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Published by David French -- Harvard Law grad, former lecturer at Cornell Law School, author of books no one reads, master of the three point shot, constant critic of Duke Basketball, Playstation2 addict, owner of a cool new Sony DCRTRV25 MiniDV Digital Handycam, father of two and husband of one extremely hot wife


The Culture Curve
Friday, June 14, 2002  
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION OBSERVATIONS. My posts have been more sparse in recent weeks because I've been spending my days out of town, working on various cases. During the long drives to and from depositions and seminar appearances, I've listened to several talk radio programs that discussed affirmative action and college admission policies. Inevitably, the debate goes something like this:

Host: I don't think anyone should be shut out of an educational opportunity because of their race. Under affirmative action, deserving white, Jewish and Asian applicants -- kids that have never discriminated against anybody -- are being shoved aside to make way for black and Hispanic students that wouldn't otherwise qualify.

Caller: Well, I don't understand why you would penalize black and Hispanic kids for going to those horrible, inner-city schools. They didn't have the breaks many of those white kids had. They've had to overcome a lot just to get in a position to apply for college. It's entirely appropriate for a college to recognize their persistence and courage by giving them a slight boost.

Host: (Buying into the caller's premise) Well, it's not the job of the college to prop up those failing schools. If the schools actually suffered the consequences of their failure, maybe we'd see some improvement.

In this brief exchange, you see two of the most powerful, emotional arguments made for and against affirmative action. However, only one is based on any kind of real truth. It is true that white, Asian and Jewish kids sometimes lose educational opportunities simply because of their race. This is especially true at elite universities and graduate schools, where the number of open slots is extremely limited. However, it is absolutely NOT true that affirmative action serves primarily to lift black and Hispanic kids out of poverty-stricken and violent inner-city, ghetto schools. The reality of affirmative action is quite different.

Two years ago, I had the honor of serving on Cornell Law School's admissions committee. At the time, Cornell Law School was the tenth ranked law school in the country. The admissions committee's primary job was to review affirmative action applications -- applications by individuals who, but for their race, would not be considered for admission. A few observations:

1. Affirmative action is a program that primarily benefits the black and Hispanic middle class. This is a key point. Affirmative action proponents consistently sell the program by pointing to heart-rending stories of courageous black youths braving bullets to crack open 20 year-old textbooks in crumbling schools. This is deceptive in the extreme. The majority of black and Hispanic youth do not come from the inner-cities. They come from middle-class or upper middle-class families, just like whites (for more on this, read Losing the Race by John McWhorter). Because relatively fewer poor kids (white or black) apply for college than middle class kids, the number disparity between poor and middle class black college applicants is dramatic. In fact, out of the more than one hundred affirmative action applications I reviewed (black or Hispanic), less than ten were from individuals who came from obvious inner-city or poverty-stricken backgrounds. The vast majority came from sons or daughters of white collar workers.

2. Admissions committees often lace their racial preferences with political preferences. Time and again, I saw black or Hispanic applicants that expressed conservative viewpoints -- or failed to clearly articulate a strong sense of racial identity -- passed over or disparaged in favor of applicants that identified themselves as activists or wrote applications that emphasized racial struggle. Some committee members even expressed the view that a black applicant that "sounded white" in an application should be passed over because he did not "add much diversity."

3. Admissions committees often discriminate within races. One of my biggest surprises was the revelation that all blacks or all Hispanics were not equal in the eyes of the admissions committee. I routinely saw American blacks given greater breaks than African blacks, and Mexican-Americans were preferred over Cuban-Americans. This last distinction was especially dramatic. Cuban-American candidates were seen as accomplished and conservative -- and therefore undeserving of significant affirmative action assistance. Mexican-Americans, on the other hand, received nearly as much assistance as American black candidates.

4. Affirmative action gives an applicant much more than a "slight" boost. At Cornell, the typical white or Asian student finished in the top quarter of their college class and scored no less than the 90th percentile on their law school admissions test (the LSAT). Black candidates that finished in the bottom half of their college classes were routinely admitted -- as were candidates who barely cracked the 50th percentile on their LSAT. This is a HUGE disparity. White, Asian or Jewish candidates with similar credentials would find it difficult to be admitted even to second-tier law schools.

While I believe affirmative action proponents are not without effective arguments, the debate should proceed on an honest basis. Affirmative action is a program that gives predominantly middle class black and Hispanic students -- especially activist black and Hispanic students -- an enormous advantage in the college admissions process. Poor white children (who tend to have more marginal academic backgrounds compared to their more wealthy peers) are often shoved aside to make way for the children of black and Hispanic doctors, lawyers and executives. This is reality. While their may be legitimate public policy and moral arguments for affirmative action, the debate should center around those arguments -- not the fiction that affirmative action is a harmless program that merely provides a slight boost to poor kids.

8:17 AM

Wednesday, June 12, 2002  
STILL MORE FROM THE RELIGION OF PEACE. As we are continually bombarded with propaganda from politically correct American Muslims regarding the true, peace-loving nature of their religion, it is worth sharing the words that Middle Eastern Muslims use when they speak to each other. The Middle East Media Research Institute, as always, renders invaluable service as it translates Middle Eastern media from Arabic into English.

One of the latest MEMRI reports, discussed at length in today's on-line edition of the Weekly Standard, contains one of the most chilling exchanges I've ever read. I'm going to take the unusual step of cutting and pasting an extended amount of dialogue, but I thought it was important for readers of the Curve to get a true measure of the hatred embodied by present expressions of Islamic fundamentalism. The following is taken from the May 7, 2002 edition of "Muslim Woman Magazine," hosted by Doaa 'Amer, described by the Weekly Standard's David Tell as "a soft spoken, highly polished anchorlady who might just as well be Joan Lunden or Katie Couric--except that she's wearing a body-length robe." The television show appears on the Iqraa channel of the Arab Radio and Television Network (ART), a Saudi-based company with transmission facilities in Italy which describes itself as "the leading producer of premium Arabic family programming and entertainment worldwide." Iqraa is ART's effort to provide "a focused insight into the teachings of the Quran" to "intellectual, elite, and conservative Islamic markets."

Ms. 'Amer's report follows:

"Our report today will be a little different, because our guest is a girl, a Muslim girl, but a true Muslim. Allah willing, may our God give us the strength to educate our children the same way, so that the next generation will turn out to be true Muslims who understand that they are Muslims and know who their enemies are. This girl will introduce herself immediately. She is the daughter of my sister in faith and of the artist, Wagdi Al-Arabi. Her name is Basmallah and we will ask her as well."

The camera then begins a low pan downward and to the right as Ms. 'Amer offers a "peace be unto you" welcome to her guest. Who turns out to be . . . a toddler.

Toddler: Allah's mercy and blessing upon you.

'Amer: What's your name?

Toddler: Basmallah.

'Amer: Basmallah, how old are you?

Toddler: Three and a half.

'Amer: Are you a Muslim?

Toddler: Yes.

'Amer: Basmallah, are you familiar with the Jews?

Toddler: Yes.

'Amer: Do you like them?

Toddler: No.

'Amer: Why don't you like them?

Toddler: Because . . .

'Amer: Because they are what?

Toddler: They're apes and pigs.

'Amer: Because they are apes and pigs. Who said they are so?

Toddler: Our God.

'Amer: Where did he say this?

Toddler: In the Koran.

'Amer: Right, he said that about them in the Koran. Okay, Basmallah, what are the Jews doing?

Toddler: The Pepsi company.

'Amer: [Approving laughter.] You also know about the boycott, Basmallah? Did they love our master, Muhammad?

Toddler: No.

'Amer: No. What did the Jews do to him?

Toddler: [Pauses, struggling for the right answer.] The Prophet Muhammad killed someone . . .

'Amer: Obviously, our master Muhammad was strong and could have killed them. All right, you know the traditions about the Jews and what they did to the Prophet Muhammad?

Toddler: [Mumbled assent.]

'Amer: Is there a story you know?

Toddler: Yes, the story about the Jewish woman.

'Amer: The Jewish woman? What did she do to our master, the Prophet Muhammad?

Toddler: The Jewish woman?

'Amer: Yes.

Toddler: There was a Jewish woman who invited the Prophet and his friends. When he asked her, "Did you put poison (in my food)?" she said to him, "Yes." he asked her, "Why did you do this?" and she replied, "If you are a liar you will die and Allah will not protect you; if you speak the truth Allah will protect you."

'Amer: And our God protected the Prophet Muhammad, of course.

Toddler: And he said to his friends, "I will kill this lady."

'Amer: Of course, because she put poison in his food, this Jewess.

Toddler: Oh.

'Amer: [Speaking directly into the camera.] Basmallah, Allah be praised, Basmallah, Allah be praised. May our God bless her. No one could wish Allah could give him a more believing girl than she. May Allah bless her and her father and mother. The next generation of children must be true Muslims. We must educate them now while they are still children so that they will be true Muslims."

Programs like the one quoted above illustrate that we are not simply at war with "terror." Lou Dobbs and other commentators are correct. We are at war with Islamists -- those Islamic fascists who believe that Allah commands them to kill nonbelievers. Unfortunately, these Islamists (or Islamo-fascists) do not represent a tiny fringe of Middle Eastern Islam. They are often the dominant political and cultural forces in their communities, leading entire nations (like Iran) and driving the foreign and domestic policies of even ostensibly "moderate" Arab states (like Saudi Arabia). Americans and Jews will continue to suffer and die so long as Islamo-fascist groups, ideologies and nations are allowed to exist.

We cannot fight a politically correct war. We must assault Islamic fascism with the same intensity that we attacked German Nazis or Japanese followers of the (now-defunct) Bushido Code. Only then will the war on terror be won.

8:02 AM

Monday, June 10, 2002  
YET ANOTHER TRAGIC TESTIMONY. Christianity Today reports on the final moments of Martin Burnham, the American Christian missionary killed when Philippine troops attempted to rescue him from Islamic terrorists. According to his wounded (and rescued) wife, Gracia, Martin suspected that he might not survive their kidnapping:

"Martin and Gracia had really been thinking that there would be a chance that they would not make it out alive," said Martin's brother, Doug, relying on a phone conversation with Gracia. "Martin said to Gracia, 'The Bible says to serve the Lord with gladness. Let's go out all the way. Let's serve him all the way with gladness.'"

"The two then prayed in their hammock, recited Scripture verses to each other, and sang. They laid down to rest. Then the rescue assault began and bullets began to fly, puncturing Gracia's leg and Martin's chest."

Once again, war has revealed the true, courageous heart not only of Christian victims of terror, from Todd Beamer to Martin Burnham, but also the faith and hope of their surviving families. As Doug Burnham planned to lead worship at his church's first service since Mark's death, he chose songs of joy. "Joy does not change. It's not based on circumstances.…There's no reason why we can't express that joy this morning." Martin's pastor issued a challenge to his congregation: "Martin and Gracia Burnham went to the Philippines in obedience to God's call in their lives. That's a fact. That's done. What about you? What about me? Will we be obedient to the very end of our lives?"

What about us? Just today, an interviewer asked me who my heroes were -- the people who inspired me to do what I do. I mentioned a great President, Abraham Lincoln, and a courageous Christian politician, William Jennings Bryan. Upon further reflection, I should have answered that I have new Christian heroes: Todd Beamer and Martin Burnham. These men, by rising to the occasion at a time of ultimate testing, have shown us all what Christian men -- Christian people -- can and should be: Men of faith remaining faithful to the end.

For a long time now, our popular culture has painted Christianity with simple brushstrokes. We're the stern moralizers. Or the ignorant bigots. Or the obstacles to scientific knowledge and enlightenment. Todd Beamer, Martin Burnham and even a President that humbly seeks God's mercy and guidance as he leads a nation into war, have done more to bring new credit to the cause of Christ than a thousand educational programs or a hundred sympathetic Christian portrayals in sitcoms or television dramas. There is simply no greater testimony than a courageous Christian life faithfully lived.

Well done, Martin Burnham.

8:35 PM

HE WHO IS WITHOUT SIN . . . As much of the mainstream press piles onto the FBI and CIA for failing to predict and prevent the September 11 attacks, it is important to remember that the government was not the only watchdog institution that was caught napping. In the days before September 11, the New York Times briefly published -- then pulled -- a major news story detailing Osama bin Laden's promises to strike America. The article, which contained some eerily prescient passages, was briefly published on the Times' website but it never appeared in the print version of the paper. The web version only appeared briefly (for less than a day) and was expunged from the Times' on-line archives.

While there were voices crying in the wilderness prior to September 11, it appears that virtually all of our major national institutions under-estimated the threat posed by Al-Qaida -- even some of the institutions that are now circling like frenzied sharks around the embattled FBI and CIA.

7:03 AM

SECURITY REALITIES. As President Bush's new homeland security proposals gain congressional and popular support, I think it is necessary to express a word of caution. We should not have unrealistic expectations. As much as our homeland security apparatus needs reform, consolidation and efficiency, it is simply not possible for even the best defensive system to prevent all potential terrorist attacks. In the entire history of warfare, no defensive system has ever been foolproof -- and that is especially true when the defensive system is designed to stop terrorism.

Just ask Israel about homeland defense. No one could credibly accuse Israel's security services of incompetence and mismanagement. In fact, most commentators would place Israel's army, internal security and police among the world's best in every possible relevant category. Not only is Israel protected by arguably the best and most motivated security forces in the world, it does not protect its citizens' (and visitors') civil liberties to the same extent that America does. In other words, Israel operates superior security forces in an environment where those forces are able to operate more freely (with fewer legal constraints) than America's. Yet Israel cannot stop terrorism.

Creating a cabinet-level department for homeland security is a necessary and appropriate step, and it may help American intelligence and law enforcement to predict and prevent a higher percentage of terrorist attacks, but it is hardly a cure-all. In fact, the most promising recent political development in the war on terror has received only a fraction of the attention received by the new homeland security initiative. As the Washington Post reports, the Bush Administration is moving to formalize a new security policy that would allow America to launch pre-preemptive first strikes against terrorists and regimes that harbor terrorists.

This new policy is enormously significant. As the article explains, current American defense policy is built around deterrence and containment. Yet terrorists have proven time and again that they are not deterred by American military might. In fact, terrorists have often viewed deterrence as simply a policy that allows them to strike first and scatter before American retaliation. Under a preemption policy, however, terrorists will no longer have the luxury of plotting violence in relative safety, and terror-sponsoring regimes will no longer have time to cover their tracks following terrorist attacks by the organizations they train, equip and sponsor. The risk-benefit calculus will change considerably. If Iran truly believed that sponsoring terror left it open to sudden (and devastating) surprise attack by American forces, then Iran's support for terror would quickly wither. The same reasoning applies to Syria, Libya and any other regime that is known to sponsor terror.

Our current defense policy -- a policy that is heavily reliant on catching terrorists after they've been trained equipped and deployed around the world -- in some ways reminds me of the futility of our tactics in the Vietnam War. In Vietnam, we would often watch supply ships unload enormous amounts of weapons. We would watch as those weapons were moved to large supply depots, and then we would strike those weapon supplies only after they had been relocated into individual trucks, and the trucks had scattered into the jungle to supply Vietnamese forces in the field. Similarly, we know that certain countries operate as supply depots and training centers for international terrorist organizations, yet we tend wait to strike until the terrorists themselves scatter from the depot and deploy into their hunting grounds. The new Bush defense policy will change the strategy. The supply depots will no longer be safe.

Terrorists have proven that they cannot operate as an internationally (or even regionally) potent force without significant outside financial and military assistance. Bush's first-strike policy could be a decisive first step to eradicating that support -- to draining the life-blood from international terrorism.

6:47 AM

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