Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. When the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act last month, Attorney General Eric Holder promised that the Justice Department would continue to fight voter suppression using every tool at its disposal. Now he's making good on that promise. Yesterday, at the National Urban League's Annual Conference in Philadelphia, the Attorney General announced that he's calling on the courts to reinstitute the preclearance requirement in Texas. Holder said, "This request to "bail in" the state – and require it to obtain 'pre-approval' from either the Department or a federal court before implementing future voting changes – is available under the Voting Rights Act when intentional voting discrimination is found." In 2012, a federal court blocked Texas from instituting new district lines, finding intentional discriminatation against Hispanic voters. Based on that ruling, and a long-history of racial discrimination, Attorney General Holder wants Texas to preclear voting law changes for the next decade. Governor Rick Perry said Eric Holder's move showed "utter contempt for our country's system of checks and balances, not to mention the U.S. Constitution." In his written statement, Governor Perry did not, however, deny any current or previous attempts to disenfranchise minorities. When the Supreme Court stripped away one of the most important components of the Voting Right Act, Attorney General Holder said he would use every tool at his disposal to block voting discrimination based on race, color, or language, and he appears to be doing just that. During his speech yesterday, the Attorney General said, "This is the [Justice] Department's first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but it will not be our last." Those words gave renewed hope to voting rights advocates around our nation, but the battle in Texas won't be easily won. This is shaping up to be an old-fashioned, wild-west fight. Stay tuned.
In screwed news... Texas isn't the only state that Attorney General Eric Holder needs to be worried about. Both Florida and North Carolina are instituting sweeping plans to disenfranchise voters, now that portions of those states aren't subject to the Voting Rights Act. On Wednesday, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit, and allowed Florida to officially resume their controversial efforts to purge 180,000 Hispanic voters from the rolls. The original lawsuit was brought against five Florida counties that were subject to the VRA's preclearance requirement, which the Supreme Court's recent ruling ended. And, late last night in North Carolina, Republican lawmakers approved a radical voter suppression bill, which includes voter ID provisions, cuts early voting hours, and eliminates same-day voter registration. Just like Florida and Texas, North Carolina Republicans are having a voter-suppression field day since the Voting Rights Act has been handicapped. Hopefully, Attorney General Eric Holder heads to these two states next.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Contrary to the cries of Right-wing talking heads, Obamacare is not a job killer. According to a new study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, less than one percent of the labor force works less than 30 hours per week – the threshold above which large employers are required to provide healthcare to workers. And, that percentage hasn't really changed since 2012. The CEPR study authors wrote, "while there may certainly be instances of individual employers carrying through with threats to reduce their employees' house to below 30 to avoid the sanctions in the [Affordable Care Act], the numbers are too small to show up in the data." Essentially, companies that were shorting workers' hours to avoid giving them benefits, were doing so long before the health care law started to take effect. Large corporations, and Right-wing pundits, are simply using the talking point to bash Obamacare, and as an excuse to keep workers limited to part-time. Just like the myths of death panels and healthcare rationing, this Republican talking point isn't even close to reality.
Just a day after the Republican-controlled House of Representatives slashed the budgets of nearly every important government agency, lawmakers moved on to attacking the Postal Service. On Wednesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee advanced a bill to end Saturday mail delivery, and eliminate direct-to-door delivery. Under the guise of helping our struggling Postal Service cut costs, Republicans approved slashing an institution that is as old as our nation itself. Yet, lawmakers suggested no real changes to the Bush-era law that forces the Post Office to pre-fund retirement costs 75 years in advance. Senator Bernie Sanders, a long-time advocate of the Postal Service, called the House bill a "radical Republican effort to eliminate the U.S. Postal Service." In an interview with MSNBC, Senator Sanders said, "Let's understand that the people who wrote this bill in the House do not believe government should be doing anything. The believe the private sector should be doing it all." Thankfully, the House bill is unlikely to clear the upper chamber, and Senator Bernie Sanders isn't about to stop his fight to save the Post Office.
And finally... Won't somebody please think of the strippers??? Oh wait, Senator John McCain has got that covered. The Arizona Senator is backing legislation that would replace our paper dollars with dollar coins. In response, Daniel Harris, owner of Archibald's Gentleman's Club spoke to the Senator to oppose the measure. Mr. Harris said, "I think it would be very awkward for everyone involved. How much more would a coin weigh than a dollar bill? You can't put a coin in a garter belt." Rather than discuss morality, or whether women should be objectified for cash, Senator McCain was quick to offer a solution. He replied, "the, I hope that they could obtain larger denominations." It's doubtful that the legislation, called the COINS Act, will be delayed because of the exoctic dancer lobby, but who knows... they may have a lot of sway with certain lawmakers.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, July 26, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.