Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

Sure, he said

Oct 30th, 2014 6:29 pm | By

In case ya missed it – Anita Sarkeesian on the Colbert Report.

Lots of applause and squeeing.

At the end Colbert kind of dropped the persona.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

In which I surprise them

Oct 30th, 2014 5:30 pm | By

Well, ok, just to confuse everyone, I’m going to disagree with one feminist claim about street harassment. The claim is in a piece by Kat George (whose work I’m not familiar with) on the harassment video and what counts as harassment. She starts with the fact that with any harassment story there are always men and some women who will say “oh but that’s not harassment, it’s just being nice.” True enough. But then she goes on.

Here’s the thing: by the inherent nature of being a woman walking in the street, almost ALL uninvited attention from men is threatening. Women are victims of sexual violence EVERY SINGLE DAY, even in “liberal” cities like New York. Whether it’s a man jerking off on the subway, a stranger sticking their hand up a woman’s skirt (or worse, raping her) we hear stories of sexual assault on a near daily basis, if not on the news, then from the anecdotes within our social circles. Women feel vulnerable on the street, period. When a man interacts with her on any level she did not invite, it’s threatening, period.

No. That’s really not true.

It might be true for very young women and very busy impersonal big city streets, but other than that, no. A man might ask for directions, for example; that’s not threatening. And there are all kinds of little momentary situations where a man can speak to a woman on the street – even when she didn’t “invite” it – when it’s not threatening. A beautiful day, a very windy or rainy day, waiting for a bus, watching a crane in operation, a bouncy dog making people laugh, a toddler making people go “dawww” – all kinds of things. It’s not that unusual or fraught to have a brief exchange with a man in the street; it’s really not.

So no. Let’s be careful not to get so irritated by poo-poo-ers and deniers that we make wild assertions that it takes 10 seconds to realize aren’t true.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

He’s never understood how someone could be proud of being gay

Oct 30th, 2014 1:54 pm | By

I had barely finished that post about Stefan Molyneux and his occasional collaboration with Peter Boghossian and my stubborn difficulty taking in just how right-wing some popular atheist men are, when my attention was drawn to a new provocation by Boghossian.

I’ve never understood how someone could be proud of being gay. How can one be proud of something one didn’t work for?

That’s a tweet as well as a Facebook post. His FB posts are all public, so public discussion is possible.

Lindsay Beyerstein pointed out that one way one can be proud of what one worked for in this context has to do with the courage and work it takes to come out. Is it ok with Boghossian if people are proud of that?

I’m so fed up with smug prosperous non-marginal guys publicly gloating over their good luck and taunting people who don’t have that particular form of luck.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The video also unintentionally makes another point

Oct 30th, 2014 1:17 pm | By

Hanna Rosin at Slate takes on the glaring flaw in that street harassment video: the shortage of white guys doing any harassing.

The one dude who turns around and says, “Nice,” is white, but the guys who do the most egregious things—like the one who harangues her, “Somebody’s acknowledging you for being beautiful! You should say thank you more,” or the one who follows her down the street too closely for five whole minutes—are not.

This doesn’t mean that the video doesn’t still effectively make its point: that a woman can’t walk down the street lost in her own thoughts, that men feel totally free to demand her attention and get annoyed when she doesn’t respond, that a woman can’t be at ease in public spaces in the same way a man can. But the video also unintentionally makes another point: that harassers are mostly black and Latino, and hanging out on the streets in midday in clothes that suggest they are not on their lunch break.

Because they just didn’t happen to find any white guys harassing? Nope.

At the end they claim the woman experienced 100-plus incidents of harassment “involving people of all backgrounds.” Since that obviously doesn’t show up in the video, Bliss addressed it in a post. He wrote, “We got a fair amount of white guys, but for whatever reason, a lot of what they said was in passing, or off camera,” or was ruined by a siren or other noise. The final product, he writes, “is not a perfect representation of everything that happened.”

So include some imperfect shots, then.

Activism is never perfectly executed. We can just conclude that they caught a small slice of catcallers, and lots of other men do it, too. But if the point of this video is to teach men about the day-to-day reality of women, then this video doesn’t hit its target. The men who are sitting in their offices or in cafes watching this video will instead be able to comfortably assure themselves that they don’t have time to sit on hydrants in the middle of the day and can’t properly pronounce “mami.” They might do things to women that are worse than catcalling, but this is not their sin.

Yeah not true. A broadcast tv show – What Would You Do? – did a memorable segment once in which some very expensive Wall Street guys aggressively harassed a woman at a food truck. They were nasty – frat boyish – bordering on scary.

A really good video about catcalling actually already exists. In “Jessica’s Feminized Atmosphere,” Jessica Williams of the Daily Show covers the whole range of street harassment, from construction workers (of all races) to security guards to Wall Street “douche bags” to teenagers hanging on the corner. She and a group of women lay down pins on places in New York to avoid and by the end, the entire map is covered. There are race and class issues latent in her video, too. She is black, and the women she gathers for her discussion group are all races. But you don’t leave with that icky impression of a white woman under assault by the big bad city.

It’s a great pity the Hollaback video isn’t more like that.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

All the cold-hearted jerks who run the world

Oct 30th, 2014 11:46 am | By

For your viewing pleasure – David Futrelle created a brief video excerpted from a very long video by libertarian MRA Stefan Molyneux.

I stopped listening a bit after minute 1, but I may go back to it later. I stopped at the line

All the cold-hearted jerks who run the world came out of the vaginas of women who married assholes.

I stopped there because it’s all I needed for the moment. That’s his claim. All the bad men in all the places? They’re all the fault of women, because they came out of vaginas. Never mind all the bad men; BLAME THEIR MOTHERS.

What made me curious about Stefan Molyneux? The fact that atheoskeptic guy Peter Boghossian has done several collegial videos with him. In the most recent one they talk about the horrible feminists and Social Justice Warriors.

This is some sort of mental block I have. I always assume fellow atheists are at least a little bit on the left, and that they’re at least a little bit clued in to why it’s not really all that cool or helpful to say that “people of category X don’t do atheist writing & arguing and they don’t show up at my talks because it’s more of a white/ straight/ Western / guy thing.” I keep having to re-learn that no, many of them are in fact proudly and thoroughly right-wing.

I could blame the fact that in the US there is a very strong link between conservatism and religiosity…but that’s true everywhere, and anyway I don’t think that’s really the reason. It’s just some kind of entrenched Basic Belief I have, for no particularly coherent reason. I have to learn different one person at a time. “Oh – Boghossian is a colleague  of this well-known MRA. Ohhh. These sinister blurts on Twitter aren’t just his id running riot for a few minutes, they’re his considered opinions. Ohhhh.”

H/t Ms Mondegreen aka Stacy

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

One year old

Oct 30th, 2014 10:50 am | By

Say happy birthday to EXMNA! It’s their one year anniversary.

This month, Ex-Muslims of North America celebrated our 1 year anniversary as an organization; we also recently received our 501c3 designation, making us an official charitable organization.

It is difficult to put into words how proud I am of our organization and everyone involved. Since our launch 1 year ago, we added new chapters in 14 major cities across North America. Our members hail from dozens of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, but find commonality in our shared experiences and struggles both as ex-Muslims and as non-theists.

Together, we have fostered a community where we continue to learn from each others’ experiences in both adversity and triumph. I am awed by the character and intelligence of the people I’ve met through this group, and am honored to call them my friends and allies.

Please consider making a small donation to ensure our community continues to grow and prosper. Your donation will help provide safe-spaces for Ex-Muslims and help create a platform to inform the general public about apostasy and reform within Islamic communities. Thank you to everyone in the secular/atheist movement who helped make this organization what it is by continued support and encouragement.

With gratitude,

Sarah Haider
Director of Development

They’re so amazing.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Hey beautiful

Oct 29th, 2014 4:54 pm | By

The Wall Street Journal reports on the reactions to the Hollaback harassment video.

[T]he woman in the video, actress Shoshana B. Roberts, and the anti-harassment organization that sponsored it, Brooklyn-based Hollaback!, have also received a host of death and rape threats, officials say. Those threats, which have been passed along to New York City police, underscore how casually some people view street harassment, experts say.

“We’ve had so many people reach out saying, ‘Thank God, this is exactly what my day looks like,’ or people who were shocked, saying, ‘I had no idea that this is what women face. I’m so grateful,’” said Emily May, the co-founder and executive director of Hollaback!. “But we’ve also gotten this tremendous backlash from people saying just horrific things and a number of violent threats.”

Because how dare anyone document street harassment of women? It’s a human right to harass women on the street. Women are public property, and pretty women are like 90 squillion times more public property, so obviously if they object to it there has to be a tremendous backlash.

The video was shot by filmmaker Rob Bliss, who approached Hollaback! with the idea in August after his girlfriend told him stories of being harassed while walking down the street.

“I felt like no one had really clearly demonstrated what street harassment looks like,” Mr. Bliss said. “No [one] had shown the world what it looks and feels like to a person.”

Mr. Bliss’s team recorded the video over the course of 10 hours using a GoPro camera hidden inside a gym bag and two microphones held by Ms. Roberts. The team navigated the city’s busiest and most frequently cited places of harassment: Midtown Manhattan, Wall Street, SoHo, the Brooklyn Bridge area and Harlem.

In the video, several men yell things such as “hey beautiful” and “how you doing?” to Ms. Roberts, who is dressed casually in jeans and a T-shirt and doesn’t respond to the catcalls. One unidentified man follows her for five minutes.

Hey, she’s outside, she’s on the street, she’s fair game. Public property, I tell you.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman

Oct 29th, 2014 4:37 pm | By

Nine and a half million people have watched the video that documents street harassment in New York.

The selected comments are depressing. Of course.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: As women entered the field

Oct 29th, 2014 12:05 pm | By

Originally a comment by sambarge on Yes yes.

The de-valuation of work by feminization is fully documented in labour history. The reason we talk about pay equity (versus equal pay for the same job) is the valuation or classification of labour or job duties that are viewed a “feminine” or “masculine”. Physical strength, for example, is rated higher than accuracy in data entry and, not surprisingly, physical strength is a stereotypically male trait (unless we’re talking about labour that requires physical strength that is defined as female such as housekeeping or laundry workers, then there are no points or recognition for the physical strength required to do the job).

The easiest examples of the devaluation of work when it is feminized is bank tellers and other clerical work. When clerical work was done almost exclusively by men, the job was considered a skilled and valued profession. As women entered the field (and, importantly, men left it) clerical work was devalued – even as it became more technologically difficult to perform. Likewise, nursing has started to attract more men as it professionalized and started to demand decent remuneration. However, shaking the taboo of a man “doing women’s work” has proven harder than attracting women to work that was historically classified as male. The stigma attached to women’s work is pernicious.

The history of labour is full of examples like those. Social attitudes towards the value of certain work is definitely tied to our perceptions of the maleness or femaleness of certain duties.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Simon talks to Katha

Oct 29th, 2014 11:46 am | By

Simon Davis interviews Katha Pollitt for VICE on the launch of her new book saying why abortion is a good thing.

It’s not surprising that many people who don’t want to see all abortion clinics shut down have bought into a few of the assumptions of the pro-life movement. The result is what we have today: a situation where a majority of people believe abortion should be mostly legal but frowned upon.

Which is why I wrote that piece for Free Inquiry a few months ago.

It is precisely those people that Katha Pollitt, columnist for The Nation, wants to speak to in her new book Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, which came out just as the Supreme Court intervened to halt a new Texas law that would close all but eight of the state’s abortion clinics. Pollitt not only lays out in extraordinary detail her opposition to a wide array of anti-abortion advocacy, but also takes the additional step of making her case for why abortion is a good thing. I reached out to her to find out more.

VICE: Unlike many other pro-choice advocates, you say abortion is a social good. Can you explain that?
Katha Pollitt: What I try to do in the book is to put abortion into the context of motherhood and society. And I say it is a good thing for society that children are born at a time when a woman—and the man, if there is one—are able to best take care of them. And society also benefits when women who are currently unbelievably hampered in every area of life when they become mothers can express all their talents and gifts and make a good life for themselves and the people in their families.

How could it not be? How could involuntary unwanted childbearing be a good thing? How could it not be vastly better to be able to choose when to have a baby and when not to? How could reluctant unhappy motherhood be a good thing??

What do you say to those who might dismiss the abortion debate as a “culture war” issue?
“Culture war” is about culture—pornography, or what books should be in the school library, or whether Harry Potter promotes witchcraft. But this is an issue that goes right to heart of whether women can ever be equal to men. Whether they can have the basic autonomies we give to men to decide what goes on in their bodies and what risks they’re going to take. What physical, emotional, and social risks they’re going to take. Basically it’s about making sure that women don’t remain vulnerable to pregnancy from their first period to their last period.

That question could have been worded as: What do you say to those who might dismiss the abortion debate by pointing to women who are put in sacks and beaten? It’s the same idea.

You have a chapter called “Are Women People?” Do you believe the anti-abortion movement denies women their humanity?
To me, that is the central issue. I think that if you say that at any moment in life a woman can be compelled, because of an accident, because of a failed condom, or she got carried away and, my God, had sex without protection—that this should derail her life. You can see how it basically means what she wants to do with her life is really not important.

That. I think there are depressingly many people who don’t think women are fully people – not as fully as men are. I think we get thousands of cues to this effect every day, and that the result is a stereotype of women that is emptier and thinner and more fundamentally trivial than the stereotype of men is. The war against abortion is one facet of this.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The devil’s work

Oct 29th, 2014 11:15 am | By

That zany pope. One minute he’s saying friendly things about evolution and gravity and shit, and the next he’s sharing the love with exorcists. Exorcists.

Just in time for Halloween and against an unspecified “steady increase” of demonic possession, Pope Francis thanked exorcists for showing the church’s “love for those possessed” by the devil.

About 300 exorcists from around the world attended a convention in Rome last weekend (Oct. 25-26) and their spokesman later expressed concern about the number of people turning to Satanism and the occult.

In a message sent to the Rev. Francesco Bamonte, who heads the International Association of Exorcists (known as AIE), Francis urged the experts to demonstrate “the church welcomes those suffering from the devil’s work.”

See, that’s silly, because there is no “the devil.” And it’s maleficent, because thinking there is such a thing as “the devil” can motivate people to do horrendous things to real people, including torture and murder. The pope shouldn’t be encouraging people to take that harmful bullshit seriously. The pope has a big microphone, and a lot of listeners who think they are obligated to accept every word he says as both true and binding.

Without citing specific numbers, AIE spokesman Valter Cascioli told Vatican Radio there has been a “steady increase” in the number of people turning to demonic practices and they are left suffering from serious spiritual and psychological damage.

“We are living in a particularly critical time in history, where urgency, superficiality, exasperated individualism, secularization seem to almost dominate our culture,” Cascioli said.

Ah there it is again – the linkage of “demonic practices” and secularization. Charming.

“The battle against evil is becoming more of an emergency. We are calling for major vigilance.”

Against secularization, and human rights (that’s what Catholics mean when they grumble about “individualism”). That’s what Catholics consider “evil.” Not the torture of children, not child-rape by priests, not the imprisonment of women who have committed no crime, but secularization and human rights.

And that’s where the pope finds his friends.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

They spat holy water

Oct 29th, 2014 10:55 am | By

A tv show rented a newly constructed house in a suburb and set up appointments with several psychics to check on hidden spirits and forces and fossnagles. They also set up a dozen hidden cameras to capture the skilled professional checking.

[A] duo named Susan and Rev. Joseph said there was negative energy in the house. “It’s negative in the sense that it could cause setbacks, it can cause financial setbacks,” Susan said. To purge it, they burned incense and chanted all over the house, and claimed to have trapped the negative energy in a bottle.

Despite their supposed abilities, the psychics were not aware that Jeff Rossen had been monitoring their activities from a control room upstairs in the home. When he revealed himself to them, he asked: “How is it possible that you were able to find all of this negative energy? This is a brand-new house, no one’s lived in it before.”

“It’s not a haunted house, but spirits roam in empty places, they roam in hallways,” Susan said.

“Isn’t this just hocus pocus to take advantage of homeowners?” Rossen asked.

“No, no, no,” Rev. Joseph protested. As the pair spoke to Rossen, one of their associates tried to block the camera and scooped up the cash the Rossen team had brought to pay them.

Good thinking. Always scoop up the cash – even when you know you’re on camera.

When another team of psychics arrived, they announced: “There’s a presence of two or three entities here … They won’t let you feel comfortable here, you’ll just be stuck. [You] won’t be able to find a job. You’ll want to move.”

After the Rossen team agreed to let them help, they spat holy water, puffed cigar smoke, banged on the walls and rolled a coconut around. “Most likely there was domestic violence here,” a psychic named Medina declared. “Repeat to yourself, ‘the house is clear, the house is pure.'” Their fee was $1,021.

And there were others. The Duke and the Dauphin would be impressed.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Yes yes

Oct 28th, 2014 6:01 pm | By

Huh. Another Dear Muslima, because the last one worked out so well.


He appears to be talking, or to think he’s talking, about timidity in making moral judgments. But how odd, and how deeply unpleasant, that he chooses that example of all possible examples. That it’s the rights of US women he chooses to hold up to ridicule and hostility because they are less threatened than those of women in theocracies. It’s odd and deeply unpleasant the way they keep doing this – letting the mask slip.

Update: This is also a public Facebook post, which makes it easier to reply to.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A firm believer in gender equality

Oct 28th, 2014 5:39 pm | By

Katherine Adams explains her profound reservations about feminism*.

Like any other socially conscious woman, I am a firm believer in gender equality. Ending workplace discrimination, making reproductive health care affordable—I’ve championed these goals my whole life. They’re important to me, and that’s why the feminist movement frustrates me so much. I’m sorry, but I simply cannot and will not support feminism if it means murdering all men.

Typical boozhie liberal. You can’t make a lobster risotto without breaking eggs!

I understand why some people might believe the only way to advance women’s rights is to slaughter every man on the planet, but that sort of radical, explicitly homicidal position, which for all I know is a fundamental aspect of feminism, is exactly what makes me hesitate to call myself a feminist.

Do I agree with closing the pay gap, ensuring universal access to birth control, and ending the objectification of women? Absolutely, and if that’s all feminism were about, I would get on board without any hesitation. Assuming feminists start advocating that we hunt down all the world’s men and boys, load them onto trains bound for death camps, and systematically massacre them solely on the basis of their sex, then that’s where I draw the line.

Well then go get a job at the American Enterprise Institute, ya big sellout.

*At the Onion, she does this.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A vote on the “woman question”

Oct 28th, 2014 4:37 pm | By

I’m re-reading The Freethinkers. It’s a terrific book. I want to share a passage with you, from the chapter “Lost Connections: Anticlericalism, Abolitionism, and Feminism”:

The tension came to a head in New York City in May 1840, at the annual meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society (of which Garrison had been a found member in 1833). In a Machiavellian Parliamentary maneuver, Garrison forced a vote on the “woman question” by appointing Abby Kelley, a Quaker and a great admirer of the Grimké sisters, to a post on the organization’s powerful business committee. Kelley’s appointment was confirmed by a close vote, but several hundred members – a minority, but a highly influential one – pronounced it a violation of the Scriptures to serve on a committee with a woman, walked out, and announced plans to form a breakaway antislavery organization. [p 83]

Does that sound familiar to you? It certainly does to me. It sounds like the New Left, for instance, which splintered and splintered again over “the woman question” in the late 60s and early 70s. It sounds like every political movement ever, because there are always people who want to work for these rights but not those, and/or people who say yes but we must not confuse the fight for these rights by adding the fight for those, and/or people who say what do those rights have to do with these rights, look it up in the dictionary. There are always people who say women’s rights can wait, or are completely different, or have already been achieved, or are a good idea but don’t require anyone to actually change anything.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Diego, paraaaaaa!

Oct 28th, 2014 4:02 pm | By

Now it’s Diego Maradona.

A leaked video has surfaced this week allegedly showing former Argentinian soccer star Diego Maradona hitting his ex-girlfriend.

According to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, the video captures an intoxicated Maradona speaking to his ex, 24-year-old Rocío Oliva, in an aggressive manner before physically assaulting her.

“Stop! Stop! Stop hitting me,” the woman cries out in the clip, according to a NY Daily News translation.

One after another.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

To fend off challenges from Left

Oct 28th, 2014 3:19 pm | By

Headline on article about the politics of Hillary Clinton:

Clinton copies Warren to fend off challenges from Left

To “fend off”? Why not do it because Warren is right? Or not do it if you don’t think she is right?

I know, that sounds dewy-eyed naïve, but really, if politicians do things solely for tactical reasons, what reason do we have to think they will go on doing said things once they’re elected?

The body of the article:

Hillary Clinton has copied the populist, anti-corporate rhetoric of Sen. Elizabeth Warren partly in the hopes of keeping the Massachusetts Democrat, or any other liberal challenger, out of the 2016 presidential race, some liberal activists say.

There again. If that’s what she’s doing and why, then clearly it becomes all the more urgent to propel Warren to the nomination.

Not that I actually want to spend time thinking about an election that’s more than two fucking years in the future.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Voting is for solid citizens with plenty of $$

Oct 28th, 2014 2:55 pm | By

More background. The Washington Post in July on how voting has changed since Shelby County v. Holder.

What did Shelby County v Holder do?

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was unconstitutional. Section 4 lays out the formulas for how the Justice Department enforces Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 requires that the states identified with a history of discrimination  obtain approval from the federal government before they can make changes to their election law. Section 4 formulas as of 2013 mandatedthat “Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia in their entirety; and parts of California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, and South Dakota” ask for preclearance for electoral law changes. After Shelby County v. Holder, these states are free to make changes to election law or district maps without approval from the Justice Department.

Because Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia are all completely ok on the whole racially-targeted obstacles to voting thing now.

Or not.

Has Congress made any moves on amending the Voting Rights Act?

If Congress wants to keep it, they need to update the framework that decides which states require the Justice Department to sign off on election law changes. A year later, Congress hasn’t decided whether they want to keep it yet. The proposed amendment to the Voting Rights Act is stuck in legislative purgatory.

Of course it is. The Republicans have a stranglehold on Congress, and the Republicans don’t consider it in their interest to make it less arduous for black and Hispanic voters to get all the way to the booth with the ballot in it.

There have been some state changes helpful to voters, and some not so much.

There have been changes that shift early voting and voter registration times, and new voter-ID requirements. The opponents of these laws say that their only effect will be limiting the right to vote — mostly among low-income and minority voters who may not own government identification or have enough flexibility with their employment to vote on Election Day.

So it’s a lightly-disguised property qualification. What could possibly be wrong with that?!

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

No mere historical artifact

Oct 28th, 2014 12:27 pm | By

From October 18, the New York Times story on the stealthy SCOTUS ruling allowing Texas’s Jim Crowesque voter ID law in the next election.

The Supreme Courton Saturday allowed Texas to use its strict voter identification law in the November election. The court’s order,issued just after 5 a.m., was unsigned and contained no reasoning.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a six-page dissent saying the court’s action “risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.”

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined the dissent.

It has a history, that kind of thing. It’s not an accident, it’s not just some random idea that occurred to the Texas legislators one day out of the blue. There’s a long post-Civil War post-Reconstruction history of coming up with ways to make it much more difficult for black people to vote. There were those “tests” that for some strange reason were not administered to white people, that asked questions so arcane and difficult that no one would know the answer. There were the poll taxes. There were the KKK cruising the roads that led from the plantations to the polling places.

Those requirements, Justice Ginsburg wrote, “may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5 percent of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification.”

“A sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or Hispanic,” she added, adding that “racial discrimination in elections in Texas is no mere historical artifact.”

This kind of tap dancing was made illegal by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, but then there was that other Supreme Court ruling last year…

The Texas law was at first blocked under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, which required some states and localities with a history of discrimination to obtain federal permission before changing voting procedure. After the Supreme Court in 2013 effectively struck down Section 5 in Shelby County v. Holder, an Alabama case, Texas officials announced that they would start enforcing the ID law.

Amid squeals of joy and triumph.

The law has been challenged by an array of individuals, civil rights groups and the Obama administration.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. released a statement Saturday criticizing the outcome.

“It is a major step backward to let stand a law that a federal court, after a lengthy trial, has determined was designed to discriminate,” he said. “It is true we are close to an election, but the outcome here that would be least confusing to voters is the one that allowed the most people to vote lawfully.”

The least confusing to voters and the least…you know…racist. The least discriminatory. The least oh hai here’s an extra obstacle in the way of your voting because we have cars and you don’t, you rabble.

After a two-week trial in September, Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Federal District Court in Corpus Christi struck down the law on Oct. 9 in a 147-page opinion. She said it had been adopted “with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose,” created “an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote” and amounted to a poll tax.

Two days later, Judge Ramos entered an injunction blocking the law in the current election. The question for the justices was what to do about that injunction while appeals proceed.

Greg Abbott, the state attorney general and the Republican candidate for governor, told the Supreme Court that Judge Ramos had acted too closely to the election and had “unsettled a status quo that had prevailed for 15 months and governed numerous elections without a hitch.”

Yeah! “We had successfully and without a hitch made life more difficult for voters who don’t have passports and driver’s licenses so what the hell is this Judge Ramos doing messing that up?”

Welcome back the poll tax.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

When most Texans were sleeping

Oct 27th, 2014 6:09 pm | By

This is a news item I missed, and it’s making steam come out of my ears. An estimated 600,000 Texas voters – the population of a big city! – though registered to vote, won’t be able to because they cannot meet photo-identification requirements set out in the state’s new voter-ID law, SB14 . It’s the strictest voter ID law in the country and you know why those fuckers in Texas passed it.

It was justified by Governor Rick Perry and the Republican chiefs in the state legislature as a means of combatting electoral fraud in a state where in the past 10 years some 20m votes have been cast, yet only two cases of voter impersonation have been prosecuted to conviction.

Earlier this month a federal district judge, Nelva Gonzales Ramos, struck down the law, slamming it as a cynical ploy on the part of Republicans to fend off the growing strength of the minority electorate in Texas by “suppressing the overwhelmingly Democratic votes of African Americans and Latinos”. She linked SB14 to a long history of racial discrimination in state elections spanning back generations, and declared the new law to be an unconstitutional poll tax.

There used to be a law against that – the Voting Rights Act – but I guess it doesn’t apply in Texas.

But last week, in the early hours of 18 October, when most Texans were sleeping, the US supreme court snuck out a one-line judgment that allowed the voter ID restrictions to be applied this election cycle. Without any explanation, a majority of the justices effectively threw Eric Kennie and many thousands of others like him – particularly black, Hispanic and low-income Texans – into a state of democratic limbo.

“This is the first time the courts have allowed a law that actually keeps people from voting to go into effect, even though a judge found it was passed for the purpose of making it harder for minorities to vote,” said Wendy Weiser, head of the democracy programme at the Brennan Centre for Justice.

Steam. Ears.

The Guardian has heartbreaking stories to illustrate how this affects people. I’m out of time, so read the stories.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)