Why I Decided Not To Delete My Old Internet Posts

In this excerpt from his memoir, the NSA whistleblower describes his realization that no one should have to "pretend to be perfect."

The post Why I Decided Not To Delete My Old Internet Posts appeared first on The Intercept.

Climate change study finds that maple syrup season may come earlier

Once winter nights dip below freezing and the days warm up above freezing sap begins to flow in sugar maples marking the start of the syrup season. With climate change, daily temperatures are on the rise, which affects sap flow and sugar content. By 2100, the maple syrup season in eastern North America may be one month earlier than it was during 1950 and 2017, according to a new study.

The Shocking Lack of Diversity on State Supreme Courts

The American judiciary is facing a crisis of legitimacy. Just one in three Americans express confidence in the legal system, and there is a widespread belief that the rule of law is unfairly applied. “The Supreme Court is not well,” five Democratic senators wrote in a much-discussed amicus brief filed last month. “And the people know it.”

What fewer people may know is that the nation’s highest court is hardly unique in its dysfunction. Perhaps matters pertaining to lower-level courts have gone unnoticed because President Trump has appointed two controversial justices to the Supreme Court and named nearly 150 other judges to lifetime federal positions. But this oversight is at the public’s peril: State courts hear 95 percent of all legal cases, and set precedents that bind more than 23,000 lower court judges, who, as legal scholar Sherrilyn Ifill explained in the Washington and Lee Law Review, have “a more direct and irrevocable impact in the lives of many Americans than local or even national legislators.”

One of the most significant developments in recent years is the outsized role of big money in the 38 states that elect judges. The National Institute on Money in Politics estimates that, in 2018, more than $35 million was spent on state court races—an all-time record.

Partisanship continues to be an issue, too. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey recently added two additional seats to the state’s top court and removed Democrats from its nominating commission, which, Slate legal writer Mark Joseph Stern claims, “rig[s] the judicial process in favor of ultraconservatives.” Last year, a would-be judge in North Carolina was targeted by the GOP for “siding with gangs before police.” And when the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled to legalize same-sex marriage in 2009, conservatives responded with a vigorous—and ultimately successful—campaign to remove three of the justices from the bench.

These trends compound another problem plaguing top courts: an astonishing lack of diversity. Seventeen states have just one woman on their supreme court, and nearly half of all state top courts are all-white, according to a recent report published by the Brennan Center for Justice, a law and policy think tank at New York University’s Law School. This includes states with considerable minority populations like Nevada, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. Indeed, by many measures, state benches are less representative than they were a generation ago, even as legislative bodies like the U.S. Congress continue to become more racially and ethnically diverse.

“This is a problem that goes much deeper than the current president or the federal courts,” says Alicia Bannon, the managing director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program and a co-author of the report. “It goes to the integrity of our system of justice… If your courts aren’t reflecting the communities they’re supposed to serve, you have a real crisis on your hands.”

A homogenous judiciary isn’t well positioned to understand the challenges that face Americans of varying sexual orientations, ethnicities and socioeconomic statuses. And when the legal system fails to include alternative perspectives, it’s deprived of the opportunity to render truly fair and equal justice. As Harry T. Edwards, a senior circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals, noted in 2002, diversity ensures “constant input from judges who have seen different kinds of problems in their pre-judicial careers, and have sometimes seen the same problems from different angles.”  

Edwards’ point was not that personal identity should determine a justice’s decisions, and he actively rejected the notion that he was obligated “to enforce some mythical black perspective” as part of his rulings. Rather, he was arguing that diversity on the bench was about ensuring differences in awareness and that a more variegated court was ultimately better able to rule impartially.

“Just as most of my Jewish colleagues have more than a fleeting understanding of anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, and issues surrounding Israel and Palestine, most blacks have more than a fleeting understanding of the effects of racial discrimination,” he wrote. And “If I sometimes bring unique perspectives to judicial problems—perspectives that are mine in whole or in part because I am black—that is a good thing. It is good because it is inevitable that judges' different professional and life experiences have some bearing on how they confront various problems that come before them.”

A large body of social scientific research backs up these assertions. When John Kastellec, a political scientist at Princeton, analyzed results from the U.S. Court of Appeals, he found that the presence of a Black judge nearly guaranteed that the court would rule in favor of affirmative action. This happened even when the rest of the court was white. “Race goes above and beyond the effect of ideological diversity,” he says. His results align with other findings, including by Dr. Kate Bratton at Louisiana State University and Dr. Nancy Arrington at Cal Poly San Louis Obispo, that illustrate how diverse viewpoints on the bench influence decision-making on issues related to voting rights, death penalty litigation and gender discrimination.

Yet recent efforts to address this diversity gap have been mixed. In 2016, a coalition of citizens in Texas filed a federal lawsuit challenging that the state’s system of at-large elections, arguing that its voting system diluted the power of Hispanic voters (in at-large elections, candidates are elected from across the entire state, rather than on a district-by-district basis). While the federal judge hearing the case did not challenge the claims of vote dilution, she concluded that because there was no proof that “race rather than partisanship” determined electoral outcomes, Texas was not obliged to reform its system. More recently, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) have filed suits alleging that statewide elections in Arkansas and Alabama, respectively, violate the Voting Rights Act. In both states, a Black justice has never first reached the state supreme court through an election.

“If you go into the courtroom and nobody looks like you, there are concerns about whether communities are being treated fairly before certain judges or justices,” says Natasha Merle, a senior counsel at the LDF who is representing the plaintiffs in Alabama. “Less diversity on the court brings into question its impartiality.”

Merle says that no Black candidate has ever been elected to a statewide position in Arkansas, and says that a shift toward voting districts, like those used in Congressional races, could help improve the strength and agency of Black voters. But unlike the Brennan Center, which has long advocated for replacing judicial elections with an appointment system, Merle believes that having elections is not a bad thing for judges or the communities that they serve.

“Saying that if you elect judges in districts they will only worry about their constituents and maybe ignore the law is disingenuous,” Merle says. “The issue here is ‘are voters being heard?’ And if black voters aren’t able to equally participate in the process and elect candidates in the process—whoever those candidates might be—then that’s the problem that we should focus on.”

The LDF’s case in Arkansas is not expected to go to trial until next summer, but there’s plenty to be done in the meantime. As Bannon points out, most voters don’t focus on judicial elections, even though they’re well-positioned to affect change, whether by voting for judges who support their values, putting pressure on governors and other elected officials to appoint more representative judiciaries or supporting programs like public financing that would reduce the influence of special interests.

There are reasons for optimism, too. Last year, Melody Stewart became the first black women elected to Ohio’s supreme court and was one of four justices of color elected nationwide. It was just the third time in American history that more than one person of color has been first elected to the bench in a single election cycle. Next month, Delaware, a state with a population that’s nearly 40 percent non-white, will fill a vacancy on its Supreme Court. While the state has never seated a justice of color, Bannon says advocacy from local communities could help to change things.

“This isn’t a problem that can be diagnosed in one point and solved away in another,” she says. “But the positive side is that there are many points where improvements can be made, which means there are lots of opportunities for citizens and activists to make a difference.”

I stand with the climate striking students – it's time to create a new economy prismo.xyz/posts/10c214e2-47e3

Tsunami Bomb announce new album “The Spine That Binds”, stream single “The Hathors”

Aside from a few festival appearances and comps or re-releases, California’s Tsunami Bomb have been relatively quiet since they officially broke up in 2005. Their last album, The Definitive Act, came out in 2004 right before the last founding member left the band, but today they’ve announced a brand new LP out November 8th on […]

The post Tsunami Bomb announce new album “The Spine That Binds”, stream single “The Hathors” appeared first on Dying Scene.

'No Planet B': Hundreds of thousands join global climate strike | News | Al Jazeera prismo.xyz/posts/a41cee9c-d1c1

Secret F.B.I. Subpoenas Scoop Up Personal Data From Scores of Companies nyti.ms/2AuBlfM

A Stunning New Study Shows How Fast North America’s Birds Are Disappearing

Bird populations are slowly but steadily dying off, solidifying their status as canaries in the ecological coal mine. The North American bird population has declined by 3 billion, or 27 percent, since 1970, according to an extensive study published Thursday in Science. The authors of the study used population data from bird-watchers and biomass data from […]

Don’t Buy Greenland—Buy Greyhound

This article is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story. 

When the narrator of Simon and Garfunkel’s classic 1968 song goes to “look for America,” he takes a Greyhound bus. 50 years later, there’s never been a better time for America to go looking for Greyhound.

In the last three decades, the struggling inter-city bus company has gone through two bankruptcies and been passed from an American conglomerate, to a Canadian conglomerate, to a British one, FirstGroup. And in May, FirstGroup put Greyhound up for sale.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (who used the Simon and Garfunkel song in a 2016 campaign ad) often talks of nationalizing various sectors of the U.S. economy, from health insurance to energy production. The next president should also buy up and expand Greyhound as part of a Green New Deal: The bus service it provides is essential, providing low-cost and low-carbon travel for millions of people every year. High-speed rail may be glitzier, and it’s certainly vital, but any future zero-carbon transportation system must also rely on a larger, greener network of inter-city buses.

The Amtrak Precedent

The obvious parallel to public ownership of Greyhound is Amtrak, the government-funded passenger rail authority established in 1971. At the time, America’s privately owned passenger railroads were spiraling into bankruptcy in the face of competition from airlines, publicly funded Interstate highways, and the cars (and buses) that used them. Under pressure from advocacy groups like the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), Congress passed the Rail Passenger Service Act, which incentivized railroad corporations to spin off their money-losing passenger divisions into a consolidated, publicly funded system.

Unlike the highways and the airports, which get a constant flow of fuel tax revenue, Amtrak never got a consistent, dedicated funding source, and it shows. Across much of the nation, the rail network remains skeletal. Even on the densely populated Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C., the upgraded “higher-speed” Amtrak service (the Acela) is slower than the truly high-speed train service that exists across much of Europe and Asia.

Still, the creation of Amtrak has ensured that some form of passenger train service endures across much of the United States. Where states have invested in faster, more frequent service (often with the help of Obama-era stimulus funds), it’s not only survived but prospered, with routes in places from Michigan to Washington state seeing double-digit percentage ridership increases.

Today, it’s Greyhound that’s on the ropes. After its 2003 bankruptcy, Greyhound cut a staggering 37% of its bus network, including roughly 1,000 stops, particularly in rural areas. Inter-city bus travel did enjoy a small renaissance around the time of the Great Recession, as gas prices spiked and discount carriers like Megabus entered the market, pushing Greyhound to add more express routes. But now that fuel costs have plummeted and discount airlines have proliferated, inter-city bus systems are again in trouble.

Megabus has slashed much of the service it rolled out scarcely a decade earlier, and downsized its major Chicago hub. Last year, Greyhound announced it was eliminating all its routes in western Canada, spurring calls for nationalization north of the border. The next series of cuts could be on its way.

The central obstacle to recovery is that the federal subsidy for inter-city buses is relatively small: about half a billion dollars for rural bus service as of fiscal year 2017, compared to $37 billion in highway funding and $18 billion for aviation. Inter-city rail historically got between $1 and $2 billion, but is now riding high at nearly $3 billion.

Given the relative success of Amtrak, even on a paltry budget, why hasn’t Greyhound been nationalized, too? There are a few reasons. In the early 1970s, when nationalization was in the air, Greyhound was still riding high on the new Interstate highways—public ownership didn’t seem urgent. By the time of the company’s 1990 bankruptcy, the Reagan-Bush regime in Washington had made the idea of public ownership anathema.

It’s also likely that the dynamics of racism and classism in America have played a role. Although train travelers are a pretty diverse bunch, Amtrak always had a ready-made base of business-class travelers on its Northeast Corridor and Chicago hub services. Although exact statistics are not readily available, it’s likely that, by comparison, Greyhound riders tend to be lower-income people and people of color; the company estimates that less than one-third of its customers earn more than $35,000 per year.

It’s not surprising, then, that Amtrak riders have wielded more (albeit limited) political clout. So far, there has been no bus-oriented equivalent of Anthony Haswell, the Chicago-based lawyer who founded the NARP and helped bring Amtrak into being.

The Climate Imperative

There’s a clear case to be made for nationalization simply to restore Greyhound’s services, rather than allow further cutbacks. After all, inter-city bus service is still vital for millions of Americans, especially those who don’t own their own cars. As of 2014, the company had about 18 million riders per year, about two-thirds the number of Amtrak passengers. In much of the country, however, Greyhound is the only option for inter-city travel, and even with major new investments in Amtrak, that’s likely to be the case for the foreseeable future.

The crisis of global climate change, however, is probably the most urgent reason for public ownership. The largest share of U.S. carbon pollution comes from the transportation sector, with flying and driving the two most carbon-intensive modes available at most distances. By contrast, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has called inter-city buses “the low-carbon travel champ,” stating that they emit less than one-sixth the carbon, per passenger, of a single-occupancy car, and are roughly two-and-a-half to five times more efficient than flying for trips of less than 1,000 miles. They also handily beat out trains: Although most buses are diesel-fueled, so are most Amtrak trains.

With a Green New Deal, we can hope that much more of the rail network will be electrified rather than diesel-powered, and that more (eventually all) of our electricity will come from zero-carbon sources. For the moment, however, even diesel buses are a huge boon to the climate. Moving forward, a publicly owned Greyhound could implement a fleet of even cleaner electric buses.

Even with a full fleet of zero-carbon local transit and high-speed rail, frequent, reliable inter-city bus service will still be an essential complement to a modern rail network. Amtrak already contracts with Greyhound and other companies to provide “thruway bus service” and take riders the “last mile” (make that 50 to 100 miles) to population centers that lack connecting train service. As more people get on board the trains, these services will only become more necessary.

It’s also worth noting the political value of including investments in inter-city bus service as part of Green New Deal legislation. Support for transit investment often follows a predictable urban-rural divide, with sparsely populated rural areas expressing less support for transit on the premise that it chiefly benefits big cities. (Indeed, several U.S. states have no Amtrak train service: South Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska and Hawai‘i.) But Greyhound has historically served smaller towns as well as larger cities, which could help build rural support for a comprehensive green transit system—especially important when considering rural states hold disproportionate power in the Senate and Electoral College.

President Trump probably wouldn’t be caught dead on a Greyhound bus, even a gold-plated one. But as the seas rise, instead of buying Greenland, we’d be better off buying Greyhound, expanding inter-city bus service and taking a bite out of climate change.

Long lost human relative unveiled

Many people are familiar with the existence of Neanderthals, the humanoid species that was a precursor to modern humans, but far less is known Denisovans, a similar group that were contemporaries to the Neanderthals and who died out approximately 50,000 years ago. Researchers have now made a reconstruction of a Denisovan girl based on patterns of methylation (chemical changes) in their ancient DNA.

Even short-lived solar panels can be economically viable

A new study shows that, contrary to widespread belief within the solar power industry, new kinds of solar cells and panels don't necessarily have to last for 25 to 30 years in order to be economically viable in today's market.

The Unions Backing Friday’s Global Climate Strike—And What It Means

When asked why he’s planning to support the Global Climate Strike slated for September 20, Larry Hopkins, a rail crew driver for the transportation and maintenance company Hallcon, says the reason is simple: “I want to help preserve and protect our personal safety. Because right now, we’re in a climate emergency that is very bad for our health and our safety.”

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