But this decision is yet more outrageous. The Constitution was specifically amended in the most explicit possible terms to allow Congress to pass precisely this sort of law, for this precise purpose. The 15th Amendment was enacted to give Congress the power to stop states from discriminating against racial minorities in regard to the right to vote.
So what we have here is a situation in which a war was fought in which 600,000 soldiers died, in large part so that the Constitution could be amended in such a way as to give Congress the power to force the slave states to treat black people like human beings. A century later, Congress gets around to actually using this power, and the law it passes is a remarkable success.
But according to the Roberts Five, it’s unconstitutional for Congress to enforce legislation specifically mandated by the Constitution, because it has carried out its legislative responsibilities too well.
We shouldn’t leave today’s action at the Supreme Court without taking note of the tantrum thrown by Justice Clarence Thomas in the opinion he wrote in Fisher, the Texas affirmative-action case. It’s not often that you see anyone take this much utter self-loathing out for a walk without it ending up in gunplay or a dive off a bridge.
Finally, while the University admits that racial discrimination in admissions is not ideal, it asserts that it is a temporary necessity because of the enduring race consciousness of our society. Yet again, the University echoes the hollow justifications advanced by the segregationists…The University’s arguments today are no more persuasive than they were 60 years ago. … There is no principled distinction between the University’s assertion that diversity yields educational benefits and the segregationists’ assertion that segregation yielded those same benefits…It is also noteworthy that, in our desegregation cases, we rejected arguments that are virtually identical to those advanced by the University today. The University asserts, for instance, that the diversity obtained through its discriminatory admissions program prepares its students to become leaders in a diverse society. … The segregationists likewise defended segregation on the ground that it provided more leadership opportunities for blacks. … Indeed, no court today would accept the suggestion that segregation is permissible because historically black colleges produced Booker T. Washington, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other prominent leaders. Likewise, the University’s racial discrimination cannot be justified on the ground that it will produce better leaders.
This guy is sitting in what used to be Thurgood Marshall’s seat on the court. He’s lucky the chair itself didn’t burst into flame today.
Is it even necessary to point out any more how Thomas has spent his entire career pulling up the ladder behind him? (His tenure as Ronald Reagan’s director of the EEOC is a forgotten masterpiece of I’ve Got Mine, Jack.) He’s only become more vigorous about it since he was installed on the Supreme Court as George H.W. Bush’s own affirmative-action nominee. He spent a lot of time in his book — for which he got a $1.5 million advance — bemoaning the terrible psychological effect affirmative-action had on poor widdle him. He’s a lifetime appointee to the highest court in the land, and he’s still the dogged victim of a world he never made. Segregation and affirmative action are the same thing in that world. If there’s a sadder figure in American politics, I can’t think of one offhand.
Document: Supreme Court rules on affirmative action
updated 10:30 AM EDT, Mon June 24, 2013
The Supreme Court has made a decision in a case challenging affirmative action at the University of Texas. Abigail Fisher sued the flagship state university after her college application was rejected in 2008. Fisher claimed she was turned away in part because she is white, despite being more qualified than some minority applicants. Read the court’s ruling below. Full story »
It’s not unusual for the Supreme Court to find itself at the center of roiling national debates.
But this month, justices are poised to deliver blockbuster opinions involving three of the most divisive issues in the public arena. And in doing so, they will write new and potentially groundbreaking chapters in America’s civil rights story.
Affirmative action. Voting rights law. Same-sex marriage.
By June’s end, Americans will know if and how public colleges and universities may administer programs designed to enroll more minority students.
Whether a key 1965 Voting Rights Act provision will survive, and with it federal monitoring of places with histories of discriminatory voting practices.
And if congressional action barring federal recognition of same-sex marriage is constitutional, and similar state restrictions enforceable.
“It is fascinating to see the court right smack in the middle of the hottest political controversies in the country,” says Stephen Wermiel, a court and constitutional law expert, “albeit deciding their legal dimension, but with extraordinary societal ramifications.”
Some interesting points:
There is nothing remotely left-wing, or anything other than right wing, about the ideology promoted by people like the Aryan Nations and the Ku Klux Klan and American Renaissance and a whole bevy of other hate groups out there operating in America today. The notion that they are not from the political right is simply risible.
It just depends where on the very real spectrum of right-wing thought each happens to fall. You see, the reason they call these people right wing extremists is that they begin with simple, perhaps even mainstream, conservative positions and extend them to their most outrageous and illogical extreme.
Conservatives are, for instance, skeptical of the power of the federal government to intervene in civil-rights matters; right-wing extremists believe it has no such power whatsoever, but it has been usurped by a Jewish conspiracy that is imposing its will on white people.
Conservatives are skeptical of internationalism and entities like the United Nations.
Right-wing extremists believe the U.N. represents a diabolical plot to overthrow American sovereignty and impose totalitarian rule.
Conservatives believe that abortion is murder of a living being and oppose its use on demand.
Right-wing extremists believe that this justifies committing murder and various violent crimes in order to prevent it.
Conservatives believe affirmative action is a form of reverse discrimination.
Right-wing extremists believe it is part of a plot to oppress white people.
Conservatives oppose taxation, and tax increases in particular, on principle.
Right-wing extremists believe that the IRS is an illegitimate institution imposed on the body politic by the aforementioned Jewish conspiracy.
Conservatives oppose increased immigration on principle and illegal immigration as a matter of law enforcement, and believe the borders should be secure.
Right-wing extremists believe that Mexicans are coming here as part of an “Aztlan” conspiracy to retake the Southwest for Mexico, and that we should start shooting border crossers on sight.
I think this is the best-case scenario.
More: Right-Wingers Use Boston Bombing to Paper Over Their Own Extremist Terror
Kay at Balloon Juice has a very interesting post about the statement of facts relative to one of the most recent and high profile anti-affirmative action cases involving university admission policies. Based on a report from ProPublica, it appears that a White applicant to the University of Texas was not rejected based on her race, or at least not her race alone:
Publicly, (Abigail) Fisher and her supporters, chief among them the conservative activist who conceived of the case, have worked to make Fisher the symbol of racial victimization in modern America. As their narratives goes, she did everything right. She worked hard, received good grades, and rounded out her high school years with an array of extracurricular activities. But she was cheated, they say, her dream snatched away by a university that closed its doors to her because she had been born the wrong color: White.
The daughter of suburban Sugar Land, Texas , played the cello. Since the second grade, she said, she dreamed of carrying on the family tradition by joining her sister and father among the ranks of University of Texas at Austin  alumni.
And the moment for her to lend her name to the lawsuit might never be riper: The Supreme Court has seated its most conservative bench since the 1930s . The Court is expected to issue a decision any week now in what is considered one of the most important civil rights cases in years.
On a YouTube video  posted by Edward Blum , a 1973 University of Texas graduate whose nonprofit organization is bankrolling the lawsuit, she is soft-spoken, her strawberry blond hair tucked behind one ear. Not even a swipe of lip gloss adorns her girlish face.
“There were people in my class with lower grades who weren’t in all the activities I was in, who were being accepted into UT, and the only other difference between us was the color of our skin,” she says. “I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination was wrong. And for an institution of higher learning to act this way makes no sense to me. What kind of example does it set for others?”
It’s a deeply emotional argument delivered by an earnest young woman, one that’s been quoted over and over again.
Except there’s a problem. The claim that race cost Fisher her spot at the University of Texas isn’t really true.
In the hundreds of pages of legal filings, Fisher’s lawyers spend almost no time arguing that Fisher would have gotten into the university but for her race.
If you’re confused, it is no doubt in part because of how Blum, Fisher and others have shaped the dialogue as the case worked its way to the country’s top court.
Journalists and bloggers have written dozens of articles on the case, including profiles of Fisher and Blum. News networks have aired panel after panel about the future of affirmative action. Yet for all the front-page attention, angry debate and exchanges before the justices, some of the more fundamental elements of the case have been little reported.
Race probably had nothing to do with the University of Texas’s decision to deny admission to Abigail Fisher.
In 2008, the year Fisher sent in her application, competition to get into the crown jewel of the Texas university system was stiff. Students entering through the university’s Top 10 program — a mechanism that granted automatic admission to any teen who graduated in the upper 10 percent of his or her high school class — claimed 92 percent of the in-state spots .
Fisher said in news reports that she hoped for the day  universities selected students “solely based on their merit and if they work hard for it.” But Fisher failed to graduate in the top 10 percent of her class, meaning she had to compete for the limited number of spaces up for grabs.
She and other applicants who did not make the cut were evaluated based on two scores . One allotted points for grades and test scores. The other, called a personal achievement index, awarded points for two required essays, leadership, activities, service and “special circumstances.” Those included socioeconomic status of the student or the student’s school, coming from a home with a single parent or one where English wasn’t spoken. And race.
Those two scores, combined, determine admission.
Even among those students, Fisher did not particularly stand out. Court records show her grade point average (3.59) and SAT scores (1180 out of 1600)  were good but not great for the highly selective flagship university . The school’s rejection rate that year for the remaining 841 openings was higher than the turn-down rate for students trying to get into Harvard.
As a result, university officials claim in court filings that even if Fisher received points for her race and every other personal achievement factor, the letter she received in the mail still would have said no.
It’s true that the university, for whatever reason, offered provisional admission to some students with lower test scores and grades than Fisher. Five of those students were black or Latino.  Forty-two were white. 
Neither Fisher nor Blum mentioned those 42 applicants in interviews. Nor did they acknowledge the 168 black and Latino students with grades as good as or better than Fisher’s who were also denied entry into the university that year. Also left unsaid is the fact that Fisher turned down a standard UT offer under which she could have gone to the university her sophomore year if she earned a 3.2 GPA at another Texas university school in her freshman year.
In an interview last month, Blum agreed Fisher’s credentials and circumstances make it difficult to argue — as he and his supporters have so ardently in public — that but for her race Fisher would have been a Longhorn.
“There are some Anglo students who had lower grades than Abby who were admitted also,” Blum told ProPublica. “Litigation like this is not a black and white paradigm.”
Blum started his one-man nonprofit, the Project on Fair Representation , in 2005. The organization is funded by deep-pocketed conservatives to, according to its website, influence “jurisprudence, public policy, and public attitudes regarding race and ethnicity” in voting, education, contracting and employment. To do so, Blum — who is not a lawyer — helps arrange pro bono representation to fight race-based policies that were meant to address inequalities.
According to a Reuters profile , Blum has brought at least a dozen lawsuits against such programs and laws — including four that made it to the Supreme Court. He has two on the current docket, Fisher and the Shelby County, Ala., case challenging a key provision of the Voting Rights Act .
This a rather lengthy piece at ProPublica, but worth reading.
In short, two key implications of the ProPublica report are that (1) the claims that affirmative action admission policies lead to the rejection of White applicants soley because of their race and that such admission policies are unfair and unmeritous, are suspect; and (2) the people and money behind these challenges to affirmative action policies have their hands in other anti-discrimination laws, which they are also trying to get overturned, such as the Voting Rights Act, which the SCOTUS is now hearing challenges to from some states of the old Confederacy with a history of excluding Black voters.
Ever since conservative courts and voters began trying to eliminate affirmative action in the 1990s, universities have sought creative ways to boost their enrollment of minority students without explicitly relying on race. When California voters banned racial preferences in public universities in 1996, for example, the University of California responded by adopting admissions preferences based on socioeconomic status instead. And after a federal appellate court struck down the University of Texas’s race-based affirmative action program, the school adopted a plan that guaranteed admission to those students graduating in the top 10 percent of their high school class.
When the Texas effort—known as the Top Ten Percent Plan—failed to generate the racial diversity school officials sought, the university returned to using explicit racial preferences. Those preferences are now being challenged in the Supreme Court case of Fisher v. Texas, and many expect the conservative justices to deal what could be a fatal blow to race-based affirmative action at American public universities. Once again, however, the universities have a secret weapon they hope will allow them to circumvent such a ruling: data mining.
Whether it’s used in airport security or online advertising or education, data mining works by finding patterns and correlations. Based on census data, the spending patterns of my neighbors, and my Washington, D.C., ZIP code 20016, the Nielsen Company classifies me as someone who lives among the “Young Digerati”—that is, high-income consumers who are “tech-savvy and live in fashionable neighborhoods on the urban fringe.” My fellow Washingtonians a few miles to the southeast in Anacostia are categorized using very different terms. They are the “Big City Blues,” a community of “low-income Asian and African-American households occupying older inner-city apartments.” Based on where we live and what we spend, Nielsen creates aggregate predictions about our likely buying habits so that advertisers can send us ads that reflect our interests. That’s a little creepy—but then again, we’re talking about advertising. To some education experts, however, data mining also represents the future of public education.
For all the differences between Democrats and Republicans that were laid bare during the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign, the parties’ standard-bearers, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, do seem to have agreed on one thing: the importance of equal opportunity. In remarks in Chicago in August, Obama called for an “America where no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter what your last name is, no matter who you love, you can make it here if you try.” The same month, he urged the Supreme Court to uphold affirmative action in public universities, putting his weight behind what has been a mainstay of U.S. equal opportunity legislation since the 1960s. Days later, the Republican vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, echoed Obama’s sentiment, saying, “We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.” Romney, too, argued that whereas Obama “wants to turn America into a European-style entitlement society,” his administration would “ensure that we remain a free and prosperous land of opportunity.”
It is no accident that both campaigns chose to emphasize equality of opportunity. It has long been at the center of the American ethos. And one of the United States’ major successes in the last half century has been its progress toward ensuring that its citizens get roughly the same basic chances in life, regardless of gender or race. Today, women are more likely to graduate from college than men and are catching up in employment and earnings, too. The gap between whites and nonwhites has narrowed as well, albeit less dramatically.
Yet this achievement has been double edged. As gender and race have become less significant barriers to advancement, family background, an obstacle considered more relevant in earlier eras, has reemerged. Today, people who were born worse off tend to have fewer opportunities in life.
VIDEO: Law Professor Explains In 120 Seconds Why Conservative Argument About Affirmative Action Is Wrong
A remarkable scene occurred Friday at a conservative judicial conference when a panelist got up and explained to the lily-white audience why affirmative action is still important, dispelling the notion that minorities who attend elite schools should have their qualifications questioned.
Ted Shaw, a professor at Columbia Law School and former president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, drew an eloquent parallel during a Federalist Society convention panel to explain why that notion is problematic. ‘Why should I not apply taint to white men of a certain age and say, ‘look, you went to college a time when you got a pass or at least you got in to schools where no people of color could get in, so I question your qualifications?’
The Supreme Court on Friday said it would decide the constitutionality of a signature portion of the Voting Rights Act.
The justices three years ago expressed skepticism about the continued need for Section 5 of the historic act, which requires states and localities with a history of discrimination, most of them in the South, to get federal approval of any changes in their voting laws.
It is the second important case involving race that the court has accepted this term. Last month, the justices heard a challenge to the University of Texas’s admissions policy that could redefine or eliminate the use of affirmative action in higher education.
The Section 5 requirements were passed during the darkest days of the civil rights struggle, paving the way for expanded voting rights for African Americans and greatly increasing the number of minority officeholders.
But critics say that the method for selecting the places requiring special supervision — nine states and certain parts of seven others — is outdated and that there is no need for imposing greater requirements for some areas of the country.
The court will be reviewing a decision last spring by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to uphold Section 5.
First passed in 1965, the act was most recently extended in 2006 with lopsided votes in both houses of Congress and signed with fanfare by President George W. Bush.