Sotomayor's Record on Race

Is Sonia Sotomayor a bitter closet racist unable to control deep-rooted feelings of race solidarity in her judicial opinions?  Of course not.  Frankly, I feel stupid for even lowering myself to blog about this idiocy.

But just in case you need some expert opinion on this, Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSBlog has reviewed Sotomayor's entire canon of race-related opinions.  The post isn't very long, and his conclusion is clear:

In sum, in an eleven-year career on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has participated in roughly 100 panel decisions involving questions of race and has disagreed with her colleagues in those cases (a fair measure of whether she is an outlier) a total of 4 times. Only one case (Gant) in that entire eleven years actually involved the question whether race discrimination may have occurred. (In another case (Pappas) she dissented to favor a white bigot.)  She participated in two other panels rejecting district court rulings agreeing with race-based jury-selection claims. Given that record, it seems absurd to say that Judge Sotomayor allows race to infect her decisionmaking.

Absurd, yes.  But that won't stop the screamers.  Nothing ever does.

Chart of the Day

This isn't really big news or anything, but Gallup's latest poll shows just how big a hole the Republican Party has dug itself into: they now have virtually no appeal to anyone non-white.  They're almost exclusively a party of white men and women, which explains why their base has convinced them to haul out racial fears as their main line of attack against Sonia Sotomayor.  I just hope they aren't surprised when their meager 11% non-white base declines even further after this is all over.

War and Peace

Matt Yglesias makes a point that's bugged me for a long time too:

Nobody takes the views of someone who’s a pacifist in general seriously on a specific question of war and peace. But if you’re Bill Kristol, and every time an issue comes up your idea is that we should launch a war, then you get to [be] a Washington Post columnist and a constant TV presence. Here he is with Brit Hume calling for “targeted air strikes” against North Korean missiles:

Why is this kind of stuff taken seriously?  Everyone knows perfectly well why we haven't launched any kind of attack on North Korea: they have lots of troops and lots of missiles and could destroy Seoul and kill millions of people if they decided to.  Kristol knows this perfectly well.  But his endless knee jerk talk of military force as the answer to all problems is given a respectful hearing anyway.  Can't we just put a stuffed doll with a tape recording in his chair instead?  It would save Fox some money and the analysis would be the same.

The Ford Foundation will release a report Tuesday calling for continued study of the environmental and health effects of Agent Orange, as well as for stepped-up diagnosis and treatment of US veterans exposed to it. Used as a defoliant in Vietnam to destroy vegetation used as food and cover for the Viet Cong, the dioixn--named for the orange stripe on its label--has been the subject of controversy ever since its first use in 1962. Over the ensuing ten years of hard combat, some 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other toxic herbicides were sprayed over six million acres of Vietnamese jungle. (See the box below for a selection of Mother Jones' earlier coverage of Agent Orange and the federal government's history of inadequate response to veterans' complaints.)

Agent Orange's widespread use in Vietnam was not the only instance in which US soldiers were exposed to harmful chemicals without a clear understanding of the risks; see my recent piece about a group of vets suing the federal government for their unwitting treatment as guineau pigs during US Army and CIA chemical weapons experiments at Edgewood. But in terms of scale, Agent Orange is without parallel. Hundreds of thousands of US troops and many millions of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians were exposed . The precise number of those placed in danger will never be known, nor will the number who have since died from health complications.

The aim of the Ford Foundation's report is to take a look at what's been done so far in terms of diagnosis and treatment of US vets (not as much as should have been) and to urge expanded care, not only for vets but for their children, many of whom now appear to be suffering next-generation effects from their parents' toxic exposures.

Larry Summers is Tired of All These Meetings

Is Larry Summers spending too much time out at the clubs on work nights? It certainly seems that way. Back in April Summers, President Barack Obama's top economic adviser, was caught napping during a meeting on regulating the credit card industry. Last week, Summers was at it again, refusing to lose his right to snooze during a hurricane preparedness meeting. In a true stroke of genius, the White House has posted the latest photo of sleepy Larry on its website, so we can reproduce it for you here. (That's him to the right of the big chair that takes up most of the foreground.) Maybe the publicity is Obama's way of giving Summers a bit of a nudge?

(h/t Dealbreaker)

Sotomayor Judges Race Cases Just Like a White Guy

Republicans may have decided to run off the rails and make race the focus of their attacks on the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, but they are going to have to dig deep to find some evidence to support their claims that she would be biased in favor minority plaintiffs appearing before her.  Tom Goldstein over at Scotusblog, one of the nation's most kick-ass  Supreme Court lawyers and bloggers, has studied every single one of Sotomayor's opinions that are even remotely connected to a racial issue. And what did he find?

Of the 96 cases, Judge Sotomayor and the panel rejected the claim of discrimination roughly 78 times and agreed with the claim of discrimination 10 times; the remaining 8 involved other kinds of claims or dispositions.  Of the 10 cases favoring claims of discrimination, 9 were unanimous.  (Many, by the way, were procedural victories rather than judgments that discrimination had occurred.)  Of those 9, in 7, the unanimous panel included at least one Republican-appointed judge. 

In the 75 cases where Sotomayor sat on a panel of judges that rejected a discrimination claim, Sotomayor dissented a whopping two times. None of this is much of a surprise. Plaintiffs in federal employment discrimination cases almost always get slaughtered, and Sotomayor's presence on the 2nd Circuit certainly doesn't seem to have helped their cause much. If nothing else, Goldstein's data ought to put to rest any GOP charges that Sotomayor is a radical activist looking to somehow tilt the rink because of her Puerto Rican heritage. At least when it comes to discrimination claims, Sotomayor's work is virtually indistinguishable from all the other white guys she works with.

Obama, the Abu Ghraib Rape Photos, and the Press

It's become abundantly clear since last week that Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, was right to criticize the British newspaper the Telegraph for its story claiming that torture photos President Barack Obama is refusing to release "show rape." General Antonio Taguba, the Telegraph's main source for its story, has since told Salon's Mark Benjamin that he was quoted out of context; he hasn't seen the specific photos Obama is withholding. It turns out Taguba was talking about a different set of images, a number of which have already been published by Salon and officially released by the government, that Taguba saw while he was investigating abuses at Abu Ghraib in 2004.

While Gibbs' criticism of the Telegraph in this specific instance was certainly warranted, it's not at all clear that Taguba's clarification will make things any easier for the White House.

How Many Late-Term Abortion Doctors are Left?

With the murder of Dr. George Tiller, women in desperate straits will find it even harder to locate a practitioner to terminate a pregnancy past a certain point (most physicians won't do them past about the first trimester). And if you wonder why a woman would need such a late abortion, you need to do some reading. A few years back, we profiled Dr. William Rashbaum, another late-term provider who worried a great deal about who would replace him. He has since passed away.

Back in his office, Rashbaum faces his next crisis: A shaky 29-year-old mother of two, sitting next to her husband, is set the following day to abort her 18-week fetus, which is developing without a brain. Visibly uncomfortable, the Long Island couple begins talking about referrals and medical history. The petite and pretty blond woman, a black T-shirt stretched over her bulging stomach, tells Rashbaum it was hard finding a doctor to end her pregnancy at this stage. He cuts off the measured discussion, pops in his hearing aid, and launches in: "The first thing I need to tell you is that you must mourn." The words, or maybe it's the gravelly voice, act as a cathartic, and the woman begins to cry. He reassures her that it's okay to be angry. What's happening to her isn't right or fair. Rashbaum also encourages her to kick her husband in the groin if at any point he tells her not to cry. Her fears quickly bubble to the surface. "Am I a freak?" she asks, insisting that she's great at pregnancy, even forgoing sugarless gum to ensure the health of her unborn child. She says she knows she couldn't have prevented this abnormality but still asks if she did something wrong. "Yeah," Rashbaum quips. "You thought bad thoughts." The woman and her husband laugh nervously, but they're laughing. There are other fears. They want to have another child (they have two boys; this was a girl). He tells them that out of 21,000 late-term abortions he has performed, only 18 women lost the ability to have children. He has also never lost a patient and says he'll be furious with her if she's the first.... After more nervous laughter, the woman broaches her greatest fears. She's not sure she wants to know the details. It's difficult to relinquish her role of protecting a fetus that has grown inside her for four and a half months. Welling up with tears again, she asks if it will feel pain. She doesn't want to hear much more.

 

 

The 14x Plan

A few months ago I wrote a brief post about a plan from a guy named Edward Mazria.  His basic idea was that we could get a huge bang for our stimulus buck by refinancing mortgages at low rates if homeowners agreed to renovate their homes to increase energy efficiency.  This would reduce energy consumption, lower mortgage payments, and stimulate the flagging construction industry all at once — as well as providing an enormous multiplier for every stimulus dollar spent.

Well, Mazria's plan is starting to get a little more attention.  For more, take a look at Mike Mechanic's piece on our main site.  It's intriguing stuff.

The Conservative Soul

On Friday it looked as though the conservative movement was suffering from a personality disorder.  The insane half wanted to brand Sonia Sotomayor as a dull-witted affirmative action hire whose seething racist bitterness would soon turn the Supreme Court into a cesspool of radical retribution against whitey.  The adult half thought that although she was obviously well qualified, her generally liberal record ought to be challenged and her judicial philosophy debated.  Which side would carry the day?

It's starting to look like we've got an answer.  Republican senators have been fairly restrained up until now, but by Sunday they were starting to defect en masse to the insane wing of the party:

Several of those same GOP senators said Sunday that they would now make race a focus of the Sotomayor nomination fight — and they were far less eager to criticize conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich for their racially tinged critiques.

Fanning out across network television talk shows, the senators in essence pledged to ask a fundamental question: Can a woman who says her views are shaped by her Puerto Rican heritage and humble beginnings make fair decisions when it comes to all races and social classes?

"We need to know, for example, whether she's going to be a justice for all of us or just a justice for a few of us," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Judiciary Committee, speaking on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”

....Cornyn's comments were echoed in appearances by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.); Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee; and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), another member of the panel that will conduct hearings.

....The GOP senators' new tone underscored a sense in the party that Sotomayor's history of speaking about her Puerto Rican heritage had emerged as a surprisingly effective line of attack — particularly as President Obama and other Democrats try to shore up their support among working-class white voters.

Oddly enough, Cornyn has never expressed any concerns about whether a white male judge who rules against affirmative action can be a justice for all of us or just a justice for a few of us.  I suppose it just slipped his mind.

In any case, they say that if you want to know what someone is really like, watch how they react under pressure.  That's probably true of political parties too, and the Republican Party under pressure is finding — once again — that when nothing else works, appeals to racial paranoia are a "surprisingly effective line of attack."  Imagine that.