Monday, September 4, 2023

Last Call For Vote Like Your Country Depends On It, Con't

A federal judge has determined that Florida's congressional redistricting by Republicans is unconstitutional and that it disenfranchises Black voters in particular.
A Florida redistricting plan pushed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis violates the state constitution and is prohibited from being used for any future U.S. congressional elections since it diminishes the ability of Black voters in north Florida to pick a representative of their choice, a state judge ruled Saturday.

Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh sent the plan back to the Florida Legislature with instructions that lawmakers should draw a new congressional map that complies with the Florida Constitution.

The voting rights groups that challenged the plan in court "have shown that the enacted plan results in the diminishment of Black voters' ability to elect their candidate of choice in violation of the Florida Constitution," Marsh wrote.

The decision was the latest to strike down new congressional maps in Southern states over concerns that they diluted Black voting power.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Republican-drawn map in Alabama, with two conservative justices joining liberals in rejecting the effort to weaken a landmark voting rights law. Not long after that, the Supreme Court lifted its hold on a Louisiana political remap case, increasing the likelihood that the Republican-dominated state will have to redraw boundary lines to create a second mostly Black congressional district.

In each of the cases, Republicans have either appealed or vowed to appeal the decisions since they could benefit Democratic congressional candidates facing 2024 races under redrawn maps. The Florida case likely will end up before the Florida Supreme Court.
Anyone who has been paying attention to these states knows what I'm going to be asking next: 
What difference does it make

Ohio Republicans already ran out the clock once on redistricting after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled against their redistricting plan multiple times, and the right-wing Trumpists on the federal courts basically ruled that flawed or not, Ohio had to use those unconstitutional districts or else risk disenfranchising the entire state without representation, and Republicans in the Buckeye State have made no efforts to fix the problem since.
Ohio Republicans are so corrupt that former state House GOP Speaker Larry Householder was convicted on bribery charges and sentenced to 20 years in prison, where he's serving out his sentence in a low-security federal prison in Elkton, Ohio.
There's a plan to get yet another redistricting amendment on the state ballot in 2024 that would abolish all lobbyists and politicians from the commission that would handle the new process, but even if that passes, there's no reason to believe the process would be fixed for 2026.

In Alabama, Republicans in the state legislature are openly ignoring a Supreme Court order to redraw the lines and are almost certainly going to get away with it.
Although Justice Brett Kavanaugh provided the fifth vote against Alabama’s maps in Milligan, he also wrote a brief and cryptic concurring opinion that seemed to suggest that the results test must have a sunset date. “Even if Congress in 1982 could constitutionally authorize race-based redistricting under §2 for some period of time,” Kavanaugh wrote, “the authority to conduct race-based redistricting cannot extend indefinitely into the future.”

The Alabama GOP’s open defiance of the Court’s decision in Milligan suggests that it thinks it has a real shot of picking up Kavanaugh’s vote if this case goes up to the Supreme Court a second time. And this Court has shown such hostility toward the Voting Rights Act in the past that there is a decent chance that Alabama’s second attempt to gerrymander the state could prevail.
Wisconsin's GOP gerrymander is so bad that Republicans there are planning to fire the head of the state's non-partisan redistricting commission and then impeach the liberal state supreme court justice elected earlier this year, leaving the court deadlocked at 3-3 with no way forward and no way to continue with redistricting.

With a new supermajority, Republicans in the state Senate are moving to fire Meagan Wolfe, the administrator of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission who continues to be the target of false conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

Democrats say Republicans don’t have the power to remove Wolfe. Their battle could land in state courts – where the GOP is considering an unprecedented power grab and further partisan battles are brewing.

Just months after liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz won a 10-year Wisconsin Supreme Court term in a race that focused largely on abortion rights and gerrymandering, handing liberals a 4-3 majority on the bench after 15 years of conservative control, state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and other influential Republicans have floated the prospect of impeaching Protasiewicz. It would be a move that has only happened once in Wisconsin history – in 1853, when the Assembly voted to impeach a state judge accused of corruption, who was later acquitted by the Senate.

Further complicating the situation: Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, a Republican, has said the chamber would not consider acting on Protasiewicz. If the Assembly votes to impeach the justice and the Senate were to convict and remove her from office, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers would appoint her replacement. But if the Senate takes no action at all, she would be suspended from all official duties – leaving the court deadlocked, 3-3.

Canon described that potential course of action as “an even more diabolical twist.”

“This is actually a more potent tool to dismantle the liberal majority by having an impeachment vote in the Assembly, which is just a majority vote, and then having the Senate do nothing. She basically is removed from office and can’t rule on any cases,” he said.

Meanwhile, the justices themselves are ensnared in a bitter, public feud – playing out before Protasiewicz has even ruled on a case. The conservative chief justice, Annette Ziegler, accused the liberal majority of a “coup” after the court’s four liberal members voted to weaken the chief justice’s powers and fire the conservative director of state courts.
Wisconsin is so gerrymandered that Republicans have a two-thirds supermajority in the state House and Senate while only getting 51% of the vote in November 2020, and it only got worse in 2022.
There's no reason whatsoever to believe Florida Republicans won't get away with this in 2024 and beyond. 

Labor Daze In Milwaukee

As Americans across the country celebrate Labor Day today, President Biden makes his case for Bidenomics in Wisconsin in an op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Three weeks ago, at a clean energy factory in Milwaukee, I met an IBEW electrician who builds and repairs America’s growing fleet of wind turbine generators. He said, “In America, with hard work and a little faith, anything is possible.”

He embodies the spirit of Labor Day, which honors the dignity of the American worker and recognizes that Wall Street didn’t build America, the middle class built America, and unions built the middle class.

We’ve seen that spirit throughout our history, especially over the last three years as we’ve been rebuilding our economy from the middle out and bottom up, not from the top down. Our plan, called Bidenomics, is working.

I’m proud of the historic laws I’ve signed that are leading our recovery and resurgence. More than 13 million jobs, including 800,000 in manufacturing. Unemployment below 4 percent for the longest stretch in 50 years. More working-age Americans are employed than at any time in the past 20 years. Inflation is near its lowest point in over two years. Wages and job satisfaction are up. Restoring the pensions of millions of retired union workers – the biggest step of its kind in the past fifty years.

But the real hero of our story is the American worker. It's nurses and homecare workers who put on protective gear and cared for our loved ones. It's truck drivers and grocery workers who get up every day to keep our shelves stocked. It's bricklayers, steelworkers and machinists who are restoring American leadership in the industries of the future.

We’ve attracted over $500 billion in private investment to make clean energy technology, semiconductors and other innovations here at home – creating good-paying jobs that don’t require a four-year degree. Under decades of trickle-down economics, we let jobs and factories go overseas, and China started to dominate manufacturing. Not anymore because we’ve investing in America. Those jobs are coming home and factories are being built here.
But there’s more to do. Here’s what else we are doing for America’s workers.

The Department of Labor is proposing a rule that would extend overtime pay to as many as 3.6 million workers. An honest day’s work should get a fair day’s of pay. A mom in Wisconsin who makes 37,500 a year and has sometimes worked 60-hour weeks could now be eligible to earn time and a half for all the time she works in a week over 40 hours. She can support her daughter and family.

While Congressional Republicans block increasing the minimum wage and attack unions, I will continue to make progress where I can. Last year, I signed an executive order requiring contractors who are doing business with the federal government to pay a minimum $15 an hour for hundreds of thousands of workers. This summer, we updated what’s called Davis-Bacon prevailing wages for the first time in 40 years. That means all those jobs we’re creating with federal investments will pay a prevailing wage you can raise a family on. I continue to call on Congress to pass the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, to make it easier for workers to organize and join a union and bargain collectively for better pay, benefits, and conditions.

Additionally, a new report from the Treasury Department this week provides the most comprehensive look ever at how unions are good for America. It definitively concludes that unions help raise incomes; increase homeownership and retirement savings; and reduce inequality, all of which strengthen our economy.
And all these things are true, and yet more Americans believe the economy is worse now than it was under Trump in the depths of his pandemic economic collapse that put 20 million Americans out of work. 

Recency bias works both ways. In politics, it's always "But what have you done for me today?" Biden makes that case here, but he's largely going to be ignored as three-quarters of Americans, including a majority of Democrats, say Biden is too old to even be running in 2024.

It's a Trump v. Biden race unless something fundamental gives in the next year, and that race is effectively tied despite Trump facing scores of federal and state felonies.

We're facing obliteration, and yet it's still the damn horse race.

Burnout, Paradise

Monsoon rains and flash flooding on Friday have turned this year's Burning Man Festival into a Quagmire Survival Hell, with police blocking people from trying otherwise impassible roads, and festival goers spending the weekend eking by on whatever food, water, and shelter they brought in for the weekend.
Tens of thousands of people attending the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert are being told to conserve food, water and fuel as they shelter in place in the Black Rock Desert after a heavy rainstorm pummeled the area, festival organizers said.

Attendees saw their campsites transformed by thick, ankle-deep mud and organizers halted vehicles from traveling in or out of the festival after heavy rains started saturating the area Friday evening. Some festival-goers hiked miles to reach main roads while others hoped storms forecast to hit the area overnight wouldn’t worsen conditions.

Hannah Burhorn, a first-time attendee at the festival, told CNN in a phone interview Saturday the desert sand has turned into thick clay and puddles and mud are everywhere. People are wrapping trash bags and Ziploc bags around their shoes to avoid getting stuck, while others are walking around barefoot.

“It’s unavoidable at this point,” she said. “It’s in the bed of the truck, inside the truck. People who have tried to bike through it and have gotten stuck because it’s about ankle deep.”

The gate and airport into Black Rock City, a remote area in northwest Nevada, remain closed and no driving is allowed into or out of the city except for emergency vehicles, the organizers said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

“Do not travel to Black Rock City! Access to the city is closed for the remainder of the event, and you will be turned around,” one statement read.

More than 70,000 people attend the weeklong event annually, which this year is being held from August 28 to September 4. It’s unclear how many of those were stranded due to the weather.

The city is expecting more showers overnight on Saturday, organizers said in a weather forecast update. The National Weather Service said showers and thunderstorms are expected to return Saturday evening and continue throughout Sunday, with temperatures ranging from highs in the 70s to a low overnight of 49 degrees. Labor Day, on Monday when the event is scheduled to end, forecasts show the area will heat up and dry out with clear skis and a high of 75 degrees.

Rainfall reports from the National Weather Service suggest up to 0.8 inches of rain fell in the area from Friday morning through Saturday morning – approximately two to three months of rainfall for that location this time of year. Even small rainfall totals can lead to flooding in the dry Nevada desert.

Flood watches were in effect in northeast Nevada, to the east of Black Rock City. Those watches noted individual storms were producing up to one inch of rainfall, but higher totals — as much as 3 inches — would be possible through the weekend.
I think Burning Man, like SXSW, is a nice idea, but the practice is a disaster. Outdoor festivals and concerts are only going to get more dangerous as climate change gets worse. 

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