Lena Horne, Elena Kagan, Arizona and Haiti.

I don’t know if it’s the news cycle or what, but this Spring has been full of hot topics, not that we’re complaining.

We talked briefly about the life and accomplishments of Lena Horne, singer and actress, who died May 10 at the age of 92. Although her film roles were severely limited by the harsh conditions of the studio system (and the racist rules which governed Hollywood at the time), she used her celebrity to fight the injustice that she encountered performing before the military and to create opportunities for African-Americans in front of and behind the camera. She was a giant and will be truly missed.

Elena Kagan, the nominee for the Supreme Court chair to be vacated by Justice John Paul Stephens (who has served the fourth longest term in court history under three chief justices and seven presidents), was the another topic of discussion. I mentioned that she has a great academic resume, having served as dean of Harvard’s Law School, but her paper trail is very light, and while this will be the subject of much debate, I don’t think it will keep her from being confirmed. Melette thought that it might, since people are having to mine her undergraduate years for material vital to her confirmation. One of our listeners, Noodlez, wondered if there would be any scrutiny directed toward her personal life that would keep her out of the court, but short of extreme activism, I shared that I did not think that would be a big enough factor to halt Kagan’s confirmation. Melette and I also talked about the differences between Kagan and Justice Sotomayor, who had extensive bench experience and a thicker paper trail.

Arizona’s governor is on a roll with the signing of legislation that bans ethnic studies courses that “promote resentment” of  other racial groups. The source of this piece of legislative genius is the state school superintendent, Tom Horne, who wants Mexican-American studies programs to stop teaching people of Latin descent that they are an oppressed minority.  I remember a time when the solution to issues like this was to attempt to address the oppression, not silence educators.

The American people have donated billions of dollars toward the cause of Haitian earthquake relief (enough for each displaced family to receive 37k dollars), but a lot of people in Haiti are still sleeping in tents. Melette and I discussed how the really sad truth is that the lack of infrastructure in the nation is a major obstacle to its progress and how organizations are being very careful in their spending, as missteps could negatively affect charities (remember Katrina?) in the future.

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