Sunday, June 30, 2013

Links for the week ending 30 June 2013

SCOTUS, man. Is it too much to ask that ALL THE NEWS not take place in the same week (that my kids finish school)? Well, let's get at it. "Today a broad majority of the Court reinforced that affirmative action must be strictly reviewed, but it did not outlaw those programs." Amy Howe at the indispensable SCOTUSblog with "The Fisher decision in Plain English."

"The decisions in Vance v. Ball State University (authored by Justice Samuel Alito) and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar (authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy) each watered down the ability for employees to sue under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of 'race, color, religion, sex or national origin.' Irin Carmon at Salon writes about "How workplace harassers won big."

"Shareholders sue corporations and corporate boards under a pair of laws passed in the 1930s, meaning that their federal statutory rights are no more powerful than those of the merchants who tried to sue Amex under the Sherman Act. So why can’t corporations, as LaCroix suggests, impose mandatory arbitration and class action waivers on shareholders?" Shareholders' rights may not be top on your list of things to worry about these days, but, as Alison Frankel writes at Reuters, last week's Amex decision may mean a reduction in corporate accountability even to their own putative owners.

"…[I]t could also be said that the majority ruling was built more on resentment of a particularly petulant kind: grudging about the need to remember an unpleasant past and to be mindful of the marginalized; offended by the idea that anyone would consider certain parts of the country more racist than others, or, really, that anyone is particularly racist at all these days." Amy Davidson at The New Yorker on the decision that struck down key parts of the Voting Rights Act.

"Within 24 hours of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the law requiring nine states to submit voting law changes to the federal government for pre-clearance, five* are already moving ahead with voter ID laws, some of which had already been rejected as discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act." Sarah Childress at Frontline on the immediate effects of the VRA decision.

"Pre-clearance was an effective deterrent to discriminatory practices, but threat of swift litigation can also deter those who seek to create barriers to voting. We will need the commitment of an army of civil rights lawyers to begin to bring these cases." Melissa Harris-Perry at MSNBC with a call to lawyer up in the wake of the VRA decision — and a warning that worse decision may come in a case still pending. (Via Dafna Linzer.)

"She clucked like a mother hen, and said, Well, it’s about time people had some sense. You go celebrate tonight, honey. We’re all so happy for you." Before we all give up in utter despair, the one piece of unalloyed good news from This Week In SCOTUS, via an extraordinarily moving personal essay by E.J. Graff at The American Prospect.

"In fact, a coalition of gay rights groups is warning same-sex couples who live in the 35 states that ban gay marriage that they may not be able to access a divorce or be eligible for key federal benefits if they get married in a gay marriage state and then travel home." Uh. Would you believe, mostly unalloyed? By Liz Goodwin at Yahoo News.

"There are currently 96 unpaid special assistant U.S. attorneys working for the department, according to a spokesperson, who said paid assistant U.S attorneys have starting salaries ranging from $44,581 to $117,994." Given all the huge social issues working their way through the U.S. court system these days, isn't it reassuring to know that the sequester has left the Department of Justice advertising for unpaid intern lawyers to do the work? Yeah. By Christie Thompson at ProPublica.

"And it is seeing a court whose secret rulings have in effect created a body of law separate from the one on the books — one that gives U.S. spy agencies the authority to collect bulk information about Americans’ medical care, firearms purchases, credit card usage and other interactions with business and commerce, according to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)." By dude Peter Wallsten, Carol D. Leonnig, and Alice Crites for The Washington Post, a look at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a body that operates without oversight or accountability. (Via Molly Ball.)

"By 4pm on Monday, after spending 27 consecutive hours inside Sheremetyevo's barely air-conditioned halls, Lidia Kelly, a journalist with Reuters, squinted her eyes in the direction of an overweight senior citizen and asked: 'Wait, is that Julian Assange?'" Some comic relief from Miriam Elder at the Guardian on the hapless journalists trying to catch NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

More drawings from Guantanamo Bay by Molly Crabapple at the Paris Review.

"'I am overwhelmed, honestly,' Davis said after standing for nearly 13 hours to filibuster Senate Bill 5, the abortion legislation. The outpouring of support from protesters at the Capitol and across the nation, she said, 'shows the determination and spirit of Texas women and people who care about Texas women.'" It was only a battle, not the war, that got won, but what a battle it was. Becca Aaronson at The Texas Tribune recaps Tuesday night's bravura performance by reproductive rights advocates at the Texas Capitol. You can learn more about Wendy Davis in this 2011 profile at The Texas Tribune by Emily Ramshaw.

An even more draconian anti-abortion bill passed in Ohio on Friday. On Thursday, Michelle Goldberg described the bill at The Daily Beast. (Via Irin Carmon.)

"If financial relationships influence physicians to choose pricier brand-name drugs that have little benefit over generics, everyone pays the cost – particularly taxpayers, who spent $62 billion last year subsidizing Medicare Part D." Great work by dude Charles Ornstein, Tracy Weber, and Jennifer LaFleur at ProPublica, matching Medicare prescribing records with payments made to physicians by drug companies.

"By painting Rachel Jeantel as the aggressor, as the one prone to telling lies and spreading untruths, it became easy for the white male defense attorney to treat this 19-year-old, working-class black girl, a witness to the murder of her friend, as hostile, as a threat, as the one who needed to be regulated and contained and put in her place. At Salon, Brittney Cooper analyzes the racially charged treatment of a witness at the trial of George Zimmerman.

"When Glascock explains why he keeps collecting military-style guns, he doesn't bring up self-defense or hunting. His eyes light up when he talks about all the fun ways you can customize an AR-15: flashlights, scopes, night vision, even an attachable beer-bottle opener." By Ailsa Chang at WNCW. (Via Lois Beckett.)

"Powerless to achieve external markers of adulthood like marriage or a steady job, they instead measure their progress by cutting ties, turning inward and numbing themselves emotionally. A grim look at the prospects and coping mechanisms of young people with blue-collar backgrounds, by Jennifer M. Silva at the NYT.

"I know this: living without a door changes a person. As a ten-year-old, I learned to be extremely circumspect. Today, I live with the knowledge that my conversations and exchanges are being monitored by someone else against my will. I’ve learned how to go inside myself, the only place that is – for me, right now – truly private." By Jennifer Jeffrey at Medium, a powerful exploration of how NSA surveillance is as personal as it is political. (Hat tip to @sciwo.)

As Nelson Mandela lies gravely ill, Nilanjana Roy writes this this lyrical tribute to the statesman — and the books that helped shaped him — at "The reader of Robben Island."

"There are a thousand pocket worlds in Johannesburg, rubbing up against each other." From Granta's July issue on travel, Lauren Beukes writes about a refugee neighborhood in South Africa's third-largest city. (Via Kate Webb.)

"Because for every sweet, disarming posture guru, there’s someone whose truthy ways will kill you in a sweat lodge." Sally Adee at The Last Word on Nothing writing about standing desks — and the importance of learning to evaluate the difference between snake oil and science.

"It felt almost transgressive to think that I could just build the family I wanted on my own." At The Hairpin, Jia Tolentino interviews a British woman about her decision to have children via an anonymous sperm donor.

"If we were the Doctor, we could bring down the government with the help of a feisty sidekick and a satsuma, but we aren’t, and we don’t have a Tardis, so we have to go the long way round. Laurie Penny on the vehemence of the opposition to the idea that the next Doctor Who should be a woman and/or a person of color.

"Anne of Green Gables is like a rural Canadian book of Genesis with Anne as a more enthusiastic Adam, naming to connect rather than command." Sarah Mesle with a very smart appreciation of L.M. Montgomery's most famous series, at the Los Angeles Review of Books. (Via Nicole Cliffe.)

"You begin to believe that instead of being everywhere like you'd thought, real friends are rare. There should be a click when you meet a real friend, like the sound of a safe being unlocked in a heist movie—all the burglars suddenly elated, the suspense relieved." Finally, Mary Mann on the quest for not love but friendship in the big city.