The BRAD BLOG http://www.bradblog.com Because it's not about Right or Left, it's about Right and Wrong! Wed, 22 Oct 2014 02:50:22 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.0.2 en 'Mercy' and 'Restorative Justice'? Imagine That. http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10893 http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10893#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 02:50:22 +0000 Brad Friedman Accountability http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10893 I haven't been following this case at all, but I happened to be up very late last night when the cable news nets switched LIVE, around 2am out here, to carry the sentencing pronouncement for South Africa's Oscar Pistorius on the charge of "culpable homicide" (akin to manslaughter in the U.S.), for which he's been convicted in the 2013 killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The presiding judge for South Africa's High Court was Thokozile Masipa, an appointee of Nelson Mandela. She read her complete sentencing ruling aloud from the bench in the courtroom.

I was struck by one section that included several ideas that I don't recall hearing lately, if ever, in any sentencing for a criminal case of this sort in the U.S...

JUDGE THOKOZILE MASIPA: ...For a very good reason, an appropriate sentence should neither be too light, nor too severe. The former might cause the public to lose confidence in the justice system, and people might be tempted to take the law into their own hands.

On the other hand, the latter might break the accused and the result might be just the opposite of what the punishment set out to do, which ultimately is to rehabilitate the accused, and to give him an opportunity, where possible, to become a useful member of society once more.

I have considered all of the evidence placed before me, and all the submissions and arguments by counsel. I have weighed all the relevant factors, the purposes of punishment and all forms of punishment, including restorative justice principles. I have also taken into account the seriousness of the offense which led to the death of the deceased, the personal circumstances of the accused and the interests of society. I have taken the particular circumstances of the accused at the time of the offense into account.

Having regard to the circumstances in the matter, I am of the view that a non-custodial sentence would send a wrong message to the community. On the other hand, a long sentence would not be appropriate either, as it would lack the element of mercy.

A sentence cannot be said to be appropriate without the feelings of mercy for the accused and hope for his reformation... I am mindful of the fact that true mercy has nothing to do with weakness or modeling sympathy for the criminal, but it is an element of justice.
...
The following is what I consider to be a sentence that is fair and just both to society and to the accused.

Pistorius was ultimately given a maximum 5-year prison sentence for his crime of culpable homicide, a lesser charge than either common murder or murder with direct intent, as defined in South African law. He also received a 3-year suspended sentence for related charges, to be served concurrently. The BBC reports that the double-amputee superstar sprinter could be freed from jail in as few as 10 months, but that Steenkamp's parents were "happy with the sentence and relieved the case was over."

As I said, I haven't been following the case closely, and from what I have heard, I don't find Pistorius' explanation for what happened to be particularly persuasive or even credible. Moreover, I don't know anything at all really about the South African justice system, so I don't have any particularly informed opinion on whether Pistorius' sentence is either fair or unfair, appropriate or inappropriate in this situation. None of that is the point of this post.

I was just simply struck by the concepts of "mercy", "rehabilitation", "reformation" and "restorative justice" being raised at all, as they were by the judge, in a case like this, and her point that punishment for such crimes --- at least in South Africa --- is not mean to "break the accused", but to help to rehabilitate them.

Those concepts of crime and punishment now seem about as foreign, absent and miles away from our modern day system of justice in the United States as...well, South Africa.


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In Memoriam: Ben Bradlee http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10892 http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10892#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 02:20:14 +0000 Brad Friedman Washington Post In Memoriam Daniel Ellsberg Richard Nixon Media Reform http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10892

BEN BRADLEE, 1921 - 2014


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'Green News Report' - October 21, 2014 http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10891 http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10891#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 22:37:19 +0000 Desi Doyen Alaska Connecticut Environment Democrats Republicans Green News Coal 'Tea Party' Oil Climate change Election 2014 Oceans http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10891

IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Republican candidates continue to dodge the climate change question; Mountaintop removal coal mining promotes lung cancer; 'Significant' oil spill in Louisiana bayou; 2014 on track to be hottest year on record; PLUS: LEGO breaks up with Shell Oil... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

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CORRECTION: Today's episode of the GNR incorrectly identifies Rep. John Yarmuth (D) as a U.S. Congressman from West Virginia. In fact, he represents Kentucky. We apologize for the error!

Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Republicans: "I am not a scientist" on climate change, but let me advise you on Ebola; Rooftop solar: utilities must adapt or die; Extinction watch: only 6 white rhinos left; Zombie glacier surprises glaciologists; Oceans to lose $1 trillion in value due to acidification; New Method factory will be world's largest rooftop farm... PLUS: A Man For All Seasons: Remembering Rick Piltz, Climate Science Whistleblower... and much, MUCH more! ...

STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

  • A Man For All Seasons: Remembering Rick Piltz, Climate Science Whistleblower (Climate Progress) [emphasis added]:
    Rick Piltz, a true climate hero, passed away Saturday. Readers knew him best as the founder and Director of the website Climate Science Watch, which we regularly cited and reposted. But Rick was sui generis, a man of principle, a genuine whistle blower.
  • Climate Change vs. Ebola: GOP Says We're Not Scientists Except When We Are (Rude Pundit) [emphasis added]:
    Republicans are glad to tell you that either the evidence is inconclusive or that they are too dumb to understand the science when it comes to climate change, so they think it's wrong to act like it's a crisis and refuse to do anything to slow or halt it. However, they will go bugnuts crazy and try to cause panic when it comes to the science around the spread of Ebola, even when they have it wrong.
  • Rooftop solar is just the beginning; utilities must innovate or go extinct (Grist):
    Sooner or later, there must be a wholesale rethinking of the utility business model. And if utilities are smart, they’ll do it sooner.
  • Death Of Northern White Rhino Leaves Only Six Left In Existence (Climate Progress):
    No northern white rhinos are known to have survived in the wild, and Suni was one of the last two breeding males in the world leaving the future of his species in serious doubt. "The species now stands at the brink of complete extinction, a sorry testament to the greed of the human race," said the conservancy in a statement.
  • Zombie Glacier Surprises Scientists (Climate Central):
    The discovery of a ghoulishly semi-lifeless glacier in southeastern Iceland doesn't just create a new zombie class of frozen rivers of water. It raises questions about the accuracy of conventional approaches to measuring the growth and retreat of similar glaciers.
  • Oceans Could Lose $1 Trillion in Value Due to Acidification (Scientific American):
    A very young field of research is trying to measure the costs of oceans growing more acidic.
  • Lab technician confesses to faking water samples at request of coal companies (Charleston Gazette):
    Employees of a Raleigh County laboratory falsified water quality samples under pressure from their coal company clients, a laboratory technician and supervisor who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act told a federal judge earlier this month.
  • Method’s New Factory to Host World’s Largest Rooftop Farm (Triple Pundit)
  • Environmental Issues Become a Force in Political Advertising (NY Times):
    Ads mentioning energy, climate change and the environment - over 125,000 spots and climbing on the Senate side - have surged to record levels during the 2014 midterm election cycle.
  • Amid California's drought, a bruising battle for cheap water (LA Times):
    In truth, neither is to blame for Westlands' woes so much as the simple fact that the nation's largest irrigation district is in the wrong place.
  • Lifecycle Study Shows Renewable Electricity Is Greener Than All Other Sources: (Climate Central):
    [R]esearchers conducted the first-ever lifecycle analysis of a wide-scale global rollout of new wind, hydro and solar power plants, asking whether shifting from coal and natural gas power generation to renewables would increase or decrease certain types of pollution.
    ..
    [O]ver time, the environmental impact of extracting those raw materials declines, pollution decreases and the total quantity of those materials likely needed for renewables is a fraction of the volume of those materials being mined today, the study says.
  • Study: Natural gas surge won't slow global warming (AP) [emphasis added]:
    [T]he new international study says an expansion of natural gas use by 2050 would also keep other energy-producing technologies like wind, solar and nuclear, from being used more. And those technologies are even better than natural gas for avoiding global warming.
  • Defense Sec. Hagel: Climate change will challenge US military (AP) [emphasis added]:
    "Climate change is a 'threat multiplier' because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we already confront today - from infectious disease to armed insurgencies - and to produce new challenges in the future," Hagel said.
  • 4 Scenarios Show What Climate Change Will Do To The Earth, From Pretty Bad To Disaster (Fast CoExist):
    But exactly how bad is still an open question, and a lot depends not only on how we react, but how quickly. The rate at which humans cut down on greenhouse gas emissions--if we do choose to cut them--will have a large bearing on how the world turns out by 2100, the forecasts reveal.


FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • How to Solve Global Warming: It's the Energy Supply (Scientific American):
    Restraining global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius will require changing how the world produces and uses energy to power its cities and factories, heats and cools buildings, as well as moves people and goods in airplanes, trains, cars, ships and trucks, according to the IPCC. Changes are required not just in technology, but also in people's behavior.
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • ]]>
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    On the Upside in Texas... http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10890 http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10890#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 00:11:48 +0000 Brad Friedman Election Reform Texas Election Fraud Rights And Freedoms Photo ID Laws Republicans U.S. Supreme Court Election 2014 http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10890 ...They can probably save money on signage by just changing the dates on some of the old signs...

    I had tweeted over the weekend...

    To which @TexasTruthSerum replied with the photo above and the comment...

    Yes. They are going backwards in Texas. For now.

    After a year of legal discovery and a full nine-day trial, the U.S. District Court in Texas found the state's Republican Photo ID voting restriction to be both purposefully discriminatory and an "unconstitutional poll tax" likely to prevent some 600,000 legally registered voters from voting this year. The court also documented the state's decades-long history of purposely attempting to keep certain people away from the polling place with similar disenfranchisement schemes.

    Neither the appellate court nor the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with the District Court. But, rather than simply continuing to enforce the state's previous ID law, as ordered by the District Court --- a law in effect since 2003, which already required that every voter present one of many different types of ID at the polling place when voting, and despite just two convictions for polling place voter impersonation out of more than 20 million votes cast in Texas over the past decade --- the U.S. Supreme Court is now allowing the purposefully discriminatory new law to be used during this year's midterm elections anyway.

    Early voting began today (Monday, Oct. 20th) in the Lone Star State. Good luck, Texas. Sorry we failed to protect all of your (previously) legal voters from purposeful discrimination by desperate Republican officials, including state Attorney General Greg Abbott who defended the law in court (and lied about it), even as he campaigned to benefit from it this year while campaigning to be the next Governor of Texas.

    * * *
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    Congresswoman Declares Impeachment Deadline for Wife-Beating Federal Judge; Court Unseals Divorce Docs From Fuller's Previous Marriage http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10889 http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10889#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 21:19:31 +0000 Brad Friedman Alabama Impeachment Accountability U.S. House Mark Fuller Terri Sewell http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10889 It's been a very busy few weeks here of late, just trying to keep up with all of the roller coaster court rulings (here's the latest, and its not good), thanks to GOP voter suppression laws around the country. (Your donations to our efforts in that regard help a great deal --- thank you and please!)

    So, with a very few minutes pause in the voter suppression action on Friday morning, we were finally able to catch you all up with the latest in the Judge Mark Fuller wife-beating case on Friday.

    Naturally, no sooner did we do so, when a few more noteworthy events happened in the case...

    1) Alabama's Democratic U.S. Congresswoman Rep. Terri Sewell says that if Fuller doesn't resign by Nov. 12, she will introduce impeachment proceedings against the Judge (who otherwise enjoys a lifetime appointment to the federal bench) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

    "Judge Fuller's high-profile position does not shield his victim from the emotional and physical violence he inflicts upon her and any legal immunity he is granted is a violation of justice," Sewell wrote in an op-ed for Montgomery Advertisers. "There is no treatment or counseling program that can resurrect what Judge Fuller has compromised as one who sits in the judgment of others."

    "I cannot battle violence against women while turning a blind eye to Judge Fuller. Should he not resign prior to Congress' return to Washington on November 12, I will institute impeachment proceedings," Sewell vowed. "This process will be long, and it will be daunting. Even more daunting, however, is the crisis of domestic violence."

    Alabama, where U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller dispenses his form of "justice", has "ranked among the five states for most women killed by their male partners" in three of the past five years, the Congresswoman noted.

    2) Alabama Media Group (AL.com) was successful in their motion to have Fuller's 2012 divorce documents unsealed after they'd been mysteriously removed from public inspection two years ago, despite the "strenuous" objections of his first wife, Lisa Boyd Fuller. Before being unsealed, the documents that had been obtained and published by independent media outlets in 2012, suggested Fuller was not a "first time offender", as his deal to avoid prosecution entirely after his August arrest on charges of beating second wife Kelli Fuller would suggest. The divorce papers included allegations by his first wife that Judge Fuller also "hit, kicked, struck, or otherwise physically abused" both her and their children; drove under the influence of alcohol with their kids in the car; was addicted to prescription medication and had an "extramarital affair" and "sexual intercourse" with his court bailiff Kelli Gregg who ultimately became the Judge's second wife/victim Kelli Fuller.

    Those allegations were contained in a damning Request for Admissions document filed by Lisa Fuller, requiring the Judge respond as whether he admitted or denied each one.

    Now that the full documents have been unsealed, according to the Montgomery Advertiser this morning, they do not appear to contain Fuller's responses to those charges. Rather, the couple ended up settling their divorce shortly after the order was originally issued to seal the documents. Details of that settlement remain under seal, and, perhaps due to a confidentiality agreement between the parties, neither Lisa nor her attorneys have spoken up since Fuller's arrest on hauntingly similar allegations by his second wife Kelli in August.

    The Dothan Eagle reports that Fuller "quickly asked a court to restrict public access to the documents after his then-wife asked a series of potentially embarrassing questions." They report that "An attorney for U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller filed a motion in 2012 asking a Montgomery County court to seal the record minutes after a lawyer for then-wife Lisa Fuller submitted a document asking about possible marital misconduct, records show."

    "Lisa Fuller's lawyer submitted the questions on April 20, 2012, and Mark Fuller's attorney asked a court to seal the case less than 90 minutes later," the paper says.

    Today, Fuller's Birmingham attorney, Barry Ragsdale, once again downplayed the first wife's allegations of abuse against her and her children in the court documents, describing them as mere "rhetorical questions". He maintained his claim that "The complaint contains no allegations of prior domestic violence." Once again, here is the document in question. Decide for yourself whether they contain allegations of "prior domestic violence" or not.

    The Advertiser also reports, in response to Lisa Fuller's allegation of prescription drug abuse by her then-Husband, that, "Following the sealing of the case, subpoenas to six different pharmacies were sent out, seeking information on Fuller's prescription drug use. The results of those subpoenas were not clear from documents available in the file."

    As we detailed on Friday, Fuller's Birmingham attorney Ragsdale calls questions about what happened during Judge Fuller's first marriage little more than "nonsense" and "gossip". Of course, he also claims that there "was not a beating, kicking or slapping" in the incident for which Fuller was arrested in August at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta after a chilling 911 call by his second wife Kelli.

    Here, once again, is the audio from that 911 call in video format, so it's easy for sharing. You can decide if there is anything to worry about in the incident or if, as Fuller's attorney says about the allegations of similar abuse during his first marriage, this is all just "nonsense", "gossip" and nothing more than "rhetorical questions" from one of the federal Judge's first alleged domestic violence victims...

    More "nonsense" and "gossip" from our previously detailed documentation of the Judge Mark Fuller wife-beating incident, arrest, and "get out of jail free" card for the "first time offender", follows below...

    * * *

    Recently related previous stories at The BRAD BLOG:

    8/11/2014: "Federal Judge in Don Siegelman Case Arrested, Charged with Abusing Wife in Atlanta Hotel"
    8/25/2014: "Federal Judge Who Was Arrested for Beating His Wife (and Who Sentenced Don Siegelman) Is Now Hoping to Avoid Prosecution Altogether"
    9/5/2014: "BREAKING: Federal Judge Who Presided Over Siegelman Case and Who Recently Beat His Own Wife Bloody Strikes Deal to Avoid Prosecution"
    9/10/2014: "NFL's Ray Rice Loses Job for Knocking Out Wife, Federal Judge Mark Fuller Keeps Lifetime Appointment After Beating Wife Bloody"
    9/15/2014: "Republican Senior Federal Judge, Domestic Abuse Experts Call for Accountability for Wife-Beating U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller"
    9/15/2014: "Wife-Beating Federal Judge Mark Fuller Finally Mentioned on MSNBC [VIDEO]"
    9/17/2014:"Chris Hayes Plays Horrifying 911 Call From Federal Judge Mark Fuller's Wife; Sounds of Her Apparently Being Struck Can Be Clearly Heard"
    9/19/2014:"'A Matter of Time': U.S. Senators, Representatives Finally Call for Some Accountability for Wife-Beating Federal Judge Mark Fuller"
    9/23/2014:"Washington Post Finally Calls for Investigation, Impeachment of Wife-Beating Federal Judge"
    &bull: 10/17/2014:"Attorney For Judge Mark Fuller Says Wife Beating Incident No Big Deal; Chilling 911 AUDIO and Former AL Gov. Siegelman Suggest Otherwise"


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    Another Dark Day For Democracy: SCOTUS Allows Racially-Motivated Disenfranchisement Of 600k+ Texas Voters in This Year's Midterm Elections http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10888 http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10888#comments Sat, 18 Oct 2014 21:52:11 +0000 Ernest A. Canning Election Irregularities Election Reform Texas Rights And Freedoms U.S. Constitution Wisconsin Photo ID Laws Republicans U.S. Supreme Court Voting Rights Act Election 2014 Greg Abbott http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10888 - with Brad Friedman

    As the plaintiffs in the otherwise successful challenge to Texas Republicans' polling place Photo ID restriction law pointed out during their emergency petition to the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week --- after an appeals court panel had temporarily stayed a lower court's determination that the law was discriminatory and thus, stricken down --- it was the High Court itself which, when it gutted a central provision of the Voting Rights Act last year, promised there were other provisions still standing in the landmark VRA that could adequately be used to prevent discriminatory voting laws in all 50 states.

    "Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in [Section] 2" of the Voting Rights Act, the John Roberts Supreme Court majority declared at the time. Apparently they were just kidding.

    As the plaintiffs in the case persuasively argued in a filing at the court on Friday, "If voters cannot be protected after findings --- including a finding of intentional racial discrimination --- and a permanent injunction in a case where there was a year of discovery, nine days of trial, and an exhaustive, comprehensive District Court opinion, then when will they be?"

    The answer to that question came back from the Court in the form of a pre-dawn order [PDF] issued Saturday morning upholding the appellate court's ruling that, even though the law, SB 14, is discriminatory, as found by the lower court after a full trial on the merits, the Photo ID restrictions that are likely to disenfranchise some 600,000 legally registered and disproportionately minority voters in the Lone Star State will be back in effect for this November's mid-term elections.

    The trial earlier this year, challenging the law under both the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act --- the section that SCOTUS had previously announced was more than adequate to protect voters --- determined that the Texas law "creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose." U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos also found in her 147-page ruling, that "SB 14 constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax."

    Texas had already required ID for every single polling place voter in the state from 2003 to 2013, and even though state Republicans' even more extreme version of Photo ID restrictions on voting instituted by SB 14 had already been found racially discriminatory by the U.S. Dept. of Justice and again by a U.S. District Court in D.C. based on data supplied by the state of Texas itself, and now, once again, found both discriminatory and unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court in Texas after a full trial, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an appellate court stay issued this week on the basis that the lower court's ruling came just too close to the election to change the rules at this point.

    The 5th Circuit Court of Appeal had reasoned that it was better for all 600,000+ voters to face potential disenfranchisement under the racially-motivated law, rather than just a few who might face a poll worker that didn't receive adequate notice that the more restrictive ID law --- the one allowing concealed weapons permits, but not state-issued Student IDs, the one that doesn't even allow U.S. Government Veterans IDs as proof of identity for voting --- had been approved for use. It appears that a majority of Supreme Court Justices agreed.

    Like the appellate court, the SCOTUS majority did not dispute any of the District Court's findings nor explain why those findings did not outweigh the "potential" disruption of the Lone Star State's electoral apparatus on the eve of an election. Its cursory order, however, leaves no room for doubt that the Court has expanded what is known as "the Purcell principle" so that, no matter how egregious the law in question, no matter the evidence establishing deliberate racial discrimination and widespread disenfranchisement, the Court will apply a per se rule that an injunction barring the illegal disenfranchisement of voters will be stayed if it is issued in close proximity to the start of an election.

    While the SCOTUS majority failed to offer a written opinion to explain their decision to allow massive disenfranchisement in Texas this year, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing on behalf of herself and Justices Sotomayor and Kagan, provided a tightly written dissent offering documented facts and uncontested evidence to support her opinion that the Supreme Court should have vacated the 5th Circuit's last minute stay of the lower court ruling...

    Ginsburg's dissent

    Justice Ginsburg blasted the majority in a number of ways, among them, by noting that they had strayed from long-established, basic rules requiring that appellate courts afford deference to factual findings of a U.S. District Court, in this case, "virtually unchallenged" findings that the state was intentionally acting in order to obtain an advantage for Republicans in elections by racially discriminating against certain voters:

    On an extensive factual record developed in the course of a nine-day trial, the District Court found Senate Bill 14 irreconcilable with [Section 2] of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it was enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose and would yield a prohibited discriminatory result. The District Court emphasized the "virtually unchallenged" evidence that Senate Bill 14 "bear[s] more heavily on" minority voters. [Citation]. In light of the "seismic demographic shift" in Texas between 2000 and 2010, making Texas a "majority-minority state," the District Court observed that the Texas Legislature and Governor had an evident incentive to "gain partisan advantage by suppressing" the "votes of African-Americans and Latinos."

    Ginsburg pointed to uncontroverted evidence on record from trial demonstrating that these minority, soon to be majority, voters would be disproportionately disenfranchised by SB 14. "On this plain evidence, the District Court concluded that the Bill would not have been enacted absent its racially disparate effects."

    She also cited the District Court's finding, uncontested by the Appellate Court, that the radical TX law "operates as an unconstitutional poll tax" in violation of the 24th Amendment, and includes costs to voters "deliberately imposed by the State."

    "The potential magnitude of racially discriminatory voter disenfranchisement counseled hesitation before disturbing the District Court's findings and final judgment," she writes. "Senate 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."

    As the U.S. District Court was not the first to reach similar conclusions about the TX Republicans' law --- either this one, or many of its precursors --- Ginsburg adds [emphasis added]...

    Unsurprisingly, Senate Bill 14 did not survive federal preclearance under [Section 5] of the Voting Rights Act. A three-judge District Court unanimously determined that the law would have a prohibited discriminatory effect on minority voters...Although this Court vacated the preclearance denial in light of Shelby County v. Holder...(2013), 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.

    Yes, the Lone Star State has been discriminating and/or attempting to discriminate against certain voters for years, as found time and again both before and after SCOTUS gutted the preclearance provision of Section 5 that had required federal approval of new voting laws in jurisdictions, like Texas, with a long history of racial discrimination.

    This was another area where both the appeals court and the SCOTUS majority decisions simply disregarded the District Court's factual findings.

    "The District Court noted particularly plaintiffs' evidence --- largely unchallenged by Texas --- regarding the State's long history of official discrimination in voting, the statewide existence of racially polarized voting, the incidence of overtly racial political campaigns, the disproportionate lack of minority elected officials, and the failure of elected officials to respond to the concerns of minority voters" Ginsburg wrote.

    "Despite awareness of the Bill's adverse effect on eligible-to-vote minorities, the Texas Legislature rejected a 'litany of ameliorative amendments' designed to lessen the Bill's impact on minority voters --- for example, amendments permitting additional forms of identification, eliminating fees, providing indigence exceptions, and increasing voter education and funding --- without undermining the Bill's purported policy justifications."

    During the decade in which the state's previous ID requirement for every voter was in place from 2003 to 2013, she notes, "there were only two in-person voter fraud cases prosecuted to conviction in Texas." Nonetheless, the state deliberately declined to change the new law to make it more inclusive. Proponents of the bill were "unable to 'articulate any reason that a more expansive list of photo IDs would sabotage' their efforts at detecting and determining voter fraud."

    "On this plain evidence," Ginsburg writes [emphasis added], "the District Court concluded that the Bill would not have been enacted absent its racially disparate effects."

    The Justice went on to highlight just some of the challenges to be faced by legal voters who have the misfortune of not already owning the newly-required, very narrow type of Photo ID now mandated for voting at the polls in Texas.

    "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."

    "Under Senate Bill 14," she adds, "a cost attends every form of qualified identification available to the general public." That, despite the 1966 Supreme Court ruling that a $1.50 poll tax violated the Constitution.

    Ginsburg also went on to cite the fact that, even if a voter could afford the charges for these IDs now required to vote, "more than 400,000 eligible voters face round-trip travel times of three hours or more to the nearest DPS [Department of Public Safety] office" in Texas in order to try and obtain one of the IDs offered by the state. That three-hour round trip presumes the otherwise-eligible voter, who doesn't have a drivers license, is able to arrange someone to drive them the several hours in order to obtain the ID now needed to exercise their "right" to vote.

    Body blow followed by a right hook

    The body blow to democracy's gut that made this year's SCOTUS ruling possible, came last year by way of the 5 - 4 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County, AL v. Eric Holder.

    In that decision, the Court's right wing majority cited the reduction of discriminatory practices since the Voting Rights Act was first enacted in 1965, as evidence that Section 5 preclearance protections were largely no longer necessary. The days of Jim Crow were over the court majority declared at the time.

    That notion drew a sharp dissent from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who, in 2013, presciently wrote: "Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet."

    The SCOTUS gutting of Section 5 in 2013 would prove akin to the unleashing of a pack of rabid dogs.

    Once untethered by the need to receive federal preclearance by demonstrating that new voting laws were not discriminatory, jurisdictions previously covered by Section 5 began enacting the very laws that Section 5 was designed to prevent. In the case of Texas, that meant reinstating the very same law, SB 14, that Section 5 had, indeed, previously prevented from being enforced.

    Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, with his sights set on his gubernatorial candidacy, immediately announce after the SCOTUS decision in Shelby last year, that he would once again implement SB 14 --- this despite more than 600,000 legally registered Texans who would likely be stripped of their right to vote, a right which the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized as providing "the essence of a free society."

    With the Section 5 tether removed, in three smaller elections over the past year, none of which entailed a voter turnout of more than 10%, TX was permitted to enforce the very law found to be deliberately racist and disenfranchising.

    "To date, the new regime, Senate Bill 14, has been applied in only three low-participation elections...in which voter turnout ranged from 1.48% to 9.98%," Ginsburg noted in her 6-page dissent Saturday morning. "The November 2014 election would be the first federal general election conducted under Senate Bill 14's regime. In all likelihood, then, Texas' poll workers are at least as familiar with Texas' pre-Senate Bill 14 procedures as they are with the new law's requirements."

    Her logic fell on deaf ears at the Court.

    During the course of the litigation against SB 14 earlier this year, Texas Republicans did all that they could to impede judgment day, not only unsuccessfully resisting the plaintiffs' efforts to have the case decided on an expedited basis, but by attempting to conceal documents that would help to establish that SB 14 was racially motivated. Those documents were produced only after U.S. District Court Judge Gonzales Ramos, last April, issued an 8-page order compelling production of the records.

    While TX Republicans failed to completely run-out the clock, they did succeed in delaying the 9-day trial until September, and, given the time needed for the Judge to complete her detailed, 147-page decision, the permanent injunction from that court was not forthcoming until October 9 --- only eleven (11) days before the Oct. 20 start date for early voting in the upcoming Texas election.

    The Supremes' ruling, issued despite express District Court findings that implementation of SB 14 will cause far more electoral chaos than the injunction, is ultimately a powerful blow to democracy's jaw --- a knock-down blow, if not a knock-out punch. The latter will only come if the Court, in the next term, after this election has passed, disregards the detailed District Court findings in considering the merits of the Texas law, as well as similar findings by a District Court in the Wisconsin photo ID case. That ruling was allowed to stand by SCOTUS last week. Both cases, and others like them, all due to Republican attempts at suppressing the vote, are likely to be heard in full at the Supreme Court next year.

    Even if the Court, at such time, should go so far as to heed the devastating opinion of Reagan-appointed, Republican, U.S. 7th Circuit Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner's elegant plea that it strike down, as unconstitutional, each and every "strict photo ID" law (as enacted only by states with Republican majorities in both houses of their legislature), the stain on democracy will remain following the 2014 election in Texas.

    Whatever the results of the midterm elections there this year, they will forever be tarnished by the wide-spread, racially motivated disenfranchisement of nearly 4.5% of the Lone Star State's eligible voters.

    More disturbingly, a precedent will have been established that no matter how egregiously and purposefully racist a voter suppression scheme may be, those who seek to reinstate Jim Crow at the polls will always get at least one chance to insure a tainted election, simply by running out the clock on well-taken legal challenges.

    * * *
    Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing.

    * * *
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    Nightmare Scenario: 'Dead Heat' and 'Dirty Tricks' http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10885 http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10885#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 20:50:45 +0000 Brad Friedman Election Fraud Dirty Tricks Photo ID Laws Voter Registration Voting Rights Act Election 2014 http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10885 We really should have taken some time off this past summer, cause it looks like we may not get a good break anytime soon. It may be a much busier November, December and even January than we'd like.

    Rachel Maddow highlights what we regard as our personal nightmare scenario: "Almost every legitimately contested, legitimately interesting race in the country --- is tied, right now, with less than three weeks to go"...

    Ugh.

    "With this many top of the ticket races tied, turnout will be everything," Maddow explains. "So now's the part where we watch for the ways that people will try to stop voters from turning out or from having their votes counted, by hook or by crook. ... Right now, big picture, three weeks out: this is a tie game. Close enough to be fascinating, but also close enough to be stolen"...

    Of course, with all due respect to Maddow, while "now" is certainly important, it is not the only time where we ought to "watch for the ways that people will try to stop voters from turning out or from having their votes counted." We ought to be doing that in the rest of the year and the year prior --- outside of the dead heat of the election moment --- when it's a lot easier to do something about those who work to stop voters from turning out and to have votes counted (in a way that all voters can know they've been counted accurately). That, as you good readers know, is what we do, or at least try to, all year around, here at The BRAD BLOG.

    Either way, it should also be noted that, in the video segment above, Maddow is only looking at the "dead heats" in the U.S. Senate and Governors races. There also about a gazillion other elections --- U.S. House, state and local --- all happening this year as well, and all of which matter as well. Not to mention the fact that voting rights for every single voter --- whether or not any particular race is a dead heat or not --- matters very much as well.

    In any event, once again...ugh.

    * * *
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    Attorney For Judge Mark Fuller Says Wife Beating Incident No Big Deal; Chilling 911 AUDIO and Former AL Gov. Siegelman Suggest Otherwise http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10874 http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10874#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:02:46 +0000 Brad Friedman Karl Rove Alabama U.S. Constitution Accountability U.S. House Don Siegelman Mark Fuller http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10874 [This article now cross-published by Salon...]

    Recently, the attorney for U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller (Middle District of Alabama) described the incident where the federal judge was arrested and charged for beating his second wife bloody in an Atlanta hotel room in early August as overblown.

    This week, his attorney went further in describing allegations that Fuller similarly beat his first wife as little more than "nonsense" and "gossip".

    Also this week, Fuller's most famous "victim", former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D), has finally spoken out about the entire sordid business.

    Fuller's Alabama attorney Barry Ragsdale says that it was only after the release of a video showing an NFL superstar knocking out his then-fiancée in a hotel elevator in Atlantic City that people began to care in the least about a federal judge who, according to the police, repeatedly struck and kicked his second wife Kelli and dragged her around the hotel room by her hair.

    "It got caught up in the Ray Rice and NFL scandals, and it's gotten lumped into a category of domestic violence that I don't think it belongs in," Ragsdale said in his attempt to marginalize the incident on behalf of his client, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. "There was not a beating, kicking or slapping in this instance," he says.

    Really? Is that the case? Well, aside from the wife, the police and the evidence at the scene suggesting otherwise, let's review the audio from Kelli Fuller's 911 call again to help determine if Ragsdale's claim is credible.

    Since the audio, as we originally posted it here last month, was buried inside of a longer video segment from Chris Hayes' MSNBC show, we've taken the liberty to pull out just the audio from the call itself, as played on MSNBC, to put it into its own standalone video for easy reference. Here ya go...

    Really, Mr. Ragsdale? No "beating, kicking or slapping in this instance"? The 911 audio evidence strongly suggests otherwise, as did the lacerations and bruises reportedly found on Kelli Fuller's face and legs, the hair found on the floor in the room, and the blood discovered in the bathroom when police responded at the Ritz-Carlton.

    We wonder if Fuller, a 2002 George W. Bush lifetime appointee to the federal bench (unless he resigns or is impeached by Congress) with a record for failing to recuse himself when presiding over trials of political opponents, would be impressed with the audio evidence from the 911 call and the testimony of police if it was presented in his court room.

    In any event, Ragsdale went on to describe the reaction from the public and the calls for the federal Judge's resignation and/or impeachment from the entire Alabama Congressional delegation (including both of the state's U.S. Senators and all five Congressmen and women), the state's Governor, senior federal judges, and all sorts of newspapers from Alabama (here, here and here) to Washington D.C. as merely "overblown"...

    'Nonsense' and 'Gossip'

    "All those fine people are entitled to their opinion, but that holds no more sway over him than anything else," Ragsdale is quoted as telling the Advertiser. "He knows what occurred and the conduct he engaged in and what he hasn't, and he recognizes those politicians have a need to respond to public pressure and public passions that a federal judge doesn't have to respond to."

    That's right. A federal judge doesn't need to do anything to keep his lifetime appointment to the federal bench --- other than, according to Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution, "hold their offices during good behaviour".

    Listen to that 911 call again up above and let us know if you believe Fuller has engaged in "good behaviour" with his second wife Kelli. Send it to your friends, family and neighbors and ask them what they think. Post it far and wide. Send it to your Senator and member of Congress --- please --- and ask them if they believe Judge Fuller engaged in "good behaviour" with his wife in that hotel room.

    If there are any remaining questions, check the available divorce documents from his previous wife Lisa, who, in 2012, alleged Judge Fuller "hit, kicked, struck, or otherwise physically abused" both her and their children; drove under the influence of alcohol with their kids in the car; was addicted to prescription medication and had an "extramarital affair" and "sexual intercourse" with his court bailiff Kelli Gregg. Ms. Gregg is now his most recent victim Kelli Fuller.

    Fuller's response to the allegations were sealed by the court, for some reason, over Lisa Boyd Fuller's "strenuous" objection, despite the fact that such papers are usually public records and are not sealed if either of the two parties object. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has reportedly convened a panel to investigate Fuller's behavior, should look into those allegations (and, also, why they were sealed despite Lisa Boyd Fuller's disagreement.)

    AL.com, a consortium of corporate newspapers in Alabama, is now calling for all of those records to be unsealed, just as the independent media did years ago to little success. Though the independent media did manage to obtain some of the documents containing Lisa Boyd Fuller's allegations before they were mysteriously disappeared by the court.

    Fuller's attorney Ragsdale describes the allegations concerning the 2012 divorce as "nonsense", telling AL.com this week, "It is what we call gossip".

    You can decide for yourself if it's little more than "gossip". Here's the damning Request for Admissions by Lisa Fuller during their divorce proceedings, in which she alleges various forms of abuse against her and her children, as well as infidelity and drug and alcohol abuse by Judge Fuller. And here is her "strenuous" Objection to Complete Sealing of File. The documents, what we have of them, were obtained and published in 2012, when the corporate media weren't particularly interested in informing the public about Fuller's behavior, by independent Alabama journalist Roger Schuler of Legal Schnauzer. Thank you, Mr. Schuler.

    The 11th Circuit's panel investigating Fuller's most recent wife beating incident is said to be made up of five out-of-state judges (three men, two women). They may ultimately recommend disciplinary action to the 11th Circuit Court's Judicial Council, which may then either reprimand the judge or ask him to voluntarily resign. Their report will then be reviewed by the U.S. Judicial Conference, which may, if they wish, recommend the U.S. Congress begin impeachment proceedings to remove Fuller from the bench. Impeachment in the U.S. House and conviction in the U.S. Senate is the only way that Fuller can be forcibly removed from his $200,000/year job sitting in judgement of the alleged crimes of others. Successful impeachment of sitting federal judges is very rare in our nation's history. Most resign before it comes to that. Fuller's Birmingham attorney, however, says his client has no intention of resigning.

    'Public pressure and public passions'

    In Alabama, meanwhile, residents are starting to turn out to protest Fuller being allowed to continue to serve out his lifetime appointment. For now, his cases have been re-assigned to others.

    Last month, supporters of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D) filed an official complaint [PDF] about Fuller with the 11th Circuit's Judicial Council. Fuller oversaw Siegelman's trial and sentencing for what 113 bi-partisan former state Attorneys General describe as something that had never been a crime before Siegelman was charged with it. Fuller failed to recuse himself from the case, despite long-held partisan and professional grudges he appears to have held against the popular Democratic Governor.

    Those same supporters have also sent a letter to each member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, where impeachment proceedings would begin, if they ever do, outlining reasons for them to begin impeachment proceedings [PDF] against Fuller.

    There are a number of public petitions calling for accountability for Fuller. The most popular seems to be this one from CREDO Action. While an official from the group told The BRAD BLOG some weeks ago that they had originally hoped to collect 1,000 signatures, they are now up to 113,520 signatures and have raised their goal to 150,000.

    It would be a shame if the upcoming elections distracted folks from the need for accountability for this guy. He will otherwise go on to continue his lifetime appointment to the federal bench after having been allowed to take part in a pre-trial diversion program as part of a plea deal. The deal allows him, as a "first time offender" (his former wife may beg to differ), to avoid prosecution all together, once the minimal conditions --- 24 weeks of once-a-week domestic abuse counseling and an evaluation for drug and alcohol abuse --- are met and approved by the Atlanta judge.

    Despite very good evidence to suggest that Kelli Fuller is the second wife the judge has gotten away with physically abusing (as well as evidence to suggest his children were victims as well), unless there is real accountability, Judge Fuller's arrest record will be completely expunged...as if nothing ever happened.

    The next time he beats his wife then, Judge Fuller will, once again, be considered a "first time offender".

    Siegelman finally speaks out

    Without accountability, there will be consequences. Gov. Siegelman attested to that from first hand experience this week.

    Until beating up his second wife, Judge Mark Fuller was perhaps best known for presiding over the political prosecution and sentencing of the former AL Governor, who he saw as a political opponent. [See 60 Minutes' coverage of the Siegelman prosecution here.]

    When we first reported the story of Fuller's arrest in August, we included a comment we'd obtained from Siegelman's daughter Dana. She described the news of Fuller's arrest as "shocking" and "disturbing", but said the matter "seems to fall in line with the Buddhist philosophy of karma."

    She demonstrated great charity for Fuller's family, and even for the judge himself. "Regardless of the pain that he has caused my family, I still wish him, his family, and especially the woman he hurt the best," she told us via email, even as her father continues to serve out the 6 1/2 year prison sentence handed to him by Fuller, who surprised many when he ordered the former Governor shackled and hauled off to jail immediately after sentencing.

    The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Dana's father is finally speaking out on Fuller's domestic abuse charges as well, from the confines of his prison cell, in an email this week to his supporters who continue to seek his release via a new trial, the dismissal of charges --- based, in no small part, on Fuller's undisclosed conflicts of interests and failure to recuse --- or a Presidential pardon.

    Here is what Siegelman told supporters about the Fuller incident this week:

    I regret to hear, as I know you do, that my trial judge has gotten himself in some trouble. He was arrested when his wife, Kelli, told the police responding to her 911 call that she was beaten, kicked and dragged around by her hair in their Ritzy Atlanta hotel room. (His first wife, Lisa, made such allegations in her complaint for divorce.)

    The accusations of substance abuse, domestic abuse and promiscuous behavior in his courtroom do not give me pleasure. This is something no one should take pleasure from. Especially the reports of Domestic Violence. DV hurts and it kills.

    My concern with the issue of Domestic Violence is not new. Because Domestic Violence is so destructive, I did a lot as Attorney General, Lt. Governor and Governor, to prevent domestic violence and to punish those who commit such acts. I would like to tell you a frustrating and painful story about a domestic violence victim, Rhonda Hutto, that illustrates how dangerous DV can be.

    Rhonda did everything right. She was still scared.

    I first met Rhonda when I was having a hearing on Victims' Rights in Huntsville Alabama. Ms. Hutto came to my hearing and bravely stood and told her story. She was scared and there were tears. She had done everything right: seeking protective orders, divorcing her abusive husband, moving out of state, changing her name. To everyone's horror, about a month after Rhonda gave her testimony, Rhonda's ex-husband found and killed her.

    When I appointed a Commission on Victims' Rights, I devoted it to the frustrating and painful memory of Rhonda Hutto.

    We should all pray for peace with justice, pray for victims and bullies, and demand appropriate punishment for those who commit these cowardly acts. Despite my focus and all my efforts on Domestic Violence in my political career, clearly, there is still a lot more work to do.

    There is a crime in the Don Siegelman case: that he is in prison and Fuller is not.

    * * *

    Recently related previous stories at The BRAD BLOG:

    8/11/2014: "Federal Judge in Don Siegelman Case Arrested, Charged with Abusing Wife in Atlanta Hotel"
    8/25/2014: "Federal Judge Who Was Arrested for Beating His Wife (and Who Sentenced Don Siegelman) Is Now Hoping to Avoid Prosecution Altogether"
    9/5/2014: "BREAKING: Federal Judge Who Presided Over Siegelman Case and Who Recently Beat His Own Wife Bloody Strikes Deal to Avoid Prosecution"
    9/10/2014: "NFL's Ray Rice Loses Job for Knocking Out Wife, Federal Judge Mark Fuller Keeps Lifetime Appointment After Beating Wife Bloody"
    9/15/2014: "Republican Senior Federal Judge, Domestic Abuse Experts Call for Accountability for Wife-Beating U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller"
    9/15/2014: "Wife-Beating Federal Judge Mark Fuller Finally Mentioned on MSNBC [VIDEO]"
    9/17/2014:"Chris Hayes Plays Horrifying 911 Call From Federal Judge Mark Fuller's Wife; Sounds of Her Apparently Being Struck Can Be Clearly Heard"
    9/19/2014:"'A Matter of Time': U.S. Senators, Representatives Finally Call for Some Accountability for Wife-Beating Federal Judge Mark Fuller"
    9/23/2014:"Washington Post Finally Calls for Investigation, Impeachment of Wife-Beating Federal Judge"


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    'Green News Report' - October 16, 2014 http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10883 http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10883#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 22:36:15 +0000 Desi Doyen Wisconsin Environment Barack Obama Democrats Republicans State Department Green News Fracking Natural gas Coal Nuclear power 'Tea Party' Oil Wind Solar Climate change Paul Ryan Election 2014 GMOs http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10883

     

    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Rep. Paul Ryan backs away - sort of - from outright climate science denial; Have we reached peak climate change denial?; Turns out natural gas isn't a bridge fuel to a low-emissions future; PLUS: Did a U.S. defense contractor really invent a compact nuclear fusion reactor? Separating fact from fiction... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

    Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

    Link:
    Embed:

    Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

    IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Appalachian transition: coalfield residents must help themselves to diversify; Green groups sue over EPA GMO pesticide approval; Hanford nuclear workers reveal shoddy practices; Fact and fiction on the Arctic methane bomb; Risks of cheap water; Los Angeles mayor orders water cuts of 20% amid historic drought; Can Africa bypass the pollution phase of development?; Russian natgas shutdown would not hurt Europe; Autism again linked to air pollution ... PLUS: In Wisconsin, Dark Money Got A Mining Company What It Wanted... and much, MUCH more! ...

    STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

    • Did Lockheed Martin Really Just Achieve Nuclear Fusion?:
      • So Lockheed Martin Says It’s Made a Big Advance in Nuclear Fusion… (Wired):
        Yesterday, Lockheed Martin joined a long line of companies claiming to be hot on the trail of nuclear fusion, the long-promised savior of our energy economy. ...The problem with that reactor? It doesn’t exist yet. “Some key parts of the prototype are theoretical and not yet proven,” says Nathan Gilliland, CEO of Canadian fusion company General Fusion.
      • Has Lockheed Martin really made a breakthrough in nuclear fusion technology? (Guardian UK) [emphasis added]:
        Lockheed’s announcement has generated a lot of publicity, but experts point to the lack of details or results, suggesting fusion power is still a long way off....The arms manufacturer announced on Wednesday that it was “working on a new compact fusion reactor (CFR) that can be developed and deployed in as little as 10 years”. But Lockheed’s four paragraph press release and accompanying video are heavy on hyperbole and light on detail.
      • VIDEO Press Release: Compact Fusion Research & Development (Lockheed Martin)

    • Natural Gas Is Not A 'Bridge' Fuel To Low-Emissions Future:
      • Study: Natural gas surge won't slow global warming (AP) [emphasis added]:
        Abundant natural gas in the United States has been displacing coal, which produces more of the chief global warming gas carbon dioxide.

        But the new international study says an expansion of natural gas use by 2050 would also keep other energy-producing technologies like wind, solar and nuclear, from being used more. And those technologies are even better than natural gas for avoiding global warming.

      • This New Study Explains Why Fracking Won't Solve Climate Change (Mother Jones):
        Even if we solve the methane problem, shale gas alone won't save us.

    • Rep. Paul Ryan Backs Away - Sort Of - From Outright Climate Denial:
    • US Climate Envoy Todd Stern: We May Be Reaching Tipping Point On Denial:
      • Seizing the Opportunity for Progress on Climate: Remarks by US Climate Envoy Todd Stern) [emphasis added]:
        On the critical issues of political will and public support, we are moving toward an eventual tipping point.... I doubt, even a year from now, whether major political candidates will consider it viable to deny the existence of climate change. Something is happening, and the pace of that something is going to quicken, especially driven by young people like you, who have the most to lose by dawdling evasion.
      • U.S. considers climate change plan that would mandate emission cuts (LA Times) [emphasis added]:
        The United States is considering a proposal to combat climate change that would require countries to offer plans for curtailing greenhouse gas emissions on a certain schedule but would leave it to individual nations to determine how deep their cuts would be, said Todd Stern, the nation’s chief climate negotiator.
      • VIDEO: Todd Stern, UN Climate Envoy Speech at Yale University:


    'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

    • In Wisconsin, Dark Money Got A Mining Company What It Wanted (Pro Publica):
      When billionaire Chris Cline's company bought an option to mine a swath of northern Wisconsin in 2010, the company touted the project's potential to bring up to 700 well-paid jobs to a hard-pressed part of the state.
    • Appalachian transition: Why coalfield residents need to help themselves diversify their economy (Charleston Gazette):
      Including some sort of coalfield economic diversification program in the Obama clean energy program — and in the agenda of national progressive organizations that back Obama and the EPA — would help coalfield Democrats politically.
    • VIDEO: Calling the Methane Bomb Squad (Climate Crocks):
      It’s ironic that in the course of spending most of my time trying to raise awareness about how serious the climate issue is, recently I’ve had to be on the side of seeking to tamp down unnecessary alarm and fatalism that I’m seeing, particularly online. I’ve been planning to do a piece on the whole “undersea methane bomb” idea, and have been interviewing key scientists in this area for quite a while. I was not planning to release a finished piece for some time- as this is an area where I feel the need to step very carefully.
    • The Risks of Cheap Water (NY times):
      This summer, California’s water authority declared that wasting water — hosing a sidewalk, for example — was a crime. Next door, in Nevada, Las Vegas has paid out $200 million over the last decade for homes and businesses to pull out their lawns.
    • There are 620 million people in Africa without electricity. Here's where they live. (Vox):
      he International Energy Agency is out with an in-depth analysis of Africa's energy sector. One key theme? There are 620 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who don't have any electricity at all — and fixing that could require burning a lot more fossil fuels.
    • Amid drought, mayor directs L.A. to cut water use 20% by 2017 (LA Times):
      Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an executive directive on Tuesday requiring Los Angeles to reduce its fresh water use 20% by 2017 as a response to the prolonged drought. Garcetti also asked L.A. departments to dramatically cut the amount of water used by replacing lawns and other city landscaping, including street medians, with less thirsty plants.
    • EPA approval of Dow herbicide breaks law, critics say (Reuters):
      U.S. regulatory approval on Wednesday for a Dow AgroSciences herbicide to be used with new genetically modified crops outraged critics, who say the approval violates environmental law and will create a host of problems for people and animals.
    • Russian gas shutdown would not cause blackouts, says European commission (Guardian UK):
      Research adds to evidence linking autism to air pollutants (Science Daily):
      "We've now had three solid studies saying the same thing. The evidence is pretty compelling that something is going on with air pollution and autism," says Kalkbrenner, who adds that further study is needed to determine the neurodevelopmental impacts of specific chemical pollutants during precise developmental windows.
    • Former Workers, Whistleblowers Shed Light on Hanford Nuclear Site Safety Setbacks (Al Jazeera):
      Former employees at Hanford, the country's most contaminated nuclear waste site, discuss its disturbing safety culture.
    • Hagel: Climate change will challenge US military (AP) [emphasis added]:
      "Climate change is a 'threat multiplier' because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we already confront today — from infectious disease to armed insurgencies — and to produce new challenges in the future," Hagel said. He spoke during the opening session of the conference, which was attended by defense ministers and military chiefs of more than 30 countries from the Americas, Spain and Portugal.
    • Lost Louisiana: the race to reclaim vanished land back from the sea (Guardian UK)
    • Printable Solar Panels May Be Coming to a Device Near You (Mashable):
      Australian scientists claim they are extremely close to having printable solar panels available for market.
    • 4 Scenarios Show What Climate Change Will Do To The Earth, From Pretty Bad To Disaster (Fast CoExist):
      But exactly how bad is still an open question, and a lot depends not only on how we react, but how quickly. The rate at which humans cut down on greenhouse gas emissions--if we do choose to cut them--will have a large bearing on how the world turns out by 2100, the forecasts reveal.


    FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • How to Solve Global Warming: It's the Energy Supply (Scientific American):
    Restraining global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius will require changing how the world produces and uses energy to power its cities and factories, heats and cools buildings, as well as moves people and goods in airplanes, trains, cars, ships and trucks, according to the IPCC. Changes are required not just in technology, but also in people's behavior.
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • ]]>
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    Emergency Petitions to SCOTUS Seek To Prevent Intentional Disenfranchisement Of 600,000 Disproportionately Minority Texas Voters http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10879 http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10879#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 20:09:32 +0000 Ernest A. Canning Election Reform Texas Rights And Freedoms U.S. Constitution Photo ID Laws Accountability U.S. House Dept. of Defense Democrats Republicans U.S. Supreme Court Rick Perry Election 2014 Marc Veasey Greg Abbott http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10879 Attorneys for U.S. Congressman Mark Veasey (D-TX) and other plaintiffs have filed an Emergency Application[PDF] with the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking to restore a lower court ruling that struck down the law last week as intentionally discriminatory and an unconstitutional poll tax. That initial U.S. District Court ruling was subsequently stayed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this week.

    Veasey's application was followed by the filing of another Emergency Application [PDF] by the United States Department of Justice (DoJ). Both were filed with Justice Antonin Scalia who oversees the 5th Circuit. Scalia has instructed the DoJ to respond by 5p ET on Thursday.

    Both applications to SCOTUS were filed in the case of Veasey v. Perry in which a U.S. District Court, after a full trial on the merits, imposed a permanent injunction, preventing the State of Texas from implementing the nation's strictest photo ID law, Senate Bill 14 (SB 14).

    The District Court determined that, if implemented, SB 14 could disenfranchise more than 600,000 registered Texas voters who are disproportionately black and Hispanic. The District Court not only ruled that SB 14 violated the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax, but expressly found that it was passed as the result of deliberate and willful racial discrimination.

    The emergency petitions ask that the Supreme Court lift the U.S. 5th Circuit's 11th hour stay of the injunction so as to prevent electoral chaos and confusion in the rapidly approaching November election. In the first petition, the Veasey plaintiffs argue that what the 5th Circuit did in this case --- stay a permanent injunction that was issued on the basis of a District Court finding of intentional discrimination after a full trial on the merits --- was "virtually unheard of" in the annals of American jurisprudence.

    Plaintiffs contend that the 5th Circuit misapplied a leading Supreme Court case, Purcell v. Gonzalez [PDF] (2006) pertaining to the issuance of injunctions on the eve of a pending election. That case does not, as the 5th Circuit ruled, mandate a per se rule that always precludes changing a law immediately prior to an election. The DoJ contends that no such per se "rule exists, and the court of appeals clearly and demonstrably erred in failing to apply the established stay factors."

    Instead, plaintiffs forcefully argue, "The Purcell principle", mandates that an appellate court give deference to the factual findings of the District Court. The 5th Circuit, they add, erred by ignoring the requirement of Purcell that Texas prove it would likely succeed on an appeal. The 5th Circuit also erred, they say, because it failed to balance the state's allegations about possible confusion that might ensue from implementing pre-SB 14 law against the "actual" confusion, chaos and mass disenfranchisement that the District Court, based upon uncontested evidence, concluded would occur if SB 14 is enforced in the November 4th election (early voting begins in TX on October 20th).

    "Imagine that a state passed a law, six months before an election, stating that 'Negroes cannot vote,'" the plaintiffs write. "It would be ludicrous for an appellate court to turn around and stay that injunction because of some per se rule that election laws can never change immediately prior to elections"...

    A very different case

    The case against the Texas GOP's Photo ID voting law, plaintiffs argue, is completely different from the one on which "The Purcell principle" --- which has served as a precedent, of late, for emergency rulings made on voting laws so far this year by the Court --- is based.

    Purcell involved a 2006 legal challenge to an Arizona ballot initiative that required voters to present proof of citizenship to register to vote and to provide ID at the polls. That measure had received preclearance approval from the DoJ under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The District Court refused to enter a preliminary injunction, belatedly issuing a finding that the plaintiffs had failed to establish "a strong likelihood of success," which was a prerequisite for a preliminary injunction.

    With the election approaching, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal at the time, without express findings based on a full trial (as in the Texas case), issued a preliminary injunction during the pendency of the appeal. The Supreme Court noted the need to weigh the potential confusion that can arise, especially from conflicting orders, issued on the eve of an election, that can provide a "consequent incentive [for voters] to remain away from the polls." The "reversal in Purcell," the DoJ argues, occurred because of the 9th Circuit's "failure...to defer to the district court's ruling (or to show that the ruling and findings of the District Court [were] incorrect.)"

    That, both Veasey and the DoJ contend, is precisely the mistake made by the 5th Circuit in the Texas case, where it not only failed to provide deference to the factual and legal determinations made by the District Court, but also failed to so much as take those findings into account, let alone demonstrate that the District Court may have erred. In fact, the appellate court did not even bother to challenge the District Court's finding that the law was discriminatory. "The individual voter plaintiffs may be harmed by the issuance of this stay," the 5th Circuit majority flatly stated.

    In the Texas Veasey case, by contrast with Purcell, the District Court issued a permanent injunction explained in the judge's 147-page opinion [PDF]. Its findings that "more than 600,000 lawfully registered Texas voters lacked one of the necessary photo IDs" and that this entailed a disproportionate number of racial minorities, who face disenfranchisement if SB 14 is implemented --- findings for which the State failed to offer "contradictory evidence," according to the emergency petition --- were not contested by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal.

    Unlike Purcell or any of the other recent cases in which the Supreme Court granted stays based on the precedent set forth in that case, the Texas case involves express findings by the District Court that SB 14 was the product of deliberate racial discrimination.

    "The state," the Veasey petition argues, "has no interest in --- and the public certainly has no interest --- in enforcing intentionally discriminatory laws." The DoJ adds to the weight of that argument by pointing to the District Court's findings as to how, in the face of demographic changes that threaten to reduce white Anglo Texans to minority status, each successive Photo ID bill enacted by the state became increasingly restrictive of minority voting rights --- with SB 14 having been passed "with 'unnatural speed' over the objection of legislators who represented predominantly non-white districts," and that "the Texas Legislature had rejected a 'litany of ameliorative amendments' that would have softened SB 14's impact on minority voters."

    The DoJ observes:

    The district court stated that Texas had not provided evidence that S.B. 14's discriminatory features were necessary to accomplish fraud prevention, prevent non-citizen voting, or increase voter confidence and voter turnout.

    These differences, according to Loyola Law Prof. Justin Levitt, make Veasey a "far cry" from Purcell.

    Electoral chaos

    Both the evidence and the District Court's factual findings reveal that far greater confusion will ensue from implementing SB 14 than from enjoining it. Thus, the Veasey application to SCOTUS notes:

    the District Court found, in SB 14, the Legislature prescribed a quixotic collection of photo IDs with little rhyme or reason and without regard to whether the type of ID is a reliable indicator of the voter's identity.

    The examples listed are nothing short of bizarre. "[E]mployees of private contractors of the U.S. Defense Department may use their photo IDs to vote," according to the emergency application, "but Defense Department civilian employees may not."

    "Mark Veasey (a member of Congress) can use his congressional photo ID to access highly secure government installations but cannot use the same ID to vote in Texas." Go figure!

    One would think that with the complexities in what is or is not a valid photo ID for voting purposes, Texas would have provided extensive education to both citizens and poll workers. But alas, the state has made no effort to educate either voters or poll workers about what the District Court found to be a "confusing maze of rules and regulations."

    Where pre-SB 14 procedures have been in place for years --- requiring ID for voting, but a much wider variety of them --- the only experience Texas has had under the new restrictive law entailed several minor elections, none of which involved a turnout of more than 10% of the electorate, some as little as just 1%.

    The DoJ notes [emphasis added]

    "[B]oth voters and elections officials are likely to be more familiar with the logical pre-SB 14 requirements than with the maze created by SB 14. ... county elections officials have since confirmed in their declarations…that it would be easier to conduct the upcoming election under the old requirements than under SB 14.

    In an exchange of emails, Prof. Levitt suggested that plaintiffs were probably correct in their contention that Purcell actually supports a lifting of the stay.

    Thus, it appears that there is still a significant possibility that the stay will be lifted by the U.S. Supreme Court, and that more than 600,000 Texans will, come November, be afforded the opportunity to exercise a right to vote which the same Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized as providing "the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government."

    Now, we wait, as do millions of Texas voters, for the Supremes to make their determination on whether democracy prevails or fails this year in the Lone Star State.

    * * *

    UPDATE 4:35pm PT: Texas has filed their response [PDF] to SCOTUS in which, as Lyle Denniston explains at SCOTUSblog, they blamed civil rights groups of having erected an "emergency" by insisting "on a September trial that would produce a final judgment only days before the start of early voting," as opposed to trying the case next year.

    Waiting until next year, of course, would permit Republicans to secure office in this year's mid-term without those pesky African-Americans and Hispanics mucking up the GOP's preferred results by exercising their right to vote.

    The state also claims all of the usual stuff: Photo ID deters fraud; the law is very popular; it's just like Indiana's version of the law approved by SCOTUS in the Crawford case in 2008; and, oh, yeah, there is nothing at all racist about such laws. It seems they used all of the old standbys that conservative Reagan-appointed 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner absolutely demolished late last week, point by point.

    Given the District Court's finding as to the extraordinary steps Governor Perry and Texas Republicans took to ram SB 14 through the Legislature on an "emergency" basis --- this despite the absence of any evidence of in-person voter fraud, let alone an actual emergency --- and given the alacrity of Attorney General Greg Abbott's announcement that he would immediately implement the law just moments after the Supreme Court gutted Section 5 of the VRA, one suspects that the plaintiffs just might regard the "lack of emergency" response from the state as reflecting a remarkable display of chutzpah.

    * * *

    UPDATE 10/17/2014: The plaintiffs have filed a very brief response [PDF] to the state's response yesterday.

    The most persuasive part: "This is precisely the type of case that this Court had in mind when it pointed out in Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder [the case in which SCOTUS gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act] that other remedies, such as injunctive remedies, remain available to protect the rights of voters."

    They cite the SCOTUS majority in that case, which included: "Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in [Section] 2."

    Plaintiffs then go on to conclude: "If voters cannot be protected after findings --- including a finding of intentional racial discrimination --- and a permanent injunction in a case where there was a year of discovery, nine days of trial, and an exhaustive, comprehensive District Court opinion, then when will they be?"

    Good point. And now we wait for SCOTUS...

    * * *

    UPDATE 10/18/2014: Despite findings that the TX Photo ID law is deliberately discriminatory, the U.S. Supreme Court will allow its use in this year's midterm elections anyway. Full details now here...

    * * *
    Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing.

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