Month: February 2013

Sotomayor Leads Liberal Justices In Defending The Voting Rights Act

Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor is acknowledged by President Barack Obama at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 34th Annual Awards Gala at the Washington Convention Center, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011 in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor is acknowledged by President Barack Obama at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 34th Annual Awards Gala at the Washington Convention Center, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011 in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

TPMDC

Seemingly aware that they were outnumbered and fighting an uphill battle, the four liberal justices on the Supreme Court defended the Voting Rights Act during Supreme Court oral arguments Wednesday with a mix of sharp questions, appeals to history, and indirect rejoinders to the more conservative justices.

All four of them participated actively in oral arguments. None was more emphatic than Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

The Obama-appointed justice asked the first question of the day. She hammered Burt Rein, the lawyer representing the challengers, Shelby County of Alabama, over its record of discrimination. The county contends that Section 5 is unfair to its residents and other jurisdictions that it requires to obtain federal pre-clearance before changing their voting laws.

“Assuming I accept your premise, and there’s some question about that, that some portions of the South have changed, your county pretty much hasn’t,” Sotomayor said of Shelby County, which is 90 percent white. “In the period we’re talking about, it has many more discriminating -­- 240 discriminatory voting laws that were blocked by Section 5 objections. … You may be the wrong party bringing this.”

“Why would we vote in favor of a county whose record is the epitome of what caused the passage of this law to start with?” she asked, wondering why the Court should invalidate Section 5 if, as she argued, any formula would cover Shelby County. “Discrimination is discrimination.”

While Section 5 was taking a beating at the hands of the conservative justices, the four liberal-leaning justices targeted various audiences. Sometimes they played to each other, sometimes to the conservative justices they hoped to sway, sometimes to the future Court, sometimes to the public audience.

Justice Stephen Breyer several times tried to needle the lawyers defending the Voting Rights Act into addressing conservatives’ concerns. Other times, he did so himself.

“The disease is still there in the state,” he said. “Of course this is aimed at states. What do you think the Civil War was about? Of course it was aimed at treating some states differently than others.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg took the liberty of knocking down what she viewed as a straw man argument by attorney Rein.

“Mr. Rein, you keep emphasizing over and over again in your brief registration and you said it a couple of times this morning,” she said. “Congress was well aware that registration was no longer the problem. This legislative record is replete with what they call second generation devices. Congress said up front: We know that the registration is fine. That is no longer the problem. But the discrimination continues in other forms.”

Justice Elena Kagan twice said the Section 5 coverage formula has been working “pretty well” when it comes to snuffing out voter discrimination where it’s most likely to emanate. When Rein argued that it’s the courts, not Congress, who should determine whether the coverage formula is legitimate, she sounded shocked.

“That’s a big new power you’re giving us,” Kagan said, “that we have the power to determine when racial discrimination has ended. I did not think we had that power.”

In the final moments of the argument, Sotomayor, apparently taken aback by Justice Antonin Scalia’s statement that Section 5 is a “perpetuation of racial entitlement,” put the question to Shelby County’s lawyer.

“Do you think that the right to vote is a racial entitlement in Section 5?” she asked Rein. When he dodged, she asked him again: “I asked a different question. Do you think Section 5 was voted for because it was a racial entitlement?” He dodged again.

 

10 things you need to know today: February 28, 2013

The Week

The Pope is set to exit, Rosa Parks statue unveiled in Washington, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion

1. SENATE POISED FOR FINAL SEQUESTER VOTES BEFORE DEADLINE
The Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday on dueling proposals to prevent painful across-the-board spending cuts from kicking in on Friday. Democrats are pushing a bill that would replace the automatic cuts, known as the sequester, with a combination of spending cuts and a minimum 30 percent tax on millionaires, while Republicans are proposing the same $85 billion in spending cuts for 2013, but putting the burden on President Obama to decide what gets cut. Neither side, however, is expected to be able to muster the 60 votes they’ll need to avoid a filibuster and get a bill passed. With little hope for a bipartisan deal, the Office of Management and Budget is preparing to put the cuts in motion on the March 1 deadline. [USA Today]
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2. WOODWARD FEUDS WITH THE WHITE HOUSE
Bob Woodward, the veteran reporter for The Washington Post, is claiming that the White House threatened him over a recent story in which he questioned President Obama’s account of how the sequester came to be. Woodward said the official — identified by BuzzFeed as Gene Sperling, who heads President Obama’s White House Economic Council — “yelled at me for about a half hour.” The official then followed up with an email apologizing, and saying: “You’re focusing on a few specific trees that give a very wrong impression of the forest…. I think you will regret staking out that claim.” Woodward said he took that as a threat, although some other veteran reporters said he was making a big deal out of the kind of heated exchange that occurs frequently in Washington. [The Week, Politico]
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3. SENATE CONFIRMS LEW AS TREASURY SECRETARY
The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Jack Lew as Treasury secretary with little fuss, a day after President Obama’s pick for Defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, squeaked through in a tight, partisan vote. Obama expressed gratitude after the 71-26 vote to confirm Lew, his former chief of staff and budget adviser. “Jack was by my side as we confronted our nation’s toughest challenges,” Obama said. His reputation as a master of fiscal issues who can work with leaders on both sides of the aisle has already helped him succeed in some of the toughest jobs in Washington.” [New York Times]
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4. ROSA PARKS STATUE UNVEILED IN THE CAPITOL
Congressional leaders and President Obama on Wednesday unveiled a nine-foot bronze statue of Rosa Louise Parks, making the civil rights icon the first black woman honored with a full-length statue in the Capitol. Parks was a 42-year-old seamstress and civil rights activist when, in 1955, she broke the law by refusing to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Ala., so a white passenger could take her spot up front. Her arrest sparked a year-long boycott that fueled the civil rights movement. Obama said Parks, who died in 2005, shows people don’t have to simply accept injustice. “Rosa Parks tell us there’s always something we can do,” Obama said. [Los Angeles Times]
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5. POPE BENEDICT BEGINS LAST DAY AT THE VATICAN
Benedict XVI is saying good-bye to the Catholic Church’s College Cardinals early Thursday at the start of his final day as pope. Benedict, the first pontiff to resign in 600 years, is expected to spend the day quietly before leaving the Vatican palace for the last time at 5 p.m., local time, and heading to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence outside of Rome. In the next two weeks, the College of Cardinals will convene to begin the process of picking a successor, and Benedict will become “pope emeritus” and lead a secluded life of prayer. [ABC News]
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6. SPACE TOURIST TITO UNVEILS PLAN FOR MARS MISSION
Multimillionaire space tourist Dennis Tito on Wednesday unveiled plans for a high-risk mission to Mars that would start in 2018, nearly two decades ahead of a schedule suggested by President Obama three years ago. Tito, who paid $20 million for a trip to the International Space Station in 2001, said he would pay start-up costs, but that ultimately the project would need more private sponsors to cover the expected $1 billion cost. The plan is to send two Americans, possibly a married couple, on a no frills, 501-day flight that would take advantage of a rare planetary alignment that would send a craft on a slingshot trip around Mars, coming as close as about 150 miles, before returning to Earth. [Christian Science Monitor]
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7. U.S. SENDING ONLY NON-MILITARY AID TO SYRIAN REBELS
Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that the Obama administration had decided to send aid directly to Syrian rebels for the first time. Kerry said the U.S. would provide only non-lethal aid, such as food and medical supplies. Kerry said the U.S. would more than double its assistance to the Syrian opposition, giving it an extra $60 million. Still, the news disappointed some opponents to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as they had been hoping the U.S. would take the next step and agree to provide the rebels with arms. [Reuters]
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8. BOEING APOLOGIZES FOR DREAMLINER TROUBLES
Boeing executives have told Japan’s leading airlines they’re sorry for the technical problems that led to the grounding of the aircraft maker’s new 787 Dreamliner jets last month. Raymond Conner, head of Boeing’s commercial aircraft division, said the incidents, which included overheating lithium-ion batteries, were “deeply regretful.” All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines operate nearly half of the 50 Dreamliners delivered to customers so far. “On behalf of the Boeing Company and the 170,000 people which I represent today,” Conner said, “I want first to apologize for the fact that we’ve had two incidents with our two very precious customers, ANA and JAL.” [CNN]
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9. SPIELBERG TO HEAD CANNES JURY
Steven Spielberg has been picked to head the jury for the influential Cannes Film Festival in 2013. Spielberg has long been a favorite at the French festival — his feature debut, Sugarland Express, premiered there, as did his 1982 sci-fi blockbuster E.T. Spielberg has been asked to be president of the Cannes jury several times before, but this will be the first time his schedule permitted him to accept. “He’s always been shooting a film,” festival president Gilles Jacob said. “So when this year I was told ‘E.T., phone home,’ I understood and immediately replied: ‘At last!'” [Los Angeles Times]
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10. LEGENDARY PIANIST DIES
Van Cliburn, a concert pianist who enjoyed a moment of rock-star fame in the ’50s, died Wednesday at his home in Texas. He was 78. Cliburn vaulted to international fame in 1958 when he won the gold medal in the inaugural year of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Americans viewed the feat as a Cold War triumph over the Soviet Union. When the then-23-year-old Texan returned to the U.S., he was welcomed with a ticker-tape parade in New York City — the first musician to receive the honor. He went on to play sold-out concerts to out-of-control fans. [New York Times]

10 Examples Of Sean Hannity Saying Things That Aren’t True

Media Matters

Fox News’ Sean Hannity brushed aside Rep. Keith Ellison’s (D-MN) assertion that Hannity was “immoral” for “saying things that aren’t true.” Yet Hannity has a long history of using his Fox News program to push false and misleading claims.

Hannity Dismisses Claim That He Says “Things That Aren’t True”

Hannity Dismisses Ellison’s Claim That He Is “Immoral” For “Saying Things That Aren’t True.” On the February 27 edition of Hannity, host Sean Hannity replayed part of his February 26 interview with Ellison. During the exchange, Ellison responded to Hannity’s question about the federal debt being “immoral” by saying, “You are immoral for telling lies.” Hannity asked, “I’m immoral? What did I do that’s immoral?” Ellison responded, “You tell mistruths. You say things that aren’t true.” Speaking before the clip was aired, Hannity said Ellison “at times, seemed incoherent” and “really started grasping at straws.” After the clip was aired, Hannity said to guest J.C. Watts, “I just gave him the rope and said, go. Here you go, rant away.” [Fox News, Hannity, 2/27/13]

Hannity Has A History Of Pushing False And Misleading Reports

10. Hannity Hyped RNC’s Doctored Audio Of Supreme Court Arguments. Hannity uncritically aired a Republican National Committee (RNC) ad that used audio from Supreme Court oral arguments to attack health care reform — but the audio used in the ad was dishonestly edited. [Media Matters3/30/12]

9. Hannity Distorted CBO Data To Attack Obama. Hannity claimed that a January 2012 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report showed that if Obama were to win a second term, taxes would “go up 30 percent.” In fact, the report only stated that taxes would increase at such a rate if all the Bush tax cuts were allowed to expire. [Media Matters2/2/12]

8. Hannity Falsely Claimed A White House Adviser “Advocated Compulsory Abortion.” Hannity claimed that White House science and technology adviser John Holdren “advocated compulsory abortion” and sterilization. PolitiFact had previously rated a similar claim — made months earlier by Fox News’ Glenn Beck — “pants on fire” false. [Media Matters9/9/09]

7. Hannity Falsely Claimed Obama Called The Death Of Four Americans “Just A Bump In The Road.” Hannity claimed that Obama referred to the death of four Americans in the September 2012 attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi as “just a bump in the road.” In fact, Obama was referring to the difficulties Arab countries were facing in transitioning from autocratic rule to democracy. [Media Matters9/25/12]

6. Hannity Spread False Report That Egypt Was Considering Necrophilia Bill. Hannity hyped a thinly-sourced report from an Egyptian newspaper to claim that the Egyptian government was considering a law that would allow a husband to have sex with his dead wife. The Christian Science Monitor called the story “utter hooey,” and multiple sources later debunked the claim. [Media Matters4/30/12; Huffington Post, 4/26/12]

5. Hannity’s Special On “Liberal Bias” Featured Wildly Distorted And Out-Of-Context Quotes. Hannity’s “Behind the Bias” special, in which he purported to investigate the “bias” of “the mainstream media,” featured multiple deceptively cropped quotes. For example, he played a clip purporting to show that Katie Couric called President Ronald Reagan “an airhead”; in fact, Couric was citing a conclusion from a biography of Reagan. [Media Matters4/24/11]

4. Hannity Cast Doubt On Scientific Consensus About Climate Change. Even though the overwhelming majority of scientists agree that global warming is occurring and is likely caused or exacerbated by human activity, Hannity has repeatedly denied or cast doubt on the existence of climate change. [Media Matters12/4/091/13/108/27/1011/19/106/24/11]

3. Hannity Fueled Myth That Obama Is A Muslim. During a segment in March 2011 in which he fueled the smear that Obama was not born in the U.S., Hannity claimed that Obama “went to a Muslim school.” In March 2012, while claiming that he was “not doubting [Obama's] faith,” Hannity said, “[L]ook, he did write about his early years, that he did study the Quran, that one of the most beautiful moments in life was prayer at sunset. So, I mean, he does have that background.” [Media Matters3/24/113/21/12]

2. Hannity Fed The Birther Movement. Hannity repeatedly fed the long-standing smear that Obama was not born in the United States, even after Obama released his birth certificate and multiple fact-checkers debunked the smear. Hannity denied that Obama had shown his birth certificate and once falsely claimed that Obama “grew up in Kenya.” [Media Matters3/28/114/20/12]

1. Hannity Ignored Overwhelming Evidence To Repeatedly Claim Obama‘s Policies Have Not HelpedImprove The Economy. Hannity has repeatedly claimed that President Obama’s policies have not improved the economy. In fact, numerous economists and independent analysts have noted that many of Obama’s policy achievements, such as the stimulus, have benefited the economy: GDP is growing rather than contracting as it was at the end of 2008, and the economy has added millions of jobs. [Media Matters1/13/107/14/112/2/12]

 

Scalia: Voting Rights Act Is ‘Perpetuation Of Racial Entitlement’

 

Caricature - Antonin Scalia

Well, it’s a sure bet that Justice Antonin Scalia will not be on the “pro-voting rights” side of the judicial debate…

Think Progress

There were audible gasps in the Supreme Court’s lawyers’ lounge, where audio of the oral argument is pumped in for members of the Supreme Court bar, when Justice Antonin Scalia offered his assessment of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. He called it a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”

The comment came as part of a larger riff on a comment Scalia made the last time the landmark voting law was before the justices. Noting the fact that the Voting Rights Act reauthorization passed 98-0 when it was before the Senate in 2006, Scalia claimed four years ago that this unopposed vote actually undermines the law: “The Israeli supreme court, the Sanhedrin, used to have a rule that if the death penalty was pronounced unanimously, it was invalid, because there must be something wrong there.”

That was an unusual comment when it was made, but Scalia’s expansion on it today raises concerns that his suspicion of the Act is rooted much more in racial resentment than in a general distrust of unanimous votes. Scalia noted when the Voting Rights Act was first enacted in 1965, it passed over 19 dissenters. In subsequent reauthorizations, the number of dissenters diminished, until it passed the Senate without dissent seven years ago. Scalia’s comments suggested that this occurred, not because of a growing national consensus that racial disenfranchisement is unacceptable, but because lawmakers are too afraid to be tarred as racists. His inflammatory claim that the Voting Rights Act is a “perpetuation of racial entitlement” came close to the end of a long statement on why he found a landmark law preventing race discrimination in voting to be suspicious.

It should be noted that even one of Scalia’s fellow justices felt the need to call out his remark. Justice Sotomayor asked the attorney challenging the Voting Right Act whether he thought voting rights are a racial entitlement as soon as he took the podium for rebuttal.

A transcript of the oral argument will be available soon, and we will post Scalia’s quote in its full context. We will also post audio of Scalia’s words when they become available.

Here is the transcript.

Is Chris Christie finished in the GOP?

Chris Christie: Persona non grata at CPAC.

If one defines the Tea Party as the GOP, then there’s a sure bet that Chris Christie is in fact toast.  However, if the less severe conservative members of Congress and the Senate were to embrace Governor Christie and his policies, then the Governor doesn’t have a problem.

The Week

The popular New Jersey governor angers conservatives — again — by announcing he’ll go along with ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, still in the GOP dog house for saying nice things about President Obama’s handling of Super-storm Sandy mere days before the November election, angered conservative critics once again this week by announcing that he would expand Medicaid under ObamaCare. The news came as the organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual enclave of the nation’s conservatives, said they didn’t invite Christie to this year’s gathering because he has a “limited future” in the Republican Party, in part because of his backing of gun-control legislation, which is toxic to many conservatives.

Christie had criticized Obama’s expansion of Medicaid, but his reversal “was a political no-brainer for a politician running for re-election in a blue state,” say Maggie Haberman and David Nather at Politico. Christie may find it to be a pyrrhic victory, though, as this could make CPAC’s prediction more likely to come true. Last year, Christie was a featured speaker at CPAC and a rising GOP star widely considered to have presidential potential. Even if he coasts to another term in his home state, as expected, his warming to this key provision of ObamaCare could sabotage his chances of becoming one of the party’s national standard bearers.

CPAC, for its part, says Christie just isn’t a real conservative. And that kind of assessment often spells defeat for many primary candidates in today’s GOP. Much of the right sees Christie’s Medicaid maneuver as “just one more deal breaker in a series,” says Jill Lawrence at National Journal. He praised Obama after Hurricane Sandy. “He thinks climate change is real. Also he has a man crush on Bruce Springsteen, the Democrats’ go-to entertainer to fire up crowds before elections.” Still, Republicans should think twice before tossing him aside.

Christie, saddled with his Northeastern pragmatism and — the horror — extending health insurance to tens of thousands, will be a non-starter in 2016 if the political climate is the same then as it is now.

The irony is that Christie has a record 74 percent approval rating in his blue state, and 71 percent of his constituents think he deserves to be re-elected. That suggests broad appeal and a national future — but only if his party figures out how to embrace rather than shun people like him. [National Journal]

With all the flak Christie is taking, it’s tough to argue with CPAC’s assessment of his future, says Allahpundit at Hot Air. Then again, this feuding might not hurt him in the long run. One of the biggest beefs fiscal conservatives have with Christie was his “cheap, demagogic” battle with the House GOP over uncorking Sandy relief funds. Conservatives think they’re going to chasten him by keeping him at arm’s length over this, but they’re probably really just “doing him an incredible political favor.”

Sandy relief is the biggest reason why his approval rating in Jersey is upwards of 75 percent; it’s likely also the biggest reason he polls well nationally even with Democrats at the moment. His whole post-Sandy nonpartisan brand is built on the idea that he’s less ideological and just more goshdarned caring than those heartless conservatives in the GOP congressional caucus. And now here’s CPAC proclaiming that, indeed, his Sandy relief support is cause for (temporary) banishment from conservatism. He’ll be crowing about it for weeks. It’s practically an in-kind contribution to his gubernatorial campaign. [Hot Air]

And when it comes to Medicaid expansion, Christie is not the only Republican rolling the dice. He’s joining seven other Republican governors — so far — who have chosen to go along with the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion to get health-care coverage for many of their uninsured constituents. How that plays out for them politically depends on how many other governors go along, says Jonathan Bernstein at The Washington Post.

The remaining question is: Will Republican governors pay any price in national politics for accepting Medicaid expansion? For any governor who has national ambitions, the hope has to be that the expansion rapidly shifts from a betrayal of Republican principles to something that almost all the states are doing. Otherwise, it’s almost certainly going to be a weapon used against them. [Washington Post]

How Do You Steal a Dream? Supreme Court hears suit to kill Voting Rights Act

I’m inclined to believe that this Supreme Court (The Rehnquist/Roberts Court) does not want to tarnish it’s legacy further and thus, will reach a just decision on the issue…

Greg Palast

Jim Crow is alive and well — and he has mounted a new attack on the law Martin Luther King dreamed of: the Voting Rights Act.

Today, February 27, the Supreme Court will hear a suit brought by Shelby County, Alabama, which challenges the right of the Department of Justice to review changes in voting procedure. Example: Attempts to cut the number of early voting days, to expunge “illegal alien” voters without any evidence, refusing Spanish-language ballots, have been blocked by the Department of Justice and courts because they have stopped Black and Hispanic citizens casting ballots.

Sixteen states are subject to this “pre-clearance” law, every one with a history of Jim Crow rules such as “literacy” tests — Blacks had to recite the Constitution, Whites “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Dixie moans it’s been picked on unfairly, but the “pre-clearance” states, chosen by an arithmetic formula, include all or parts of the “Confederate states” of California, Arizona, Alaska and New York.

All those above the Mason-Dixon line are on the civil-rights hot-water roster because of a history of hostility to Hispanic citizens. In 2006, for example, the Republican Secretary of State of California rejected 42% of voter registration forms because the names were “unusual” and difficult to type into records! The names, like Chávez and Muhammad, were only “unusual” for Republicans.

New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg is happy to pre-clear his city’s changes with the Justice Department and has told that to the Court. But once again, as Dr. King said in his Dream speech, in Alabama, the “Governor has his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification” — to nullify the 15th Amendment’s right to vote and to interpose himself between federal law and the enforcement of this basic American right.

And the Southland? In 2000, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris purged tens of thousands of African-Americans from voter rolls, labeling them “felons” when their only crime was VWB: Voting While Black. All — every one — were innocent. And again, in 2012, Florida Governor Rick Scott targeted 180,000 voters, mostly Latinos, as illegal “alien” voters. The Governor, when challenged by the Justice Department, cut the “alien” list to 198 but in the end, could only produce evidence against one.
If it were not for Section 5, the pre-clearance law, the purges, gerrymandering and other racially bent trickery rampant in Florida, Arizona (with its profiling and harassment of Hispanic voters) and Alaska with its bias against Native Americans would be so much worse. Without review — and the threat of review — Americans would once again lose the rights that the Constitution promises, won with the blood of our Fathers.

At the same time, we cannot ignore the Jim Crow and José Crow tactics that create long lines of voters of color in Ohio and other states.

Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan signed massive expansions of the Voting Rights Act, tripling its reach. It is time to extend the law’s protections again — to Ohio, to Wisconsin, to everyone.

When every American is protected by the Voting Rights Act review of voting changes, then all of us may be secure that our votes will not be nullified by politicians abusing the voting system to seize office through tactics racist in effect, if not intent.

A half century ago this year, Dr. Martin Luther King shared his dream with America:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’

“We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

King’s dream is the American Dream — which no Court should take away. It is a mighty stream which must touch all citizens in every state.

Without “pre-clearance,” the Voting Rights Act is an empty promise — with purged, blocked and intimidated voters having to protest after an election to the very officials elected by the vote thievery that put them in office.

If this Supreme Court removes “pre-clearance” Section 5 on the grounds that it does not apply to every state, then the solution is simple and just: apply pre-clearance to every state.  Every American deserves a review by Justice of laws which tell us who can vote — and who can’t.

As King admonished us, we must not be satisfied when we see Black folk, a half century after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, stand in line for six hours to vote whether in Miami or in Cleveland.

We petition the Court and Congress to let freedom ring.

Chuck Hagel Confirmed By Senate As Obama’s Secretary Of Defense

Next…

Now on to the next manufactured crisis…oh, that would be the sequester fiasco.

Huffington Post

The U.S. Senate confirmed former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) as President Barack Obama’s next secretary of defense by a 58 to 41 vote Tuesday, marking an end to one of the most drawn-out fights for a president’s Cabinet pick.

The opposition to Hagel melted away Tuesday after the Presidents’ Day recess, with the Senate moving earlier in the day to end debate on his nomination by a 71-27 margin, and 18 Republicans voting in favor. On Feb. 14, Republicans succeeded in maintaining an unprecedented filibuster against the nominee.

Four Republican senators voted for Hagel: Sens. Thad Cochran (Miss.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Mike Johanns (Neb.) and Rand Paul (Ky.)

Paul’s vote was most surprising because he had voted against cloture earlier Tuesday, moving to continue the debate on Hagel’s nomination. He had also said previously that Hagel had provided incomplete financial information since he left the Senate.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday the time had come. “The questions had been answered and it’s time for a vote,” he said.

Hagel will follow Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, coming into office just as across-the-board cuts are set to hit the Pentagon on March 1 as a result of the 2011 Budget Control Act.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), a strong supporter of Hagel, defended the confirmation process. “This has not been that long a process on Hagel, by the way,” he said. “There was no more that needed to be brought out,” he noted, adding that Hagel had provided senators with his speeches and financial disclosure. “The fact that people around here are allowed to talk until 60 people decide to vote is the Senate rules.”

Hagel has been under fire during the confirmation process for his outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq, criticism of the Israeli lobby’s influence in Washington and past statements on Iran. Hagel also didn’t do himself any favors by performing poorly in his confirmation hearing.

Some Senate Republicans have spoken harshly about Hagel throughout the debate. McCain, once close with Hagel and one of the 18 Republicans to vote in favor of ending debate earlier Tuesday, had heated exchanges with him over the troop surge in Iraq. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took his opposition further, accusing Hagel of taking money from North Korea and Saudi Arabia. GOP-leaning outside groups also attacked Hagel over his past statements on Israel.

That opposition campaign seemed to peter out Tuesday.

“They were so far over the top,” said Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.). “There were so many false, inaccurate statements that basically they ended up hurting themselves as much as helping themselves.”

Harry Reid Fires Back and Calls John Boehner a Do Nothing Speaker

Harry Reid in session

PoliticusUSA

Harry Reid fired back at John Boehner’s attempt to blame the Senate for the sequester by saying, “The speaker’s doing nothing to try to pass anything.”

After trying to blame just the president got him nowhere, Speaker Boehner took aim at the Senate Democrats.

Video:

Speaker Boehner (R-OH) said, “The president has known for 16 months that the sequester was looming out there when the super committee failed to come to an agreement. And so for 16 months the president’s been traveling all over the country holding rallies instead of sitting down with Senate leaders in order to try to forge an agreement over there in order to move a bill. We have moved a bill in the House twice, we should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their ass and begins to do something.”

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) fired back at Boehner, “I think he should understand who is sitting on his posterior. We’re working to pass something. The speaker’s doing nothing to try to pass anything.”

Boehner has the entire legislative process backwards. The bills that the last House passed in 2012 would end food and medical care for nearly 2.5 million Americans, but those bills died with the end of the 112 Congress. Speaker Boehner knows this, but he has yet to pass a sequester replacement bill in the new Congress. The reason why Boehner hasn’t passed a sequester replacement is because he doesn’t have the votes needed for passage.

Beneath Boehner’s blame game is the fact that he can’t pass anything. This is why he is trying push the blame on to the Senate and the White House. House Republicans aren’t trying to avoid the sequester. They are trying to pass the buck. The reality is that the president can’t do anything until after Congress passes the legislation.

Since this is a budgetary matter, the House will have to pass a sequester replacement bill. John Boehner has redefined the meaning of the term do nothing speaker. The 112 Congress was the most unproductive since 1947-1948. The gridlock was caused by House Republicans who refused to compromise.

The speaker is still refusing to compromise, but he is also not doing his job. The House must pass a new sequester replacement. What the House did in the old congress does not carry over. The House hasn’t even voted for a sequester replacement in the new Congress. In reality, it is John Boehner who is content to sit on his ass and try to win the blame game while Rome burns.

John Boehner’s empty tough talk isn’t going to put food on the table of workers who are facing layoffs or pay cuts thanks to his sequester. It’s looks like Boehner’s do nothing incompetence is finally about to catch up with him.

Tuesday Blog Roundup – 2-26-2013

Twins via Shutterstock.

Your politics are in your genes
Genes play a role in determining what our political opinions are, and how strongly we..

The Sequester: Myths And Facts
Right-wing media outlets have advanced a number of myths regarding automatic across-.

CPAC sends message, snubs Christie
Associated Press The annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, is th..

White House: No Price Tag for Access
The White House today pushed back against reports that President Obama’s nonprofit ad..

GOP Lawmaker Says Cheney Will Go to Hell
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) told a Libertarian conference over the weekend that former V..

After 7-week struggle, Hagel poised for defense job
Chuck Hagel’s seven-week struggle to win confirmation as secretary of defense appear..

Obama to govs: Push Congress to avert automatic cuts
Against a backdrop of impending automatic budget cuts, President Barack Obama on Mond..

Video: Christie snub: Why the NJ gov. won’t be invited to CPAC
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is not on the guest list for the Conservative Politica..

‘You got your tax increase,’ Boehner tells Obama as sequester staring ..
The nation’s capital was enveloped in a familiar kind of gridlock late Monday, as Re..

Jack Nicholson crashes “Best Actress” Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence’s..
Nicholson: “You look like an old girlfriend of mine.” Lawrence: “Do I look like a new..

Sonia Sotomayor Condemns Prosecutor’s Racially Charged Question

 

 

Sonia Sotomayor Prosecutor

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor answers a question at Chicago Public Library in Chicago, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. Sotomayor is on a tour promoting her new memoir “My Beloved World.” The book, which was released earlier this month, offers a revealing look at her life before she joined the Supreme Court. It is unusually personal for a justice. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

I’ve seen and heard about this sort of conduct happening more times than I care to remember…

The Huffington Post

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Monday condemned racially charged language used by a federal prosecutor in Texas.

The justice, appointed to the court by President Barack Obama in 2009, took the relatively unusual step of writing a statement to accompany the nine-member Supreme Court’s announcement that it would not take up a criminal case.

Sotomayor took issue with the unidentified prosecutor who, while questioning an African-American defendant in a drug case, asked: “You’ve got African-Americans, you’ve got Hispanics, you’ve got a bag full of money. Does that tell you – a light bulb doesn’t go off in your head and say, this is a drug deal?”

The first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, Sotomayor wrote that the prosecutor had “tapped a deep and sorry vein of racial prejudice that has run through the history of criminal justice in our nation.”

The question was “pernicious in its attempt to substitute racial stereotype for evidence,” she added. Sotomayor also accused the Obama administration of playing down the issue.

The defendant in the case, Bongani Charles Calhoun, wanted the Supreme Court to order a retrial because he said his right to a fair trial was violated when the question was asked. He was convicted of three offenses over his role in a drug conspiracy.

Initially, the administration declined to file a response to Calhoun’s claim, indicating government lawyers did not think it merited attention.

“I hope never to see a case like this again,” Sotomayor wrote.

Justice Stephen Breyer signed on to Sotomayor’s statement.

The court did not take up the case on Monday, because Calhoun had failed to raise his argument earlier in the appeals process, as required under the law, Sotomayor wrote.

At trial, Calhoun’s argument was that, although he was present when federal agents arrested him and several other men, he was unaware of the illegal activity.

The case is Calhoun v. United States, U.S. Supreme Court, 12-6142. (Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller and Mohammad Zargham)