Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Last Call For Vote Of No Confidence

A federal judge has tossed out a new law softening Texas’ strict voter identification requirements.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos on Wednesday ruled that Senate Bill 5, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in June, doesn’t absolve Texas lawmakers from responsibility for discriminating against Latino and black voters when they crafted one of the nation’s strictest voter ID laws in 2011. The judge also ruled that the state failed to prove that the new law would accommodate such voters going forward.

The Corpus Christi judge’s ruling is the latest twist in a six-year battle over Texas’ laws restricting what forms of identification are accepted at the polls, and it sets up a round of squabbling over whether the federal government should once again pre-approve the state's election laws.

SB 5 was the Legislature’s attempt to wriggle free of consequences after courts found fault with its 2011 ID law.

Last year, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 2011 law disproportionately burdened minority voters who were less likely to have one of seven forms of identification the state required them to show at the polls. Ramos upped the ante in April, ruling the state discriminated on purpose.

As Ramos weighed possible remedies for the state's violations of the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution, Texas leaders state pushed SB 5 as a solution and scrambled to get it to Abbott's desk at the end of the legislative session.

Ramos had temporarily softened the state's voter ID rules for the 2016 elections, and the new law somewhat followed her lead. It allows Texans without photo ID to vote if they present alternate forms of ID and sign affidavits swearing a “reasonable impediment” kept them from obtaining the proper ID.

Those voters could present documents such as utility bills, bank statements or paychecks to confirm their identification. Those found to have lied about not possessing the proper photo ID could be charged with a state jail felony, which carries a penalty of 180 days to two years in jail — which Ramos said "appear to be efforts at voter intimidation."

Under the new law, the permissible IDs remain the same as the earlier law: a state driver's license or ID card, a concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, a military ID card, a U.S citizenship certificate or an election identification certificate.

Texas's goal was clearly to drag its feet until a remedy for 2018 was impossible, then repeat for 2020, then 2022 and so on.  It still may do that, but now the onus is on Texas to fix its problem, not wait for nebulous guidance from the courts.  Ramos has moved the clock forward.

Still, I fully expect Texas to push this to the US Supreme Court, which probably wouldn't rule until June 2018 at the earliest, with the court then saying Texas would have to have a real plan in place by 2020.

We'll see.

The Preacher And The Creature

Donald Trump's greatest con job (and with any great cons, it requires victims who are willing to believe) may have been convincing evangelical Christians that he was one of the faithful.  To that end, it's no wonder that megachurch-style "prosperity gospel" pastors have latched on to Trump as anointed by God to lead America.  You would think then that Trump's spiritual advisers would be the first to serve as a check on Trump's more authoritarian impulses and would act as a moral bulwark against the kind of raging darkness Trump was spewing last night in Phoenix.

If Trump advisers like Pastor Paula White are any indication however, you would be wildly incorrect.

One of President Donald Trump’s most trusted religious confidantes used ominous religious language to defend him this week, drawing on Christian nationalism to argue that resisting Trump equates resisting “the hand of God.” 
During a panel interview on the Jim Bakker show this Monday, pastor Paula White gave several full-throated defenses of the president. White, a wealthy faith leader who originally gained notoriety for preaching a much-maligned version of the “prosperity gospel,” has been described as Trump’s “God whisperer.” She is a longtime friend of the former businessman, was a regular surrogate for his campaign in 2016, and remains one of several evangelical leaders who currently advise his administration. 
But even compared to her brief stint on the campaign trail, White’s remarks this week were atypically political and represent some of the strongest statements yet making the Christian nationalist case for Trump. 
After insisting that America is more than 70 percent evangelical (a claim that is wildly false), White launched into a series of mini-sermons that described Trump’s presidency as “anointed” by God—and proclaimed that his opponents, by extension, are an affront to the Almighty. 
“We are more impressed with a Saul anointing than a David anointing because we are more impressed with what looks right than what is right,” White, whose ministries were once the subject of a failed Senate probe investigating possible financial improprieties, said. “Therefore, we choose things that we think should sound right, should act right. They say about our president, ‘Well, he is not presidential.’ Thank goodness. Thank goodness. Thank goodness … he is not a polished politician. In other words, he is authentically — whether people like it or not — has been raised up by God. Because God says that He raises up and places all people in places of authority.” 
She continued: “It is God who raises up a king. It is God that sets one down. When you fight against the plan of God, you are fighting against the hand of God.”

Now, I'm a bit rusty on my comparative theology studies from 20 years ago, but I'm pretty sure my civics lessons are still valid here, and my memory reminds me that the Constitution of the United States and the Founding Fathers who wrote it both possess a pretty dim view on monarchs in general.

Zandardad is the fellow you'd want to talk to about spirituality in general, but I'd fairly sure he'd tell you that holding up Trump as anointed by God would be incorrect on so many levels it would physically hurt to define them all.

Pastor White is coming across as fully supporting Trump's narcissism as the word of the Lord, and resistance to his rule as resistance to Him.  I wouldn't buy that nonsense even if I wasn't a lapsed Catholic, I know th difference between right and wrong and man, resisting Trump is about as right as it gets.

The Front Man For The Next Housing Crisis

The Trump regime isn't just repeating the mistakes of the Dubya years on housing by dismantling Obama-era protections, they're not just going down the same path with banks playing Big Casino games, they're gutting affordable public housing ahead of time through HUD and Ben Carson, so when this bubble does burst the pain is going to be astronomical.  Alec MacGillis:

The Trump cuts would mean that several programs would be eliminated entirely, including the home program, which offers seed money for affordable-housing initiatives, and the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program that Carla Hills, Ford’s HUD secretary, had praised to Carson at the dinner. In New York, CDBG helped pay for, among many things, housing-code enforcement, the 311 system, and homeless shelters for veterans. But the grants were also relied on in struggling small towns, where they paid for sidewalks, sewer upgrades, and community centers. In Glouster, Ohio, a tiny coal town that went for Trump by a single vote after going for Obama two to one in 2012, officials were counting on the grants to replace a bridge so weak that the school bus couldn’t cross it, forcing kids from one part of town to cluster along a busy road for pickup. “Without those funds, it would just cripple this area,” said Nathan Simons, who administers the grants for the surrounding region. HUD, for all its shrinking stature and insecurity complex, has over time worked its way into the fabric of ailing communities throughout the country, a role that has grown only larger as so much of Middle America has suffered decline, and as the capacity of so many state and local governments has withered amid dwindling tax bases and civic disengagement. On my travels through the Midwest I’ve seen how many federally subsidized housing complexes there are on the edges of small towns and cities, places very far from the Bronx or the South Side of Chicago. People living in these places rely on a functioning, minimally competent HUD no less than do the Section 8 voucher recipients in Jared Kushner’s low-income complexes in Baltimore. In an age of ever-widening income inequality, the Great Society department actually plays an even more vital role than when it was conceived. 
But if Carson was troubled by the disembowelment of his department, he showed no sign of it. Even before the final numbers were out, he had assured housing advocates that cuts would be made up for by money dedicated to housing in the big infrastructure bill Trump was promising — a notion that his fellow Republican Kemp, among others, found far-fetched. “I’m not sure he understood how that would work,” Kemp told me. “He was probably repeating what had been told to him.” Then, a day after the budget was released, Carson downplayed the importance of programs for the poor in a radio interview with Armstrong Williams, saying that poverty was largely a “state of mind.” This, more than anything, seemed to be a crystallization of the Carson philosophy of HUD: that privation would be solved by the power of positive thinking, that his own extraordinary rise was scalable and could be replicated millions of times over. 
Two weeks later, Carson went to Capitol Hill to testify on the budget proposal before Congressional panels that would have the final say on the numbers. With Kasper perched over his shoulder, he told both the Senate and House committees that they shouldn’t get overly hung up on the cuts. “We must look for human solutions, not just policies and programs,” he said. “Our programs must reach out and so must our hearts.” The budget, he added, would “help more eligible Americans achieve freedom from regulations and bureaucracy and the ability to govern themselves.” 
Members of both parties on the panels seemed dubious. Even conservative Republicans challenged the elimination of CDBG and dismissed Carson’s repeated claim that those and other cuts would be made up for with “public-private partnerships,” noting that such partnerships depended on exactly the public seed money that the budget was jettisoning.
Carson remained unruffled. The cuts were made necessary by the “atmosphere of constraint” created by a “new paradigm that’s been forced on us,” he said, presumably referring to the desire for tax cuts for the wealthy and an even larger military. “The problem that faces us now as a nation will only be exacerbated if we don’t deal with them in what appears to be a harsh manner,” he told the Senate panel. “We have to stop the bleeding to get the healing.” 
As I watched the hearings, it occurred to me that Carson was the perfect HUD secretary for Donald Trump, the real-estate-developer president who appears to care little for public housing. He offered a gently smiling refutation to accusations from any corner that the department’s evisceration would have grave consequences. After all, Ben Carson had made it from Detroit to Johns Hopkins without housing assistance, a point of pride in his family. Not to mention that Carson’s very identity — theoretically — helped inoculate the administration against charges of prejudice. (Just last week, Carson said, in the wake of racially tinged violence in Charlottesville, that the controversy over Trump’s support of white supremacists there was “blown out of proportion” and echoed the president’s “both sides” language when referring to “hatred and bigotry.”) 
Even better, Carson could be trusted not to resist Mick Mulvaney’s budget designs. At one moment in the Senate hearing, Carson noted that Congress’s recent spending package for the current year had given the department more than it had been expecting. “I’m always happy to take money,” he said, smiling. 
Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the committee’s top Democrat, was unamused. “You have to ask for it first,” he said.

The cuts are going to wreck the government's capacity for responding to the massive financial damage that is assuredly coming, at the time it will need it the most.  I don't know what else to say other than this country will be in a full-blown depression if Trump's GOP has their way, and what happens after that is anyone's guess.


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