Monday, July 29, 2013

Your "Re-branding" Effort Will Not Work

Young Republicans have a sad about being called bigots and racists. This is really heartbreaking stuff:
MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Republicans hoping to reach beyond the party’s white, aging core must do more than retool campaign strategy and tactics, say young GOP leaders pressing elected officials to offer concrete policies to counter Democratic initiatives.
. . .
On same-sex marriage and abortion, young GOP leaders say Republicans should tolerate a range of views, even while maintaining a socially conservative identity. Some of these activists say their party must tread lightly after the Supreme Court recently threw out the most powerful part of the Voting Rights Act, the law that became a major turning point in black Americans’ struggle for equal rights and political power.

“We don’t have to lose our principles,” said Angel Garcia, who leads the Young Republicans in Chicago, Obama’s hometown. “But we have to have a conversation on all these issues so we don’t leave Democrats to say we’re just old white men and racist, bigoted homophobes.”
People don't need the Democrats to tell them that you are the party of racist, bigoted homophobes. They did not come to this conclusion by accident. If you would like to change these very accurate public perceptions, make your cause booting homophobes and racists from your party. Until then, your work at "re-branding" does absolutely nothing. Have fun!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Detroit Did Not Just Randomly Go Bankrupt

David Sirota's article on this subject is really good. The NAFTA comparison is important, as are these details about Detroit's finances that seem to be omitted from most discussions:
So, for instance, from the administration of right-wing Gov. Rick Snyder, we are hearing a lot of carping about the $3.5 billion in pension obligations that are part of the city’s overall $18 billion in debt. The focus leads casual onlookers to believe that — even though they on average get a pension of just $19,000 a year — municipal workers’ supposed greed single-handedly bankrupted the city. What we aren’t hearing about, though, is the city and state’s long history of underfunding its pensions, and using the raided money to spend billions of dollars on corporate welfare.

For a good sense of some of the most expensive, absurd and utterly wasteful boondoggles in the Detroit area over the last few decades, read this piece from Crain’s Detroit or see this 2011 article entitled “Detroit’s Corporate Welfare Binge” by Detroit News columnist Bill Johnson. Alternately, recall this is in the heart of a region whose governments infamously spent $55 million of taxpayer money in 1975 (or a whopping $180 million in inflation-adjusted dollars) on one professional football stadium, then spent another $300 million on yet another football stadium, then sold off the original stadium for just $583,000. Or, just note that Detroit is the largest city in a state that, according to the New York Times, spends more per capita on corporate subsidies — $672 or $6.6 billion a year — than most other states.

By focusing the blame for Detroit’s bankruptcy solely on workers’ pensions, rather than having a more comprehensive discussion that includes both pension benefits and corporate giveaways, the right can engineer the political environment for the truly immoral reality mentioned at the beginning of this article — the one highlighted this week by the Associated Press story headlined “Arena Likely Still On Track, Business As Usual For Sports Teams Despite Bankruptcy Filing.” Yes, that’s correct: at the same time government officials are talking about slashing the meager $19,000-a-year pensions of workers who don’t get Social Security, those officials are promising that they will still go forward with a plan to spend a whopping $283 million of taxpayer money on a new stadium for the Red Wings.

Notably, a political environment that encourages these kind of immoral decisions is beneficial not merely to the corporate interests who directly benefit from such giveaways, but also to the Wall Street investors who still own the outstanding bonds that financed some of the subsidies. Taken together, then, a skewed discussion about budget shortfalls that excludes scrutiny of these subsidies and focuses only on worker pensions predictably ends up prioritizing the financial interests of corporate welfare recipients and Wall Street bondholders over municipal retirees.

It’s the same dynamic on taxes. From the right, Detroit is being cited in the discussion about budget shortfalls as proof of the need for austerity. Yet, we aren’t hearing much about why in the face of such shortfalls Snyder just devoted $1.7 billion to a new corporate tax cut that will likely exacerbate the state’s deficit, nor are we hearing much about why state law compelled Detroit to forfeit other desperately needed tax revenues. Again, the goal here is to make sure that the conversation is one that only is about cutting retirement benefits — not one that adds the prospect of progressive tax reform to the debate.
What happened in Detroit is not some natural disaster that hit us without warning. It's a man made tragedy and we know most of the reasons it we're in this mess. That might be worth mentioning.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

UFCW to Rejoin AFL-CIO

This is a pretty big deal:
High-level sources within the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions tell Working In These Times that the 1.3-million-member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is in talks to rejoin the labor federation. These sources say that UFCW leaders have pledged their support for returning to the AFL-CIO and will ask members to vote on the question at the annual UFCW convention in Chicago this August. With the leadership backing reunification, the UFCW membership is expected to approve the motion.

In 2005, the UFCW and several other large unions—the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the United Brotherhood Of Carpenters, the Laborers’ Union, Unite Here and the United Farm Workers of America—split off from the AFL-CIO to form a rival federation, Change to Win. At the time, the unions said they were departing in order to explore new ways of organizing. However, some critics claim that one of the underlying motives was to cut down on dues—as of 2011, Change to Win charged roughly half of the AFL-CIO’s per-member rate.

The return of the UFCW would be a major victory for AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who has striven since his election in 2009 to reunite the labor movement under the 14-million-member federation.

Several Change to Win members have since returned to the AFL-CIO. In 2009, after a bitter membership battle between rival factions within Unite Here that saw a third of the union’s members depart for SEIU, the remaining 265,000 members of Unite Here voted to rejoin the AFL-CIO. Two more of the original seven Change to Win members departed at that time: the 500,000-member-strong United Brotherhood of Carpenters in 2009 to become independent, and the 500,000-member Laborers’ Union in 2010 to return to the AFL-CIO. 
Considering the UFCW's sise, I'd assume this means the death of change to win, which is something that seemed like it has been on it's way for some time. On a random personal note, two years ago I had the strange experience of attending a meeting in the Change to Win headquarters, a place filled with rows and rows of empty cubicles, surrounded by empty meeting rooms.

This strengthens the AFL-CIO, which is overall a good thing, and probably makes rumored high profile defections from the federation less likely. I'm not entirely sure if this changes anything overall as far as labor's power with elected officials at the national level, but this will probably have a larger impact at the state level keeping state federations coordinated and better organized.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

No To Larry Summers At All Times, For Any Position

Larry Summers is apparently the Frontrunner to replace Ben Bernanke as Fed Chairman. I've spent plenty of time on this blog discussing my dislike of Larry Summers, but there is no need to not read David Dayen's similar minded take on the situation:
Summers would get the nod over the previous favorite, Fed vice chair Janet Yellen, in part because top-level officials have stressed to the President that Yellen is somehow “not strong enough” for the job, and would subsequently lack the confidence of financial markets. This gender-coded whisper campaign against the woman who would become the first female Fed chair in history is in line with an undercurrent of sexism about the selection — and the fact that Summers has an unfortunate history on this, from infamous comments he made while President of Harvard University (alleging there exist “innate” scientific aptitude difficulties for women) just amplifies the potential problem for the White House with its liberal base.
The Fed’s biggest preoccupations at the moment are 1) whether to continue monetary stimulus to prop up an economy that remains ailing, and 2) whether to implement financial regulations from the Dodd-Frank Act in a way that is adversarial or friendly to Wall Street.

On the first count, Summers’ public statements on the economy since leaving the Council of Economic Advisers in 2010 have largely been confined to fiscal policy, something that would be out of his reach as Fed chair (and which is also stuck due to Congressional gridlock). For what it’s worth, the Administration is confident that Summers would take seriously the full employment mandate of the central bank. But sources close to the situation worry that Summers would be more likely than Yellen, an inflation dove, to prematurely pull back on quantitative easing measures, and more important, become accepting of the current high levels of unemployment, without experimenting on bolder measures. Inflation would remain the primary Fed concern, a benefit to bankers, rather than full employment.

Summers’ true position on monetary policy is more conjectural (actually a problem when putting someone into a position of running monetary policy). But there’s no question that, on financial regulation, Larry Summers has perhaps the worst track record of any major economic figure in America. And the Federal Reserve plays a key role, perhaps the primary role, in regulating banks. Led by point person Daniel Tarullo, the Fed has recently doubled leverage requirements for the largest financial institutions. It’s hard not to see the Summers pick as designed to babysit Tarullo, and blunt any policies that come down hard on the banks. Tarullo and Summers are personally close, but Summers typically listens to his own set of sources on financial regulation – the ones in the very expensive suits – and this has had disastrous consequences for over 15 years.

In the 1990s, Summers and then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin led the effort to stop Brooksley Born from regulating derivatives, precisely the financial instruments that magnified the housing bubble and accelerated the financial collapse. Under his watch as Treasury Secretary, Congress eliminated Glass-Steagall’s firewall between commercial and investment banks, legalizing the merger of Citigroup (where Rubin would later become CEO). He further oversaw passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which banned all regulation of derivatives, even from state anti-gambling laws. Even Bill Clinton has apologized for deregulation of the riskiest sector in finance; Summers has not. Even well after the crisis, in 2011, Summers pronounced himself “more cautious than many about constraining financial innovation,” a not-so-thinly veiled code for encouraging a return to casino activity on Wall Street.

After contributing to the crisis, and then losing $1.8 billion for Harvard by investing most of their cash reserves in an endowment stuffed with risky trades, Summers denied the existence of the housing bubble. At the Federal Reserve annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 2005, right before the crash, economist Raghuram Rajan warned of the imminent catastrophe in a formal paper, arguing that excessive risk-taking had surged, and that the banking system faced a “full-brown financial crisis” from the sliver of toxic securities on their own books. Larry Summers was the first to stand up and attack Rajan, bellowing that he found “the basic, slightly lead-eyed premise of [Mr. Rajan's] paper to be misguided.” Incidentally, Janet Yellen spoke publicly about the risks of the housing bubble around this same time.

In short, if we wanted to pin the crisis on one person, Summers would be a viable candidate. Nontheless, he failed upwards by taking a lead position on the Obama economic team, and the man responsible for much of the financial crisis would set to fix it. He predictably failed again. Summers lowballed the estimate of how much stimulus would be necessary to get the economy back to full employment; he lied to key members of Congress about the Administration’s commitment to providing housing debt relief and support for cram-down, where bankruptcy judges would be empowered to rewrite the terms of mortgages (this never happened, as the White House withdrew support and created a mortgage relief program that has massively underperformed); and he stood mute about monetary policy efforts to turn around the economy, which would be his main area of impact at the Fed. So on fiscal, debt relief and monetary terms, when the economy was reeling and everything counted, Summers missed on all three.
Larry Summers has been wrong about so much that his failing upwards is kind of the perfect symbol for how fucked up our economic policy has been for the past 20 years. Let's not make it worse.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Obama On Trayvon Martin

His first comments on the situation "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon" is probably the highest moment of his presidency in my book. It was the perfect thing to say at the time, and simple, yet profound. His explanation here about the very different set of circumstances African Americans face in American society is worded beautifully and it's something so  many people need to hear and comprehend. Extremely well said, and I'm very thankful he used his platform for this purpose.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Costs of Austerity

We're several months into glorious results of our bipartisan consensus that we needed to make our economy worse on purpose. In addition to making our economy worse on purpose, it leads to fun things like this:
The public defender system hasn't just been stripped bare by sequestration, its bones have been chiseled away as well. There has been a 9 percent reduction in the roughly $1 billion budget for federal public defender's offices, while federal defenders in more than 20 states are planning to close offices. Careers have been ended and cases have been delayed. All of it has occurred in the name of deficit reduction -- and yet, for all the belt-tightening being demanded of the nation's public defenders, money is not actually being saved.

When federal public defenders aren’t able to take a case because of a conflict, or because their workload is too great, the job falls to private court-appointed attorneys known as Criminal Justice Act panel attorneys. Those lawyers are paid from the same pool of money as federal public defenders, but they cost much more and, according to some studies, are less effective.

To keep the budget from completely exploding, the Judicial Conference, a group of senior circuit judges that helps administer guidelines for the courts, could -- indeed, may have to -- reduce the rates paid to private attorneys, but that could mean fewer CJA lawyers would be willing to take up such cases. That, in turn, would result in the accused spending more time in prison waiting for trials -- only further driving up costs.

“It’s a situation where the federal government will wind up paying far more,” said A.J. Kramer, the top federal public defender in Washington, D.C.

It doesn't make any sense. But it wasn't supposed to. The $85 billion in sequestration cuts -- which included reductions to the federal public defender budget -- were designed to be so onerous that lawmakers would have no choice but to turn the whole thing off. Except they never did.
Once again, thanks to Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and President Obama deciding that cutting vital services to deal with an imaginary problem was a good idea. Heckuva Job.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Texas Continues Their Attacks On Women

As was referenced in the comments for the previous post, things are not going well in Texas in many respects:
The same day Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed a bill that may lead to the closure of most abortion clinics in the state, Republican state legislators introduced a bill that would ban abortions as soon as the fetal heartbeat can be detected.

ThinkProgress first reported that state Reps. Phil King (R), Dan Flynn (R), and Geanie Morrison (R) filed House Bill 59 on Thursday, which, if enacted, would be on par with the most severe abortion ban in the country. The bill would require women seeking abortion to first undergo an ultrasound, and if the fetal heartbeat can be detected -- which usually occurs around six weeks of pregnancy -- she would be banned from having the procedure.

Many women don't even know they're pregnant after six weeks. In order to effectively detect a heartbeat that early into the pregnancy, doctors usually have to perform a transvaginal ultrasound, which is more invasive than the traditional jelly-on-the-belly procedure.
I wonder if the mobilization that has been so vocal in countering this will lead to a similar "Bradley effect" as we saw in Missouri last election when it comes to voting patterns. You would think that when legislation like this that is so clearly designed to humiliate women is getting serious consideration, that type of backlash may be coming.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Immigration Reform Will Not Help The GOP

Anytime an idea emerges from the DC media echo chamber and this many people agree that it's true, you should immediately become suspicious. The most recent example is that the GOP needs to help pass immigration reform in order to save themselves electorally. You hear this from John McCain, Marco Rubio to left leaning pundits everywhere and to be fair, it does makes some sense. The GOP has a problem with how non-white people perceive their party, and they should probably do something about it if they want to win another national election. The problem is that it has very little to do with passing comprehensive immigration reform.

The thinking in GOP circles (like Sean Hannity said after the election) is that if you pass CIR, you are now on equal footing with Latinos again, evening out your electoral math, and the problem is solved. Ironically, conservatives come to this extremely wrong conclusion because of their inherently racist attitudes about non white people. If you believed that non-white voters voted Democratic because of the "gifts" that party gives them (as Mitt Romney articulated), then it makes perfect sense that you solve your problem with Latino voters by giving them their own "gift". This idea is so racist it's laughable, since people of color are human beings that that (just like Mitt Romney), can make up their own minds based on a variety of factors. Also, one look at the unemployment rate for African Americans or the record deportations during the last 4 will tell you that there have been no "gifts" to be had for either of those communities during Obama's presidency.

So if it isn't "gifts", why do these constituenties vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic party? It really isn't that complicated. People don't want to be members of/vote for groups that don't want them as members. And even though there are some non-neanderthals in the Republican party on this issue, the pressure from the base is too strong for many of them to exist. For every Marco Rubio or John McCain, there are ten Steve King wanna bes who would face a primary challenge in a heartbeat if they started speaking about people of color as human beings.

So let's get back to immigration reform and why it's passage won't help the Republican party. The way this works (in the best case senario) is that a bill passes the senate with an overwhelming majority of Democratic votes. The Republican speaker of the house is pressured to bring the bill up against his will, and it passes with almost all Democratic votes. It comes out of committee (as Republicans are publically seen making the bill harsher on undocumented immigrants) and passes both houses once again with huge number of Democratic votes over loud (and probably racist) Republican objections. Meanwhile, the reason for the Republican's anti-person of color stance, their base, will be out in full force at large rallies, vocally saying racist shit. If you don't believe me, watch the video above from the big rally at the Capital that happened last week.

So what will help Republicans/Conservatives have a better relationship with non white voters? That would be purging the party of their racists and strongly denouncing them, which will never happen because it would mean purging the people who make the Republican party happen from the Republican party. No one in their right mind would do that, and even if they did, as long as there is strong support racist ideas among their base, there always will be an opportunistic politician to embrace them. The problem is the people with the Republican party, and until they die off, they're pretty much fucked on any issue that requires a taking non-racist stance.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hunger Strike in the California Prison System

This is pretty incredible and is getting very little national attention. The state of our prison system is a national disgrace, and California's system is among the worst.
For more than a week, the California prison system has been gripped by the largest hunger strike in its history. Today, campaigners say that some 12,000 inmates continue to refuse food in roughly two-thirds of the state's 32 facilities. That's down from the 30,000 who kicked off the strike, but still more than twice the number who participated in a similar action two years earlier.

The strike – which began with a group of men held in isolation in Pelican Bay State Prison before spreading across the state – was principally motivated by California's aggressive use of solitary confinement. In many cases, the strikers' demands are simple: one photo a year, one phone call per week, permission to use wall calendars.

"The prisoners are not on a suicide mission," says Roger White, campaign director of a Bay Area coalition called Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity. "If they didn't have hope that things could change and that CDCR [the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] could actually implement the demands, they wouldn't be striking."

In 2011, a United Nations torture rapporteur called for an absolute and international ban on indefinite and prolonged solitary confinement, arguing that just a few a days locked up alone in a cell has been shown to produce lifelong mental health problems. In California, hundreds of Pelican Bay prisoners have spent a decade or more in solitary confinement – some for as many as 20 or 30 years.

Friday, July 12, 2013

What Do You Want On Your Tombstone?

(From Mitch McConnell's twitter account. No, really.)

For the millionth time, some sort of filibuster reform seems like it has legs. We've let down in the past (and will probably be let down again), but I can't help but get excited about anything that might make the senate less terrible:
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) launched a barn-burner of a speech Thursday on the Senate floor, excoriating Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for continued obstruction when it comes to presidential nominees. He escalated the battle by setting up test votes next week on a series of potentially controversial nominees.

“Senator McConnell broke his word,” Reid said. “The Republican leader has failed to live up to his commitments. He’s failed to do what he said he would do — move nominations by regular order except in extraordinary circumstances. I refuse to unilaterally surrender my right to respond to this breach of faith.”

The remarks were Reid’s first in weeks on the issue of nominations and Senate gridlock, a brewing fight that he sidelined last month in order to pass immigration reform through the Senate. McConnell has been regularly arguing for weeks that Reid is breaking his word by threatening to change the rules with the nuclear option after he agreed not to upon passage of the modest rules changes in January which preserved the filibuster.
. . .
Pending nominations that could play a role in the filibuster fight include three to run the Labor Department (Tom Perez), Environmental Protection Agency (Gina McCarthy) and CFPB (Cordray); several nominees to serve on the National Labor Relations Board, and three picks to fill vacancies on the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“I’m going to start the process today,” he said Thursday. “We’re going to file cloture on a bunch of nominations. And those votes will occur next week.”

McConnell, clearly worked up over Reid’s speech, responded on the floor shortly after and vowed that Democrats will “live to regret it” if they follow through with the threat to change the rules of the Senate with a bare majority of votes. He called the accusations of obstruction an “absolutely phony, manufactured crisis,” and conceded that McCarthy and Perez “already have enough votes to clear a 60-vote hurdle.”

“Senate Democrats are getting ready to do permanent damage to this body,” McConnell warned, and made a morbid reference regarding Reid. “No majority leader wants written on his tombstone that he presided over the end of the Senate.”
Mitch McConnell could not be more wrong. There is no greater accomplishment anyone could ask for on their tombstone than having ended the Senate.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Walmart Will Abandon DC Construction If Living Wage Bill Passes

This would be absolutely fantastic if true:
The world’s largest retailer delivered an ultimatum to District lawmakers Tuesday, telling them less than 24 hours before a decisive vote that at least three planned Wal-Marts will not open in the city if a super-minimum-wage proposal becomes law.

A team of Wal-Mart officials and lobbyists, including a high-level executive from the mega-
retailer’s Arkansas headquarters, walked the halls of the John A. Wilson Building on Tuesday afternoon, delivering the news to D.C. Council members.

The company’s hardball tactics come out of a well-worn playbook that involves successfully using Wal-Mart’s leverage in the form of jobs and low-priced goods to fend off legislation and regulation that could cut into its profits and set precedent in other potential markets. In the Wilson Building, elected officials have found their reliable liberal, pro-union political sentiments in conflict with their desire to bring amenities to underserved neighborhoods.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) called Wal-Mart’s move “immensely discouraging,” indicating that he may consider vetoing the bill while pondering whether to seek reelection.

The D.C. Council bill would require retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion or more and operating in spaces 75,000 square feet or larger to pay their employees no less than $12.50 an hour. The city’s minimum wage is $8.25.
There are three stores currently under construction and three more planned. Normally you'd say this is hardball negotiations and Walmart wouldn't actually abandon these stores, but this company has shown it will do just about anything to avoid treating their workers fairly. Hopefully Walmart isn't bluffing (and mayor Gray doesn't veto) so we can keep them out of DC for good!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

We're All Feminists Now (At Least When Talking About Muslims We Don't Like)

Kari's explains something that drives me nuts very well here:
Secondly, a common criticism of Western feminism was that women of color and of non-Western origin didn't have a place at the table or their place was “given” to them by feminists in the West. See the discussion above on “giving people permission to speak” same concept. This was a huge criticism of second wave feminism, and it continues today. However, there is a far larger discussion to be had when we look back at how the West, particularly the US, interferes and behaves in international conflicts. For example, after weapons of mass destruction weren't found in Iraq, President G.W. Bush claimed it was a moral imperative to liberate the Iraqi women. Did I personally find the restrictions on women in Iraq oppressive? Yes, but to liberate Iraqi women without input from them is offensive and paternalistic. Those being liberated must always be included in the conversation, or is it liberation at all? The argument that Muslim men are oppressive and violent toward Muslim women (women et al) is offensive and paternalistic as well. What happens here is the perpetuation that men of color (other than white) are violent, oppressive, and can’t be trusted with women. All assertions are of course unfounded. Additionally, the notion that Islam is more oppressive than other religions is false as well just look at the conservative right in the US, and their attempts to restrict and regulate women’s bodies.
I've gotten into many an argument on this topic with people who I otherwise agreed with 90% of the time. You see these arguments on the right, but unfortunately you see them on the left as well with people whose hearts are in the right place (I hope) but end up saying some very offensive shit because growing up in the US it's hard for people to shed the colonial mindset. We're so used to hearing news stories in this perspective that it really does take giving your brain a hard reset at some point to snap out of it.

Anyhow you see this type of talk pretty much constantly in US politics and it's important to be aware of it and call out people for speaking this way.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Several States Already Getting To Work On Voter Suppresion Laws

You knew this stuff was coming, I just didn't realize it would be 48 hours later:
Less than 48 hours after the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, six of the nine states that had been covered in their entirety under the law’s “preclearance” formula have already taken steps toward restricting voting.

In a 5-4 decision, the Court’s five conservative justices ruled Tuesday that the formula, which required states with a history of racial discrimination to “preclear” changes to their voting laws with the Department of Justice or a federal judge before enforcing them, was unconstitutional. Since then, these six states have already started moving on restrictions, many of which have adverse effects on the abilities of minorities, young people, and the poor to exercise their right to vote:

Texas: The Lone Star State saw its strict voter ID law and redistricting plan blocked by the DOJ and federal courts last year. Just two hours after Tuesday’s decision came down, the state’s attorney general issued a statement suggesting  both laws may go into effect immediately. On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed  slightly modified congressional maps into law, apparently deciding not to veto them and reinstate the more blatantly discriminatory maps blocked by the court. These new maps will not be screened by the DOJ. And Thursday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court  vacated two federal court decisions that had relied upon the VRA in blocking the voter ID law and redistricting plan.

Mississippi: The state legislature approved a voter ID scheme in 2012, but it has not received DOJ clearance. Despite the restrictions, Mississippi’s secretary of state said Tuesday they would proceed with implementing the voter ID law and that “ We’re not the same old Mississippi that our fathers’ fathers were.“

Alabama: In 2011, the state passed a law requiring photo ID to vote, but never cleared it with the DOJ. Both the attorney general and the secretary of state said Tuesday  they believed their plans could now be implemented in time for the 2014 elections.

Arkansas: In April, the Arkansas legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto to pass their voter ID legislation. With preclearance out of the way, the state law can now be implemented without DOJ review.

South Carolina: The Palmetto State passed a similar voter ID law in 2012, but DOJ  at least succeeded in delaying its implementation. South Carolina’s attorney general  issued a statement following the decision, lauding the Court for allowing the preclearance states to “to implement reasonable election reforms, such as voter ID laws similar to South Carolina’s.”

Virginia: Unlike several of the other states, Virginia’s voter ID plan was not scheduled to be implemented until July 2014 anyway. But unless Congress replaces the preclearance formula before then,  Virginia will also likely be able to move forward with its plan.
Absolutely disgusting. If you can't win elections, stop the people who don't like you from voting. This is now official Republican party strategy, and we're about to see it's implementation on an even larger scale.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Employers Finding New, Innovative Ways to Screw Their Workers

Friends who work in retail, take note of this:
A growing number of American workers are confronting a frustrating predicament on payday: to get their wages, they must first pay a fee.

For these largely hourly workers, paper paychecks and even direct deposit have been replaced by prepaid cards issued by their employers. Employees can use these cards, which work like debit cards, at an A.T.M. to withdraw their pay.

But in the overwhelming majority of cases, using the card involves a fee. And those fees can quickly add up: one provider, for example, charges $1.75 to make a withdrawal from most A.T.M.’s, $2.95 for a paper statement and $6 to replace a card. Some users even have to pay $7 inactivity fees for not using their cards.

These fees can take such a big bite out of paychecks that some employees end up making less than the minimum wage once the charges are taken into account, according to interviews with consumer lawyers, employees, and state and federal regulators.
If you have a choice, don't ever use this form of payment.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Immigration Reform in the Hands of The Orange One

So the Senate worked hard at making the Immigration Reform bill worse in hopes of attracting 70 votes, because something. But seriously, there are people with important jobs who think that two extra votes on the immigration reform bill will suddently make John Boehner OK with losing his job. I don't understand these people.

The bill passed the Senate with 68 votes, and will now move on to the House, where it will not pass. I understand the point of advocating for the bill and using this moment as a leverage point, but I as an observer of this stuff I'd be willing to bet anything that nothing will come from this bill. In order to pass, the bill would have to be brought up and passed with Democratic votes. I know some commentators are trying to claim this would be some sort of GOP victory with latino voters but that's just insane. How on earth does a bill passing over the loud racist objections of your party benefit Republicans in any way?

We'll see how this plays out, but I'd be stunned if any actual passed legislation emerges from this mess.