While we were all being entertained by the slandering of a returning POW, and then by the road company production of Weasel’s End in Virginia last night, the Supreme Court quietly accepted for review yet another case that involves the franchise, and the rights of minority voters to exercise it. Before we get to what it all might mean for the country that is still in the throes of John Roberts’s Day Of Jubilee, we should pause for a moment and gaze in awe at the glorious legal hypocrisy of the state of Alabama.
You may recall that the Day Of Jubilee was first declared when the Supreme Court ruled for Shelby County, Alabama in gutting Section V of the Voting Rights Act and, thereby, rendering the entire act virtually toothless. The current case involves the creation of gerrymandered majority-minority districts the defense of which Alabama has based in…wait for it…Section V of the Voting Rights Act. Pity me, Your Honor. I’m an orphan.
In dissent, Judge Myron H. Thompson said “there is a cruel irony to these cases” in light of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in the Shelby County case. “Even as it was asking the Supreme Court to strike down” Section 5 “for failure to speak to current conditions,” Judge Thompson wrote, “the State of Alabama was relying on racial quotas with absolutely no evidence that they had anything to do with current conditions, and seeking to justify those quotas with the very provision it was helping to render inert.”
In the context of the Court’s declaration of the Day Of Jubilee, and the huge effort in the states to suppress votes and restrict the franchise, an effort that the Court itself largely has put beyond the reach of federal law, this case is part of a generalized assault not only on the voting rights of targeted populations, but also to put in place a de facto suppression of the mind, to inculcate in those targeted populations that the system has been so rigged against them that there isn’t much point in putting in the effort it would take to exercise your right to vote. Get an ID. No, sorry, get another ID. No, still the wrong one. Register sometime between 4 and 4:03 on the fourth Tuesday of Nevermember. The most effective form of voter suppression is to convince people that the franchise is out of their reach. Couple that with the increasingly deadening effect of money on our politics — something that this Court also blessed when it gave First Amendment protection to influence-peddling — and you see a kind of democratic malaise settling in, and this in a country where too many people have to be pried off the couch to vote even in the best of times. This is the way rights evaporate. First, you make their exercise inconvenient, or dangerous. Then you can easily make them disappear.
Despite all of the progress made so far on LGBT rights, on Tuesday, Louisiana voted to uphold the state’s anti-sodomy law, 67-27, despite it being ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, in their landmark 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision.
In its decision, the court ruled that laws prohibiting sodomy seek “to control a personal relationship that, whether or not entitled to formal recognition in the law, is within the liberty of persons to choose without being punished as criminals.”
Unless you live in Louisiana?
In fact, in addition to Louisiana and Texas, Idaho, Utah, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas and Oklahoma have all maintained their own anti-sodomy laws, despite their direct conflict with the Supreme Court’s decision. In three of these states — Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas — such anti-sodomy laws pertain exclusively to “homosexual conduct.”
The Louisiana bill in question, HB12, proposed to amend “crime against nature…” and was introduced in January by State House Representative Patricia Smith (D-Baton Rouge). Although it seems painfully obvious that there is no reason on Earth to maintain such a law, Smith’s proposed bill was a direct response to the targeted arrests of gay men in her district who were profiled and lured by undercover police to agree to consensual sex. At least 12 men have been arrested in this “sodomy sting” since 2011, despite the fact that prosecutors refused to bring charges in every single case.
Day after day, Sen. Jeff Sessions argues against an immigration overhaul bill that GOP party leaders, and a sizable share of his Republican colleagues, say is critical to any chance of a national comeback for the party out of power in Washington.
The legislation headed for passage in the Senate would cost the nation jobs and depress wages, Sessions says in the Judiciary Committee, on the Senate floor, in hallway interviews and to just about anyone who asks. It’s not paid for, he argues. Nor, Sessions adds, would it guarantee better border enforcement.
Lawmakers don’t really know what the bill does, seeing that it consumes 1,100 pages, according to Alabama’s junior senator.
The 66-year-old former prosecutor used a similar approach to help defeat an immigration overhaul in 2006 and 2007, when a president of his own party, George W. Bush, declared it a priority. Now that Democrat Barack Obama has it atop his domestic agenda, Sessions is again the face of Republican opposition to a path to citizenship for millions of people living in the U.S. illegally. The playing field has changed since then, but the path toward a bill actually becoming law is no clearer than it was six years ago now that a sizable tea party faction holds sway in the House.
Round 3, unfolding on the Senate floor and coming soon to a town hall meeting near you, takes place in a nation that says it supports allowing at least some of the 11 million immigrants to gain legal status under certain conditions.
MOBILE - U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, confirmed today that he intends to resign from Congress later this year and take a job at the University of Alabama.
Bonner will leave Congress effective Aug. 15 for a position as vice chancellor of government relations and economic development at the University of Alabama System …
On Monday, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that states have no constitutional obligation to honor public records requests from non-residents. Journalists, who frequently rely on freedom of information laws to expose corruption and break open stories, fear that the decision may make it harder for them to access public records.
MuckRock, a website that files public records requests on behalf of activists, journalists, and private citizens for a small fee and posts the resulting records online, has a solution. The website has been helping out-of-staters seeking public records in Virginia and seven other states with similar laws—Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Tennessee—by pairing them with locals willing to co-file the requests. After Monday’s decision, MuckRock began offering free website subscriptions to citizens of those states to help keep that information flowing.
MuckRock cofounder Michael Morisy, who also works for the Boston Globe, says he “fully expect[s] more states to at least look into adding these laws as they look for ways to cut down on costs for complying with public records requests and generally decrease the amount of people accessing this tool.”
Starting March 1, federal programs and their state and local beneficiaries began grappling with $85.4 billion in cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Some programs have been spared—Congress voted to restore tuition assistance for members of the armed services and, just last week, restored funding to the Federal Aviation Administration to forestall flight-delaying furloughs. But for the most part, the cuts have remained intact. Six weeks in, we took a look at how sequestration is has impacted 50 states, from canceled festivals to shuttered Head Start programs to massive layoffs.
Birmingham: North Albama public defenders office furloughing 11 of 15 employees.
Huntsville: Huntsville Housing Authority, which provides heating, plumbing, and financial assistance, to serve 300 fewer people.
Jefferson County: Head Start program closing for 10 weeks, affecting 276 kids. Fifteen staffers will be furloughed.
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Sitka: Bill Brady Healing Center, which treats Native Alaskans for drug and alcohol addiction, closed as part of $3.5 million in cuts to the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Corporation.
Fairbanks: Alaska Volcano Observatory is cutting back on volcano and earthquake monitoring.
Eielson Air Force Base: 18th Aggressor Squadron will be grounded until the end of the fiscal year.
GOP voucher schemes have one aim in mind: tearing down public education institutions to fund private religious schools.
Bad news from Alabama: Gov. Robert Bentley (R) has signed a neo-voucher bill designed to divert tens of millions in public funds to religious and other private schools.
The so-called Alabama Accountability Act began as a relatively non-controversial measure that allowed local school districts to opt out of state regulations. But during a House-Senate conference committee dominated by Republicans, HB 84 was altered to set up a tax-credit scheme that lets students in “failing” public schools transfer to private schools.
The legislative shenanigans that led to this bill’s passage were outrageous - featuring duplicity, back-stabbing and closed-door intrigues. Montgomery Advertiser reporter Sebastian Kitchen said Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and other Republicans pretended to be working with Democrats and education groups on the legislation.
“Meanwhile,” Kitchen said, “Republicans were secretly working on a vastly different bill — knowing their discussions about the actual legislation that people could read were a sham. At best, some key Republicans were intentionally misleading in their previous conversations. At worst, they lied.”
When the altered bill came before the state Senate, that body erupted into chaos. Senators yelled at each other and called names for over 20 minutes as Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey tried vainly to regain control.
A circuit court judge later barred the measure from going to governor’s office for his signature, finding the process a violation of the Open Meetings Act. The order, however, was predictably overturned by the Alabama Supreme Court, an all-Republican body led by notorious “Ten Commandments” Judge Roy Moore, a scofflaw who bases his opinions as much on his fundamentalist reading of the Bible as he does the Constitution.
Gov. Bentley then quickly added his name to the measure.
Supporters of the measure say it will cost taxpayers from $60 to $70 million annually. Analysts at the Alabama Education Association (AEA) say it’s more likely to be $250 million. Some critics think it might run as high as $367 million.
Regardless of the amount, it’s too much. The Alabama Constitution is pretty darn clear on this topic. Article I, Sec. 3 bars the government to force anyone to pay taxes “for maintaining any minister or ministry,” and Article XIV, Sec. 263 states flatly, “No money raised for the support of the public schools shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian or denominational school.”
When Amercia was Free:
The murder of Viola Liuzzo was one of the most shocking moments in the civil rights movement. On a winding, isolated road outside Selma, Liuzzo was ambushed and shot to death by a car full of Ku Klux Klansmen.
She was murdered while giving a ride to a 19-year-old black man, Leroy Moton, one of many civil rights marchers she had driven around Selma. Liuzzo had joined the movement’s carpool system soon after arriving in the small Alabama town. Liuzzo’s murder became international news. Her photo became a fixture in history books. Her name has been inscribed on civil rights memorials throughout the United States.
But people had far less sympathy for Liuzzo when she was murdered. Hate mail flooded her family’s Detroit home, accusing her of being a deranged communist. Crosses were burned in front of the home. Her husband, Anthony Liuzzo Sr., had to hire armed guards to protect his family.
A Ladies’ Home Journal magazine survey taken right after Liuzzo’s death asked its readers what kind of woman would leave her family for a civil rights demonstration. The magazine suggested that she had brought death on herself by leaving home — and 55% of its readers agreed.
“It was horrible,” Penny says. “People sent [copies of] this magazine that showed her body in the car with the blood and bullet holes. They called her a white whore and a nigger lover, and said that she was having relations with black men.”
Even Sally did not escape the public’s wrath. Students threw rocks at her and taunted her on the way to school, Penny says.
The family says they were even more devastated when they learned years later who had initiated the public backlash — J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI. To absolve itself of culpability in her death — an FBI informant was in the car with the men who killed Liuzzo — the FBI released her psychiatric records and directed a smear campaign to suggest that Liuzzo was promiscuous.
Christian Nation America responded to the death of a Voting Rights Activist in 1965 with anger and derision…directed at members of the surviving family. I’d write more here if I could but I can’t find the words.
Isn’t it crazy that we even have to ask that question?
In Arkansas this week, the State Senate passed a bill that would ban almost all abortions. Within a month, women in Arkansas could be prevented from receiving abortion care, no matter what their circumstances.
In North Dakota, the legislature is poised to vote on set of bills that aim to ban abortion, close down women’s health centers, and could prevent couples from using in-vitro fertilization to build their family. The Senate is expected to vote on those bills next week.
In Mississippi and Alabama and several other states, legislators are playing at the same game - introducing legislation that takes away a woman’s ability to have all options open to her.
These bills are shocking at any time, but especially now when lawmakers have heard men and women across the nation say we don’t want politicians interfering in personal private decisions. From the voting booth to the capitol steps, the message from the last year was clear: hands off women’s health care. But now — less than a month into state legislative sessions, and about a week after the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, politicians are working overtime to block a woman’s access to abortion care.
We can’t let them get away with it. Share this blog. Email your friends. Call or email your state legislators and let them know - enough is enough.