the harassing employee is the victim’s co-worker, the employer is liable only if it was negligent in controlling working conditions. In cases in which the harasser is a  “supervisor,” however, different rules apply.

Kennedy's ruling:

An employee is a “supervisor” for purposes of vicarious liability under Title VII only if he or she is empowered by the employer to take tangible employment actions against the victim.

In other words, co-workers aren't company liable for harassment claims.

Nassar had a similar ruling that retaliation claims were held to a strict standard.  Not a good day to be an employee, but for now, affirmative action lives.

For now.  More SCOTUS fun tomorrow in a rare Tuesday session.  Still to go:  rulings on DOMA, California's Prop 8, and the big one, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Gang Of Eight Head Fake

Senate Democrats say they're very close to 70 votes for immigration reform, which is going to make things all the more tragic when the GOP-led House kills the bill.

Immigration reform has gotten a new burst of life as a growing number of Senate Republicans have embraced the 1,000-page-plus legislation, setting up President Obama for a big victory this week.

The sudden surge in Republican support has been a pleasant surprise for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who urged the bill’s authors to focus on winning 60 votes — the minimum for passing it.

Instead, Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), the leaders of the Gang of Eight, are marching toward 70 votes, a target intended to put maximum pressure on the House to act.

The House is the X factor. The lower chamber is expected to pass narrow immigration bills that do not include a path to citizenship, which is a staple of the Senate legislation. Conservatives in the House, including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), strongly oppose the Senate bill.

Still, an overwhelming bipartisan vote would be a strong boost for a Senate bill that just days ago was teetering.

What's going on here is there's more than a few Republicans who see the opportunity to sign on to the long game and say "Hey, I supported immigration reform."  They also know that Republicans in the House will never pass anything even remotely like the Senate bill, if they end up passing anything at all.

If John Boehner were even mildly competent, he would have already passed a massive border security and visa expansion bill with no path to citizenship measures and told the Senate to suck it.  Democrats would have choked on it and the GOP could say "Well, we actually passed a bill, unlike the Democrats."  It would have gotten them through 2014 easily, and handed another setback to President Obama.

However, because Boehner is herding cats and Eric Cantor is hanging around like Iago going "Hey bro, that's an awful bad break for ya" every 35 minutes, that hasn't happened yet.  It's still possible that Boehner, a handful of Republicans, and a pile of Democrats could pass the Senate bill, but I'm thinking that's not going to happen.

Rather, the most likely outcome is that Boehner tries to pass the border security and visa bill, fails miserably, and the Senate version of the bill dies without a vote.

We'll see, but the practical upshot is it doesn't matter if the Senate immigration bill gets 99 votes:  it will die in the House, if not from political reality, then from Republican voter apathy.  Only 37% of GOP voters in a new Pew/USA Today poll think passing immigration reform with a path to citizenship will help the Republican party.  There's no penalty from the base for failing to pass this bill, and that's all that will matter to the GOP in the House.

Count on it.  And I'm not the only one who feels this way.


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