From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
How big data increases inequality and threatens democracy - "A former academic mathematician and ex-hedge fund quant exposes flaws in how information is used to assess everything from creditworthiness to policing tactics, with results that cause damage both financially and to the fabric of society. Programmed biases and a lack of feedback are among the concerns behind the clever and apt title of Cathy O'Neil's book: Weapons of Math Destruction." [more inside]
International investors have a private court of appeal even in criminal matters - "A parallel legal universe, open only to corporations and largely invisible to everyone else, helps executives convicted of crimes escape punishment. [ISDS] operates unconstrained by precedent or any significant public oversight, often keeping its proceedings and sometimes even its decisions secret." (via) [more inside]
A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom and Justice. (Platform, Downloads/Briefing)
Law professor Zephyr Teachout first rose to prominence as the director of internet organizing for Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign. She's published the acclaimed political history book Corruption in America. In 2014 she primaried Andrew Cuomo from the left, winning half of NY's counties despite Cuomo refusing to even mention her name. And now? She's running for Congress. [more inside]
In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." [more inside]
In only the second case decided since the recent death of Justice Scalia, the United States Supreme Court today reached a decision [PDF] in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, deadlocking in a four-to-four tie that upholds an earlier circuit court ruling finding agency fees for non-union teachers to be constitutional, but that sets no precedent for future cases. [more inside]
Oral arguments were heard on Monday in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a Supreme Court case in which the plaintiffs are attempting to invoke their First Amendment right to free speech to avoid being compelled to pay their share of the costs of union representation. Summarizing the oral arguments for SCOTUSblog, Amy Howe notes that "public-employee unions are likely very nervous, as the Court’s more conservative Justices appeared ready to overrule the Court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and strike down the fees." [more inside]
For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions -"The very richest are able to quietly shape tax policy that will allow them to shield billions in income." (via) [more inside]
On December 13, 2013, the US district court for the District of Columbia ruled that the NSA's bulk collection of American citizens' telephone records was "likely" to violate the Fourth Amendment (previously on MeFi). Today, DC's federal court of appeals overturned that ruling. The rationale is that the plaintiffs did not prove "that they were affected by the metadata-gathering program," so they did not have standing to challenge it in court. [more inside]
Malaysian cartoonist Kazimir Lee documents the oppression faced by trans women in Malaysia, particularly touching on the 17 women arrested at a wedding last year as well as the landmark victory for the declaration of the 'cross-dressing' ban as unconstitutional, the first time Syariah law was challenged and defeated in civil court.
Supreme Court rules against gerrymandering - "Ginsburg's opinion is now the law, and I suspect that, in a few decades, this case will be considered one of the most important of the term. Thus far, only California has copied Arizona and created an independent redistricting commission. But with the court's blessing, more states are likely to follow suit. These commissions have been hugely successful thus far, a real boost for representative democracy and a cure for the notoriously stubborn problem of gerrymandering. Had Justice Anthony Kennedy swung away from Ginsburg and aligned with his fellow conservatives, America would be facing down a distressingly undemocratic future."
Nearly all records created by state and local government officials, including bill drafts and communications with staff, would not be subject to the Wisconsin open records law under a sweeping surprise change Republicans introduced in committee Thursday as an amendment to the state budget. [more inside]
Jim Obergefell and John Arthur had been together nearly two decades when John was stricken by terminal ALS. With their union unconstitutional in Ohio, the couple turned to friends and family to fund a medical flight to Maryland, where they wed, tearfully, on the tarmac [prev.]. After John's death, however, Jim found himself embroiled in an ugly legal battle with his native state over the right to survivor status on John's death certificate -- a fight he eventually took all the way to the Supreme Court. And that's how this morning -- two years after U.S. v. Windsor, a dozen after Lawrence v. Texas, and at the crest of an unprecedented wave of social change -- the heartbreaking case of Obergefell v. Hodges has at long last rendered same-sex marriage legal nationwide in a 5-4 decision lead by Justice Anthony Kennedy. [more inside]
Wait, Women Don't Have Equal Rights in the United States? - Tabby Biddle, Huffington Post. The History Behind the ERA Amendment ( brief introduction, argument for why ERA is needed). March 22, 1972 | Equal Rights Amendment for Women Passed by Congress (NYT). Chronology of the Equal Rights Amendment, 1923-1996 (NOW). "The ERA Is a Moral Issue": The Mormon Church, LDS Women, and the Defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment (Neil J. Young, American Quarterly, Vol. 59, No. 3, Sep., 2007)
China rates its own citizens - including online behaviour: "The Chinese government is currently implementing a nationwide electronic system, called the Social Credit System, attributing to each of its 1,3 billion citizens a score for his or her behavior. The system will be based on various criteria, ranging from financial credibility and criminal record to social media behavior. From 2020 onwards each adult citizen should, besides his identity card, have such a credit code." [more inside]
The Washington Post sheds some much needed, highly relevant historical context on "[t]he long, painful and repetitive history of how Baltimore became Baltimore". [more inside]
As a historic constitutional showdown over gay marriage looms this month at the U.S. Supreme Court, attorneys are fighting over another bitterly disputed issue: their fees. In some cases, the fee requests run well into seven figures and are submitted on behalf of powerful law firms that a Reuters examination found have outsized access to the Supreme Court. Individuals and advocacy groups that file lawsuits aimed at the high court sometimes retain big-firm lawyers who specialize in arguing in that forum and boast remarkable success rates in getting their cases heard.
A San Francisco deputy public defender was handcuffed and arrested at the Hall of Justice after she objected to city police officers questioning her client outside a courtroom, an incident that her office called outrageous and police officials defended as appropriate. [more inside]
The Interpreters We Left Behind. "As our troops pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we're abandoning fixers and translators to the dangerous countrymen who view them as traitors. Asylum in the U.S. could be their last hope. If only we'd let them in."
During their Freedom Hosting investigation and malware attack last year, the FBI unintentionally obtained the entire e-mail database of popular anonymous webmail service Tor Mail. And now, they've used it in an unrelated investigation to bust a Florida man accused of stealing credit card numbers. [more inside]
MSNBC's Up with Steve Kornacki has been collaborating with NJ journalist Brian Murphy on some investigative journalism about the Chris Christie administration's alleged withholding of Sandy Relief funds until the Mayor of Hoboken agrees to fast-track a real-estate development. Hoboken was one of the hardest-hit communities and has so far received $6 per resident. Christie became governor after leading a US Attorney investigation which convicted NJ politicians of crooked real-estate deals.
Following the state Supreme Court's decision in Griego v. Oliver [pdf], New Mexico has become the 17th U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage. [more inside]
Supreme Court to consider lifting campaign contribution limits. Reversing McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission would allow unlimited individual campaign contributions.
How The Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio actually makes a case against austerity and for redistribution, but also for money printing (and, arguably, for bailouts), while stressing the need to keep making productivity-improving public and private investments. However, it could be equally entitled: How The Industrial Age Political-Economy Doesn't Work Anymore, viz. Surviving Progress (2011)... [more inside]
Open States, the latest project of the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation, is an easy to navigate comprehensive database of activities from all state capitols that makes it easy to find your state lawmaker, review their votes, search for legislation, track bills and much more.
Makers: Women Who Make America is a sweeping 3-hour documentary of the movement for women's equality in the last half of the twentieth century. Airing this month on US public television, it's accompanied by an online archive of videos of interviews with individual women in leadership across a variety of fields. Leaders and activists, celebrities and pioneers, and everyday women retell the story of their awakening, organizing, and world-changing efforts.
Jennie Linn McCormack "isn’t the only woman in recent years to be prosecuted for ending her own pregnancy. But her case could change the trajectory of abortion law in the United States": The Rise of DIY Abortions. [more inside]
Robert Bork, the conservative jurist at the heart of two political firestorms--in 1973 he carried out the "Saturday Night Massacre" by firing Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and in 1987 had his nomination for the Supreme Court rejected by the Senate after a combative confirmation hearing--died yesterday. A perennially divisive figure, Bork's passing drew encomiums from the right and condemnation from the left.
Earlier this month, British Petroleum agreed to plead guilty to 14 violations of law, including negligence causing death and the Clean Water Act. [more inside]
Chip Rogers is the Republican Majority Leader of the Georgia State Senate, and Treasurer of ALEC (previously 1 2). On October 11th he hosted a four-hour briefing for his fellow senators, regarding Obama's mind-control techniques which are forcing the US into a United Nations-led Communist dictatorship in which suburbanites are forcibly relocated to cities. The theory is based on Agenda 21, the non-binding 1992 UN treaty on sustainable development. Rogers narrowly failed to pass a resolution against Agenda 21, but other states have done so, and Alabama has even forbidden its implementation in law.
"Used to be that the idea was 'once every two years voters elected their representatives.' And now instead it's 'every ten years the representatives choose their constituents.'"
Obama won Ohio by two points, and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown won by five, but Democrats emerged with just four of Ohio’s 16 House seats. In Wisconsin, Obama prevailed by seven points, and Democratic Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin by five, but their party finished with just three of the state’s eight House seats. In Virginia, Obama and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine were clear victors, but Democrats won just three of the commonwealth’s 11 House seats. In Florida, Obama eked out a victory and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson won by 13 points, but Democrats will hold only 10 of the Sunshine State’s 27 House seats. The Revenge of 2010: How gerrymandering saved the congressional Republican majority, undermined Obama's mandate, set the terms of the sequestration fight, and locked Democrats out of the House for the next decade. It's not a new problem. But if the Supreme Court guts the Voting Rights Act, it could get a whole lot worse. And the electoral college may be next. (What's gerrymandering, you ask? Let the animals explain. Meet the Gerry-mander. Peruse the abused. Catch the movie. Or just play the game. Previously.)
The Permanent War (video). "This project, based on interviews with dozens of current and former national security officials, intelligence analysts and others, examines evolving U.S. counterterrorism policies and the practice of targeted killing." Part 1: Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists. Part 2: A CIA veteran transforms U.S. counterterrorism policy. Part 3: Remote U.S. base at core of secret operations. [more inside]
With the U.S. Presidential election about 3 months away, and voter ID laws headed to court this Wednesday in Pennsylvania and in other states like Texas and Minnesota, Propublica tells you Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Voter ID Laws. A solution to a nonproblem. [Previously] [more inside]
In less than an hour, the Supreme Court will hand down its final judgment in what has become one of the most crucial legal battles of our time: the constitutionality of President Obama's landmark health care reform law. The product of a strict party line vote following a
year century of debate, disinformation, and tense legislative wrangling, the Affordable Care Act would (among other popular reforms) require all Americans to buy insurance coverage by 2014, broadening the risk pool for the benefit of those with pre-existing conditions.
The fate of this "individual mandate," bitterly opposed by Republicans despite its similarity to past plans touted by conservatives (including presidential contender Mitt Romney) is the central question facing the justices today. If the conservative majority takes the dramatic step of striking down the mandate, the law will be toothless, and in danger of wholesale reversal, rendering millions uninsured, dealing a crippling blow to the president's re-election hopes, and possibly endangering the federal regulatory state.
But despite the pessimism of bettors, some believe the Court will demur, wary of damaging its already-fragile reputation with another partisan 5-4 decision. But those who know don't talk, and those who talk don't know. Watch the SCOTUSblog liveblog for updates, Q&A, and analysis as the truth finally comes out shortly after 10 a.m. EST.
"The truth about the Fast and Furious scandal: A Fortune investigation reveals that the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. How the world came to believe just the opposite is a tale of rivalry, murder, and political bloodlust." [more inside]
“So if we continue voting like this in the (House of Commons), there’ll be no b-day for me this year?” tweeted NDP MP Hoang Mai.
It is still June 13 for the Parliament of Canada, where voting has continued overnight on the "omnibus budget bill" (previously), due to 159 separate amendment votes that have been forced by the opposition. None are likely to pass, but the arduous process is meant to function as a protest against legislation which many critics have argued goes far beyond the scope of a traditional budget. [more inside]
This morning marked day two of marathon proceedings in what's likely the most momentous and politically-charged Supreme Court case since Bush v. Gore: the effort to strike down President Obama's landmark health care reform law. While yesterday was a sleepy affair of obscure technical debate, today's hearings targeted the heart of the law -- the individual mandate that requires most Americans to purchase insurance by 2014. With lower courts delivering a split decision before today, administration lawyers held some hope that at least one conservative justice could be persuaded to uphold the provision, which amortizes the risk that makes universal coverage possible. But after a day of deeply skeptical questioning by swing justice Anthony Kennedy and his fellow conservatives [transcript - audio], the mandate looks to be in grave trouble, with CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin going as far as calling the day "a train wreck" for the administration. But it's far from a done deal, with a third day of hearings tomorrow and a final decision not expected until June.
The GOP’s woman problem is that it has a serious problem with women. Frank Rich on George Stephanopoulos's unanswered question, how the Republicans have shifted to being the party of misogyny since the 70s, and why Mitt Romney would be just as bad as Rick Santorum.
The Control Revolution And Its Discontents - "the long process of algorithmisation over the last 150 years has also, wherever possible, replaced implicit rules/contracts and principal-agent relationships with explicit processes and rules."
Two months after being kicked out by the NYPD in an early morning raid, the Occupy Wall Street protestors have returned to Zucotti/Liberty Plaza to meet new regulations that make protesting all but impossible. Meanwhile, OWS is looking for an accountant and NYC councilman Ydanis Rodriguez wants to donate his 5k stipend to the protestors. Yasha Levine of The Exiled writes about his arrangement hearing after being arrested during the Occupy LA raid and Political Cartoonist and Essayist Tim Kreider releases four essays he wrote during the first occupation of Zucotti/Liberty Plaza, "What OWS Wants" "Capitalism, A Bummer" "An Open Letter To The Tea Party." and "OWS: The Morning After." [more inside]
Even the most seemingly entrenched powers can be undermined and weakened and replaced by other human beings. And if it's not happening, it's not because it's impossible, it's because we just haven't figured out the right way to do it. And so the challenge of figuring out the right way to do that, and the role that I can play in it, and the way in which I can use my skills and my knowledge and my experience in order to contribute to it, is a really important and invigorating challenge for me. It becomes a work of passion, a sort of labor of love.As part of its "Conversations with History" series, UC Berkeley recently interviewed Glenn Greenwald, who discusses not only law and other issues, but his history and personal motivations for blogging. (1-hour SLYT) [more inside]
High school student Emma Sullivan posted a tweet disparaging Kansas Governor Sam Brownback while on a field trip to the State Capitol. Brownback's staff called Sullivan's principal and complained. This has not resulted in postive PR for Brownback.
Why A Heterosexual, Married, North Carolinian Father Of Three Cares About LGBT Equality. Married father of three boys writes eloquently about the reasons why he opposes the proposed constitutional amendment banning any legal relationship recognition for same-sex couples. The amendment goes before voters in May primary election, when heavy Republican turnout is expected. Meanwhile Senator Goolsby says that it is all about "empowering voters" "so no activist judge is able to decide on his or her own what marriage is." [original]
Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes? "A whistleblower claims that over the past two decades, the agency has destroyed records of thousands of investigations, whitewashing the files of some of the nation's worst financial criminals."