Making Lives Better

You guys for a generation have argued that public policy ought to demean gay people as a way of expressing disapproval of the fact that we exist. But you don’t make any less of us exist, you are just arguing for more discrimination. And more discrimination doesn’t make straight people’s lives any better.

Rachel Maddow to Jim DeMint on Meet the Press yesterday

This week everybody was talking about the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is like a college student who gets his term papers done at the last minute. The Court’s term ended this week, so Tuesday it overturned the part of the Voting Rights Act that forces states with a history of discrimination to pre-clear their voting laws with the Justice Department, and Wednesday it released two major same-sex-marriage decisions: The federal government has to recognize all marriages blessed by the states, even the same-sex marriages DOMA was designed not to recognize; and same-sex marriages can be performed again in California, because a lower court ruling overturning Proposition 8 stands.

The texts of the decisions are here: Voting Rights Act, DOMA, Prop 8.

Because I agreed with the DOMA decision and disagreed with VRA, reading them back-to-back put me in a good position to write a calm, thoughtful analysis of the quality of the Roberts Court’s jurisprudence: This Court Sucks.

Within 48 hours of the VRA decision, Republicans in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Virginia all moved forward with plans designed to make it harder for blacks, Hispanics, and college students to vote. This tactic backfired on Republicans in 2012, and I think it will continue to backfire. Why? Seeing how hard it is for people-like-you to vote really convinces you that people-like-you need to vote. And Republican outreach to youth or Hispanics is doomed as long as the GOP targets those voting blocs as the Enemy.

The Prop 8 decision also had immediate effects: Plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier got married Friday.

As a liberal, I love the optics of all this. Conservative decisions lead to angry people stopping other people from voting. Liberal decisions lead to happy people celebrating a new chapter in their lives.

BTW, those anti-same-sex-marriage arguments you’ve been hearing on the talk shows are all bogus. ThinkProgress goes through them one-by-one so I don’t have to.

and immigration reform

The Senate passed a bill. Unfortunately, we have a bicameral system and the dysfunctional House still has to weigh in, so what happens next is anybody’s guess.

and massive demonstrations overseas

Egypt is the latest, but it’s not over yet in Brazil or Turkey either. In each country the demonstrations seem to be about something different, but the similarities of form are striking.

When I reviewed David Graeber’s The Democracy Project in the previous Sift, I was impressed by his observation that revolutions should be judged as “planetwide transformations of political common sense”, not by whether or not they take over the government. I wonder if that’s what we’re seeing here. If so, the first people to grasp the new common sense will have a huge advantage.

and a lot of stuff that wasn’t worth your time

These last two weeks had such a large concentration of addictive stories-that-aren’t-really-news that simply ignoring them (as I usually do) didn’t seem sufficient. Instead, in Are You a “News” Addict? I explain why you shouldn’t waste your time on the Zimmerman trial, the search for Edward Snowden, Paula Deen, or Aaron Hernandez.

More people should have been talking about President Obama’s climate speech

Like so many things President Obama does, it was half a loaf. You could hope for more, but thank God we’re at least getting this much: He said clearly that climate change is happening and it’s time to act rather than argue with deniers. (“We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.”) He instructed the EPA to regulate the carbon pollution from existing power plants, rather than just new ones. (The Devil’s in the details there: What will the new regulations say?) He hinted something about the Keystone Pipeline, but didn’t say anything you could take to the bank. And he announced a number of smaller initiatives that look really good, but (you know) they’re small.

The text of the speech is here. Slate has a good article laying out what it means.

and this stuff is also worth a look

The IRS “scandal” isn’t quite dead yet, but it’s definitely on life support. The Benghazi “stand down” myth is also pretty well debunked at this point.

A fascinating study shows that when people are shown another person’s picture and asked to estimate how much pain that person would feel from a variety of mishaps (getting shampoo in their eyes, stubbing their toes, etc.) they consistently estimate black people’s pain lower than white people’s.

Why? First guess was racism, but then it turned out that blacks also imagine whites suffer more from similar events.

A better explanation seems to be a princess-and-the-pea theory: If you think someone has had a hard life, you believe they can “take it”, while more privileged people are seen as more sensitive. It’s like: “You’ve suffered? Then it’s no big deal if you suffer some more.”

Things I learned while driving from New Hampshire to Kentucky/Tennessee/North Carolina and back during my week off:

  • Louisville is a way cooler, more cosmopolitan city than my New-England-centered worldview had led me to believe. Check out the museum-hotel 21C or the NuLu district. (The 21C souvenir t-shirt says “I Slept With Art”.)
  • Another surprise about the upper South: good local Mexican restaurants close to the interstates. I never had to resort to McDonalds or Cracker Barrel.
  • The absolute best way to avoid boredom on a long drive is Public Radio Remix, which collects quirky human-interest stories (like this one) from public radio stations all over the country. XM channel 123, and also available on the web.

Let’s end with something fun

This online test measures how well you see color. I got a 15.

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  • CJ Anton  On July 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    I agree–the Supreme Court really is like a college student who got his term paper in last minute. Can’t wait to see next year’s poll lines in minority neighborhoods.

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