mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

The GOP Assault On Voting Rights: A Poll Tax By Another Name

AS we celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, we reflect on the life and legacy of this great man. But recent legislation on voting reminds us that there is still work to do. Since January, a majority of state legislatures have passed or considered election-law changes that, taken together, constitute the most concerted effort to restrict the right to vote since before the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Growing up as the son of an Alabama sharecropper, I experienced Jim Crow firsthand. It was enforced by the slander of “separate but equal,” willful blindness to acts of racially motivated violence and the threat of economic retaliation. The pernicious effect of those strategies was to institutionalize second-class citizenship and restrict political participation to the majority alone.

We have come a long way since the 1960s. When the Voting Rights Act was passed, there were only 300 elected African-American officials in the United States; today there are more than 9,000, including 43 members of Congress. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act — also known as the Motor Voter Act — made it easier to register to vote, while the 2002 Help America Vote Act responded to the irregularities of the 2000 presidential race with improved election standards.

Despite decades of progress, this year’s Republican-backed wave of voting restrictions has demonstrated that the fundamental right to vote is still subject to partisan manipulation. The most common new requirement, that citizens obtain and display unexpired government-issued photo identification before entering the voting booth, was advanced in 35 states and passed by Republican legislatures in Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri and nine other states — despite the fact that as many as 25 percent of African-Americans lack acceptable identification.

Having fought for voting rights as a student, I am especially troubled that these laws disproportionately affect young voters. Students at state universities in Wisconsin cannot vote using their current IDs (because the new law requires the cards to have signatures, which those do not). South Carolina prohibits the use of student IDs altogether. Texas also rejects student IDs, but allows voting by those who have a license to carry a concealed handgun. These schemes are clearly crafted to affect not just how we vote, but who votes.

Conservative proponents have argued for photo ID mandates by claiming that widespread voter impersonation exists in America, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. While defending its photo ID law before the Supreme Court, Indiana was unable to cite a single instance of actual voter impersonation at any point in its history. Likewise, in Kansas, there were far more reports of U.F.O. sightings than allegations of voter fraud in the past decade. These theories of systematic fraud are really unfounded fears being exploited to threaten the franchise.

In Georgia, Florida, Ohio and other states, legislatures have significantly reduced opportunities to cast ballots before Election Day — an option that was disproportionately used by African-American voters in 2008. In this case the justification is often fiscal: Republicans in North Carolina attempted to eliminate early voting, claiming it would save money. Fortunately, the effort failed after the State Election Board demonstrated that cuts to early voting would actually be more expensive because new election precincts and additional voting machines would be required to handle the surge of voters on Election Day.

Voters in other states weren’t so lucky. Florida has cut its early voting period by half, from 96 mandated hours over 14 days to a minimum of 48 hours over just eight days, and has severely restricted voter registration drives, prompting the venerable League of Women Voters to cease registering voters in the state altogether. Again, this affects very specific types of voters: according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice, African-Americans and Latinos were more than twice as likely as white voters to register through a voter registration drive.

These restrictions purportedly apply to all citizens equally. In reality, we know that they will disproportionately burden African Americans and other racial minorities, yet again. They are poll taxes by another name.

The King Memorial reminds us that out of a mountain of despair we may hew a stone of hope. Forty-eight years after the March on Washington, we must continue our work with hope that all citizens will have an unfettered right to vote. Second-class citizenship is not citizenship at all.

We’ve come some distance and have made great progress, but Dr. King’s dream has not been realized in full. New restraints on the right to vote do not merely slow us down. They turn us backward, setting us in the wrong direction on a course where we have already traveled too far and sacrificed too much.

 

By: Rep John Lewis, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, August 27, 2011

August 29, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Democracy, Education, Elections, Equal Rights, Freedom, GOP, Government, Governors, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Liberty, Politics, Public, Racism, Republicans, Right Wing, Seniors, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Shadow Knows: Darth Vader “Cheney” Vents

Why is it not a surprise to learn that Dick Cheney’s ancestor, Samuel Fletcher Cheney, was a Civil War soldier who marched with Sherman to the sea?

Scorched earth runs in the family.

Having lost the power to heedlessly bomb the world, Cheney has turned his attention to heedlessly bombing old colleagues.

Vice’s new memoir, “In My Time,” veers unpleasantly between spin, insisting he was always right, and score-settling, insisting that anyone who opposed him was wrong.

His knife-in-her-teeth daughter, Elizabeth Cheney, helped write the book. The second most famous Liz & Dick combo do such an excellent job of cherry-picking the facts, it makes the cherry-picking on the Iraq war intelligence seem picayune.

Cheney may no longer have a pulse, but his blood quickens at the thought of other countries he could have attacked. He salivates in his book about how Syria and Iran could have been punished.

Cheney says that in 2007, he told President Bush, who had already been pulled into diplomacy by Condi Rice: “I believed that an important first step would be to destroy the reactor in the Syrian desert.”

At a session with most of the National Security Council, he made his case for a strike on the reactor. It would enhance America’s tarnished credibility in the Arab world, he argued, (not bothering to mention who tarnished it), and demonstrate the country’s “seriousness.”

“After I finished,” he writes, “the president asked, ‘Does anyone here agree with the vice president?’ Not a single hand went up around the room.”

By that time, W. had belatedly realized that Cheney was a crank whose bad advice and disdainful rants against “the diplomatic path” and “multilateral action” had pretty much ruined his presidency.

There were few times before the bitter end that W. was willing to stand up to Vice. But the president did make a bold stand on not letting his little dog be gobbled up by Cheney’s big dog.

When Vice’s hundred-pound yellow Lab, Dave, went after W.’s beloved Scottish terrier, Barney, at Camp David’s Laurel Lodge, that was a bridge too far.

When Cheney and Dave got back to their cabin, there was a knock at the door. “It was the camp commander,” Cheney writes. “ ‘Mr. Vice President,’ he said, ‘your dog has been banned from Laurel.’ ”

But on all the nefarious things that damaged America, Cheney got his way for far too long.

Vice gleefully predicted that his memoir would have “heads exploding all over Washington.” But his book is a bore. He doesn’t even mention how in high school he used to hold the water buckets to douse the fiery batons of his girlfriend Lynne, champion twirler.

At least Rummy’s memoir showed some temperament. And George Tenet’s was the primal scream of a bootlicker caught out.

Cheney takes himself so seriously, flogging his cherished self-image as a rugged outdoorsman from Wyoming (even though he shot his Texas hunting partner in the face) and a vice president who was the only thing standing between America and its enemies.

He acts like he is America. But America didn’t like Dick Cheney.

It’s easier for someone who believes that he is America incarnate to permit himself to do things that hurt America — like torture, domestic spying, pushing America into endless wars, and flouting the Geneva Conventions.

Mostly, Cheney grumbles about having his power checked. It’s bad enough when the president does it, much less Congress and the courts.

A person who is always for the use of military force is as doctrinaire and irrelevant as a person who is always opposed to the use of military force.

Cheney shows contempt for Tenet, Colin Powell and Rice, whom he disparages in a sexist way for crying, and condescension for W. when he won’t be guided to the path of most destruction.

He’s churlish about President Obama, who took the hunt for Osama bin Laden off the back burner and actually did what W. promised to do with his little bullhorn — catch the real villain of 9/11.

“Tracking him down was certainly one of our top priorities,” Cheney writes. “I was gratified that after years of diligent and dedicated work, our nation’s intelligence community and our special operations forces were able on May 1, 2011, to find and kill bin Laden.”

Tacky.

Finishing the book with an account of the 2010 operation to put in a battery-operated pump that helps his heart push blood through his body, he recounts the prolonged, vivid dream about a beautiful place in Italy he had during the weeks he was unconscious.

“It was in the countryside, a little north of Rome, and it really seemed I was there,” he writes. “I can still describe the villa where I passed the time, the little stone paths I walked to get coffee or a batch of newspapers.”

Caesar and his cappuccino.

 

By: Maureen Dowd,  Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, August 27, 2011

August 28, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Constitution, Dick Cheney, Dictators, Foreign Governments, Foreign Policy, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Iran, Iraq, Liberty, Politics, President Obama, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Terrorism, United Nations | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Divine Blessing”: The Wrong Way To Respond To A Storm

Hurricane Irene obviously has the attention of millions of Americans, but some are handling the threat better than others. On the right, some of the rhetorical responses haven’t cast conservatives in the best light.

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul wants to eliminate FEMA; congressional Republican leaders are reluctant to approve emergency disaster relief; and Fox News is running pieces like these, calling for the elimination of the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service.

As Hurricane Irene bears down on the East Coast, news stations bombard our televisions with constant updates from the National Hurricane Center.

While Americans ought to prepare for the coming storm, federal dollars need not subsidize their preparations. Although it might sound outrageous, the truth is that the National Hurricane Center and its parent agency, the National Weather Service, are relics from America’s past that have actually outlived their usefulness.

The Fox News piece touts private outlets, including AccuWeather, without alerting readers to a key detail: these private outlets rely on information they receive from the National Weather Service. Indeed, the NWS makes this information available to the private sector for free, since the NWS is a public agency and the data it compiles is public information.

The Fox News item goes on to say, in reference to the Weather Service, “It issues severe weather advisories and hijacks local radio and television stations to get the message out. It presumes that citizens do not pay attention to the weather and so it must force important, perhaps lifesaving, information upon them.”

This is not, by the way, a parody.

Glenn Beck, meanwhile, told his radio audience on Friday that Hurricane Irene “a blessing. It is God reminding you — as was the earthquake last week — it’s God reminding you you’re not in control. Things can happen.”

This divine “blessing” has already killed at least eight people.

 

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 28, 2011

August 28, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Climate Change, Conservatives, Disasters, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, Homeland Security, Ideologues, Ideology, Media, Politics, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just Plain Sinful: GOP Hostage Taking Now Extends To Disaster Relief

Hurricane Irene made landfall this morning, hitting North Carolina with sustained winds of 90 miles per hour. Irene was downgraded overnight to a Category 1 hurricane, but it remains a powerful storm capable of doing serious harm.

Obviously, we can all hope the severity of the damage is limited. Regrettably, though, the line on federal disaster aid from congressional Republicans has not changed.

This week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the GOP approach would break from how U.S. policymakers have operated. Whereas Congress used to provide emergency funds after a disaster, without regard for budget caps or offsets, Republicans have said they will no longer accept such an approach — if Democrats want emergency assistance in the wake of a natural disaster, Republicans will insist on attaching some strings to the relief funds.

In this case, the strings are cuts elsewhere in the budget. Or as Cantor’s spokesperson put it, GOP leaders expect “additional funds for federal disaster relief” to be “offset with spending cuts.”

The Republican position is already drawing fire.

“It is sinful to require us to cut somewhere … in order to provide emergency disaster assistance for American citizens,” Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) told The Huffington Post on Friday.

The Louisiana Democrat pointed out that this weekend is the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated his district and cost the federal government more than $100 billion. That recovery effort would have been delayed “by years” if Congress had required the same kind of spending cuts to offset aid, he said.

“I have been one who has been preparing for the hurricane, trying to give people some comfort. One thing they need to know is the federal government can come to their aid,” Richmond said. “I don’t think we’re in a position, given the rules set up by the majority, that we’re going to be able to come to their aid quickly.”

Perhaps realizing the potential for a political nightmare — Republicans are already unpopular; just wait until they hold hostage relief funds for communities hit by a hurricane — GOP leaders weren’t eager to talk about their position yesterday.

But they didn’t disavow it, either. Cantor’s office rejected questions about “hypothetical federal aid caused by hypothetical damage,” despite the fact that the Majority Leader and his spokesperson were more than willing to discuss the position 24 hours earlier.

House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office was also cagey, saying policymakers will “discuss costs when and if they occur.”

Neither Republican leader offered the correct response, which is, “Of course we’ll do whatever it takes to help the affected communities.”

With any luck, this will be a moot point. If the damage isn’t severe, Congress won’t have to approve emergency relief. At this point, we just don’t know.

But in the event of extensive damage, there’s a real possibility that the first question from congressional Republicans won’t be, “How can we help?” but rather, “What will Democrats give us in exchange for disaster aid?”

 

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 27, 2011

August 27, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Democrats, Disasters, Economy, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, Homeland Security, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle East, National Security, Politics, Public, Public Health, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gov Rick Scott: When Bad Governors Try Bad Ideas

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) came up with an idea he considered pretty clever. First, he told Floridians that people on welfare were more likely to be drug addicts. What did Scott base this on? Nothing in particular — he seemed to just make it up — but Scott was quite fond of the argument.

Second, the governor approved a policy based on his faulty assumptions: those who apply for welfare benefits will have to pass a state-mandated drug test. How’s that working out? Not well.

Since the state began testing welfare applicants for drugs in July, about 2 percent have tested positive, preliminary data shows.

Ninety-six percent proved to be drug free — leaving the state on the hook to reimburse the cost of their tests.

As part of the Scott administration policy, those applying for benefits have to pay a $30 out-of-pocket fee to pay for the drug test. If they pass, Florida reimburses them.

And while the state saves some money by not making benefits available to those 2% who fail the test, Florida is forced to reimburse everyone else, plus pay for staff and administrative costs for the drug-testing program, plus pay the legal fees associated with the likely court challenge.

This really wasn’t a great idea.

I’d also note for context that Rick Scott’s drug-testing policy is limited to low-income Floridians needing temporary aid. It doesn’t, in other words, apply to everyone seeking public funding — only the poor, who the governor assumes are probably drug-addicts.

And speaking of the nation’s worst governor, remember the $2.4 billion Florida was set to receive for high-speed rail? The project that enjoyed bipartisan support and was going to create tens of thousands of jobs? With Scott rejecting the funding, the money has now been officially reallocated for rail upgrades in the Northeast, high-speed rail in the Midwest, and related projects in California.

Florida’s unemployment rate is only 10.7%. It’s not like the state needed the boost.

 

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 26, 2011

August 27, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Democracy, Economy, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Gov Rick Scott, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Jobs, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Unemployment, Wealthy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: