Section 5 Allowed to Survive

In the latest ruling from the Supreme Court, a controversial case involving the Voting Rights Act has yielded an unorthodox ruling. SCOTUS Blog has the details, discussed below.

In the case of Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v. Holder, it was widely believed that there was no middle ground. Many believed that Justice Anthony Kennedy’s notorious swing vote on the court would ultimately determine the fate of Section 5’s constitutionality. That provision in the Voting Rights Act mandates that specific jurisdictions with a history of discrimination receive clearance from the Justice Department before being allowed to make any alterations in the voting process.

It seems that, possibly fearing Justice Kennedy voting with the liberal faction, Justice Roberts put together a coalition of seven other justices to find that elusive middle ground – in the process invoking the doctrine of constitutional avoidance and putting off for another day the unsettled question about Section 5’s constitutionality.

The Court ruled that all local jurisdictions should be allowed exemption from Justice Department pre-clearance if they can demonstrate a 10 year history of no racial discrimination. Section 5 went untouched.

Dissenting was Justice Clarence Thomas, who was not content with Roberts’ compromise.

“Because the Court’s statutory decision does not provide [NAMUDNO] with full relief, I conclude that it is inappropriate to apply the constitutional avoidance doctrine,”

Thomas stated that striking down Section 5 would have been the appropriate ruling.

I certainly agree with Thomas – I think that Section 5 is no longer justified. It has lost its efficacy from a practical policy standpoint, and was always unconstitutional from a theoretical standpoint. However, if I had to choose between Justice Roberts’ brave politicking to reach a  compromise, or the liberal faction the court resolving the constitutional question in favor of Section 5, I am apt to settle for the draw.

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The Need for Solidarity

I think what we are seeing in Iran is the beginning of its own color revolution. Within the seas of green crowds protesting what was surely a manipulated if not stolen election, the portents for change and democratic reform are lingering.

So where is our champion of change, our master of moral certitude? Where is the man who heralded the cause of self-determination not a month ago in Cairo?

Here is a quote from the Wall Street Journal today regarding the comments of one world leader:

“These elections are an atrocity,” he said. “If [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad had made such progress since the last elections, if he won two-thirds of the vote, why such violence?” The statement named the regime as the cause of the outrage in Iran and, without meddling or picking favorites, stood up for Iranian democracy.

That president was Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Journal is right – Obama has abdicated Iran, and he is leaving its people high and dry in Persia.

Some prominent analysts say that identifying the US with the pro-freedom cause could hurt it. Iran is a proud culture with deep anti-Western and anti-American sentiment, so they say. Signs of solidarity from the US could turn the movement around. While I am willing to accept that this might be true, it is at best a possibility. What is certain, is that by treading lightly around such an utter atrocity and sham, we are committing a tragic transgression that runs against the grain if our deepest ideals – ideals that Mr. Obama has said he wants to restore America’s moral authority to espouse.

Here is a quote from Mr. Obama’s speech in Cairo:

But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things:  the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose.  These are not just American ideas; they are human rights.  And that is why we will support them everywhere.

Mr. President, if you are going to say these things, then you are accountable. The Iranian government has violated every one of these “human rights,” and yet it seems that “we will support them everywhere” is a highly qualified statement. Either Iran doesn’t qualify as “everywhere,” or “support” entails small statements of disdain for a far larger crisis.

I am not one who buys into the dream of creating Democracy abroad and nation-building a utopia. That was actually George Bush. But I think that Barack Obama is trying to adopt that lofty goal into his hopeful rhetoric, while commandeering a much more cynical foreign policy.

Yet even worse than being hypocritical in execution, he is simply wrong regardless of his ideology. No matter the level of his commitment to providing tangible aid to pro-freedom Iran, there is no reason for him to have been THIS silent. People are DYING for speaking out for civil liberty. Words ARE powerful, and they cost nothing to deploy.

Neo-Secessionism Rising

Imagine Breaking Up the United States?”

This is the question that Paul Starobin, writing for the Wall Street Journal, asks.

In the face of a ballooning, irresponsible federal government that seems to defy every principle of republican virtue, this is a question that continues to sound sweet in the longing ears of closet secessionists.

And for the first time since the Civil War, secession is not a word that is equated with ignorance, extremism, and failed causes. It is a word that is beginning to sound more and more apropos as we are both pushed and pulled toward decentralization.

Pushed we are indeed, in the face of mounting debt and government intrusion into our lives – an intrusion that is on the upward trend, made even more heinous by the ever-rising ratio of representative to citizen, as our population grows and the number of our legislators remains forever fixed.

Yet simultaneously, we are pulled by the growth of “mega-regions” – the devolution of the national economy into distinct concentrations of regional economic power and population density.

It is truly as if we are making a revolution on the wheel of governance, and we seem to be near apogee, a lonely satellite of a distant Jeffersonian ideal.

Will we orbit back to such virtues? Will we take our cues from the modern city-states like Singapore and Dubai? Will we allow a devolution of our government into more compact, comprehensive, concentrated regional units of more representative government, where citizens, with the gifts of market integration and globalization, will be able to maximize political freedoms without the expense of lost economic liberty?

As we prepare to pass healthcare reform, as we continue the meteoric growth of the money supply, as we (read: our distant and removed representatives) sow the seeds of fiscal disaster, we must ask ourselves if we are not creating the very conditions for critical mass from which our implosion is inevitable?

Will we one day look back at states like Alaska, Texas, and Vermont, and hail them as the bellwethers of change?

When the Governor of Texas goes beyond the unique but latent sense of nationalism of most Texans and actually suggests to the national press that secession is a rational option; when we read the last works of the visionary of foreign relations George Kennan and come across suggestions of the dissolution of our monstrous nation-state; when individual states are so large and unwieldy themselves, i.e. California, that they are in fiscal straights; when our national government continues to plunge itself into deeper debt and ensures a nasty and brutish existence for future generations under the supreme weight of high taxation and runaway inflation; when articles by well-reputed scholars that legitimately put forth the idea of devolution as a way for American culture and ideals to not just survive, but thrive, get published in America’s top newspapers…

then we know it is time again to think about this seriously. The time of neo-secessionism may finally have arrived.

Seniors Still Searching…

Elly Schofield, writing for the summer Daily Tar Heel, has a great story out about the dramatic decline in the amount of seniors who have secured jobs right out of college.

I am really glad that the paper included a graphic (reproduced above) that really quanitifies the personal anecdotes that we have all been hearing from our peers about the difficulty of securing work in the current economic climate.

The personal testimonies of the article complement the data in the graph very well – and the data is alarming. I had no idea that the decline was well over 30%. We have gone from a majority of students having jobs secured by the time they don their caps and gowns to less than a fifth.

Of course, the economy will improve and the number will rebound, but in the words of Ralph Byrns, “that is only a piece of it.”

I did some cursory research to see if there was any readily available data on the degrees of these hires, to no avail. I would suspect though, that students in the humanities and arts are suffering the most. 4 years of rational ignorance as to the narrow market for skills in these areas are coming back to haunt many.

I did, however, find the original report from the NACE. There seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy that is driving down the job rate above and beyond the economic climate, as fewer students had even started their job search by graduation than in previous years. This exacerbates the fall in jobs secured overall by graduating classes!

It seems like a lot of students are just discouraged. A nonsubstantial increase in the number of students going to grad school fails to account for student’s motivation for forgoing the job market (something I wish the DTH would have articulated better).

It seems that we need both a boost in the economy as well as optimism among grads – both of which are probably intimately linked anyway.