Thursday Bag o’ Current Events

cat in bagI haven’t been blogging about current events. Consequently, I feel bottled up. It’s time to pop the cap and let some pressure out.

First, the bag on the left. Normally when I write one of these Bag o’ Whatever posts I try to connect the bag graphic to the theme of the post. The fact is that I saw this photo on Twitter last night and wanted to share it with you. It doesn’t relate to anything herein. Well, maybe the eyes, if the cat’s eyes are analogous to the NSA’s eyes.

Here’s what’s bothering me about that: the shift in media focus from the NSA’s secret domestic surveillance programs to the whistleblower Edward Snowden (and now Glenn Greenwald, the blogger who broke the story). It’s today’s version of Kill the Messenger. Seriously, what matters here? To me, finding out about, and stopping, an unconstitutional Big Brother program to spy on citizens seems a more pressing problem than finding out why Snowden wasn’t on that Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Cuba, or whether Greenwald still owes money on his student loans.

It’s almost as if the media’s working hand-in-glove with the government, trying to distract us from the things that matter. That couldn’t be true, could it?

I’m confused about two of this week’s big Supreme Court decisions. On Monday, SCOTUS said Arizona couldn’t require voters to provide proof of citizenship. On Tuesday, SCOTUS said that certain states with established histories of discriminating against minority voters will no longer be subject to Department of Justice oversight under the Voting Rights Act. In other words, those states can now implement voter ID and other policies that will make it harder for black and brown citizens to vote, and DOJ can no longer overturn those policies.

What’s confusing me is that Arizona is one of the states with an established history of discriminating against minority voters, and until now had been subject to DOJ oversight under Article 5 of the VRA, just like the old slave states. With the exception of Arizona, those states are now free to implement voter ID, require proof of citizenship, and redraw voting districts. So why a separate ruling on Arizona, one that conflicts with a ruling affecting other states? I’m missing something here.

Here are some predictable Twitter reactions to yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 (both of which, in case you spent the day hiding under a rock, were overturned):

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What Mau-Mau Mike, Frothy Substance Santorum, and Jonesy share is the mistaken belief that the constitutionally-protected rights of minorities should be subject to majority vote. Conservatives just don’t get this basic tenet of American law. We all have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The protections of the Bill of Rights apply to all Americans. You can’t take those rights away from anyone.

At least that’s the way it’s meant to be. Clearly, at different times in our history, we did subject minority rights to majority rule. The impulse, as you can see above, is still very much with us. The majority didn’t think blacks should have any rights at all, and it took a Civil War to start to change that around. The majority used to think women should have no rights. Ditto citizens of Japanese descent during WWII. Ditto gays.

American courts, at least at the federal level, tend to understand that minority rights are exempt from majority rule, and when basic issues of human rights come before the courts they generally rule in favor of rights … even the conservative-dominated Supreme Court, as it demonstrated yesterday with regard to same-sex marriage.

Mau-Mau Mike can kick homosexuals out of his church, but he can’t kick them out of the public sphere, or say that the laws and protections that apply to the rest of us don’t apply to them. That’s what the separation of church and state is all about. If the church held sway in the public sphere, we’d probably still have slavery.

I’m not saying there isn’t a lot of two steps forward/one step back going on with minority rights in America, but the arc does bend toward justice, and while I’m unhappy with some of this week’s SCOTUS decisions, I’m happy with this one. And I agree with what Rachel Maddow said last night: yesterday’s SCOTUS rulings on DOMA and Prop. 8 will inevitably lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Some day soon, a same-sex couple who married in a state where it is legal will move to a state where same-sex marriage is not legal (my personal prediction: it will be an Air Force couple transferred to Hill AFB in Utah). That state will tell them they’re no longer married and no longer enjoy the rights they had in their original state. And they will sue. And they will win. And that is how it should be.

Speaking of things that should be, I’m all for the Internal Revenue Service using flag words to identify requests for tax-exempt status that merit extra scrutiny. That is exactly what the IRS should be doing. Partisan political action committees and phony non-profit groups on the left and right try to fool the IRS with bogus tax exemption requests, and all too often they get away with it. I’m more annoyed with the IRS for not catching these cheaters than for reviewing their requests in the first place. All requests for tax exemptions should be reviewed, and using flag words like “tea party” or “progressive” to highlight suspicious applications is entirely appropriate. There is no scandal here, no government malfeasance. That won’t stop Darrell Issa or the scandal-obsessed press, but what else is new?

My wife says George Zimmerman is going to get off. I wouldn’t be surprised. What do you think?

© 2013, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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4 thoughts on “Thursday Bag o’ Current Events

  • Zimmerman will probably walk. Sorting out what happened to beyond a reasonable doubt will be like trying to sort out a bar fight. Florida’s star witness just leaves too much doubt on the table, although my gut says she MAY be telling the truth. In my book, that’s not good enough to convict. Also, Florida State Law sucks, stand your ground.

    If Martin had bashed in Zimmerman’s head, the DA would have probably plea bargained the case for a lesser charge. But given the racial tensions, etc., not possible with Zimmerman. And he walks.

    See above comment about bar fights.

  • I think Zimmerman is going to die in prison. Whether he’s guilty or not won’t matter, the media has tried and convicted him already. I really hope he’s truly guilty and not another Richard Jewell. I missed the cross-examination but trial lawyers are paid to tear witnesses apart. Probably another reason to get keep the cameras out of the courtrooms. (or the lawyers…)

    Political contributions shouldn’t be tax exempt. Nor should churches. Married people should pay the same tax rate as singles. Mortgage interest deductions are crap and if we’re going to have a federally subsidized then we can do away with medical deductions as well. How about a flat income tax or a flat consumption tax.

    The government has no business getting involved with marriage in the first place.

    The Supreme Court got it right on both accounts. The “established histories” are based on data taken during the 1950s. And as nice as it would be to do away with voter fraud, I’m of the opinion both sides cheat pretty much equally.

  • that should have said federally subsidized health care system.
    (and I should have proofread before posting.)

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