SCOTUS

Two Major Voting Rights Victories From The Supreme Court’s Last Day

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/DANA VERKOUTEREN

THINK PROGRESS

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to uphold the right of states to set up independent, non-partisan committees to draw the district maps that determine seats in Congress. Writing the opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said allowing voters to choose how the maps are created follows “the animat­ing principle of our Constitution that the people them­selves are the originating source of all the powers of government.”

She added that “nonpartisan and bipartisan commissions generally draw their maps in a timely fashion and create districts both more competitive and more likely to survive legal challenge,” and noted that “conflict of interest is inherent when legislators dra[w] district lines that they ultimately have to run in.”

Because of that conflict of interest, a growing number of states, including Arizona and California, have set up independent map-drawing bodies to combat the scourge of self-interested gerrymandering, in which the party in control of the state legislature draws the maps to keep as many seats as possible “safe” for their lawmakers.

Pamela Goodman, President of the League of Women Voters of Florida, told ThinkProgress that the ruling gives her hope as they fight an ongoing battle against gerrymandering in the Sunshine State.

“Voters should have a voice in their elections,” she said. “What gerrymandering does is allow lawmakers to draw districts that protect their position. It’s the fox guarding the hen house. Voters are not choosing their representatives. Representatives are choosing their voters.”

Advocates are currently waiting for a ruling from the Florida Supreme Court on whether the maps drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature, which include odd-shaped, snake-like districtsthat wrap around disparate minority-heavy neighborhoods — making the surrounding districts majority white. Florida voters passed measures in 2010 requiring redistricting to not favor any political party or water down the influence of racial or language minority groups — a process upheld by today’s Supreme Court ruling. But Goodman says enforcement is still a problem. “Unfortunately, our lawmakers did not adhere to the mandate and we have been in litigation ever since then,” she said.

Had the high court ruled the other way, it could have allowed a third of all the congressional districts in the country to be impacted, potentially causing an entrenchment of Republican power in Congress after future elections. Now, voting rights advocates are hoping more states, especiallyhighly gerrymandered North Carolina, adopt the non-partisan process backed by the Supreme Court.

“We’re hopeful that citizens and legislators alike in other states will push politics aside and create independent bodies to draw truly representative districts after the 2020 census,” said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport.

On Monday, the Court also handed a victory to voting rights advocates by rejecting an attempt by Kansas and Arizona to add a proof of citizenship requirement to federal voter registration forms. The forms already require voters to swear under penalty of perjury that they are citizens.

Leading the charge has been Kansas’ Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who told ThinkProgress in February that he has found “plenty of cases” of non-citizens registering to vote in his state, “sometimes unwittingly.”

Yet recent reports of non-citizen voting have been soundly debunked, while past investigations inFlorida, Arizona, Colorado and Ohio turned up only a tiny handful of cases — less than one-thousandth of a percent.

Civil rights groups like the Election Protection Network say adding a proof of citizenship requirement for voter registration would actually hurt all voters, especially “traditionally disenfranchised groups like poor, minority and elderly voters,” who may lack the proper documents. In Kobach’s own state, the policy prevented thousands of eligible citizens fromcasting a ballot in this past election.

Voting rights advocates are lamenting, however, that the Supreme Court’s rejection of Kobach’s crusade only impacts federal election registration, and he is still free to impose additional requirements for state and local elections.

ALICE OLLSTEIN

10 things you need to know today: June 26, 2015

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

THE WEEK

1. Supreme Court upholds ObamaCare subsidies
The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 on Thursday that Americans could receive ObamaCare subsidies all across the nation, including in states that did not set up their own insurance exchanges. Opponents of the law had argued that the Affordable Care Act only allowed for premium tax credits for people purchasing insurance through exchanges set up by states, so those shopping for coverage in the 34 states using the federal marketplace were not eligible. Eight million people could have lost subsidies if the case had gone the other way.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, CNN

2. Suspected Islamists attack gas plant in France
Attackers, one reportedly waving an Islamic State flag, stormed a French factory on Friday, killing at least one person. The apparent terrorist attack near Lyon, France, began when a car carrying two people drove onto the grounds of an industrial-gas plant operated by the U.S. company Air Products, and set off an explosion. News outlets reported that a decapitated body was found at the scene. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls ordered “reinforced vigilance” at “sensitive” sites in the region. One of the suspects was reportedly killed by a firefighter; the other was arrested.

Source: The New York Times, The State

3. Funerals begin for victims of Charleston church massacre
Mourners honored Emanuel AME Church victims Ethel Lance and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton on Thursday in the first funerals for the nine people killed in last week’s shooting at the historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Hundreds of people showed up to pay their respects. President Obama travels to Charleston on Friday to deliver a eulogy at the funeral for state Sen. Clementa Pinckney (D), the church’s pastor. Pinckney was leading a Bible study group when a white gunman allegedly opened fire.

Source: New York Daily News, The State

4. National Park Service bans items with Confederate flag from gift shops
The National Park Service announced Thursday that it was pulling items emblazoned with the rebel flag from its gift shops. The decision applied at the national monument at Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began. The fort guarded the entrance to the harbor of Charleston, the South Carolina city where a white gunman last week killed nine people in a storied black church. Apple also joined the growing backlash against the flag, which is embraced by white supremacists, by removing games in which the banner appears from its App Store.

Source: Post and Courier, CNN

5. Univision dumps Miss Universe pageant over Trump remarks
Spanish-language television network Univision announced Thursdaythat it would not air the July 12 Miss Universe pageant on Thursdaybecause of offensive remarks Donald Trump, part owner of the pageant, made about Mexican immigrants. In a speech announcing his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination last week, Trump said Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists.” Trump’s lawyer said the real estate magnate planned to sue Univision for dropping the pageant.

Source: Reuters

6. State Department says 15 emails missing from records Hillary Clinton turned over 
The State Department said Thursday that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not turn over all of her emails related to Libya. Longtime Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal gave the House committee investigating the 2012 attack in Benghazi nine emails that the State Department said are not among emails Clinton handed over last year, and six other emails were not complete. A spokesman for Clinton said that she gave the State Department “over 55,000 pages of materials,” including “all emails in her possession from Mr. Blumenthal.”

Source: The New York Times

7. Fire at black church in North Carolina ruled arson
Investigators concluded Thursday that a fire at a predominantly black church in Charlotte, North Carolina, was caused by arson. It took 75 firefighters an hour to bring the Wednesday blaze at Briar Creek Road Baptist Church under control. Two of the firefighters were treated for heat-related injuries. “This was intentionally set,” Charlotte Fire Department Senior Investigator David Williams said. “Now we’re asking the public to call us if they have any more information about the fire.”

Source: The Washington Post

8. EU agrees to relocate 40,000 migrants
European Union leaders agreed to relocate and shelter 40,000 refugees from north and eastern Africa who have arrived in Italy and Greece. The EU dropped a proposal for a mandatory quota system after several countries objected, and instead will count on host countries to accept the refugees over the next two years on a voluntary basis. European leaders began scrambling for a solution after at least 700 people died when a boat attempting to cross the Mediterranean capsized off Libya in April.

Source: Bloomberg

9. Nine die when sightseeing plane hits Alaska mountain
Nine people were killed Thursday when a sightseeing floatplane crashed into a rock face on a remote part of the southeastern Alaskan coastline. Rain and wind delayed the effort to recover the bodies. Authorities did not immediately identify the victims, other than to confirm that they included a pilot and eight passengers who were tourists on a week-long Holland America cruise that departed from Seattle on Saturday. The tourists were on an excursion to see Alaska’s Misty Fjords National Monument.

Source: The Washington Post

10. Timberwolves pick Karl-Anthony Towns at No. 1 in NBA draft
The Minnesota Timberwolves kicked off the NBA draft on Thursdayby taking 6-foot-11 Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns as the No. 1 pick. The Los Angeles Lakers shook things up by passing up Duke center Jahlil Okafor and grabbing D’Angelo Russell, an Ohio State guard considered a big scoring threat. Okafor went in the third pick to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Knicks picked Kristaps Porzingis, a 7-foot-1 forward from Latvia, at No. 4. The pool of players was considered to be as talented as any in recent memory.

Source: USA Today, The New York Times

Harold Maass

The Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision, in one sentence

Win McNamee/Getty Images

VOX

You can read all of Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion upholding health insurance subsidies for the 34 states with federal Obamacare exchanges here. But you can also understand it by reading this one sentence:

— Jordan Weissmann (@JHWeissmann) June 25, 2015

It’s a simple argument: the point of Obamacare is to make health insurance markets work better and cover more people. To change the law so as to make them work worse, Roberts concluded, is to betray its clear intent.

Read more about the case in our card stack here:

Elizabeth Warren Calls Supreme Court Right-Wing, ‘Pro-Corporate’

elizabeth warren supreme court

BOSTON – SEPTEMBER 2: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks at the annual Labor Council breakfast in Boston, Sept. 2, 2013. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

In  my opinion Senator Warren is the smartest and bravest politician in Washington…

The Huffington Post

In a speech at an AFL-CIO convention on Sunday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) criticized the Supreme Court for being too right-wing and serving the interests of Big Business over the needs of Americans.

In voicing her support for the labor movement and promoting an agenda aimed at defending working families, Warren warned of conservative-leaning justices and a “corporate capture of the federal courts.”

“You follow this pro-corporate trend to its logical conclusion, and sooner or later you’ll end up with a Supreme Court that functions as a wholly owned subsidiary of big business,” Warren said.

Warren said that Wall Street and major corporations are making it difficult for labor leaders to enact financial reform.

“The big banks and their army of lobbyists have fought every step of the way to delay, water down, block or strike down regulations,” Warren said. “When a new approach is proposed -– like my bill with John McCain, Angus King and Maria Cantwell to bring back Glass-Steagall -– you know what happens. They throw everything they’ve got against it.”

“I believe that if people would be opposed to a particular trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not happen,” she said.

Warren was citing a bipartisan bill aimed at separating lending and trading.

“Despite the progress we’ve made since 2008, the biggest banks continue to threaten the economy,” Warren said in a written statement defending the bill. “The four biggest banks are now 30 percent larger than they were just five years ago, and they have continued to engage in dangerous, high-risk practices that could once again put our economy at risk.”

After Warren concluded her speech, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka praised the senator, saying, “Ah, if we could only clone her.”

David Gregory on “Obamacare”: “Nobody’s really been given anything yet.” Oh really?

In my opinion David Gregory still has a lot to learn about “Obamacare”…

The Political Carnival

I was barely awake when the news was blasted loud and clear about the Supreme Court upholding the individual mandate. That woke me up pretty quickly. But you know what really opened my eyes? This quote by MSNBC’s David Gregory (host of NBC’s Meet the Press”) when he was asked to comment about how Republicans would respond to the president’s victory:

“Nobody’s really been given anything yet.”

He said that to buttress the idea that the voting public wouldn’t be swayed by the decision because, see, they haven’t “benefited yet,” so they still won’t support the plan.

Yes, he said that. Yes he’s uninformed and unqualified to work in the news media.

So none of this happened, David?

  • Providing Small Business Health Insurance Tax Credits Effective Jan. 1, 2010
  • Allowing States to Cover More People on Medicaid Effective April 1, 2010
  • Relief for Four Million Seniors Who Hit the Medicare Prescription Drug “Donut Hole” Program applied only on 2010.
  • Cracking Down on Health Care Fraud Many provisions effective now
  • Expanding Coverage for Early Retirees Applications for employers to participate in the program available June 1, 2010.
  • Providing Access to Insurance for Uninsured Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions National program established July 1, 2010
  • Putting Information Online Effective July 1, 2010
  • Extending Coverage for Young Adults Effective for health plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010 Under the new law, young adults are allowed to stay on their parent’s plan until they turn 26 years old.
  • Providing Free Preventive Care Effective for health plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010
  • Prohibiting Insurance Companies from Rescinding Coverage  Effective for health plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010
  • Appealing Insurance Company Decisions  Effective for new plans beginning on or after September 23, 2010
  • Eliminating Lifetime Limits on Insurance Coverage Effective for health plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010
  • Regulating Annual Limits on Insurance Coverage Effective for health plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010
  • Prohibiting Denying Coverage of Children Based on Pre-Existing Conditions Effective for health plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010 for new plans and existing group plans
  • Holding Insurance Companies Accountable for Unreasonable Rate Hikes Grants will be awarded beginning in 2010
  • Holding Insurance Companies Accountable for Unreasonable Rate Hikes Grants will be awarded beginning in 2010
  • Prescription Drug Discounts Effective January 1, 2011
  • Free Preventive Care for Seniors Effective January 1, 2011
  • Improving Care for Seniors after They Leave the Hospital Effective January 1, 2011

Oh, and there was this: Damn that “Obamacare” and its $1.1 billion in rebates!

DENIED

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Stay Of Execution In Highly Controversial Georgia Case

The Huffington Post

[…]

Live Blog

Today 10:32 PM Execution Expected In 20-30 Minutes

thinkprogress @ thinkprogress : MSNBC reports that Troy Davis execution is expected in the next 20 to 30 minutes #toomuchdoubt 

 

Today 10:32 PM Supreme Court’s Decision

The U.S. Supreme Court decision to deny the stay of execution can be viewed here.

Today 10:30 PM No Dissents

GregMitch @ GregMitch : CBS News: no dissents at all from any of SCOTUS justices. 

 

Today 10:22 PM Reuters Confirms Denial Of Stay

Reuters @ Reuters : FLASH: U.S. SUPREME COURT REJECTS STAY OF EXECUTION FOR GEORGIA DEATH ROW INMATE IN HIGH-PROFILE CASE 

 

Today 10:21 PM Report: U.S. Supreme Courts Denies Request For Stay Of Execution

BreakingNews @ BreakingNews : US Supreme Court denies request for stay of execution for Georgia inmate Troy Davis – wire services 

 

Today 10:11 PM Protest In Athens, GA

From Athens, GA Patch:

 

The Arch is the usual place of protest in Athens. 

On Wednesday night, about 50 people gathered there with signs to protest the impending execution of Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis, convicted 22 years ago of murdering a Savannah policeman.

 

Full story here.

 

Supreme Court sides with pharmaceutical industry in two decisions

The right wing majority on the SCOTUS has once again sided with corporations.  It seems that’s all they do.  No surprise here, just another assault on the middle class and the poor.   Citizens United, Walmart and now this.

Who are the people that normally purchase “generic” drugs? 

Those who cannot afford the brand name or those who have health insurance policies (including Medicaid and Medicare) that require that a pharmacy ONLY fill the prescription with a generic brand unless there’s no generic available.

Los Angeles Times

Justices rule that generic drug makers cannot be sued by injured patients in most cases and that drug manufacturers have a 1st Amendment right to buy private prescription records to use for marketing purposes.

The Supreme Court gave the pharmaceutical industry a pair of victories, shielding the makers of generic drugs from most lawsuits by injured patients and declaring that drug makers have a free-speech right to buy private prescription records to boost their sales pitches to doctors.

In both decisions Thursday, the court’s conservative bloc formed the majority, and most of its liberals dissented.

About 75% of the prescriptions written in this country are for lower-cost generic versions of brand-name drugs. Federal law requires the makers of brand-name drugs to label their products with FDA-approved warning information and to update the warnings when reports of new problems arise.

But in a 5-4 decision, the high court said this same legal duty to warn patients of newly revealed dangers did not extend to the makers of copy-cat generic drugs.

Justice Clarence Thomas reasoned that the warning labels were the responsibility of the brand-name makers and the Food and Drug Administration. He said that because generics were just copies, their makers could not be sued for inadequate warnings if those warnings didn’t exist on the original.

Continue reading  here….

Related articles

Thomas’ ethical problems in the spotlight

I, for one, will continue to keep this issue in the spotlight on this blog.   I still believe that it is the backstory of the Anthony Weiner fiasco that everyone including, nay, especially the main stream media, ignored.

As an Anthony Weiner advocate (I used to live in Queens, but not in his district, so there is an inherent affinity for Weiner, as a native son.  Aside from the geographical connection, former Rep. Anthony Weiner and former Rep. Alan Grayson were the most outspoken and passionate supporters for their constituents and for the masses of people disenfranchised by GOP policies. 

Can anyone see a correlation here or am I just wearing my tin-foil hat too tightly?

Daily Kos

The New York Times’ report this weekend highlighted just one of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s problems with ethics.

[Justice Clarence Thomas and real estate magnate Harlan Crow] met in the mid-1990s, a few years after Justice Thomas joined the court. Since then, Mr. Crow has done many favors for the justice and his wife, Virginia, helping finance a Savannah library project dedicated to Justice Thomas, presenting him with a Bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass and reportedly providing $500,000 for Ms. Thomas to start a Tea Party-related group. They have also spent time together at gatherings of prominent Republicans and businesspeople at Mr. Crow’s Adirondacks estate and his camp in East Texas.In several instances, news reports of Mr. Crow’s largess provoked controversy and questions, adding fuel to a rising debate about Supreme Court ethics. But Mr. Crow’s financing of the museum, his largest such act of generosity, previously unreported, raises the sharpest questions yet — both about Justice Thomas’s extrajudicial activities and about the extent to which the justices should remain exempt from the code of conduct for federal judges.

This is just one in a growing list of ethical problems for Thomas:

Unethical Fundraising: The Code of Conduct does not allow judges to “personally participate in fund-raising  activities,  solicit funds for any organization, or use or permit the  use of the  prestige of judicial office for that purpose,” except in  very limited circumstances. Yet Justice Thomas attended a Koch-sponsored political fundraiser intended to fund the conservative infrastructure of front groups, political campaigns, think tanks and media outlets. This attendance is technically legal, because of the justices exemption from the Code of Conduct, but the justices claim that they have long followed a policy of “look[ing] to the Code of Conduct for guidance”  in determining when they may participate in fundraising activities.Failure to Disclose: Federal judges and justices are required by law to disclose their spouse’s income — thus preventing persons who wish to   influence the judge or justice from funneling money to them through   their husband or wife. Nevertheless, Thomas falsely claimed that his  wife Ginni — a lobbyist and high-earning member of the professional right — earned no non-investment income whatsoever while she was working at  the right-wing Heritage Foundation. When asked to explain this error,  Thomas — who is one of the nine people responsible for issuing binding  interpretations of the nation’s founding document — claimed that he “misunderst[ood] the filing instructions.”

Potential Conflict of Interest: Ginni Thomas used to lead an organization that vigorously opposes the Affordable Care Act, and she even briefly signed a memo calling that Act unconstitutional. Ginni also may be earning lobbying fees for working to have this Act repealed. A team of conservative lawyers recently argued that such activities by a judge’s spouse requires the judge to recuse from the lawsuits challenging the ACA, but a defiant speech Thomas gave to the conservative Federalist Society leaves little doubt that he will not recuse.

A Financial Stake in His Own Decisions?: Ginni Thomas may also be getting rich off of her husband’s vote in the infamous Citizens United decision — which freed corporations to spend billions of dollars to buy U.S.  elections. Ginni’s new lobbying firm “offers advice on optimizing  political investments for charitable giving in the non-profit world or political causes,” a line of work which has obviously become much more  lucrative since Citizens United.

Continue reading here…

Ex-Companion Details ‘Real’ Clarence Thomas

ThomasandDorr

Image via Wikipedia

The New York Times

Lillian McEwen is not one of the women whose name is generally associated with Justice Clarence Thomas and his contentious confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court seat.

But now, at age 65 and retired from a long legal career, with nothing to lose and a book to sell, Ms. McEwen is ready for that to change.

This week’s news that his wife, Virginia, had left voice mail for Anita Hill, asking her to apologize for “what you did with my husband” at the confirmation hearings, gave Ms. McEwen an unexpected opportunity to talk about Justice Thomas, the man she was romantically involved with for “six or seven years” in the 1980s. The phone call, she said in an interview Friday, makes sense to her.

For Ms. Thomas, she said, the accusation of sexual harassment made by Ms. Hill “still has to be a mystery, that he is still angry about this and upset about it after all these years, and I can understand that she would want to know why, and solve a problem if she could — I mean, acting as a loyal wife.”

But Ms. McEwen said she knew a different Clarence Thomas, one whom she recognized in the 1991 testimony of Ms. Hill, who claimed that he had repeatedly made inappropriate sexual comments to her at work, including descriptions of pornographic films.

Ms. McEwen said that pornography for Justice Thomas was “just a part of his personality structure.” She said he kept a stack of pornographic magazines, “frequented a store on Dupont Circle that catered to his needs,” and allowed his interest in pornography to bleed into his professional relationships.

“It starts inside,” she said, tapping her head during a 30-minute interview inside her three-story condominium in Southwest Washington. “And then your behavior flows from what it is that’s important to you. That’s what happened with him, certainly.”

Justice Thomas, through a Supreme Court spokeswoman, Kathy Arberg, declined to comment.      Continue reading…