Monday, June 24, 2013

The Elephant In The Room

Well, it’s been a Spartacus kinda Sunday over at Beit WP. I obtained a new lightweight, cordless, rechargeable, easily manageable weed-whacker, I caulked the kitchen window frame from the outside since it sprung a very minor leak during Friday night’s monsoon, and I fixed the toilet in my father-in-law’s bathroom. Junior son stopped by and see if Grandpa’s old shower head was salvageable (it wasn’t) but I was prepared with a new one which he easily screwed on because these arms too short to box with overhead plumbing. And besides, he offered.

For the record, he also brought back the BIG GIANT weed-whacker, but if you must know, it’s a heavy, temperamental two stage thing with buttons and levers and oil+gas mix and I said, “Feh! Forget it. You can keep it. I’m keeping the new one.” The delighted look that flickered in his bright blue eyes told me he painted this very complicated, bleak picture of weed-whacker maintenance so I wouldn’t want to keep it. But that’s fine. Frankly, I hate two stage motors; they’re a pain in the butt. He can deal with it. The new thingee is more than adequate to handle the grass around the mailbox that I can't get to with Deere John.

© Peter"big bassoon" Douglas
Meanwhile, the actual highlight of the week was Thursday night, when the Misha Siegfried Band came to town for a show at Whiskey Junction in Minneapolis. His coterie of adoring fans, including not one but TWO rabbis, made up most of the house, but we were a fair sized lot, ate and drank, and generally whooped it up. A lot. A good time was had by all, and I had the unmitigated pleasure of having lunch on Friday with Misha and Grandpa before he and the band headed out to a show in Rochester (MN not NY).) Nothing cheers this band mom more than getting to hug her bluesman son every so often. 

[End of Spartacus Mommy blog]

Meanwhile, back at the Supreme Court, SCOTUS is busy handing down decisions...or non-decisions. Abigail Noel Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the case arguing affirmative action is no longer warranted got lobbed back to the lower courts for re-evaluation. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the only dissenter on the decision, saying that the lower courts had indeed fulfilled the task given to them, and that the only reason the Texas "Top Ten" diversity program was effective was because of “de facto racial segregation" already present in Texas neighborhoods and schools. In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg wrote: 

I have said before and reiterate here that only an ostrich could regard the supposedly neutral alternatives as race unconscious....As Justice Souter observed, the vaunted alternative suffer from "the disadvantage of deliberate obfuscation."

Texas' percentge plan was adopted with racially segregated neighborhoods front and center stage.See House Research Organization, Bill Analysis, HB588...(April 15, 1997) ("Many regions of the state, school districts, and high schools are still predominantly composed of people from  single racial or ethnic group. Because of the persistence of the segregation, admitting the top 10 percent of all high schools would provide a diverse population and ensure a large, well qualified pool of minority students was admitted to Texas universities."

What struck me about the decision was not that it got sent back to the lower Circuit Court in New Orleans, but that it was a 7-1 decision. Of course, Justice Kagan had recused herself since she had been Solicitor General during earlier stages of the case's progress through the courts, prior to her elevation to the Supreme Court bench. Justice Clarence Thomas (of Anita Hill infamy), in his concurring opinion, compared affirmative action at the university level to segregation and slavery. He wrote:

"Slaveholders argued that slavery was a 'positive good' that civilized blacks and elevated them in every dimension of life," Thomas wrote in his separate opinion on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. "A century later, segregationists similarly asserted that segregation was not only benign, but good for black students.....

“...Unfortunately for the University, the educational benefits flowing from student body diversity—assuming they exist—hardly qualify as a compelling state interest. Indeed, the argument that educational benefits justify racial discrimination was advanced in support of racial segregation in the 1950’s, but emphatically rejected by this Court. And just as the alleged educational benefits of segregation were insufficient to justify racial discrimination then … the alleged educational benefits of diversity cannot justify racial discrimination today.”

Maybe it's just me, but that was just a little strange. Not just the comparison to slavery, but the part about educational benefits not really existing. Clearly he doesn't view discrimination as a real part of living in this country, either. I have to wonder how the air is on Planet Thomas. Must be awfully rarified up there because last time I looked, racism was alive and thriving, especially in Washington, D.C. Okay, racism as an issue make you uncomfortable; how about elitist classism? Would that work better?

The schools in Texas may not be officially segregated, the reality it very different. Without programs like Top Ten, outstanding kids in lesser schools would never get a shot at affordable higher education. Come on, folks. We're talking about public education. The people in those school districts pay taxes just like everyone else. Living in a particular district should not in any way, shape, or form work against a kid getting into state university. 

Justice Ginsburg was right when she said you have to be an ostrich not to see that the alternatives aren't race unconscious. Her stand, that sending this back to the lower courts is a cowardly not to mention blind response, will probably come back to haunt the court when the case rises again...and it will. 

And if this doesn't make you shake your head and wonder what exactly these people on the bench are thinking, this should send you over the edge. In the fall, the court will hear National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, No. 12-1281, involving the constitutionality of President Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Board. 

Now, recess appointments have been the prerogative of presidents since the Second World War. According to the Congressional Research Service, these are the numbers:
Ronald Reagan - 240 
George W. Bush-171
Bill Clinton - 139
George H.W. Bush - 77
Barack Obama -32

And suddenly the GOP wants know if it's constitutional?????????????????

The elephant in the room isn't the GOP; it's their less than discreet form of racism. These guys make Paula Deen look like Freedom Rider. 

Enough. It's really time to put an end to this constant obstructionism. It's unbecoming We, The People. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Don't mow the lawn while wearing a dress -
the weird factor is definitely less traumatic than the sweat factor.


  1. It seems odd that an elderly white woman can recognize and clearly articulate the need for affirmative action (as well as the benefits it brings) while the older black gentleman thinks affirmative action is slavery. Justice Thomas always strikes me as the odd bird on the court, hard to get a bead on and impossible to read. Perhaps it was his post-law school job search that lead him to his hard-right views on affirmative action - he is said to believe he wasn't taken seriously because companies thought he graduated from Yale due to affirmative action.Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Kennedy make up the "old white man" faction of the court, so maybe their votes shouldn't be surprising. Breyer usually doesn't follow those fellows, but he joined the faction today. Maybe the most perplexing, after Thomas, is Justice Sotomayer. A Latina woman preventing Hispanic children from having the chance at education that they deserve, that they've done everything they could to attain - weird day at the court.
    Tomorrow may just be "Gay Day" at the court. Let's reason, and not demographics, prevail.

  2. The three issues in NLRB vs Noel Canning come down to: what is a recess? The fun one is #3. This isn't about racism it's about power. The repubs hated Bubba way more than they hate Barry. That's because Bubba was more successful and they were jealous.

    Issue: (1) Whether the President’s recess-appointment power may be exercised during a recess that occurs within a session of the Senate, or is instead limited to recesses that occur between enumerated sessions of the Senate, and (2) whether the President’s recess-appointment power may be exercised to fill vacancies that exist during a recess, or is instead limited to vacancies that first arose during that recess. (3) Whether the President's recess-appointment power may be exercised when the Senate is convening every three days in pro forma sessions.

    1. I also read today. This will be the case to watch, I think. As I said to my father-in-law this evening, "these guys need to be careful what they wish for."

  3. Clarence Thomas will go down in history as one of the worst Supreme Court Justices we've had to endure. That man's "thinking" blows my mine! But then, maybe it's because his wife, Virginia, is advising him on his written briefs.

  4. Whole new context after today's ruling on the Voting Rights Act. Even though it was most recently reaffirmed in 2006 and there have been dozens of proposed changes rejected because of the law, the formula is no good. Well, doesn't this make for a nice opportunity? And wouldn't you know the red states are already taking it: Texas is moving forward with Voter ID requirements, as is Mississippi, and perhaps South Carolina and Virginia. Funny how those states all had these changes ready to go. Good thing SCOTUS said Congress can provide a new formula. I'll trust them to do that sometime in the next 100 years...maybe.

    1. When I saw the ruling come down, I seriously considered doing an update here...this is such a slippery downward slope on civil rights. That said, I thought the charge to Congress was the comic relief of the day.

  5. What do you say to a poor white student who is refused admission to a state university because of his skin color in favor of a wealthy black student with a lower SAT score or GPA? Should the white student accept this as a sacrifice to a noble social cause? Should we also go back to Jewish quotas or caps on Asian students?

    Affirmative action is just plain wrong under any guise.

    1. Actually, that's not what I said at all. The Top Ten (or rather the Top Eight) in Texas levels the playing field without regard to anything other than the school itself. The top X% get into UT regardless of scholastic prominence of the school.

      The issue in Texas is "de facto segregation." That is why affirmative action exists.