Monday Reads: The Supremes Speak

Good Afternoon!

I’m in an absolute haze from a summer cold that popped up yesterday and sent me directly to bed. I’m trying to write and work right nowows_145558192527968 but it’s not easy at all.  I want to try to discuss a lot of upcoming things that will be important including the SCOTUS decision on the Texas Trap laws regarding abortion and abortion clinics.  These law certainly create an undue burden and they reflect specific religious view rather than medical or biological science.  Here’s a few reads to prepare us all because it’s important for all of us to understand this basic constitutional right.

Abortion opponents regularly talk as though no restriction is off the table when it comes to stripping away reproductive rights. And supporters of abortion rights don’t always set them straight. If we don’t know what our established rights are, we can’t defend them. Pro-choicers need to know why abortion is a constitutional right and what boundaries the U.S. Supreme Court has set out to protect it.

1. Abortion is protected by the rights to bodily integrity and to make decisions about family. The Court explained that decades ago.

The 14th Amendment prohibits states from depriving a person of liberty without due process of law. A person has the right to end a pregnancy without undue interference from the government because that right to liberty includes (1) the right to make decisions about family and (2) the right to bodily integrity.

However, in order to portray abortion rights as illegitimate, conservatives like to argue—inaccurately—that the Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade by inventing a right to privacy that is not grounded in the Constitution’s actual text.

In the pre-Roe contraception case Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), the Court did hold that “penumbras, formed by emanations” or various interpretations of the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth Amendments protect a right to privacy. But in deciding Roe, the Warren court located the right to privacy in the 14th Amendment’s explicit protection of the right to liberty. Regardless, the Court’s understanding of the rights that protect reproductive freedom expanded beyond just privacy decades ago.

Privacy is barely mentioned in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which established the current law governing abortion rights more than 20 years ago. “The controlling word in the cases before us is ‘liberty,’” the decision explained. It was settled law prior to Roe that liberty includes “the right to make family decisions and the right to physical autonomy.”

Privacy is also a constitutional right, and it was indeed violated by the laws at issue in Roe and its companion case,Doe v. Bolton. Those laws required a woman seeking an abortion to share her reasons for wanting the procedure with legal or medical authorities to have any hope of receiving legal abortion care. However, the law and discourse around privacy at the time of Roe implied a woman should be permitted to use contraception or end a pregnancy because the state should not interfere in decisions made in secret with the permission of her doctor, husband, father, pastor, or others. Casey instead properly recognized that the 14th Amendment protects a person’s right to control her body and destiny.

So why has the idea persisted that all we’ve got is a privacy right made up out of thin air? A counterintuitive and less textually based right serves abortion opponents, but abortion rights advocates also have a history of telling us abortion restrictions are primarily a threat to privacy. As William Saletan documented in Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the War on Abortion, in the run-up to Casey, pro-choice leaders emphasized privacy on the advice of pollsters and political consultants to appeal to anti-government, anti-welfare, anti-tax, and anti-integration sentiments. While reproductive rights lawyers argued to the Supreme Court that the Constitution’s protection of autonomy, bodily integrity, and equality protected abortion access, outside of court pro-choice leaders told the public the right at stake was privacy. But, ultimately, the Casey decision provided a much fuller discussion of why abortion is constitutionally protected by rights beyond privacy.

Abortion is protected by the due process clauses of the Fifth Amendment (which restricts the federal government) and the 14th Amendment (which was added to the Constitution to restrict the states). As Casey explained, “It is a promise of the Constitution that there is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter.” Using the force of law to compel a person to use her body against her will to bring a pregnancy to term is a violation of her physical autonomy and decisional freedom—which the Constitution does not allow.

 

7B2d881c8a-a777-42dc-8c89-37944494cFollow the link to read about the other two basic rights that include:” 2. Any pre-viability ban is unconstitutional. Period.” and “3. Casey‘s “undue burden” standard is a meaningful protection of abortion rights when courts apply it properly.”

There’s no doubt that the Texas Trap Law creates an “undue” burden.  Clinic closures have left the few remaining clinics overwhelmed.

The war on abortion access in Texas has already fundamentally shifted the landscape of women’s lives in the state. Now, the fallout continues: The closure of Planned Parenthood (PP) clinics in the state—which once served as primary sources of reproductive health care for women there—has left the few clinics remaining in west Texas underfunded, understaffed, and overwhelmed by demand.

According to new research, 60 percent of women receiving a low salary who were of reproductive age accessed health care through PP before the cuts and defunding which took place in 2013. The majority of those patients have since been directed to Texas Tech University and Midland County Health Services (MCHS) after PP’s clinics in west Texas closed—increasing demand at an overwhelming rate for their capacity to provide services.

“There are women [who] need these services but can’t afford them and we see as many as we can,” Michael Austin, director of MCHS, told Women’s Health Policy Report. “But the state program to help these folks along has basically evaporated. So I’m afraid there are probably a lot of folks flying under the radar who need care and aren’t getting it.” Austin pointed to the challenges of seeking funding in a state that has “eliminated or severely messed up” many of their programs which provide reproductive health care to women.

In 2011, the Texas State Assembly passed legislation which blocked funding to women’s health clinics, including Planned Parenthood, and cut the state’s family planning budget by two-thirds. Two years later, the draconian anti-abortion bill known as HB2 was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry, putting in place numerous obstacles meant to shutter clinics and restrict women’s access to safe and legal abortion. HB2 requires that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital and clinics are licensed ambulatory centers. It also bans surgical abortion after 20 weeks and medication abortion after seven. (Medication abortion is the most cost- and time-effective abortion procedure.)

HB2’s impact was immediate and drastic. 82 percent of family planning clinics closed. The number of abortion practitioners decreased by over 75 percent. Over half of the clinics performing abortion closed, which in turn drastically increased the time it would take for women to make an appointment to 28 days— essentially rendering the option of medication abortion moot. When it comes to clinics, Texas is in crisis.

The Supreme Court has declined to hear the Connecticut law banning assault weapon as well as the challenge to other state laws.  Thisimages (15) leaves the bans in place.

SCOTUS will look at certain key rights of jailed inmates that have illegal immigration status.

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will take up a case exploring when immigrants detained solely for immigration violations have the right to be released from jail.

The justices agreed to consider a federal appeals court decision that essentially found detained immigrants were entitled to a bond hearing after six months in custody and every six months thereafter.

The high court’s announcement comes as immigrant rights advocates are awaiting a Supreme Court decision on the legality of President Barack Obama’s executive actions granting quasi-legal status and work permits to millions of immigrants who entered or stayed in the U.S. illegally.

In that case, the Obama administration is aligned with most immigrants rights groups. However, in the case the court said Monday that it would take up, the Obama administration is pressing for fewer rights for detained immigrants. In fact, the administration is asking the justices to overturn the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that found immigrants have the right to regular review of their detention.

The newly-accepted case, Jennings v. Rodriguez, could also explore when immigrants accused of ties to terrorism have to be released if authorities are having difficulty deporting them.

9beaac6d2a9b369f60b838f47dbde993SCOTUS blog has some basic information on the remaining cases in the docket.  Here’s a few of the remaining 13.

Between tomorrow morning, when the Justices will take the bench at ten o’clock, and the end of June, the Court is expected to issue thirteen rulings in cases involving everything from tribal-court jurisdiction to abortion, immigration, and the scope of federal laws prohibiting political corruption.  Here are summaries of each pending case:

Dollar General Stores v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (argued December 7, 2015).  This case stems from accusations by a thirteen-year-old member of the tribe that a manager at a Dollar General store within the tribe’s reservation had sexually molested him while the boy was interning at the store.  The child and his parents filed a lawsuit against the manager and the store in tribal court, arguing that the store was liable for the manager’s conduct.  The issue before the Court is whether the tribal court has jurisdiction over tort claims against defendants, like Dollar General, who are not members of the tribe.

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (argued December 9, 2015).  This case, a challenge to the university’s consideration of race in its undergraduate admissions process, is on its second trip to the Court.  In 2013, the Court sent the case back to the lower courts for a more critical look at whether the university really needed to consider race to achieve a diverse student body.  After the Fifth Circuit once again upheld the policy, the Court agreed to weigh in.  Unlike some of the Court’s other high-profile cases this Term, no one expects the Court to deadlock:  Justice Elena Kagan is not participating, which in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death leaves the Court with just seven Justices to decide the case.

Utah v. Strieff (argued February 22, 2016).  When a police officer stops a pedestrian in violation of the law, asks him for identification, discovers that there is a traffic warrant for his arrest, arrests him, and in the process of searching him discovers drug paraphernalia and methamphetamines, can the evidence found in the search of the pedestrian be used against him?  Edward Strieff argues that it cannot:  because the police officer’s stop was illegal, then anything obtained as a result of the stop is also tainted.  The state, on the other hand, contends that the evidence should be admitted because it resulted from the lawful warrant for his arrest, rather than the illegal stop.

Taylor v. United States (argued February 23, 2016).  The petitioner in this case, David Taylor, was part of a Virginia gang that robbed drug dealers.  The two robberies that led to this case, however, did not yield any drugs – only cellphones, jewelry, and a small amount of money.  Taylor was indicted on federal charges that he had violated the Hobbs Act, which punishes robberies and extortion but applies only when the defendant “obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce.”  The question before the Court is whether the federal government is required to prove facts to show that the defendant’s conduct actually affects commerce.

Voisine v. United States (argued February 29, 2016).  Stephen Voisine and William Armstrong, the other petitioner in this case, both pleaded guilty in state court to misdemeanor assaults on their respective domestic partners. Several years later, each man was charged with violating a federal law that prohibits the possession of firearms and ammunition by individuals who have previously been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.  Voisine and Armstrong contend their state convictions do not automatically qualify as misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence because the state-law provisions can be violated by conduct that is merely reckless, rather than intentional.

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (argued March 2, 2016).  This is a challenge to the constitutionality of two provisions of a Texas law regulating abortion in that state.  One provision requires doctors who perform abortions to have privileges to admit patients to a local hospital; the other requires abortion clinics to have facilities that are comparable to outpatient surgical centers.  Texas contends that these new laws are constitutional because they were intended to protect women’s health, while the challengers argue that the law was actually intended to close most clinics and therefore limit women’s access to abortions.

RJR Nabisco v. The European Community (argued March 21, 2016).  The issue in this case is whether and to what extent the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a 1970 law that was originally enacted to target organized crime, applies outside the United States.  The European Community filed a lawsuit in the United States, seeking to hold RJR liable for what it says is the company’s role in an international money-laundering plot that harmed European countries.  RJR counters that nothing in the law suggests that Congress intended it to apply to a situation like this.  Justice Samuel Alito is almost certainly writing the Court’s opinion in this case, because he is the only Justice who has not yet written for the Court’s March sitting; based on the oral argument, that could bode well for RJR.

United States v. Texas (argued April 18, 2016).  This case is a challenge to an Obama administration policy, announced in November 2014, that would allow some undocumented immigrants to apply to stay in the country and work legally for three years.  Before the policy could go into effect, Texas and a large group of other states went to court to block its implementation, arguing that the administration lacks the authority to issue a policy like this.  But before the Supreme Court can weigh in on that question, it will also have to agree that the states have the legal right, known as “standing,” to challenge the policy at all; the lower courts ruled that they did, because at least Texas would incur additional costs from the undocumented immigrants who would become eligible for driver’s licenses if the policy goes into effect.

Birchfield v. North Dakota (argued April 20, 2016).  Twelve states and the National Park Service impose criminal penalties on suspected drunk drivers who refuse to submit to testing to measure their blood-alcohol levels.  The question before the Court is whether those penalties violate the Fourth Amendment, which only allows police to “search” someone if they have a warrant or one of a handful of exceptions to the warrant requirement applies.  Three drivers from North Dakota and Minnesota argue that neither of those conditions is met, and so the laws must fall.

Encino Motorcars v. Navarro (argued April 20, 2016).  This case requires the Court to weigh in on the interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which generally requires employers to pay overtime to employees who work for more than forty hours in a week but also contains a variety of exceptions – including for a salesman whose primary job is selling or servicing cars.  The respondents in this case are service advisors at a car dealership, who argue that they are not included in the exemption and are therefore entitled to overtime.

You can check out the rest on the link to SCOTUS blog. So, there’s a lot of interesting things coming down the pipe.  We’ll definitely be  following a lot of them.

There’s one piece of SCOTUS gossip that you might be interested in today. Check out this lede by David Badash:  “DC Insider Report SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas Thinking of Retiring Throws Twitter Into Frenzy.”

The Washington Examiner Sunday afternoon posted a piece by DC insider columnist Paul Bedard that claims uber-conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas “is mulling retirement after the presidential election, according to court watchers.” Those “court watchers” of course are unnamed, so the actual source of the claim is unknown.

It could be true, it could be false, but the implications of course are tremendous. Assuming Republicans in the Senate successfully keeps their vow to not confirm any SCOTUS justice nominated by President Obama, and wait until the next president takes office, this would mean the next president would automatically nominate not one but two justices to the nation’s top court, controlling its destiny for decades.

So naturally, Clarence Thomas began trending on Twitter.

Follow the link for the Twitter Frenzy.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 

h/t to Delphyne


Saturday Late Morning Links

Good Morning! Here are a few news links to get you started on your weekend reading.

Ralph posted this FDL link in a comment last night last night, and I thought it deserved front page attention: Right-Wingers Horrified to Discover That Conservative Movement is Seriously Crazy

The complete implosion of the Secessionist on the national stage and the subsequent rise of the Pizza Guy has just been too much for some wingers to take. They’re looking at those polls showing the Pizza Guy still leading Willard, and wondering how the hell they came to be totally surrounded by crazy people.

The quotes from wingers are too funny. They’re almost as disturbed by their candidates as we are.

From Politico, more on the Cain sexual harassment situation:
Under Herman Cain, NRA launched sex harassment fight

In the wake of the televised 1991 Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings — and the widely publicized sexual harassment charges leveled against him by Anita Hill — American businesses had been hit by a wave of sexual harassment cases. And the restaurant industry, in particular, was hit especially hard.

Industry officials saw it coming — none other than Cain himself warned as long ago as 1991 that changes in federal law resulting from the hearings could cause problems for employers.

“This bill opens the door for opportunists who will use the legislation to make some money,” Cain, then CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, told Nation’s Restaurant News. “I’m certainly for civil rights, but I don’t know if this bill is fair because of what we’ll have to spend to defend ourselves in unwarranted cases.”

Excuse me? Unwarranted cases?

NYT: Greek Leader Survives Vote, Bolstering Deal on Europe Debt

ATHENS — Prime Minister George Papandreou of Greece survived a crucial confidence vote in the Greek Parliament early on Saturday, a vote that signaled approval of the comprehensive deal reached by European leaders last week to stabilize the euro and to help Greece avoid defaulting on its debt.

Mr. Papandreou pledged to form a unity government with a broader consensus, regardless of whether he would lead it, and met with President Karolos Papoulias to explore the composition of a transitional government.

According to media reports, Mr. Papandreou told the Greek president that the country needed to forge a political consensus to prove it wanted to keep the euro. “In order to create this wider cooperation, we will start the necessary procedures and contacts soon,” Reuters quoted Mr. Papandreou as saying.

“My aim is to immediately create a government of cooperation,” Mr. Papandreou was quoted as saying. “A lack of consensus would worry our European partners about our country’s membership of the euro zone.”

According to the UK Guardian, Papandreau will soon be replaced with “his deputy and rival Evangelos Venizelos.”

Venizelos has won considerable respect among eurozone leaders for his handling of the crisis. It was he who forced Papandreou to abandon his destabilising plans for a referendum on the 27 October eurozone summit package that envisages a further €130bn (£112bn) bailout for Greece paid for largely by a 50% “haircut” for private creditors on their holdings of Greek debt. This was after the pair were given a humiliating dressing down by Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy before the G20 summit got under way in Cannes.

The finance minister, who was first to congratulate the premier on his pyrrhic victoryon Saturday, has been on the phone to reassure his eurozone colleagues, above all Wolfgang Schäuble of Germany, that Greece will meet the terms of the second bailout and be able to reach a deal on the fine details within a few weeks.

Bondholders marshalled by the International Institute for Finance are demanding political certainty in the country – as is the business community which has been pressing behind the scenes for a government of national salvation led by a non-political figure such as Loukas Papademos, former president of the European Central Bank.

Venizelos told Schäuble et al that he would turn up at Monday’s meeting of eurogroup finance ministers in Brussels armed with what his ministry called “the political guarantees which are necessary for the disbursement of the sixth tranche of €8bn”. This is the sum required before 15 December to save Greece from bankruptcy. Greek banks, which have almost €50bn exposure to state debt, need the package approved swiftly so they can rebuild their capital base.

WSJ on the death of Andy Rooney:

Andy Rooney was America’s bemused uncle, spouting homespun wisdom weekly at the end of “60 Minutes,” a soupcon of topical relief after the news magazine’s harder-hitting segments.

Peering at viewers through bushy eyebrows across his desk, Mr. Rooney might start out, seemingly at random, “Did you ever notice that…” and he was off, riffing on pencils, pies, parking places, whatever. Then he was done, slightly cranky revelations delivered in a neat three-minute package.

Mr. Rooney, who died Friday night at age 92, was a reporter and writer-producer for television for decades before landing in 1978 on “60 Minutes.” To his consternation, the show made him into a celebrity.

I was never a fan, but I’m sure many Americans will miss him.

Please post your recommended reads in the comments, and have a great Saturday!


Move on over Uncle Clarence Thomas …


An exclusive from Politico:  Two women accused Herman Cain of inappropriate behavior

During Herman Cain’s tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain, ultimately leaving their jobs at the trade group, multiple sources confirm to POLITICO.

The women complained of sexually suggestive behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, the sources said, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association. The agreements also included language that bars the women from talking about their departures.

In a series of comments over the past 10 days, Cain and his campaign repeatedly declined to respond directly about whether he ever faced allegations of sexual harassment at the restaurant association. They have also declined to address questions about specific reporting confirming that there were financial settlements in two cases in which women leveled complaints.POLITICO has confirmed the identities of the two female restaurant association employees who complained about Cain but, for privacy concerns, is not publishing their names.

You remember Clarence Thomas right?  No wonder Cain calls him a ‘mentor’ and an influence!!

Virginia Thomas’ now-famous phone call to Anita Hill has had at least one consequence that she can’t have intended.  It’s prompted a former paramour of her husband’s to dish salacious and troubling detailsabout the Supreme Court justice’s past to the Washington Post.  And many of those details are in sync with accusations that emerged around Clarence Thomas’ contentious 1991 confirmation hearings.

“He was obsessed with porn,” Lillian McEwen, tells the paper.  “He would talk about what he had seen in magazines and films, if there was something worth noting.”

McEwen also said that the conservative Thomas was constantly on the make at work.  “He was always actively watching the women he worked with to see if they could be potential partners,” said McEwen. “It was a hobby of his.”

She added that he once told her he had asked a woman at work what her bra size was.

Here we go again!  Why are all right wing men pervs?

Thursday Morning Reads

Good Morning!!

Today I’m going to start out with some stupid politician stories. And I’ve got some about politicians from both legacy parties.

First up, Rick Perry. At this point, I’m convinced this Texas good ol’ boy is dumb as a post. After the debate last night Perry spoke to Beta Theta Pi Fraternity at Dartmouth College. Check this out:

“Our Founding Fathers never meant for Washington, D.C. to be the fount of all wisdom,” the candidate explained. “As a matter of fact they were very much afraid if that because they’d just had this experience with this far-away government that had centralized thought process and planning and what have you, and then it was actually the reason that we fought the revolution in the 16th century was to get away from that kind of onerous crown if you will.”

The Houston Press published a few of the Twitter responses to Perry’s moronic gaffe. Here are a few examples:

@drgrist Why else did Daniel Boone fight alongside George Patton if not free America from health insurance mandates? #perryhistory

@ ObsoleteDogma Ronald Reagan told Peter the Great to “tear down this wall”… and put it up on the Mexican border #perryhistory

@ FenrisDesigns In 1576, Teddy Roosevelt signed the Magna Carta, effectively inventing bald eagles. #PerryHistory

@ cheetapizza #NathanHale had but one life to give against General #CarlosSantana at #TheAlamo.” #PerryHistory

Dakinikat has been highlighting the nutty Republican candidates over the past few day. She mentioned this recently, but I just have to do it again. Texas is moving toward offering a license plate with the Confederate flag on it. What will Perry do? Probably something stupid.

Texas’ Department of Motor Vehicles will soon vote — or perhaps table — a Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate that features the Confederate flag. Proceeds will go to that group to help maintain grave stones and monuments. But the group also has a dark side: though they claim to be dedicated solely to history, a faction have recently become more aligned with extremist celebration of the Confederate States, crossing well over in secessionist and racist territory.

Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee called on Perry to repudiate the license plate in last night’s debate. So far Perry hasn’t done so.

Salon’s Justin Elliott reported earlier this year that Perry has “warm relations” with confederate groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group that once described him as a member, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. And in 2000, Perry went against the NAACP by defending two Confederate flag plaques on the state’s Supreme Court building.

“I want you to know that I oppose efforts to remove Confederate monuments, plaques, and memorials from public property. I also believe that communities should decide whether statues or other memorials are appropriate for their community,” he wrote at the time. The plaques, however, were ultimately removed.

The license plates differ slightly in that they explicitly benefit a specific organization, just like the Confederate plates they’ve championed in Mississippi and other states. The Mississippi plate, you’ll remember, honored late KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Herman Cain called Perry “insensitive.” I’d use a stronger word.

Yesterday Michele Bachmann displayed her ignorance of what really happens to poor people in America when she responded to a question from a toothless man in New Hampshire.

At a campaign event in New Hampshire yesterday, Bachmann fielded a thoughtful question from a man who asked about the future of Social Security and Medicare….”We have uncertainty right now,” Bachmann told him, launching into a wide-ranging answer that mostly focused on how Barack Obama will personally walk into hospitals and old folks’ homes and throw people out windows.

Turns out, this guy’s got enough uncertainty already: He’s losing his teeth. Bachmann’s policy answer: Maybe he should go to… a church? Or, oh! Better idea: Sit on the street corner and beg for change.

“We have charitable organizations and there’s universities who are willing to take care of people who are indigent,” she told him, lovingly. “If you’re indigent, there are programs set up for the indigent. But don’t destroy the finest health care system in the world to have socialized medicine.”

Now let’s look at some stupid Democrats. A Democratic Assemblywoman in California became concerned about young people attending raves after a young girl died of an overdose of Ecstasy.

A California assemblywoman on a quest to end raves was surprised to find that electronic dance music could not be outlawed. Democratic Assemblywoman Fiona Ma tried to ban the music after a 15-year-old girl died at The Electric Daisy Carnival in Los Angeles, apparently from an ecstasy overdose.

“We found out later on that, constitutionally, you can not ban a type of music,” she told Reason.TV.

Where do they find these people? The last one is sad as well as stupid. Dakinikat sent me this article from the Daily Mail about Anthony Wiener.

Anthony Weiner accused his Muslim parents-in-law of being ‘backwards thinking’ and never accepting him because of his Jewish background, it was revealed today.

Newly released messages from the disgraced former congressman’s text conversations, obtained exclusively by MailOnline, show how Weiner had explicit exchanges with women comparing them to his wife.

OMG, what an a$$hole! I’m not going to quote anymore from that story, so as not to make anyone sick.

In other news, Anita Hill has written a book, so she’s making the media rounds. She gave an extended interview to NPR

On Oct. 11, 1991, Anita Hill told the Senate Judiciary Committee that then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her.

Hill’s testimony was part of a second round of confirmation hearings to appoint Thomas to the court. He was ultimately confirmed by both the committee and the Senate, and has held the post for the past 20 years.

As for Hill, she has spent the past 20 years mostly out of the limelight, focusing on her academic work as a professor of social policy and law at Brandeis University. She says the tens of thousands of letters she has received since the hearings inspired her to write her new book, Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home.

“They’ve inspired me at times when I really did not feel very good about the subject of equality,” she tells NPR’s Neal Conan. “They’ve inspired me to keep pushing and to keep working and to keep really being myself.”

Listen to the whole interview at the link. There’s good article about Hill at the San Francisco Chronicle–first published by Bloomberg. And here is an NPR story by Nina Totenberg about Clarence Thomas’s 20 years on the Supreme Court. We can thank Joe Biden for that.

Eric Cantor has called for a floor vote on the “Let Women Die” Act of 2011, AKA HR 358. According to Care 2,

The deceptively-titled “Protect Life Act” will allow hospitals that receive federal funds to turn away a woman seeking an abortion in all circumstances, even if the procedure is necessary to save her life.

Under current law, any hospital receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds is legally required to provide emergency care to any patient in need, regardless of his or her financial situation. If that hospital can’t provide that service, including a life-saving abortion, it has to transfer the patient to a hospital that can.

But under the bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa), hospitals that don’t want to provide abortions could refuse to do so, even for a pregnant woman with a life-threatening complication that would require termination.

Because women’s lives aren’t human lives, you see.

Jonathan Schell has an article in The Nation that I highly recommend: Cruel America. Schell considers some of the horrifying things we’ve seen in the Republican Debates so far–cheers for the notion of letting a man die if he doesn’t have health insurance, a governor of Texas who sleeps just fine after learning that he executed an innocent man, the lack of concern over the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia–and argues that America is devolving into cruel society.

There have been many signs recently that the United States has been traveling down a steepening path of cruelty. It’s hard to say why such a thing is occurring, but it seems to have to do with a steadily growing faith in force as the solution to almost any problem, whether at home or abroad. Enthusiasm for killing is an unmistakable symptom of cruelty. It also appeared after the killing of Osama bin Laden, which touched off raucous celebrations around the country. It is one thing to believe in the unfortunate necessity of killing someone, another to revel in it. This is especially disturbing when it is not only government officials but ordinary people who engage in the effusions.

In any descent into barbarism, one can make out two stages. First, the evils are inaugurated—tested, as it were. Second, the reaction comes—either indignation and rejection or else acceptance, even delight. The choice can indicate the difference between a country that is restoring decency and one that is sinking into a nightmare. It was a dark day for the United States when the Bush administration secretly ordered the torture of terrorism suspects. On that day, the civilization of the United States dropped down a notch. But it sank a notch lower when, the facts of the crimes having become known, former President Bush and former Vice President Cheney publicly embraced their wrongdoing, as they have done most recently on their respective book tours. To the impunity they already enjoyed, they added brazenness, as if challenging society to respond or else enter into tacit complicity with the abuses.

And still there was little reaction. For in a further downward drop, President Obama, even as he ordered an end to torture, decided against imposing any legal accountability on the miscreants, and in fact shunned any accountability whatsoever. He did not even seek, say, some equivalent of the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa after the end of apartheid.

There’s more, please read it all if you can. In most of the stories in today’s reads, there is a thread of cruelty. The cruelty of ignoring racism, poverty, the inability of people to care for their health. The cruelty of men to women–the hatred that must be in the hearts of these Congressmen who vote to kill women rather than allow them to have an abortion; the repressed anger that leads a man to hurt his wife and future child by throwing away his career for a few fleeting moments of sexual arousal.

Schell is right. We are becoming a cruel and degraded culture. How can we rescue our country from the haters? I wish I knew.

So what are you reading and blogging about today?


Clarence Thomas’ Ethics Problems

We’ve written before about Clarence Thomas and the number of conflicts of interests that he has ignored in the past.

Justice Long Dong Silver rides again.

Bostonboomer wrote this piece back in February about Thomas and Citizen’s United. This was a follow-up to a piece she wrote in January when Thomas was been criticized for not reporting his right wing activist wife’s lobbying income.  Many liberals–including Rachel Maddow–have argued that cyber stalking of Anthony Weiner and the resultant media frenzy to force Wiener’s resignation may be related to a letter Weiner wrote Thomas in February.  That letter requested Thomas remove himself from from cases challenging the constitutionality of the Health Care Reform Act given his wife Gini Thomas’ lobbying activity for Liberty Central against the law.

Talk Progress discovered several ethics lapses this year alone for Justice ‘Long Dong Silver’ of coke bottle and sexual harassment fame.  Thomas has attended many Koch-sponsored political fundraisers.  Now, the NYT has evidence that Thomas keeps accepting expensive gifts from one particular conservative real estate trust fund baby and fails to report many more.  Any one with a good amount of familiarity with American history will know that 40 years ago, Justice Abe Fortas was forced to resign under the same circumstances.  Recently, it was found out this right wing political donor not only contributed to Thomas’ pet projects like the Pin Point museum in Georgia which features Thomas’ birth place, but he’s received incredibly expensive gifts ranging from a $19,000 bible once owned by Frederick Douglass and $500,000 to seed Thomas’ wife Tea Party organization.  Thomas has also accepted a $15,000 gift from the American Enterprise Institute who wrote a brief in a case that appeared before the court. Thomas did not recuse himself.

The NYT’s reports that Harlan Crow, a Dallas real estate tycoon and a major contributor to conservative causes–gave the essential backing of $175,000 to fund the museum, the previously mentioned $19,000 bible,  and $500,000 for Gini Thomas’ organization. There’s also some pretty nice meals and parties included in the gift package along with time spent in yachts and vacation spots.   Thomas failed to report a good deal of this.

We’ve reached the point at which calls for Thomas to resign should be coming from Democrats in Congress and Republicans concerned with corruption. Gini Thomas’ organization has actively been involved with lobbying for causes that include laws that will appear before the Supreme Court.  Weiner was right in pointing out the obvious conflict of interest. This is the analysis from TPM.

Some degree of conflict of interest is inherent in any judge’s professional life — Justice Sonia Sotomayor, for instance, saw it necessary to recuse herself from at least 141 cases before she joined the Supreme Court — but when it comes to ethical complications on the nation’s highest court, Clarence Thomas takes the cake. Of particular concern is Thomas’ wife, Virginia, who founded a Tea Party-affiliated group called Liberty Central that opposes various progressive causes, including health care reform — an issue that’s almost certain to come before her husband’s court.

But an increasing number of revelations about Clarence Thomas’ own activities are raising questions about his impartiality.

So, who is Harlan Crow?  The Times mentions the two men met about the time Thomas was placed on the court.    Here’s a brief bit on that from Truth Dig.

After U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas secured a financial favor that led to the preservation of an aging cannery site in the community of his birth in Georgia, legal ethicists are voicing concerns over his friendship with Harlan Crow, a Dallas real estate magnate and contributor to conservative causes.

Crow’s donation to what appears to be Justice Thomas’ pet project is cause for wonder over how the judge’s rulings might be influenced by his benefactor’s politics. Federal judges are required to adhere to a code of ethics that bars them from raising money for charitable causes for precisely that reason. But Supreme Court justices are not. Crow, who has donated almost $5 million to Republican campaigns and conservative groups, is a known contributor to Thomas’ political advocacy group, Liberty Central, which opposed President Obama’s health care legislation last year.

Crow’s background is given in the NYT article itself.

Mr. Crow, 61, manages the real estate and investment businesses founded by his late father, Trammell Crow, once the largest landlord in the United States. The Crow family portfolio is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and includes investments in hotels, medical facilities, public equities and hedge funds.

A friend of the Bush family, Mr. Crow is a trustee of the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation and has donated close to $5 million to Republican campaigns and conservative groups. Among his contributions were $100,000 to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group formed to attack the Vietnam War record of Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, and $500,000 to an organization that ran advertisements urging the confirmation of President George W. Bush’s nominees to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Crow has not personally been a party to Supreme Court litigation, but his companies have been involved in federal court cases, including four that went to the appellate level. And he has served on the boards of two conservative organizations involved in filing supporting briefs in cases before the Supreme Court. One of them, the American Enterprise Institute, with Mr. Crow as a trustee, gave Justice Thomas a bust of Lincoln valued at $15,000 and praised his jurisprudence at an awards gala in 2001.

The institute’s Project on Fair Representation later filed briefs in several cases, and in 2006 the project brought a lawsuit challenging federal voting rights laws, a case in which Justice Thomas filed a lone dissent, embracing the project’s arguments. The project director, an institute fellow named Edward Blum, said the institute supported his research but did not finance the brief filings or the Texas suit, which was litigated pro bono by a former clerk of Justice Thomas’s.

So, Crow is another right wing trust fund baby interested in preserving his hand downs.

There are a number of reasons Justice Thomas might be thankful to Mr. Crow. In addition to giving him the Douglass Bible, valued 10 years ago at $19,000, Mr. Crow has hosted the justice aboard his private jet and his 161-foot yacht, at the exclusive Bohemian Grove retreat in California and at his grand Adirondacks summer estate called Topridge, a 105-acre spread that once belonged to Marjorie Merriweather Post, the cereal heiress.

Christopher Shaw, a folk singer who said he had been invited several times to perform at Topridge, recalled seeing Justice Thomas and his family “on one or two occasions.” They were among about two dozen guests who included other prominent Republicans — last summer, the younger Mr. Bush stopped by.

“There would be guys puffing on cigars,” Mr. Shaw said. “Clarence just kind of melted in with everyone else. We got introduced at dinner. He sat at Harlan’s table.”

The most interesting thing to read in all of the articles I’ve cited is the number of legal experts that consider this to be unethical at the very least.  It also appears that Justice Thomas has reporting problem when it comes to gifts since it was pointed out in 2004 that his gift list was much bigger than the other members of SCOTUS.  Since then, his gift list is empty.

Beyond the code, the justices must comply with laws applying to all federal officials that prohibit conflicts of interest and require disclosure of gifts. Justice Thomas’s gift acceptances drew attention in 2004, when The Los Angeles Times reported that he had accumulated gifts totaling $42,200 in the previous six years — far more than any of the other justices.

Since 2004, Justice Thomas has never reported another gift. He has continued to disclose travel costs paid by schools and organizations he has visited for speeches and teaching, but he has not reported that any travel was provided by Mr. Crow.

Travel records for Mr. Crow’s planes and yacht, however, suggest that Justice Thomas may have used them in recent years.

In April 2008, not long after Mr. Crow bought the Pin Point property, one of his private planes flew from Washington to Savannah, where his yacht, the Michaela Rose, was docked.

That same week, an item appeared in a South Carolina lawyers’ publication noting that Justice Thomas was arriving aboard the Michaela Rose in Charleston, a couple of hours north of Savannah, where the Crow family owns luxury vacation properties. The author was a prominent lawyer who said she knew of the visit because of a family connection to Mr. Crow.

Justice Thomas reported no gifts of travel that month in his 2008 disclosure. And there are other instances in which Justice Thomas’s travels correspond to flights taken by Mr. Crow’s planes.

No wonder the right wing was eager to take down Anthony Weiner.  It appears that Thomas has accepted gifts from organizations that have either benefited or filed briefs in support of decisions that he’s been party to.  I’ll be waiting for calls from Congress to investigate all of this.  Any bets on how long I’ll be waiting?


Sunday Reads: Isn’t it pretty to think so?

Happy Father’s Day to all you baby daddies everywhere! Just a few links for you today, let’s get to it…

New figures of radiation are being released in Japan, there is a real good post about this at naked capitalism, called Global Nuclear Update.

Science Magazine reports that Japanese scientists have become so concerned about the health of their children that they have initiated their own radiation monitoring program and made their own maps. The results are shocking.

***

It shows one wide belt of radiation reaching 225 kilometers south from the stricken reactors to Tokyo and another extending to the southwest. Within those belts are localized hot spots, including an oval that encloses northeast Tokyo and Kashiwa and neighboring cities in Chiba Prefecture.

***

A map of citizen measured radiation levels shows radioactivity is distributed in a complex pattern reflecting the mountainous terrain and the shifting winds across a broad area of Japan north of Tokyo which is in the center of the of bottom of the map.

That article has info on many other Nuclear sites throughout the world.  Take some time to read it.

Why is it when any distressing news comes out of Africa, it always seems to involves such large numbers?  Half a million displaced as Khartoum moves to crush Sudan’s Nuba people | World news | The Observer

A Sudanese man waves the regional flag

New fighting has increased the chances that a north-south war will reignite, ending hopes of peaceful partition Photograph: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Fierce new fighting along Sudan‘s volatile north-south divide is raising deep concern for the safety of the Nuba people, the forgotten victims of the country’s long-running civil war who are once again under attack by government forces and militias.

The fighting has significantly increased the chances that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the civil war six years ago will collapse, reigniting a north-south war and ending all hopes of peaceful partition when oil-rich South Sudan formally declares itself independent on 9 July.

[…]

On 5 June, as the Sudanese government army prepared to “control” – disarm – Nuba fighters, fighting erupted in South Kordofan’s capital, Kadugli, and spread quickly across most of the region. The battle for Kadugli became a street-by-street war of attrition: Khartoum piled in brigades of regulars and irregulars, and the SPLA relentlessly mortared the army’s divisional headquarters.

The UN has issued a report stating that human right offenses are becoming more frequent, and a humanitarian crises is being to build.

On Thursday the Nuba leader, Abdelaziz Adam al-Hilu, told African Union (AU) mediators frantically crafting a ceasefire agreement that more than 3,000 people have disappeared – either killed or their whereabouts unknown – “because they are Nuba or belong to the SPLA”. He said 400,000-500,000 have been displaced, in a population of approximately 2.5 million, and more than 50 towns had been bombed.

Food, he said, was being used as a weapon, with no flow of goods to rural areas since May. Kadugli airport has been closed to humanitarian flights. Relief coming by road has been turned away.

The deadline for the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) staff to leave Khartoum has been set for July 9th,  but the situation has become so violent they are afraid to leave the compound.

Justice Clarence Thomas is again in the news, and this time,  the “friends” he keeps are bringing about serious questions regarding ethics and the Supreme Court.  Friendship of Justice and Magnate Puts Focus on Ethics – NYTimes.com

The seafood cannery that Justice Thomas mother once worked is now becoming a large museum in Pin Point, GA, just outside of Savannah, GA is a new pet project of Thomas.  According to the NYT, Thomas became interested in the property when he met the owner Algernon Varn, while visiting his birthplace in coastal GA.

Varn told Mike McIntire of the NYT:

“And Clarence said, ‘Well, I’ve got a friend I’m going to put you in touch with,’ ” Mr. Varn recalled, adding that he was later told by others not to identify the friend.

The publicity-shy friend turned out to be Harlan Crow, a Dallas real estate magnate and a major contributor to conservative causes. Mr. Crow stepped in to finance the multimillion-dollar purchase and restoration of the cannery, featuring a museum about the culture and history of Pin Point…

The project throws a spotlight on an unusual, and ethically sensitive, friendship that appears to be markedly different from those of other justices on the nation’s highest court.

Many remember the last time Thomas was in the news because of his questionable ethics practices.

In January, the liberal advocacy organization Common Cause asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Justices Thomas and Antonin Scalia should have recused themselves from last year’s Citizens United campaign finance case because they had attended a political retreat organized by the billionaire Koch brothers, who support groups that stood to benefit from the court’s decision.

A month later, more than 100 law professors asked Congress to extend to Supreme Court justices the ethics code that applies to other federal judges, and a bill addressing the issue was introduced.

It is not unusual for justices to accept gifts or take part in outside activities, some with political overtones.

The article mentions a few examples of Judges who participate in events that are connected to outside interest.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg participated in a symposium sponsored by the National Organization for Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, and a philanthropic foundation once tried to give her a $100,000 achievement award. She instructed that the money be given to charity.

Unlike Federal Judges that have a code they must follow, the Supreme court is not bound by a code of conduct. However, they claim to “adhere” to it.

Beyond the admonition against fund-raising, the code generally discourages judges from partaking in any off-the-bench behavior that could create even the perception of partiality. It acknowledges the value in judges’ being engaged with their communities, lecturing on the law and doing charitable work, but draws a line where those activities might cause a reasonable person to worry that a judge is indebted to or influenced by someone.

“The code of conduct is quite clear that judges are not supposed to be soliciting money for their pet projects or charities, period,” said Arn Pearson, a lawyer with Common Cause. “If any other federal judge was doing it, he could face disciplinary action.”

Which brings us to the questions this new Museum raises or more importantly, the relationship between Thomas and Crow.  Clarence Thomas is no stranger to ethical investigations.

Justice Thomas’s gift acceptances drew attention in 2004, when The Los Angeles Times reported that he had accumulated gifts totaling $42,200 in the previous six years — far more than any of the other justices.

Since 2004, Justice Thomas has never reported another gift.

The article is really interesting to read.  I just picked out some good points, but go ahead and read the entire thing.

Since I am a history major, certain stories seem to attract my attention more than others. This next link is to a Wall Street Journal interview with David McCullough.  (Who I think has one of the best voices for narrating documentaries or reading audio books.)

The Weekend Interview With David McCullough: Don’t Know Much About History – WSJ.com

‘We’re raising young people who are, by and large, historically illiterate,” David McCullough tells me on a recent afternoon in a quiet meeting room at the Boston Public Library. Having lectured at more than 100 colleges and universities over the past 25 years, he says, “I know how much these young people—even at the most esteemed institutions of higher learning—don’t know.” Slowly, he shakes his head in dismay. “It’s shocking.”


He’s right. This week, the Department of Education released the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which found that only 12% of high-school seniors have a firm grasp of our nation’s history. And consider: Just 2% of those students understand the significance of Brown v. Board of Education.


Mr. McCullough began worrying about the history gap some 20 years ago, when a college sophomore approached him after an appearance at “a very good university in the Midwest.” She thanked him for coming and admitted, “Until I heard your talk this morning, I never realized the original 13 colonies were all on the East Coast.” Remembering the incident, Mr. McCullough’s snow-white eyebrows curl in pain. “I thought, ‘What have we been doing so wrong that this obviously bright young woman could get this far and not know that?'”


Answer: We’ve been teaching history poorly. And Mr. McCullough wants us to amend our ways.

No kidding, if I am not mistaken, History is one of the subjects that is receiving cuts in funding at many public schools and universities, like in Michigan and Colorado.  So what do you expect?

Also, the attention span and interest levels of the average American these days is pretty pathetic.  I guess if Snookie was giving a lecture on American History, more people would be interested in it.

New anti-abortion billboards have popped up recently, only the group being targeted this time is the Latinas.  Billboards Targeting Latinas Exposes Cynical Motives of Conservative Funders | RH Reality Check

In February, billboards in New York City warned that “The most dangerous place for African Americans is in the womb.” Now Latinos in Los Angeles learn that “El lugar más peligroso para un Latino es el vientre de su madre.” (“The most dangerous place for a Latino in in his mother’s womb.”) So what’s going on in the wombs of minority women in the United States? According to Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, which launched the Latina version last week in Los Angeles, Latina women are under attack from Planned Parenthood. Aguilar claims Planned Parenthood is systematically entering Latino neighborhoods to promote what amount to eugenic abortions.

What minority group is next on the list?

From Minx’s Missing Link File: Being a “full figured” gal myself, I found this article from last week refreshing.    Full Figured Fashion Week Hits New York City

full figured fashion week hits new york city

Today kicks off the start to New York City’s third annual Full Figured Fashion Week (FFFWeek). Over the next three days, buyers, models, sponsors, and bloggers will enjoy an array of events that celebrate plus-size fashion.

[…]

It’s no surprise that plus-size models and fashion are largely absent in runway shows, magazine advertisements, and clothing stores. FFFWeek is a great opportunity to begin bridging this gap and give full figured women access to beautiful and fashionable clothing like anyone else.

Wow, FFFWeek lasted three days…facinating huh?

Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the Week:  My son and daughter are named Jake and Brett after the book The Sun Also Rises.  So this travel piece about Madrid caught my eye.  A Tour of Hemingway’s Madrid – NYTimes.com

El Sobrino de Botín, open since 1725 on a tiny street behind Plaza Mayor, claims to be the oldest restaurant in the world. Jake and Brett turned up here — like Hemingway himself often did — to dine on the house specialty, roasted suckling pig, and drink several bottles of Rioja Alta. Botín isn’t above playing up the association: the front window displays an image of the writer and a quote from “The Sun Also Rises” that mentions the restaurant. (Until recently, the owners of a nearby restaurant, presumably trying to differentiate themselves from Botín, hung a large sign above its door reading: “HEMINGWAY NEVER ATE HERE.”)

…I asked for a table upstairs, the place where Hemingway put Jake and Brett and where he preferred sitting as well. And like our fictional counterparts, we dined on juicy roast suckling pig, though we stopped at just one bottle of Rioja. Afterward, I introduced myself to Antonio and Carlos Gonzáles, the third generation of their family (along with José) to run Botín. The brothers hadn’t been born when Hemingway was a regular guest at their restaurant, but they’ve heard plenty of stories.

“Don Ernesto once wanted to make paella,” Carlos said. “And so our grandfather allowed him to go into the kitchen to make it.”

Was it any good?

“Apparently not,” he said, laughing. “It was the last time they let him cook anything.”

So, I will leave you with the last few sentences in one of Hemingway’s masterpieces.  Be sure to leave some comments below, and let us know what you have read today.  Happy Father’s Day…

Ernest Hemingway (with the mustache) with Lady Duff Twysden (wearing a hat), Hadley, and three men at a café in Pamplona, Spain, July 1925.

Quote from The Sun Also Rises:

“Oh, Jake,” Brett said, “we could have had such a damned good time together.”
Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me.
“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”


Citizens United and Clarence Thomas Go Way Back

Clarence and Virginia Thomas

Thanks to the way-back machine, researchers at the watchdog organization “Protect Our Elections” dug up this 1991 article from Time Magazine.

Washington-area television viewers were startled last week to see three familiar senatorial faces pop up on their screens above the words WHO WILL JUDGE THE JUDGE? The follow-up question — “How many of these liberal Democrats could themselves pass ethical scrutiny?” — was hardly necessary, since the faces were those of Edward Kennedy, Joseph Biden and Alan Cranston, all scarred veterans of highly publicized scandals, from Chappaquiddick to plagiarized speeches to the Keating Five.

The ad, produced by two independent right-wing groups, was intended to bolster Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas’ confirmation chances by pointing the finger at three liberal Democrats who seemed likely to oppose him. Not coincidentally, the ad was produced by the same people who launched the 1988 Willie Horton spot….

President George H.W. Bush, his chief of staff John Sununu, and Clarence Thomas himself denounced the ads and demanded they be pulled. But the sponsors of the ads kept right on running them.

Can you guess who paid $100,000 for those ads in support of Thomas’ nomination to SCOTUS?

Read the rest of this entry »