Thursday Reads: I Don’t Belong in This World

cover_books_catieviox4.widea

Good Morning!!

I hardly know where to begin today. Following the news these days is like going through the looking glass into an alternate reality.

So often in my life I’ve felt that I don’t belong in this world. I have that feeling today. There are so many people and events that I just don’t understand.

I’ll begin with yesterday’s Supreme Court arguments in an important case about affirmative action. Yesterday in a comment, Dakinikat posted this article from Mother Jones: Justice Scalia Suggests Blacks Belong at “Slower” Colleges.

Scalia’s comments came during arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, a case over whether the university’s use of race in a sliver of its admissions decisions is constitutional. The University of Texas-Austin is being challenged over its use of race in admissions decisions for about 25 percent of its freshman class. About 75 percent of the students at UT-Austin are admitted through what’s known as the Top Ten Percent program, in which any student graduating within the top 10 percent of his or her class is guaranteed admission, regardless of race. The other 25 percent are admitted via a “holistic” process that takes race, and other factors, into account. It’s the “holistic” program that Abigail Fisher—who was denied admission for the university in 2008—is challenging.

The University of Texas has determined that if it excluded race as a factor, that remaining 25 percent would be almost entirely white. During the oral arguments, former US Solicitor General Greg Garre, who is representing the university, was explaining this to the justices. At that point, Scalia jumped in, questioning whether increasing the number of African Americans at the flagship university in Austin was in the black students’ best interests. He said:

There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well. One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.

He went on to say, “I’m just not impressed by the fact the University of Texas may have fewer [blacks]. Maybe it ought to have fewer. I don’t think it stands to reason that it’s a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible.”

Boys-reading-in-the-snow-007

This morning some writers are claiming that Scalia’s comments weren’t racist because he was referring to studies by respected researchers and not expressing his personal opinion.

Alex Griswold at Mediaite: Media Jumps The Gun, Attacks Scalia For Perfectly Reasonable Question.

First of all, it’s worth noting that oral arguments are not an avenue for justices to share their views on the case at hand; it’s an opportunity to suss out any holes in the arguments of both parties. To that end, justices often advance arguments and theories they do not necessarily hold….

As it happens, Scalia was pretty accuratelyciting a brief filed by two members of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. They point to a study showing that black scientists are much more likely to have graduated from historically black colleges, even though those schools are less academically stringent than elite universities:

With only twenty percent of total black enrollment, these schools were producing forty percent of the black students graduating with natural science degrees, according to the National Science Foundation. Those same students were frequently going on to earn Ph.D.s from non-HBCUs. The National Science Foundation reported, for example, that thirty-six percent of the blacks who earned an engineering doctorate between 1986 and 1988 received their undergraduate degree from an HBCU.

Why have HBCUs been so successful? [The authors] believed that unlike at mainstream institutions, African-American students at HBCUs were not grouped at the bottom of the class. Roughly half were in the top half of the class.

Scalia isn’t citing some crackpot theory that only these two civil rights officers are worried about, by the way. The“mismatch effect” is a pretty common critique of affirmative action in academia that’s based on pretty hard data. The most prominent book on the subject wasn’t written by cranks, it was written by UCLA and Stanford law professors.

Reading by the fireplace. Photo by Caroline Jensen.

Reading by the fireplace. Photo by Caroline Jensen.

OK, but Scalia did express a personal opinion at the end of his remarks. Furthermore, these studies apparently do not address the issue of whether diversity in the student bodies and faculty at “elite” universities is a good thing for the college experience and for society as a whole.

James Warren also defended Scalia’s remarks at Poynter: Media muddle: Was Scalia being racist?

And then there’s the question of why so many Americans love their guns more than life itself–or at least the lives of their children and fellow citizens. Many of these people are the same ones who are constantly claiming they are “pro-life.” Someone please explain to me why this makes any sense.

The Christian Science Monitor: Why are gun rights activists planning a fake mass shooting?

Two gun rights groups in Texas have planned a mock mass shooting event on Saturday in order to raise awareness about their view of the relationship between gun rights and mass shooting casualties. They believe that by increasing open carry rights, mass shootings can be reduced or even prevented.

Gun control advocates have been vocal about their desire to enact new restrictions on ownership of certain kinds of guns in the wake of two mass shootings in Colorado Springs, Colo., and San Bernardino, Calif., in less than a week. The groups hosting the mock shooting event say that it will demonstrate how the intervention of responsible gun owners can reduce the number of lives lost in a mass shooting scenario.

The two groups, Come and Take it Texas and Dontcomply.com, had originally planned to hold their event at the University of Texas but later moved the event off campus after meeting with university officials.

Sorry, but I have no clue how this exercise could relate to an actual mass shooting event.

be14d8ee7bafafcb42947427b81c140c

And what about the phenomenon of Donald Trump? Why does he think it’s useful to fan the flames of racism, nativism, and Islamophobia and in the process increasing the visibility of hate groups and encouraging violent attacks on minority groups in the U.S.?

Politico: White supremacist groups see Trump bump.

The Ku Klux Klan is using Donald Trump as a talking point in its outreach efforts. Stormfront, the most prominent American white supremacist website, is upgrading its servers to najlepszy hosting. And former Louisiana Rep. David Duke reports that the businessman has given more Americans cover to speak out loud about white nationalism than at any time since his own political campaigns in the 1990s.

As hate group monitors at the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League warn that Trump’s rhetoric is conducive to anti-Muslim violence, white nationalist leaders are capitalizing on his candidacy to invigorate and expand their movement.

“Demoralization has been the biggest enemy and Trump is changing all that,” said Stormfront founder Don Black, who reports additional listeners and call volume to his phone-in radio show, in addition to the site’s traffic bump. Black predicts that the white nationalist forces set in motion by Trump will be a legacy that outlives the businessman’s political career. “He’s certainly creating a movement that will continue independently of him even if he does fold at some point.”

Reading by the fire, Edward Lamson Henry.

Reading by the fire, Edward Lamson Henry.

Are Trump’s statements actually likely to energize hateful individuals to resort to violence?

According to experts at the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center who monitor hate groups and anti-Muslim sentiment, Trump’s call on Monday to halt the entrance of Muslims to the United States is driving online chatter among white supremacists and is likely to inspire violence against Muslims.

“When well-known public figures make these kind of statements in the public square, they are taken as a permission-giving by criminal elements who go out and act on their words.” said Mark Potok of the SPLC. “Is it energizing the groups? Yeah. They’re thrilled.”

Marilyn Mayo, co-director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, said Trump’s proposal this week to halt the entrance of Muslims into the United States is only the latest statement to inject vigor into the racist fringe of American politics. “Since the beginning of Donald Trump’s candidacy, we’ve definitely seen that a segment of the white supremacist movement, from racist intellectuals to neo-Nazis have been energized,” she said.

Check out this piece by Steve Benen: Trump spokesperson: ‘So what? They’re Muslim.’

Katrina Pierson, a spokesperson for Donald Trump’s campaign, argued this morning on CNN that her boss’ proposed Muslim ban has merit because “never in United States history have we allowed insurgents to come across these borders.” Reminded that Trump’s policy would block lots of peaceful people who have nothing to do with violence, the spokesperson was unmoved.
“So what?” Pierson replied. “They’re Muslim.”
reading-by-the-fire
How are voters responding to Trump’s hate speech against Muslims?
As for public opinion, it’s too soon to gauge polling reactions, but we already have a sense of Republican voters’ general attitudes on the subject.
Public Policy Polling published results yesterday on GOP voters’ attitudes in North Carolina. Among the findings:
* 48% of North Carolina Republicans endorse the idea of a national database of Muslims.
* 42% of North Carolina Republicans believed thousands of Middle Easterners cheered in New Jersey on 9/11.
* 35% of North Carolina Republicans support shutting down American mosques.
* 32% of North Carolina Republicans believe practicing Islam in the United States should be illegal.

WinterTan

We are certainly seeing plenty of attacks on Muslims around the country. On Tuesday I posted a story about someone leaving a pig’s head at a mosque in Philadelphia. Today, I saw this on Raw Story: Texans begin nightly smashing windows of Muslim family only six weeks after they move in.

A Muslim family in Plano, Texas fear that they may have been targeted with a hate crime after rocks smashed through their windows at least two times in the last week.

The family told KTVT that they moved to Plano six weeks ago, and that they believe that the people throwing the rocks may be sending a message about their religion.

Windows in the home have been smashed twice in the last two days. At their request, the names of the family members were not being released.

Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) spokesperson Alia Salem explained to KTVT that there had been a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes in recent weeks.

“Right now, we’re getting multiple hate crime reports every single day,” Salem said.

Why? This is not the America I want to live in. I’d rather escape into a book, but somehow I feel compelled to stay aware of what is happening.

What stories are you following today?


36 Comments on “Thursday Reads: I Don’t Belong in This World”

    • janicen says:

      I’m betting that Trump canceled the Israel trip because Bibi agreed to meet with him. Trump might actually have to brush up and study the Middle East before he goes and meets with a grown up and makes a fool of himself. Speaking in soundbites is a lot easier.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I think it was because Netanyahu criticized him. When Netanyahu criticizes you for prejudice against Muslims, you have really hit a low point.

        CNN: Trump ‘postpones’ Israel trip after Netanyahu criticism.

        Donald Trump said Thursday that he is postponing his trip to Israel, just a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned his proposal to ban U.S. travel for all Muslims.

        “I have decided to postpone my trip to Israel and to schedule my meeting with @Netanyahu at a later date after I become President of the U.S.,” Trump tweeted.

        • janicen says:

          Yes, I read that in the link but I thought that was just an excuse. It would seem to me that it would be such a boost to his candidacy to meet with a foreign leader that he wouldn’t pass up the chance on such a ridiculous reason.

          • List of X says:

            We’re talking about Donald Trump here. If anything, he probably thinks that it’s whoever is allowed to meet with Trump would get a popularity boost from the meeting with The Donald, not the other way around.

        • bostonboomer says:

          Trump had planned to meet with Netanyahu December 28 in Israel, according to an Israeli government official, but shortly after the meeting was reported, Netanyahu’s office condemned Trump’s comments about Muslims.

          “Prime Minister Netanyahu rejects Donald Trump’s recent remarks about Muslims,” according to a statement issued by the prime minister’s office.

          “The State of Israel respects all religions and strictly guarantees the rights of all its citizens. At the same time, Israel is fighting against militant Islam that targets Muslims, Christians and Jews alike and threatens the entire world,” the statement said.

        • dakinikat says:

          It’s a bizarre world when Bibi sounds reasonable.

    • Stop the crazy. I can’t take anymore of this shit.

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I didn’t have room for the man who attacked the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Can the police continue to deny the man’s motives after this?

    Mediaite: Planned Parenthood Shooting Suspect Rants in Court: ‘I Am a Warrior for the Babies’

  2. bostonboomer says:

    ABC News: Boston Transit Officials Investigating Tampering on Commuter Train

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/boston-transit-officials-investigating-tampering-commuter-train/story?id=35693777

    ABC News has learned that Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officials are investigating a report of tampering involving a safety device inside one of their train’s cab this morning after a Red Line train departed the Braintree Station without an operator.

    The train did not stop until MBTA Operations personnel de-powered the third rail just past the North Quincy Station. That is when transit personnel boarded the train and drove it north to JFK/UMass where passengers were able to exit the train onto a platform.

    The FBI is involved in the investigation.

  3. janicen says:

    The amicus brief quoted by Scalia addresses the specifics of results of individuals but it does not address the overall impact of the broader policy. For example, I’m guessing that the experience of being one of the first black students in a desegregated school in the south was very difficult. That student very likely didn’t perform well because of the isolation and torment coming from the bigoted students and teachers they had to face every day. They may well have performed better in their more familiar and comfortable environments. But the intent of integration is to change attitudes and society as a whole. Same with affirmative action. Separate but equal or in this case, what Scalia is talking about is “separate but unequal” has been ruled unconstitutional.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I agree. Unfortunately this Court has already pretty much nullified Brown v. Board of Education though.

      • gregoryp says:

        Most radical anti-constitutional Supreme Court ever. This is what the Republicans wanted when they kept saying “strict” constitutionalists only. With these people day is night, night is day, white is black and black is white. The most dishonest and vile people one can imagine.

    • Prolix says:

      Simply put, Scalia is a rank fool. His pandering to the Tea Party clique shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone since on a regular basis he waddles across Independence Avenue to collect fellatio from adoring Tea Party congressional pustules.

      The “mismatch effect” is a conservative wet dream delivered in a statistical format. While it is counter-intuitive (for Tea Partiers that means beyond understanding because they haven’t the capability of keeping two competing concepts in their pea brains), minority students have a higher educational attainment rate and a higher graduation rate in colleges with more restrictive admission standards.

      From the Vox story:

      Scalia wasn’t making up his objection from the bench. He was drawing from a frequent conservative argument against affirmative action: Students with lesser academic qualifications don’t benefit from being admitted to a more competitive college.

      But research has found this isn’t true. If anything, it’s the opposite — students benefit from going to the best college that will admit them, even if their academic credentials are a stretch, because more selective colleges tend to have higher graduation rates.

      http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2015/12/10/9885594/scalia-affirmative-action-mismatch

  4. Pat Johnson says:

    Let’s face it: The “ignorant” are running this country. From congress to the courts, the most idiotic people have enough power in their hands to stymie any means of progress or commonsense.

    Just march out your personal hate and bias and watch it explode! Racism has always been with us but in the last 20 years most of it went hidden. But we elected a black POTUS which seem to give license to every nut job and “conspiracy” to erupt which brought them out of the woodwork and into the mainstream. Amazing.

    You can’t listen to some of these bozos without scratching your head at the stupidity these people spewing forth language and ideas that are definitely off the charts. The hypocrisy and idiocy is beyond description. And much of this crapola is coming from the mouths of elected officials who would not be where they are unless like minded people voted for them.

    It is disheartening that in the year 2015 we are still arguing women’s rights, climate change, and ignoring the real issues that effect each and every one of us each day. It is also difficult to believe that the stupidity out there is widespread.

    How anyone can vote for the “values” of this party, or support the morons running for POTUS, is beyond me.

    I agree, it is much easier to bury oneself in a good book than face the fact that America is on the verge of becoming something that most of us of a certain age do not recognize.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Well said, Pat.

    • joanelle says:

      Well put, Pat when you said: “But we elected a black POTUS which seem to give license to every nut job and “conspiracy” to erupt which brought them out of the woodwork and into the mainstream.”
      Just imagine where we’d find ourselves today if Pelosi hadn’t stopped the floor vote and Hillary had won the vote, as she no doubt would have. To my mind the Democrats are significantly complicit in the mess we find ourselves in today.
      The DMC wanted a black man in office, even if he only had 143 days in office at the federal level and no international experience to speak of.
      I think we overestimate the Repugs when we put the full blame on them. In the natural order of things the American voters would have put the first woman president in office.

  5. dakinikat says:

    I really can’t believe how many nuts are not only out of the woodwork but successfully in our faces. I’m still shocked the PP Shooter screams he’s a warrior for babies in a court and every one appears to be confused still on his motives and fox is still suggesting it’s a bank robbery gone wrong.

  6. gregoryp says:

    Has Scalia not ever heard of Neil deGrasse Tyson? Many of the very smartest and most accomplished people in this very country are of African American descent. Oh my, if we started listing all of the people who have been/are scientists, inventors, astronauts, CEO’s, author’s, etc. it would be a super massive list. I can’t say how much contempt I have for Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito. Worst friggin’ Supreme Court ever. At least the guys who came up with the Separate but Equal doctrine understood that integration at that time was going to be impossible. These guys are just assholes.

    • bostonboomer says:

      What about Ben Carson? What about Scalia’s colleague, Clarence Thomas? They went to elite universities.