Artur Davis: What Affirmative Action Can’t Cure

As I argued in these pages over a year ago, a full scale retreat from racially influenced academic admissions would likely have the following impact: it would shrink the African American populations of the most elite private colleges without drying up the substantial market that would still remain for the same students: in blunter terms, fewer blacks at Harvard and Stanford, but plenty of slots for blacks who lose the Ivy League lottery available at, say, the University of Virginia and Cal-Berkeley; and a sizable, high quality pool of suitors for any reasonably strong black applicant, at institutions ranging from the University of Florida to Michigan State, from William and Mary to SMU.

Of course, that mostly rosy scenario would have its share of costs. In a society that is always one celebrity’s comments away from having its racial fissures exposed, and where attitudes on culture and politics have become more and not less racially polarized during the last several years, color-blindness seems more a quixotic than a realistic assessment of America circa the Obama era. In a political world where ten of the last twelve presidential nominees have diplomas from Harvard or Yale, and every single Supreme Court justice has the exact same credentials, it is impossible to dismiss our most elite degrees as just another inconsequential perk. Add to that mix the undeniable evidence of a growing gap between the children of highly educated parents and the rest of the social universe, and it is hard to argue that a major retrenchment on race in the admissions process wouldn’t contribute at least marginally to the level of inequality.

All of the above (and perhaps, a plaintiff’s strategy that was overly cautious) explains why even the conservative wing of the Roberts Court ultimately turned squeamish about a sweeping verdict on affirmative action. The Court’s 7-1 ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas returning a challenge to the college’s admission process to a lower court for a more demanding, but not inevitably fatal, review seems right given the still unsettled state of play around race: short term, most universities will keep doing what they are doing, with some gradual, defensible move toward weighting class distinctions more heavily and eventually, a subtle shift toward more blacks with parents who are teachers and cops rather than state legislators or partners in top 100 law firms.

davis_artur-11There is a cautionary note, though, for critics on the left who feared that Fisher would be a disaster. For liberals, dodging a loss on race in higher education should spare some time for acknowledging an inconvenient set of truths. Roughly two generations of policies strengthening campus diversity have done nothing to close long term student achievement gaps along racial lines: those policies, in spite of their merits, are still the most top-heavy kind of success. They are measures that at their most robust only impact a cohort of talented individuals who will excel by any legitimate standard whether affirmative action lives or dies. The much needier and (numerically larger) set of minority students remains low income kids locked by geography and poverty into poorly performing K-12 schools—to date, improving their prospects attracts scant attention at best from contemporary liberals whose recent campaigns have focused on more redistributionist outcomes on taxes and healthcare, unfettered sexual autonomy, and tougher environmental rules. And when today’s liberals have waded onto the education front, it has either been in the context of expanded daycare or pre-K programs, which by definition offer first-blush, not often sustainable hits, or in the form of fending off conservative alternatives like vouchers and more testing, without offering any specific platform of their own for un-achieving schools.

To be sure, conservatives can seem out of touch when they profess to see no moral cost in wiping out the consideration of diversity by universities who are trying to make their campuses look something like the society around them. But it is the political left that has advanced an agenda that like it or loathe it, has been exceedingly ambitious on the economic, social, and regulatory front, but notably tepid in the arena of failing classrooms and barely literate eighth graders.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Peanut Butter & Honey

Peanut butter and honey sandwiches on toasted grain bread and I have been going strong now for 47 years….and have yet to tire of one another.

There’s not many foods that I can say that about. Except spaghetti and possibly fresh squeezed orange juice (which I was tricked into liking as a boy because one of my father’s friends– George Baker—told me it would grow hair on my chest after I asked him how he got so much hair on his chest (and back) when he took off his shirt at the pool when I was about 8 years old. I thought it looked manly and was something I’d like to have on my chest and back. Finally, after several years of drinking lots of fresh squeezed orange juice and no new hair appearing, I decided he was fibbing to me when I was about 11.) But by then it was too late. I was already hooked on fresh squeezed orange juice and still am.

But peanut butter and honey sandwiches on toasted grain bread are different because I didn’t have to be induced into ingesting them in the hopes of chest hair growth. I just liked the taste of them and still do.

jyb_musingsSpaghetti was something I liked naturally, too, without any increased potential for chest hair growth being part of the appeal. But I didn’t like it as much as peanut butter and honey sandwiches. Which makes peanut butter and honey on toasted grain bread a little more special to me, personally.

PS. I finally did get some chest hair in my late teens but only a little. Not sure what food I ate then should get the credit. Probably pepperoni pizza given my age. But I still prefer PB&H and have never missed any chest hairs I didn’t get because I ate a lot of PB&H instead of whatever food (or juice) grows chest hair. It was worth the sacrifice. And my view of the appeal of chest hair has waned over the years. Today when I see a guy take his shirt off today and he has a hairy chest and back I wonder if he wishes he’d a little more PB&H himself.

Michael Steele: Supreme Court ‘Gut’ the Voting Rights Act

“The Right of Citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States by any State on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude and that the Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

At the dawning of the 21st Century, the words of the 15th Amendment to our Nation’s Constitution remind us of one of the most precious gifts of liberty: to freely exercise your right to vote.

And yet, even the 15th Amendment—on its face—did not guarantee that the “right of citizens of the United States” to vote would not be denied as America emerged from the fog of civil war and into the new reality that those individuals once enslaved under the constitution were now entitled to exercise their rights as citizens under that same constitution.

It would not be long, however, before certain of the states, particularly in the south, responded to the demand of the 15th Amendment by devising a variety of tools to disenfranchise African American voters for reasons of “eligibility”. From literacy tests to pole taxes, from property ownership to oral and written examinations, States began to enact laws that ultimately “denied and abridged” African Americans their right to vote.

Moreover, when intimidation at the ballot box failed to curb the thirst for full access to the rights guaranteed by the Framers of the Constitution, more insidious and violent means such as lynchings, fire bombs and murder were used to “remind the Negro of his place” in American society.

In our society, all rights are ultimately protected by the ballot box, not the sword.

By virtue of the efforts to “legally” circumvent the dictates of the 15th Amendment as well as the escalation in violence against African Americans in Philadelphia, Mississippi, Selma and Montgomery Alabama the promise of the Constitution for African Americans and many other minorities—full and equal political rights—was like a munificent bequest from a pauper’s estate until the passage of the single most important piece of civil rights legislation in American history: the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Both Democrats and Republicans were moved to respond to President Johnson’s voting initiative when he declared in his State of the Union Address “we shall overcome”. With the efforts of individuals like Martin Luther King, Andrew Young, and Congressman John Lewis laying the foundation for what would become an increasingly important political movement, Congress took up an historic challenge to end the “blight of racial discrimination in voting…[which had] infected the electoral process in parts of our county for nearly a century” under the leadership of Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-Il).

Steele MMO_1368-EditSo it is chilling, to say the least, to witness 48 years later the Supreme Court effectively gut the Voting Rights Act.

The Act’s remedial structure is Section 5 which places a federal “pre-clearance” barrier against the adoption of any new voting practice or procedure by covered states and localities whose purpose or effect is to discriminate against minority voters. For over 40 years thereafter, the federal courts, and the Department of Justice worked hand-in-hand to make this promise of Section 5 a very potent reality.

While the Court did not strike down Section 5, it did strike down its operational core—Section 4—which establishes the coverage formula the federal government uses to determine which states and counties are subject to continued federal oversight. Chief Justice John Roberts in writing for the 5-4 majority noted “Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.” Under the majority’s reasoning, “If Congress had started from scratch in 2006,” the last time the Voting Rights Act was reauthorized, “it plainly could not have enacted the present coverage formula.”

For the Court to say that such coverage formulas are outdated is reasonable in the face of enormous improvements in minority voter registration and participation. Roberts illustrates his point by providing the following chart comparing voter registration numbers from 1965 to 2004.


As the Chief Justice stressed “There is no doubt that these improvements are in large part because of the Voting Rights Act,” noting “[t]he Act has proved immensely successful at redressing racial discrimination and integrating the voting process.” Roberts would conclude “Those extraordinary and unprecedented features were reauthorized — as if nothing had changed.” Likewise it is reasonable for the Court to want the Congress to update them.

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Michael Steele: Supreme Court ‘Gut’ the Voting Rights Act

Josh Bowen: Strong is the New Skinny

I have written several blogs and articles on the importance of strength training, particularly as it relates to women. I have documented the reasons why women should pick up the weights. However, for some reason, some people don’t get it. Some think they are a genetic marvel that if they look at a 40 lbs. dumbbell that their quads will expand and it will prevent them from wearing pants. Remember this; any man that works out would love for that to be their problem. I wanted to take the time to profess that Strong is the New Skinny

To back up my claim for those non-believers let’s look one strong hormonal difference between men and women:

  1. Testosterone- this hormone has a huge impact on muscle tissue growth (as well as other interactions in the human body). Men, on average, will produce 20 times more testosterone than women. This of course will determine the amount of muscle tissue a person can grow. That also is not to say women cannot build muscle, it just means you cannot build as much or as fast as a normal man.

So I bring this up because I firmly believe that strength training is as important, if not more important, for women than it is for women. Let’s look at those reasons:

  1. Decrease in Body fat- women who strength train will naturally have less body fat than those that don’t. That looks good! Its ok to have a little muscle J
  2. Increase in Bone Mineral Density- Women are more susceptible to osteoporosis than men and strength training helps combat that. The loading of the bones causes the bones to become stronger and increases the density, warding off brittle and weak bones
  3. It is great for your health- Research has shown that women that strength train are in better overall health than those that don’t. So pick up a weight and start going at it!

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    Josh Bowen: Strong is the New Skinny

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Winning Edge?

The winning edge?

Some would say it’s preparation . Others would say its knowing your opponent. Still others would tell you it’s who works the hardest. And some would claim its a matter primarily of natural ability

My expertise suggests it’s something. I believe the most significant competitive edge is the love of the game in question.

jyb_musingsThe individual who has a natural curiosity and enthusiasm for their work, in my view, has the greatest advantage and is a fortunate person. The individual who happily thinks about their work between sandwich bites because they want to and chose to , has an advantage that all the other advantages combined can’t overcome.

And, it seems, the love of one’s work breeds naturally many of the other mentioned advantages that we try to create artificially and distinct from the task at hand

Jason Atkinson: Shilton Reels for NW Steelhead

Lauren Mayer: An Ounce Of Discretion Is Worth A Pound Of Butter (or The Paula Deen Controversy)

More and more, public figures seem to be unable to extricate themselves from scandal gracefully, so much so that often the apology gets them in more trouble than the original misbehavior.  Think about Bill Clinton parsing words about what ‘is’ means, Mark Sanford permanently making ‘hiking the Appalachian Trail’ into a joke, or anything relating to Anthony Weiner.  In this day and age, it’s impossible to say or do anything without some sort of permanent online recording of it, and we are all human and likely to make mistakes, so it’s high time celebrities and politicians learn how to say “I’m sorry” without digging themselves an even deeper hole.

And the first lesson should be, say you’re sorry, you did something wrong, and then stop – don’t try to defend your actions, don’t explain it’s because your spouse didn’t understand you or your parents raised you that way.  (This is a corollary of the advice my mother gave me when I became an instant step-parent of an 8-year-old through my first marriage. Mom said that when a kid asks a question, only answer the question, don’t volunteer additional details until asked.  So if a toddler says, “Where did I come from?,” perhaps she only wants to know the city in which she was born, not how she was actually conceived.  My first solo outing with my new stepdaughter was the week after we’d all seen the movie Look Who’s Talking, and sure enough she piped up, “You know those things swimming around in the very beginning of the movie? What were they?”  Recollecting Mom’s words of wisdom, I answered, “Those are called sperm,” and held my breath.  Nope, she was satisfied, she just wanted to know the word.  Whew.)

Last week Paula Deen could’ve used my mother’s advice – the celebrity chef faced a growing storm over remarks she’d made in a recent deposition, acknowledging she’d used a racially offensive term, as well as rhapsodizing over the charms of a ‘plantation wedding’ with polite dark-skinned waiters in nice uniforms (and commenting about how many jokes there also were about Jews, gays, and rednecks, thereby managing to offend everyone else).  Ms. Deen rushed out a series of rather odd videos, in which she apologized, but then continued to explain that she grew up in the south, that’s just how they all talk, she wasn’t a racist, lots of people use the ‘n’ word all the time, and some of her best friends, etc.  On top of her appearances strangely resembling hostage videos, she compounded the damage by attempting to explain herself, then no-showing a much-hyped Today Show appearance (and Matt Lauer didn’t hesitate to tell his audience what happened).   As the controversy continued to build (and more former employees came forward with claims of discrimination and hostile work environment), Food Network abruptly announced they were not renewing her contract.

People rushed to comment, with strong feelings on both sides.  Her die-hard fans swore never to watch Food Network again and claimed that she was being punished for using language everyone else used, while plenty of older southern ladies chimed in that they’d NEVER used the word in question and resented Deen for claiming that everyone in her generation did.     Pretty soon the online comments veered off into condemning rap music, accusing Deen of hypocricy for hiding her own diabetes until she got a lucrative pharmaceutical contract, and claiming that peole who didn’t cook with butter were unAmerican.  Meanwhile it’s not like Deen is going to be impoverished, between her cookbooks, her restaurants, and various product lines – she’s carved out a unique niche for herself as the former inventor of a bacon-cheeseburger with a donut bun, who now offers slightly more healthy variations on down-home southern fare, and there are multiple websites devoted to her ‘Deenisms’ (such as “The more cheese, the better,” “I’m not your doctor, I’m your cook!,” and “If y’all will excuse me, I’m gonna make love to this here potato”).

I don’t know if a sparser apology would have changed Food Network’s decision, but Deen didn’t do herself any favors by her awkward explanations, including insisting that she just adored all her African-American employees (one of whom she jokingly accused of blending in with a blackboard because he was so dark), and claiming that most plantation-owners treated their slaves like valued members of the family.  I do hope she recovers from this debacle – partly because she’s just too darned entertaining to disappear (is there anyone else you can imagine teaching us how to make deep-fried stuffing-on-a-stick?), and partly because I think she sincerely regrets her mistake.  (And also because thanks to her, news outlets didn’t have room to revel in details about the Kim Kardashian/Kanye West baby, other than the fact that they have probably topped Gwyneth Paltrow and Frank Zappa in the you-did-WHAT-to-your-kid? baby naming insanity contest.)  (The baby’s name is North, by the way – seems way better than Apple or Moon Unit at first, but just think about it for a bit.)

Anyway, it’s been a very entertaining few days, so here’s a song commemorating the whole story:

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Travel Travails

1000054_10152968894735515_1628631122_nIf lottery tickets were plane seats and if being seated in the farthest row back (where there is no recline and you are positioned as a “greeter” for passengers needing the lavatory) and your seat is also in the far corner of the farthest back row.

And if you ended up in that exact seat the last three flights in a row you have been on…..

Well….it would be an awfully rare and potentially valuable lottery ticket .


Travel tips for visiting NYC.

If you are meeting three male friends who are highly educated and they ask you to meet at MOMA at 5:30pm, you may have troubles if you assume too much.

I assumed that since it was 5:30 they wanted to eat dinner, albeit a bit early.

I further assumed, rather excitedly, that my friends had suggested an Italian restaurant. Pronounced MO-MA. Like Italian, I assumed, for MAMA.

I imagined big homemade meatballs from an Italian family recipe.

Then there is the problem of asking cab drivers to take you, please, to “Moma’s restaurant.” The first taxi driver pulled away without letting me in. I assumed he thought it was only a few blocks away and wanted a bigger fare.

Finally, when my exasperated taxi driver gave up on finding a Moma’s restaurant, he dropped me off at The 21 Club. I asked the kind doorman if there was a “Moma’s restaurant” nearby and apologized for not going to 21 Club. He politely told me one block over. Finally!!

And there I saw my three friends…although running a little late and by this time quite hungry. We were outside MOMA’s–which seemed to be more than just a restaurant (in fact it was big and long and seemed to include works of art as well). “Nice!” I thought to myself.

I asked someone working beside the entrance where the restaurant was. He laughed and said, “Restaurant?! This is the Museum of Modern Art! There’s no restaurant!!” And laughed again.

I alerted my friends they had mistakenly chosen an art museum that lacked a restaurant.

The friend who suggested MOMA’s said, “Oh, I’m not hungry.”

And it was about this time that I put two and two—really more like one and one–together.

We weren’t going to an Italian restaurant with homemade meatballs like I told my wife.

We were going to the Museum of Modern Art. Which didn’t even have a concession stand.


jyb_musingsAirlines should have a SkyMiles-like program for members that rewards them with a free round-trip ticket anywhere in the US every time you miss three flights.

And a free round-trip ticket anywhere internationally if you miss the three flights within a 2 month period of time.

I’m not suggesting rewarding irresponsibility but rather persistence.


Is there a silver lining to getting re-routed from St Louis, MO airport and instead landing in Kansas City, Mo?

For three of the connecting cities for passengers on my flight it actually works out better for them flying from Kansas City, MO. They deplane and are placed on new and better connecting flight home. Pretty cool and a nice silver lining.

For the remaining passengers with connecting flights, we are flying back to St Louis airport and for eight of the connecting cities, passengers on this flight will still make their connections. Pretty cool. And a nice silver lining.

For passengers flying to Louisville and Baltimore, we have no connection that works for us in Kansas City, MO and we will miss our connection tonight by the time we arrive in St. Louis.

But…if you are from Louisville, KY at least you are not from Baltimore. MD. And that’s pretty cool. And a nice silver lining. And remember, after the merger in 2003 Louisville became the 16th largest city in the US (edging out, you guessed it…. The city with airline passengers who have really lousy luck, Baltimore, MD).

As for passengers from Baltimore, MD on this flight, maybe you’ll find a silver lining next time your flight gets re-routed. And take heart. You are still a larger city than Kansas City, MO. And will be leaving here for St Louis shortly.


Updating metaphors.In a discussion last week with a top manager he kept referring to “carrots” and “sticks” and how he needed both with his employees to achieve the results his company was pursuing.

I wanted to tell him “Carrots are OK but some employees might want something else instead — like a raise, or flex-time, more involvement in the project and better communication. Or maybe celery or edamame.

Things have changed a lot since the “carrot and stick” metaphor was invented and there are more appealing options and attention-getting threats.

Sticks can still be effective but so can shaming, alienating, lateral transfers, and bad progress reports. Or tasers. Caning can get attention much better than just an ordinary stick. Ask anyone in the advanced economy of Singapore.

Maybe we should update the “carrot and sticks” metaphor by changing it to “Edamame and Caning.” It seems to be a more appropriate and modern version of an exhausted and outdated business metaphor.

Just an idea. From 10,000 feet in the air with nothing to do except offer random and silly thoughts while waiting to get through turbulence that makes it hard to concentrate on anything serious and calls for something silly to distract myself from a bumpy plane ride.


One if the many reasons I love Louisvlle.

Leaving Kansas City this morning to go home to a city that is more secure about itself, Louisville. A city that others already know is a city and doesn’t have to include the word “city” in its name for fear it will be confused with a state.

Louisville rolls like that.

Jeff Smith: Some People Just Can’t Catch a Break

Some people just can’t catch a break: A man with 140lb testicles is unhappy with removal surgery after the operation leaves him with a 1 inch penis. [New York Post]

Nancy Slotnick: Love the Possible

I was watching Lena Dunham on Charlie Rose the other day and despite the fact that

I’m not loving her new haircut and the second season of Girls is proving to be overly ambitious, I was inspired.  And I shouldn’t be so hard on her.  It would be almost impossible not to choke under the pressure that she is facing at such a young age.

Emphasis on the almost impossible.  Which brings me to the part of the interview that was so inspiring.

When asked about how she accomplished such a meteoric rise, Lena quoted her Dad as saying, “Love the possible.”  That stuck with me.  Especially because I am trying to make that kind of meteoric rise happen in my life.  So I am embracing that idea.  My new year’s resolution is, as I have told you previously, (see my blog that quotes Will Smith’s new movie) to be fearless.

Nancy SlotnickWhen you are fearless, anything is possible.  Or is it?  I embarked on a quest to see what is possible and what is in store for me, on a Tuesday morning recently.  I was hoping that a store front is in store for me.  I was contemplating the fact that anything is possible if you believe that you can achieve it.  How do you draw that line?  Is it possible that I could go to one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city and procure a retail space by the end of the day without more than a stick of gum, $20 and a Metrocard in my pocket?

Well, let’s see what the universe said.  I was able to procure a grilled cheese.  And it was good.  And then, as I was strolling around, following the path of whatever the universe sent me, I passed by an art gallery with a grafitti-esque painted canvas.  It read:

“Enough is possible.”  Thank you, universe, I have my answer!

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Nancy Slotnick: Love the Possible

The Recovering Politician Bookstore


The RP on The Daily Show