Later On

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Archive for June 26th, 2013

Class-based college admissions is not a solution

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I had presumed that one answer to affirmative actions programs based on race would be race-neutral affirmative action programs based on class—basically, on parental wealth. But not so, it seems. Look at this article at the Atlantic Wire by Nikole Hannah-Jones of ProPublica:

Affirmative action occupies a telling place in a nation painfully aware of its racial inequities yet painfully divided over how to solve them.

Great numbers of Americans support the overarching goals of assuring equal access to educational opportunity and maintaining racial diversity in the country’s institutions of higher learning. At the same time, polls show Americans are deeply conflicted – often along racial lines – about policies that achieve those goals by allowing colleges to use race as a factor in their admissions decisions.

The latest chapter in this national struggle was supposed to come with the U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration of an affirmative action involving a white student and the University of Texas. But the ruling – announced Monday amid much anticipation – merely sent the case back to the lower courts for reconsideration.

Affirmative action, in its threadbare form, lives for now. But there was enough in Monday’s opinion to suspect it will be diminished further in time.

All of which makes it an opportune moment to think again about what some people think could be a fairer and more palatable way of ensuring diversity on America’s campuses – affirmative action based on class. The idea seems simple enough: This approach would give poor students of any race a helping hand into college, and any policy that gives an admissions boost to lower-income students would naturally benefit significant numbers of black and Latino students.

Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the progressive think-tank The Century Foundation, is one of the principal proponents of what has come to be called “the economic integration movement.”

“My primary interest is in ensuring that we have a fair process that looks at the biggest disadvantages that people face today, which I see as class-based,” Kahlenberg said in a recent interview. “That will end up helping low-income and working-class students of all races.”

Kahlenberg knows that many dispute this belief. But he says skepticism directed at the class-based solution has to be weighed against its dim alternative: If race-based affirmative action disappears with no program to replace it, African Americans and Latinos on college campuses will disappear too. Studies show that African-American and Latino enrollment at the nation’s top 200 colleges would plummet by two-thirds if colleges stopped considering race when deciding whom to accept.

Yet ignoring race does not wipe its effects away. A formula that uses class while disregarding race may be politically popular, but many scholars say race remains so powerful a factor that a class-based system would seriously reduce black and Latino representation at American colleges from their current levels.

At the heart of their argument: Poor white Americans are still privileged when compared to poor African Americans and Latinos. Use class as the basis for admissions preference, studies show, and the nation’s colleges will be flush with poor white students. “There are disadvantages that accrue to African Americans and Latinos that are not explained by class,” said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “You simply cannot get race by using class.”

* * *

The idea of abandoning race for an admissions system targeting those clinging to the bottom rungs of the economic ladder holds powerful sway for many who believe that in modern America race is no longer much of an obstacle to success.

There is no doubt that the greatest imbalance in American colleges is not white versus black or male versus female. It is the wealthy versus everybody else.

Kahlenberg asserts that affluent students – those whose families earn at least $123,000 a year – outnumber poor students by 25-1 on the campuses of the nation’s most select schools. He said that while white Americans are twice as likely to earn a college degree as black Americans, the affluent are seven times as likely to earn one as the poor.

According to the most recent data available, about three-quarters of students at the nation’s top 146 universities come from families in the upper quarter of the nation’s economic scale. Just 3 percent come from the bottom quarter. A study released this year by The Brookings Institution documented how selective colleges enroll nearly all of the high-achieving high school seniors from families in the highest income quartile, but just one-third of the top low-income students.

Lani Guinier, a Harvard law professor who filed an amicus brief in the Fisher case supporting race-based affirmative action, said all the focus on the unfairness of race preferences ignores the bigger problem.

“Students who are getting into institutions of higher education tend to be upper middle-class students and they are the ones who are getting a preference,” Guinier said. “Their preference comes from their parents’ ability to spend a lot of money preparing them for SAT’s and other college entrance exams and even hiring coaches to help them draft their personal statements.”

And it seems that Americans, when asked, think that inequity should be fixed. While divided about racial preferences, polls show that about 85 percent of Americans approve of policies that offer special advantages or treatment for the economically disadvantaged.

So what’s the problem? Poverty does not produce an equal opportunity burden across racial lines.

Being poor simply does not sequester white and Asian Americans from opportunity in the same way as African Americans and Latinos.

The typical low-income white American lives in a neighborhood where just one in 10 of their neighbors is poor, according to U.S. Census data. Their children typically attend middle-class schools where they benefit from the same qualified teachers and rigorous college prep curricula as their wealthier classmates.

The experience of poor African Americans and Latinos is starkly different. The typical poor black family lives in a heavily segregated neighborhood with twice the poverty rate of their white counterparts. Their children largely attend racially isolated, high-poverty schools, which are often burdened further by substandard teachers and a dearth of college prep classes. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2013 at 12:35 pm

Why Justice Scalia merits no respect whatsoever

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Scalia is, IMO, a bad human being: contemptuous of others, dishonest in his statements, and arrogant beyond belief. Dashiell Bennett exposes the incoherence of Scalia’s thought and arguments at the Atlantic Wire:

Earlier today, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a scathing dissent to the decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, saying “we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation.” So why was it okay to take apart the democratically adopted Voting Rights Act just one day earlier?

Scalia’s DOMA dissent was a blistering and angry on most of his fellow justices and their “legalistic argle-bargle.” He even went after Samuel Alito, who voted on his side. The crux of his argument was that the law — which passed in 1996 — was a legitimate act of Congress, and it’s not the job of the Supreme Court to tell everyone what every single law means. That’s a mistake that “spring[s] forth from the same diseased root: an exalted conception of the role of this institution in America.” There was more:

That is jaw-dropping. It is an assertion of judicial supremacy over the people’s Representatives in Congress and the Executive. It envisions a Supreme Court standing (or rather enthroned) at the apex of government, empowered to decide all constitutional questions, always and everywhere “primary” in its role.

Yet, the Voting Rights Act, which has been in effect continually since 1965 and was re-authorized in a landslide Congressional vote just seven years ago (ten years after DOMA), needed fixing — and it was up to the Supremes to fix it. Keep in mind, Scalia did not write the deciding opinion in the Voting Rights Act case that was handed down on Tuesday (Chief Justice John Roberts did), but he signed on to it, meaning he agrees with it what it says. If he didn’t, he could have written his own dissent or a concurring opinion with his own reasoning.

Yesterday, there was no such worry that they were overstepping their bounds or (as Scalia would write about DOMA) that the Court would “create a system in which Congress can hale the Executive before the courts not only to vindicate its own institutional powers to act, but to correct a perceived inadequacy in the execution of its laws.” But somehow there was “no valid reason to insulate the coverage formula from review” at the hands of nine justices. Hence no more Section 4 of the VRA.

Check out more of what Scalia wrote today about DOMA vs. the majority opinion issued one day earlier about the Voting Rights Act.

Today:

This image of the Court would have been unrecognizable to those who wrote and ratified our national charter.

Yesterday:

Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks tocurrent conditions.

Today: 

The “judicial Power” is not, as the majority believes, the power “‘to say what the law is,’” … giving the Supreme Court the “primary role in determining the constitutionality of laws.”

Yesterday:

As we put it a short time ago, “the Act imposes current burdens and must be justified by current needs.”

Today:

I think that this Court has, and the Court of Appeals had, no power to decide this suit. …

declaring the compatibility of state or federal laws with the Constitution is not only not the “primary role” of this Court, it is not a separate, free-standing role at all.

Yesterday: 

[Congress’s] failure to act leaves us today with no choice but to declare §4(b) unconstitutional.

So it seems what’s good for one law isn’t necessarily good for the other. Now that’s some argle-bargle.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2013 at 12:30 pm

Posted in Law

Federalism v. State’s Rights: No one really cares

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As Kevin Drum points out, you just pick the side that supports your position at the moment:

From Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in United States vs. Windsor:

The class to which DOMA directs its restrictions and restraints are those persons who are joined in same-sex marriages made lawful by the State….This opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages.

In a nutshell, Kennedy says the Constitution doesn’t forbid states from banning same-sex marriage. But if a state allows same-sex marriage, the federal government can’t refuse to recognize it. Marriage is a state concern—in fact, it’s literally a textbook example of a state concern—not a federal one. Taken as a whole, this ruling was as pure a defense of federalism as we’ve seen in a while.

So why did all the conservative justices oppose it? Answer: Because no one actually cares about federalism. It’s merely a convenient veneer when you prefer one outcome over another. Yesterday state sovereignty was of crucial concern when conservatives gutted the Voting Rights Act. Today, they couldn’t care less about it.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2013 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Government, Law

Is Edward Snowden a hero?

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Interesting discussion at Democracy Now!:

Here’s the transcript:

Edward Snowden’s decision to leak a trove of secret documents outlining the NSA’s surveillance program has elicited a range of reactions. Among his detractors, he’s been called “a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison,” (Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker), who’s committed “an act of treason,” (Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee). To supporters, Snowden is a hero for showing that “our very humanity [is] being compromised by the blind implementation of machines in the name of making us safe,” (author Douglas Rushkoff), one whom President Obama should “thank and offer him a job as a White House technology advisor,” (American Conservative editor Scott McConnell). We host a debate with two guests: Chris Hedges, a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and former Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for The New York Times, and Geoffrey Stone, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. Stone served as an informal adviser to President Obama in 2008, years after hiring him to teach constitutional law.

TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to a debate on Edward Snowden’s decision to leak a trove of secret documents outlining the NSA’s surveillance program. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, Snowden described why he risked his career to leak the documents.

EDWARD SNOWDEN: I think that the public is owed an explanation of the motivations behind the people who make these disclosures that are outside of the democratic model. When you are subverting the power of government, that that’s a fundamentally dangerous thing to democracy. And if you do that in secret consistently, you know, as the government does when it wants to benefit from a secret action that it took, it will kind of get its officials a mandate to go, “Hey, you know, tell the press about this thing and that thing, so the public is on our side.” But they rarely, if ever, do that when an abuse occurs. That falls to individual citizens. But they’re typically maligned. You know, it becomes a thing of these people are against the country, they’re against the government. But I’m not. I’m no different from anybody else. I don’t have special skills. I’m just another guy who sits there, day to day, in the office, watches what happening—what’s happening, and goes, “This is something that’s not our place to decide. The public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong.” And I’m willing to go on the record to defend the authenticity of them and say, “I didn’t change these. I didn’t modify the story. This is the truth. This is what’s happening. You should decide whether we need to be doing this.”

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Edward Snowden’s actions have elicited a range of reactions. Jeffrey Toobin of CNN and The New Yorker writes that Snowden is, quote, “a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison.” Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that Snowden should not be considered a whistleblower because, quote, “what he did was an act of treason.” And Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted, “I hope we follow Mr Snowden to the ends of the earth to bring him to justice,” language echoing what Senator Graham once said in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, Douglas Rushkoff wrote on CNN, quote, “Snowden is a hero because he realized [that] our very humanity was being compromised by the blind implementation of machines in the name of making us safe,” unquote. The editor of The American Conservative, Scott McConnell, wrote, quote, “If Obama wanted to do something smart, he should thank Snowden and offer him a job as a White House technology advisor.” And Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg sang Snowden’s praises, writing, quote, “In my estimation, there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden’s release of NSA material—and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago.”

For more, we host a debate on Edward Snowden. Is he a hero or a criminal, whistleblower or a traitor? Here in New York, we’re joined by Chris Hedges, senior fellow at The Nation Institute; was a foreign correspondent for The New York Times for 15 years, was part of a team of reporters that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism; author, along with the cartoonist Joe Sacco, of the New York Times best-seller Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt . His most recent article is called “The Judicial Lynching of Bradley Manning” at Truthdig.org.

And in Chicago, Illinois, we’re joined by Geoffrey Stone, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. His recent piece for The Huffington Post is called “Edward Snowden: ‘Hero or Traitor’?” Stone served as an informal adviser to President Obama in 2008. In 1992, 20 years ago, Professor Stone hired Obama to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago. Geoffrey Stone is also author of many books, including Top Secret: When Our Government Keeps Us in the Dark andPerilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime: From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism.

Chris Hedges, Geoffrey Stone, we welcome you both to Democracy Now! Professor Stone, I want to begin with you. In your piece, you say that Edward Snowden’s actions were criminal. Can you explain why you feel he should be in jail?

GEOFFREY STONE: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2013 at 12:01 pm

What will happen in south Florida

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After blogging about it yesterday, I must have been mulling over what is likely to happen in south Florida as the oceans rise (and note that the rise is much faster than predicted). Here’s what I think will happen:

South Floridians will continue in their denial of climate change, encouraged by state officials and the GOP. They simply will not believe it. Life will go on as before, but with more flooding and more severe weather, until a really bad hurricane hits, with a big storm surge, lots of flooding, and perhaps some significant loss of life.

At that point, denial will fail, and suddenly millions will start to panic and try to leave the state. So rather than any effective action on climate change, or any orderly departure from south Florida, people will remain in denial and in place until some trigger event switches them over to panicked flight. We’ll see a mass evacuation from south Florida to other parts of the South. That might make the GOP reconsider, but I doubt it: energy companies still have a lot of money to buy politicians.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2013 at 11:41 am

Posted in Global warming

Late but flawless shave

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SOTD 26 June 2013

A while back a guy got a bad tub of J.M. Fraser shaving cream—a long-time favorite of mine—and I emailed the company to see whether this was a formula change. I got a quick reply: it was simply a batch that had gone out without thorough mixing, a manufacturing oversight. That batch was recalled, and yesterday, to my surprise and pleasure, I received a free tub of the new batch to confirm the quality, along with a bottle of Booster aftershave.

Today I couldn’t wait to try it out. I ripped the label, as you see, as I removed the tape used to make sure the top stayed sealed. But within was the excellent J.M. Fraser shaving cream I knew and loved: a pint (or a pound) of shaving goodness with a light lemony fragrance. And once again it proved its excellent as a shaving cream.

I did a pre-shave beard wash with a Jlocke98 mix, the olive oil this time, and then used my Prince brush from Wet Shaving Products to work up a good lather on my beard.

The first stroke with the iKon S3S was so smooth and easy I thought I had neglected to insert a blade—that happens from time to time—but the blade was in and just cutting so smoothly on my well-prepped beard (and driven by the S3S’s mass) that it felt like I was just sliding the razor’s head over my skin. The blade was a brand new Astra Superior Stainless, and that seems to be quite a good brand for me.

Three easy passes to a real BBS finish, a splash of Booster’s Crushed Lime, and I’m (finally) getting started.

I awoke at 4:00 a.m. for some reason and couldn’t be back to sleep until around 7:30 or 8:00, then I slept until 10:00, so I have enough hours of sleep, just distributed oddly.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2013 at 11:35 am

Posted in Shaving

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