Friday, March 8, 2013

The Protection Of Our Voting Rights Are Far More Important than the Reactionary Politics Of a Right Wing Dominated Supreme Court!


To anyone who stupidly thinks even for a nanosecond that these virulently racist judicial tyrants masquerading as legal protectors of our constitutional rights cannot and will not blithely take away and destroy our rights as both citizens and human beings if we simply sit idly by and allow it to happen in this modern racist cesspool we call "civilization", guess again...Remember Dred Scott and what happened not only to him but to far too many of his historical forebears and descendants...Stay tuned and pass the word...



Dred Scott v. Sanford case:
The Supreme Court decision of

Click here for the text of this historical document:

In March of 1857, the United States Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, declared that all blacks -- slaves as well as free -- were not and could never become citizens of the United States. The court also declared the 1820 Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, thus permiting slavery in all of the country's territories.

The case before the court was that of Dred Scott v. Sanford. Dred Scott, a slave who had lived in the free state of Illinois and the free territory of Wisconsin before moving back to the slave state of Missouri, had appealed to the Supreme Court in hopes of being granted his freedom.

Taney -- a staunch supporter of slavery and intent on protecting southerners from northern aggression -- wrote in the Court's majority opinion that, because Scott was black, he was not a citizen and therefore had no right to sue. The framers of the Constitution, he wrote, believed that blacks "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever profit could be made by it."

Referring to the language in the Declaration of Independence that includes the phrase, "all men are created equal," Taney reasoned that "it is too clear for dispute, that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration. . "

Voting Rights Law Draws Skepticism From Justices

Voting Procedures: A lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund talks about arguing in favor of the Voting Rights Act at the Supreme Court.

February 27, 2013
New York Times

WASHINGTON — A central provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 may be in peril, judging from tough questioning on Wednesday from the Supreme Court’s more conservative members.


Voting Act Challenge Hinges on a Formula (February 27, 2013)
Statue of Rosa Parks Is Unveiled at the Capitol (February 28, 2013)
Times Topic: Voting Rights Act (1965)
Brief Supporting Same-Sex Marriage Gets More Republican Support (February 28, 2013) 
Related in Opinion

Charles M. Blow: Vulnerability of the Vote (February 28, 2013)
Editorial: Congress’s Power to Protect the Vote (February 28, 2013)

Christopher Gregory/The New York Times
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas, spoke at a rally outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday as the justices heard arguments over a central provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The provision was challenged by Shelby County, Ala.

Christopher Gregory/The New York Times
Protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Readers’ Comments:
"Ironic that this comes to the Supreme Court after the 2012 election, which witnessed the most aggressively racist voting laws and policies in certain states since the Civil Rights era."
--Look Ahead, WA

If the court overturns the provision, nine states, mostly in the South, would become free to change voting procedures without first getting permission from federal officials.

In a vivid argument in which the lawyers and justices drew varying lessons from the legacies of slavery, the Civil War and the civil rights movement, the court’s conservative wing suggested that the modern South had outgrown its troubled past and that the legal burdens on the nine states were no longer justified.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked skeptically whether “the citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North.” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, whose vote is probably crucial, asked whether Alabama today is an “independent sovereign” or whether it must live “under the trusteeship of the United States government.”

Justice Antonin Scalia said the law, once a civil rights landmark, now amounted to a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”

That remark created the sharpest exchange of the morning, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the other end. “Do you think that the right to vote is a racial entitlement?” she later asked a lawyer challenging the law, with an edge in her voice that left little doubt she was responding to Justice Scalia’s statement. “Do you think that racial discrimination in voting has ended, that there is none anywhere?”

The outcome of the case will most likely remain in doubt until the end of the court’s current term, in June. Many legal observers predicted that the justices would overturn part of the voting law in 2009, when the court had the same conservative-leaning majority, only to be proven wrong.

One important change, however, is that Chief Justice Roberts suggested in the 2009 ruling that Congress update its formula to determine which parts of the country should remain subject to the law. Congress has not done so.

The question at the heart of Wednesday’s argument was whether Congress, in reauthorizing the provision for 25 years in 2006, was entitled to use a formula based on historic practices and voting data from elections held decades ago.

Should the court strike down the law’s central provision, it would be easier for lawmakers in the nine states to enact the kind of laws Republicans in several states have recently advocated, including tighter identification standards. It would also give those states more flexibility to move polling places and redraw legislative districts.

The four members of the court’s liberal wing, citing data and history, argued that Congress remained entitled to make the judgment that the provision was still needed in the covered jurisdictions. The law passed the Senate unanimously and House overwhelmingly, by a vote of 390 to 33 in 2006.

“It’s an old disease,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer said of efforts to thwart minority voting. “It’s gotten a lot better. A lot better. But it’s still there.”

Justice Kennedy said that history taught a different lesson, referring to the reconstruction of Europe after World War II. “The Marshall Plan was very good, too,” he said. “But times change.”

Justice Breyer looked to a different conflict.

“What do you think the Civil War was about?” he asked. “Of course it was aimed at treating some states differently than others.” He also said that the nation lived through 200 years of slavery and 80 years of racial segregation.

Debo P. Adegbile, a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which joined the government in defending the law, echoed that point. “This statute is in part about our march through history to keep promises that our Constitution says for too long were unmet,” he said.

The law was challenged by Shelby County, Ala., which said that its federal preclearance requirement, in Section 5 of the law, had outlived its usefulness and that it imposed an unwarranted badge of shame on the affected jurisdictions.

The county’s lawyer, Bert W. Rein, said that “the problem to which the Voting Rights Act was addressed is solved.”

In any event, he added, the unusual requirement that a sovereign state’s law did not count until blessed by the federal government required substantial justification. The law, he said, was “an unusual remedy, never before and never after invoked by the Congress, putting states into a prior restraint in the exercise of their core sovereign functions.”

It was common ground among the advocates and justices that the act was important and necessary when it was first enacted.

“There is no question that the Voting Rights Act has done enormous good,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said. “It’s one of the most successful statutes that Congress passed in the 20th century and one could probably go farther than that.”

There was agreement, too, that the nation and the South in particular have taken great strides toward equality.

“There isn’t anybody on any side of this issue who doesn’t admit that huge progress has been made,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.

Most of the argument instead concerned the formula for determining which states the law covered.

Chief Justice Roberts reeled off statistics to suggest that the coverage formula no longer made sense. Massachusetts, which is not covered, “has the worst ratio of white voter turnout to African-American voter turnout,” he said. Mississippi, which is covered, has the best ratio, he said, with African-American turnout exceeding that of whites.

The more liberal justices responded that the nine states were responsible for a sharply disproportionate share of federal voting-rights violations, adding that Alabama was in a poor position to challenge the choices Congress made in deciding which parts of the country to cover.

“Under any formula that Congress could devise,” Justice Elena Kagan said, citing data about voting rights suits, “it would capture Alabama.”

The point seemed to interest Justice Kennedy, in one of his few questions skeptical of the law’s challenger. “If you could be covered under most suggested formulas for this kind of statute,” he asked Mr. Rein, “why are you injured by this one?”

Should the court strike down the coverage formula when it decides the case, Shelby County v. Holder, No. 12-96, Congress would be free to take a fresh look at what jurisdictions should be covered. But Congress seems unlikely to be able to agree on a new set of criteria, given the current partisan divide, meaning the part of the law requiring federal pre-approval of election changes would effectively disappear.

Justice Kennedy asked whether it would be proper to make the entire country subject to the provision. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said no, at least based on the information compiled by Congress in connection with the 2006 extension of the law.

Justice Kennedy seemed to view the response as a concession. “And that,” he said, “is because that there is a federalism interest in each state being responsible to ensure that it has a political system that acts in a democratic and a civil and a decent and a proper and a constitutional way.”

Congress has repeatedly extended the preclearance requirement: for 5 years in 1970, 7 years in 1975, and for 25 years in both 1982 and 2006.

But it made no changes after 1975 to the list of jurisdictions covered by Section 5, relying instead on a formula based on historical practices and voting data from elections held decades ago.

It applies to nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and to scores of counties and municipalities in other states, including the boroughs of Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx.

On American politics and policy:

Congress Honors Rosa Parks While the Supreme Court Targets the Voting Rights Act
by Ari Berman
February 27, 2013
The Nation

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act at US Capitol alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Photo: Yoichi R. Okamoto, courtesy Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum

At 11 am, as Congress unveiled a statue honoring Rosa Parks, the civil rights leaders of today (Including Rep. John Lewis, who nearly died in Selma during "Bloody Sunday") were gathered inside the Supreme Court, listening to a challenge to the centerpiece of the Voting Rights Act. The stark contrast illustrated the profound contradictions of American democracy when it comes to race and political power—the progress we’ve made has always been met by equally intense efforts to roll back that progress. And that remains true today, especially on February 27, 2013.

“To honor Rosa Parks in the fullest manner, each of us must do our part to protect that which has been gained, defend the great documents upon which those gains were obtained and continue our pursuit of a more perfect union,” Congressman James Clyburn, who grew up in segregated South Carolina in the 1940s and ’50s, said at the statue unveiling. Parks herself was present when Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in the Capitol rotunda on August 6, 1965. Twelve years before famously refusing to move to the back of a segregated bus in Montgomery, Parks attempted to register to vote. She was denied three times, and had to pass a literacy test and pay a poll tax in 1945 just to exercise what should have been her fundamental right. That’s the way America was before the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Inside the courtroom, five conservative Justices made the case for why Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act—which compels parts or all of sixteen states with a history of racial discrimination in voting to clear election-related changes with the federal government—is no longer necessary. (See my recent Nation article, “Why Are Conservative Trying to Destroy the Voting Rights Act?” for a definitive account of the Shelby County v. Holder case and the conservative organization and money behind the challenge.)

Section 5 is the most effective section of the most effective civil rights law ever passed by Congress and has been called the “keystone of our voting rights” by Attorney General Eric Holder. But to the conservative majority on the court, Section 5 is an antiquated infringement on state sovereignty, treating some states differently than others based on outdated data from the 1960s and ’70s. Justice Scalia mocked the entirety of the Voting Rights, calling congressional support for the legislation (which has been overwhelmingly reauthorized four times, most recently in 2006, and signed by four Republican presidents) a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”

It quickly became clear inside the courtroom that there are four votes to uphold Section 5 and four votes to strike it down. Justice Kennedy, as is so often the case, appears to be the swing vote, although he certainly leaned toward the conservatives. Justice Kennedy seemed preoccupied by two questions: number one, does Section 5 still cover the states and localities where discrimination is most concentrated in order to justify its federalism constraints? And number two, are other parts of the Voting Rights Act, most notably Section 2, an adequate replacement for Section 5?

Section 2 applies nationwide, permanently, and puts the burden of proof on plaintiffs to show that a voting change is discriminatory after it has gone into effect, whereas Section 5 must be reauthorized by Congress and is targeted only at those with the worst history of voting discrimination, who must pre-clear any voting change with the Department of Justice or a federal court in DC. Section 2 has often been described as the “sword” to Section 5’s “shield.”

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli and NAACP Legal Defend Fund counsel Debo Adegbile did their best to assuage Kennedy’s concerns. Adegbile noted that jurisdictions covered by Section 5 accounted for a quarter of the US population but made up 81 percent of successful published and unpublished lawsuits that reached a favorable verdict for minority plaintiffs under Section 2, proving that discrimination remained localized in Section 5 states. Kennedy seemed unpersuaded:

JUSTICE KENNEDY: if Congress is going to single out separate States by name, it should do it by name. If not, it should use criteria that are relevant to the existing [problem] — and Congress just didn’t have the time or the energy to do this; it just reenacted it.

VERRILLI: I think it was rational and effective in 1965. The Court upheld it then, it upheld it three more times after that.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: Well, the Marshall Plan was very good, too, the Morale Act, the Northwest Ordinance, but times change.

VERRILLI: But the question is whether times had changed enough and whether the differential between the covered jurisdictions and the rest of the country had changed enough that Congress could confidently make the judgment that this was no longer needed.

Verrilli and Adegbile described Section 2 as a poor substitute for Section 5. As Kennedy himself noted in 2009, “Section 2 cases are very expensive. They are very long. They are very inefficient.” Section 2 lawsuits are incredibly complex, can take years to adjudicate and often cost millions of dollars, which few victims of voting discrimination can afford. Congress included Section 5 in the Voting Rights Act precisely because case-by-case litigation had failed to stop voting discrimination prior to 1965. “The reason Section 5 was created was because States were moving faster than litigation permitted to catch the new forms of discriminatory practices that were being developed,” said Justice Sotomayor. The genius of Section 5 was to “shift the advantage of time and inertia from the perpetrators of the evil to its victims,” Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in the 1966 case South Carolina v. Katzenbach, the first of five unsuccessful challenges to Section 5.

In last year’s election cycle, the Justice Department under Section 5 opposed voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina, early-voting cutbacks in Florida and redistricting maps in Texas. The federal courts in Washington sided with the DOJ in three of four cases, finding evidence of discriminatory effect and/or purpose, while also blocking South Carolina’s voter ID law for 2012. If Section 5 was gone and Section 2 was the only recourse, these major changes would’ve been in effect during the last election, and could only be challenged after years of costly and difficult litigation. The voters disenfranchised in the meantime would have no recourse, other than the hopes of a preliminary injunction from the courts, which is an increasingly rare prospect in a judiciary dominated by conservatives, especially in the South.

Amazingly, the voter suppression attempts that spread nationwide during the last election never came up during the oral arguments. The justices did not hear, for example, that six of the nine fully covered states under Section 5 passed new voting restrictions since 2010, including voter ID laws (Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia), limits on early voting (Georgia) and restrictions on voter registration (Alabama and Texas), compared to only one-third of noncovered jurisdictions during the same period. The insularity of the Supreme Court was particularly evident today. Opponents of Section 5 pointed to the fact that minority voter registration and turnout rates in places like Alabama are equal to or exceed states not covered by Section 5, but that hardly covers the scope of voting discrimination that exists in the South today.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: General, is it the government’s submission that the citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North?

GENERAL VERRILLI: It is not, and I do not know the answer to that, Your Honor, but I do think it was reasonable for Congress—

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, once you said it is not, and you don’t know the answer to it.

GENERAL VERRILLI: It’s not our submission. As an objective matter, I don’t know the answer to that question. But what I do know is that Congress had before it evidence that there was a continuing need based on Section 5 objections, based on the purpose-based character of those objections, based on the disparate Section 2 rate, based on the persistence of polarized voting, and based on a gigantic wealth of jurisdiction-specific and anecdotal evidence, that there was a continuing need.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: A need to do what?

GENERAL VERRILLI: To maintain the deterrent and constraining effect of the Section 5 preclearance process in the covered jurisdictions

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: And not impose it on everyone else?

GENERAL VERRILLI: And—that’s right, given the differential in Section 2 litigation, there was a basis for Congress to do that.

One of the main tensions inside the courtroom was whether Congress or the Court gets to determine what is and isn’t valid under the Voting Rights Act. After all, the act has been overwhelmingly reauthorized four times by Congress, most recently in 2006. To Justice Scalia, that means it must be unconstitutional. “Even the name of it is wonderful: The Voting Rights Act,” Scalia said sarcastically. “Who is going to vote against that in the future?”

Yet both conservative and liberal members of Congress are urging the Court to respect both the original and recent findings of the legislative body. Notes an amicus brief filed by bipartisan members of Congress, including recent chairs of the House Judiciary Committee: “This Court has recognized that Congress acts at the height of its powers when it legislates to regulate the concerns at which the VRA is aimed: racial discrimination, infringement of fundamental rights, and elections. When Congress exercises its powers at the intersection of these three concerns—as it did here—this Court should defer to Congress’s considered judgment.”

Justice Kagan brought this up in an exchange with Shelby County’s lawyer, Bert Rein:

JUSTICE KAGAN: You said the problem [of voting discrimination in the South] has been solved. But who gets to make that judgment really? Is it you, is it the Court, or is it Congress?

MR. REIN: Well, it is certainly not me.


JUSTICE SCALIA: That’s a good answer. I was hoping you would say that.

MR. REIN: But I think the question is Congress can examine it, Congress makes a record; it is up to the Court to determine whether the problem indeed has been solved and whether the new problem, if there is one.

JUSTICE KAGAN: Well, that’s a big, new power that you are giving us, that we have the power now to decide whether racial discrimination has been solved? I did not think that that fell within our bailiwick.

It would be a truly radical step for the Court to dismiss the repeated and overwhelming judgment of Congress by striking down Section 5. The disappearance of Section 5 would be a devastating setback for voting rights—akin to the way the Citizens United decision eviscerated campaign finance regulation—and would greenlight the kind of voter suppression attempts that proved so unpopular in 2012.

It’s particularly ironic that Shelby County, Alabama, of all places, would bring this challenge to Section 5, given the recent history of discrimination in the county and state. Before local elections in 2008, the city of Calera redrew its city boundaries, eliminating the City Council’s lone majority-black district, represented by Ernest Montgomery since 2004. The city decreased the black voting-age population in Montgomery’s district from 71 percent to 30 percent by adding three overwhelmingly white subdivisions while failing to include a large surrounding black neighborhood. A day before the election, the Justice Department objected to the change. Calera could have preserved the majority-black district, the city’s demographer told Washington, but the City Council chose not to. Calera held the election in defiance of Justice Department orders, and Montgomery lost by two votes.

The Justice Department negated the election results and, after a year of negotiations, Calera moved from single-member districts to an at-large election system for the City Council. Montgomery was easily elected under the new system, winning the largest number of votes of any candidate, while his opponent from 2008 received the second-fewest. After the two elections, “I realized how important Section 5 is,” Montgomery said.

If it hadn’t been for Section 5, there would be no black members of the city council in Calera. “Assuming I accept your premise…that some portions of the South have changed, your county pretty much hasn’t,” Justice Sotomayor told Rein.

Mr. Montgomery and a large delegation of voting rights activists from Alabama attended the arguments. “Things have gotten a lot better and the reason it has gotten better is because of legislation like Section 5,” he told me after. “We definitely feel it’s still needed. We don’t claim the playing field has leveled. It’s leveling. Eventually maybe we’ll get to the point where Section 5 is not needed, but we’re not there yet.”

   See more at:

RE: Dr. Boyce Watkins, Geoffrey Jacques and Kofi Natambu Weigh in on the Ongoing National Debate On Race, Ideology, Public Policy, and the Obama Administration--SOME FINAL REMARKS


You're right when you say that when President Obama engages in compromise, "it doesn't mean that we can afford not to insist that the specific quality and content of his compromises with the rightwing opposition in Congress maintain a fundamental clarity, commitment, toughness, independence, and integrity with respect to his general agenda and what he and it 'stands for.'   Staying vigilant and fighting for real principle in the face of the ideological coercion and bullying tactics of the opposition is not only necessary but essential."  We started this conversation in response to an Obama critic [the reference here is to Dr. Boyce Watkins--ed.] who seems not to know, exactly, what it is Obama stands for. I was concerned about a kind of political ventriloquism I detected among some of the President's critics of the left.

What interests me right now is how different Obama's tactics in his struggle with Congress seem to be in this period, when compared with those that brought us the "Grand Bargain" of December 2010. I think he has, as of this moment, exceeded my expectations with regard to how far he's willing to go to press his point. Of course, things may change at any moment. The thing to consider, however, is how much Obama seems to be banking on the fact that whatever else the people may think politically, they returned him to office with a comfortable — even historic, in some ways, — victory margin. The speeches I've heard the President give lately, and especially his March 1 press conference, seem as clear an exposition of his agenda as I've heard. In general, though, I don't think Obama can fairly be charged with not stating clearly his fundamental agenda at any point while he's been in office. But that does not mean that he carries out that agenda in ways that will always find agreement among many of his progressive partisans, let alone his critics.

For example, like many people, I'd hoped Obama might have appointed more progressive people to his economic and (okay, I'll admit this is a stretch) his national security teams. While I get it that most economists these days seem more like people with certificates in banker management than intellectuals who understand how the capitalist system works, the apparent lack of diverse voices in the President's inner circle on economics can't but have been a contributory factor to the difficulty we're having in getting out of this depression. Likewise, I misjudged his commitment (and the commitment of the political class as a whole) to the "War on Terror" policy. (I don't join those who use criticisms of this or that tactic as a substitute for criticizing the policy as such. I have always been impressed with how some progressives enthusiastically pounce on tactics while leaving the policy alone. Meanwhile the policy enjoys a strange, and dangerously high, level of popular support.) The failure of the contemporary antiwar movement is singularly historic in this regard. It's a failure that comes, in part from not really understanding exactly what the President stands for and where he's coming from politically. But it is also, and more fundamentally, a failure to understand very well the circumstances that led to the current "War on Terror" policy. I still hear little conversation in antiwar circles about the fundamentals of that policy, not to mention related foreign policy issues, and this, in my view, leads to a striking incoherence all around.

To return to something I tried to say at the beginning of this conversation, we are better served if we listen closely to what Obama has to say for himself, and base our critique on the policies and views he actually holds. Finally, our own critique will be stronger, and our view about what needs to be done will be clearer, if we respond to this complex moment by correctly calibrating the relationship between the desires in our hearts and the intelligence in our heads.


On Mar 3, 2013  Kofi Natambu wrote:


My entire point  (and I strongly submit that "in the end" it is and will be by far the most significant point about the meaning of what has transpired since the summer of 2010 between the Obama administration and the House Republican majority, and what is going to happen between now and the midterms of November 2014) can be contained quite clearly and neatly in the following pithy and on target quote: "The question is not whether Obama makes compromises. The question is what kind of compromises will he make."  My simple direct response is you can say THAT again!  Further, to say that I emphatically agree with every single word of your quote is understating it by half.   And I, like you, certainly don't need ANYONE to tell me that  "compromise is unavoidable" or that white progressives generally tend to lose their nerve, heart, and guts when it comes to "talking politics with their folks" or that "Obama has to deal with these people" in the House majority.  Or that "political developments outside the beltway of D.C." one way or the other will play a major role in what occurs at the end of the process.  All these things and more are painfully obvious and  crystal clear to anyone paying any attention at all to what has been going on since Obama took the oath in January, 2009 (for starters it's crucial to remember in this larger context that McCain won 55% of the white vote in 2008 and Romney won 60% of this vote in 2012 and tallied 18 million more white votes nationwide than Obama--it's absolutely sobering and disturbing to realize that even in New York and California, a majority of white voters pulled the lever for Romney!).    

So again, like you, I'm not unaware of what the President is up against for a second.   But that still doesn't mean that we can afford not to insist that the specific quality and content of his compromises with the rightwing opposition in Congress maintain a fundamental clarity, commitment, toughness, independence, and integrity with respect to his general agenda and what he and it "stands for."   Staying vigilant and fighting for real principle in the face of the ideological coercion and bullying tactics of the opposition is not only necessary but essential.  That's not political "confusion" brother, nor is it a "workaround". It's what is required of any political tendency worth its weight who claims that what it is indeed fighting for at any given time is actually worth the battle no matter how long it takes or what must be confronted and endured to prevail now and in the future...And that's "pretty clear" to me...