The hole the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling blew in the Voting Rights Act will get patched this session if Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Georgia’s Congressman John Lewis have anything to say about it. They plan to introduce legislation today to repair the damage. Ari Berman has this scoop at The Nation:

… The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 would compel states with a well-documented history of recent voting discrimination to clear future voting changes with the federal government, require federal approval for voter ID laws, and outlaw new efforts to suppress the growing minority vote.

According to the Washington Post:

The bill is the latest in what has been an ongoing effort to restore the preclearence provision of the Voting Rights Act, which required many southern states to have any change to voting laws cleared by federal officials. The Supreme Court, in its 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision, tossed the formula used to determine which states need preclearence, effectively ending the federal government’s role as a monitor to state voting changes until a new formula is approved by Congress.

Read More→

Comments (0)

Now some good news. This time it isn’t an asteroid. It’s us:

The evidence is incontrovertible that recent extinction rates are unprecedented in human history and highly unusual in Earth’s history. Our analysis emphasizes that our global society has started to destroy species of other organisms at an accelerating rate, initiating a mass extinction episode unparalleled for 65 million years.

That is the conclusion of a study published Friday by scientists from Stanford, Princeton, and the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico. Climate change, pollution and deforestation are key factors. The Independent reports:

Scientists at Stanford University in the US claim it is the biggest loss of species since the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction which wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

“Without any significant doubt that we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event,” said Professor Paul Ehrlich, at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

“Species are disappearing up to about 100 times faster than the normal rate between mass extinctions, known as the background rate.”

Unless the study authors, who describe their estimates as “conservative,” were being too conservative:

Last year, a report by Stuart Pimm, a biologist and extinction expert at Duke University in North Carolina, also warned mankind was entering a sixth mass extinction event.

But Mr Pimm’s report said the current rate of extinction was more than 1,000 times faster than in the past, not 114, as the new report claims.

Now, for the savvy VC investor, that kind of growth means profit. Yet even Business Insider missed the big scoop: climate-driven extinction is creating job opportunities in archaeology, anthropology, and paleontology. Warming temperatures and melting glaciers are uncovering “relics, debris – and corpses – that have laid hidden for decades, even millennia.” Everything from mummies to plane crashes to “a massive deposit of caribou dung.”

McClatchy reports on just one of the exciting, new growth businesses created by the prospect of centuries of mass extinction ahead:

Archaeologists are turning into unlikely beneficiaries of a warmer Earth, and several have started a new publication: the Journal of Glacial Archaeology.

Its editor, E. James Dixon, an anthropologist at the University of New Mexico, frets about the phenomenon of ancient ice melting after thousands of years.

“For every discovery that is made, there are thousands coming out of the ice and are decomposing very rapidly,” Dixon said. “In the ice, some of the most delicate artifacts are preserved. We’ve found baskets, arrow shafts with the feathers intact and arrowheads and lashings perfectly preserved.”

Wall Street is going to be all over this like stink on ancient caribou dung.

Mass extinction. It’s not a global catastrophe. It’s a growth industry!

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : Uncategorized
Comments (2)

It’s been hard trying to find respite from news of the Charleston church slayings this morning. Halfway around the world in the Sydney Morning Herald is a story of a woman who awoke from a nightmare and recognized nothing in the bedroom. She stumbled out of bed, down a foreign hallway to a bathroom, and gazed into the mirror horrified:

“I grabbed my face and screamed, ‘No! Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god … I’m OLD!'”

Ms Jacobs was 32, but she had lost 17 years of her life to a rare amnesia. As far as she was concerned, she was 15.

How often have we wondered what it would be like to go back and relive our teens and twenties knowing what we know now. Naomi Jacobs experienced a part of that:

As her sister cautiously explained “adult” Naomi’s life, “teen” Naomi could not understand how, despite all the dreams she’d had for her future, she had become a single mother in a two-bedroom council flat.

There was so much to catch up on: Ms Jacobs spent hours online watching piano-playing cats, kids drugged up after dentist visits, crop circles and conspiracy theories. She sobbed over the 9/11 attacks and the “War on Terror”.

Read More→

Categories : National, Race
Comments (0)
Jun
21

Sunday Morning Music

By · Comments (0)

Comments (0)

We were told during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s that some of the ethnic hatreds there dated back centuries. People in the Balkans were re-fighting battles lost 600 years earlier.

One knock against Americans is, it is said we have no sense of history. But during the Bosnian genocide, it struck me that the flip side to having no sense of history was having an overactive one.

Here in the South, there are some people with overactive senses of their own history. Specifically, a history symbolized by flying flags of the Confederacy from lawns, from pickup trucks, and in South Carolina, on the state capitol grounds. That particular flag flies on a pole from which, by law, it cannot be removed.

Why?

Americans with no sense of history will not appreciate how in the South the loss of the Civil War is, a mere 150 years after the fact, still the source of a gnawing, grinding anger for a minority with an overactive one. The myths of the Lost Cause, the Bloody Shirt, “heritage not hate,” “states’ rights,” “Forget, Hell!” and all the other post hoc rationale for whitewashing slavery, treason, Jim Crow, and decades of lynchings and other domestic terrorism are still alive, if only in small pockets. But they won’t let it go. Call it pride. Call it Scots-Irish stubbornness. (And a lingering inferiority complex.) But it is toxic. The defeat went down hard, and the memory of a defeated people runs deep. Ask the Serbs.

Enough.

After the mass shooting in Charleston this week, one South Carolina state legislator, a Republican, proposes removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds once and for all:

South Carolina state Rep. Norman “Doug” Brannon announced on Friday night that he would introduce a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol, citing the death of Sen. Clementa Pinckney during the terrorist attack in Charleston earlier this week.

“I had a friend die Wednesday night for no reason other than he was a black man,” Brannon, a Republican, told MSNBC host Chris Hayes in a phone interview. “Senator Pinckney was an incredible human being. I don’t want to talk politics, but I’m gonna introduce the bill for that reason.”

He showed more integrity than many of his cohorts this week.

John Fugelsang has one of the best (and upbeat) takedowns of Confederate flag-waving and why the South ought to let it go:

Of all the periods of your history, why do you want to celebrate those four years? … You are better than them! You are better than your ancestors who quit America because they wanted to keep people as pets.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : History, National, Race
Comments (0)
Jun
19

A Full Lord’s House

By · Comments (0)

IMG_20150619_124540_014We attended the community church service at St. James AME Church today. Standing room only in the church and in the overflow. Lots of fans, tissues, moist eyes. Lots of familiar faces. The preacher had the place jazzed to pull together and get organized. I hope it’s not just another flash in the pan as Jon Stewart suggested might happen last night. Maybe this will help. God knows we could use some.

Categories : Local, National, News, Race
Comments (0)

I’m sitting in upstate South Carolina processing the Charleston mass shooting. I’m watching clips from politicians — conservative politicians — doing their damnedest not to say anything on camera that would alienate their political base. Or replaying talking points for their base that reinforce the toxic world view that produces people such as the alleged shooter, Dylann Roof.

Sen. John McCain was at least enough of a leader in 2008 to publicly disagree with the woman who said she was afraid if Barack Obama, “an Arab,” got elected. The crowd of supporters booed McCain when he said Obama was a good and decent man:

“Come on, John!” one audience member yelled out as the Republican crowd expressed dismay at their nominee. Others yelled “liar,” and “terrorist,” referring to Obama.

At Crooks and Liars, Susie Madrak yesterday posted footage of former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) speaking in South Carolina in March failing to do the same, using the word “tyrant” and having the chutzpah to talk about Obama’s “complete lack of leadership.” Madrak writes:

And just watch this video. This woman is a South Carolina teacher, and she’s plain batshit crazy. Listen to her! Straight out of InfoWars. And does Santorum talk to the woman, try to calm her down? Hell, no.

Instead, he validates her concern (while artfully avoiding actually leaving a record of anything that could be used against him later) and even whips it up!

Read More→

Comments (0)
Jun
19

Friday Open Thread

By · Comments (0)

“A community church service is planned for noon Friday at the downtown St. James AME Church, 44 Hildebrand St. The public is invited.”

http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2015/06/18/local-churches-react-charleston-shooting/28947355/

Categories : Action, Open Thread
Comments (0)

The FAA, drone opponents, and Amazon.com testified Wednesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on a proposed rule for opening the national airspace to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Clogging the air with drones both large and small, private, commercial, police, and military poses a logistical, regulatory, and privacy challenge. Or maybe a nightmare.

People poised to make money off the commercial technology want their licenses now, and they think the FAA is taking too long to think. The military and the FAA’s NextGen program have been at odds over delays in adapting its proposed, new air traffic control system to include a fleet of military drones it was not designed for. A single U2 spy plane flying in and out of Los Angeles air space last year crashed the local traffic control system. But whateva. Reapers gotta reap and Predators gotta prey.

Most of the focus yesterday was on how soon an Amazon drone will be able to deliver a six pack to your doorstep for the big game. (And it’s still cold!)

The Guardian reports:

The limitations of the licenses would hurt Amazon, the company’s vice-president of global public policy, Paul Misener, told Congress. Misener said his company was actively working to make drone delivery a reality and that the rule’s restriction on operating drones out of the user’s line of sight would hamper progress. “Our respectful disagreement with the FAA is that we believe that kind of operation can be considered right now,” he said.

Harley Geiger of the Center for Democracy and Technology warned the assembled legislators that they must heed privacy concerns before making the skies free for drones.

“Here is a nightmare scenario for civil liberties: a network of law enforcement UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] with sensors capable of identifying and tracking individuals monitors populated outdoor areas on a constant, pervasive basis for generalized public safety purposes. At the same time, commercial UAS platforms record footage of virtually anyone who steps out of her home, even if the individual remains on private property. This may seem an unlikely future to some. However, few existing laws would stand in the way, and the public does not yet trust the discretion of government or the UAS industry to prevent such scenarios from approaching reality,” he said.

Clearly an alarmist, that last guy. I mean, beer. Oh, right.

Read More→

Categories : National, Privacy, Science
Comments (0)
Jun
17

The business of business

By · Comments (0)

President Calvin Coolidge once said, “The chief business of the American people is business.” But in examining the debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Trade Promotion Authority, etc., one can see the business of business is not America.

It was clear last week that the TPP and TPA (fast track) were not dead, but unlike Monty Python’s parrot, really just resting. Politico reports on maneuvers by House Speaker John Boehner and Republican leaders to revive fast track:

Under the emerging plan, the House would vote on a bill that would give Obama fast-track authority to negotiate a sweeping trade deal with Pacific Rim countries, sending it to the Senate for final approval. To alleviate Democratic concerns, the Senate then would amend a separate bill on trade preferences to include Trade Adjustment Assistance, a worker aid program that Republicans oppose but that House Democrats have blocked to gain leverage in the negotiations over fast-track.

Decoupling TAA and TPA might be a non-starter with many Democrats. But the political mechanics are not as interesting as the broader trajectory of dealings between government and business.

In any of these deals, no matter what the promised benefits, the general public always seems to come out holding the short end of the stick. You can smell it. Somebody is going to make a lot of money. It’s just never us. We get to do the paying.

Read More→