Sunday, June 29 2003
TED KENNEDY'S AMNESIA: Ted Kennedy either has a very bad memory or he's partially deluded. Exhibit A is an excerpt from his op-ed in today's Washington Post:

"Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork, and the Senate, after carefully considering and debating his qualifications, defeated him."

Lest anyone forget, the following intemperate remarks were delivered on the floor of the United States Senate in October 1987 by Kennedy himself:

"Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would have to sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police would break down citizen's doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy."

I guess in Kennedy's blindly partisan mind this is what passes for "careful consideration and debate" of a nominee's record.

FLOODING THE SCOTUS ZONE: More predictable criticism of conservative court members across the op-ed pages this morning.

Maureen Dowd, fresh from her shameful racial slap-down of Clarence Thomas last week, makes an equally pathetic effort taking on Anthony Scalia in today's column:

[Scalia's] so Old School, he's Old Testament, misty over the era when military institutes did not have to accept women, when elite schools did not have to make special efforts with blacks, when a gay couple in their own bedroom could be clapped in irons, when women were packed off to Our Lady of Perpetual Abstinence Home for Unwed Mothers.

He relishes eternal principles, like helping a son of the establishment dispense with the messiness of a presidential vote count. (His wife met him at the door after Bush v. Gore with a chilled martini.)

He's an American archetype, or Archie type. Full of blustery rants against modernity and nostalgia for "the way Glenn Miller played, songs that made the hit parade . . . girls were girls and men were men." Antonin Scalia is Archie Bunker in a high-backed chair. Like Archie, Nino is the last one to realize that his intolerance is risibly out-of-date.

If you prefer a more grown-up, intelligent critique of Scalia minus the vacuous pop-culture references, you can find it in David Broder's column today.

Over in Newsday, Les Payne isn't satisfied with just deriding Clarence Thomas as a "fool", he goes the full nine bigoted yards, calling both Justice Thomas and Colin Powell ungrateful affirmative action babies:

This disease of Thomas' is all too common, especially among blacks reared in the apartheid South. In Thomas' case, he got into Yale Law School on the waxen wings of affirmative action. As he ascended, these wings melted and with them went the secret of his flight. Denial, however, is a pencil with a weak eraser. So the crossed-up Thomas lives with the knowledge that he has benefited personally from the selfsame affirmative action he is so dead-set on wiping from the face of the republic.

This quest of Thomas' is also all too uncommon. Colin Powell benefited immensely from affirmative action. Yet according to Clifford Alexander, the secretary of the U.S. Army who fast-tracked him, the minted general did nothing to advance affirmative actions in the military.

Blacks are excluded both as an individual and as a member of their group. When they achieve, however, some, like Thomas, sever the group umbilical.

Payne's analysis is so condescending toward African-Americans it's staggering. By calling affirmative action "the secret" of Thomas's "flight" Payne is implicitly stating that Thomas simply couldn't have gotten to where is without the "waxen wings" of affirmative action. Indeed, by this logic no African-American, regardless of how talented or hardworking they might be, can achieve in America without the help of affirmative action. This is patently untrue and it's an affront to every African-American in the country who has achieved any level of success.

Last but not least, those who are interested can find some effusive praise for Sandra Day O'Connor here and here. - T. Bevan 9:34 am

Friday, June 27 2003
STROM & THE NY TIMES: Former Senator Strom Thurmond passed away last night at the age of 100, leaving behind a monumental political legacy as the longest serving member of the Senate (48 years). Obviously, Thurmond's segregationist past is well documented, as is the fact that he renounced those views decades ago.

I looked at close to a hundred headlines this morning written about the Thurmond story in papers across the country. Every single headline either made no mention of Thurmond's segregationist past or accurately described Thurmond in the head or subhead as a "former" or "ex" segregationist. Every paper except one, that is:

Strom Thurmond, Foe of Integration, Dies at 100 - Adam Clymer, NY Times

Just how misleading is this? The purposeful omission of the word "former" or "ex" in the headline imparts to readers of the "Paper of Record" that Thurmond was actively against racial integration up until the day he died.

I'm no huge fan of Strom Thurmond, but to me the bias here is stunning. Can you imagine the NY Times giving the same misleading treatment to a Democrat:

"Robert Byrd, KKK Member, Dies at ...."

But, you say, Thurmond's opposition to integration was a defining component of his public career. Fine. I'm not saying the NY Times should whitewash Thurmond's record on the issue, only that they accurately represent it in the headline.

Still, I'm fairly confident the editors at The Times wouldn't approve such an obviously derogatory headline for just anybody, even if it did describe a defining component of their public career:

"Bill Clinton, 2nd President Impeached in History of United States, Dies at..."

This simply wouldn't happen. Not at The Times, not at the NY Post, and not on Fox News. It wouldn't happen because it's biased and inappropriate as part of a headline, and any self-respecting news organization would know that. - T. Bevan 8:34 am

Thursday, June 26 2003
O'CONNOR'S MESS: On Tuesday Mike Kinsley took Sandra Day O'Connor to task for her muddled logic in Gratz v. Bollinger. Today Richard Cohen finishes the job, eviscerating O'Connor's opinion and deriding her attempt to reconcile racial discrimination with the Fourteenth Amendment:

To rationalize the irrational, O'Connor declared what amounts to a racial emergency. She has to do that to get around the Constitution's equal protection clause, which provides that no state shall "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." O'Connor takes the clause very seriously. She cites a previous Supreme Court decision (Adarand Constructors v. Peņa) that says, "Government may treat people differently because of their race only for the most compelling reasons." Fortunately for her, she has found one: minority underrepresentation.

In one form or another, O'Connor uses the term repeatedly. But she never defines it. Like pornography, she knows it when she sees it. Underrepresentation would not be, say, 14.5 percent of the law school class -- the actual figure of minority students enrolled -- but it would be, say, 4 percent of the class, the predicated percentage if there were no affirmative action program. That calamity enables her to suspend the Constitution.

Cohen continues on a roll:

Jews make up less than 2 percent of the population. Should they make up 2 percent of the law school class or, by frightening extension, 2 percent of op-ed page columnists? What about Asians, those inscrutable overachievers? In fact, what is meant by underrepresentation in the first place? Blacks make up about 12.5 percent of the population. Nationwide, they account for 12 percent of undergraduates and 9 percent of graduate students. This is hardly a racial emergency.

Indeed.

Cohen's devastating critique calls to mind these two stories (Part I, Part II) that appeared recently in the Chicago Tribune. The articles favorably recount the history of "Project 500," an emergency affirmative action program put in place at the University of Illinois just after Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination.

"Project 500" was the first of its kind. In the summer of 1968 recruiters from the University of Illinois scoured poor black neighborhoods in Chicago and other parts of the country, enrolling 500 new African American students for the coming academic year.

This "crash" affirmative action program tripled the number of African-Americans attending the University in a single year, raising black representation from 1% (223 students out of a total enrollment of 22,017) to 3%.

From 1971 through 1986, African-American representation at the U of I averaged around 4%. During the years 1987-1989, African-American enrollment at the school nearly doubled. But from 1990 through 2002, African-American student representation at the University of Illinois has been remarkably ("conspicuously" is a better word )constant at 7%, fluctuating less than .5% in twelve years.

Which leads me back to O'Connor's logic. Thirty-five years ago, a much more credible argument could be made for radical, extra-Constitutional measures like "Project 500" to address racial disparities in our society.

Today, however, admissions officers set phony and arbitrary numbers - in violation of the 14th Amendment - not as much to address disparities in education but to propagate the tenets of multiculturalism and the value of "diversity." At the University of Illinois, they've obviously set the arbitrary bar at 7%. But proponents of racial discrimination/affirmative action would like to see that number (and the number of all other racial/ethnic minorities) exactly match the representation of African-American in the overall population (12.5%).

This isn't to say disparities don't exist in education, income, opportunities and the like. But there are many other ways of addressing these issues that don't violate the supreme and sacred law of the land. Reforming the public education system would be a good place to start, like giving kids and parents choices and control over their education from the very start. If we spent some time fixing the root of the problem, affirmative action in college admissions wouldn't be an issue - and we wouldn't have to endure the tortured logic of Sandra Day O'Connor.

EMAILS: We get some really smart, insightful emails every day from people around the country. We try to respond to everyone, but it's extraordinarily difficult to keep up. So to anyone out there who's sent us an email and haven't heard back, please accept our apologies and know that we did take time to read what you wrote.

To give you an idea of what I mean, I've taken the liberty of posting a few examples here. I'll be updating the page periodically with reader comments regarding the blog so feel free to get things off your chest by sending me an email. - T. Bevan 8:41 am

Wednesday, June 25 2003
FUND DRIVE: For those who are interested, we've posted a brief wrap up of our first ever fund drive. Thanks again to all who contributed.

JAW DROPPERS: Not much time for blogging this morning, but I did come across some incredibly over the top language in a couple of columns that I thought I'd bring to your attention:

"Actually, it is not a bad thing in the abstract for O'Connor to proclaim we can kill affirmative action 25 years from now. The only thing that can bring her words to life is an assault on white bonus points just as deadly as the one just concluded on black and brown bonus points. Anything less will ensure that our system of racial caste will endure." - Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe

A caste system Derrick? It's some kind of caste system where the most respected man (Colin Powell), the most revered athlete (Michael Jordan), and the one of the most fabulously wealthy women (Oprah Winfrey) in the country are all African-Americans. Black wealth and entrepreneurship in America are at an all time high and expanding at an unprecedented rate, yet Derrick looks at the country and sees only oppression and racism.

Here's another:

"But in this political climate of racial amnesia compounded by hostility to progressive and enlightened views of race, the court's split decision in the University of Michigan cases may be a greater victory than it appears with the law school, and not as great a defeat as it seems at the undergraduate level." - Michael Eric Dyson, Philadelphia Inquirer

I'm interested to know just how Professor Dyson can rationalize describing racial discrimination as enshrined by affirmative action as a "progressive and enlightened view of race." Surely he wouldn't describe other examples of discriminatory public policy, such as Jim Crow, in such a way.

But the grand prize, of course, goes to the inimitable Maureen Dowd, whose effort this morning to psychoanalyze and demonize Clarence Thomas serve only to expose her own mentally debilitating case of elitist, liberal white guilt. It's inconceivable to Dowd that Thomas (or any other African-American or minority, for that matter) could honestly believe that racial quotas are discriminatory, divisive, and ultimately deleterious to minority communities.

It's a circular logic with no escape: every minority in the country has benefited in some way during their lives from affirmative action therefore they can never, ever voice opposition to the policy without being branded a sellout and hypocrite. - T. Bevan 8:36 am

Tuesday, June 24 2003
THE DEAN JUGGERNAUT: Is this the peak for Howard Dean, or just the beginning of a Dean juggernaut?

Yesterday, Dean garnered a full plate of media attention with his official announcement for President. This comes on the heels of his wobbly turn on Meet the Press on Sunday, which even the New York Times called "something of a debacle." At this point in the game, however, any press is good press and I don't suspect it will dampen enthusiasm for Dean among the base.

And don't forget, today MoveOn.org starts its Internet primary which is all but assured to be a victory for Dean. If Dean can top 50% in the online primary, MoveOn's PAC will endorse his candidacy and help him raise millions of dollars and recruit volunteers around the country for his campaign.

Now for the bad news. A new Research 2000 poll out this morning shows Dean trailing Kerry by 9 points in New Hampshire. This poll shows no movement from the last poll taken in NH (Kerry +10) and confirms Dean continues to lose ground against Kerry in New Hampshire (Kerry +5 points in April, +7 points in May) despite all of the media attention he's been receiving.

And contrary to all the press reports of Dean being a darling in Iowa, the latest poll still has him way off the pace. So far, the only thing Dr. Dean has done is win a straw poll in Wisconsin with 300 people participating.

So here's the question: if the primaries were held today, would a third place finish in Iowa and a second place finish in New Hampshire provide enough fuel to propel Dean's candidacy forward? Probably not. Dean's going to have to do better if he wants to emerge as a force to be reckoned with rather than just a lingering nuisance to the front-runners.

THE DECISION: I'll let the lawyers over at Powerline and Volokh chew over the details of the Supreme Court's decision yesterday.

From my perspective, it's disappointing our society has to continue to endure racial discrimination as a legally sanctioned component of public policy for the foreseeable future. However, I do think there's an underlying tone in the decision that can be seen as another baby step toward a colorblind meritocracy.

Those who cling to the idea of singling out different races, classes, sexes, religions, etc. and assigning them different values in the name of engineering a properly calibrated level of "diversity" may be rejoicing today, but I suspect they probably understand the days of such policies are numbered. - T. Bevan 7:52 am

Monday, June 23 2003
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: Yesterday here in Chicago 7 of the 9 Democrat Presidential hopefuls took the stage at Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition meeting before a mostly African-American audience of about 1,200 people.

With the Supreme Court possibly set to rule as early as today on the University of Michigan case, affirmative action was a central topic of discussion. Candidates obliged the crowd by taking shots at President Bush that ranged from the absurd:

"This administration's idea of diversity is to have a whole bunch of oil executives from different companies running this country" - John Kerry

to the truly scary:

"When I'm president, we'll have executive orders to overcome any wrong thing the Supreme Court does tomorrow or any other day" - Richard Gephardt

Think about the breathtaking arrogance of this statement. The same people who think Bush and Ashcroft spend every day cleaning their jackboots with the Constitution jump up and applaud Gephardt for his "strong commitment to diversity." Go figure.

SCOTUS SPECULATION: Two interesting articles on the upcoming battle over Supreme Court nominations:

Jan Crawford Greenburg from The Chicago Tribune reports there are whispers the first retirement on the Court could be Justice Stevens. As the most liberal member of the Court, Stevens' retirement would create a "death cage match" if Bush tried to replace him with a conservative.

Meanwhile, the LA Times has a front page story detailing conservative opposition to the possible nomination of Al Gonzales to the Court. Objections are based upon Gonzales' record on the Texas Supreme Court where he voted against requiring parental consent for abortion. Gary Bauer offers the operative quote:

"I think any conservative would be deeply concerned by a Gonzales nomination, particularly if he were to replace the chief justice."

Put the two pieces together and you get the following possible outcomes: Stevens retires and Bush nominates Gonzales, liberals go berserk and conservatives line up behind the President. Rehnquist or O'Connor retire and Bush nominates Gonzales, conservatives oppose the nomination (though not unanimously) and liberals........do what exactly? Support Gonzales as the first Latino to the court and a relative moderate? Don't count on it, but it would certainly make for the most interesting nomination battle.

STATE BUDGETS: USA Today's article today exploring the cause for individual state budget crises around the country is a must read. In a nutshell, however, the conclusion is pretty darn simple:

The financial problems racking many state governments this year have less to do with the weak national economy than with the ability of governors and legislators to manage money wisely.

The National Governors Association says states are suffering their worst economic crisis since World War II. But for many states, the analysis shows, the fault is largely their own.

This may actually come as news to some people, especially those who've bought into the convenient story line pushed by the national media, governors currently presiding over cash-strapped states, and the crop of Dem presidential candidates that budget crunches around the country are solely the fault of the Bush administration.

As we've argued before, the cash shortages aren't the result of some devious plan by President Bush to shred the "social safety net", they are the logical consequence of states gobbling up the windfall of tax revenues created by the economic prosperity of the 90's and spending like drunken sailors.

Outside of California, there is hardly a better example of fiscal mismanagement than here in Illinois. Massive spending increases on public works projects, education, etc. (under a Republican governor, no less) expanded to consume bulging state treasury receipts during the 90's but now don't have enough money left to support them. - T. Bevan 8:25 am

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