Fourth of July!
Sorry for the late Warm-Up: I had to root the Red Sox to victory in an 11 AM game, and will soon celebrate Independence Day by seeing “Jurassic World II”…
1. Ethics Dunce: Siri. A speech by British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson in the House of Commons yesterday was interrupted when Apple’s smartphone digital assistant, which heard her master mention terrorists in Syria, blurted out, “I found something on the web for Syria!”
2. Good. Let it never be said that the Trump administration didn’t accomplish anything positive. Yesterday the Administration withdrew several Obama Administration policy documents designed to push universities toward admissions policies that involved preferences based on race. Affirmative action, which is government sanctioned race discrimination (because the ends justify the means) has always defied the Constitution, and the Supreme Court has consistently warned that the leash was short, and the breach would not be tolerated forever. With higher education flagship Harvard University being exposed as grossly discrimination against deserving Asian-American applicants in the interest of “diversity,” and an affirmative action-tender majority on the Supreme Court looking like a thing of the past with Justice Kennedy’s retirement, this relic of the Seventies, a policy that exacerbated racial divisions as much as any factor in U.S. society, needs to be rejected completely and finally, and the announcement from the Education Department is an excellent start. In a related statement, as in the earlier withdrawal of the “Dear Colleague letter” that extorted universities into dispensing with due process and a presumption of innocence in student sexual assault cases, Attorney General Jeff Sessions pointedly rejected this method of abusing power that the Obama Administration fine tuned to an art, saying,
“The American people deserve to have their voices heard and a government that is accountable to them. When issuing regulations, federal agencies must abide by constitutional principles and follow the rules set forth by Congress and the President. In previous administrations, however, agencies often tried to impose new rules on the American people without any public notice or comment period, simply by sending a letter or posting a guidance document on a website. That’s wrong, and it’s not good government.”
The affirmative action establishment reacted predictably, with Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, saying in a statement,
“We condemn the Department of Education’s politically motivated attack on affirmative action and deliberate attempt to discourage colleges and universities from pursuing racial diversity at our nation’s colleges and universities. The rescission of this guidance does not overrule forty years of precedent that affirms the constitutionality of a university’s limited use of race in college admissions. This most recent decision by the Department of Education is wholly consistent with the administration’s unwavering hostility towards diversity in our schools.”
When caught in argument they cannot win on the merits, supporters of the unsupportable inevitably use deceitful word games, which is lying. Nobody objects to diversity, as long as it can be achieved without discriminating against citizens based on group characteristics that should not be held against individuals. What those who embrace fairness and merit-based admission object to is racial discrimination. “Politically-motivated” is more deflection: who cares what motivates a position that is right on the law and by basic American constitutional principles? No student should be disqualified for admission to a school he or she would otherwise qualify for because of that student’s race.
As for the “40 years of precedent,” the original theory behind affirmative action was that it was a time-limited policy in response to a special and unique problem, and that eventually it would end. However, the policy, as recent studies have shown, has not succeeded in measurably improving African-American progress as promised, and has increased racial resentment while attaching a stigma to blacks who labor under the suspicion that their degrees do not reflect their abilities or scholarly merit.
I have a lot of experience with affirmative action. I practiced it, as a member of the administration at Georgetown University Law Center. I saw it up close, as Roy Scheider says about the killer shark in “Jaws II,” and it was not pretty. I saw a borderline female applicant, the daughter of a wealthy law school alum, get herself pushed into a less competitive pool after I told her she was foolish not to mention that her mother was half Japanese. Presto! She was a minority applicant, and furthered the cause of “diversity,” which she would not have if I hadn’t told her that her hesitance to use an advantage that was just sitting there was foolish. I also saw African American applicants who had been accepted via affirmative action to elite colleges arrive at Georgetown Law Center barely able to write a coherent sentence or comprehend a court opinion. They increased diversity, all right.
Affirmative action was a well-intentioned, perhaps temporarily justifiable policy that ultimately failed, and the Obama Administration’s efforts to bolster it were unethical and divisive.
3. When will they ever learn? A hybrid #MeToo-Jerry Sandusky-US Women’s Gymnastic team-style scandal is emerging in Ohio involving powerful Republican Rep. Jim Jordan. Jordan, 54, was a two-time NCAA wrestling champion who became an Ohio State assistant wrestling coach from 1986 to 1994. During that period, the team’s physician, Dr. Richard Strauss, allegedly sexually molested the wrestlers. Former Ohio State wrestler Mike DiSabato was one of the first to report Strauss’ alleged misconduct to Ohio State, and he maintains that Jordan knew about the abuse but did not intervene.
Jordan denies it, saying, “I had not heard about any type of abuse at all,” and claims that had he known, he would have acted. “He knew, did know, and it’s very disappointing that he has now denied knowledge, not once, but twice,” says DiSabato, who claims he was victimized by the doctor, now deceased. “I’ve never known Jim Jordan to be a coward, frankly, but this shows that his own interest in seeking higher office is more important than the health, safety and well-being of his friends and athletes who competed for him and with him.”
As in the Larry Nassar scandal still engulfing Michigan State and the U.S. Olympic Committee, as with Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and others, and as with the Penn State debacle, those close to the abuser usually know, but keep quiet out of fear, self-preservation, or contrived ignorance. The problem is that Jordan’s response now if he did know is likely to be exactly the same as if he did not.
If you knew, Congressman, recent history shows that the best course—which also happens to be the most ethical one– would be to immediately admit that you knew, confess that you were wrong, point out that you were young and frightened, and express regret and contrition.
Unfortunately, it is too late for that now.
4. Impress your friends! Everyone knows that that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams held on to breathe their last breaths on the same Fourth of July, in 1826. A third President died on the Fourth, and he knew both Adams and Tom: James Monroe. That’s right: three of the first five Presidents of the young republic died on this date, and a fourth, James Madison, just missed, dying less than a week before the 4th in 1836.
But do you know which President was born on the Fourth of July, just like George M. Coahn’s Yankee Doodle Dandy?
It was Calvin Coolidge, born on July 4, 1872, in the tiny hamlet of Plymouth Notch, Vermont. (And happy birthday Presidential daughter Malia Obama!)