Daily Archive: October 2, 2012

Lying On the Pavement

12,000 babies are born each day in the United States.  Strangers in a strange land, they get weighed, finger-printed, and are sent on their way with a bottle and a blanket and a bunch of balloons.    

Good luck, little travelers. You’ll need it . . .

If you show any sign of life when you’re young, they’ll put you on Ritalin. Then, when you get old enough to take a good look around, you’ll get depressed, so they’ll give you Prozac.  Meanwhile, your steady diet of trans-fat-laden food is guaranteed to give you high cholesterol, so you’ll get a prescription for Lipitor.  Finally, at the end of the day, you’ll lay awake at night worrying about losing your health plan, so you’ll need Lunesta to go to sleep.

They’ll tell you prescription drugs are just fine, but they’ll warn you about marijuana and restrict your access to mind-altering substances like the truth. They’ll tell you all about the dangers of illegal drugs, but for some reason, they always forget to warn you about the most potent, destructive drug of all.

Money.

PA Voter ID Law Blocked for Now

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Pennsylvania Judge Robert Simpson, who had previously ruled that the state voter ID  law could go forward, has suspended the portion of the law that would required voters to have a state issued ID to vote on November 6. Voters can still be asked for ID but if don’t have it, they can still go ahead and vote:

Judge Simpson said in his Tuesday ruling that for the presidential election of Nov. 6, voters in Pennsylvania could be asked to produce the newly required photo IDs, but if they did not have them could still go ahead and vote. The decision could still be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

“While we’re happy that voters in Pennsylvania will not be turned away if they do not have an ID, we are concerned that the ruling will allow election workers to ask for ID at the polls and this could cause confusion,” said Penda D. Hair, co-director of Advancement Project, one of the groups that challenged the law. “This injunction serves as a mere Band-Aid for the law’s inherent problems, not an effective remedy.”

The ruling does not stop the law from being enforced in future elections and there are some serious concerns. Poll workers can still ask for ID and that creates confusion about provisional ballots, as David Dayen at FDL News points out:

Just think of the scenarios. A voter is asked for ID, and producing none, instructed to write a provisional ballot. Technically that ballot must be counted, but the voter might leave, suspecting their vote won’t count. Or they may not follow the provisional ballot instructions closely enough. Or poll worker error could easily lead to a voter being asked to leave without voting. [..]

So this all relies on poll workers knowing that the provisional ballot process is not in effect for voter ID, but that they have to ask for a voter ID anyway. I’m not necessarily confident in that approach, but it’s better than how it initially looked.

What Atrios said

I tried to read the ruling, but it’s written in gibberish. The smart lawyer people on the internet seem to agree that the judge has decreed that poll workers will ask for IDs, but if people don’t have them they should let them vote anyway. In other words, better than nothing but untrained poll workers are not going to have any idea what they’re supposed to do so this election in PA will be a complete mess.

Cartnoon

My Mama done told me…  First posted here June 09, 2011.

Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid

On This Day In History October 2

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 2 is the 275th day of the year (276th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 90 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1959, “The Twilight Zone” premiered on CBS television.

The Twilight Zone is an American anthology television series created by Rod Serling, which ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964. The series consisted of unrelated episodes depicting paranormal, futuristic, dystopian, or simply disturbing events; each show typically featured a surprising plot twist and was usually brought to closure with some sort of message. The series was also notable for featuring both established stars (e.g. Cliff Robertson, Ann Blyth, Jack Klugman) and younger actors who would later became famous (e.g. Robert Redford, William Shatner, Mariette Hartley, Shelley Fabares). Rod Serling served as executive producer and head writer; he wrote or co-wrote 92 of the show’s 156 episodes. He was also the show’s host, delivering on- or off-screen monologues at the beginning and end of each episode. During the first season, except for the season’s final episode, Serling’s narrations were off-camera voiceovers; he only appeared on-camera at the end of each show to promote the next episode (footage that was removed from syndicated versions but restored for DVD release, although some of these promotions exist today only in audio format).

The “twilight zone” itself is not presented as being a tangible plane, but rather a metaphor for the strange circumstances befalling the protagonists. Serling’s opening and closing narrations usually summarized the episode’s events in tones ranging from cryptic to pithy to eloquent to unsympathetic, encapsulating how and why the main character(s) had “entered the Twilight Zone”.

Muse in the Morning

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Art Glass 31

More therapy for the dismal: Paul Loeb’s piece on political cynicism

(Crossposted at Voices on the Square and at FDL)

There is a passage in Derrick Jensen’s newest book, Dreams, in which he bridges the gap between his usual anarcho-primitivist plain talk and the more “expert” advice of scientists such as James Hansen and populists such as Bill McKibben.  It goes as follows:

We all know what we must do to curtail global warming.  We must dismantle every oil refinery, every pipeline, every oil and natural gas well.  We must dismantle the infrastructure that is killing the planet. (p. 249)

The first step in such a process, were it actually to happen, would be to phase out the pumping of the oil, the coal, and the natural gas.  I pointed this out some time ago in a blog entry over at Docudharma/ DailyKos.com.  If we really wish to mitigate the disasters that global warming will bring us, we need to keep some of Earth’s fossil-fueled heritage in the ground, rather than pumping it into the atmosphere.  

The problem, in real life, is that nobody’s talking about such a solution.  Oil, like oil-consuming infrastructure, is a commodity, as are petroleum-based instruments such as cars, airplanes, furnaces and so on.  The solution proposed above would be a wholesale divergence from the capitalist system, which accumulates capital (i.e. money and the good things it buys) through the circulation of commodities.  The change that’s needed, in other words, is a change nobody dares to advocate.

Enter Paul Loeb, published in some reading circles as Paul Rogat Loeb.  Loeb wants to explore what makes some people activists, in order to assure that there be more activists.  Certainly if we are to have a movement that will push through the changes that are needed to curtail global warming, we will need more activists.  

I found Loeb’s most recent piece (written with co-authors Alexander Astin and Parker J. Palmer) in a glance at the blog Docudharma, where it had been cross-posted.  It’s titled ““My Vote Doesn’t Matter”: Helping Students Surmount Political Cynicism.”  The problem, of course, is that students today have good reasons to be politically cynical, especially if the solutions to their problems are not on offer.  We are not going to get past the cynicism, then, by encouraging participation in a system which does not cater to real human needs.

Moreover, we can establish a rational cause for the cynicism that infects American politics.  In the frontstage of American politics is a spectacle, sometimes regarded as “Kabuki theater,” in which candidates offer rhetoric calculated to woo the votes of the public.  In the backstage is the world of meetings in Washington DC, in which deals are made between actors of various ideological persuasions and financial needs.  The ultimate source of “cynicism,” in this regard, is the belief that what happens in the political frontstage might have very little to do real policy as formulated backstage.  Here I will explore, with Loeb and his co-authors, what it would take to change this situation.

First Monday in October

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The 2012 term of the US Supreme Court traditionally begins on the first Monday in October. If the 2011 session is any indication, this term should be even more interesting as the court considers some of the most controversial issues facing this country from affirmative action to civil and voting rights.

When last we saw the chief justice of the United States on the bench, John Roberts was joining with the Supreme Court’s liberals in an unlikely lineup that upheld President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Progressives applauded Roberts’ statesmanship. Conservatives uttered cries of betrayal. [..]

Many people on both the left and right expect Roberts to return to the fold and side with the conservative justices in the new term’s big cases. If they’re right, the spotlight will be back on Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose vote typically is decisive in cases that otherwise split the court’s liberals and conservatives. But Roberts will be watched closely, following his health care vote, for fresh signs that he’s becoming less ideologically predictable. [..]

Cases involving voting rights and marriage equality are expected to eventually land before the court, the former most likely sooner than the latter:

Voting rights: Several challenges to the 1965 Voting Rights Act are moving through district and appellate courts, and the high court is expected to take up one or more.

At issue is Section 5 of the law, a landmark civil rights achievement that prohibits nine states and municipalities in seven others from changing their voting laws without approval from the Justice Department or a special federal court. [..]

Same-sex marriage: The big question as the term begins is whether the justices will accept one or more cases involving the rights of gays and lesbians to marry. If they do, it may offer the best chance for a landmark ruling.

There are two possibilities. The most likely is that the court will accept a challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which has been declared unconstitutional in lower courts and which the Obama administration is refusing to defend. [..]

The other option is for the court to consider challenges to California’s Proposition 8, a 2008 referendum that overturned the state’s support for gay marriage. A broadly worded ruling against the referendum could pave the way for legalized gay marriage elsewhere, rather than just in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa. More likely is a narrowly worded decision that affects only California.

Even if the court declines to hear the Proposition 8 challenge, that decision would be important, because a lower court has ruled against the referendum. Without high court review, gays and lesbians soon could marry in the nation’s most-populous state.

The SCOTUS calendar begins with Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum a major case about corporate accountability for extreme violations of human rights. The case was argued last term on narrow grounds but not decided.

At issue in the Kiobel case is the proper interpretation of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which provides, in relevant part, that foreign citizens may bring civil suits in U.S. district courts for actions “committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”  Enacted as part of the Judiciary Act of 1789, the ATS lay almost forgotten

for nearly two hundred years.  But in 1980, in Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit breathed life into the statute, holding that the ATS conferred jurisdiction over a lawsuit brought by one Paraguayan national against another Paraguayan national (residing in the United States) for torture that occurred in Paraguay.  Since then, victims of human rights violations that occurred overseas have sought to rely on the ATS to press their own claims in U.S. courts.

An affirmative action case that wound its way from Texas will be heard. Under consideration is the court’s previous decisions interpreting the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment

In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the court will address how and perhaps whether the university can take race into account as a factor in student admissions. In a way, the case is a rehearing of a 2003 case (pdf) in which it ruled that the University of Michigan Law School could do so as part of assessing the whole of a candidate’s application. That decision seemed to reflect a national consensus that race, narrowly applied, could be used to ensure a diverse student body.

Two cases involving the Fourth Amendment involving unreasonable search ans seizure will also be heard:

In Florida v. Jardines, the issue is whether the police violated the Constitution by using a dog trained to smell for drugs to sniff at the door of a house where they suspected marijuana was being grown. Was the sniff test unreasonably intrusive because there was no hard information that illegal activity was probably occurring, as the Florida Supreme Court properly found, or was it not a search because it occurred outside the house?

Similarly, in Missouri v. McNeely, the issue is whether the police could order a blood test on a man suspected of drunken driving without obtaining a warrant because the delay in doing so would result in loss of evidence. The Missouri Supreme Court sensibly ruled otherwise: that the test constituted an unreasonable search because there was no accident to investigate and because there was plenty of time to get a warrant and test the driver’s blood before the alcohol in it dissipated.

Also, two cases that will rule on the right of the defendant to council

Ryan v. Gonzales raises the question of whether the defendant himself needs to be mentally capable of assisting his own attorney in challenging a death penalty conviction. [..]

Chaidez v. United States asks whether a 2010 ruling (pdf) of the court – that criminal defense lawyers must advise their noncitizen clients that a guilty plea carries the risk of deportation – applies to someone whose conviction became final before that ruling was announced.

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