Last week, a decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals provided an excellent example of how both presidential action and inaction can matter. Because of the former, the National Labor Relations Board had issued a rule intending to alleviate the power disparities between workers and employers. But in part because of action by Republican presidents and inaction by Democratic presidents, the rule is no longer in effect. And while the outcome of the case is hardly surprising, the sheer radicalism of the court's holding is yet another sign of how in the tank much of the powerful D.C. Circuit is for powerful business interests.
For the next year, at least, Republicans will have one less talking point to turn to when they want to hit Democrats on the budget. Over the weekend, Senate Democrats came together to pass their first budget since 2009, a comprehensive package that calls for additional stimulus and modest deficit reduction, stretched over the next ten years. Under Senate rules, lawmakers can’t filibuster a budget resolution, allowing Democrats to pass it by a vote of 50 to 49, with four Democrats—Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Max Baucus of Montana—voting against the bill.
With the Supreme Court expected to strike down a key piece of the Voting Rights Act later this year, now is a crucial moment for discussing Section 5's inarguable successes both in terms of civil rights and in improving the economic lives of Southern blacks.
Gavin Wright, a professor of American economic history at Stanford, has spent his career studying the economics of slavery, segregation, and the historical Southern economy. His recent book, Sharing the Prize, documents the economic impact that the civil rights acts of the mid-1960s had on Southerners, black and white.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, the fifth time the Voting Rights Act’s Section 5 has been challenged in the high court since it was passed in 1965. Section 5 requires nine states and portions of six others with a history of racial discrimination to have changes to election law “pre-cleared” by the government before going into effect. Every lower court has upheld the provision as constitutional, and Congress reauthorized it four times—always with overwhelming bipartisan support.
I mentioned in my previous post that the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on the Voting Rights Act this week. At issue is Section 5 of the law, which requires states and localities with histories of voter disenfranchisement to pre-approve any changes that effect voting with the federal government. The provision effects nine states—mostly in the South—and most areas that submit for pre-clearance are approved—it takes serious problems for the Justice Department to put changes on hold.
Today, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a major part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Since DOMA had already been held unconstitutional by the First Circuit, on one level this doesn't change anything, since the case was almost certainly headed to the Supreme Court anyway. But today's opinion is important because the theory underlying the court's holding goes much further than the First Circuit did.
150 years ago yesterday, President Abraham Lincoln released his draft Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that on January 1, 1863, “all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free." NPR has a brief exploration of some little-known history here, including this:
The Sikh temple shooting, which left seven dead including the shooter, has left me feeling more shaky than the shooting in Colorado, which seemed more random.
I write that even though the skeleton of these stories is roughly the same. One man with a grudge takes semi-automatic weapons and opens fire at a public or semi-public event where people are gathered for some socially acknowledged purpose—education, work, politics, entertainment, worship. Some people die. Others are wounded. The gunman may or may not have the presence of mind to execute himself. Or he may choose to be martyred, putting himself in line for police to kill him.
I don’t think I’m alone in initially dismissing the Wall Street protesters as the same ill-informed, ideologues who protested the WTO and the imprisonment of Mumia in one pointless breath throughout the late '90s and early aughts. It was hard for me to take seriously the political sentiments of the mostly privileged college kids who wanted to smash in Starbucks' windows. That was especially true given that I had maxed out my Federal Work Study hours and had taken a part-time job at a local Starbucks. It was the highest paying job I’d ever had and the first one at which I was offered health insurance, despite my being only part-time, and I had a pretty good idea of who was going to have to clean up the messes those protesters made.
Earlier today, the AP reported on a massive domestic intelligence gathering operation run by the NYPD. I spoke with the Brennan Center's Faiza Patel, author of the center's report on domestic surveillance, about the implications of local law enforcement engaging in intelligence gathering for counterterrorism purposes and the differences between the FBI and NYPD's legal authorities and accountability mechanisms. The following transcript has been edited slightly for clarity.
What did the NYPD do that technically the FBI doesn’t think it’s allowed to do?
Trymaine Lee has a fascinating story on the role Americans for Prosperity played in dismantling a school desegregation program in North Carolina:
Since 2000, Wake County has used a system of integration based on income. Under this program, no more than 40 percent of any school’s students could receive subsidized lunches, a proxy for determining the level of poverty. The school district is the 18th largest in the country, and includes Raleigh, its surrounding suburbs and rural areas. It became one of the first school systems in the nation to adopt such a plan.
Adam Winkler has an interesting post on the legal fight over the Affordable Care Act and the "gotcha" question the conservatives are likely to ask: What are the limits of the commerce clause if the mandate is constitutional?
Rick Hasennotes that a challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act that was recently dismissed for lack of standing has been reinstated by the D.C. Circuit, meaning that we could see another challenge to the VRA at the Supreme Court very soon. The challenge involves an attempt by officials in Kingston, North Carolina, to make city elections nonpartisan. Section 5 requires changes to local election practices in certain areas to be "precleared" by the voting section of the Justice Department:
The outlines of a Senate "compromise" on detention have emerged, and it looks like Democrats have agreed to allow military detention in a domestic context with Muslims suspected of terrorism:
Another provision would mandate military detention for people suspected of being "high value" terrorists from Al Qaeda: members of the organization who participated in planning or conducting attacks on the United States. The mandate would exclude United States citizens, and it would allow the secretary of defense to send detainees to the civilian criminal justice system at his discretion.
Dr. George Tiller was murdered by Scott Roeder two years ago today. Dr. Tiller was one of three doctors nationwide who performed abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy. Above, people gather for a vigil in Dr. Tiller's honor.