Supreme Court Appears Ready to Nuke the Voting Rights Act


A key pillar of American civil rights law is now in danger of being nullified by the Supreme Court.

Shelby County, Alabama, is seeking to have Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the law that first guaranteed the right of blacks in the South to vote, declared unconstitutional.

A cursory review of recent Republican shenanigans with voting rules should put the notion that the VRA is obsolete entirely to bed. With voting growing more racially polarized, the temptations to alter voting rules to disenfranchise particular constituencies is obvious. Indeed, the Department of Justice successfully challenged Texas’ redistricting map because it diluted the voting power of Latinos. If the court strikes Section 5 down, one of the most effective and important powers the federal government has for ensuring that the right to vote is not abridged on the basis of race will be destroyed. 

Because, you know, racism and voter suppression efforts just don’t exist in America any more.

Seriously, America really needs to have a massive overhaul of its entire democratic process. Mostly because it sucks at being democratic.

  • Malcolm Tucker:  What's that film that you love?
  • Ollie Reeder:  What film?
  • Malcolm:  The one about the fucking hairdresser, the space hairdresser and the cowboy. The guy, he's got a tin foil pal and a pedal bin. His father's a robot and he's fucking fucked his sister. Lego! They're all made of fucking lego.
  • Ollie:  Star Wars?
  • Malcolm:  That's the one.

When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no - and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous.

Mitt Romney, talking to the LA Times.

Romney was speaking to the Times about his chevalier Ann’s brush with danger last week, when a plane on which she was a passenger was forced to make an emergency landing after an electrical fire caused the cabin to fill with smoke.

This man wants be the president of America.

Private companies do band together today, and sometimes it works. But when the research doesn’t lead anywhere…or stocks are down for unrelated reasons, those joint labs are liquidated quickly and people lose their jobs overnight. I’ve seen it happen.

Alternatively, what’s been happening a lot more lately, is that companies will issue grants to university labs. It’s a lot cheaper than hiring your own scientists. If the work at the lab goes extraordinarily well, you hire these specially trained PhDs. If not, you only lost a few hundred thousand dollars.

Also, while long-term search itself may not have a direct application, it doesn’t have to. The training graduate students receive is in-depth and focused. It also gives them MANY of the skills employers are asking for: communication skills, motivation, independence, analytic thinking, team-player, etc.

For example, all of the Physicists working at CERN aren’t going to make a living by finding new subatomic particles all day. Most of them will get jobs in industry because anyone who does a PhD at CERN is probably among the best data analysts or sensor designers on Earth.

If we’re not spending money on Science, then those experts won’t be Americans and, worse still, foreign scientists won’t be interested in coming to American schools. A majority of science graduate students in the USA are foreigners because we do the best Science…but that will change VERY quickly if we cut funding.

— A response to Potential US budget cuts could have a significant impact on science on The Verge.

Sometimes it really is worth reading the comments on the internet.


Stop the extradition of Richard O'Dwyer to the USA

British student Richard O'Dwyer with his mother Julia leaving Westminster magistrates court in London on January 13, 2012. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

Richard O’Dwyer is a 24 year old British student at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK. He is facing extradition to the USA and up to ten years in prison, for creating a website – – which linked (similar to a search-engine) to places to watch TV and movies online.

O’Dwyer is not a US citizen, he’s lived in the UK all his life, his site was not hosted there, and most of his users were not from the US. America is trying to prosecute a UK citizen for an alleged crime which took place on UK soil.

The internet as a whole must not tolerate censorship in response to mere allegations of copyright infringement. As citizens we must stand up for our rights online.

When operating his site, Richard O’Dwyer always did his best to play by the rules: on the few occasions he received requests to remove content from copyright holders, he complied. His site hosted links, not copyrighted content, and these were submitted by users.

Copyright is an important institution, serving a beneficial moral and economic purpose. But that does not mean that copyright can or should be unlimited. It does not mean that we should abandon time-honoured moral and legal principles to allow endless encroachments on our civil liberties in the interests of the moguls of Hollywood.

Richard O’Dwyer is the human face of the battle between the content industry and the interests of the general public. Earlier this year, in the fight against the anti-copyright bills SOPA and PIPA, the public won its first big victory. This could be our second.

This is why I am petitioning the UK’s Home Secretary Theresa May to stop the extradition of Richard O’Dwyer. I hope you will join me.

Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia founder

The Problem With Invisible Children Inc.

I’ve seen a lot of people posting / forwarding / retweeting Invisible Children Inc.’s KONY 2012 video over the past day or so.  It’s a horrible issue, and one well worth highlighting.  Something needs to be done to stop it, and that will require money.

The problem is the Invisible Children Inc. are nowhere near the best people to give that money to.  As a charity they have been criticised more than once for their lack of transparency over how much of the money they raise actually goes towards action for their cause.  As a registered not-for-profit their financial information is publicly available, and makes for interesting reading.  

The expenses listed on page 6 show that in the year to June 2011 Invisible Children spent $8,894,632; a not insignificant sum. However, only $2,810,681 (32%) of that amount went towards direct services (i.e. the cause).  Which means that for that 12-month period they incurred expenses of $6,083,951 -  316% more than they spent helping the children of Uganda.  In my opinion that’s pretty despicable. 

And that’s not to mention the fact that they want to use whatever money that actually does make it way to Uganda to help fund the Ugandan army, who are very nearly as dangerous to the women and children of Uganda as Kony’s LRA are.

It’s not much of a solution, is it?

If you do feel moved enough by the video, and the plight of the Uganda children, that you want to do something, I would recommend you donate money to a more worthy charity such as  Whilst they don’t get involved in the fight against Kony themselves, their efforts are focussed on actually improving quality of life in the area, which in the long run is a much better goal.

And as for Kony and the LVA?  Supporting Uganda’s army is not the answer.  As responsible nations it’s up to us to step in and do something.  So write to your MP.  Express your concerns, and state that as a responsible country, with a senior position in the UN, Britain should not let this happen.  Tell them you want the UK government to back the US’s efforts to hunt down Kony.  Either by providing our own military support, or pledging financial support to match that of the Obama administration.  Make sure they bring it up in Parliament.  And if they don’t, then write to them again.  And again, and again.

Above all else, do your own research.  Don’t just give your money to the people who have the most effective video.  It might not be going where you think it will.

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