The rush is on

To make sure every eligible voter has a photo ID before November:

A complicated and mostly unorganized effort to get photo identification for all Pennsylvania voters is under way statewide in a rush to comply with the new voter ID law before November’s presidential election.

The election is 3 1/2 months away but given the hurdles to getting an approved ID — including the fact that some of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties either do not have driver’s license centers or the centers are closed most days — voting-rights advocates are trying to mobilize now.
The greatest efforts are in Philadelphia, where state records show 186,830 registered voters do not have PennDOT IDs, or 18 percent of all voters in the state’s largest county.

Allegheny County has the second-highest number.

In Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition, a collection of more than 80 civic groups, has set up a field office to track down those voters, using a list of names the Department of State provided Thursday.

“Time is clearly of the essence,” said Zack Stalberg, president and CEO of Philadelphia’s Committee of Seventy, a lead organizer of the coalition. “Trying to deal with this in September, October or November is going to be very difficult. We’re trying to use July and August as effectively as possible.”


Hard to say how hard Obama is going to push for his Grand Bargain before the election, because he’s having a hard time getting the base as motivated as they were the last time he ran and it would piss working people off in a major way. Remember, the sequester is framed in terms of getting the Republicans to make sacrifices (i.e. tax increases) in exchange for something similar to the Simpson-Bowles chairman’s report (cuts to Medicare and Social Security).

Senate Democrats see no political downside to leaving the issue of $1.2 trillion in automatic spending until after the November elections, as they try to use the cuts as leverage with Republicans to negotiate on tax increases on the wealthy.

“We structured the sequester in a way that would be more comfortable for us than for Republicans,” a senior Senate Democratic aide said, referring to the cuts by their technical name. The cuts, which are set to begin next year, are nearly evenly split between defense and domestic spending but do not affect Democratic priorities, such as Social Security and Medicaid.

“We don’t see the heightened sense of concern as a problem; it could help get Republicans to the negotiating table,” another Senate Democratic aide said. “The sequester could yet fulfill the purpose it was meant to serve.”

Indeed, the sequester, which was part of last August’s debt limit deal, was triggered by the failure of last year’s super committee to reach agreement on a $1.2 trillion deficit-reduction plan. The threat of such harsh cuts was intended to provide an incentive for House and Senate lawmakers to come up with their own comprehensive plan.

But that didn’t happen, and Republicans have been warning that defense contractors are expected to give layoff notices as a result of the sequester sometime before the elections, a scenario that will be ripe for political saber-rattling.

Republicans disagree that there will be no political fallout for Democrats, noting that President Barack Obama’s re-election strategy includes victories in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio — all of which have military bases that could be affected by the sequester.

“Waiting us out is bad governing,” a Senate GOP aide added. “This is why everyone in America is ready to try someone new” as president.

A senior House GOP aide said, “Playing chicken with America’s national security and the economy is phenomenally irresponsible.”

Imagine. The same gang who had no problem with using the debt ceiling to hold us hostage are calling the Democrats “phenomenally irresponsible.” Excuse me while I spew iced tea all over the keyboard.

Voting rights

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Chris Hayes leaves the rest of the news media in the dust on just about any issue, and this story is no exception. While he does mention the Bush U.S. attorney purge, he doesn’t detail what happened – namely, that they only purged the DoJ ranks of U.S. attorneys who didn’t understand that they were supposed to fabricate cases of voter fraud if, as was likely, they couldn’t actually find any – and that many of those who made the ideological cut are still around:

In closing arguments this Friday, attorneys for the state of Texas argued that the state should be released once and for all from the Justice Department’s supervision of its voting process… which is currently authorized by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The case is widely expected to end up before the Supreme Court, where it won’t be surprising if we find the five Republican appointees declaring the Voting Rights Act is no longer justified and thus gutted or entirely null.

The portion of the act at issue covers nine states, and counties and townships in seven others, largely in the South, that have a history of erecting barriers to black people exercising their right to vote.

In years past this took a variety of forms, ‘grandfather’ tests that stopped newly freed slaves from voting, since their grandfathers weren’t on the rolls, “literacy’ tests selectively administered and devilishly difficult or simple poll taxes that forced people to pay to vote… if they could afford it.

After one of the most powerful and courageous social movements in American history, one which took the lives of at least 40 people, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, LBJ famously signed the voting rights act in 1965 ending these practices.

“Wherever, by clear and objective standards, states and counties are using regulations, or laws, or tests to deny the right to vote, then they will be struck down. If it is clear that State officials still intend to discriminate, then Federal examiners will be sent in to register all eligible voters. When the prospect of discrimination is gone, the examiners will be immediately withdrawn. And, under this act, if any county anywhere in this Nation does not want Federal intervention it need only open its polling places to all of its people.”

It wasn’t until the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and the many amendments to it over the years that black people in the South and in some places outside the South could actually exercise their right to be full participating citizens in American democracy.

Texas, would now like to get rid of that rule so it can impose a voter ID requirement and more broadly do whatever it damn well pleases as far as restrictions on voting are concerned. And it just so happens that while Texas is pursuing an end to the Reign of Tyranny that is the Voting Rights Act, states around the union under Republican control have been waging an unparalleled assault on access to the voting booth for the poor and marginal.

In Pennsylvania, a recent study found that 750,000 people, or one tenth of the total electorate, don’t have ID’s that would enable them to vote in November. Alabama now requires voters to provide documentary proof of citizenship… which 7% of Alabama voters… or former voters… do not have.
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Serfing U.S.A.

Joss Whedon of “Buffy” and “Avengers” fame at ComicCon:

Toward the end of the session, one woman noted the anti-corporate themes in many of his movies and asked him to give his economic philosophy in 30 seconds or less.

Whedon’s response?

“We are watching capitalism destroy itself right now,” he told the audience.

He added that America is “turning into Tsarist Russia” and that “we’re creating a country of serfs.”

Whedon was raised on the Upper Westside neighborhood of Manhattan in the 1970s, an area associated with left-leaning intellectuals. He said he was raised by people who thought socialism was a ”beautiful concept.”

Socialism remains a taboo word in American politics, as Republicans congressmen raise the specter of the Cold War. They refer to many Obama administration initatives as socialist, and the same goes for most laws that advocate increasing spending on social welfare programs. They also refer to the President as a socialist, though this and many of their other claims misuse the term.

This evidently frustrates Whedon, who traces this development to Ronald Reagan – the nominal hero of the modern conservative movement. Since then, Whedon believes the country has changed in way that has made it too difficult for regular people to succeed.

And what is the end result?

“We have people trying to create structures and preserve the structures that will help the middle and working class, and people calling them socialists,” Whedon said. “It’s not Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal […] it’s some people with some sense of dignity and people who have gone off the reservation.” Guess he’s not a Tea Party fan.

Instant karma

Because they solicit them, I dropped off a huge mess of plastic grocery bags at my local thrift store today, and in response, the universe placed a set of brand new curtain tiebacks in my way for only $3 – which normally run about $15. (I’d been using rubber bands.) Nice!

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