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83 posts from April 2008

April 30, 2008

Photo ID laws hurt voters

The Supreme Court recently upheld an Indiana law that required voters to present either a driver's license or a passport in order to vote.

There are two kinds of voters in America: People have at least one of those documents, and people who don't. The people who don't are the ones the Republicans don't want voting anyway.

Chris Rabb of Afro-Netizen writes:

On the surface, it seems like a pretty reasonable ruling: folks need to prove who they are when they go to vote to avoid potential voter fraud. The reality is that what is reasonable for many white collar and blue collar voters is not so reasonable for those invisible Americans who have not earned that amorphous  moniker of "middle class".

These invisible souls are our country's poorest citizens who do not travel internationally (and thus, do no have passports) and who often cannot afford to own cars, the insurance on them or the gas in them (and thus, are far less likely to have a driver's license).

The fact that this quietly pernicious law may become federal law one day if Democrats capitulate is one matter of concern. The other is how this may impact next month's Indiana Democratic primary (and elections beyond this season) is quite another, given that the poor tend to be disproportionately Black and Democratic.

The groups most likely to be disenfranchised by restrictive photo ID rules are young voters, minorities, the elderly, and the poor. These are legitimate, registered voters who have a right to cast a ballot at their local polling place.

The problem is that neither a passport, nor a driver's license is issued automatically like an SSN card or a birth certificate. It's something a person has to go out and get. Moreover, passports and driver's licenses cost money. You have to pay to get them and pay to renew them.

If passports and driver's licenses are the only acceptable form of ID for voting, then Indiana has effectively instituted a poll tax that you pay at the DMV or the passport office.

April 29, 2008

Oklahoma anti-choicers champion tube rape: Forced ultrasounds for abortions

Anti-choicers in Oklahoma want to force women to undergo ultrasounds in order to obtain abortions.

These are non-therapeutic ultrasounds that are imposed for the sole purpose of showing the woman a picture of her own fetus.

The height of arrogance anti-choice arrogance is on display in this legislation: 'Excuse me, lady, you say you want an abortion. Did you realize that there's a fetus in there? You don't know what you're doing. Let me stick this tube into you, so that you can be competent to make a decision.'

The law requires the doctor to use whatever form of ultrasound that will yield the best pictures:

Under the guise of obtaining informed patient consent, this new law requires doctors to withhold pregnancy termination until an ultrasound is performed. The law states that either an abdominal or vaginal ultrasound, whichever gives the best image of the fetus, must be done. Neither the patient nor the doctor can decide which type of ultrasound to use, and the patient cannot opt out of the ultrasound and still have the procedure. In effect, then, the legislature has mandated that a woman have an instrument placed in her vagina for no medical benefit. The law makes no exception for victims of rape and incest. [Alternet]

Fun fact: The short-serving Bush Birth Control Czar Eric Keroack made name as a pioneer in the field of agitprop ultrasound.

What's the matter with Nebraska? Turfing Ernie Chambers

The most senior senator in Nebraska's unicameral legislature is being forced out by a new term limits law after nearly forty years in office:

Liked or not, Mr. Chambers, a black, divorced, agnostic former barber from Omaha with posters of Malcolm X and Frederick Douglass decorating his office, managed to rise to an ultimate level of power in a mostly rural, white conservative state on little more than sheer determination to do so. [NYT]

Mr. Chambers needs to get on the national lecture circuit to explain the secrets of his success to progressive politicians.

How does a working class, agnostic, African American become the longest-serving and most powerful legislator in a white, conservative state like Nebraska without compromising his strong liberal principles? 

Mr. Chambers is regarded as a master of process, procedure and the filibuster, and his power derived from being as much a bill-killer as law-maker. Some thought him a bully. He would filibuster anything he did not like unless concessions were made to appease him, or he might nitpick at the details of a bill until it fell apart under the weight of his scrutiny.

His tenure made him the senior member by a wide margin; the next-longest-serving senator has been in office about half as many years.

He took special interest in American Indians, poor urban blacks, small farmers and women’s rights. He was unbending in his opposition to the death penalty, nibbling away at it over the years and managing to secure bans for minors and those with mental difficulties.

In perhaps his biggest strategic victory, he opposed the Legislature’s switching from the electric chair to lethal injection as a means of execution, leaving Nebraska as the sole state with the chair as its only method of execution. In February, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled electrocution unconstitutional, effectively suspending executions in the state. [NYT]

I have to admit, I'd never heard of Chambers until I read the NYT profile. I want to know more.

Democratic politicians and strategists could learn a lot from this guy. He's like the Bernie Sanders of Nebraska. 

Photographer Jill Freeman profiled in NYT

The New York Times has an excellent profile of Jill Freeman, a photographer who became famous for shooting on the streets of New York City in the 1970s.

Freeman's style and subject matter have been compared to that of Arthur "WeeGee" Felig, a self-taught photojournalist who specialized in shooting New York at night during the mid-twentieth century.

Thanks to reader Stuart for pointing out the Freeman profile.

April 28, 2008

Confessions of a Sweatshop Inspector

T.A. Frank has a great piece in the Washington Monthly about his career as an international "compliance consultant" hired by big American companies to check up on wages, hours, and conditions in factories overseas.

Frank talks about how to distinguish companies that are serious about staying sweatshop free from those that merely want cover for their unethical business practices.

Companies that are serious about spurning sweatshop labor will ask for assessments before they enter into purchase agreements, request unannounced inspections, and make the results of these audits public.

Of course, as Frank makes clear, the inspectors are themselves private for-profit consultants who serve at the pleasure of the companies that retain them.

The woman who would be CEO of Morgan Stanley

New York Magazine has an interesting story about the fall Zoe Cruz, the woman who came within striking distance of becoming Morgan Stanley's first female CEO--only to be fired last November after 25 years of distinguished service.

It's impossible to tell from the article whether Cruz was penalized for being as abrasive and competitive as her male colleagues. It seems her career plateaued because she was much better at making money for Morgan Stanley than at playing office politics.

As a trader, she gravitated towards foreign exchange where her accomplishments could be measured in dollars and cents. But as Cruz rose further in the ranks, politicking became an increasingly important part of her job. For whatever reason, she wasn't successful at building the alliances she needed.

The central question of the article is whether Cruz was at an unfair disadvantage in the networking game because of her gender.

There's no question that Cruz had an aggressive personal style and a tendency to alienate people--which could itself be a legitimate performance-related reason for not making her the CEO. Management decisions should be based on results. If an executive can't get the people around her to do what she wants-- whether out of love, obligation, fear, or whatever--that person isn't likely to be a good CEO.

The article hints that Cruz was personally vilified and resented for her sharp elbows in a way that her male colleagues weren't.

The article hints at a deeper question that many ambitious women have asked themselves: Do we face a Catch-22 in professions where advancement requires a fair amount of assholish behavior? If you need to be ruthless to be good, are women systematically penalized for having what it takes?

Traversing the Mushroom Kingdom

More pictures of Darcy's debut at the Brooklyn Museum.

Traversing the Mushroom Kingdom

Brooklyn, NY.

The stage was set for "Traversing the Mushroom Kingdom," the final concert in the Brooklyn Philharmonic's "Music Off The Walls" series at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

The concert was inspired by the ongoing Takashi Murakami exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum and the art and music of video games.

Darcy's new piece for strings and tepan, entitled "Body Double," got its world premiere today. The piece was well-received.

April 27, 2008

Gay smooch on Birmingham bench prompts 911 call

As a social experiment, ABC's 20/20 dispatched same-sex couples to kiss in public in various US cities.

The sight of two men nuzzling each other on a park bench in Birmingham, Alabama prompted one concerned citizen to call the police:

Operator: “Birmingham Police operator 9283″

Caller: “We have a couple of men sitting out on the bench that have been kissing and drooling all over each other for the past hour or so. It’s not against the law, right?”

Operator: “Not to the best of my knowledge it’s not.”

Caller: “So there’s no complaint I could make or have?”

Operator: “I imagine you could complain if you like ma’am. We can always send an officer down there.”

An officer was actually dispatched to investigate the situation.

As Pam Spaulding points out, the "experiment" itself was kind of a silly exercise, even if it did succeed in eliciting some outrageously homophobic behavior and making some bigots look really stupid.

Journalists aren't social psychologists. These kinds of staged events are basically publicity stunts masquerading as research.

Tolerance and nonchalance don't make good TV. So, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the 20/20 segment was going to be about the biggest homophobe that ABC could catch on tape. I agree with Pam that it's not really fair to the people of Birmingham to set up a performance art piece like this and call it news.

That said, "To Catch a Bigot" is a much better premise for a reality TV show than "To Catch a Predator."

TODAY: Traversing The Mushroom Kingdom with Darcy James Argue

Darcy James Argue, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.


Today at the Brooklyn Museum:

Sunday, April 27, 2008 at 2:00 PM
Brooklyn Museum, Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium
Traversing The Mushroom Kingdom

Program to include:
RANDALL WOOLF: Try to Believe
DARCY JAMES ARGUE: [Body Double] (World Premiere)