Thursday, August 29, 2002

Recycling - Never one to let priceless old bytes bite the dust without a bitter struggle, I have just been handed a rare opportunity to recycle some old but, I think, still timely comments of mine. Well, "handed" is perhaps a bit too strong. Let's say I'm seizing the opportunity provided by a very interesting and well done comparison of The Nation and The Weekly Standard in L.A. Weekly (link via MediaMinded).

Even though the L.A. Weekly is an alternative paper, and embodies a perspective that is usually sympathetic to the left, The Nation definitely comes in a distant second in this two-horse race. You should read the whole piece, but essentially the author, John Powers, argues that "The Nation is a profoundly dreary magazine."

... The Standard is incomparably more alluring. The Nation makes you approach it in the same spirit that Democrats might vote for Gray Davis -- where else can you go? .... [The Editors] are evidently content to keep appealing to the same small group of like-minded people who can't believe the vast majority of America is so benighted. They need to talk some folks who own guns."

Actually, I own guns, and was in sympathetic and close association with The Nation for a number of years, even working there in a couple of different capacities for a while. In fact, one of my favorite tasks was to run an ad hoc, voluntary seminar for interns in which one of the most heated topics regularly was the contrast between The Nation's devotion to the First Amendment, often expressed in originalist terms, and its disdain for the Second.

But I digress. (Of course I do. What is recycling if not a vain digression?) I continued to publish there a bit after I left, but with decreasing frequency as my views and the magazine's began to diverge even more. On one occasion the editor, Victor Navasky (whom I still regard as a fine fellow), rejected something I had submitted as too far beyond the pale, but, perhaps for old times's sake or maybe simply a commendable bid for a bit of diversity, he asked me contribute to a special July 4 issue on "Patriotism" that, as it turned out, contained a large number of short statements by various writers in The Nation's orbit.

I would say, given the company I was it, my piece was way out in right field. But, given that company, it was so far out that it's a mistake to regard me as having any company there at all. I can't link it because that was back in the days before the Internet, even before computers. You can find it in Nexis or the library in the July 15, 1991, issue, but you needn't. I still like it, and so I'm recycling, I mean reprinting, it in its entirety here:

FOR TOO LONG THE LEFT HAS TOO EASILY REGARDED patriotism as the first refuge of scoundrels. Perhaps the main source of this longstanding discomfort with patriotic sentiment is that patriotism celebrates, at least in theory, the national community as a whole while the left, especially in theory, is oppositional, outside, dissenting. Traditionally class based, with workers viewed as the engine driving society to a better future, the left is now largely a collection of racial, ethnic and gender interests plus some academic defenders of multiculturalism--progressives all, but with no agent of progress and hence no real reason to believe in progress, in sight or in mind.

With little to unite it except opposition to the dominant culture, the left today has lost both the desire and the ability to lay claim to any significant portion of the landscape of American values. Equal opportunity? It has a disparate impact. Free speech? It protects racist and sexist epithets. Self-determination? A principle useful only for bashing the Russians or protecting oil sheiks. This is overstated, to be sure, but not by much. From what precinct of the left today could an authentic voice claim something like "This land is your land, this land is my land . . ."? Patriotism is an expression of solidarity, a principle long favored on the left, but the term itself reveals our predicament. Solidarity of whom? With whom? For what? It is a far but revealing cry from "Solidarity Forever" to "Solidarity in Support of Diversity," a banner displayed during the recent controversy over affirmative action at Georgetown Law School. That's a hard flag to rally around.

Return of the Hicks - The Washington Post reports today on page one that "CBS Plans a Real-Life Version of Its 60s Hick Hit," the Beverly Hillbillies. That was the subtitle; the bold title is "Gold in Them Thar 'Hillbillies.'" On the continuation page inside, the big bold headline that stretches five (out of six) columns across the top of the page is: "CBS Seeks a 'Very Rural' Family to Move to Beverly - Hills, That Is."

The CBS "reality" TV unit (exactly whose reality is that?)

has a crew of casting agents combing the "mountainous, rural areas" in Arkansas, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky in search of a "multi-generational family of five or more ... who will be relocated for at least a year" to a mansion in Beverly Hills...."

The family will be given money ... with which to buy expensive cars and designer suits, hire maids and personal assistants, and dine at hot West L.A. eateries.

I'm sure I'm not the only hick to take offense. (I may be Jewish, but I'm also, probably more, Southern.) The only people remaining on the face of the earth on whom there is an open season for ridicule and derision are Southern rural whites, and perhaps rural whites outside the South (except, of course, for flinty New England farmers).

The CBS people, and probably others, will say my skin (they probably wouldn't say, at least not in public, my white or Jewish skin) is too thin, that their intention is not to make fun of anyone, and that the hillbillies may well be more appealing than their new Hollywood neighbors. "If you look at the real 'Beverly Hillbillies," one of the developers said, "Jed [Clampett] was the one guy you had any respect for, not the banker."

Baloney. A quick Nexis search reveals that "Beverly Hillbillies" has become a common synonym for dumb-hick-po-white-trash. It also reveals, by the way, that no one knows, or cares, exactly where the Clampetts were from. Most think West Virginia; careful research in program transcripts convinced most scholars of the show that "Bug Tussle," their home community, was in the Ozarks, and a few articles had them leaving from Tennessee. It doesn't really matter, since everyone in New York and Hollywood knows hillbillies are all alike, wherever they're from. (See "Beverly Hillbillies seem to be from all over map," Chicago Sun Times, 3/20/1998, p. 58.)

Here's a test of whether or not hicks are the only group left not protected from open sneers, jeers, and Bronx cheers: can you imagine a similar show being made about, say, Hasidic Jews or Muslims being moved to a Bible Belt small town, or a poor black rural or Harlem family being set up in a Park Avenue penthouse? I didn't think so.

According to one of the program developers,

"Most of America can only imagine what it's like to live in Beverly Hills and live in a multimillion-dollar mansion. We can share this advantage with them, rather than laugh at them."

Sure. Just show me the treatments for programs where we can also laugh with, but not at, blacks, Jews, Hispanics, Catholics, Arabs, the handicapped, etc., who are set up in new and alien situations with live cameras trained on them.

Update - Trojan Horseshoes (a Tarheel) is similarly peeved.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Finally! - Very encouraging article in today's Washington Post about a new generation of leaders who are black who resist being regarded as "black leaders," despite the fact that "many black civil rights advocates warn" that abandoning their traditional role as race men/women "could bring the word 'sellout' to some black people's minds."

No time to say more about this now, as we're walking out the door to take Jessie to a four-day pajama party (my term, not hers) with some of her Bryn Mawr friends who are gathering near Front Royal, Va.

More later, perhaps on this piece.

A is A - Jessie assures me that most of our readers (all six of you) are much better educated than me (see what I mean?), and so you will recognize the title of this post as deriving from Aristotle's version of formal logic. It means, she tells me, something on the order of "a thing equals itself," or in my terms "it is what it is." So what? Read on.

Two news stories yesterday provided unwitting affirmations of Aristotle's wisdom.

1. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported (link requires subscription):

State-based merit-scholarship programs modeled after Georgia's HOPE program mostly help students who would go to college anyway and do little to expand access to higher education for low-income and minority students, a new study concludes. The study, which was released Monday by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, largely confirms earlier criticisms of merit scholarships.

According to the influential analyst, Gary Orfield, in the Foreword to the Harvard report, merit aid is a key weapon in our society's war against minorities and the poor. He writes:

We are in the midst of a destructive set of federal, state, and local changes in higher education policy that limit the ability of minority and low-income families to go to college, damage their future and the future of their communities, and sacrifice too much of the human potential of a society where soon half of all school age children will be non-white. . . .

Imagine someone reacting to higher education's current situation by saying that what we needed were large new programs to subsidize white and middle- to upper-income students to attend college, and that it was not necessary to raise need-based aid even enough to cover new tuition increases. We would give some minority students entering awards because of their relatively high grade point averages from inferior segregated schools. However, we will take their aid away when they cannot get a "B" average in a vastly more competitive college setting and blame them for not being up to the task. . . . In cases where the financial aid made more students eager to go to a particular institution in the state, rather than an out-of-state school where they would have to pay tuition, the in-state institution could raise its selectivity ratings by excluding students with lower scores, students who would usually be minority and from less affluent families.

A policy such as this would make no educational sense. Yet this type of policy is now in place in more than a dozen states. Of course, no one intended to skew financial aid in these ways, but the broad-based merit aid scholarship programs states have adopted have produced these results. Although these programs stem from very popular, good ideas-rewarding the "best" students and keeping them in their state-their ultimate effects are of huge concern to those interested in the civil rights of underrepresented students. Genuine access to higher education for poor and minority students is as basic to civil rights today as access to high school was a half century ago.

This report, in short (well, no, it's not short; it's quite long), demonstrates, and demonstrates beyond the shadow of a doubt, that merit aid is ... merit aid. It is not need-based aid. A is A. A is not B. Score one for Aristotle. (This is a sore subject with me, because Bryn Mawr prides itself on giving no merit aid.)

Update - See Steven Den Beste's awe-inspiring post on the Harvard study here.

Update II - I had originally called this "A = A" and used that expression (is that an expression?) in the text, but Jessie tells me I should have said "A is A." So I changed it. I always do what Jessie says.

2. Researchers at Florida State conducted a survey of over 10,000 students, according to a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education (link requires subscription), and they discovered, as the article title puts it, that "Gender Gap in College May Be Traced to Attitudes During Junior High."

More girls than boys in junior high school expect to attend college later, and the differing expectations of girls and boys contributes to the growing gender gap in college enrollments, according to a new survey by researchers at Florida State University....

John Reynolds, an assistant professor of sociology at Florida State and one of the researchers who did the study, said that race and social class remain the biggest factors that contribute to college-going rates of all students.

"But there is a small but significant correlation between college expectations and college enrollment," he said. "To the extent that there is a gender gap in college expectations, I think we need to be paying closer attention to that."

In other words (yes, but many more words), these intrepid researchers have discovered a correlation ("small but significant") between a gender gap in middle school expectations of college enrollment and ... a gender gap in college enrollment. A is A. Score two for Aristotle.

Black Representatives=Representation of Blacks? - Here's an odd thing: the lead OpEd in Tuesday's Washington Post (in the sense of being at the top of the page) was not in the online edition all day. It just appeared there (11:45PM Tuesday night). I'd like to think it's because of the email I sent asking why it was absent. Anyway, it's by David Lublin and is entitled "The Real Story in Georgia."

What Lublin regards as "the real story" is not the defeat of McKinney and Barr but rather that

[t]wo African American Democrats running in majority-white districts appear likely to clinch their party's nominations for open seats and then win the general elections. Their victories would signal that African Americans can win in such districts, opening the way to future gains in black representation.... The victories ... demonstrate that black congressional representation may continue to expand despite the limits on new majority-black districts.

This piece is interesting on a number of fronts (other than its absence all day from the online edition). First, the author is identified as an associate professor of political science at American University, but not as the author of The Paradox of Representation: Racial Gerrymandering and Minority Interests in Congress (Princeton, 1997). His book takes a decidedly more pessimistic stance toward black electoral prospects, arguing for example that majority-minority districts

"are crucial to election of significant numbers of African-American and Latino representatives. African Americans and Latinos almost never win election from white majority districts. (p. xiii)

Lublin seems to have changed his mind about black prospects, but I believe he was wrong in 1997 when the book was published. In 1996, for example, all three black Georgia Democrats were re-elected to the House, and two of them won in new white-majority districts. The one and only (and now gone) Cynthia McKinney won with an astounding 59% of the vote in a district that had been redrawn so that it was 65% white.

Readers of my recent posts will not be surprised to hear that I believe another interesting aspect of this column is a certain conceptual fuzziness concerning the relationship of "black representation," "black congressional representation," "black political advances," and simply electing blacks to office. Lublin's is conventional political science of the counting noses variety, and if the elected noses are black he assumes black interests are represented. But as our friend Cornel West recently observed, electing a black is not necessarily the best way to insure the promotion of black interests (whatever they are).

Lublin does say that "African Americans elected from majority-white districts will have great racial crossover appeal [Well, yes, otherwise they wouldn't have won! Isn't political science great?] even while remaining loyal to their black electoral base." The newer generation of black officials, in short, can represent whites perfectly well (otherwise they would have no "crossover appeal"), and presumably whites can, on occasion, also do a good job of representing blacks.

So why should we continue to make such a big deal of the race of candidates, or voters?

Not so long ago voting discrimination meant blacks were not allowed to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 pretty much put an end to that, but the 1982 amendments to it went beyond outlawing discrimination to affirmatively requiring the creation of the maximum number of districts that would allow blacks to elect the "candidates of their choice," which in turn required majority-minority districts. The Supremes have trimmed the excesses of this effort, but since blacks are largely indistinguishable from Democrats, and partisan redistricting is permissible, the racial gerrymandering structure is still in place.

Advocates of race-based representation, such as the old Lublin, always under-estimated the ability of black candidates to win in majority-white districts, and the willingness of whites to elect blacks has increased dramatically over the years since the Voting Rights Act was passed.

Moreover, the argument for race-based representation was always driven more by the felt necessity of electing more blacks than any cogent theory of representation or principle of civil rights. If, after all, one accepted the only apparent theory -- a racially essentialist version of multiculturalism and diversity -- then Hispanics would deserve majority-Hispanic districts (something many black incumbents would oppose). Even narrower, Cubans in Miami would deserve their own majority-Cuban district, presumably leaving many Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Haitians, etc., un-represented. And, on this theory, how could the Arabs (Muslims?) in Detroit and New Jersey be denied?

This theory is not incoherent, but it is un-American. The United States (states, not tribes) could have been organized as an ethnic confederation, but it wasn't.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Cornel West and Black Interests - There he goes again. The peripatetic Princetonian, last seen leaving Harvard in a huff, appeared in New York Sunday by the side of candidate Andrew Cuomo to announce that Carl McCall was, according to the account in the New York Times, "'timid and hesitant' on issues important to blacks."

"I think Carl McCall is a decent man, he is a good man," Dr. West said, as Mr. Cuomo looked on. "But he is a timid and hesitant man. We need an aggressive progressive."

When asked on what issues McCall was timid and hesitant, West

alluded to Mr. Cuomo's complaints that Mr. McCall was not aggressive in investing state pension money in concerns that would further social causes, like affordable housing. And he suggested Mr. McCall was late in joining the outcry over police brutality cases several years ago.

Mastery of the intricacies of managing large pension funds must be one of the best-hidden, least used arrows in the overly crowded quiver of Prof. West's expertise. But never mind. What is really interesting here is the tension between West's assumption that there are identifiable black interests but that, at least on occasion, a white politician can represent them better than a black.

Hmm. If this is true, what happens to the argument that blacks must be herded into "majority-minority" districts in order to be truly (authentically?) represented? If white politicians can, sometimes, represent "black interests" better than their black opponents, then surely white voters are not automatically hostile to them.

In addition, the idea of "black interests" itself is also called into question by what black leaders like West must view as the embarrassing tendency of blacks to disagree among themselves from time to time (as in recent Democratic primaries in Newark, Georgia, and Alabama) over what their interests are.

But wait a minute. If whites can have the same interests as blacks, and if blacks can differ over what those interests are, then how is "diversity" automatically enhanced by artificially increasing the number of blacks admitted to college or professionals schools (admitting more than would have been admitted using racially neutral criteria)? If diversity is really the goal, why not instead admit more, say, Muslims, born-again Christians, South Africans, Transylvanians, or whatever?

Perhaps if Prof. West went on a national speaking tour the rationale for racial preferences would crumble even faster.

Update - As quoted above, the New York Times quotes West as saying "I think Carl McCall is a decent man, he is a good man. But he is a timid and hesitant man." Writing in the Washington Post, however, columnist E.J. Dionne's version is: "Carl is a decent man, but he is a hesitant brother. He's a timid brother." Jay Nordlinger, writing in NRO, also has the brother language.

Could the Times possibly be trying to make West appear less ethnic and more mainstream?

Monday, August 26, 2002

Reparations vs. Equality? - In his column in the Washington Post today, "Why Wait for Reparations," the always interesting William Raspberry inadvertently, I think, reveals some tensions in the way we think about equality. He writes:

There was a time not long ago when we believed that all we needed for equality was a fair shot. Don't deny us the opportunity to use places of public accommodation, to absorb as much education as our appetites demand, to work where our skills and potential warrant, to vote for the people who make our laws, to live where our money will allow and, in general, to seek the good things of life.

That demand could be translated: We don't need white America to do anything for us because we are black; only stop doing things to us because we are black. Just treat us fairly from now on.

The demand for reparations says something else: that fair treatment from now on can't solve our problems; we need someone else to solve them or, failing that, to accept responsibility for them.

To his credit, Raspberry is critical of this new responsibility-shifting notion, but I believe he misses a crucial element in our disagreements about equality. It's not that we used to believe "that all we needed for equality was a fair shot," as Raspberry maintains. We used to believe that a fair shot, i.e., non- discriminatory treatment, was equality. Non-discriminatory treatment, we used to believe, was not something that made equality possible. It, itself, was the essence of what we meant by equality.

Raspberry seems to approve of the older idea of non-discriminatory equality, at least insofar as he rejects the "give me the money" ethos that underlies the demand for reparations. But he also seems (in many other columns) to approve of racial preferences -- doing things "for us because we are black" -- which conflict with that principle. His uncertainty about what equality requires reflects a confusion that is quite widespread.

P.S. [8/27/02] - A coupla weeks ago the blogosphere was filled with discussion of Charles Krauthammer's observation that conservative's think liberals are stupid and liberals think conservatives are evil.

William Raspberry is definitely not stupid, nor is he the sort of columnist or liberal (if he is a liberal) to call conservatives evil. I don't know him, but I bet he even has conservative friends. Nevertheless, there is one paragraph in his column that reveals -- again, unintentionally -- how the way issues are framed today gives rise to Krauthammer's astute comment:

For a lot of people, not all of them black by any means, America isn't working very well. Sometimes it's their own fault, and sometimes -- particularly in the case of children -- it isn't. Can't we agree that it is in our own interest to improve their outlook, their preparation, their life chances -- spending whatever it takes in money and human effort?

Once the issue is framed in this manner it's easy for liberals to believe that anyone unwilling to spend "whatever it takes" to save the children is greedy, selfish, and evil. It's also easy for conservatives to think that anyone who believes "spending whatever it takes" is the best way to solve the problems of children is stupid.

We would all be better off if both conservatives and liberals assumed good will all around and spent less time taking pot shots at the character and intelligence of their opponents and more time arguing about their substantive disagreements.

Unintended But Predicted Events - Surprise! "New Ways To Harness Soft Money in Works: Political Groups Poised to Take Huge Donations," the Washington Post reported on the Sunday front page.

Some of the biggest names in Republican and Democratic circles are establishing new groups to collect and spend the unlimited political donations that are supposed to be curbed by the recent campaign finance law.

So, both senior Democrat and Republican operatives are working feverishly to evade the soft money limitations of campaign finance reform by creating new private organizations to collect and spend the money that used to go the parties. Who'd a thunk it! Next they'll be discovering gambling at Rick's and pool right here in River City!

The only thing that's surprising about this is ... that anyone is surprised.

But supporters of the McCain-Feingold measure fear that these efforts might undermine the purpose of the law by creating new conduits for soft money that require less public disclosure than was required before the legislation was enacted. They contend that these activities are purposeful evasions of the law, encouraged by the weak enforcement regulations issued by the Federal Election Commission.

Well, all one can say is "Duh!" That's precisely what critics of McCain-Feingold predicted would happen.

Senator Mitch McConnell (R, Ky), leader of the opposition to McCain-Feingold, in 1997:

[McConnell] said it would be impossible to keep corporations -- whose direct contributions were first outlawed in 1907 -- from playing a political role.: "They are going to speak," Mr. McConnell said. "Now they will go out and speak independently. They will speak by contributing soft money to parties. They will speak by individuals' donating, and political action committees' connected to the companies donating. They are going to speak. And I think any kind of effort to adjust this needs to keep in mind that spending restrictions are like putting a rock on Jell-O. The speech will go somewhere." -- New York Times, 4/13/1997

Jan Baran, Republican election lawyer, repeating his earlier warnings:

"What this law does is create new miniature political parties while stamping out soft money for the national parties," said Jan Baran, a Republican lawyer. Lawmakers have "enhanced the relative role of large, private, usually corporate-funded national organizations, many of which operate with no disclosure requirements."

Baran said that as the parties decline, such groups as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, the National Rifle Association and Planned Parenthood will rise in importance. "It's a major redistribution and dislocation of political power," he said. -- Washington Post, 6/23/2002

All those who predicted this eminently predictable development were not Republican critics of the legislation.

On the other side of the ideological aisle, Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, said soft-money donors seeking to "elect people who embody their values will be looking to groups like NARAL, which do serious political work and are seasoned operatives, to invest in. If they [donors] can't give to the parties . . . they are going to find other means." -- Washington Post, 6/23/2002

Indeed, this particular nail was hit squarely on the head back in 1997 by none other than the former executive editor of the New York Times, Max Frankel:

When candidates are limited in the amounts they can collect or spend individually, they channel gifts and expenses through national parties or campaign committees. If faced with limits on those national committees, they will turn to state and local groups. Restrict the local groups and the candidates will turn to committees that purport to promote not them, only issues. And if you could somehow cage even those issue groups during election season, they would flourish in pre-election years.

These are not mere speculations; I speak from facts routinely, though not conspicuously, reported in The Times.... -- New York Times, 4/2/1997

Republican critics of McCain-Feingold warned that it would not succeed in curbing political money; it would only drive it farther underground and out of sight. It is thus certainly not surprising that they are now working to fulfill their own prophecy. But, as Sunday's Post article makes abundantly clear, the Democrats -- who rejected these criticisms and supported McCain-Feingold -- are working just as feverishly to do exactly what the Republicans are doing.

I don't like to be harsh, and I firmly believe that invective is counter-productive (not to mention impolite), but I find it hard to view Democratic support for McCain-Feingold, given their current efforts to circumvent it, as anything other than either disingenuous or dumb. What am I missing?

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Comments Anyone? - What's with the comment engines and Blogger? No sooner had we, earlier today, abandoned enation (and our accumulated comments) because it abandoned us, going dormant on all the blogs that used it, and switched to Netcomment than the latter took leave, reporting all day now that "Commenting Temporarily Unavailable." YACCS, another popular comment engine, is taking on no new subscribers. If this keeps up I guess we'll just be forced to move to Movable Type, which has built-in commenting. But that would mean we'd have to leave behind the lovable, irascible archive bug which appears from time to time.

Update - Say What? Well, thanks to Jessie's coding dexterity, we're now trying our third commenting system in three days. The first two, enetation and netcomments, stopped working. (I misspelled enetation as enation a few times earlier, but since it doesn't seem to work I don't feel compelled to go back and correct the spellings.) The new one, haloscan, seems to be working fine, and its web site is thorough and helpful. I recommend it ... today. Check with me tomorrow.

Quality of Life/Right Direction, or Merely Who's In The Driver's Seat? - The Sunday Washington Post ran a front page article under the headline, "Pr. George's Perspectives Split Along Color Lines: Blacks More Satisfied With County, Poll Finds."

Prince George's County, Maryland, a Washington suburb, is "one of the few majority-black suburban counties in the country," the Post noted, and it "has long been viewed as a national model of racial diversity and a testing ground for relations between the black and white middle class." Over the past decade blacks have grown to more than 60% of the population.

Excerpts from the Post's poll findings:

Blacks were twice as likely to be satisfied with the public schools and to view the police force as being overly aggressive.... 53 percent of whites have talked in the past year about leaving Prince George's, compared with 39 percent of blacks.

The Post's survey found that blacks are far more satisfied than whites with the county, with more than eight in 10 ranking it as a good or excellent place to live, 22 percentage points higher than whites. Twice as many blacks as whites gave public schools and schools chief Iris T. Metts favorable marks. And more than six in 10 blacks said they approved of the job performance of Curry [County Executive], compared with about four in 10 whites.

The poll suggests that whites' views of the county were significantly more pessimistic than blacks. Nearly six in 10 whites said Prince George's had "gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track." A small majority of blacks, on the other hand, said the county was moving in the right direction.

Not surprisingly, the Post found that "the attitude of blacks' [sic] have [sic] changed" since blacks have become politically dominant in the county. (However, the Post's grammar, or lack of it, is surprising.)

An interesting question, unmentioned in the article, is whether these poll findings have any implications for the myriad national polls asking about "quality of life" and whether we're "heading in the right direction." Alvin Thornton, a prominent political science professor at Howard University, did say of the polling results showing white dissatisfaction that "This is the way a minority feels, that it's part of something that is changing and that it cannot control. It reflects a sense of marginalization...."

But if that is true, do we then need to revise how we interpret national polls that compare racial attitudes? To pick just one example, a 1997 Gallup survey found "a sharp decline in optimism since 1980; only 33 percent of blacks (versus 58 percent of whites) thought both the quality of life for blacks and race relations had gotten better." (quoted in Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom, "Black America: Progress & Prospects," Brookings Review 16, No. 2, March 22, 1998). Maybe the decline in optimism reflects dissatisfaction with minority status more than any change in objective circumstances.

If polling always reflects minorities' dissatisfaction because of their perceived marginalization, maybe we need to re-evaluate their pessimism as expressed in polls, whatever the color of the minority in question.

Comments on Comments - Enetation, our now former Comment engine, seems to have disappeared. Some of you may have noticed that for the past several days there was a "Comment Server Busy" message where the clickable Comment link should have been. I think it was not busy at all but dead. Be that as it may, thanks to Jessie's ability with code (she was able, without the fear or trembling I would have exhibited, to copy the code prepared by Netcomments into our Blogger Template and delete the now useless enetation code), DISCRIMINATIONS is once again open for discussion. Have at it (us).

Saturday, August 24, 2002

Blacks and Jews (Continued) - I would have put this as a comment on my previous post, except that enetation, our comment engine, has either died or gone fishing, and YACCS, another popular commenter, is apparently so popular it is taking no new subscribers. This may force us out of Blogger and into Movable Type or something else, which would be too bad; I thought we were done with all the template fiddling, etc. Looks like Jessie may have to go to work again, here. (She just completed a 12-week summer internship at the National Institute of Standards & Technology, and returns to Bryn Mawr next week. So it's not like she's been idle.)

Anyway, the more I think about it the more depressed I become that so much of what passes for black leadership these days equates "black" with pro-Muslim, anti-Israeli views. If they did not, how could they assert that Jewish opposition to candidates with those views -- but support of other black candidates! -- has produced black-Jewish tension?

Most people recognize, say, that Israeli opinion is not uniform, that one could support Ariel Sharon's opponents without being anti-Israeli and especially not anti-semitic. Similarly, Democrats are not anti-American because they supported George W. Bush's opponent, nor are they anti-American when they oppose his policies now. It doesn't seem too difficult to grasp this point, even though people who are anti-Israeli or anti-American also oppose Sharon and Bush. Why, then, do so many black leaders insist that blacks who are not in lockstep agreement with the leadership, i.e., themselves, are somehow not "authentic" blacks (to use Lani Guinier's unfortunate description again) and that Jews are anti-black when they support black candidates who agree with them, or who at least do not support their enemies?

Once again, it appears that black leaders value diversity everywhere except in the black community. (See here for an earlier discussion of this point.)

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Blacks and Jews and ... Blacks - A Washington Post article today describes some troubling fallout from the defeat of anti-Israel, pro-Muslim Cynthia McKinney in a Democratic primary in Georgia.

Black and Jewish political leaders voiced concerns yesterday that the defeat of Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.), a critic of pro-Israel policies, by a challenger receiving extensive Jewish support might intensify ill feelings between two important Democratic constituencies. Any increase in tensions between Jewish and African American voters, political activists said, could damage Democratic hopes of taking back the House and keeping control of the Senate.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D, Tex), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said there was a growing concern that "Jewish people are attempting to pick our leaders." Jesse Jackson said the coalition between blacks and Jews must be preserved if the Democrats are to take over the House and keep control of the Senate, but he complained that the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee "now does not place a great premium on that coalition."

The problem with this Johnson-Jackson-Democratic handwringing is that it assumes pro-Israel (even Jewish?) means anti-"black," and "black" means pro-Arab. It's as though the black challengers who defeated the pro-Muslim incumbents were not themselves black, or somehow not authentically black.

Now is not the first time that observers have noted that "black" has come to refer more to political than pigmentary coloration. Jessie Jackson is black; Clarence Thomas is not; etc. One of the earlier if unintentional popularizers of this perception was none other than Lani Guinier, some of whose law review articles argued that only "authentic" blacks, by which she meant in part blacks elected by black majorities, could represent blacks. (See, for example, "The Triumph of Tokenism: The Voting Rights Act and the Theory of Black Electoral Success," 89 Mich. L. Rev. 1077 [1991].)

I have not seen a racial breakdown of the vote in Georgia's fourth congressional district, but it is abundantly clear that Denise Majette, who won with an astounding 58% of the vote, had very substantial black support.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (link via Photodude),

Majette carried predominantly African-American precincts despite a full-court press by the traditional black political machine of preachers and politicians to deliver the election to McKinney. And in deep south DeKalb, McKinney's stronghold over the last 10 years, voters failed to come out as strongly as they have in recent elections.

....

In the Stone Mountain area, a popular destination for middle class African-American newcomers moving to metro Atlanta, Majette prevailed. The former State Court judge also ran competitively with McKinney across a swath of central DeKalb precincts dominated by African-American voters.

And in her traditional south DeKalb stronghold, McKinney's voters didn't come out in the kind of numbers she has typically drawn. For example, at Stoneview Elementary School, a McKinney stronghold and the site of a melee over ballot access for the 1,767 people who showed up to vote in the 2000 general election, only 169 people cast ballots Tuesday, most of them for McKinney.

Majette suggested Wednesday that black voters in DeKalb have long been more diverse in their political attitudes than past elections may have indicated.

"Black," in short, may not mean what it used to, and what the Jesse Jacksons wish it still did. One Majette voter quoted by the Journal-Constitution captured this point nicely:

The appeals by the Jesse Jacksons, the [Louis] Farrakhans and the [Joseph] Lowerys fell on deaf ears," said Leak, who is an African-American. "The typical black voter didn't want to hear that. . . . The typical political kingmakers didn't play a role in this.

The Explosion of Feminism - According to Andrea Dworkin (Link via Arts and Letters Daily):

The female suicide bombers are idealists who crave committing a pure act, one that will wipe away the stigma of being female.

The Clintonian Denial Style - Responding to reports and comments from anonymous friends and advisers that she plans to run for president in 2008, Hillary Clinton told the Associated Press that "I don't know who those people are or where they're getting their information from because they've never had a conversation with me they can quote." (Link via The Scrum)

This clever, lawyerly formulation -- suggesting (indeed, all but convincing) that she indeed had those conversations but with instructions not to quote her -- calls to mind my almost forgotten file of Clintonian non-denial denials, some of which I have dredged up and will share with you now. In their classical form, these denials do not actually deny guilt or affirm innocence. They simply assert the absence of evidence.

• "There’s no evidence of that. There will not be any evidence of that." (Hillary, Diane Rehm show, 4/10/1997, when asked if Web Hubbell's silence had been bought)

• "I don't believe you can find any evidence of the fact that I had changed government policy solely because of a contribution." (Bill, Press Conference, 3/7/1997, discussing role of political contributions in his administration)

• "[A] White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity predicted that the Senate Republicans would have trouble proving that to the public." (New York Times, 7/14/1997, discussing charges that President Clinton might be more closely involved with illegal fundraising than had been previously reported)

Perhaps the retired President Clinton will go beyond polishing his legacy into more general revisionist history, rewriting our outdated heroic myths to bring them in line with contemporary sensibilities. "Father," he will have the young George Washington say, bringing Parson Weems up to date, "I don't believe you can find any evidence of the fact that I cut down that cherry tree."

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Washington Post Bias - A while back many bloggers (especially Andrew Sullivan, as I recall, but then I don't think my recall is what it used to be) had great sport pointing out examples of media bias regarding the use of such terms as left/right wing, far left/right, etc. In that regard a recent column by Washington Post (formerly New Republic) writer Dana Milbank is worth a look.

Milbank seems to regard conservative the way eskimos regard snow, i.e., as in need of further refinement to be descriptive. Thus Eliot Cohen, author of a new book on civilian control of the military that the president is reported to be reading on his ranch, is described as "a neoconservative hardliner."

Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, is -- and here's a new one, or at least I don't recall seeing it before -- an "arch neoconservative."

Are there any neoconservatives who aren't arch or hardline? Well, maybe. Milbank does say the question of the hour is whether the president "will side with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the neoconservative civilian leadership at the Pentagon or Colin L. Powell, the establishment types at State and the cautious Joint Chiefs of Staff."

"Establishment types"? That would be [General Brent] "Scowcroft's establishment wing of Republican foreign policy," which is said to be "in open revolt." Nothing new here; this "revolt" apparently is merely a continuation of the "30-year feud between Republican hardliners and moderates on foreign policy."

Interestingly, there don't seem to be any conservatives in the Republican party any more. Just "arch" and "hardliner" neoconservatives and wise, moderate, cautious "establishment types." I wish Milbank or someone at the Washington Post would clue us in at some point on precisely how "arch" and "hardliner" neoconservatives differ from plain, pure vanilla neoconservatives, and how they both differ from the apparently now extinct conservatives. I understand why Bill Kristol's father was a neoconservative, but I'm not sure why Bill is neo-, unless neo-ness is hereditary.

To be fair to Milbank, this fascination with shades of Republican rightwingedness is not limited to him. Others at the Post also use variations of right wing/hardline terms to describe Republicans much more often than they use similar counterparts for Democrats.

Some quick examples gleaned from the Washington Post file on Nexis:

left wing (and variants) in titles and lead paragraphs since 1/1/1996 368

right wing, same place and time etc. 848

far right since 1/1/1996 over 1,000; too many to count

far left since 1/1/1996 670

far right since 1/1/00 402

far left since 1/1/00 169

Republican within 5 words of (hard line! or far right or radical right or right wing!) after 1/1/1996 355

Democrat/ic (same as above) 116

(Note: searches were not restricted to U.S., so count includes some foreign references.)

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

More Law Office Sociology - All sorts of mischief has been emanating from the sociologists, who recently gathered in convention. For one thing, they "presented data that they hope will bolster the legal defense of affirmative action." The data, they claimed, supported the charge

that leading undergraduate institutions create a hostile environment for minority students, resulting in their earning lower grades. This phenomenon, they argued, requires that selective law schools and other graduate programs maintain or expand affirmative-action programs in admissions.

A panel of three researchers (link requires subscription) argued that

it is legitimate for the law school to admit minority students with relatively low grade-point averages, because minority students' GPA's tend to be reduced by various forms of discrimination and psychological stress.

....

The three researchers interviewed minority students at four colleges that send many students to Michigan's law school -- Harvard University, the University of California at Berkeley, Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan's undergraduate college -- and found that minority students at each of these institutions tend to suffer cumulative insults that impede their academic performance.

"Racial microaggressions," one panelist said, "are one form of everyday racism used to keep those at the racial margins in their place."

Another panelist stated:

I truly believe that mundane everyday racial stress is part of the formula for the lower achievement scores, and in some cases the lower achievement, for students in these settings.

"Such pervasive discomfort," she concluded, "warrants remedies such as the law school's affirmative-action policies in admissions."

The only example of these "microaggressions" cited in the Chronicle of Higher Education summary l'm relying on here were "statements such as 'I don't think of you as Mexican -- you speak such good English.'" This statement may not be tactful or tasteful, but I wonder if it is really so destructive. Mexicans, after all, do speak Spanish. Would French/German/Egyptian/Chinese/etc. students be as offended by such a statement as these researchers assume Mexican students were?

In any event, I suspect that the argument that minorities are so stressed out by the "microaggressions" of everyday life they must endure that their grades and test scores suffer is not the best argument in favor of affirmative action.

Also coming out of the sociologists' convention was a statement (link requires subscription) from the American Sociological Association opposing Ward Connerly's Racial Privacy Initiative in California, even though the statement "takes pains to to define race as a fluid social concept, not as a biological phenomenon with meaningful roots in human physiology."

Barbara F. Reskin, the association's departing president and a professor of sociology at the University of Washington at Seattle, said at a news conference that she worries that policy makers will forbid universities to gather information about their students' race. "Universities would no longer be in a position to know the ramifications of [changes in admissions policy]. Even though the existing measures of race are crude, and ignore nuance and variability, without them we wouldn't have any handle on public policy. We'd have no reliable way of knowing what's going on."

Some cynics might suspect that a number of sociologists have trouble "knowing what's going on" even with the current free flow of racial data.

Update - Actually, this is an afterthought rather than an update. I've been thinking about this more, and I can't help wondering why more minorities are not offended by a justification of affirmative action that regards them as damaged goods. I also wonder whether this justification itself doesn't inflict the very sort of damage that it purports to find.

In addition, if Harvard, Berkeley, and Michigan inflict all this damage, as the study claims, why should the Michigan Law School be any different? That is, why use the damage inflicted at Harvard et. al. as a justification for preferential admission to another institution that in all likelihood will inflict more of the same damage? And if it does, won't the minority graduates of Michigan (assuming they do graduate) be even more damaged when they get out? Moreover, if such havens of racial sensitivity as these elite schools inflict such extensive psychic damage, how will the graduates fare when they have to face the much less solicitous no-holds-barred rough and tumble competition of real life, not to mention litigation? If Harvard et. al's treatment traumatizes them into lower grades and test scores, what will life after Harvard, and Michigan Law School, do?

Actually, I wouldn't worry about it because I suspect the study is pure "law office sociology," i.e., hokum dressed up to support a conclusion, in this case affirmative action. Based on the admittedly limited sample of minority students, law students, graduate students, lawyers, etc., that I know, it seems to me that most are made stronger, not weaker, by what they have endured to get where they are.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Negative View of Affirmative Action - For a discussion of affirmative action by a journalist who has been on the receiving end but grown disillusioned with it, see Linda Walker's eloquent essay in the Christian Science Monitor. (Tip from Howard Bashman.) The gist, and more, is conveyed by the opening paragraphs much better than I could summarize:

Quiet as it is kept, a few corporate jobs are earmarked for people of a particular race. We all know it, but most of us are smart enough not to let on that we know. Not me, of course. I just can't keep a secret.

The managing editor at a metropolitan newspaper once offered me a job as assistant city editor. I had talent, initiative, and the respect of my colleagues, he said admiringly. Then, he quickly got to his real problem. "We need a black on the metro desk," he confided. "We don't have one."

That sort of ruined our special moment together. "You have a job for a black assistant city editor and you wish to give it to me?" I said in disbelief. I could tell by his pained expression he was wondering if somebody had forgotten to send out the "stuff we all know but are too smart to talk about" memo.

My policy of taking actions that affirm my worth began on that day in that room. I turned the job down on the spot. "If ever you have an opening for a white assistant city editor, please let me know," I said. "That is the job I have earned."

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Double Standard - Tapped disagrees with Jeffrey Rosen's plague-on-both-their-houses article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine on the judicial appointment mess. (Link via Howard Bashman.)

The Tapped view is that "the two sides are not equal" because from 1976 - 2000 Republican presidents have had "a concerted plan to pack the courts with youngish, extremely conservative judges," but the Democrats have had "no such plan." (I will avoid the temptation of replying, "Well, duh! Why would the Democrats want to pack the courts with youngish, extremely conservative judges?")

"Clinton," says Tapped, "was infamous for refusing to devote political capital to appointing liberal judges," while the Republicans showed no such restraint at promoting conservatives. Studies by political scientists are cited.

Since my memory is not what it used to be, I would appreciate Tapped reminding me of all the anti-abortion, anti-racial preference judges Clinton and Carter appointed. What? Oh, that's not what they mean by "liberal"? That must mean, then, that they do not regard judges as "extremely conservative" who are anti-abortion and anti-preferences. Mustn't it?

Otherwise, Tapped would have to be arguing that appointing judges who oppose abortion and preferences is packing the courts with conservatives, but appointing judges who favor abortion and preferences is not packing the courts with liberals. And they couldn't really mean that, could they?

Discrimination Confusion - The Human Rights Campaign has just released a report rating companies on their gay-friendly personnel policies.

According to the Washington Post article on the report, Peter Sprigg of the conservative Family Research Council blamed creeping political correctness for the increasing acceptance of gays and said "protection against bias is appropriate only when a trait is inborn, such as sex or race."

Representing the opposing view was Donald J. Carty, chairman and CEO of American Airlines, who argued:

Taking a stand against discrimination -- whether based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or anything else -- is not politically correct. It is simply correct, and it is the right thing to do.

These two deserve each other. According to the Family Research Council, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of, say, religion is inappropriate (unless the FRC belives religious genes are inherited, which I suppose it might). And American Airlines opposes discrimination on the basis of anything at all ("or anything else"). Perhaps the next wannabe pilot who fails an eye exam (physical disability!) should remind Chairman Carty of this non-discrimination policy.

We will never have sensible anti-discrimination policies unless we can agree on what discrimination is.

Striving Mightily for Optimism - National Review Online has an interesting article by Shikha Dalmia, a Detroit News editorial writer, that strains earnestly for optimism regarding the chances of the Bush Administration opposing racial preferences if/when the University of Michigan admissions case reaches the Supremes.

An enormous gray cloud surrounding the possible silver lining of this optimism is the position the administration took in Adarand, where it swallowed its principles -- and that means Attorney General John Ashcroft and Solicitor General Ted Olson swallowed their principles -- and actually defended preferences. (Their argument, not a frivolous one, is that their duty lay with their client, Congress, which had passed the legislation at issue. The Clinton administration never paused over such concerns.)

Rooting around among many other tea leaves and goat entrails, Dalmia professes to find some basis for optimism in what was in, or actually not in, the administration's Adarand brief:

A further indication in the Adarand brief that Olson and the Bush administration intend to oppose the University of Michigan's racial double standard is what the brief leaves out: the Clinton administration's argument that the government's interest in promoting diversity justifies discrimination. The diversity rationale forms the crux of the Michigan case and its exclusion from the Bush brief cannot be a mere oversight.

Probably not oversight, but possibly mere inability of even an administration swallowing its principles to argue, in print and on record before the Supreme Court, that diversity among guard rail contractors is such a compelling national interest that it justifies discrimination on the basis of race. Because Bakke allowed the camel's nose of diversity under the tent, they may not have this reluctance in a college admissions case.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

McKinneyean Moral Equivalence - The Washington Post pointed out today that at least 18 contributors to Rep. Cynthia McKinney's re-election campaign are officers of Muslim organizations under investigation by the FBI, have supported terrorist organizations, or have made inflammatory comments about Jews. Asked about this during a recent television debate, McKinney replied:

All of our contributions are legal. My opponent, on the other hand, has an awful lot of Republican money going into her coffers.

I thought campaign finance reform was supposed to prevent these heinous acts, such as Republicans contributing to political candidates. And -- wouldn't you know it! -- many of the contributors to McKinney's opponent are Jewish! Doesn't that violate church-state separation or something?

One of McKinney's contributors is Professor Sami Al-Arian, who has been filmed saying such things as: "Let us damn America, let us damn Israel. Let us damn their allies until death," and "Victory to Islam, death to Israel."

But not to worry. In a recent press conference he explained:

"Death to Israel" meant death to apartheid, death to oppression. . . . I never incited people to violence or murder. It never happened.

Well, I'm glad that's cleared up. Remind me, though: exactly what is he a professor of?

Monday, August 12, 2002

"Racial 'Colorblindness' Is Silly"? - Stuart Buck links to an interesting piece by Leonard Pitts, Jr., a descendant of Mississippi slaves, arguing that "so-called colorblindness is neither possible nor even desirable."

Actually, the headline is a bit of a come-on. He doesn't defend affirmative action/racial preferences, which is what most opponents of colorblindness have in mind. Instead, he asserts that race is an important component of his identity, but only one component among many.

I'm also a man. I am a native of Southern California. I am a husband and a father. I am a comic-book geek. I am a Christian. I am in my 40s. I am a hope-to-die Lakers fan. I am, in other words, many things, each relevant to different circumstances and occasions.

....

Here's what bothers me: No one has ever felt the need to not notice I'm from California. No one has ever made a point of not seeing me as Christian....

Given that each of us is a combination of many characteristics, why is it necessary to make such an ostentatious show of not seeing one: race? The unavoidable answer is race isn't perceived like other characteristics....

Unfortunately, much of what passes for racial dialogue in this country is the chatter of two extremes: the Afrocentric-to-the-point-of-paranoia one that says race matters always, and the "colorblind" one that says it matters never.

In my view, race is like one of the characteristics Pitts mentioned: religion. And they are similar for the reasons Pitts mentions: they are form the core of identity for many people. Thoughtful advocates of colorblindness, like thoughtful advocates of neutrality regarding religion, i.e., religion-blindness, belive that it is precisely because those identity-forming features are so important that they should not be the bases for burdens or benefits, especially from the state. It is official notice that they (we) oppose, not personal notice.

Pitts recognizes as much when he concludes by saying that his view does not conflict with Martin Luther King's famous hope that his children "will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." As Pitts says, King

didn't say avoid color, ignore color, pretend it doesn't exist. The key to what he said lies in four words: "Not be judged by."

Sunday, August 11, 2002

More Kaminer Komments - Wendy Kaminer begins her American Prospect article, discussed in my immediately preceding post, by discussing the "profound difference" between affirmative action as a remedy for prior discrimination and as a tool for achieving diversity.

Envisioning racial preferences as purely remedial greatly limits their use: An institution that hasn't discriminated against racial minorities in the past may not discriminate in favor of them in the present, and institutions that are guilty of prior discrimination may, in theory, only employ racial preferences remedially, until the prior offense is cured. But if racial preferences are justified in the name of diversity, they may be used by any institution, regardless of its history, and they may be used forever, to benefit any demographic group favored by institutional authorities. It's not surprising that liberals generally promote affirmative action as a means of achieving diversity, whereas conservatives, if forced to accept affirmative action at all, would only allow it to be used remedially.

I think this distinction is often exaggerated. It seems to me that hiring (or admitting or giving some preference) based on race is a true remedy for past discrimination only when actual victims are involved, are "made whole" by correcting the past injustice done to them. But this is not generally what is meant by "remedial" affirmative action. As Ms. Kaminer, typically, states, organizations are often allowed (or even required) to give racial preferences once it is established that they had discriminated in the past, even though the present beneficiaries are not the past victims.

If this is remedial, precisely what does it remedy if not the absence of "diversity" in the present that presumably would exist but for the discrimination in the past?

Once again, it becomes clear that "diversity" (even when dressed in the garb of remedy) requires regarding minority individuals not as individuals but as fungible members of a group. Otherwise, how could hiring black Mr. Jones today be a remedy for failing to hire black Mr. Smith yesterday?

More Nails in Preferential Coffin - Two recent developments suggest that the tide of racial preferences continues to go out. The first is a lawsuit the indomitable Center for Individual Rights has just filed against HUD and the EEOC for employment discrimination, and the second is "Diversity Perversity," an article in The American Prospect questioning the uncritical devotion many liberals display towards affirmative action, an article that is as noteworthy for its source as its argument.

The CIR's lawsuit, Worth v. Martinez, threatens to do to the employment practices of the federal government, the nation's largest employer, what its suits against the University of Michigan's preferential admissions policies may do to college admissions (depending on what, if anything, the Supremes do with the latter). Stanley Kurtz has an excellent summary of the issues in the case, and I urge everyone to take a look at it here. The CIR also has a very impressive and informative discussion of the case on its web site, here.

The CIR and Kurtz discussions are so complete that a summary here would be redundant (though that hasn't stopped me in the past, and I may well revisit this case later), but I can't resist making one observation. Despite the protests of many defenders of preferences that they do not believe in quotas or proportional representation, CIR's evidence demonstrates that the EEOC and those administering employment at HUD believe that "underrepresentation" of any group except white males is not evidence of discrimination; it is discrimination. (In a crucial distinction, the CIR makes clear that its complaint is not with the vast and pervasive "underrepresentation" of white males in the federal workforce but with the discriminatory policies and practices responsible for it.)

Now for another nail lets turn to TAP. Ms. Kaminer, a board member of the ACLU and senior contributor to TAP, is too smart and independent-minded to fit neatly into politically correct liberal boxes, and this article is no exception. She criticizes, for example, the liberal

assumption that the use of group preferences is cost-free and that the socially desirable goal of racial and ethnic diversity can be met without harming individuals or violating fundamental liberties. Racial (or sexual) profiling is, at the very least, problematic, whether it's employed by bigoted police officers or well-meaning educational administrators.

Although it may be going too far to say that criticizing such an article, and one appearing in a liberal publication no less, is looking a gift horse in the mouth, it may not. At any rate, even if what follows is mere nit-picking around the edges of an article whose substance is sound, the picking of nits is one of the many things blogs are for.

A couple of Ms. Kaminer's comments indicate how hard it is even for liberals who are troubled by preferences to criticize them forthrightly. For example, she writes:

Because affirmative action pits the rights of disadvantaged groups against the rights of individuals (and equality against liberty), the problems it poses are not easily or peacefully resolved.

But preferences do not pit "equality" against liberty. They pit one version of equality -- equality as proportional representation -- against both liberty and other versions of equality -- equality as non-discriminatory treatment, equality as equal opportunity but not necessarily equal results.

Moreover, to speak of "the rights of disadvantaged groups" as opposed to "the rights of individuals" assumes, first and foremost, that groups have rights -- as groups, not as individuals who have individual rights not to be discriminated against because of their membership in a group. Most critics of preferences reject the idea of group rights. Everyone should. But assume for a moment (but only for a moment) that groups do have rights. What are they? Isn't some undefined right to proportional representation the only right a group could claim that is not already covered by the individual rights of its members not to be discriminated against because of their membership? Preferences, in short, all but require a belief in group rights, and in turn believers in group rights find it hard to criticize preferences on principle.

Ms. Kaminer also writes:

Considering the arbitrary nature of admissions decisions, with or without racial preferences, it's hard not to sympathize with the majority view. Before colleges and universities employed racial preferences, they relied on class preferences, favoring graduates of particular schools or the children of alumni, as advocates of affirmative action regularly point out. When I entered law school in 1972 (just before the implementation of federal equal-education guarantees), graduate and professional schools openly maintained generous affirmative-action quotas for men. These generated virtually no opposition from conservatives.

But what Ms. Kaminer describes here was not affirmative action for men. It was simple discrimination (combined, of course, with less interest then than now among women for what were then regarded as "non-traditional" careers). Law schools, and others, practiced neither "soft" affirmative action for men, i.e., target outreach, etc., nor "hard" affirmative action, i.e., goals/quotas/targets for specific numbers of men. It is true that conservatives were slow to condemn this sort of simple, everyday discrimination, but then so were liberals.

Finally (at least for this installment), Ms. Kaminer writes that

the fallacy underlying much conservative opposition to sexual or racial preferences is the assumption that without them life would be a meritocracy....

I can't speak for all conservatives (in fact, I'm not sure I can speak for any conservatives, since I'm not sure I am conservative), but I don't share that meritocratic assumption, and I suspect there are many (other?) conservatives who don't. True, I happen to like merit in many situations, but it is never a constitutional imperative. In my view, most organizations should be able to discriminate on almost any grounds they choose, except race, religion, sex, ethnicity (with some obvious exceptions such as theological seminaries).

Those are, or should be, constitutional imperatives.

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Law Office Sociology - A while back I had occasion (or at least took the opportunity) to discuss "law office history," generally regarded as history written using evidence carefully filtered to support a pre-determined conclusion. (See here and here.) I did not defend this sort of history but argued that it was not limited to -- and perhaps was not even prevalent in -- law offices, that much academic history demonstrated the same traits.

Now comes Kathleen Wu, identified as "a commercial real estate lawyer and managing partner in the Dallas office of Houston's Andrews & Kurth," who gives perfect voice in The Texas Lawyer to what might be called, with justified derision, "law office sociology."

Her topic is a recent spate of books that discuss aggression and general nastiness in teenage girls (she cites them; I don't care about them, and so won't). She doesn't like these books. She apparently wishes they hadn't been published. But she doesn't criticize their evidence, argument, or conclusions. Indeed, she even admits, "[my] complaint with this body of research isn't that it's invalid (from what I can tell, it seems to be based on some solid research....)"

So, what's Wu want?

My complaint is that, despite the authors' best intentions, their work ends up doing little more than solidifying the negative stereotypes that have dogged women for centuries.

And by solidifying those stereotypes, they may slow the already glacial pace of creating the kind of support network for women in business that has been the cornerstone of success for men in business.

Her problem with these books, in short, is that they don't

get women in the real world any closer to where we need to be, which is firmly ensconced in a network of professionals who, without even thinking about it, refer business to each other and generally support one another's professional goals.

Good scholarship, on this view, is whatever gets women (or blacks, Jews, Moldavians, Muslims, or your group of choice) where Wu or we want them to be. Unfortunately, this attitude is not rare, and it's just as likely to be found on campus as in law offices.

Turncoats, Converts, Apostates, i.e., Ex-Liberals - Via InstaPundit I found Brad De Long's post on the four methods by which libs, lefties, or neo-libs are "seduced" by the wackos on the right. This was also linked by ELECTROLITE, which has by far the better comments.

Of course, to say that former liberals have been "seduced" over to the right implies that normal, rational people are naturally at home on the left. Saying they are "seduced" into leaving has the added benefit of implying that they have weak wills and generally low character. How satisfying that must be for the De Longs who are still on de liberal plantation.

Here's another theory, or maybe even meta-theory, of why some liberals have become ex-liberals that I will float before you, sort of a slow pitch to see if it gets the stuffings knocked out of it before I try it anywhere else.

Over the course of the 20th Century there have been several Great Migrations from left to right. The best known one is "The God That Failed" generation of ex-communists who became anti-communists. Somewhat similar were the hard-line Cold War Democrats who moved right when the Democratic Party, largely as a result of Vietnam, abandoned its anti-communism (or at least that's what the Scoop Jackson/Jean Kirkpatrick Democrats et. al. charged on their way out the door).

I'm not talking about either of those left -> right migrations. If I stick with my theory I may return to them and try to work them in. For now I'm talking about three distinct waves of liberal emigrants to conservative shores who were sent on their way by domestic concerns.

1. Liberalism in the U.S. had its roots in Jeffersonian/Jacksonian agrarianism and hostility to a strong central government. This began to change at the end of the 19th Century when the Populists urged greater governmental activism; the corner was turned in the Progressive period when many liberals turned to Hamiltonian means to achieve Jeffersonian ends (as Herbert Croly, early New Republic editor, put it); and the conversion was made complete by the New Deal. At the core of this transformation were the twin themes of a) the sanctity of private property and b) the propriety of governmental regulation. For liberals on this transforming course, "a" waned as "b" waxed. Many liberals, however, got off the train. Unable to stomach the Hamiltonian means (strong central government, regulatory agencies, discretion displacing clear rules, etc.), they remained Jeffersonian, and became conservative.

2. From the 1830s through the 1960s people who opposed slavery, segregation, and discrimination were firmly committed to the principle of colorblindness, i.e., that everyone should be treated "without regard" to race, ethnicity, religion. Indeed, this principle was widely regarded as the most fundamental of American core values, what Gunnar Myrdal called "The American Creed." Then, in what historically was the blink of an eye at the end of the 1960s, most liberals abandoned that principle and adopted "race-conscious" remedies as necessary to achieve racial equality. Again, many now former liberals were unable to make that change and either were ex-communicated from the church of liberalism or converted to a form of conservatism on their own. (IMPORTANT NOTE: I am making no argument here about the propriety of any of these transformations; I am merely noting that they occurred. How and why this one occurred, along with a discussion of its pros and cons, is the subject of an, er, longer work in progress.)

3. From John Stuart Mill on one of the central commitments of liberalism was to free speech. Insofar as American liberals have had a religion, one of its central tenets had always been the sanctity of the First Amendment's free speech protections. In the late 20th Century, however, much of mainstream liberalism turned away from that formerly firm conviction. Feminists favored laws against pornography. Civil rights advocates favored punishment of hate speech. Campaign finance law reformers even favored limitations on political speech, and leading liberal academics (Owen Fiss at Yale, Cass Sunstein at Chicago) began to argue that the speech of some should be limited so that the speech of others could be enhanced. And once again, many who had thought of themselves as liberal were not able to negotiate this transition and began to feel uncomfortable in their now not-so-familiar political surroundings. More conservatives were created.

It's interesting to note that all three of these conservative-creating transformations involved liberals moving to regulate an area that had formerly been regarded as off limits to government regulation: private property, race (using racial preferences to accomplish "diversity" is, among other things, the regulation of the race/ethnicity "market"), speech. None required "seduction." All involved newly minted conservatives getting off a train that, in their view, went around the bend and changed destinations.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

States Rights, or Not - Recently liberals cheered when a Florida judge held that a school voucher program violated the state constitution. Perhaps freedom-loving state and local officials around the country could still maintain that wall of separation and the evil Supremes would not succeed after all in establishing religion by naked judicial fiat.

But they jeered when a Pennsylvania judge temporarily enjoined an abortion. According to ABC News's THE NOTE, "[t]hat decision momentarily raised the worst fears of abortion rights advocates" -- local judges blocking federal constitutional rights.

Eugene Volokh has a typically thoughtful post on the issue of incongruent state and federal constitutional rights, but for most combatants in the culture wars states rights does not seem to be a matter of principle so much as which states, and which rights, are involved.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

POP! (Piling On the Post - I apologize for piling on, but even after InstaPundit and Volokh there is still something to say about yesterday's unusually dumb editorial in which the Washington Post took aim at Ashcroft but wound up shooting itself in the foot.

The Post blamed Ashcroft personally for propounding a view -- that the Second Amendment protects an individual, not a state, right -- that is in fact so widely shared among even liberal law professors that it has come to be known as the "Standard Model." But never mind. There's nothing new or noteworthy about using the Attorney General as a convenient villain and vilifying him over this or that. What was striking about the edit is that the Post could not comprehend Ashcroft's willingness to enforce a law he opposes.

Mr. Ashcroft has insisted that he will defend this country's gun laws, even as he has contended that the Second Amendment to the Constitution creates an individual right to own a gun -- subject only to reasonable regulation to keep guns from criminals

The Justice Department has, so far, gotten around this problem by playing legal games. The D.C. Court of Appeals, it has argued in several cases, has held that there is no individual right to own a gun. And while the attorney general may disagree with this holding, it is binding law in Washington; hence, gun prosecutions here may proceed. But it is hard to see why the government should be locking people up for conduct it has plainly said -- before the U.S. Supreme Court, no less -- is constitutionally protected.

Our point is simply that the government cannot both embrace an individual rights view of the Second Amendment and prosecute people for wielding guns.

The Post's editors (there are editors there, aren't there?) seem to have forgotten that Ashcroft's willingness to enforce laws with which he disagrees was at the very heart of the battle over his confirmation as Attorney General. Democrats feared he wouldn't, and all but 8 of them voted against him. He swore that he would. And now that he has -- and not for the first time (defending racial preferences in Adarand also comes to mind) -- the Post can only regard his behavior as "playing legal games."

Given the editors' obviously short memories, it would have been helpful for them to consult their own paper's back issues. If they had done so they would have found the following description of the opening of nominee Ashcroft's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee:

"I understand that being attorney general means enforcing laws as they are written, not enforcing my own personal preference," the former senator said in his opening statement to colleagues on the committee where he served until a few weeks ago. "It means advancing the national interest, not advocating my personal interest."

"When I swear to uphold the law," Ashcroft declared later, raising his right hand, "I will keep my oath, so help me God. . . ."

". . . I well understand that the role of the attorney general is to enforce the law as it is, not as I would have it. . . . I will follow the law in this area [abortion] and in all other areas."

Imagine that. Someone in Washington actually doing what he said he would do. You might have thought the Post would find that newsworthy.

Sunday, August 04, 2002

News from Winston Salem - Tony Hooker sends word of two interesting stories from Winston Salem. In one, there was a poignant class reunion of what would have been the Class of 1972 of Atkins High School. "Would have been," because Atkins, a black high school, was closed abruptly two weeks before school opened in 1971 as part of Winston Salem's integration plan, and what would have been the Atkins senior class was distributed to other schools across the city. You don't have to lament the passing of segregation to see that integration, or at least the transition to integration, especially when done poorly and with little apparent regard for the people treated as integratees, also had some costs.

The other article discusses a police shooting that did not lead to a racial conflict, at least in part because both the police officer and his 14 year old victim were black. The shooting appears to have been accidental, but, the columnist observes, "seeing beyond race is always a tricky matter."

Weaver [the officer involved in the shooting] is also named in a lawsuit filed against the city last June by a white former officer, Charlotte Disher, who alleges that the police department holds white officers to a higher standard in cases alleging excessive use of force. She was fired after she used pepper spray to defend herself, her lawsuit says. Weaver was Disher's boss.

Weaver is on administrative leave. "Basically," said a local County Commissioner, "it's hard to believe a black officer would have deliberately shot a youth."

Does this imply that it's easier for him to believe a white officer would have? I don't know.

A Smear By Any Other Name Is ... - You may or may not be able to tell a person's race from his or her speech (see "You Talkin' To Me?" two posts below), but you can certainly tell the profession ... if it's politics.

Responding to the Senate Ethics (?) Committee's severe admonishment of Sen. Robert Torricelli, Atlantic County (N.J.) Democratic chairman Chuck Chiarello said the Democrats would just have to work harder. To defend Torricelli, or remind voters that at least he's on their side, etc.? No, according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, to dig up dirt on Douglas Forrester, his Republican opponent.

And Chiarello suggested that Democrats would continue digging into Forrester's business practices: "Everybody has some baggage, so there's a lot of counter-integrity work that's going to happen over the next couple of months."

Uncle T[h]om[as]? - The Washington Post Magazine has a fascinating if disturbing article about the continuing bitter rejection of Justice Clarence Thomas in the black community.

The entire article is well worth reading, but I found the following vignettes the most revealing:

"I hope his wife feeds him lots of eggs and butter and he dies early, like many black men do, of heart disease," Julianne Malveaux, the liberal commentator, once cracked on a talk show.

Emerge, a since-departed African American-oriented newsmagazine, twice parodied Thomas on its cover--once wearing an Aunt Jemima-style headscarf and another time as a lawn jockey. The editions were among the magazine's bestsellers. For the past six years, Ebony magazine has not listed Thomas among its 100 most influential African Americans.

Having Thomas debate affirmative action would be no different from "inviting Hitler to come speak on the rights of Jews," said Eric Ferrer, one of the Hawaii [ACLU's] three black board members. The ACLU initially decided not to invite Thomas but later reversed itself. Ferrer and another black board member resigned.

This spring, five black law professors boycotted his visit to the University of North Carolina. Though the professors had not protested visits by Justices Scalia and Sandra Day O'Connor in preceding years, they noted that Thomas was more than just a jurist with whom they disagreed. In a nation "in which African Americans are disproportionately poor, undereducated, imprisoned and politically compromised," the professors wrote in explaining their position, "identity--racial identity--very clearly matters...."

How ironic that the most vocal advocates of "diversity" are the most determined to stamp out any traces of actual diversity inside the black community. On second thought, this is not so ironic after all, for the very theory of "diversity" requires individual members of minority groups to be fungible.

Saturday, August 03, 2002

You Talkin' to Me? - The July/August issue of Legal Affairs, the new magazine from the Yale Law School, has an interesting article on "linguistic profiling," the ability to identify speakers' race by their speech and thus to engage in long distance (or at least out of sight) discrimination. The theory will be tested in an upcoming housing discrimination case in San Francisco that, according to the author, "offers a potential breakthrough in discrimination law."

Since the article indicates that listeners are able to identify black "dialect" when it is street language rather than "professional English" spoken by a black, it would be interesting to see whether landlords discriminate more against callers they identify as black than against, say, hillbillies or rednecks. Could an accused landlord offer in defense the excuse that "I run a high class joint and won't rent to ungrammatical riff raff of whatever pigmentary persuasion"? But wait, that might exclude editors at the New York Times! (See my comment on them here).

Y'all come, y'heah!

Friday, August 02, 2002

Whither the Democrats, or Maybe Whether... - In discussing the close Michigan Democratic primary race between old bull John Dingell and spring chicken Lynn Rivers, senior Washington Post political correspondent David Broder writes:

It has become not just a personal rivalry of genders and generations but also a test of strength between two forces competing for control of the national Democratic Party. Dingell represents the traditional blue-collar, union-oriented, largely male-dominated and culturally conservative coalition forged in his father's New Deal era. Rivers is backed by the academic, cause-oriented, environmental, anti-gun, abortion rights and largely female groups that have come to play a dominant role in the party.

Insofar as Broder is right, and being a Democrat means indentifying with one of these two camps, there must be many wannabe Democrats looking for other alternatives.

Disparate Impact, Redux & (With Luck) Finis - I think Garrett Moritz has written the last chapter, at least for now, of our ongoing discussion of disparate impact.

I would like to thank him, again, for his generous comments, and urge you take a look at his post. Although I might not have summarized the nub of our differences the same way he has, his summary is both fair and succinct. These are difficult issues; reasonable people can disagree; and I would like to think there is enough substance in our backs and forths on the subject to assist others in clarifying their own thoughts on the matter.

Raines of Error - The New York Times has come under withering criticism from the blogosphere of late, usually for some variation on abandoning its old gray lady image of objectivity in favor of arguing itself blue (as in the Gore counties on the famous 2000 electoral map) in the face on (and in) issue after issue. Recent examples of the criticism can be found on InstaPundit ("Why, exactly, does the New York Times feel obliged to distort its reporting...."), Kausfiles ("Stop Me Before I Bash the NYT Again"), and Andrew Sullivan (most days).

Now there's another problem. Perhaps this new turn toward advocacy journalism in the news pages has gotten the editors all discombobulated, but, whatever the reason, they seem to have lost their ability to produce agreement ... between subjects and verbs.

In an editorial today in which most people will notice only the criticism of Hillary Clinton (for favoring "loopholes" in the new campaign finance reform law), the following sentence appear (no sic; I'm using the NYT's new grammar):

At issue are a set of regulations that delineate the law's ban on raising, directing or receiving unlimited funds from corporations, unions and rich donors for state parties.

At issue are a set of regulations? At issue also, it would appear, are whether the editors' grammar book have gone missing.