Tag Archives: Power & Politics

Supreme Court To Hear Affirmative Action Case

Apparently the majority Justices of the Supreme Court want another shot at dismantling Affirmative Action.

The Huffington Post

The Supreme Court is broadening its examination of affirmative action by adding a case about Michigan’s effort to ban consideration of race in college admissions.

The justices already were considering a challenge to the University of Texas program that takes account of race, among many factors, to fill remaining spots in its freshman classes. The Texas case has been argued, but not yet decided.

The court on Monday said it would add the Michigan case, which focuses on the 6-year-old voter-approved prohibition on affirmative action and the appeals court ruling that overturned the ban. The new case will be argued in the fall. A decision in the Texas case is expected by late June.

The dispute over affirmative action in Michigan has its roots in the 2003 Supreme Court decision that upheld the use of race as a factor in university admissions. That case concerned the University of Michigan law school.

In response to the court’s 5-4 decision in that case, affirmative action opponents worked to put a ballot measure in front of voters to amend the state constitution to outlaw preferential treatment on the basis of race and other factors in education, as well as government hiring and contracting. In November 2006, 58 percent of Michigan voters approved the measure.

Civil rights groups sued to block the provision the day after the vote. In November, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 8-7 to invalidate the ban as it applies to college admissions. It did not address hiring or contracting.

The appeals court said the constitutional amendment is illegal because it prohibits affirmative action supporters from lobbying lawmakers, university trustees and other people who ordinarily control admissions policies. Instead, opponents of the ban would have to mount their own long, expensive campaign through the ballot box to protect affirmative action, the court said.

That burden “undermines the Equal Protection Clause’s guarantee that all citizens ought to have equal access to the tools of political change,” the court said. The 6th Circuit divided along ideological lines, with its more liberal judges in the majority.

In the Texas case, a white student who was denied admission to the University of Texas is suing to overturn the school’s use of race among many factors to fill out its incoming freshman classes. The bulk of the slots go to Texans who graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school classes.

The Michigan case is Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, 12-682.

 

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Editorial: Obama for president: A second term for a serious man

Sam SteinHuffington Post

As President Barack Obama was celebrating his inauguration at various balls, top Republican lawmakers and strategists were conjuring up ways to submarine his presidency at a private dinner in Washington.

The event — which provides a telling revelation for how quickly the post-election climate soured — serves as the prologue of Robert Draper’s much-discussed and heavily-reported new book, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives.”

According to Draper, the guest list that night (which was just over 15 people in total) included Republican Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.), along with Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). The non-lawmakers present included Newt Gingrich, several years removed from his presidential campaign, and Frank Luntz, the long-time Republican wordsmith. Notably absent were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) — who, Draper writes, had an acrimonious relationship with Luntz.

For several hours in the Caucus Room (a high-end D.C. establishment), the book says they plotted out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama’s legislative platform.

The Editorial Board  –  St. Louis Post Dispatch

Four years ago, in endorsing Democrat Barack Obama for president, we noted his intellect, his temperament and equanimity under pressure. He was unproven, but we found him to be presidential, in all that that word implies.

In that, we have not been disappointed. This is a serious man. And now he is a proven leader. He has earned a second term.

Mr. Obama sees an America where the common good is as important as the individual good. That is the vision on which the nation was founded. It is the vision that has seen America through its darkest days and illuminated its best days. It is the vision that underlies the president’s greatest achievement, the Affordable Care Act. Twenty years from now, it will be hard to find anyone who remembers being opposed to Obamacare.

He continues to steer the nation through the most perilous economic challenges since the Great Depression. Those who complain that unemployment remains high, or that economic growth is too slow, either do not understand the scope of the catastrophe imposed upon the nation by Wall Street and its enablers, or they are lying about it.

To expect Barack Obama to have repaired, in four years, what took 30 years to undermine, is simply absurd. He might have gotten further had he not been saddled with an opposition party, funded by plutocrats, that sneers at the word compromise. But even if Mr. Obama had had Franklin Roosevelt’s majorities, the economy would still be in peril.

Extraordinary, perhaps existential, economic challenges lie just beyond Election Day. The nation’s $16 trillion debt must be addressed, but in ways that do not endanger the sick and elderly, or further erode the middle class or drive the poor deeper into penury.

The social Darwinist solutions put forward by Republican Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, are not worthy of this nation’s history, except that part of it known as the Gilded Age.

Mr. Obama has not been everything we expected. In his first weeks in office, Democrats ran amokwith part of his economic stimulus package. His mortgage relief program was insufficient. Together with his Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, the president has been too deferential to the financial industry. The president should have moved to nationalize troubled banks instead of structuring the bailout to their benefit. Regulatory agencies and the Justice Department were unable to bring financial crooks to heel.

We had hoped that Mr. Obama would staff the executive branch with the best and the brightest. There have been stars, but there have been egregious failures, too. The “Fast and Furious”operation at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was a disgrace. The vastly expensive and unaccountable intelligence and Homeland Security agencies need stronger oversight. The now-renamed Minerals Management Service could have used some best-and-brightest inspectors before the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

People who don’t understand the word “socialist” accuse Mr. Obama of being one. But as president he has proven to be pragmatic and conciliatory. He is not one to tilt at windmills. He did not close Guantanamo. He cut deals with anyone who’d come to the table. In health care, banking regulation and most other policy areas, he has practiced the art of the possible.

In foreign policy, after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for doing little more than not being George W. Bush, he has been a centrist. He has stood with Israel, but not as its surrogate. He brought the last of the U.S. troops out of Iraq. He began to wind down the war in Afghanistan — too slowly in our view. He let the nations of the Arab Spring follow their own course to democracy. He used thumb drives instead of bunker busters in Iran.

Against the advice of his senior advisers, he approved the SEAL mission that killed Osama bin Laden. He has been almost ruthless in his pursuit of terrorists, reserving to himself the right to approve targets. Regretfully, he massaged “due process” to allow himself to assassinate an al-Qaida leader who was an American citizen.

He is not a happy warrior, literally or figuratively. He is careful, cautious, private and deeply thoughtful, almost introverted. His rhetoric soars because he is a good writer, and good writers tend to be solitary souls. He is not as good working off the cuff, as was demonstrated in Wednesday’s debate with Mr. Romney. But being careful and thoughtful is a good thing in a president.

As to Mr. Romney, we are puzzled. Which Mitt Romney are we talking about? The one who said of himself, in 2002, “I’m not a partisan Republican. I’m someone who is moderate and … my views are progressive.”

Or is it the Mitt Romney who posed as a “severely conservative” primary candidate? Is it the Mitt Romney who supported abortion rights and public health care subsidies in Massachusetts or the one who is pro-life and anti-Obamacare now?

Is it the Mitt Romney who wants to cut taxes by $5 trillion or the one who can’t remember saying that now? Is it the Mitt Romney who said in May that 47 percent of Americans are moochers or the one who said last week that’s not what he believes?

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Filed under GOP Obstructionism, GOP Partisanship

Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Ruling: Judge Halts Enforcement Of Law For Election

It appears that Judge Robert Simpson’s ruling might just be a band-aid for the law’s many problems.  Apparently voters don’t have to show ID but the poll worker can still ask for it!

Sounds like a quick-fix that may be filled with confusion and dismay on election day.

The Huffington Post

A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday postponed the enforcement of the state’s new strict voter ID requirement until after the November presidential election.

In a much-anticipated ruling, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. ordered that voters without government-issued photo ID should be allowed to cast regular ballots.

“That’s a huge win,” said Witold J. Walczak, an attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, “because last week the judge was suggesting that he was going to have every [voter without ID] vote provisionally.”

At the same time, the judge specifically ruled to allow the state to continue its education and advertising campaign, which currently tells voters that IDs are required.

Walczak said that if the state doesn’t change that message, “we may be back in court.”

“You can’t be telling people you need ID if you’re not actually requiring ID,” he said. “That advertising has to be modified to reflect reality.”

“Confusion is not a good thing on election day,” he said. “Confusion is going to mean some voters stay home. Confusion is going to mean that some poll workers get it wrong.”

Matthew Keeler, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania secretary of state, said the state is “pleased because the law itself hasn’t changed. What’s going on is there’s a soft rollout for the general election, just like the primary.”

Voters will still be asked for ID, he noted. If they don’t have it, they’ll be given information on how to get it.

As for the advertising campaign, “we’re looking into what needs to be updated,” Keeler said. “To completely take that away, would just muddle the area, as it were.”

“We’ll work on fixing things if we think they need to be fixed,” Keeler added.

Opponents of the law had expressed fears that it could dissuade or prevent tens of thousands of mostly poor, elderly, young or infirm citizens from voting.

Simpson’s injunction “will have the effect of extending the express transition provisions of [the new law] through the general election,” the judge wrote. That means that, just like during the primary election, voters will be asked for ID but still be allowed to vote if they don’t have it.

The law as passed by the Republican legislature and signed by the Republican governor had only allowed people without ID to cast “provisional” ballots, which would be thrown out unless they returned with ID within six days.

The Pennsyvlania legislature is one of several that, after Republicans took control in 2010, passed legislation to make it harder, rather than easier, to vote.

The voter ID bills, like similar moves to restrict voter registration, eliminate early voting, purge voter rolls and send pollwatchers into minority precincts. All are ostensibly intended to prevent voter fraud, an almost nonexistent problem according to research on the issue. In contrast, such moves have a disproportionate effect on minorities and young voters, and ultimately serve to block legitimate but probably Democratic voters from exercising their constitutional rights.

Simpson’s new decision comes six weeks after he upheld the entire law as is.

His initial ruling dealt mostly with whether the General Assembly had the authority to establish such voting requirements. Simpson decided it did — basing his decision in part on a bigoted and discredited 19th century state court decision.

Opponents of the law appealed, and Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court sent the case backto Simpson, this time ordering him to rule on the practical side of things, namely: Was the state upholding the law’s procedures for deployment of ID cards such that there would be “no voter disenfranchisement” as a result?

The high court’s order seemed designed to force the judge to enjoin the law, given that the state had stipulated it wasn’t following the exact procedures set out in the law and that so many registered voters clearly still lacked ID.

Witnesses last week movingly described the many frustrating barriers faced by the elderly and infirm in particular in their attempts to get ID.

But on Thursday, Simpson indicated that he would let “the good parts” of the bill stand.

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Filed under Voter Fraud, Voter Identification, Voter Suppression

Romney responds to NAACP booing: ‘If they want more stuff from the government tell them to go vote for the other guy’

The consensus among the talking heads on MSNBC and elsewhere about Mitt Romney’s speech at the NAACP Conference on Wednesday is that he said what he said intentionally to get the crowd to boo at him.

Many politicians and news pundits were reluctant to say that Romney’s remarks to intentionally solicited the boos, but his response at a fundraiser later that night seemed to confirm their suspicions…

The Rachel Maddow Show

Mitt Romney had this remarkable message for the members of the NAACP who booed him when he told them he’d repeal the Affordable Care Act:

Remind them of this: If they want more stuff from government, tell them to go vote for the other guy—more free stuff. But don’t forget, nothing is really free.

Rachel Maddow reported on Romney’s remarks tonight, which he made at a fundraiser in Hamilton, Montana.

Romney has been accused of hoping to get booed during his speech at the NAACP in order to drum up right-wing support, and as Maddow pointed out, these latest comments lend support to that theory.

“It seemed like Mitt Romney wanted to get booed at the NAACP this morning,” Maddow said. “He wanted to wear that around his neck like a badge of courage. It looks like he is not wasting any time in doing so.”

And later on The Last Word, Goldie Taylor of The Grio had a more visceral response to Romney’s comments.

“That tells me all I need to know now about Mitt Romney, who at first I believed is just disconnected,” Taylor said. “Now I know his problem is much bigger than that.”

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Filed under Mitt Romney, NAACP

Eric Holder: Voter ID Laws Are ‘Poll Taxes’

Eric Holder Voter Id Poll Tax

Was there ever any doubt?

The Huffington Post

Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday he opposes a new photo ID requirement in Texas elections because it would be harmful to minority voters.

In remarks to the NAACP in Houston, the attorney general said the Justice Department “will not allow political pretexts to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious right.”

Under the law passed in Texas, Holder said that “many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them – and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them.”

“We call those poll taxes,” Holder added spontaneously, drawing applause as he moved away from the original text of his speech with a reference to a fee used in some Southern states after slavery’s abolition to disenfranchise black people.

The 24th amendment to the constitution made that type of tax illegal.

Holder spoke a day after a trial started in federal court in Washington over the 2011 law passed by Texas’ GOP-dominated Legislature that requires voters to show photo identification when they get to the polls.

Under Texas’ law, Holder noted, a concealed handgun license would serve as acceptable ID to vote, but a student ID would not. He went on to say that while only 8 percent of white people do not have government-issued photo IDs, about 25 percent of black people lack such identification.

“I don’t know what will happen as this case moves forward, but I can assure you that the Justice Department’s efforts to uphold and enforce voting rights will remain aggressive,” the attorney general said.

Holder said the arc of American history has always moved toward expanding the electorate and that “we will simply not allow this era to be the beginning of the reversal of that historic progress.”

“I will not allow that to happen,” he added.

The attorney general spoke at the 103rd convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which is launching a battle against new state voter ID laws. NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous has likened the fight against conservative-backed voter ID laws passed in several states to “Selma and Montgomery times,” referring to historic Alabama civil rights confrontations of the mid-1960s.

Holder, the first black man named U.S. Attorney General, was received with resounding applause, a standing ovation and chants of “Holder, Holder, Holder” at the convention.

Those chants quickly changed to “stand your ground, stand your ground,” a reference to a Florida law that neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman is using to defend fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager he encountered while patrolling his community in February. Police did not initially arrest or charge Zimmerman, saying the “stand your ground” law allowed self-defense. He was later charged with second-degree murder.

Holder said the Justice Department under his leadership has taken unprecedented steps to study and prevent violence against youth and address the high homicide rate among young black men.

Finally, the attorney general noted with pride that the U.S. Supreme Court in two recent rulings regarding President Barack Obama’s health care law and immigration laws passed in Arizona, largely supported the federal government and the Department of Justice. However, he said, he remained concerned that Arizona law enforcement, under the portion of the law upheld by the court, would be able to check the immigration status of any person suspected of being in the United States illegally.

“No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like,” Holder said.

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Filed under Voter Identification