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Making Things Worse by Trying to Do Better

Linda ChavezThe Department of Labor is about to release figures on long-term unemployment that suggest a major shift in employment patterns in the U.S.


Steve Jobs -- a Relentless Visionary

Like millions of Apple users around the world, I learned that Steve Jobs had died when I turned on my Mac on Wednesday evening. There his picture was, staring out from the Apple homepage when I went to my browser: his signature black turtleneck; his close-cropped grey hair and beard; his piercing, pale eyes.

I felt enormous sadness -- the kind that makes your throat constrict to force back tears, and at first, I couldn't quite figure out why. I certainly didn't know Jobs. I couldn't even have told you whether he had a family or how old he was or where he called home. But I know the world would not be the same if Steve Jobs had not lived.


Exhibitionist Nation

Anthony Weiner's bizarre saga appears to be at an end. The seven-term congressman announced Thursday that he is resigning his congressional seat 10 days after admitting that he "sexted" at least a half-dozen women from his Twitter account and almost three weeks after the scandal broke. But what have we actually learned from this weird spectacle that has dominated the front pages of the country's leading newspapers and aired 'round-the-clock on cable news?


The Clean Energy Crash-and-Burn

The biggest star in the Obama firmament of green-jobs companies has just imploded. Solyndra, a California-based firm that produced solar panels, declared bankruptcy this week, putting more than a thousand additional workers on the unemployment line.

The Solyndra story tells you all you need to know about President Obama's ability to "create" jobs -- green or otherwise.

Solyndra was no ordinary startup. When the company broke ground on its plant, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and California's then-governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, used a golden shovel to dig the first hole. And it wasn't just the shovel that was gold-plated. The company received over half a billion dollars in federal loan guarantees for the project. But U.S. taxpayers will likely never see a dime repaid now that the company has gone into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The loan guarantees were controversial from the outset. The chief investor in Solyndra was George Kaiser, a major Obama fundraiser. The guarantees were part of a $90 billion federal program, but Solyndra was first in line to receive the largesse. House Republicans have subpoenaed White House documents and are now investigating whether Solyndra received favorable treatment because of its political ties. There seems to be more than a whiff of old-fashioned corruption here, but only a thorough investigation will tell.

One thing is certain: The president and secretary of energy made repeated trips to Solyndra's Silicon Valley plant over the last couple of years, using the facility as a backdrop to deliver clean-energy agitprop. The president's most recent trip there occurred in May 2010, not long after a government audit questioned whether the company could even survive.

But that didn't stop Obama from crowing, "The promise of clean energy isn't just an article of faith. It's not just some abstract possibility for science fiction movies or a distant future or 10 years down the road or 20 years. It's happening right now. The future is here."

Indeed -- but the future may be very different from the one Obama sees. Solyndra is one of three major solar companies to declare bankruptcy this summer alone. No matter how many speeches the president gives, he can't turn an economically unsustainable enterprise into a profitable one, even if he siphons from the U.S. treasury to do so.

Obama has been obsessed with the idea of creating new clean-energy jobs since the 2008 campaign, when he promised 5 million such jobs over the next decade. The administration claims that it has created or "saved" a quarter million green jobs since the president took office, but there is no way to verify that assertion, since the Bureau of Labor Statistics has yet to even collect data on those jobs.

Despite the dubious track record, a Washington Post report noted that as of June, half of the president's trips to visit private businesses outside of Washington were related to promoting green technology. In all, Obama visited 22 clean-technology projects in 19 separate visits in a two-year period. That's nearly one a month.

What motivates the president's fanaticism? Is it simply blind faith in green technology, or is he chasing another shade of green -- namely, cash for his campaign coffer? In 2008, Obama raised twice as much as his Republican opponent from those in the green-tech businesses. Republicans are routinely accused of being the pawns of big oil, but where is the concern that Obama is beholden to the green machine?

Whatever his motivation, the real issue is that government cannot "create" jobs -- other than those on its own payroll. There are plenty of private businesses that fail. But the difference between Solyndra's failure and that of, say, the restaurant down the block or even a national chain like Kmart, is that Solyndra was artificially propped up from the get-go by federally guaranteed loans.

If Solyndra's technology, which rested on a new design for solar panels, was as promising as the Obama administration seemed to think, investors willing to risk their own money should have been plentiful. Where were Warren Buffet and the president's other billionaire supporters?

Capitalism has worked to create more jobs than any system since the dawn of civilization. But it works because individuals take risks with their own money or with borrowed money that they're personally liable to repay.

What doesn't work is commandeering other people's money in a crapshoot where there are more losers than winners. But Obama has yet to learn that lesson. And we can expect more government-funded fiascos like Solyndra on the horizon as long as he is president.

Linda Chavez is the author of "An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal." To find out more about Linda Chavez, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at


Scandalous Suggestion from Debt Commission

As if the collapse in the housing market had not done enough damage to the U.S. economy, the president's debt commission is now proposing changes that could take the industry off life support. Among the recommendations in the commission's 65-page report is one to eliminate the tax deduction for mortgage interest on homes over $500,000 (the current limit is $1 million) and restrict it to primary residence only. The recommendation would also eliminate interest deductibility for home equity loans (which are currently capped at $100,000). The effect of these changes would be to immediately reduce the value of all homes by as much as 15 percent. Here's why.


Ingratitude, Insolence and Entitlement

The riots that have wracked England in the last week should be a sober warning to the United States: This is what happens when a country breeds a generation of welfare dependents who are happy to bite the hand that feeds them. For days, roaming gangs of young people have engaged in looting, setting fires, intimidating citizens, even killing innocents.


A Bogus Threat to “Desegregation”

There was a big front-page story in the Washington Post this week about a bill before the Kentucky state legislature that will, the headlines claim, “threaten” school “desegregation” in Louisville.  Hardly. 

My favorite sentence in the story:  “The threat is no longer from protestors in hoods throwing bricks at buses carrying black children into white parts of town, but from state legislators pushing a bill to return to neighborhood schools.”  Nothing but straight news reporting here, folks!  Nothing slanted or tendentious, nosiree!

Look:  There is no segregation in Louisville or anywhere else in the country, and there is no threat of it coming back.  There is not a single segregated public school in the United States, because segregation means separating children by law because of race, and everyone knows that is illegal and wrong.

What exists are racial imbalances in public schools, and those imbalances exist because of residential living patterns.  Some people, mostly liberals of course, want to end those racial imbalances by using race to assign students to schools.  The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that Louisville’s system of using a student’s race directly was unconstitutional, so now the school district weighs race more obliquely — but alas it is still being used, as even the Post has to acknowledge in its story.  The Post also has to acknowledge that the bill’s proponents cite simply the undeniable educational, parental, and monetary benefits of letting children attend the schools closest to them.  

What the state bill here would do, then, is require a policy of neighborhood schools, not a return to segregation. So it’s the bill proponents who want to end the practice of using race to decide where children can go to school.  And it’s the proponents of “desegregation” who insist that skin color should decide what a child’s educational choices should be. 

P.S.  The Post’s home-page headline for this story is even worse than the hard-copy’s:  “School desegregation in Kentucky survived the KKK. Now a GOP bill threatens to shatter it.

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Good Bill in Utah – There’s a good bill pending in Utah, too, by the way.  As discussed here, it would end the practice of weighing a prospective judge’s race and sex when being considered by the state’s judicial nominating commissions. 

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No Deal on Reparations – I responded over the weekend to this column in the New York Times by Ross Douthat, whom I usually like, but who was proposing there that a grand bargain be struck whereby racial preferences (in university admissions and the like) are ended, in exchange for a one-time reparations payment of $10,000 for all African Americans.  Charles Krauthammer, whom I also usually like, made a similar,and similarly misguided,  proposal many years ago.
There are a many, many problems with reparations — logistical and constitutional, as well as policy — which I discussed in Congressional testimony here.

In my response to Mr. Douthat I added these points to what his column says specifically:

(a) What's the evidence that "the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow" is the problem for the "black underclass" rather than other, cultural factors, especially the fact that more than 7 out of 10 African Americans (probably 8 out of 10 or more in the underclass) are born out of wedlock?;

(b) Why in the world would you think that the Left won't return again and again and again after you make that supposedly "one time only" payment of $10,000?;

(c) How are you going to answer similar claims by Latinos, say, and American Indians, and then Asian Americans, and then Arab Americans, and then ...?; and

(d) If you have children of several different races (including white) in front of you, all of whom face some sort of privation, why does it matter if one of them can make a vague claim that the privation can be traced somehow to a unique historical wrong and, therefore, the government should care more about him than the others — especially if it turns out that child is not actually disadvantaged at all relative to the others? 

Finally, I noted that to think such a program will improve race relations is just crazy.

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“UT Not Fair” --  An organization called Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) last week launched a new website, The “UT” is the University of Texas at Austin; the organization, a brainchild of Edward Blum, is the same one that is suing Harvard and the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill for their use of racial preferences; and the website’s aim is to encourage students who were recently rejected by UT–Austin to “share their stories” with SFFA. And some of those stories, it is hoped, will result in another, similar lawsuit against the University of Texas.

This is the time of year when some students will start getting those dreaded thin envelopes — that is, rejection letters — from universities. And Cory Liu, who recently joined SFFA as the new volunteer executive director, notes:
Even though many Asian students grow up like myself — as the children of immigrants speaking a language other than English at home — Asian students are denied an equal opportunity for higher education because of UT’s racially discriminatory admissions process. It isn’t right, and it isn’t lawful. Our Constitution guarantees every American equality under the law, regardless of their race.

But, you say, didn’t the University of Texas just win a lawsuit against another plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, who also had Mr. Blum’s backing? Yes, but that was based on an admissions system nearly a decade old, and the Supreme Court has warned that schools are obliged to reevaluate and update their discriminatory systems frequently, to show that their use of race remains necessary and justified. And, besides, it’s important for schools to know to know that they will have to be looking over their shoulders constantly if they insist on treating applicants differently on the basis of skin color and what country their ancestors came from.

There’s no rest for the wicked.

One last note: It will be interesting to see if the Trump administration believes that part of making America great again is following the principles of E pluribus unum and character-not-color when it comes to civil rights.

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A Quota Averted – Early last week I warned thatthe White House had posted on its website excerpts from news story on an imminent executive order on historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), timed to correspond with the end of Black History Month and the Washington visit of many of the schools’ presidents. Such an order might be fine, I pointed out, but it also might not be, and it was disturbing that the White House website chose to excerpt a part of the news story that discusses the desire of some to set numerical, percentage goals here for the federal government’s contracting and other funding.  These would be racial quotas, and I said I hoped the Trump administration would just say no.

Well, the executive order on historically black colleges and universities that President Trump  finally signed later in the week did not contain the numerical, percentage goals (i.e., quotas) for federal funding and contracting that some had been pushing for, and for that we should be grateful to the administration. Whether it is wise, or even constitutional, for the federal government to continue to single out these schools for special treatment in other, vaguer respects is a question that should also be considered. For now, though, many thanks.

Obama's Leadership Deficit

When the history of the debt limit fight is written, the failure of presidential leadership will constitute a major chapter.


Dorm Segregation in 2016: The UConn Con

It’s back-to-school time, and Michael Meyers of the New York Civil Rights Coalition and I posted this column on National Review Online last Friday.

Segregation is back. These past few weeks have seen controversy over black-student housing ads for roommates directed to “people of color” only, and over colleges and a law school that created separate class sections restricted for black students.

What is going on? It appears, alas, that public universities have formally reintroduced and made fashionable racial segregation, in the guise of creating safe spaces for “their” minority students — to endorse, fund, and foster black separatism in higher education. And that’s what the University of Connecticut has instituted with its plans to open a dormitory on its Storrs campus, where black male students will be clustered and separated from their peers of other skin colors.

But the last thing that campuses should be doing these days is encouraging racial isolation and stereotyping, along with a sense of grievance and a victim mentality. All that is certain to make race relations at our universities worse, not better.

The claim, according to University of Connecticut officials and documents obtained by us through a freedom-of-information request, is that this housing segregation will help address the lower graduation rates of its black-male students — lower as compared with male students of other colors and with women. But the social science here is iffy and laden with the paternalism, doubletalk, and the soft bigotry of low expectations whereby black men are burdened and labeled as being “at risk.”

UConn boasts that this “choice” of housing is precisely what its black-male students need and want. If so, the decades-old lament of social psychologist Kenneth B. Clark has come full circle: He observed that white racism would have gained its greatest triumph had it been able in the 1950s and 1960s “to persuade its black victims that segregation was not only acceptable but desirable in itself, and that the justification for this separatism was color alone.” Clark’s research on the effects of Jim Crow segregation was prominently cited in the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down segregation on the ground that separate public schools are “inherently unequal.”

Nonetheless, UConn sought and got a grant from a private educational foundation to fund the “special” dorm. Only after criticism from us and a few others, including two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, did UConn change its public rhetoric — explaining that the dorm would be “open” to any students who identified with the African-American male experience. But there’s no doubt that racial classifications will be used and racial segregation encouraged.

Not only is this bad policy, but it’s legally dubious as well. There’s Brown v. Board of Education, of course, and the Supreme Court has put constraints on the use of racial classifications in higher education in its two rulings in Fisher v. University of Texas, a case challenging the use of racial preferences in university admissions. So it makes no sense at all for UConn to embark on this treacherous new enterprise in the meantime. 

What’s more, it’s hard to imagine what legal justification for the plan the university can plausibly offer. As noted, the origin of the program was as a means to address the (lower) graduation rates of black men. But most black men at the university do graduate, and plenty of women and non-blacks do not. So why should the non-graduation problem be addressed in a sex- and race-based way? This is not a “narrowly tailored” use of race and sex, as Fisher I and II demanded, and on this point the university will be given “no deference.”

As the Supreme Court also cautioned in Fisher I, each student is to be “evaluated as an individual and not in a way that makes an applicant’s race or ethnicity the defining feature of his or her application.” But who can doubt that this is precisely what the University of Connecticut is doing? 

UConn can’t deny what it’s doing, so its officials have clammed up. And Connecticut’s governor and UConn’s trustees refuse to intercede or even speak.

And where are the traditional civil-rights groups, such as the NAACP and the ACLU, that fancy themselves to be minorities’ advocates? Once upon a time, they vehemently opposed racial separatism in all its guises. But now they mostly tout black separatism as a viable remedy to purported white racism on campus, providing beleaguered black males “protection” and “safe” spaces — that is, spaces apart from whites and Asians and Hispanics. This surrender to racialism is a wanton betrayal of the once inviolate principles of equal access and treatment without regard to skin color.

As students head back to school, they mustn’t be directed to racially designated doors on campus or assigned to “black” dorms. That kind of racialism was outlawed long ago. It’s a lesson we thought was permanently learned, and educators ought to know better than to categorize and separate individuals on the flimsy basis of skin color.