Monday Reads

Robert Motherwell

Happy Monday Sky Dancers!

The Supreme Court continues to be the nightmare that right-wing Republicans intended it to be. Nearly all civil rights advances made in the last half of the century in this country are under attack.  The latest is affirmative action in higher education. Frankly, I think that white nationalists should be careful what they wish for on this topic because being one of those who just show up white guys and get rewarded is going to backfire on them.  I’ve been teaching graduate school for quite a while in math-heavy, tech-heavy finance, and economics. Few of them even get to the ABD stage. There are a huge number of American students that are a product of last century’s diasporas from Asia and the Middle East that can blow right past them with their math chops.  The lawsuit was filed by a group of Asian-American students.

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a challenge to the use of race in college admissions decisions, teeing up a potentially landmark showdown over affirmative action in higher education.

The case arose after a conservative-backed group, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), sued Harvard and the University of North Carolina, alleging the schools illegally discriminate against Asian American applicants.

The court’s announcement came in a brief order without noted comment or dissent. The cases, which have been consolidated, are expected to be heard during the court’s next term, which begins next fall.

The move rebuffed the Biden administration, which last month had asked the justices to turn away the challenge to Harvard University, arguing that the school’s admissions practices were lawful.

Harvard, in court papers, denied that its policy is discriminatory. The school accused SFFA of a brazen attempt to upend decades of precedent allowing schools to promote on-campus diversity by considering the racial makeup of their student bodies.

“Having failed to make the case that Harvard’s admissions practices contravene the court’s precedents governing the use of race in admissions, SFFA asks the court to overthrow them,” Harvard wrote in a filing last May. “But SFFA offers no legitimate justification for such an extraordinary step.”

SFFA alleges that Asian American applicants are held to a higher academic standard than other students. The group argues that Asian Americans are disadvantaged in the application process due to receiving lower “personal ratings” and are admitted at a lower rate than white applicants despite having higher test scores on average.

SFFA has asked the court to overturn Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 decision in which the Supreme Court upheld the right of college admissions boards to factor in applicants’ race in order to benefit minority groups and enhance diversity.

“Grutter’s core holding — that universities can use race in admissions to pursue student-body diversity — is plainly wrong,” the group wrote in its petition for appeal. The challengers say their case against Harvard’s policy gives the court an “ideal vehicle” for reevaluating its stance on affirmative action given the school’s outsize role in past rulings.


The suit is considered the most serious threat to affirmative action in decades according to NBC.

Despite similar challenges, the court has repeatedly upheld affirmative action in the past. But two liberal justices who were key to those decisions are gone — Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Their replacements, Trump appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, are conservative and considered less likely to find the practice constitutional.

In the latest case, groups backed by a longtime opponent of affirmative action, Edward Blum of Maine, sued Harvard and UNC in federal court, claiming that Harvard’s undergraduate admissions system discriminated against Asian American students and that UNC’s discriminated against both Asian American and white students. Lower courts ruled that the schools’ limited consideration of race was a legitimate effort to achieve a more diverse student body.

The lawsuits were targeted to challenge the admissions process at both a private and a public university.

The Supreme Court has long barred racial quotas in admissions. But it has allowed schools to consider a student’s race to be one “plus factor” among many other qualities, provided the admissions process looks at the overall qualifications of applicants and uses race no more than necessary to achieve a level of diversity.

The challengers in both cases, Students for Fair Admissions, urged the justices to overrule the court’s 2003 decision on affirmative action, which upheld the University of Michigan’s use of race as a plus factor and served as a model for similar admissions programs nationwide.

That decision “endorsed racial objectives that are amorphous and unmeasurable,” the challengers said in asking the Supreme Court to take their appeal. The Constitution requires equal protection and contains no exceptions, they said, contending that Harvard admits Asian Americans at lower rates than whites and values Black or Hispanic ethnicity more highly.

“If a university wants to admit students with certain experiences (say, overcoming discrimination), then it can evaluate whether individual applicants have that experience,” their brief said. “It cannot simply use race as a proxy for certain experiences or views.”

Munch: Brann på Grønland
Edvard Munch: “Brann på Grønland” (Fire at Grønland, a borough in Oslo), 1919-20.

Universities have long considered diverse student bodies–reflective of the country in its entirety–to be a good thing for higher education all around.  Geographic location is frequently used also to give all students a chance to see what life is like outside the vacuum where they were raised. Grades and tests scores are no longer considered the sole indicator of success at university and in life.

The Jane Mayer article at The New Yorker that I posted over the weekend on Ginnie Lamp Thomas and Clarence Thomas has become the center of controversy. It obviously put the couple in a bad light and frankly, I will argue they deserve it. But, I’ll leave that to Michael Tomasky writing for The New Republic. “The Case for Impeaching Clarence Thomas. The Supreme Court justice refuses to recuse himself from cases in which his right-wing activist wife, Ginni, has a clear interest. The Democrats should punish him for it.”

In a sane world, Jane Mayer’s excellent piece on Ginni Thomas in The New Yorker would set off a series of events that would lead to her husband Clarence Thomas’s impeachment and removal from the Supreme Court. Ginni is involved with numerous far-right organizations and schemes that take very public positions on court decisions across a range of social and political issues, such as last week’s 8–1 holding that Donald Trump could not block the release of documents related to the January 6, 2021, insurrection.

Thomas was the lone dissenter in that case. His wife sat on the advisory board of a group that sent busloads of insurrectionists to Washington on January 6. In addition, she cheered the insurrection on Facebook. It’s just the most recent example where she has been involved in activities that directly or indirectly place her activism before the court, and her husband does not care how corrupt it looks.

They’ve been doing this for years. This first occasion was back in 2000, in a case Mayer doesn’t even go into, when it was revealed after that election that as a Heritage Foundation staffer, Ginni was screening résumés for the incoming Bush administration while the nation awaited a ruling from the court on the Florida recount. There was pressure then on Thomas to recuse himself.

A decade later, when the first major Obamacare case came before the court, it was widely noted that Ginni’s group, Liberty Central, called the law a “disaster” and urged repeal. Again, there were calls for Thomas to recuse.

He didn’t do so in either case. And in the first one, he was part of the 5–4 majority in Bush v. Gore, one of the most self-discrediting decisions in the court’s history.

So for 20 years, Ginni Thomas has been operating in the white-hot center of far-right activist circles, involved in everything from Obamacare to abortion rights to same-sex marriage to you name it—all issues that have come before her husband. A more honorable man would recuse himself from all such cases or indeed quietly ask his spouse to find another, less incendiary line of work that has no impact on the appearance of her husband’s ethical standards.

Dr Rosa Schapire 1919 Karl Schmidt-Rottluff 1884-1976 Presented by the executors of Dr Rosa Shapire 1954

The article continues to point out what the Democratic party has done which is nothing and to point out what the Republicans would’ve done if it were a wife a Democratic supreme court justice doing this instead.  It’s a good long read.

There was one good finding from SCOTUS. “Supreme Court turns away Rep. Kevin McCarthy challenge to House proxy voting during COVID-19”  This is from USA Today and John Fritze.

The Supreme Court on Monday turned away a GOP lawsuit challenging proxy voting rules set up by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in response to the pandemic.

The decision to not hear the case lets stand a federal appeals court ruling that said courts are barred from reviewing the internal rules of the House of Representatives.

Weeks after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the House approved a measure allowing lawmakers unable to come to Capitol Hill to designate another member as their “proxy” to cast floor votes on their behalf.

Republicans, led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., sued Pelosi, contending that the Constitution does not allow proxy votes. That argument rests in part on the quorum clause, which requires a majority of the House to be present in order to conduct the chamber’s business. That clause also says a group smaller than a quorum may be authorized to “compel” the attendance of “absent members.”

The power to compel absent members to attend would make little sense, McCarthy told the court, if the framers of the Constitution did not expect lawmakers to vote in person.

And, if you want to see angry white male in action try this one:

I feel for this man’s son whose peanut allegery was triggered by something in his smoothy but wow, this is no way to handle a complaint to a small business.

I’m not sure how far behind the Rolling Stone paywall you’ll get but this is another one of those things that is shocking about the insurrection. This was reported by Andy Kroll: Start the Steal: New MAGA Emails Reveal Plot to Hand Arizona to Trump

The technology was complicated, but the plan was simple: Scan mail-in and absentee ballots in populous Maricopa County, remove the “invalid votes,” and recertify the state’s 2020 election count, surely declaring then-President Donald Trump the rightful winner.

This scheme to subvert the election outcome in Arizona is laid out in newly released emails obtained by Rolling Stone. Sent in early December 2020, the emails cover a critical moment when the post-election push by Trump and Republican allies to find fraud and overturn the presidential election was in full swing.

The emails show how a group of fringe election sleuths pressed state legislators on a plan to disrupt the 2020 election certification and potentially change the vote count in a battleground state that helped deliver Joe Biden the presidency. The emails also reveal that several Trump advisers, including campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis and legal adviser Bernie Kerik, were included in the discussion.

You also can read more at NBC News from  Jane C. Timm: Arizona Republicans propose major changes to elections after GOP review finds no fraud.

Arizona Republicans have put forth two dozen bills this month that would significantly change the state’s electoral processes after the GOP’s unorthodox review of millions of ballots affirmed President Joe Biden’s victory and turned up no proof of fraud.

Proposals introduced in the state House or the Senate would add an additional layer to the state’s voter ID requirement, such as fingerprints, and stipulate the hand counting of all ballots by default. Other legislation would require that paper ballots be printed with holograms and watermarks.

Republican legislators argue that the proposals, part an ongoing surge of GOP-led election changes enacted or under consideration across the country, are necessary to enhance election security and prevent fraud.

Official counts, audits and accuracy tests have confirmed the election results in Arizona and elsewhere without finding evidence of widespread fraud, and states with Republican and Democratic leaders have certified the results as accurate. Former President Donald Trump, who continues to promote the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, was unable to prove any of the claims in court. A coalition of federal agencies involved in election security, alongside representatives of election officials from each state, said the election was “the most secure in American history.”

The Legislature began its 2022 session on Jan. 12, and many of the bills have already been referred to committees for consideration. They face uncertain fates, as Republicans hold narrow majorities in the Senate, and a Republican, state Sen. Paul Boyer, said he would block bills he saw as unnecessary or problematic.

Some of the bills appear to be tied to conspiracy theories about the 2020 election that were elevated in the widely criticized ballot review state Senate Republicans orchestrated last year. Election experts said Cyber Ninjas, the company the legislators hired to examine millions of ballots in Maricopa County, had little to no experience with handling ballots, appeared to be looking for proof of conspiracy theories and misrepresented normal election processes in its final report as suggestive of fraud. Cyber Ninjas is accruing $50,000 a day in fines for refusing to respond to a court order requiring it to turn over documents related to its work.

Other bills, like one that would ban automatic voter registration from being implemented, appear to be designed to pre-empt provisions in national Democrats’ election overhaul legislation, which has stalled in the Senate.

Arizon is serious about disenfranching voters.

Anyway, I have to prepare for a Derivatives Class for Wednesday night where I get to work with a diverse number of students from all over. It’s always enlightening for me and it’s good to see the number of graduate students come with all kinds of different skills and input.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

23 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. dakinikat says:

    Have a good week!

  2. dakinikat says:

    • quixote says:

      Good news for women and Asians if they really get rid of it. But they’ve already started reserving places for mediocre white guys, and they don’t call that “Affirmative Action,” so they’ll just double down on doing that even more.

  3. dakinikat says:

    • Enheduanna says:

      ❤ I’m geeking out here. JWST is finally there! For once I’m glad how fast time flies when you get older.

      • dakinikat says:

        Yup! Did you see the first pic? It was really wild!

        • Enheduanna says:

          There’s a picture already? No! I did not see it…

          Just watching NASA live question stream (kudos to NASA for all-woman panel with 2 out of 3 POC on it) – interesting factoid, the technology developed to precisely measure the smoothness of the mirrors is now being used in ophthalmic surgery to make eye surgery safer and more precise! Woot!

          • quixote says:

            That’s interesting! About the eye surgery.

            Dak, post a link to the pic. I haven’t seen it either. (*Love* NASA, but their web sites are terrible at linking to related info.)

        • dakinikat says:

          Guess the pic was just a CGI of what they expect.

  4. palhart says:

    Overjoyed that the honchos at the home-town bank and head-quarters, BofA, fired Iannazzo.

    Normally I would confidently shout: “DON’T MESS WITH UNC!”, but the republican state legislature majorities and the Koch brothers’ meddling have been altering Chapel Hill’s liberal reputation.

    What’s next Jim Crow #2?

  5. NW Luna says:

    Few of them even get to the ABD stage.

    Uh, what’s ABD?

  6. dakinikat says:

  7. bostonboomer says:

    There won’t be a Tuesday post. Sorry but I’m still in bad shape.

    • quixote says:

      So sorry to hear you’re still in pain. That’s a loooong time. (“You’re tellin me” I can hear you say … :S ) Thinking of you and hoping it goes away soon!

    • NW Luna says:

      Don’t apologize, BB. Your health is more important than a new post.

  8. palhart says:

    Google: “The Hunt for Planet B” to watch the behind the scenes of JWST.

    I have to give you a chuckle from an Einstein quote: “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”

  9. NW Luna says:

    Could this actually pass?

    One year into the bitterly divided 117th Congress, Democrats and Republicans in both chambers have shown rare signs of agreement on an overwhelmingly popular issue. And even more unusual: It’s a push to hold themselves accountable. Earlier this month, lawmakers from both parties in both the House and Senate introduced bills that would stop federal legislators (and, in some cases, their immediate family members) from trading individual stocks while in office.

    In recent years, there have been highly publicized, troubling instances of lawmakers getting rich off trading. Like when then-Sen. Kelly Loeffler unloaded millions in stock within days of a January 2020 briefing on the coronavirus — and shortly thereafter, picked up between $100,000 and $250,000 in stock in a remote-work software company.

    While the Stock Act was enacted in 2012 to prevent members of Congress from trading on insider knowledge or political connections, they are rarely penalized. The Justice Department dropped insider trading investigations into Loeffler and three other senators. The Senate Ethics Committee hasn’t sanctioned a single lawmaker in over 14 years. What’s more, as of earlier this month, at least 54 members of Congress have violated the Stock Act. The standard penalty for such violations the Stock Act is just $200 — little more than a corruption surcharge at trades of this scale. And we don’t even have public records about whether officials have paid these fees.

  10. NW Luna says:

    LOLOL! What part of “may lose value” do these people not understand?

    The “crypto crash” has put pressure on Washington regulators to impose stricter rules on the industry — and raised fresh questions about the dangers of cryptocurrency for the average investor.

    “You’re going to get more people calling their elected representatives, generally unhappy about crypto or feeling they were wronged in some way”