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)

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.

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.

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.

The Kansas City Star's Judy Thomas knows more about the extremist fringes of the anti-abortion movement, and about the radical far right in the Midwest, than just about anyone. By last night, Thomas had already uncovered a wealth of information linking the suspect in the George Tiller murder to these violent netherworlds.

Scott P. Roeder was arrested three hours after Tiller, a well-known abortion provider, was shot to death in the lobby of his church. As Thomas documents, the suspect was labeled a "fanatic" even by some other right-to-lifers, and reportedly supported the idea of "justifiable homicide" to prevent abortions. Roeder paid prison visits to the woman who shot and wounded Tiller in 1993, and wrote a Web post declaring, "Tiller is the concentration camp 'Mengele' of our day and needs to be stopped before he and those who protect him bring judgment upon our nation."

Roeder was also involved in a militia-style anti-government group called the Freemen. Thomas writes:

"Freemen" was a term adopted by those who claimed sovereignty from government jurisdiction and operated under their own legal system, which they called common-law courts. Adherents declared themselves exempt from laws, regulations and taxes and often filed liens against judges, prosecutors and others, claiming that money was owed to them as compensation.

In April 1996, Roeder was arrested in Topeka after Shawnee County sheriff's deputies stopped him for not having a proper license plate. In his car, officers said they found ammunition, a blasting cap, a fuse cord, a one-pound can of gunpowder and two 9-volt batteries, with one connected to a switch that could have been used to trigger a bomb.

Jim Jimerson, supervisor of the Kansas City ATF's bomb and arson unit, worked on the case.

"There wasn't enough there to blow up a building,'' Jimerson said at the time, "but it could make several powerful pipe bombs...There was definitely enough there to kill somebody.''

For this, Roeder was sentenced to two years of supervised probation, and "ordered to dissociate himself from anti-government groups that advocated violence."

There's a lot more damning information in Thomas' piece. After you read the whole thing, take a moment to think about how much time the FBI spent tracking "eco-terrorists" and adding infants, combat veterans, and members of Congress to their million-name terrorist watch list--when they could have been keeping an eye on the likes of Scott Roeder.

Quote of the Day

From Alex Knapp, who says that being imprisoned for a crime you didn't commit isn't the worst injustice you can suffer after all:

Now I’ve learned that there is something worse that can happen. You can be accused of a crime you didn’t commit, then have the government that imprisoned you acknowledge that yes, you are innocent — but they’re going to keep you in prison anyway.

He's talking about the 17 Uighurs who continue to be held at Guantanamo Bay despite the fact that they were clearly brought there in error and have never conspired against the United States in any way.  The Obama administration acknowledges this, but continues to argue in court that it has no obligation to release them anyway.  Not exactly a profile in courage.

Mighty Suburbia

As a replacement for race-based affirmative action, Texas started a program ten years ago that guaranteed admission to the University of Texas to the top ten percent of all high school classes.  As a result, more kids from rural and inner city schools were admitted to UT Austin, the system's flagship campus.  Hooray!  But not everyone was thrilled by this:

For six years [] an odd coalition of lawmakers from the inner cities and rural towns had beaten back efforts to weaken the program....That coalition finally cracked this year under pressure from suburban factions in the Legislature and after heavy lobbying by university officials, who vowed to recruit minorities aggressively.

....Senator Rodney Ellis, a Houston Democrat, [] fought the change....The bill, Mr. Ellis said, was a victory for suburban students.

“The very people who make the most noise about this are the parents of kids who have had all the advantages in life,” he said. “They are the same people who don’t give a tinker’s damn about the people in the quote other schools unquote.”

But Senator Florence Shapiro, a Republican from Plano who sponsored the legislation in the Senate, said students from good suburban high schools had a legitimate complaint. Only class rank is taken into account, not extracurricular activities or other talents. Many students have been attending colleges out of state.

“The pressure for this bill,” Ms. Shapiro said, “really comes from the suburban counties where the youngsters do really well and many times are in the top 13 percent and cannot go to the university. They really go all over the country when they don’t have opportunity here.”

Never underestimate the power of suburban parents.  They never give up and they never surrender.

(Via Matt Yglesias.)

Extreme Charter

The LA Times has an interesting read today about the American Indian Public Charter schools in Oakland, which are some of the highest performing schools in the state of California:

Not many schools in California recruit teachers with language like this: "We are looking for hard working people who believe in free market capitalism. . . . Multicultural specialists, ultra liberal zealots and college-tainted oppression liberators need not apply."

....The Academic Performance Index, the central measuring tool for California schools, rates schools on a scale from zero to 1,000, based on standardized test scores. The state target is an API of 800....The oldest of the American Indian schools, the middle school known simply as American Indian Public Charter School, has an API of 967. Its two siblings — American Indian Public Charter School II (also a middle school) and American Indian Public High School — are not far behind.

....On Tuesday, American Indian's high school will graduate its first senior class. All 18 students plan to attend college in the fall, 10 at various UC campuses, one at MIT and one at Cornell.

....The school could not provide its students' elementary school test scores, so it is hard to say if they were [already above average when they were admitted]. Roberts did provide three years of middle school scores for all students who entered American Indian in 2004 (with names removed for privacy), showing their progress in math and English from sixth to eighth grade. Of the 51 students who entered American Indian's middle school that year, only six scored lower than "proficient" in both math and English at the end of sixth grade.

In a nutshell, this story explains pretty well why I like charter schools — and also why I doubt they're any kind of educational panacea.  Lefty-baiting aside, AIPC is a super-strict, teach-to-the-test, no goofing off kind of place that apparently gets good results.  So I say: fine.  If there are some parents who want their kids to go to schools like this, let 'em.

At the same time, AIPC is tiny: 51 students in middle school and 18 in its first graduating class.  It plainly attracts only parents and children who are academically motivated in the first place.  It requires middle school teachers to teach every subject and keeps them on a grueling pace, which means lots of turnover.  Cheerleaders to the contrary ("They really should be the model for public education in the state of California," says Debra England of the Koret Foundation), the odds that the AIPC formula is scalable to an entire school district is nil.

It makes sense to try out different kinds of schools for different kinds of kids and different kinds of neighborhoods.  With a few obvious caveats, I'm all for it.  But let's not pretend that any particular one of these charters is necessarily the model for everyone else on the basis of 18 cherry-picked graduates.  It ain't so.