Saturday, June 29, 2013

Supreme Court Decisions

Three big decisions by the court this week, which I don't think are being represented very well in the media. I'm not surprised given that constitutional law is nuanced and requires more than a soundbite to describe. And of course, there has to be winners and losers with nothing in between.

Starting with Shelby County v. Holder, in which the Alabama country sued the Attorney General arguing that sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Right Act of 1965 were unconstitutional. Section 5 requires that any State or County which has historically discriminated against minority voters get Federal approval prior to any changes to voting procedures. Section 4 creates a formula to determine which States and Counties fall into that category.

The Court's decision wasn't really as awful as some of my fellow lefties make it seem. The court did not rule Section 5 as unconstitutional, so Federal intervention is still allowed. The court did determine that the formula that Section 4 uses is unconstitutional. However, if Congress were to update the formula, Section 4 would be back in effect. The majority opinion is that the formula, which was last updated in the 1970s, isn't fair under modern circumstances.

I really hate that Section 5 is being rendered impotent until Congress can get their act together. And that might be difficult given how this and the prior Congress behaved. However, the formula really ought to be updated, because I don't if y'all have noticed, but Republican controlled State Houses in the north have been discriminating against minority voters recently. Particularly, in the aftermath of the 2010 elections.

Virtually all the areas which fall under the enforcement of Section 5 are in the South. Which I think is fair, because if you ask me all the horrendous things that state and local governments did are definitely still modern history. That said, I'd like to see the protection extended. The PoC in Cleveland and Detroit could use some backing against the disenfranchisement that the State governments are handing down.

And a final thought on this decision. The Federal Government has no rule in conducting elections in the Constitution. Thus, under the 10th Amendment it is the State governments that should conduct and make law about elections. So, constitutionally The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a big gray area. The precedent that was set by the court in its ruling on the first challenge the law in 1966 is that Federal intervention was deemed to be okay by the Constitution due to the extreme circumstances. That precedent, which is a big one for this important law, still remains intact.

In Winsor vs. The United States, a widow was denied Federal benefits due to the fact that the marriage was same-sex. She was charged an estate tax on property left to her, which had she been a man she would've not had to pay. Under section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) the Federal Government does not recognize same-sex marriages. She challenged the law under the 5th amendment.

brief interlude: The 5th and 14th Amendment are pretty much the same. Why are there two of the same amendment? The Bill of Rights applies to the Federal Government. The 14th amendment was needed in the aftermath of the Civil War to prevent Southern States from being able to deny Due Process and all the wonderful rights granted by the 5th Amendment to recently freed slaves. The 14th Amendment did add a guarantee of Federal and State citizenship to all U.S. citizens as well as a spelled out equal-protection clause. Also, some stuff that no longer applies, because everyone who had anything to do the Civil War, more specifically the South's Rebelling, is long dead. And we're back.

The majority ruled that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional. It served no pointed other than to discriminate against homosexuals. The decision also questioned the Federal foraying into marriage which is traditionally left up to the states.

The decision did not strike down DOMA as a whole, but only that particular section. While Section 3 was a biggie, it still leaves the troubling and blatantly unconstitutional Section 2 enforceable. To be clear, section 2 was not challenged in this case, so the Court could not rule on it. Section 2 gives States the right to not recognize the Marriage of a gay couple issued in another state. This is a clear violation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause. Other states have to recognize my Ohio driver's license as valid. A married heterosexual couple could move from Ohio to Iowa and be recognized by their new State government. But a married homosexual couple moving from Iowa to Ohio would not be recognized by their new State government. Also section 2 is violating the 14th Amendment. It really gets needs to get taken to Court.

The final decision, which I will (try to) only write about briefly, is Hollingsworth vs. Perry. At issue was Proposition 8, a gay marriage ban in California passed by voters in 2008, which has been ruled unconstitutional by a District and Circuit court. The Supreme Court did not rule on Prop. 8 or the constitutionality of Gay Marriage Bans. The Court determined that the person making the appeal to the ruling by a District judge did not have standing in the case. The Court ruled that appeal could only be rightly filed by the State of California and since the State chose not to do so the case should've stopped at the district level. The case is to be sent back to the Circuit Court with orders to dismiss it.

The California Supreme Court had ruled that the proponents of the ballot initiative could defend the law in court. It is an interesting dynamic, because Proposition 8 was not passed by the California government, but by a popular vote. So, the thought is that perhaps a citizen should have more say with Prop 8 than a state law passed by traditional means. The U.S Supreme clearly did not agree with their Californian counterparts on this, which I think is good precedent to maintain. 

This ruling means that by rule of the District Court Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. However, it does not have a broader effect. California's gay marriage ban is overturned, but my state's ban is still intact. Sometime, probably sooner rather than later, there will be a State that'll fight this issue to the Supreme Court, which would bring about a broader ruling. And my suspicion is that Gay Marriage Bans would be found unconstitutional, at least with the current make up of the Court.

Thanks for reading and please comment



Saturday, June 8, 2013

Gaming Tuesday- New Consoles or E3 or something

I apologize to my long neglected blog as well as the few readers it has.

The worst thing to have in the world of video game consoles right now is the spotlight. The Wii U (technically part of 8th Generation of game consoles with Xbox One and PS4) had no competition for the spotlight and flopped. The PS4 had the spotlight with its announcement and got bashed. No console was shown. There was a ridiculous amount of social media bullshit. Then came the Xbox One announcement, which probably has received the roughest criticism. They didn't show much gameplay. The Kinect is big brother. It isn't backwards compatible And then there was a backlash to the rumors about always having to be online and used game and DRM issues.

In turn, it seems the internet has fallen in love with the PS4 even though nothing has changed about it. I don't know what the PS4 looks like. I haven't seen it function, so I'm forced to assume the things that were shown in their reveal ran on PC. And the PS4 isn't backwards compatible either.

I'm not going to hide my inner Xbox fanboy. If the PS4 and Xbox One wind up being roughly equal I'm going to be getting the Xbox. I love my gamerscore. I love Xbox Live and I don't care that I have to  pay for it, because it fucking works well. Anyway, this post is largely going to turn into a post in defense of Xbox One, because there is actual details out about the hardware.

I have no problem with Microsoft making new/more difficult rules about Used Games. It certainly is a bone thrown the way of the game developers. Also, since it seems that games are going to have to be installed, it's necessary to have some rules about licenses. It really seems to me that they are being rather lax here. Games can be traded in or given to a friend.

I don't really buy used games anymore, so I don't really feel that broken up about Microsoft hurting the used game market place. Honestly, I'd rather not even have to bother with a disk. I love Games On Demand. And with Xbox One games will be available both through physical disks and digital downloads. If it really is true that every title that comes out for the new Xbox will be available day one digitally, Microsoft has me sold.

I think this is the beginning of the divergence of the console war. Microsoft seems to be wanting digital distribution. I have a feeling that the Xbox one will launch with a blu-ray drive, but within a few years new Xbox Ones won't have a disc drive(this also will avoid them having to pay Sony for blu-ray). I'm all for that. Disc drives are noisy and take up a lot of space in a console that could be used for hard drive space or processing power.

Sony is all-in with blu-ray. The data that can stored on a blu-ray disc is immense and that potential was never full reached by the PS3. It was the one edge the PS3 had on the 360. A game like L.A. Noire* needed 3 discs on the Xbox, but only one blu-ray disc for the PS3. A blu-ray disc can't compete with a hard drive, but if Xbox starts to do streaming of games, a game on a blu-ray will look better and play better.

I think the main thing is that there isn't a lot to be known at this point. After E3, I think things will be clearer and I strongly suspect neither console will have much of an edge. And a lot of the time with new hardware there may be a problem lurking that won't be revealed until the masses have it. If either of these turn out to be prone to failure, any other advantages disappear.

-I think both consoles will be priced at $499
-My gut tells me that Halo 5 is up Microsoft's sleeve and will be revealed at E3
-The PS4 will be playable at E3
-The PS4 will be shown and its design will be way less stupid that the PS3

Yea, this is kind of just unconnected thoughts and definitely not proofread

Thanks for reading,

*I didn't really love L.A. Noire. I feel the limited RAM of the 360 and PS3 made it impossible for the gameplay to be expanded.