Sunday, March 18, 2012

Racial Quota Fallout

Thomas Sowell

Many years ago, I learned of an episode in the life of a promising young black man that is relevant to things happening now. He had been educated at a good school, and went on to receive degrees at good colleges and universities. Then he went for a Ph.D. in mathematics at one of the leading departments in that field.

When he encountered difficulties, his professors essentially wrote his doctoral thesis for him. No doubt they felt good about doing something to help a promising young black man, and perhaps took pride in doing so. But what about his pride?

This young man ended up joining an extremist group that hated white people.

Would it have been worse if he had not gotten a Ph.D. in math? Probably 99 percent of the people in this country, regardless of race, could not get a Ph.D. in math -- and yet they can still live happy and fulfilling lives.

What recalled this episode from long ago was the current flurry of interest in a video of a young Barack Obama at the Harvard law school praising Derrick Bell, a black professor there, whose writings on "critical race theory" promoted an extremist hostility to white people.

Derrick Bell was for years a civil rights lawyer, but not an academic legal scholar of the sort who gets appointed as a full professor at one of the leading law schools. Yet he became a visiting professor at the Stanford law school and was a full professor at the Harvard law school.

It was transparently obvious in both cases that his appointment was because he was black, not because he had the qualifications that got other people appointed to these faculties. At Stanford, his students complained that his course on constitutional law was not up to the standards of the other courses they were taking.

Stanford at that time had one of the leading scholars in constitutional law, Professor Gerald Gunther -- and Derrick Bell was no Gerald Gunther. A hastily created program of study of constitutional law was then used to teach that subject to students who were not getting what they needed in Professor Bell's course.

When this clever finessing of the problem came to light, the administration apologized -- to Derrick Bell for the embarrassment this caused him.

They should have apologized to the law students for short-changing them with a professor who was not up to the job -- and to those who donated money to the university to advance the cause of education, not to allow administrators to play racial quota politics on campus.

As a full professor at the Harvard law school, Derrick Bell was also surrounded by colleagues who were out of his league as academic scholars. What were his options at this point?

If he played it straight, he could not expect to command the respect of either faculty or students at the Harvard law school -- or, more important, his own self-respect. Bell himself admitted that he did not have the scholarly credentials that most full professors at the Harvard law school have.

There were no doubt other law schools where he would have been a respected colleague, but these were not Stanford or Harvard. Yet it is worth remembering that millions of people have led happy and fulfilling lives without ever being at Harvard or Stanford.

Derrick Bell's options were to be a nobody, living in the shadow of more accomplished legal scholars -- or to go off on some wild tangent of his own, and appeal to a radical racial constituency on campus and beyond.

His writings showed clearly that the latter was the path he chose. His previous writings had been those of a sensible man saying sensible things about civil rights issues that he understood from his years of experience as an attorney. But now he wrote all sorts of incoherent speculations and pronouncements, the main drift of which was that white people were the cause of black people's problems.

Bell even said that he took it as his mission to say things to annoy white people. Perhaps he thought that was better than being insignificant in his academic setting. But it was in fact far worse, because the real damage was to impressionable young blacks who took him seriously, including one who went on to become President of the United States.



What Public Employee Unions are Doing to America


As conservatives, of course, we believe in virtue. We like to point to policies and practices that work—low taxes and light regulation for the economy, a strong national defense to keep us safe from foreign attack, and social policies that favor community over government. These are all valuable. But the bad example has its honored place as well: It’s how we illustrate our warnings.

This is the reason Governor Chris Christie’s reforms have had such resonance. Almost anywhere he points, he has before him an example of how New Jersey’s bloated public sector is hurting growth, limiting the efficiency of government services, and squeezing middle class families. How many state governors and legislators might be more inclined to do the right thing if before they acted they first said to themselves, “We don’t want to be like New Jersey, do we?”

Let me start with the relationship between government employee unions and our elected officials. On paper, it is true, mayors and governors sit across the table from city and state workers collectively bargaining for wages and benefits. On paper, this makes them management—representing us, the taxpayers. But in practice, these people often serve more as the employees of unions than as their managers. New Jersey has been telling here. Look at our former governor, Jon Corzine.

Scarcely six months after he was elected, Governor Corzine appeared before a rally of state workers in Trenton in support of a one percent sales tax designed to bring in revenues to a state hemorrhaging money. Not cutbacks, but a tax. Naturally, Mr. Corzine’s solution was the one the public sector unions wanted: Get the needed revenues by introducing a new tax.

Six months later, Governor Corzine proved this was not simply a slip of the tongue. When workers at Rutgers University were planning to unionize, he turned up at their rally. This was too much even for the liberal Star Ledger, which—in an article entitled “Jon Corzine, Union Rep?”—noted that Mr. Corzine’s appearance at the rally raised the question whether he truly understood that “he represents the ‘management’ side in ongoing contract talks with state employees unions.”

Manifestly, the problem is not that Mr. Corzine and other elected leaders like him—mostly Democrats—do not understand. In fact, they understand all too well that they are the hired help. The public employees they are supposed to manage in effect manage them. The unions provide politicians with campaign funds and volunteers and votes, and the politicians pay for what the unions demand in return with public money.

In New Jersey as elsewhere, most leaders of public sector unions are not sleeping with the politicians who set their salary and benefits. They are, however, doing all they can to install and keep in office those they wish—while fighting hard against the ones they oppose. And until we recognize the real master in this relationship, we will never reform the system.

My second point relates to my first. Not only have the public unions too often become the dominant partner in the relationship with elected officials, but the contracts and the spending that goes with them are setting the other policy agenda. In other words, even when we recognize that the packages favored by public employees are too generous, we think of them simply as spending items. We need to wake up and recognize that in fact these spending items are the tail wagging the dog—that they set tax and borrowing decisions rather than follow from them.

Mr. Christie is not in charge of local spending. But he understands that this is part of an exceptionally unvirtuous circle. So he’s made some changes. Last year, for instance, with the help of allies such as Mr. Sweeney, he pushed a reform through the legislature that required public workers to start contributing to their health care and up their contributions to their pensions. It’s not nearly the same percentage as their counterparts in the private sector, but it’s a start.

Mr. Christie also put through a property tax cap that forces cities to go to the people for a vote if they increase property taxes by more than two percent. And just last month, he signed a bill that will allow towns to move their school budget votes to the November ballot—not only saving money, but also ensuring that more citizens vote, not simply those who have a vested interest.

At the same time, Mr. Christie has begun to campaign against abuses using language that people can understand. His most recent target is the practice of awarding six-figure checks to public employees who are allowed to accumulate—and cash out—unused sick pay. In New Jersey these payments are called “boat money,” largely because retired government workers often use the money to buy pleasure boats when they retire. Across the state, cities have liabilities of $825 million because of these boat checks.

To summarize my second point: You and I make spending decisions the way all households do. We take our income, and we live within our means. In sharp contrast, public employee unions have introduced a whole new dynamic: They negotiate pay and benefits in contracts we can’t rewrite. When the revenues to meet these obligations fall short, they push to raise taxes to make up the difference.

That leads me to my third and final point: If I am right that the public employee unions are in fact the managers in the relationship with politicians, and that public sector spending is driving tax and borrowing policy, the inescapable conclusion is that you and I are working for them.

That’s not how we usually understand and speak of public service. Traditionally, the idea of a public servant is someone who is working for the public, with the implication that he or she is sacrificing a better material life to do so. But can anyone really define today’s relationship this way? Especially when health care and pensions are included, government workers increasingly seem to live better than the people who pay their salaries. How many of you walk into some local, state or federal office these days and leave thinking, “The men and women here are working for me”?

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Fred Siegel notes that public sector unions have become a vanguard movement within liberalism. And the reason for that is it’s the public sector that comes closest to the statist ideals of McGovern and post-McGovern liberals. And that is, there’s no connection between effort and reward. You’re guaranteed your job. You’re guaranteed your salary increase. There’s a kind of bureaucratic equality.

As public employees unionize, their dues—often collected for the unions by the government—fund a permanent interest constantly lobbying for bigger government. To pay for this bigger and more expensive government, they advocate for higher taxes on those in the private sector. Only when they are threatened with layoffs are they inclined to compromise, and sometimes not even then. That is what I mean when I say that we work for them.

Much more HERE


Our New Vichy-Like Intellectuals

(The French government that "collaborated" with the Nazis during WWII was headquartered at Vichy, a French spa town)

Bruce Bawer, the American cultural critic who lives in Norway, just came out with a new book titled “The New Quislings”. It’s a devastating blow against the witch hunt and hysteria which poisoned Europe after the Oslo youth camp carnage last year.

Norway is the nation that gave the world the word “Quisling” - after the politician who encouraged a Nazi invasion of his country.

Despite it’s mainly dealing with Norway, Bawer’s splendid book sheds new light into a much deeper phenomenon: the night of Europe and its Vichy-like intellectuals.

Throughout Europe, there’s a river of oily, bloody money that feeds those who incite for anti-Jewish boycotts, all the while spreading anti-Israel lies under guise of “objective journalism” and “academic research”.

There are careers to be made through the betrayal of intellectual standards by making the Jewish State the object of an unremitting demonology. There are almost no Jews today in Oslo, however the Norwegian capital is one of the global centers of new anti-Semitism.

There are more than a thousand Jews in the city, but you never see them. Not one. It’s like during the Holocaust: even then there were a few Jews around, but that didn’t stop homegrown good Norwegian cops from escorting the German invaders to a local junior high school to arrest a Jewish girl and ship her off to the death camps.

In a famous 2006 op-ed for Aftenposten, sarcastically titled “God’s Chosen People”, Jostein Gaarder, the author of literary phenomenon “Sophie’s World”, wrote that “we no longer recognize the state of Israel, we don’t believe in the idea of God’s chosen people, to present oneself as God’s chosen people is not just stupid and arrogant, but a crime against humanity”.

Bawer’s book tells the story of Lars Gule, the former head of the Norwegian Humanist Association and a very high-profile figure in Norway’s cultural circles. In 1977, Gule joined the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the terrorist group responsible for the 1974 Maalot massacre in which twenty-two Israeli students were butchered.

Gule was delegated to set off a bomb in Israel on the tenth anniversary of the Six-Day War. At the Beirut airport, however, he was caught with 750 grams of explosives hidden in books in his backpack.

While reading Bawer’s brave pamphlet, one starts to remember names that became famous icons such as Gide, Claudel, Romains, Picasso, Malraux and Piaf as well as the names of the French communist intellectuals who in 1953 organized a rally in Paris in support of the Soviet position that Jewish doctors had assassinated communist leaders.

But above all, the name of Jean-Paul Sartre, the incarnation of cultural engagement, the humanist guru who turned down a Nobel Prize for literature and founded the left-leaning newspaper Liberation. During the German occupation of Paris,

Sartre was a cynical profiteer concerned exclusively with his own literary career and ready to compromise with the Nazi authorities. Sartre worked for “Comoedia”, a magazine financed by the Nazis; his work “The Flies” got the blessing of the German censors; his companion, the literary goddess Simone de Beauvoir, worked for the national pro-German radio.

After the war, Sartre rebuilt his image of a “grand-resistant”. He already was familiar with the horrors of the Soviet Gulag, but did not reveal them so as “not to discourage the morale of the Billancourt’s workers”.

Much less known is Sartre’s praise for Arab terrorism. When 11 Israeli athletes were butchered at the 1972 Munich Olympics in, Sartre wrote: “Terrorism is a terrible weapon, but the oppressed poor have no others”.

The lesson from Sartre’s story and Bawer’s book is urgent for our time; namely, the appeal of Jihadi totalitarianism and Palestinian terrorism to Western intellectuals and their silence on it. It also reveals how deeply Jew-hatred devoured the minds of Europe’s intellectual elite.

When legions of “Arab martyrs” started blowing themselves up in the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Afula and Karnei Shomron, how many Western intellectuals expressed this Sartrian, lame empathy for the murderous rage? At that time the British Guardian ran an editorial titled “Israel Has No Right to Exist.”

Today, most European intellectuals, academics, writers and journalists, are literally enablers of evil, giving cover to the ongoing slaughter of Jewish.

How many Western columnists had declared, before the Fogel massacre, that the Palestinians had the right to attack Itamar-like towns?

You have Tom Paulin, the Irish poet who recommended that “Brooklyn-born settlers be shot dead”. For good measure he added: “I never believed that Israel had the right to exist at all”. [It seems like a Nazi fantasy come true, but some renowned cultural icons have also spoken of removing any Israeli presence from academic institutions and terminating any scientific cooperation with Israel].

More examples here



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