Nel's New Day

October 18, 2014

Supreme Court Decision on Texas Voting Rewards GOP Candidates

About 600,000 Texans won’t be voting in Texas on November 4, thanks to today’s Supreme Court ruling. At least five nine justices voted to permit the voter photo ID law to be in effect on that day. A federal judge had struck down the law last week, but the 5th Circuit Court put the lower ruling on hold, leaving the law in effect. After an appeal, the highest court ruled, without comment and indication of how justices voted, to agree with the circuit court. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, saying they would have left the district court decision in place allowing people to vote.

Ginsburg wrote:

“The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.”

In her 143-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos called the law an “unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.” She found the law a deliberate discrimination against the state’s minority voters and described the requirement an equivalent to a poll tax. Ginsburg said that a full trial in district court found that the law was “enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose and would yield a prohibited discriminatory result.”

Ramos also wrote:

“Based on the testimony and numerous statistical analyses provided at trial, this Court finds that approximately 608,470 registered voters in Texas, representing approximately 4.5% of all registered voters, lack qualified SB 14 ID and of these, 534,512 voters do not qualify for a disability exemption.”

The rationale from the majority of the Supreme Court for leaving the law is that it would inconvenience those running the election because it is so close to Election Day. According to the current majority of the Supreme Court, it’s better to stop a minor inconvenience than allow over one-half million people to vote.

Regarding the majority opinion, Ginsburg wrote:

“There is little risk that the District Court’s injunction will in fact disrupt Texas’ electoral process. Texas need only reinstate the voter identification procedures it employed for ten years [from 2003 to 2013] and in five federal general elections.”

Ginsburg echoed Ramos’ findings:

“The potential magnitude of racially discriminatory voter disenfranchisement counseled hesitation before disturbing the District Court’s findings and final judgment. Bill 14 may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5% of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification. A sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or Hispanic.”

She added that “racial discrimination in elections in Texas is no mere historical artifact. To the contrary, Texas has been found in violation of the Voting Rights Act in every redistricting cycle from and after 1970.”

Texas officials tried to justify their actions by claiming that all eligible voters are able to get a photo ID. Ginsburg, however, pointed out that any cost of getting the mandated ID, even $2, is an unconstitutional barrier to voting. She wrote in her dissent:

“For some voters, the imposition is not small. A voter whose birth certificate lists her maiden name or misstates her date of birth may be charged $37 for the amended certificate she needs to obtain a qualifying ID. Texas voters born in other States may be required to pay substantially more than that.”

Over two-thirds of eligible voters may have to travel three hours or more round-trip to the nearest government office where they can get photo IDs and need a certified birth certificate costing $22, according to Ginsburg. Although the state offers one for $2 or $3 that is used only for election purposes, it has not publicized this option on election or birth certificate websites.

Ginsburg pointedly added:

“Racial discrimination in elections in Texas is no mere historical artifact. To the contrary, Texas has been found in violation of the Voting Rights Act in every redistricting cycle from and after 1970.”

Attorney General for Texas, Greg Abbott, has vigorously fought for the photo ID law that keeps minorities, largely assumed to be Democrats from voting in this year’s election. Abbott is also the GOP candidate for governor.

This was the first time in over 30 years that the Court has allowed enforcement of a law restricting voters’ rights after a federal court ruled it to be unconstitutional because it intentionally discriminated against minorities.

A new study by two University of Delaware professors and a Pennsylvania high school student found that white people are more likely to support photo IDs laws after being shown a picture of a black voter than when they see a picture of a white voter. Black and Hispanic respondents were about equal in their support or opposition to a photo ID law no matter what person was in the picture. This research matches studies showing that whites are more likely to support harsh criminal justice policies if they see pictures of or hear statistics about black prisoners. In 2012, the Brennan Center for Justice found that blacks and Hispanics are less likely to have photo IDs than a cross-section of people in the United States.

None of the courts ruling on photo ID this month has addressed the issue on a constitutional basis. That will happen after this year’s federal election. The question is whether courts will permit the laws if there is no basis for them. With cases of voter fraud being one in every 14.6 million people in the U.S., there is no reason for such draconian laws. The question is whether legislatures can pass laws to cover problems that don’t exist. If the Wisconsin legislature says witches are a problem, shall Wisconsin courts be permitted to conduct witch trials?” asked Judge Richard Posner, who wrote the dissent in the 5-5 decision for the 7th Circuit Court. After a three-judge panel held that the Wisconsin photo IDs for voting could go into effect, Posner asked for the entire court to hear the case. The court ruled 5-5, meaning that the panel’s decision, which the Supreme Court later overturned, stayed in effect.

Posner also pointed that the Supreme Court had once ruled in favor of photo ID for voters because they supposedly increased voters’ confidence in elections. Studies, including a Harvard Law Review study, refutes the idea that photo ID laws promote public confidence. It revealed that “perceptions of voter-impersonation fraud are unrelated to the strictness of a state’s voter ID.” When Commonwealth Judge Bernard L. McGinley struck down Pennsylvania’s photo ID law, he determined that “implementation of the voter ID law in a manner that disenfranchises qualified electors will undermine the integrity of elections.” In short, these oppressive laws erode confidence in the voting system.

Voting laws across the nation vary greatly. Ohio’s constitution prohibits “idiots” from voting. Casting your ballot in Alabama can’t take longer than five minutes. Texas will let you vote with a gun license but not a student ID. Some people in Arizona can vote for federal candidates but not state ones if they lack the appropriate ID. Thirty-three states have restrictions on voting with new ones in 22 of these. Almost half the country will have a much harder time in trying to carry out their constitutional right in 17 days than four years ago.

Four years ago, when the Tea Party took over the House, it was seen as a mandate from the people. This year, any conservative votes can be seen as the control of GOP legislators and GOP-leaning judges. And the control of the white people.

October 17, 2014

White Privilege in the U.S.

Bill O’Reilly appeared on Jon Stewart this week in an attempt to get people to buy the latest book in his killing series, Killing Patton. The book got short shrift in the discussion, however, as Stewart said all he wanted from O’Reilly was an admission that white privilege exists. O’Reilly denied that it existed and then moved on to say that Asian privilege exists in the country because they make more money than other groups. Then he admitted that slavery and Jim Crow were bad, but “that was then, this was now.” Unfortunately, Stewart didn’t ask O’Reilly about the Jim Crow voting laws passed within the past few years.

Stewart explained that far more blacks are disproportionately arrested and imprisoned for drugs although whites use drugs in far higher numbers. O’Reilly agreed and then said, “America is now a place where if you work hard, get educated and are an honest person, you can succeed.”

o'reilly Stewart said, “You are carrying more of a burden as a black person in this country than a white person in this country.” O’Reilly responded, “Collectively, yes,” O’Reilly responded. “But not –”

“Individually,” Stewart said, completing the thought. “They don’t stop and frisk Wall Street bankers, even though they’ve done far more damage to the economy.” Not letting up on the pressure, Stewart got O’Reilly to admit that white privilege—racism—is “a factor.”

Dialog about “white privilege” came front and center after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson (MO) opened a discussion. As black men tried to explain the problems caused by their color, many white men declared that they had no prejudice and didn’t understand why blacks thought that bigotry existed. The privileged cannot understand the concept of entitlement because the advantages are largely unacknowledged and thus invisible. Peggy McIntosh, a women’s-studies scholar at Wellesley, wrote an amazing essay in the 1980s in which she listed 49 areas of entitlement:

  1. I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
  2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
  3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
  4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
  5. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
  6. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
  7. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
  8. If I want, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
  9. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
  10. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.
  11. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
  12. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
  13. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
  14. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
  15. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.
  16. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
  17. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.
  18. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
  19. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
  20. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
  21. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
  22. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
  23. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.
  24. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
  25. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
  26. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.
  27. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.
  28. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.
  29. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn’t a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.
  30. I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing and minority activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case, I can find ways to be more or less protected from negative consequences of any of these choices.
  31. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.
  32. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.
  33. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
  34. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.
  35. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had racial overtones.
  36. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.
  37. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person of my race would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.
  38. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.
  39. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
  40. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
  41. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.
  42. If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my race is not the problem.
  43. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my race.
  44. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race.
  45. I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.
  46. I can travel alone or with my spouse without expecting embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with us.
  47. I have no difficulty finding neighborhoods where people approve of our household.
  48. My children are given texts and classes which implicitly support our kind of family unit and do not turn them against my choice of domestic partnership.
  49. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

McIntosh’s list was published over 25 years ago. Two years ago, Ernestine Hayes added to the list.

  1. Beauty, handsomeness, masculinity and femininity are personified by people who do not look like me.
  2. Authority most often rests in people who do not look like me.
  3. My children and grandchildren are taught by white teachers.
  4. People who are not of my culture are acknowledged experts of my culture.
  5. People appropriate my identity and profit from describing their versions of my experience.
  6. My children and grandchildren are likely to drop out of school.
  7. My children and grandchildren are likely to be victims of violence.
  8. My children and grandchildren are likely to suffer from tuberculosis, alcoholism, diabetes, incarceration and poverty.

After the publicity of police brutality since Michael Brown’s killing, I’ll add one more:

I can be stopped by the police without the fear that they will steal my money, beat me up, or kill me.

March 13, 2014

White Privilege of Gun Use

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:50 PM
Tags: , , ,

Guns in homes, coffeehouses, bars—where else can the NRA put them? Last month in the midst of postal reform, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced a gun rights amendment to allow them in the post office by removing a federal ban on them. That’s right beside postage rates, post-office banking, USPS employee pensions etc. Committee members suggested “more study,” but the National Association for Gun Rights, which views the NRA as too liberal, got very excited about it. Members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs may pick up Paul’s torch. No one has “gone postal” and killed people in a post office for the past eight years, but this law could change that. 

The wealthy join “guntry clubs,” luxury gun clubs that provide “an experience.” Guns aren’t just for defense, according to Mike Pryor, the manager of Lock & Load Miami. VIP packages can have one-time initiative costs of $7,500 and $9,250. It’s sensory entertainment. Just one guntry club, the Frisco Gun Club in Dallas (TX) sold 2,400 membership before it opened and made $12 million. Marketing vice-president Brandon Johnson said it’s “like walking into a high-end department store.” Shooters have to be at least eight years old, but the club is planning a family promotion.

Families get free guns at church. The Kentucky Baptist Convention advocates giving away guns at celebrations across the state. Spokesman Chuck McAlister said the strategy is “outreach to rednecks.” Churches are offering a handgun, shotgun, or long gun as door prizes. One event in Paduca gave away steaks as well as guns, but people had to buy bibles if they wanted them. In upstate New York, Rev. John Koletas, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, raffled off an AR-15 assault rifle. Koletas has been arrested seven times “on disorderly conduct charges for loud and incessant street-corner preaching.”

Missouri law doesn’t let people carry firearms into bars but they can be armed in public while they’re drunk. They just can’t be negligent. When city councilors discussed a proposed Kansas City ordinance to comply with Missouri law, Councilman John Sharp explained his opposition: “It’s kind of like, ‘Well, it’s OK if you drive drunk, as long as you don’t hit anybody. You just have to be real careful.'” Voting against the ordinance doesn’t do any good: state law supersedes city ordinances.

blind-florida-man1 gunEven the legally blind are protected by the Second Amendment, according to a Florida judge. After John Wayne Rogers, a blind man, was acquitted of killing his friend James Dewitt under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” statute, he got his guns back.  Rogers claimed to be defending himself from a drunken guest in a 2012 shooting. DeWitt’s girlfriend didn’t quite agree. She testified that the two men had been “play fighting” when Rogers shot DeWitt in the chest. One part of Rogers’ history of violence was shooting at his cousin and roommate 15 times. He got probation which was revoked after he punched a woman.

Kansas has a law specifying that the blind can carry guns. Glenn Beck defended the law by explaining that God gave Stevie Wonder the right to pack heat:    

“’Inalienable rights’ mean that they’re rights that come from God and cannot be taken from you. The right to bear arms is about protecting yourself and self‑defense as long as you are a law‑abiding citizen. It’s not about shooting sports but self‑defense. Is there any reason to believe that Stevie Wonder is not a law‑abiding citizen or insane? Who are you to take the right that was given by God away from somebody who is law‑abiding and a responsible citizen?”

NRA also wants terrorists and abusers to carry guns. After 9/11, the NRA persuaded then Attorney General John Ashcroft to stop the FBI and BATF from preventing the sale of guns to people on the U.S. terrorist watch list. They can’t fly, but they can buy as many weapons as they want. Between 2004 and 2010, people on the terrorist list were involved in firearm or explosives background checks 1,225 times, proceeding with the sales in 91 percent of the times.

In addition to wanting all women to buy guns so that they will be safe, the NRA wants all their abusers to have guns. The legislators who were recalled in Colorado voted for a bill that “prohibits gun possession from those convicted of certain felonies involving domestic violence or certain misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence (and) also prohibit guns from individuals subject to certain (domestic violence) protection orders.”

If you want to heat up your computer, check out the almost 1,000 comments to Mark Karlin’s article in Buzzflash, “Many American White Men Worship Guns Because of Sexual Insecurity, Entitlement, and Profit.” The premise is that the increasing multi-cultural society in the United States has inflamed the opposition to gun regulation causing the nation to move backward in its gun policy.

Karlin quotes Charlotte Childress and Harriet Childress’ discussion in the Washington Post:

“Imagine if African American men and boys were committing mass shootings month after month, year after year. Articles and interviews would flood the media, and we’d have political debates demanding that African Americans be ‘held accountable.’ Then, if an atrocity such as the Newtown, Conn., shootings took place and African American male leaders held a news conference to offer solutions, their credibility would be questionable. The public would tell these leaders that they need to focus on problems in their own culture and communities.

“But when the criminals and leaders are white men, race and gender become the elephant in the room….”

“When white men try to divert attention from gun control by talking about mental health issues, many people buy into the idea that the United States has a national mental health problem, or flawed systems with which to address those problems, and they think that is what produces mass shootings.

“But women and girls with mental health issues are not picking up semiautomatic weapons and shooting schoolchildren. Immigrants with mental health issues are not committing mass shootings in malls and movie theaters. Latinos with mental health issues are not continually killing groups of strangers.”

Gatherings of white men with guns are given the benefit of the doubt whereas a group of black youths wearing baggy clothes or Muslim men wearing headscarves carrying similar weapons would immediately bring the police. A black woman shoots wild to warn her abusive husband that she will defend herself, and she ends up in prison for 20 years with a possibility of another 40 years. White men who shoot and kill blacks are released because of “stand your ground” laws.

black-panthers

The NRA wants to train children as early as first grade in the use of guns. For white kids, it’s cute.

white kids guns

black kid gunFor blacks, it’s a menace. This photo produced outrage at gang members for exposing them to guns when they are so young. LAPD commander said about the picture of the black child: “It’s a culture of violence; When you grow up in a culture like that, violence becomes secondary. It becomes second nature. And that’s the cycle we’re trying to disrupt.”

Michael-GilesWhat happens in Florida when a black man “stands” his ground? He goes to prison. Just after his second tour in the Middle East, U.S. airman Michael Giles was sentenced to 25 years after he shot his attacker in the leg. He couldn’t find his friends during a fight of 30 to 40 people outside a nightclub, he got his gun. He had a concealed carry permit. A stranger came up to Giles and punched him to the ground, and Giles shot his assailant in the leg. The bullet’s fragments injured two other people, no one seriously. During the trial, the man who hit Giles admitted that he was ready to hit the first person he saw. He’s free. Giles, with no history of violence, is in prison.

The prosecution’s own witnesses testified that Giles’ attacker had started several fights that night and was violently erratic. A friend of the attacker testified that she was afraid that he would seriously injure or kill someone.  Other witnesses testified that Giles was trying to avoid the fights. That’s how “stand your ground” works. That’s how gun rights in the United States works.

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