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August 15, 2003

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION....Does convicted FBI spy Robert P. Hanssen remind you of anyone? Here's the conclusion of an internal investigation:

The report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine also found that Hanssen, who compromised some of the United States' most vital intelligence and military secrets, repeatedly advanced on the career ladder despite weak performance, poor management skills and awkward relations with colleagues. One supervisor called him the "strangest person" he had ever encountered at the FBI.

Those white boys can get away with just about anything at the FBI, can't they?

Think that's an unfair shot? Here's what Mickey Kaus said about Jayson Blair last May:

Why isn't the basic Jayson Blair story obvious from the NYT's lengthy account--namely, an underperforming and unready reporter was promoted in January, 2001, over the objections of one of the editors who knew him best, because of his skin color.

Will Mickey read the Justice Department's lengthy account and come to the "obvious" conclusion: that Hanssen survived despite "weak performance [and] poor management skills" due to his skin color? After all, if this so patently obvious when it's a black guy, why isn't it equally obvious when it's a white guy?

Make no mistake: affirmative action for whites exists just as surely as it does for blacks. It's not formalized into special programs — it doesn't have to be — but it exists nonetheless. And it allows low-performing mediocrities to get promoted over and over and over.

In the case of black affirmative action, the most recent result was some badly reported stories in the New York Times. In the case of white affirmative action the result was hundreds of our country's secrets being sold to the highest bidder and the deaths of three American spies.

Which one do you think is worse?

Posted by Kevin Drum at August 15, 2003 09:30 AM | TrackBack


Comments

The argument that opponents of affirmative action will make is that Hanssen's race did not enter into the decisions to retain and promote him. Hanssen was tolerated despite being white; Blair was tolerated because he was black.

Posted by: Brian S. at August 15, 2003 09:35 AM | PERMALINK

Now now, Kevin, you know that government bureaucrats are in a world of their own when it comes to the kind of crap they get away with. I'm sure Mr. Hanssen's race had little to do with it ;-)

Posted by: Matthew at August 15, 2003 09:39 AM | PERMALINK

That's a good comparison. And the Hanssen story is even more strange than the clip you posted makes it look. The person he most reminds me of is Benedict Arnold. He got ticked off at the people in charge and turned traitor too.

Posted by: casadelogo at August 15, 2003 09:39 AM | PERMALINK

The problem I have with your analogy is you are assuming "affirmative action" means "promoting less qualified people because of their race." I would argue that affirmative action properly means "recognizing that due to existing racism, qualified people of color are not recognized as such, so formal methods must be applied to insure equal opportunity." With or without affirmative action, somebody like Jayson Blair could have done what he did; the Blair episode simply is not an indictment affirmative action, period.

Posted by: Luis at August 15, 2003 09:43 AM | PERMALINK

Can it be binary, either right or wrong?

IMO, both are equally wrong, however the consequences of the one are much worse than the other. The position one held meant that being wrong caused much more severe consequences in terms of lives than the other.

Affirmative action is a very precarious method in which to right wrongs. It is particularly interesting, and heartening to me, that Kevin sees each of these as being forms of affirmative action. The majority of us white folk don't get deep enough into our own psyches to realize that the preferential treatment of whites is equally injurious as that they label affirmative action.

We, or at least I think many of us, have a blind spot when it comes to the preferential treatments we receive, simply because we are white. The first time I can remember being aware of my blind spot was in a movie, years ago. It starred Sidney Poitier and a white woman whose name I cannot remember right now. (Was the movie "The Sundowner"?) At one point, she says "I'm free, white, and 21", implying that she could do as she pleased. It was obvious that though he was had 2 out of three, it was the third that made the difference.

I've never forgotten that, though to my dimunition, I have not always lived as if I remember.

Posted by: JMP at August 15, 2003 09:56 AM | PERMALINK

FBI only trusts conservative white guys with crew-cuts. They assume anybody fitting this description must be a "good american."

On a different affirmative action note: Do both you supporters and opponents of AfAction know that most universities below ivy league standards are now doing Af Action for men to maintaing gender balance?

I think its a good thing to maintain gender balance just as I think its a good thing to maintain racial diversity. But its definitely a different sort of Af action then we are used to.

Posted by: CalDem at August 15, 2003 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

Luis: I agree. I was just using the analogy to make the point that being white can help you get promoted just as much being black. The only difference is that most people don't realize (or won't admit) what's going on when it's a white guy.

That's what annoyed me so much about the Blair episode. It's not that his skin color wasn't relevent, it was the fact that so many people *immediately* assumed that affirmative action was at fault. Conversely, in a case like Hanssen, it's the last thing they think of.

But either it matters or it doesn't, and we ought to be willing to at least consider the same causes in both cases.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at August 15, 2003 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Nice.

Posted by: Balasubramania's Mania at August 15, 2003 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Regardless of all this, you provide no proof whatsoever that Hanson's poor performance was overlooked or "tolerated" because he's white.

The fact that a completely inept FBI employee was kept on and promoted is news enough without the incredibly bad comparison.

It might also have more merit as a comparison if the head of the FBI, i guess it was Freeh at the time, used to run around patting himself on the back for all he's done to hire and promote fat, white agents, a la Howell Raines.

Posted by: greg at August 15, 2003 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

There's one important distinction that needs to be made here. The FBI is a government agency and the NY Times is a public company. Unfortunately, in most government agencies you can move up the ladder by simply staying there long enough. I've worked in both the public and private sector and while there are slackers in both there are more slackers working for the government, because you just can't get rid of people. The NY Times on the other hand is a public company where they usually want the best man/woman for the job.

You'll never get rid of office politics, but there is certainly no reason to forcibly require companies to practice discrimination against others, which is exactly what Affirmative Action is all about.

There is a reason why Asian people rise above bad schools and poor pockets to get into good schools and high paying jobs. It's not because they are smarter either. It's because as a culture they place a higher value on education than everyone else. Of course, those same Asians who work so hard to get out of bad situations are ultimately hurt more than any other group by affirmative action.

--Indie

Posted by: Indie Pundit at August 15, 2003 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, wrong answer. Hanssen got away with it not because of his race, but because just about anybody in the FBI bureaucracy could have, regardless of their skin color. Hell, a black guy probably could have gotten away with worse if he'd wanted to, given how the FBI hungers to "diversify" their image.

In the case of Blair, the leadership of the New York Times pressured people to have high-profile minority reporters, and Blair was the result.

Nice try at the analogy, but you fail by not recognizing the important institutional differences, Kev.

Posted by: K at August 15, 2003 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Another factor in Hannson's favor was the fact that he was a conservative Catholic (to the point of being an Opus Dei goofball) just like the director, Louis Freeh. Every good 'merican knows that a good religious boy can't be a traitor.

Posted by: fastback at August 15, 2003 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

I dunno if it is 'affimative action', but I know in private business promotion to the executive ranks if frequently given to those of a specific culture. It is not skin color, but rather a certain lifestyle.

I saw one determined guy make it to executive this way: he was not particularly bright, nor charismatic, but he really, really wanted executive, so he lived and breathed the company. He was at work incessantly, he wore the same clothes as the execs, he recruited his wife to host social gatherings with execs, and he took every opportunity to look and behave like one of them.

Last I heard he was in New York, with a nanny, and sending his kids to the right private school.

I really think there is a cultural difference between the middle and high class, and there is a barrier that must be overcome to break into the upper crust.

Posted by: Tripp at August 15, 2003 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Immediate assumptions or not, it has now been shown now that race played a large part in Jayson Blair's promotions. I know of no evidence that race played a part in Hanssen's promotions.

But this case does illustrate the annoying fact that bureaucracies tend to promote you if you remain present for long periods of time. The Blair case illustrated that affirmative action can get you promoted in a short period of time.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at August 15, 2003 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't expect to hear back from Mickey "the Hackster" on this one.

Too many dead french people to gloat over.

Posted by: MKHack at August 15, 2003 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Well, Indie, my anecdotal experience has been exactly the opposite of yours. I worked for a private industry where there were slackers and plenty of folks got ahead because they were better golfers than workers, there was lots of redundancy, and no accountability, whereas in my public sector experience, everyone works incredibly hard and has much more accountability because of FOIA. They also make much less money than my private sector counterparts.

My experience is the only valid one I know of, so I have to assume that public sector workers are more efficient than private sector workers.

Or, you know, maybe our anecdotal experiences are just that, and have no bearing on which workers are more efficient or better.

Posted by: Maureen at August 15, 2003 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Is it just me or are minorities and women highly underrepresented in the treason business. It is always the middle class white guy who sells us out for a quick buck. Clearly the FBI and CIA need a more aggresive affirmative action progam so that all americans can have an equal oppurtunity to stab their country in the back while pocketing a nice profit.

Posted by: Kevin G at August 15, 2003 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

The first time I can remember being aware of my blind spot was in a movie, years ago. It starred Sidney Poitier and a white woman whose name I cannot remember right now. (Was the movie "The Sundowner"?) At one point, she says "I'm free, white, and 21", implying that she could do as she pleased.

You can't be thinking of "The Sundowners," which was about Australian sheep-herders (Poitier wasn't in it). I don't recognize the quote, but are you maybe thinking of A Patch of Blue, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, maybe A Raisin in the Sun? Probably not the last one, I think the cast was all (or almost all) black.

Posted by: Haggai at August 15, 2003 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

I hate to say it, but this is a very, very weak post. Pointing to unrelated management failures in other organizations in no way repudiates the charge that affirmative action f-ed the New York Times. There is no parallel here. It's logically fallacious.

For example...let's say I took a baseball bat and knocked down your favorite cherry tree in your front yard. My blow directly caused the tree to fall, so you deduce that I'm responsible for the destruction of your tree.

A month later a strong wind comes along and blows down the neighbor's tree. My lawyer comes to you and says 'See? Trees fall all the time'.

Would that be a defense?

If the neighbor's tree were felled by a drunk driver, would it be a defense?

Bad people get promoted all the time, for many different reasons. In the case of Jayson Blair it seems clear to me that he was promoted due to philosophies held by his managers that were at the very least inspired by the institution of 'affirmative action'. When I say this I am not implying that all poorly decided promotions are caused by affirmative action...just this one. So if you were to prove that not all poorly decided promotions are caused by affirmative action it would indicate nothing about the validity of my assertion.

Posted by: theperegrine at August 15, 2003 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
The analogy is false because Hanssen was surrounded by equally qualified white people. Why weren't they promoted? Bigotry against whites?

If you can demonstrate that Hanssen differed in some way from his colleagues (besides just being stranger than them), then you will have a case. Or maybe strange people are in fact a recognized minority group at the FBI, and Hanssen's promotion was affirmative action in favor of that group. But it certainly wasn't racism.

Posted by: Registered Independent Joel at August 15, 2003 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't really say either situation was affirmative action, just a person whop is sly personally but professionally lazy backslapping their way up the career ladder.

Posted by: Lavoisier1794 at August 15, 2003 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

And the invitation to subjectively compare the two instances is also a red herring. Even if one case is worse than the other, that doesn't invalidate arguments that the lesser evil should be redressed.

Currently embezzlers do less time than bank robbers, which implies that our society finds bank robbing to be the more egregious crime. Okay...but does that in and of itself mean that law enforcement officers should cease pursuing embezzlers until all bank robbers are captured and/or neutralized?

Nope nope nope.

In my list of priorities I'd be more concerned with reforming managerial policy at the FBI than at the New York Times, but if it's possible to reform both why shouldn't we?

Posted by: theperegrine at August 15, 2003 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

I have a problem with the use of the term "affirmative action" in this case. For one thing, it was not "affirmative." Assuming there was racial preference going on, it had to have been of the subconscious, pernicious type. It certainly was not the result of a deliberate decision to make sure enough white guys were included in the FBI ranks.

Second, I don't like the idea that "affirmative action" as a phrase means "unfair racial discrimination." Affirmative action has its problems sometimes, but in many cases it is an appropriate remedy. (And, by the way, affirmative action can mean simple things like public posting of job opportunities instead of just using personal contacts, as well as quotas or altered performance standards.) I don't think those of us who support affirmative action should use the term to include garden variety racial discrimination. It undermines the cause.

Posted by: denise at August 15, 2003 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, this is territory where Mickey dare not tread.

After all, what if people started asking why an underperforming hack "journalist" or whatever the hell you call him, obtained his job at Slate.

Posted by: MKhack at August 15, 2003 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Indie Pundit: Affirmative action in college admissions does not hurt Asians more than other groups. Schools typically boost some sort of admissions score for "under-represented" groups, which gives them an advantage over applicants near the margin. This probably hurts whites and Asians about equally. If you want to buy into some sort of Asian superiority, then it might hurt Asians less than whites.

Posted by: Some Asian Guy at August 15, 2003 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Some Asian Guy,

I meant to say that is hurts Asian's more than any other minority group.

Maureen,

There is a reason why government jobs pay less than the private sector. That reason is that the jobs are cushier with less chance of being terminated. This leads to more laziness and goofing off. Clearly this can happen in the private sector, especially when employees unionize, but not to the extent that it happens in the government.

I think it's great that you work hard, and I know there are lots of hard workers in the government. Unfortunately, a lot of quality people left the government in the 90's to pursue more profitable jobs, and because the government was offering early retirement to anyone that would take it. Unfortunately, all the good people took the early retirement and left the government to double dip with a private job, and all the poor employees stayed. We effectively reduced the size of government, but left many agencies like the CIA inadequately staffed to handle the challenges of today.

--Indie

Posted by: Indie Pundit at August 15, 2003 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Indie:

BS.

Government workers are no different from commercial, private workers. Due to may factors, workers have in the past had to be protected from arbitrary changes in administrations, and it is admittedly more difficult to discharge a government worker. But it is not impossible, and a supervisor whio isn't too lazy to do his job can effectively manage and eliminate poor workers.

I have 20+ years of military experience, 18 years of commercial experience, and for the past 8 years have been working as a consultant with state employees. I can tell you that this group of dedicated workers are among the best, most dedicated, effective workers I have seen anywhere. The state is fortunate to have them.

One of the phrases you hear is "close enough for government work". I can tell you that if most civilian companies worked to the tolerances of these state employees, there would be great gnashing of teeth. I hate that phrase!

Sorry for the intemperate post.

Posted by: JMP at August 15, 2003 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

So a government agency overlooks a longtime employee's incompetence and suddenly this is analogous to Jayson Blair at the NYT? Hello? Government bureaucracy makes this thing frighteningly plausible - regardless of skin color. But you are ignoring Howell Raines' own admission that his Southern upbringing made him more acutely aware of racial disparities and it tarnished his judgment on a black reporter that seemed promising. Race WAS a factor, maybe not large but seemingly decisive. Do some research.

Posted by: Greg at August 15, 2003 01:05 PM | PERMALINK

I find the comparisons of public vs private employees rather amusing. Public employees have more job security, more benefits, but less pay as a rule. Doesn't seem like a bad trade off, but the insinuation is that they are inferior. I guess the guy flipping burgers at minimum wage and no benefits can take comfort that he's at least better off than in the public sector.

For over 20 years we keep hearing the mantra from the conservatives that "Public bad, Private good.". Why aren't they complaining about the incompetency of that very large group of federal employees, the military?

And the thing I find funniest is that the people who complain the most about public employees tend to be some academics, columnists, pundits and politicians whose funding comes directly or indirectly from the Public.

Last thing, if the private sector employees are so good, why for example, farm subsidies? Shouldn't these proud private conservative types spurn this tainted money as unnecessary?

Posted by: Raptor at August 15, 2003 01:19 PM | PERMALINK

“But you are ignoring Howell Raines' own admission that his Southern upbringing made him more acutely aware of racial disparities and it tarnished his judgment on a black reporter that seemed promising.”

Hmm. I don’t remember conservatives giving much credence to anything Raines said or had a hand in before he was fired. But suddenly, on this one issue, there literally is nobody more honest and forthright than Howell Raines. Raines now speaks the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Funny how that happens.

Posted by: Todd at August 15, 2003 01:33 PM | PERMALINK

Todd, Raines is perfectly competent to report his own subjective thoughts. Whether or not he is competent to report anything else is another question entirely.

Kevin, the key reason why race is not a factor that leaps to mind in the case of Hanssen is that he was not subject to racial affirmative action. If you don't want race to be a factor that leaps to mind in the case of black people, I suggest that you oppose affirmative action, which is the very program which makes it easy to suspect the achievements of minorities.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at August 15, 2003 01:40 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, that's just inane. The case at the FBI is a different social phenomenon. In the government system incompetence always seems to float, regardless of race. I'm sure from the outside looking at it conscious of of your objectivity it could appear to be racial preference, when in fact it is simply incompetence on a grand scale--the bureaucratic one.

Posted by: spoon at August 15, 2003 02:04 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't folks used to call this the Peter Principle?

Posted by: Mark at August 15, 2003 02:08 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian H:

If you don't want race to be a factor that leaps to mind in the case of black people, I suggest that you oppose affirmative action, which is the very program which makes it easy to suspect the achievements of minorities.

On the contrary, if you don't want race to be a factor that leaps to mind, then you should support affirmative action, since in its absence black people would be even more underrepresented in significant positions in our society than they are now.

I don't see how you can seriously argue that people would be less race-conscious, rather than more race-conscious, if our society were even more socioeconomically segregated by race than it is today.

Posted by: Don P at August 15, 2003 02:22 PM | PERMALINK

Robert Hannsen is to Jayson Blair what Julius Rosenberg was to P.T. Barnum

Kevin, this was
not one of your better ( and usually well) reasoned posts. Quite a stretch to say the least.

Posted by: mark safranski at August 15, 2003 02:43 PM | PERMALINK

Fortunately I don't make any such argument Don. My argument is as follows. If you have a plan (affirmative action) specifically designed to promote people with lesser qualifications based on their race it isn't surprising that when an incompetent person of that same race is revealed, the question arises regarding the role affirmative action played in their promotion.

You are confusing the AIM of affirmative action with the PRACTICE of affirmative action. The AIM is fine. The PRACTICE is odious. It is especially horrible because all the amazingly good workers who share the race of affirmative action beneficiaries end up being subjected an unfair cloud of suspicion.

Posted by: Sebastian holsclaw at August 15, 2003 02:45 PM | PERMALINK

Courageous post, Kevin. Thank

Posted by: jw mason at August 15, 2003 02:45 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian H:

Fortunately I don't make any such argument Don.

You just did. You claimed that affirmative action, which acts to increase racial diversity in education and employment, makes people more race-conscious than they would be in a society that had no affirmative action and was thus more racially segregated.

My argument is as follows. If you have a plan (affirmative action) specifically designed to promote people with lesser qualifications based on their race it isn't surprising that when an incompetent person of that same race is revealed, the question arises regarding the role affirmative action played in their promotion.

No, that's not the argument of yours I was addressing. The argument of yours I was addressing was the one I quoted; namely "If you don't want race to be a factor that leaps to mind in the case of black people, I suggest that you oppose affirmative action." That argument is wrong for the reasons I just explained.

You are confusing the AIM of affirmative action with the PRACTICE of affirmative action.

No, I'm talking about the RESULTS in our society with affirmative action (i.e., more racial diversity, less racial segregation) versus the RESULTS in our society without affirmative action (i.e., less racial diversity, more racial segregation). You are claiming that people will be less conscious of race if society is more racially segregated, and I'm saying that's nonsense.

The PRACTICE is odious.

Why is it "odious?"

It is especially horrible because all the amazingly good workers who share the race of affirmative action beneficiaries end up being subjected an unfair cloud of suspicion.

They don't seem to think they are. You also don't seem to think they are if their names are, say, Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice. Your manufactured "concern" for this alleged "cloud of suspicion" only ever seems to appear in the context of arguing against affirmative action. Moreover, you don't seem to feel the slightest concern about the "cloud of suspicion" regarding racial minorities that results from a society in which they are massively underrepresented in higher socioeconomic positions and massively overrepresented in lower ones, which further suggests that concern over the way racial minorities are perceived in our society has nothing to do with your motives for opposing affirmative action.

Posted by: Don P at August 15, 2003 03:10 PM | PERMALINK

Don P., of course I don't worry about Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice. They are actually quite good at what they do, though I suspect many liberals don't agree with me on the issue of Rice. You can speculate about my motives all you want, but your argumentation is awfully weak.

I will give you credit where it is due. You are a master of juxtaposing two unrelated thoughts and pretending that they are joined.

You quote me twice in immediate sucession and set up the quotes as if they are in opposition. They are the same argument. The first quote is merely a longer version of the second. It is as if I said in one quote "A+B=C" and in the other quote "A=XY, XY+B=C". They are the same thing, but you seem to find brilliance in saying: "AHA! I am not responding to XY+B=C I am responding to A=XY".

Then there is the statement:"...than they would be in a society that had no affirmative action and was thus more racially segregated." Your 'thus' is most inappropriate. A lack of affirmative action does not cause racial segregation. Furthermore you are arguing as if the segregation itself were the problem. If anything segregation is a single symptom of the multi-faceted problem of racism. If you choose to treat the single symptom while making the underlying problem worse, you are doing no great service.

I love how you play the typical extremist card of attacking my motives and emotions. You talk of my 'manufactured concern' and allude to mysterious motives about opposing affirmative action. Give me a break, I have a long history of actual words you could attack. You aren't my therapist. You don't have to go on long speculations about why I think things when my actual thoughts are right there in front of you.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at August 15, 2003 04:07 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian H:

Don P., of course I don't worry about Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice.

But they're both beneficiaries of affirmative action; in Powell's case, extensive affirmative action. So why aren't you worrying about this alleged "cloud of suspicion" that you claim hangs over the heads of black people as a result of affirmative action? Why aren't you worrying that Powell and Rice don't really "deserve" their jobs, and would not have those jobs if it were not for their skin color? It's amazing how your "suspicions" conveniently disappear in cases where they imply something negative about people you support politically.

Then there is the statement:"...than they would be in a society that had no affirmative action and was thus more racially segregated." Your 'thus' is most inappropriate. A lack of affirmative action does not cause racial segregation.

That's debatable, but I didn't say it did, anyway. I said that there is more racial segregation without affirmative action than there is with affirmative action. If you dispute this, then you are denying that affirmative action causes candidates to be selected or rejected because of their race, which is the very basis on which you claim to oppose it in the first place. If you agree that affirmative action works to reduce racial segregation, then we're back to your original nonsensical claim that this result is likely to increase rather than reduce race-consciousness in our society. It stands to reason that a racially integrated society will be less self-conscious about race than a racially segregated one.

Furthermore you are arguing as if the segregation itself were the problem.

Of course it's the problem. Our society is massively segregated along economic, educational, and other socioeconomic lines by race. Unless you are a racial separatist, unless you reject the idea that race shouldn't matter to socioeconomic status, that's a problem.

If anything segregation is a single symptom of the multi-faceted problem of racism. If you choose to treat the single symptom while making the underlying problem worse, you are doing no great service.

AA helps to remedy both the result (or what you call "symptom") of racism--racial discrimination and inequality--and also racism itself. It brings people of different races together in educational and work environments and thus helps to increase understanding and tolerance. It provides role models for children to aspire to. It reduces resentment amoung racial minorities by mitigating the effects of 300 years of systematic racial oppression. You ignore all these positive effects, and claim instead that AA increases racism. Substantiate that claim.

Posted by: Don P at August 15, 2003 04:37 PM | PERMALINK

I ignore all the positive effects? Your positive effects are no more concrete than my negative effects.

The negative effect I am talking about is directly evidenced in Kevin's comment above: "That's what annoyed me so much about the Blair episode. It's not that his skin color wasn't relevent, it was the fact that so many people *immediately* assumed that affirmative action was at fault." Kevin sees the very problem that I'm talking about.

Don't pretend that the effect doesn't occur just because you don't like it.

Your Rice and Powell thing just doesn't make sense. I do not cast a cloud of suspicion on all black achievers. I merely note that many people do. I am not a racist either, but I am well aware that many people are. What in the world is your point?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at August 15, 2003 04:50 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian H:

I ignore all the positive effects?

Yes.

Your positive effects are no more concrete than my negative effects.

Huh? Bringing people of different races together, who would otherwise never work or study together, isn’t a “concrete” effect? Reducing resentment amoung underrepresented racial minorities isn’t a “concrete” effect? Providing role models like Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice for African-American children to aspire to isn’t a “concrete” effect?

The negative effect I am talking about is directly evidenced in Kevin's comment above: "That's what annoyed me so much about the Blair episode. It's not that his skin color wasn't relevent, it was the fact that so many people *immediately* assumed that affirmative action was at fault." Kevin sees the very problem that I'm talking about.

The only people I see who immediately assumed that affirmative action was at fault are those who oppose affirmative action anyway and are just looking for an additional pretext to attack it. If the “suspicions” that you claim exist are such a problem, and negate the benefits of AA that I have described, why don’t racial minorities themselves oppose affirmative action? Are you suggesting that you are in a better position to determine what's best for black people and other racial minorities than they are themselves?

Your Rice and Powell thing just doesn't make sense. I do not cast a cloud of suspicion on all black achievers.

Not “all” of them? So which black achievers do you cast a cloud of suspicion on, and why aren’t Powell and Rice amoung them?

I merely note that many people do.

You haven’t shown that many people do, or that even if they do, the extent and magnitude of these “suspicions” is so great as to negate the measurable benefits of AA in increasing opportunities for underrepresented racial minorities, increasing the integration of different races in educational and employment situations, and providing important role models for racial minority children to emulate and aspire to, and to demonstrate to "suspicious" whites that racial minorities can do the job just as well as they can when they are given the opportunity to do so.

What in the world is your point?

I already told you. You only deploy your “suspicions” when they are convenient to your position; when they imply something negative about people you support politically—such as Powell and Rice—they mysteriously disappear. Why aren't you "suspicious" that Powell and Rice don't really deserve their jobs, and that they would not have those jobs if they weren't black? Why aren't you "suspicious" that Powell and Rice will not be effective in their jobs because of these "many people" who are "suspicious" about the means by which they got those jobs?

Posted by: Don P at August 15, 2003 05:25 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian, I still don’t understand why conservatives should believe that Raines was telling the truth in this single instance given his pattern and practice of evading responsibility in the run-up to his firing. But I’ll move one.

“Kevin, the key reason why race is not a factor that leaps to mind in the case of Hanssen is that he was not subject to racial affirmative action.”

I would think that the idea that a white American male born around 1947, like Hanssen, and who was likely hired by and promoted by white males born around 1930 or so, would receive treatment preferential to that afforded other American blacks and women isn’t completely unrealistic. Assuming Hanssen did receive such treatment then what exactly would you call it?

Posted by: Todd at August 15, 2003 06:20 PM | PERMALINK

Don P. you are obscuring things again. Since your only tactic is 'why, why, why' allow me to take a page out of your book.

"Bringing people of different races together, who would otherwise never work or study together, isn’t a “concrete” effect?" Different races wouldn't otherwise work or study together? Prove it.

Black people aren't capable of producing role models without white help? Prove it.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at August 15, 2003 06:49 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian H:

Don P. you are obscuring things again.

Tell me what is unclear to you about my arguments, and I'll try to clarify them for you.

"Bringing people of different races together, who would otherwise never work or study together, isn’t a “concrete” effect?" Different races wouldn't otherwise work or study together? Prove it.

I can't "prove" it. It's possible that a black person and a white person who meet at work or at college would have met in some other context if the black person had never gotten the job or the place at college. But in most cases, that's unlikely. Most of the people any of us know at work or at school are people we would not have met outside of those environments. So increasing the representation of underrepresented racial minorities in educational or employment settings is going to increase the racial diversity and integration of those environments.

Black people aren't capable of producing role models without white help?

I didn't say that. There would be many fewer black role models if it weren't for affirmative action, because affirmative action has substantially increased the proportion of black people in important social and economic roles in our society, roles in which they have traditionally been massively underrepresented.

Why aren't you "suspicious" that Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice don't really deserve their jobs, and that they would not have those jobs if they weren't black. Why aren't you "suspicious" that Powell and Rice will not be effective in their jobs because of these "many people" who, according to you, are "suspicious" about the means by which they got those jobs?

Posted by: Don P at August 15, 2003 07:11 PM | PERMALINK

For the third time at least, I'm not suspicious about Rice and Powell because I am not one of the people who automatically suspects accomplished black people of being the benificiaries of racial preferences. However there are quite a few such people. And I think that you are pretty much the only person who doesn't believe that these people exist, so I am not going to bother worrying about convincing you of well understood facts.

You don't ask me to 'prove' that there are different races, and frankly that would be more difficult than proving the above proposition.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at August 15, 2003 07:29 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian —

Lets take a look at one of your basic premises: If you have a plan (affirmative action) specifically designed to promote people with lesser qualifications based on their race ...

Lesser qualifications? Please correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I know, the majority of affirmative action programs (e.g., the recently upheld UMich evaluation system) consider race as a factor after qualifications have been assessed. It's not as if companies are rejecting Anglo MBAs in favor of African Americans recruited from the Port Authority bus station. So let's reassess your objections in this context.

As far as the private v. public issue: My experience (in both systems) has led me to believe that any structure above a certain size will somehow, entirely on its own, create deadwood, inefficiency, inertia — all the things we associate with turgid civil-service backwaters. The most flamboyantly incompetent, extravagantly wasteful employee I can imagine (e.g., when she changed apartments, rather than hiring a-man-with-a-van, she used the company car service ) operated quite sucessfully, through a sucession of bosses, for many years, in a private-sector corporation. No nepotism involved, just institutional inertia and a certain amount of personal charm. There's nothing about "the profit motive" that inoculates an organization from ridiculous inefficiency and general squanderage.

Posted by: jupiter at August 15, 2003 07:43 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian H:

For the third time at least, I'm not suspicious about Rice and Powell because I am not one of the people who automatically suspects accomplished black people of being the benificiaries of racial preferences.

There is no doubt that Powell and Rice have benefitted from AA. You're apparently unaware of this, but Colin Powell is a strong supporter of AA and has written extensively about the opportunities he received as a result of various kinds of affirmative action program during his education and career. So, I ask again, if you are "suspicious" of people who have benefitted from AA, why aren't you "suspicious" of Powell and Rice? Why don't you "suspect" that the reason they have their jobs is not their abilities and accomplishments, but their skin color? And if these "suspicions" are not justified in the case Powell and Rice, why are they justified in the case of other AA beneficiaries? You're only "suspicious" when it suits your political purposes.

And as for "suspicions" regarding the accomplishments of black people in general (rather than the accomplishments of blacks who are specifically known to have benefitted from AA, such as Powell and Rice), which you say you do not hold, if you agree that AA does not justify such suspicions, why aren't you trying to persuade the people who do unfairly hold these suspicions that they are wrong? If people are under a misapprehension, surely the correct response is to try to correct that misapprehension, not to eliminate a policy that has created substantial, tangible benefits in the lives of racial minorities simply because some ignorant white people don't understand it.

And I think that you are pretty much the only person who doesn't believe that these people exist,

I think there are some such people, but I don't think the "suspicions" you cite are significant compared to the benefits of AA. Again, if they were, if AA actually harms racial minorities by creating a "cloud of suspicion" about their accomplishments, we would expect them to oppose it. They don't. They strongly support it. We would also expect to find empirical support for your claim that racial minorities have been harmed by these AA-created "suspicions." But there is no such data. There's no support for your position at all.

Posted by: Don P at August 15, 2003 07:58 PM | PERMALINK

The whole issue of "qualification" is another one that Sebastian simply refuses to think about in any kind of sophisticated or nuanced way. He just equates "qualification" with mechanical methods of ranking people like standardized test scores. Candidate A is black and scores 75. Candidate B is white and scores 76. Therefore, according to Sebastian, favoring Candidate A over Candidate B is "racist" because Candidate B is "better qualified." But this is such a mindless, mechanical conception of what it means to be "qualified" or "better qualified." If qualification has to do with a comprehensive understanding of the quality of a candidate, test scores and similar metrics alone cannot possibly measure it.

Posted by: Don P at August 15, 2003 08:08 PM | PERMALINK

LOL! It's funny to see quota hawks making their tortured arguments against affirmative action.

So the Robert Hanssen case and the Jayson Blair case are different because one had to do with race (BECAUSE of the race, I presume?)

Bullshit. What if Robert Hanssen happened to be black? How many of you chuckleheads would be apologizing for the screwup by blaming "the bureaucracy"? Huh? Any takers?

Face it, race had EVERYTHING to do with both cases. You whiners jump over the Jayson Blair case because he was black and apparently had unfair promotions. You give Hanssen a pass on that regard because he was white. It can't get more monochromatic than that.

Posted by: ItAintEazy at August 15, 2003 08:54 PM | PERMALINK

Don P. Please read your quote of me in your 7:58 post. Focus on the second and third lines. Now look at your next paragraph. You ask why I don't 'suspect' Powell and Rice and then say "You're only "suspicious" when it suits your political purposes." Please explain to me how this paragraph makes sense when you quote me as saying that I don't suspect black people in that way. Sheesh, I know you don't read what I write carefully, but could you at least read what you write?

There is no polling data regarding these suspicions because you can't ask about them and expect to get a truthful answer. It would be like asking "Are you a racist who wants to put black people in slavery?" Even people who want to do that won't admit to it in a poll. Yet people's actions reveal this suspicion as Kevin and many other non-conservatives have pointed out on this very board. You have stated that you don't believe it is a big factor. Fine, your objection is noted and people can take it with all the weight that your objections are worth, I'm moving on from the topic now.

As for qualifications, the scenario you describe is absolutely not how affirmative action plays out in the real world. In the recent real-world Michigan case the school gave an applicant more points for being black (20 points) than they awarded for the difference between the absolute worst possible SAT score and the best possible SAT score (12 points). In fact, an outstanding essay plus the best possible SAT score plus the highest possible leadership and service score (5 points) still wasn't equal to the the number of points you could get for being black (20 points). Admission Policy

Your pretense that affirmative action is a slight tipping factor is completely wrong. You must have been relying on British intelligence sources for that one.

If you want to argue that it would be appropriate for race to be a very slight factor in such decisions, please feel free to do so. But do not pretend that affirmative action programs actually work that way now. The difference between the lowest and highest possible SAT scores is noticeable even on a cursory observation.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at August 15, 2003 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian H:

Don P. Please read your quote of me in your 7:58 post. Focus on the second and third lines. Now look at your next paragraph. You ask why I don't 'suspect' Powell and Rice and then say "You're only "suspicious" when it suits your political purposes." Please explain to me how this paragraph makes sense when you quote me as saying that I don't suspect black people in that way.

Um, what you said was: “I'm not suspicious about Rice and Powell because I am not one of the people who automatically suspects accomplished black people of being the benificiaries of racial preferences.” And what I told you in response is that there is no doubt that Powell and Rice benefited from AA. It doesn't matter whether or not you assume they are beneficiaries of AA. We know that they are beneficiaries of AA. It’s a matter of public record. So why aren’t you “suspicious” that they only have their jobs because of their skin color? This is about the fifth time I’ve asked you, and you have consistently evaded the question.

And in cases where you agree with me that "suspicions" about black people having unfairly benefited from AA are not justified, why are you arguing that the proper response to those baseless "suspicions" is to eliminate AA rather than correct the false assumptions of the ignorant white people who hold them?

There is no polling data regarding these suspicions because you can't ask about them and expect to get a truthful answer.

Then you have no basis for claiming that such “suspicions” negate the substantial, tangible benefits of affirmative action that I have described, or that these “suspicions” have any meaningful effect on black people at all. As I said, you’re just trawling for some argument against AA, and whether it’s actually true or empirically-supported is of no interest to you. With you, it’s all about ideology and politics.

Posted by: Don P at August 15, 2003 11:24 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian H:

As for qualifications, the scenario you describe is absolutely not how affirmative action plays out in the real world.

On the contrary, real-world lawsuits challenging AA programs have been based on cases that turned on relatively small differences in standardized test scores. The plaintiffs have argued that "higher test score" = "better qualified," which is exactly the simplistic conception of "qualification" that I just described.

In the recent real-world Michigan case the school gave an applicant more points for being black (20 points) than they awarded for the difference between the absolute worst possible SAT score and the best possible SAT score (12 points).

So what? How have you determined that the difference between best and worst possible SAT scores is more meaningful to a candidate's qualification for admission to the Michigan program than his race? It may be that the variation in SAT scores of those who actually apply never comes close to the maximum possible variation, but is always much narrower, or that experience has shown that SAT scores are not reliable predictors of future academic success, in which case it would be appropriate to give a relatively low weighting to a candidate's SAT score as compared with his other achievements or characteristics. It seems unlikely that you are in a better position than the University of Michigan to evaluate the qualifications of its candidates.

Your pretense that affirmative action is a slight tipping factor is completely wrong.

In some cases, it is a slight tipping factor. In others, it is a substantial tipping factor. The weight given to race would depend on the nature and circumstances of the particular policy.

But why does this matter to you, anyway? I thought you were strongly opposed to using race at all as a factor in making these decisions.

If you want to argue that it would be appropriate for race to be a very slight factor in such decisions, please feel free to do so.

I argue that race may be legitimately used as a slight factor, a moderate factor, or a large factor, depending on the circumstances of the particular policy. For example, in selecting between candidates for the job of community policing in south-central Los Angeles, I would probably give a substantial advantage to black applicants, because I think that being black would provide obvious advantages in such a position. If I were a college admissions officer for an elite university, I would probably also give a substantial advantage to black applicants, because of the disadvantaged status of black people in America, because of the importance of assembling a racially diverse student body, because of the importance of providing role models for potential future black applicants, and for other reasons.

Posted by: Don P at August 16, 2003 12:00 AM | PERMALINK

Don P.:

I argue that race may be legitimately used as a slight factor, a moderate factor, or a large factor, depending on the circumstances of the particular policy. For example, in selecting between candidates for the job of community policing in south-central Los Angeles, I would probably give a substantial advantage to black applicants, because I think that being black would provide obvious advantages in such a position.

This argument could easily be used to support racial profiling, too. Though, somehow, I get the feeling you'd be opposed to that.

Posted by: Mario at August 16, 2003 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

Don P., you write to me: "How have you determined that the difference between best and worst possible SAT scores is more meaningful to a candidate's qualification for admission to the Michigan program than his race?"

You are reduced to this. The nice thing about having a discussion with you is that I never have to resort to straw man arguments. You are often willing to state things far more ridiculous than I would put in the mouth of a straw man.

Such as: "It may be...that experience has shown that SAT scores are not reliable predictors of future academic success, in which case it would be appropriate to give a relatively low weighting to a candidate's SAT score as compared with his other achievements or characteristics."

By characteristics you mean race.

Since SAT scores are far more reliable than race in predicting academic success (I'll leave the google research to you) I think I will satisfy myself with having merely drawn attention to your argument.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at August 16, 2003 01:03 AM | PERMALINK

Re: Hanssen and Jayson Blair.

Guys, I think it is a little unfortunate that Kevin used the concept "white affirmative action" in regards to Hanssen, because it's clear that it wasn't a case of his higher-ups saying to themselves "Let's promote him because he's *white*."

Nevertheless, this comparison is still valid. Opponents of affirmative action often make the ridiculous arguement that hiring and promotion descisions have nothing to do with social affinities between employer and employee and are solely based on "merit". Hanssen was probably promoted, to a large degree, because he "fit in" with the institutional culture where he worked. He made his superiors and co-workers comfortable, because he seemed so similar to them, not just because he was white, but because he talked the same way they did, had the same cultural interests, etc. (none of this has anything to do with objective standards of merit) ...this is a kind of "affirmative action", and it is all-pervasive in our society.

In other countries, the differences that lead to hiring or promotion in a firm or agency are usually based on class markers: an unfashionable tie bespeaks an inability to "get with" the institutional culture. In America, however, where we all imagine ourselves to be "middle-class", race often serves as a proxy.

Posted by: kokblok at August 16, 2003 09:12 AM | PERMALINK

Sebastian H:

A contrived expression of incredulity is not an argument. I'm still waiting for you to explain why you are in a better position than the University of Michigan to evaluate the relative importance of SAT scores in its admissions process.

Since SAT scores are far more reliable than race in predicting academic success ...

Whether SAT scores are more reliable than race in predicting academic success is irrelevant to whether SAT scores should be weighted higher than race, since predicting academic success is not the only consideration that matters in evaluating candidates. The weighting the university gives to different characteristics depends on other factors in addition to how well those characteristics predict academic success. The point is that SAT scores alone may not be particularly reliable predictors of success, and for that reason may warrant a relatively low weighting in the admissions process. This is a point made by many critics of college admissions policies that rely heavily on SAT scores and other standardized test scores. What SAT scores measure is in large part a matter of a particular kind of education, an exposure to a particular vocabulary, to a certain way of formulating problems. In other words, the SAT test suffers from a cultural bias that tends to favor whites and disfavor blacks and other racial minorities. This is why wealthy parents have traditionally sent their kids to elite prep schools whose curricula are specifically designed to train them in the kind of skills needed to do well on SATs, to improve their chances of success when they apply to colleges that rely heavily on such measures in their admissions process.

As reported, for example, here:

"... studies show SAT scores are not a strong indicator of success in college or later in life.

"A study of University of Michigan Law School students over two decades found no relationship between the students' LSAT scores and their income as attorneys and found that those with the highest LSAT scores were least likely to enjoy their careers as lawyers,...

"Nationwide, she said, the LSAT is only 9% better than random in predicting law school grades, and yet law schools rely heavily on it in determining whom to admit, just like undergraduate schools rely on SAT scores."

Posted by: Don P at August 16, 2003 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Mario:

This argument could easily be used to support racial profiling, too.

I don't know why you think that. State your argument for racial profiling, if you support it.

Posted by: Don P at August 16, 2003 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

And by the way, Sebastian's claims about the University of Michigan admissions policy are apparently just cribbed from a speech President Bush made, and are designed to create a false impression about the nature of the process. You can find the complete policy here.

The observation that SAT scores contribute at most 12 points to a candidate's Selection Index is misleading because SAT scores are only a small part of the category by which a student accumulates points based on academic considerations. The complete category consists of the Academic (GPA, school factor, and curriculum factor) and Test Score (ACT or SAT ) components. While the Test Score category contributes at most 12 points, the Academic category contributes up to 98 points, for a total of 110 out of 150 possible points. This compares with a maximum of 20 points that a candidate may receive for being a member of an underrepresented racial group. In other words, academic considerations contribute over 5 times as many possible points to a candidate's Selection Index as race. Sebastian H has just cherry-picked the smallest component of the academic category in order to create the false impression that race is weighted more highly than academic factors in the Michigan admissions process. Sebastian H has a long history of engaging in this kind of false and misleading selective citation in order to try and support his ideology.

Posted by: Don P at August 16, 2003 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

My expression of incredulity at your willingness to say "How have you determined that the difference between best and worst possible SAT scores is more meaningful to a candidate's qualification for admission to the Michigan program than his race?" is anything but contrived. I know that being appalled isn't an argument. In this case it shows your inability to argue the issue.

Your inability to understand how your arugment supports racial profiling only furthers that view. Mario doesn't have to state his case for racial profiling. You have stated a case which supports racial profiling. If you don't like racial profiling it would be wise of you to distinguish the cases, because your current stated logic supports both affirmative action and racial profiling.

You seem to have difficulty with data. 9% better than random is actually a vast improvement. Also it is a nice trick that you glide from the predictive success of SAT to the statistic on the LSAT. You also elide away the fact that the SAT becomes a better and better indicator than grades alone as the score increases. Do you claim that knowing someone's race can do better? Careful or you will start sounding like a 'Bell Curve' advocate.

And race should be a MUCH better predictor, because in Michigan they were willing to say that you get 20 points toward admission for your race while the difference between the lowest and highest possible scores only spread across 12 points. The SAT might not be great at determining the difference between a 1400 and a 1410. It absolutely can discover the difference between an 800 and a 1400.

Oh and when people say the SAT is only 9% better than chance, what they really mean is that given the same grades in high school, the SAT only does 9% better than chance at predicting college success. So lets look at grades. The Michigan plan offered a neat 20 point difference between a C average and a B average. That means that Michigan treated race as important as an entire grade point in difference. That is ridiculous. Admission Policy Please not that I did not crib anything from any speech. I looked at the document which Michigan admited was the selection criterea and posted a link to it. I have moved beyond the psuedo-controversial SAT to the uncontroversial high school grades approach which now that I look at it, makes my case even stronger.

With the primary documents available to any who want to look, I submit to the reader's analysis of Don P.'s assertion that I have misrepresented the facts.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at August 16, 2003 01:08 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian H:

My expression of incredulity at your willingness to say "How have you determined that the difference between best and worst possible SAT scores is more meaningful to a candidate's qualification for admission to the Michigan program than his race?" is anything but contrived.

Of course it’s contrived. And for the reasons I just explained in my last two posts, your comparison between SAT scores and race are utterly irrelevant.

You seem to have difficulty with data. 9% better than random is actually a vast improvement.

No, 9% better than random is not a “vast improvement” it is a very modest improvement, and clearly demonstrates why schools do not and should not give standardized test scores the weighting you think they should. Test scores simply are not reliable predictors of academic success.

Also it is a nice trick that you glide from the predictive success of SAT to the statistic on the LSAT.

What “trick?” The point is that neither SAT scores nor LSAT scores nor other kinds of standardized test scores are reliable predictors of academic success.

And race should be a MUCH better predictor, because in Michigan they were willing to say that you get 20 points toward admission for your race while the difference between the lowest and highest possible scores only spread across 12 points.

Not only do you not know what you’re talking about, but you apparently do not even read my corrections of your false and misleading assertions. SAT scores are only one small component of the points awarded to a candidate for academic considerations. As I just explained to you, a candidate may receive up to 110 points for academic factors, more than 5 times as many as he may receive for being a member of an underrepresented racial group. And your second error, as I explained to you in an earlier post, is your unstated assumption that prediction of academic success is the only legitimate criteria for evaluating the weighting that should be given to a particular factor, so even if SAT scores are better predictors of academic success than race it does not follow that they should be weighted more highly.

Posted by: Don P at August 16, 2003 01:23 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian H:

Oh and when people say the SAT is only 9% better than chance, what they really mean is that given the same grades in high school, the SAT only does 9% better than chance at predicting college success. So lets look at grades. The Michigan plan offered a neat 20 point difference between a C average and a B average. That means that Michigan treated race as important as an entire grade point in difference. That is ridiculous.

Once again, you are being utterly dishonest by selectively citing only one academic factor from a total that is much larger. SAT scores are only one small part of the academic selection criteria. Academic considerations in total contribute up to 110 out of a possible 150 points. That’s five and a half times the weighting that a candidate may receive for being a member of an underrepresented racial group. And in fact, if you consider the outstanding essay and personal achievement categories to also reflect in part a candidate’s academic abilities, the difference is even greater. But because these facts contradict the false impression you wish to create that race is weighted more highly than academic achievement and ability, you simply ignore them.

Posted by: Don P at August 16, 2003 01:35 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian H:

Admission Policy Please not that I did not crib anything from any speech. I looked at the document which Michigan admited was the selection criterea and posted a link to it.

No, you did not. All you posted was a link to an image of a worksheet in which a candidate's scores in different categories are recorded and totalled. The document that describes the admissions policy and the nature of the criteria by which points are accumulated, is the one I linked to. As I have now explained to you three or four times, that document clearly shows that academic criteria contribute over 5 times as much to a candidate's Selection Index as his membership in an underrrepresented racial group.

Posted by: Don P at August 16, 2003 01:46 PM | PERMALINK

The documents are available in links above. The best known predictor of academic success is high school grades. The Michigan critera weight race as 20 points and the difference between a C and B average as 20 points. The total weight of grades + tests + personal aheivements compared to race is irrelevant because race is being treated as important as a whole grade level, which is ridiculous. The fact that you find this completely irrelevant shows that you are not willing to engage in the discussion. So I am done. The record reflects my position and yours. They can be judged accordingly. I am not going to continue 'arguing' with someone who cannot see that the difference between 4 years of C's and 4 years of B's should be more important to college admissions than race. Thanks for being the straw man that I didn't have to invent.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at August 16, 2003 02:21 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian H:

The documents are available in links above.

I repeat, your link labelled "Admission Policy" is not a link to the admission policy. It is a link to a single-page GIF image of a worksheet used to record the scores in each category. The only link to the admissions policy is the one I provided in my earlier post.

The Michigan critera weight race as 20 points and the difference between a C and B average as 20 points. The total weight of grades + tests + personal aheivements compared to race is irrelevant because race is being treated as important as a whole grade level, which is ridiculous.

You can repeat the word “ridiculous” as many times as you like and it still won’t make your claim any less nonsensical. The reason that a one-point GPA difference merits only 20 points is that many additional measures of academic ability also contribute to the points awarded in this category. You cannot meaningfully compare one small component of the academic category to the racial category, because there are many other components to the academic category that contribute to the total number of points awarded to a candidate for his academic ability and achievement. The academic category in total carries 110 out of 150 possible points. As the admissions policy itself notes, only 27% of the maximum possible points can be derived from non-academic categories, and only 13% of the points can be derived from the racial credit. And even that small figure overstates the contribution of that credit, because only 40 points in total are available from the Other Factors category that includes race. Thus, a minority candidate who receives the racial credit is limited to only another 20 possible points from all other parts of the Other Factors category. That limitation that does not apply to non-minority candidates who do not qualify for the racial credit, and who are therefore eligible for the full 40 possible points from those non-racial components of the Other Factors category, including broad non-racial measures of socioeconomic disadvantage.

Posted by: Don P at August 16, 2003 03:16 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian H:

You have stated a case which supports racial profiling.

No I haven't. Racial profiling involves a different set of considerations than affirmative action, and support for one does not imply support for the other.

If you support racial profiling, then state your argument for it.

Posted by: Don P at August 16, 2003 03:58 PM | PERMALINK

A long long time ago in another galaxie a very great man who himself was not without sin said he wanted his people to be judged by the content of thier character, not the color of thier skin. Not being without sin myself, and having experienced really bad character - worse than that of the murderers I have known - makes me believe that I can see that both of these people fooled the people they worked with precisely because they were deceptive, dishonest, and had an uncanny ability to make poeple want to believe in them. They come in all colors; they can lose you your job, your credibility, your money. Whatevver you have got - and regardless of your race too.

Posted by: lgude at August 17, 2003 08:03 AM | PERMALINK

Huh?

Posted by: Don P at August 17, 2003 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Don P--
Those who see standardized tests as a "neutral measure" of academic performance are very difficult to argue with, as Sebastian H makes abundantly clear.

Those who have such faith in the LSATs, however, should at least take a gander at the introductory chapter to my Princeton Review LSAT prep book (2001 edition), where it is stated that LSATs have almost nothing to do with success in law school, and that they are merely an easy way to save admissions departments money.

Even the testing industry itself realizes the emperor has no clothes...

Posted by: kokblok at August 17, 2003 03:03 PM | PERMALINK

Ok, kokblock, but does that hurt the argument that being black shouldn't be worth an entire 4 years of B's instead of an entire 4 years of C's? Surely you aren't suggesting that 4 years of academic performance is a poor indicator of academic performance?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at August 17, 2003 06:55 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the "Huh" Don. I was trying to evoke a bit of surprise and confusion. I made my reference to MLK and the importance of character oblique precisely because I thought the discussion based too exclusiely on race. I was saying to myself that I think this discussion is so obsessed with race that the participants have forgotten what MLK said about race and character. For me both Blair and Hanssen are way more about character than race. Because I have pesonally sufferred great damage from people of similar bad character I know from experience there are people in this world of all races who have the knack of blinding thier fellow humans to what they are really up to. Con artists. (It is also true I think that 'you can't cheat an honest man.' - these people exploit our weaknesses.) In my view if you have never been victimized by one you just can't believe how bad and clever people can be.

I actually think both sides of the argument on affirmative action are correct. I support affirmative action because without it nothing changes and I oppose prepetuating and institutionalizing it because it keeps the focus on race and disadvantaged status and can lose effectiveness over time. My larger point is that there is a danger of focusing on race to the point of excluding other basic human factors such as character and that MLK knew that and articulated getting beyond race as a fundamental social goal.

Posted by: lgude at August 17, 2003 08:10 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian H:

Ok, kokblock, but does that hurt the argument that being black shouldn't be worth an entire 4 years of B's instead of an entire 4 years of C's?

Being black isn't worth more than that. As I keep telling you, you're ignoring the fact that the candidate's academic performance is measured in multiple ways that each contribute points to his Selection Index. It's not measured only through GPA, although GPA contributes most of it: up to 80 points--four times as many as the racial credit. When GPA is combined with the other academic measures (school factor, curriculum factor and test scores), it contributes up to 110 points, almost three-quarters of the total.

Even your "entire 4 years" claim is factually incorrect, as you would know if you had bothered to actually read the policy you are criticizing. The UM-computed GPA is based on 10th and 11th grade courses, not "4 years."

Posted by: Don P at August 17, 2003 08:37 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Sebastian,
I'm glad to see you're back on your hobby horse. I'm not going to repeat the points that Don P raised, since I suspect you will not listen to me any more than you listened to him. It's clear that race is not weighted nearly as much as the other academic factors, taken in aggregate (which is the only way they can sensibly be taken, of course). The fact that you continue to harp on this one little "factoid" comforts me, actually, as it shows you have little else up your sleeve.

As far as your "provocative" question to me, I can answer without hesitation. No, I do not think that four years of C's as opposed to four years of B's is neccesarily a sign that the student with four years of C's will do worse upon reaching the next academic level.

Yet again, you completely ignore the social differences that affirmative action is designed to address. A student who gets all C's may indeed be less "intellegent" than a student who gets all B's, but OTOH the C student might be getting C's because he or she, living in a disadvantaged neighborhood and hanging out with kids that are likely not going to college, might have a harder time focusing on his or her studies than the son or daughter of a lawyer who attends a prep school and has all the myriad social support systems that, in a very real sense, *propel* the student to get at least a B in all classes.
When our unfortunate "C" student is, through the 'unfair' mechanism of affirmative action, brought to (say...) Harvard as an undergraduate, don't you think the new environment might have a positive effect on his or her studies? Just maybe?

Of course affirmative action is a cheap and somewhat unsatisfactory way of dealing with deeper inequalities in our society and in our lower-level schools. But, judging from your previous comments about public schools, it seems you're not really interested in addressing those inequalities, either...

Posted by: kokblok at August 17, 2003 08:51 PM | PERMALINK

Kokblok,

Wouldn't actually coming from a disadvantaged neighborhood with limited academic opportunities be a better indicator of coming from a disadvantaged neighborhood than race is? Academic background is every bit as easy to determine as race, if not easier. If that is the issue shouldn't we deal with it directly? If that is not the issue, why are you mentioning it?

BTW, nice cheap shot on lower level schools. I actually am on record with numerous specific suggestions on how to improve primary education. I haven't heard anything from you. Perhaps you would like to share your suggestions?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at August 17, 2003 09:41 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian H:

Wouldn't actually coming from a disadvantaged neighborhood with limited academic opportunities be a better indicator of coming from a disadvantaged neighborhood than race is?

No, not necessarily. Studies show that race confers a disadvantage independently of other socioeconomic factors. But the UM policy accommodates non-racial socioeconomic disadvantage, anyway. A candidate from a socioeconomically disadvantaged background receives an additional 20 points--the same as the racial credit. You would know this if you had bothered even to read your own link, which clearly shows the 20-point socioeconomic disadvantage credit under the "Other Factors" category.

Academic background is every bit as easy to determine as race, if not easier. If that is the issue shouldn't we deal with it directly?

Academic "background" is measured through the school and curriculum factors that are part of the Academic category. Again, read the policy you are criticizing. It is obvious from your questions that you don't understand it.

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To say that objective evaluation, as in standardized testing, is impossible, is implicitly a contradiction in terms; is that claim an objective evaluation of where we stand? Likewise, to say that there is no merit cannot be considered an argument with any merit to it. The anti-merit society has been established for some reason, and its racial preoccupation is not incidental to it. Officials and scholars have failed to set off the class war of their pro-dystopian dreams and power-seeking impulses; what remains for them is the chance for racial and ethnic warfare. If we want peace, what's needed is a pro-merit, pro-ability or all-merit society, in regard of all sorts of recruitment. Deviating for racial reasons from merit standards is not an anti-poverty program, but an ethnic and racial conflict mechanism. Those who are hoping to exploit these conflicts can say that it is anti-diversity, anti-minority or whatever they want to say it is; it is still very important to move rapidly away from the war that the anti-merit activists have been trying to push us into.

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IRAQ
A Strategy for Progress

The White House went into the war in Iraq with a plan for the war but no plan for the peace. As instability has exploded, the administration has been forced to rely on ad hoc, stopgap measures that, absent a long-term strategy, have resulted in confusion and upheaval. It is true: The choices are difficult. That's no excuse for not making them, though. The Center for American Progress is proposing a plan of action today in a report titled, "Iraq: A Strategy for Progress," which outlines clear, specific strategies for fulfilling U.S. commitments in Iraq by managing the political, security and economic aspects of Iraq's transition. There are five basic steps in American Progress's strategy for success:

STEP ONE – AN INTERNATIONAL SUMMIT: President Bush should immediately convene an emergency International Summit on Iraq to develop consensus on political, security and economic arrangements and to establish an Iraq Contact Group to assume an international oversight role until the elections scheduled for January 2005. Establishing an international consensus is crucial to winning the war. According to the Financial Times, "The Council's experience in containing conflicts, as well as a clear commitment - if it can give it - to helping Iraq become a genuinely free nation could offer real hope, foremost for Iraqis, the majority of whom appear convinced the US is there only to pursue its strategic ends."

STEP TWO – A U.N.-AUTHORIZED HIGH REPRESENTATIVE: The White House should seek a U.N. Security Council-authorized international High Representative for Iraq to work at the direction of the Contact Group. The Representative would "be charged with enforcing the transition from the proposed Iraqi caretaker government to an elected government, making a clean break from the U.S. pattern insisting on total control" and would help build credibility among the Iraqi people.

STEP THREE – INCREASE TROOP LEVELS TO MEET SECURITY CHALLENGE: The administration "should request that NATO assume command of the military stabilization operation...and increase the total coalition troop levels to adequately meet the security challenge." The total troop strength should be increased to "at least 200,000." The Pentagon announced yesterday it will maintain the current level of 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq through 2005. This is a step in the right direction.

STEP FOUR – A TRUST FUND FOR THE TRANSITION: There has been both controversy over who will oversee the revenue generated by Iraqi oil as well as a general lack of transparency concerning how the money has been used by the U.S.-controlled Development Fund. The administration should promote the creation of a new Iraq Transition and Reconstruction Fund to "build and sustain Iraqi capacity and develop a detailed proposal for an Oil Trust Fund." The fund would be financed and governed transparently "by a board of representatives comprised of Iraqi governmental and nongovernmental representatives" and used to rebuild the country.

STEP FIVE – FUND MILITARY OPERATIONS AND RECONSTRUCTION FROM THE REGULAR BUDGET: The military is planning to maintain presence in Iraq for years to come; there is little justification for relying only on emergency supplementals to pay for the expense. Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee "that the increased tempo of operations in Iraq and the extended deployment of 20,000 troops means there could be a $4 billion shortfall for this budget year, ending Sept. 30, slightly more than a month before the November elections." The White House has said it doesn't plan to ask for more money until next January, after the election: With the Congressional recess only months away, failure to authorize more money would automatically delay passage of the funds until September at the earliest "forcing our troops to deal with potential resource shortfalls through what is likely to be a hot summer marked by continuing attacks."

IRAQ
The Unread Report

The news is filled today with the ongoing allegations of abuse in Iraqi prisons. The NYT reports, "In the last 16 months, the Army has conducted more than 30 criminal investigations into misconduct by American captors in Iraq and Afghanistan, including 10 cases of suspicious death, 10 cases of abuse, and two deaths already determined to have been criminal homicides, the Army's vice chief of staff said Tuesday." The U.S.-appointed Human Rights Minister in Baghdad, Abdul-Basat al-Turki, said yesterday "he had resigned to protest abuses by American guards." He claims he is stepping down "not only because I believe that the use of violence is a violation of human rights but also because these methods in the prisons means that the violations are a common act." According to the Financial Times, "It has become commonplace for George W. Bush and Tony Blair to assert that the insurgents are enemies of democracy, but it is the US that most Iraqis see as anti-democratic. This is a disastrous image for a nation that waged a war promising freedom and democracy." This underscores one dramatic fact: the United States has lost credibility and needs to act to restore it immediately.

RESTORING CREDIBILITY: The new strategy put forward by American Progress calls for the U.S.-administered prison system to be opened up to international inspections as one step towards restoring lost credibility. A permanent committee to monitor prison conditions should be established and the new Iraqi Ministry of the Interior should keep a centralized database of all detainees in Iraqi prisons.

THE UNREAD REPORT: The NYT writes, "the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House had difficulty explaining why they had not acted earlier and more aggressively to deal with the abuse." One reason: No one wants to admit to having read the report. According to the LA Times, the White House has known about the investigation since December. The report was completed in February. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers called Dan Rather at CBS three weeks before the story ran and asked the network to hold it; this past Sunday, questioned on Face the Nation, Myers admitted he still hadn't read the report himself. Two days after Myers's admission, President Bush still hadn't read the report and his press secretary attempted to shield him, claiming the president "only become aware of the photographs and the Pentagon's main internal report about the incidents from news reports last week." And Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, commenting on the report for the first time yesterday, said while he'd seen a summary and recommendations from the investigation, he hadn't read the full report. The report is 53 pages. It is available online. What are they waiting for?

KEPT IN THE DARK: The NYT reports the State Department is frustrated that the Pentagon knew about the report weeks ago, knew about the abuse allegations, knew that it was about to become public, yet did not tell the State Department. U.S. lawmakers are also incensed at having been kept in the dark about the report. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said, "It's a neglect of the responsibilities that Secretary Rumsfeld and the civilian leaders of the Pentagon to keep the Congress informed." Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) said, "It's been a month since that report has been available. It should have been sent to this committee immediately." And Senator John W. Warner (R-VA) Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, "said the Pentagon should have informed Congress earlier. He said he would summon Mr. Rumsfeld to testify in a public hearing as soon as possible."

VOTING REFORM
History Doomed to Repeat Itself?

The nascent Election Assistance Commission (EAC) – created in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the 2000 election debacle – holds its first meeting on electronic voting today. Unfortunately, the commission is "so woefully underfunded it can't be expected to forestall widespread voting machine problems, which would cast doubt on the election's integrity." To date the Bush administration has provided only $1.2 million of the $10 million appropriated by Congress. The funding shortfall has "forced the EAC to abandon or delay much of its intended mission." For example, according to a report it released Friday, the commission "won't be able to develop a national system for testing voting machines." Moreover, most of the $3.9 billion in federal money designated to help states improve their voting systems for the 2004 election has yet to be distributed.

CALIFORNIA PULLS THE PLUG ON ELECTRONIC VOTING: In light of security and accuracy concerns, the California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley "withdrew his approval of electronic voting machines throughout the state." Ten of the 14 counties that were set to use electronic systems can now "reapply for certification if they meet 23 new security conditions." But four counties that were using equipment made by Diebold Elections systems "are banned from using their touch-screens in November." Shelley found "Diebold's persistent and aggressive marketing led to installation in a number of counties of touchscreen systems that were neither tested, qualified at the federal level, nor certified at the state level." Diebold is now under investigation for allegedly lying to Secretary of State officials.

DIEBOLD CEO COMMITTED TO DELIVERING OHIO FOR PRESIDENT: Now under investigation for fraud in California, Diebold CEO Walden O'Dell wrote in a fundraising letter for President Bush last August that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." O'Dell is a Pioneer for Bush's reelection campaign – which means he has already raised at least $100,000 on behalf of President Bush.

CA PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY PORTENDS PROBLEMS: The dramatic actions in California were prompted by significant problems in the state's March presidential primary. In San Diego County, machines manufactured by Diebold malfunctioned, "causing 55% of the counties polling places to stay open late and preventing an unknown number of voters from casting ballots." In Orange County, machines made by Hart InterCivic issued the wrong ballots to some voters causing them to "cast ballots in races in which they were ineligible and...[preventing them] from voting in races that affected them."

ELECTRONIC VOTING CREATES TROUBLE NATIONWIDE: The March 2 California presidential primary wasn't the only time that there have been problems with electronic voting systems. In a special election for a Florida state legislator in January "134 people who used the iVotronic touch-screen machines didn't have a vote recorded in an election won by 12 votes." In a 2003 election in Georgia, "touch-screen machines registered 'yes' when voters voted 'no'" – voters were advised by poll workers to cast the opposite of their intended vote. In the Maryland 2004 presidential primary, "an unknown number of votes were cast on touch-screen machines manufactured by Diebold Inc. that presented the wrong candidate when the font was magnified."

THE PROMISE OF A PAPER TRIAL: According to Johns Hopkins University computer scientist Aviel D. Rubin, the central problem with electronic voting is "there is no way for voters to verify that their votes were recorded correctly, there is no way to publicly count the votes, (and) in the case of a controversial election, meaningful recounts are impossible." Shelly promised in California "there will be a paper trial for every single vote cast." Fifteen states are considering legislation to require paper receipts for electronic voting. A paper receipt of each vote counted by an electronic voting machine would create a "tangible way to check their tallies."


MEDIA – CENSORING FAHRENHEIT 911: The NYT reports "The Walt Disney Company is blocking its Miramax division from distributing a new documentary by Michael Moore that harshly criticizes President Bush, executives at both Disney and Miramax said Tuesday." The film, "Fahrenheit 911," criticizes the president's actions both before and after 9/11, and explores Bush's well-documented links to prominent Saudis, including the family of Osama bin Laden. Disney executives give various reasons for the decision, including that it did not want to be "dragged into a highly charged partisan political battle," but Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, alleges Disney chief executive Michael Eisner "expressed particular concern that [Moore's film] would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor." In a statement on his website, Michael Moore says "For nearly a year, this struggle has been a lesson in just how difficult it is in this country to create a piece of art that might upset those in charge." He promises the film will be in theaters this summer.

HEALTH CARE – IT'S INEVITABLE: According to the LA Times, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, the Bush administration's top healthcare official, said yesterday "that passage of legislation allowing prescription drugs to be imported was inevitable, despite strong opposition from the White House and most congressional Republicans." His comment "reflected the growing public demand for cheaper prescription drugs — and the political momentum that has been building for months to make it legal to import drugs."

HEALTH CARE – NEW STUDY PRESENTS CHALLENGES: According to a new study in the journal Health Affairs, Americans should not be complacent about the quality of health care available. While the U.S. leads the world in some areas of care, in others, it trails behind other industrialized nations. For example, "breast cancer survival rates were higher in the United States than in Australia, Canada, England and New Zealand." "American women also were screened for cervical cancer at a higher rate than women in the other countries." The United States, however, "was the only country that registered a rise in deaths from asthma. The rate of infection from hepatitis B also was highest in the United States." The report was intended to spur debate about the state of the nation's health care: "Although health care experts are increasingly aware of gaps in the quality of care, the report notes that U.S. politicians frequently state, as President Bush did in his State of the Union address in January, 'Americans have the best medical care in the world.'"

ECONOMY – $6 BILLION LOOPHOLES: According to the WSJ, "The US system for taxing overseas profits of American companies is so riddled with loopholes and credits that the government would collect $6 billion more each year if it stopped trying to tax those profits altogether, according to a new estimate by congressional tax experts." The current U.S. system is so complex and allows so many breaks, credits, loopholes and deductions for American companies to exploit that it, in essence, gives American companies "more in tax breaks for foreign operations than it collects in revenues." "The fact that you get this result absolutely proves the system is broken," said economist Gary Hufbauer of the Institute for International Economics, a Washington think tank supported in part by corporations. "It's a mess."

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Question: One heart surgeon has a death rate of 85% and is black. The other heart surgeon has a death rate of 5% during operations. A commie liberal bureaucrat like Hillary Clinton chooses the surgeon for you. She chooses the black surgeon under the moronic logic of affirmative action. Do you agree and let the black surgeon split your sternum open, or do you let him wash your toilet?

Posted by: Tiger at June 30, 2004 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

"You people have got to see Fahrenheit 9/11!!! The editorializing is horrible, but some of the stuff is funny as hell!".

Mikkkael Moore has got his minions posting this exact same "independent opinion" all over the internet. I've run into it dozens of times in the last two weeks. What a hypocritical loser.

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The idea behind affirmative action is has lofty goals but they fail to live up to those goals. And they punish those others that by chance of birth were born the "wrong" race. The best way to ensure equality is to reform the education system. I for one believe in merit promotions. you do the best job you get promoted. However civil service and unions fight this at every level. I dont know if it is as wide spread as in years past, but nonproducers used to be promoted to get them out of the office.

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REPORT FROM THE FRONT – the Vietnam Veterans against Kerry demonstration at the DNC.

Wow! This was my first experience of Political Theater since the Vietnam War. There I was in the van holding one side of a huge “Hanoi Jane/Hanoi John” banner shouting HO HO, HO CHI KERRY followed by a couple hundred of my brother Vietnam Vets and their supporters, including my own wife and nine year old daughter Barbara Jeannette.

My wife later excitedly described the excitement she felt chanting along with the guys while carrying a VETERANS AGAINST KERY sign and the pride she felt as our little daughter did the same...

http://pep.typepad.com/public_enquiry_project/2004/07/report_from_the.html


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