Defying pressure to conform

It seems like periodically there occurs some incident that generates a wave of patriotic fervor. The latest is the decision by Colin Kaepernick, a football player for the San Francisco 49ers, who decided to not stand for the national anthem as a protest against the way that people of color are treated in this country. His protest has caught on with athletes around the country at all levels choosing to kneel instead of stand.
[Read more…]

The danger of giving too much power to leaders whom one likes

One of the frustrating things that I have experienced during the Obama presidency is how so many Democratic party supporters of my acquaintance were willing to ignore his excessive use of executive power and secrecy, such as the drone assassination program, the NSA’s violations of people’s privacy, the use of military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees and the refusal to neither bring some of them to trial nor release them, and the harsh prosecution of whistleblowers who release information for the benefit of the public while condoning leakers who did it out of self-interest. They shrugged off all these things because they felt that Obama was a ‘good guy’ who would use the powers granted to him wisely.
[Read more…]

Abortion foes pushed their luck too far

It has been no secret that supporters of abortion rights have been on the defensive for the last two decades as opponents passed one legislative action after another in Republican controlled states that limited the availability of abortion services to women. These took the form of long waiting periods, requiring multiple visits to clinics, forcing younger women to notify their parents and the fathers, forcing doctors to issue scary warnings to women about the dangers of abortions and forcing women to listen to them, and so on. The goal seemed to be that if they could not ban abortions entirely, they could make it so hard to get that the right was almost nullified.
[Read more…]

US Supreme Court strikes down Texas abortion restrictions

In an important decision today, the US Supreme Court by a 5-3 vote in the case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt struck down the 2013 law in Texas that had placed onerous restrictions on clinics that provide abortions and thus threatened to shut down nearly all of them in the state. That law, if upheld, would have set the stage for similar laws in other states, effectively largely nullifying the right to abortion except for rich people who could afford to travel to the very few clinics in the US (or abroad) to get safe, legal abortions.
[Read more…]

What happened with justice Kennedy between Fisher I and Fisher II?

Opponents of affirmative action, like opponents of abortion, have been steadily chipping away at it hoping to make it so marginal as to be effectively dead or to even land a final blow that eliminates it altogether. In the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (that I discussed earlier here) they thought that the latter moment had come, at least when it came to affirmative action in public university admissions because all the signals were that the court would rule against the UT’s policy of using race as a a limited factor in their consideration of prospective students.
[Read more…]

Supreme Court upholds University of Texas Affirmative Action program

The US Supreme Court issued an opinion today that rejected the claim by Abigail Fisher that she had been denied admission to the University of Texas because she was white, thus ending an eight-year long saga in which her case twice went to the high court. The ruling was 4-3 with justice Elena Kagan recusing herself because of her prior involvement with the case while she was Solicitor General. Justice Anthony Kennedy joined with justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer in the majority opinion.
[Read more…]

The Supreme Court comes sharply back into focus

Barack Obama came into office promising to end the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and close the Guantanamo torture camp and none of those things have happened. In fact we are now involved in new wars in Syria and Libya, not to mention Yemen. But there is at least the theoretical possibility that after a president is voted out of office after four or eight years, any bad policies they instituted can be reversed by their successor, though in practice such reversals are not so easy since Congress is also involved.
[Read more…]