Random Observations on Yesterday's Supreme Court Hearing on a Challenge to the Voting Rights Act:
Or, more precisely, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which affects certain jurisdictions with historical issues of voter suppression based on race. Those places need to have changes to their voting laws reviewed and approved by the U.S. Justice Department. The Act was renewed in 2006 by enormous majorities (98-0 in the Senate) and signed by George W. Bush. The case is Shelby County v. Holder, and a county in Alabama is saying, "Aw, c'mon. All that shit's in the past. Besides, everyone else is racist, too," which are two very different arguments against the section. So of course it's probably gonna be overturned. A few thoughts:
1. You know how when anyone talks about Section 5, they say, like the Washington Post did, "nine states and assorted jurisdictions in seven others" are covered? Yeah, a couple of those "assorted jurisdictions" are the counties in New York that contain Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. That would be roughly 5.5 million people. So that's more people covered than in 5 of the included states. So while the attitude on the Voting Rights Act by four of the white male justices is that it's picking on the poor, poor South, that's just plain fucking wrong.
2. Justice Antonin "Sorry, Clarence Thomas Can't Talk Right Now Because He's Sucking My Meaty Sausage" Scalia has been much quoted for saying that vast majorities of both Houses of Congress approved the law because they're such pussies about racism: "Now, I don't think that's attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement." What he said next is at least as interesting: "It's been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes."
It's been written about, huh? Yeah, you know who's written about it? A bunch of fuckers on the right, like, for instance, George Will, at least a half-dozen times in the 1980s, and that avatar of racial harmony, Pat Buchanan. You know who else wrote about it? Antonin "Sorry, Clarence Thomas Can't Talk Right Now Because He's Tongue-Bathing My Dense Meatballs" Scalia.
Yeah, in the 1995 case of Adaranad Constructors v. Pena, which severely limited the use of racial preferences in awarding federal government contracts, Scalia wrote in concurrence, "To pursue the concept of racial entitlement—even for the most admirable and benign of purposes—is to reinforce and preserve for future mischief the way of thinking that produced race slavery, race privilege and race hatred." You got that? Affirmative action actually leads to slavery. That's the kind of fine, logical thinking that makes Scalia such a model justice.
So "written about" actually means "filtered through a conservative echo chamber and fuck you."
3. Winner of the "Meaningless Metaphor That Stupid People Will Think Is Smart" is Justice Samuel "Let Me Frisk Your Child" Alito, who wondered, "Suppose Congress passed a law that said, everyone whose last name begins with A shall pay a special tax of $1,000 a year. And let's say that tax is challenged by somebody whose last name begins with A. Would it be a defense to that challenge that for some reason this particular person really should pay a $1,000 penalty that people with a different last name do not pay?" Yes, but what if the government has classified reasons for passing that tax that it can't tell you in the name of national security, huh?
4. Another quote of Antonin "Sorry, Clarence Thomas Can't Talk Right Now Because He's Chugging My Salty Alfredo Sauce" Scalia that's made pundits perk their heads up and say, "Whuh?" is his seeming lack of understanding of the 15th Amendment: "You have to show, when you are treating different States differently, that there's a good reason for it. That's the -- that's the concern that those of us who -- who have some questions about this statute have. It's -- it's a concern that this is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress," which, unfortunately, the Constitution says it totally is.
But after that, Scalia said, "There are certain districts in the House that are black districts by law just about now. And even the Virginia Senators, they have no interest in voting against this. The State government is not their government, and they are going to lose -- they are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act." Just to get this right: Scalia now has a problem with politicians having to do things that voters might want them to do. And, seemingly, he's got a problem with gerrymandering if it creates "black districts," but, as previous cases show us, not when it involves Republican legislatures doing it.
5. Clarence Thomas sat the entire time without uttering a word. Every other justice spoke. Obviously, because Thomas nearly never speaks or asks questions. This time, his stony silence was deafening. And shameful. Maybe he was too busy sucking Scalia's gray pubes out of his teeth.