Justice Scalia Wants it Both Ways // 6 of the States Under Title 4 Impose a Voter ID Law in the Last 24 Hours

What’s good for the goose is NOT good for the gander?
Rapid Response Teams in Arizona, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Virginia

This yesterday from U.S. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia in United States v. Windsor, … et.al. [DOMA]:

“We have no power to decide this case and even if we did, we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation. The Court’s errors on both points spring forth from the same diseased root: an exalted conception of the role of this institution in America… It is an assertion of judicial supremacy over the people’s Representatives in Congress and the Executive….”

However, the day before, he voted with the majority (Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, Attorney General, et.al.) in invalidating Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act that had been passed by both houses of the U.S. legislature (reauthorized three times, most recently in 2006 with voting 390 – 33 in the House and 98 – 0 in the Senate.) Section 4 contains the formula used by Congress to determine which states and local governments must receive federal pre-approval before changing their voting laws. The majority opinion argued that progress in voter registrations and turnout erased the need for Section 4, with Chief Justice Roberts, long a foe of the Act, referring specifically to gains in minority voting in the U.S. southern states

It would appear that Scalia is saying, “We, the conservative members of the Court, can overturn democratically adopted legislation if it goes against our principles and we can find a spurious reason, but we don’t believe the liberals on the Court ought to be able to do the same thing.”

**************************

Interestingly, 6 of the states that Title 4 was enacted for have, in the last 24 hours, enacted new Voter ID laws. Talk about quick reaction time! One, Arizona, had just had it’s previous law struck down by the Supreme Court (7 to 2) LAST WEEK! The state of Texas took only a few hours to pass a law REQUIRING a U.S. passport in hand as well as proof of state residency to vote.

In answer to these states reasoning that this will stop voter fraud (when the real reason for these laws is to hinder minority voting, and now, with Texas and its passport requirement, the elderly) several studies have found “that voter fraud is very rare, voter impersonation is nearly non-existent and much of the problems associated with alleged fraud in elections relates to unintentional mistakes by voters or election administrators.” – Brennan Center for Justice study (www.brennancenter.org/issues/voter-fraud). What has happened, in much more substantial numbers of cases, is election officials ‘misplacing’ ballots, voting machine irregularities, and other such incidents.

 

Supreme Court invalidates Voting Rights Act, Title 4, above.
Supreme Court invalidates Voting Rights Act, Title 4, above.

 

Supreme Court strikes down DOMA.
Supreme Court strikes down DOMA.
  • Share on Tumblr

Cell on Ice

A mobile mojito.

A mobile mojito.

Snowden shaken, but has not stirred.

I read somewhere last week that Edward Snowden, the flighty ex-NSA contractor, asked visitors to his Hong Kong apartment to put their mobile phones in his refrigerator. He was attempting to block the GPS signature of their devices in case they were being monitored to determine his whereabouts. What he was trying to do, in effect, was use his fridge as a Faraday cage*.

As is my nature, I was skeptical whether this would actually work. A fridge, it seemed to me, could just as easily be an enhancer of cell signals – a giant antenna what with all that metal and significant gaps for the rubber gaskets. So, being of a scientific bent of mind I tried an experiment. I placed my Samsung mobile in a large Samsung metal-clad refrigerator and dialed it. Voila! The in-coming ring could heard, connecting quicker than it normally does! So much for the rocket-science of a former NSA guy. (Could there be communication channels between all Samsung products? I’ll test another fridge when I get a chance.)

Not content to stop there I then put my mobile in the microwave. This common household appliance is manufactured with one of its express purposes being the blocking of … yes, yes, you’re getting warmer: microwaves! Try as I might, I could not receive a cell signal in this most useful of modern fixtures.

As an addenda, if you are the James Bond type, I have heard that an all-steel martini shaker works to block signals, too. My phone is too large to fit in the shaker at hand to test this hypothesis. And besides, it’s filled with mojitos!

***********

* A Faraday cage, or shield, is named for the English scientist Michael Faraday (1791 -1867). It is a solid or mesh enclosure that blocks most external electro-magnetic fields. Mesh will work as long as its openings are smaller than the radiating wavelength.

  • Share on Tumblr

Where’s Waldo?

Edward Snowden flies to Moscow (probably) but not beyond (yet).

About 30 journalists rushed to book seats this morning, 24 June 2013, on the daily 12 hour Aeroflot #SU150 / CU6150 Moscow to Havana flight in anticipation of interviewing recently fired U.S. National Security Agency technical contractor Edward Joseph Snowden (b. 21 June 1983). Unfortunately, he was not on the flight, at least in the Business (34 seats) or Economy classes (207 seats). (No one sprung for the First Class!)

The Airbus A330/200 departed Sheremetyevo International at 14:23 hours (UTC +4:00), 18 minutes late, and is scheduled to arrive at Havana’s Jose Marti International at 18:45 local time. (UTC -4:00)

To add insult to injury, this flight does not serve ANY alcohol, a state of emergency for the Fourth Estate!

Photo of Snowden's empty, paid for/assigned seat on today's Moscow to Havana flight.
Photo of Snowden’s empty, paid for/assigned seat on today’s Moscow to Havana flight.
Photo, above, of car from the Ecuadorian Embassy at the curb of Moscow's International Airport about the time of Snowden's (supposed) arrival from Hong Kong. (photo by Dmitry Rozhkov)
Photo, above, of car from the Ecuadorian Embassy at the curb of Moscow’s International Airport about the time of Snowden’s (supposed) arrival from Hong Kong. (photo by Dmitry Rozhkov)

Edward Snowden, although he never completed high school, worked most recently for Booz Allen Hamilton as an IT contractor in a National Security Agency (NSA) office in Hawaii. He is accused, based on his own admission, of leaking to the press details of top-secret American and British government mass surveillance including the interception of U.S. and European telephone metadata and the PRISM and Tempora internet surveillance programs.

Matthew M. Aid, an intelligence historian in Washington, said disclosures linked to Snowden have “confirmed longstanding suspicions that NSA’s surveillance in this country is far more intrusive than we knew.” U.S. federal prosecutors made public their sealed charges against Snowden on June 21st, his 30th birthday.

Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH) employ’s around 25,000 people of whom about half possess a “Top Secret” clearance. Three-quarters of its employees have government clearances at various levels. 99% of BAH’s $5.76 billion 2013 revenue is derived from government contracts. “About 70 percent of the 2013 U.S. intelligence budget is contracted out, according to a Bloomberg Industries analysis….” (Bennett and Riley, “Booz Allen, the World’s Most Profitable Spy Organization”, Business Week magazine, 20 June 2013.)

  • Share on Tumblr

Alpinists on Mt. Nanga Parbat Murdered

Ten dead at 15,000 foot camp in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan.

 

Nanga Parbat from Base Camp. Photo taken November 30, 2005.
Nanga Parbat from Base Camp. Photo taken November 30, 2005.

Back in my younger days I was a mountain climber. I still have all the stuff: the insulated boots; parkas; big-wall hardware; ice axes, hammers and screws; tents; down bags; metal-edged telemark skis, etc. But, as my life became more sedentary, with most days spent in front of the computer or at my gallery, I got soft. Now I just read about climbing.

Perhaps that’s a good thing. I came of age, as they say, in a time when I could trek almost anywhere and get out of most any trouble by flashing that all-important U.S. passport. There were hardly any mountains off limits except the Tibetan side of the Himalayas and some of the Soviet peaks. Sometimes even these were available for the right money.

The days of unfettered access have long been gone and highlighting this was today’s Taliban attack on an international climbing camp on Nanga Parbat, Pakistan’s second and the world’s ninth highest mountain. Locals call the mountain Diamir: “King of the Mountains”. It is located in Pakistan’s northwest Gilgit-Baltistan region and has resisted all attempts at a winter ascent. The area has had a lot of violence directed at the Shia minority but none toward foreigners as has occurred in more accessible regions. (The base camp, at a mountain elevation of 4200 feet, is roadless and difficult of access, requiring a two-day hike-in. The camp itself sits at 15,000 feet above sea level.)

“Spokesperson for the proscribed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, Ehsanullah Ehsan, talking to Dawn.com from an undisclosed location claimed that the Janud-e-Hafsa faction of the [Taliban] had carried out the attack… dressed as Gilgit Scouts, a paramilitary police unit.” (The Muslim News, Middlesex, UK.) The reason given for the murders was to avenge recent U.S. drone attacks that killed the Taliban’s deputy leader on May 29.

The scene of the massacre at the Gilgit-Baltistan base camp - The Muslim News, UK.
The scene of the massacre at the Gilgit-Baltistan base camp – The Muslim News, UK.

One Chinese climber was wounded and escaped. The dead include an American of Chinese origin, the Pakistani guide, two Chinese, a Nepalese, two Slovakians, a Lithuanian and two Ukranians.

 

  • Share on Tumblr

More Forest Fires Around “Wilburville”

Fires east, west and north.

So far this season there have been four forest fires in the area, all of them still burning fiercely out of control or mostly contained. Two are to the east in the Pecos Mountain area, one to the northwest and one west, just past Los Alamos in the Jemez Mountains at Valles Caldera National Preserve.

Valles Caldera is a 13.7 mile wide bowl, the remains of a small supervolcano that last blew its top about 50,000 years ago. Fragments of the explosion have been found as far away as Lubbock, Texas. Today the area serves as a magnificent location for cross-country skiing, fishing, horse riding and Hollywood movie-making.

21 June 2013 A view from my back yard, looking east, to the second fire in the Pecos Wilderness area.
21 June 2013
A view from my back yard, looking east, to the second fire in the Pecos Wilderness area.
June 2013 A view from the nearby 'town', looking east, to the first fire in the Pecos area.
June 2013
A view from the nearby ‘town’, looking east, to the first fire in the Pecos area.
3 June 2013 A view from my front yard, looking west, to the fire in the Jemez Mountains. The lights in the center of the photo are from Los Alamos, site of the Manhattan Project.
3 June 2013
A view from my front yard, looking west, to the fire in the Jemez Mountains. The lights in the center of the photo are from Los Alamos, site of the Manhattan Project.
26 June 2011 A view from my front yard, looking west, to the 2011 Las Conchas fire in the Jemez Mountains. It came within 50 feet of the 30,000 fifty gallon barrels of Los Alamos nuclear waste that are stored under tarps near the small neighboring town of White Rock. We could never figure out what those white structures were until then. As one can see, the smoke and ash drifts 20 miles directly toward the house. In the first day this fire consumed 43,000 acres - about one acre per second!
26 June 2011
A view from my front yard, looking west, to the 2011 Las Conchas fire in the Jemez Mountains. It came within 50 feet of the 30,000 fifty gallon barrels of Los Alamos nuclear waste that are stored under tarps near the small neighboring town of White Rock. We could never figure out what those white structures were until then. As one can see, the smoke and ash drifts 20 miles directly toward the house. In the first day this fire consumed 43,000 acres – about one acre per second!
25 June 2011 A view from my back yard, looking east, to the 2011 Pacheco forest fire that made us all pack and prepare to split for safety.
25 June 2011
A view from my back yard, looking east, to the 2011 Pacheco forest fire that made us all pack and prepare to split for safety.
  • Share on Tumblr

meandering & idle speculations on nothing & everything                                          

%d bloggers like this: