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The IRS Should Call Trump's Bluff

For 40 years, Americans have had a chance to review the tax returns of major party candidates running for the presidency. But this year, the Republican nominee says he "can't" release his returns because they are being audited by the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS has said nothing prevents a candidate under audit from releasing his or her returns, but Donald Trump still balks. He has not flatly refused to release the returns, which some might view as suspicious, so here's a solution to the dilemma: The IRS should close the audit of Trump's most recent returns immediately. He will have no excuse then and will either have to release them or, as I suspect he might, stonewall, thus confirming his critics' worst suspicions.

IRS audits are the government's way to ensure taxpayers aren't cheating. But for wealthy individuals who have multiple business interests and income earned from a variety of sources, audits are pretty routine. For someone as wealthy as Trump claims to be, his chances are about one in 50. So his audit doesn't necessarily mean he's done anything wrong. But his secrecy does raise red flags. Richard Nixon -- a president not known for his openness -- released his returns while still under audit in 1973. And Mitt Romney eventually released his, though he waited until the fall of 2012, which probably brought more scrutiny and criticism than if he'd done it earlier. In campaigns, the general rule is: release bad news early and hope it will be forgotten by Election Day.

If Trump does owe more in taxes than he's paid over the last several years, closing the audit would mean the government might not be able to automatically force payment of those taxes. So the U.S. Treasury would be a few million dollars poorer. But isn't transparency worth that cost? Of course, closing the audit would not allow the IRS itself to reveal the returns -- that's a felony -- but it would force Trump's hand. He's said many things about his returns, but perhaps Trump can be held to this tweet reprinted in Politico this week: "In interview I told @AP that my taxes are under routine audit and I would release my tax returns when audit is complete, not after election!"

Closing the audit would not prevent the IRS from prosecuting Trump for tax fraud later if he intentionally misrepresented information on his return. While there is a three-year limit on collecting back taxes, there is no statute of limitations on fraudulent returns. So the risk in releasing Trump from audit is minor compared to the risk of giving him an excuse to avoid honoring his pledge.

Many pundits and Trump critics have speculated about why Trump won't release his returns. Some think he's not nearly as rich as he claims -- I fall into this category -- and believe Trump pays almost nothing in taxes. There's good reason to assume this speculation is correct. Trump's returns from the late 1970s, which he provided for the New Jersey gambling commission in order to open his casino, showed he paid $0 in taxes for the previous two years at a time when he claimed to the New York Times he was worth $200 million.

A look at Trump's return would doubtless find that the billionaire is stingy. According to an investigation by the Washington Post, which examined gifts to 188 charities Trump has either claimed he's given to or whose events he attended, he's given almost nothing. The Post found that contrary to Trump's boasts about the millions he gives, he's made only a single, verifiable donation between 2008 and May 2016 -- less than $10,000 to the Police Athletic League of New York City. Nor has Trump given anything to his own charitable foundation since 2008.

But the biggest worry is that Trump may be in hock to Russian banks, which would show up in his returns. Again, there is ample fuel for such speculation. Trump's reputation with American banks isn't great; he's got a history of trying to stiff them. His lender of choice is Deustche Bank, but he's had a rough relationship even with them involving suits and countersuits when Trump refused to pay back what he owed. According to Trump's financial disclosures filed with the Federal Elections Commission, he owes at least $335 million on more than a dozen large bank loans. But the sum may be much higher since the disclosure only lists rough categories, the largest of which is $50 million or more per loan.

The public has a right to know Donald Trump's complicated financial dealings before voters go to the polls. If it takes suspending his audit to force Trump to come clean, the IRS should do it today. And if Trump won't honor his pledge, voters should know he's hiding something.

School Discipline and Political Correctness

My response to a Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial was published last week by that paper in its “Correspondent of the Day” feature, and I thought I would make the issues it discusses the focus of this week’s email. 

My response was titled “Undisciplined students hurt the entire class,” and here it is:

You made two points in your recent editorial “Political Correctness” that were spot on. Both issues involved the Obama administration’s Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. In each instance, the administration has indeed “fixated on leftist identity politics.”

In the first instance, the department has reacted to the serious issue of sexual assaults on campuses with decidedly unserious guidance for universities, urging them to stack the deck against alleged violators who may not have been violators at all. The second matter is even more absurd. The administration is creating a strong presumption that any school system in which discipline policies have a disproportionate statistical result for this or that racial or ethnic group is illegally discriminatory.

But the fact is that there can be wide variations in a school district among different groups when it comes to misbehavior. The title of a recent article in the Journal of Criminal Justice neatly sums this up: “Prior problem behavior accounts for the racial gap in school suspensions.”

The Obama administration’s insistence on de facto racial quotas is what is really illegal. What’s more, it is bad policy. If students who should be disciplined are not disciplined, this penalizes their classmates who will be trying to learn in unruly classrooms. Those students are themselves likely to be African-Americans from poor backgrounds.

Somehow, those enamored of leftist identity politics always forget about the interests of the law-abiding members of poor communities, even though they are in the majority.

My discussion prompted a lot of comment from readers, both positive and negative.  Hans Bader — who is an expert on these issues and works at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a frequent ally of the Center for Equal Opportunity — kindly helped answer some of the critics.  He noted:

The above letter was written by former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general Roger Clegg, a civil-rights expert. He carefully read the Education Department "Dear Colleague" letter he is criticizing in his letter to the editor. Links to the study he mentions in his letter can be found in my 2014 column in the Daily Caller, which supports everything Clegg says in his letter. Clegg is arguing that colorblind school discipline rules should not be overridden by "disparate impact" rules being interpreted to require racial quotas in school discipline, which violate the federal appeals court decision in People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education (1997).

Hans then added:

The Department of Education, where I used to work as a lawyer, is wrongly pressuring schools to adopt racial quotas in school suspensions, ignoring research showing that black students have higher misbehavior rates because they are more likely to come from broken homes. As Katherine Kersten noted this year in the Star-Tribune, black students’ "discipline rate is higher than other students’ because, on average, they misbehave more.”  …

Many thanks, Hans! 

I’ll add that my analysis of the DoEd guidance when it first came out was published by National Review Onlinehere.

Finally, I should say that the original editorial by the Richmond Times-Dispatch is itself well worth reading:

The Education Department's double standard on school discipline

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and on the issue of political correctness Donald Trump has a point. For evidence, just look at the Education Department’s ridiculous double standard on school discipline.

In 2011, in response to perfectly legitimate and reasonable concerns about the prevalence of sexual misconduct on campuses across the country, the department sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter with an unreasonable demand. It instructed colleges and universities to lower the standard of proof in cases of alleged sexual assault. Instead of requiring “clear and convincing” evidence, the department said, schools should require only a “preponderance of the evidence,” the better to find students guilty.

Law professors across the country have condemned that standard for violating the rights of the accused — and it’s not hard to see why. Colorado State University-Pueblo recently expelled a student-athlete for sexual assault even though the woman in question said their relationship was consensual, told investigators “I’m fine and I wasn’t raped,” and the two had sex again later.

The Education Department is now investigating 192 colleges and universities for not prosecuting sexual misconduct cases more aggressively. And yet for grades K-12, the Education Department has been hammering schools for being too aggressive on school discipline, especially when it comes to suspensions, because of their alleged “disparate impact” on minorities.

Two years ago the department issued guidance warning schools that they “violate Federal law when they evenhandedly implement facially neutral policies” if those policies affect minority students more than non-minority students. Under that standard, a school that metes out exactly the same punishment to every student who breaks the rules is not discriminating if black students commit fewer infractions per capita — but it is discriminating if they happen to commit more.

Since schools cannot punish white students who have done nothing wrong, at certain times the only way to avoid this dilemma, and hence the wrath of federal officials, will be to refrain from punishing minority students in cases where the students are at fault.
In short, an Education Department fixated on leftist identity politics has incentivized colleges and universities to convict some students who might be innocent — and incentivized K-12 schools not to convict some students who might be guilty. For liberals trying to unpack the mystery of Donald Trump’s appeal, this would be a good place to start.

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Just a few words on the recent party conventions:  Hated to see Ivanka Trump cite the phony “women-get-paid-78-cents-on-the-dollar” figure in the speech introducing her father.  Amused at the decision to have the Rolling Stones’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” playing as the balloons dropped for Donald Trump.  Irritated to see Tim Kaine going back and forth between English and Spanish in his acceptance speech.  Really irritated to see Hillary Clinton decrying America’s supposed “systemic racism” and, therefore, calling for the “reform our criminal justice system from end to end” in hers.

No Quick Fix for Prejudices

Americans are increasingly pessimistic about race relations, nearly eight years after many of us hoped we had ushered in a new, post-racial era with the election of the first African-American president. A New York Times poll taken in the wake of the killing of two black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota and the assassination of five Dallas police officers by a black veteran shows that 69 percent of Americans believe race relations are generally bad, with 60 percent saying they believe race relations are getting worse. But why now, when so many markers of racial equality have improved? And why does America's racial divide continue to be black and white while America's population is no longer primarily black and white?

Blacks made up just 13 percent of the population in 2014, while Hispanics (who may be of any race) made up 17 percent and Asians 6 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Non-Hispanic whites made up 62 percent of the population in 2014, but that was down significantly over the previous few decades, largely because of the increase in Hispanics and Asians. Yet when we think of race relations, we rarely think about the white/Hispanic divide or the white/Asian divide or even the black/Hispanic or black/Asian divide.

History is partially to blame. No group faced the systemic, state-sponsored discrimination that African-Americans faced -- not to mention their arrival on these shores in chains, not of their own free will. Nonetheless, broad state-sanctioned discrimination is largely a thing of the past, and even overt individual discrimination is infrequent, with plenty of laws aimed at preventing it and a vast federal, state and local bureaucracy to enforce those laws.

But laws alone cannot change hearts. And to ignore that racial prejudice is still very much alive in our society is to dismiss the real pain that many African-Americans endure on a regular basis. Life is different for black Americans, even if they are wealthy and accomplished, yet many whites fail to appreciate how this affects their fellow citizens.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., recently noted that he has been stopped frequently by police for doing nothing more than driving a late-model car in an affluent neighborhood. Even Capitol Police officers have mistakenly stopped him from entering Senate buildings, despite the pin he wears designating he is a member of Congress, with one officer telling him, "The pin, I know. You, I don't. Show me your ID." What these officers see is a black man in a place they don't expect him to be.

These slights and embarrassing encounters leave a mark, which some victims can more easily dismiss than others. Scott hasn't let them define or enrage him, but he decided to speak out nonetheless in hopes that his fellow conservatives would not just dismiss the anger and hurt experienced by many African-Americans.

It's the beginning of a dialogue that needs to take place. But it has to be a two-way dialogue -- one in which African-Americans must listen, as well. Scott has been the victim of stereotypes, but the most potent stereotypes sometimes embody a grain of truth, which is what makes them so powerful. The uncomfortable grain of truth is that black men commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime -- including about half of homicides, according to the Department of Justice. If we want to understand white attitudes, we cannot ignore this fact and the impact it has on increasing prejudices among whites.

The human mind is quick to generalize, and absent specific information about an individual, humans are likely to draw on group characteristics to make a quick judgment. Too many whites see blacks, especially black men, and think danger. Too many blacks see whites, especially those in authority, and imagine bigots. These perceptions feed off each other and infect even those who don't necessarily embrace them. Until we can fix both parts of this unfortunate equation, racial prejudices are unlikely to disappear.

What I Want in a President

More than 20 million Americans watched some or all of the Republican and Democratic conventions these past two weeks, though how much crossover there was between the two is unknown. For those of us who watched both, the differences were stark and confusing. Donald Trump's convention painted a dismal view of the American landscape: a nation at war -- besieged by terrorists, criminals and cheating foreigners -- losing on all fronts and able to be saved only by electing a strongman who will bring law and order.

Hillary Clinton's convention was more optimistic, but its pledges of more income equality and new entitlements, such as free college tuition, sounded distinctly like a socialist utopia. There were more flags at the Republican convention, but the Democrats talked more about love of country, with speakers from Michelle and Barack Obama to Cory Booker extolling American exceptionalism in language reminiscent of Ronald Reagan. Watching the two, I felt the world had been turned upside down.

With voters telling pollsters that they are unhappy with both major-party presidential nominees, the next three months will be a roller-coaster ride -- and as with riding a roller coaster, many voters will hold on tight, shut their eyes and end up screaming.

I want to be able to vote for a candidate for president, but I will only vote for someone who offers at least some of the following. I want a president who offers a clear, integrated approach to dealing with terrorism that incorporates better intelligence, cyber efforts to take down radical Islamic websites that pose a clear and present danger to America and our allies, and increased U.S.- and NATO-led strikes on Islamic State-held territories in Iraq and Syria. I want a president who will honor our commitments to NATO and our allies in Asia and elsewhere and one who will maintain our current free trade agreements within our hemisphere and seek broader agreements that expand our markets elsewhere.

I want a president who understands that our economy depends on a healthy private sector, where government doesn't play favorites or discourage investment and innovation. I want someone who will take a hard look at government regulations and keep those that truly protect safety and eliminate those that simply create busywork and jobs for bureaucrats. My ideal president would be courageous enough to take on entitlement reform, which includes taking on the biggest special interest group in America, seniors like me who draw Social Security checks and Medicare benefits. But he or she would also look at our so-called safety net programs to see whether they really are a temporary helping hand or they are a permanent crutch that discourages work.

I want our next president to know that immigrants helped build this country and continue to make it grow more prosperous every day. I want him or her to encourage more people to come legally, but I also want those newcomers to have the skills America needs and a willingness to learn our language and take pride in becoming American as every group before them has, including the most recent Hispanic immigrants.

I want a president who will unite us, not divide us. I'm tired of appeals based on race, ethnicity, sex and economic status. I want a president who appeals to the better angels of our nature, not one who sees one part of our population as ripping off the other or one group as victimizing another.

I want someone who understands that our most intractable social problems -- from poverty to unequal educational achievement to crime -- can be traced not to race but to the breakdown in the two-parent family. And I want that president to speak honestly and openly about this issue and to evaluate every government program to see whether it encourages or it discourages the formation and support of two-parent families.

At the moment, neither major-party candidate offers much, if anything, that I'm looking for. Worse, the next four years promises not an end to the roller-coaster ride but more of the same. The best we can hope for is that whichever candidate is elected, we'll be able to step off the ride with nothing more than a queasy stomach.

Twelve Observations on the Police and Race

1. There’s really little to say about the Dallas shootings. They were horrific and inexcusable.

2. Does Black Lives Matter bear some of the blame for them? The argument would be that, by relentlessly vilifying the police and shrilly insisting that they are targeting black men, it encourages counter-assassinations. But, as Kevin Williamson points out, there’s a big jump from even overheated rhetoric to an action like the Dallas snipers. Yes, it shows that words matter, and those elements of BLM that have used irresponsible words should take a hard look in the mirror. And BLM’s supporters should ask whether they are really comfortable in supporting an organization that contains such elements.

3. There’s more to say about Louisiana and Minnesota.

4. But the first thing to say about both is that we don’t have all the facts.  Remember Ferguson, all right: It turned out that the police officer there acted entirely reasonably. It may turn out that way in these two cases as well. The Minnesota governor was wrong to prejudge the matter.

5. After all, we already know that the Minnesota case did not involve an “unarmed black man,” and it may turn out that the Louisiana case didn’t either (certainly the video suggests that the police at least thought that the black man there was armed, and maybe he was).  When the police are dealing with armed suspects, the equation obviously changes.

6. The Louisiana man, who was much loved by his family but also had a long criminal record, certainly appeared to be resisting arrest; whether it was reasonable for the police to conclude that he posed a serious enough threat to warrant being shot is, as I said, a question we can’t yet answer. 

7. We don’t know what actions the Minnesota man took that might have provoked a shooting (by a Hispanic policeman, incidentally); we have only the statements by his girlfriend that he did nothing provocative. Our heart has to go out to her, as it does to the family of the Louisiana man, but again we have to await more facts on what precisely the police were reacting to.

8. Even if it turns out that in one or the other case the police acted unreasonably, it’s a big jump from that to a conclusion that the police acted unreasonably because of race. It’s still wrong and still a tragedy, but it might not be a racially tragic wrong.

9. And even if it turns out that in one or the other case the police acted unreasonably because of race, it’s a big jump from that to a conclusion that the police commonly act unreasonably and that they commonly act unreasonably because of race. President Obama’s suggestion to the contrary last week from Poland was unpersuasive and unhelpful. Each case provides some evidence, surely, but each is only one encounter among thousands of police encounters every week. Even the very liberal Chronicle of Higher Education acknowledges that the research in this area is inconclusive.

10. More nonblacks, after all, are shot by the police, some reasonably and some unreasonably.

11. Assuming that some (disproportionate, because of their race) number of African Americans are shot unreasonably by the police, what do we do about it?  I’m open to the possibility of better training and better community relations, and quicker and sterner measures against bad actors; but bear in mind that less aggressive policing will hurt only law-abiding people (especially those African Americans who — disproportionately —  live in high-crime areas), and hiring by the numbers will only result in less qualified policemen, which is also not in the interests of the community, whatever its color.

12. The police should not profile on the basis of race, in their shooting or anything else that they do but, as I noted in this Senate testimony, the degree to which they do so has been greatly exaggerated. What’s more, the unpleasant fact is that the reason for this profiling is that a disproportionate amount of crime is committed by African Americans, a problem that is, in turn, rooted in inner-city culture (particularly the breakdown of the black family). This doesn’t excuse profiling, but it does help explain it, and so long as this problem persists then so will some amount of profiling.  Those who want to eliminate racial disparities in this country have to get serious about most important racial disparity of all, namely that more than seven out of ten African Americans now are born out of wedlock.

Justice Ginsburg on Future Racial-Preference Challenges – In an interview in which she opined on much that a sitting justice has no business opining on, Justice Ginsburg had this to say about a topic in the Center for Equal Opportunity’s neck-of-the-woods:  “[Ginsburg] said court majorities this term moved to shut down tactics used by opponents of abortion and of affirmative action in higher education in two major cases.  Ginsburg said she doesn’t expect to see any more such cases after the court upheld the use of race in college admissions in Texas and struck down Texas abortion-clinic regulations that the state said were needed to protect patients.” 

So, what are the “tactics” of racial-preference opponents that she thinks the court has “shut down” — bringing lawsuits against schools that are engaging in such discrimination?  It’s risible to suggest these policies should be meekly accepted, or that the Court’s decisions have drawn such clear lines on what is and is not acceptable that future litigation is pointless.  And I would note that in the five instances in which the Court as heard such challenges, a majority ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor three times (Bakke, Gratz, and Fisher I).  In the other two instances (Grutter and Fisher II), the plaintiff lost by one vote.

No Unity, No Victory

Conventions are usually pretty boring affairs, but this week's Republican convention was anything but. Apparently, Donald Trump thinks that's a good thing for the party he now leads. Midweek, Trump tweeted about the controversy surrounding his wife's partially plagiarized Monday speech: "Good news is Melania's speech got more publicity than any in the history of politics especially if you believe that all press is good press!"

If chaos, disorganization and mixed messages on policy are a mark of success, Trump had a banner week. But for those of us watching to see whether Trump could bring a badly fractured party and country together, it was a disaster.

The Trump campaign's refusal to acknowledge that parts of Melania's speech were taken word for word from Michelle Obama's 2008 speech to the Democratic National Convention dominated the news for almost three days. It could have been a one-day story, but the campaign's adamant, blatantly false denials turned it into three. And no sooner had Team Trump put one controversy to bed than it stoked another.

Ted Cruz's failure to endorse the nominee was, apparently, no surprise to the campaign. Staffers had a copy of his speech for three days prior to his delivering it. So why did they extend his time from 10 minutes to 20? The only possible explanation is that they hoped for exactly what happened on the convention floor -- the booing and jeering of Cruz.

But the melee also managed to upstage the evening's star, Mike Pence. Trump's vice presidential pick was supposed to add gravitas to the ticket. Pence warned in his speech that the United States "cannot have four more years apologizing to our enemies and abandoning our friends. America needs to be strong for the world to be safe." But no sooner had he uttered those words than The New York Times published an interview with Trump done earlier that day, which threw those sentiments under the bus.

Trump told The New York Times that he would reverse 67 years of American foreign policy by disregarding Article 5 of the NATO treaty if he felt that member nations haven't "fulfilled their obligations to us." He also said he'd shred NAFTA "in a split second." These are treaties signed by presidents of the United States and ratified by the U.S. Senate.

A Trump administration would mean adios to the rule of law and welcome to rule of one. For those actually listening to what he says he would do, it sounds like a more bellicose version of the current administration -- with the president following the laws he likes and disregarding or rewriting those he doesn't.In a normal election cycle, this would be enough to defeat a candidate. President Gerald Ford's re-election odds famously plummeted when he declared in a presidential debate, "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe," arguing that Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia were free from Soviet interference. In 1976, such blunders could actually doom a candidate. This year, Trump's gaffes have been so numerous and outrageous that no single misstatement or insult seems to stick.

Even Trump's disparaging remarks about America in that same Times article will probably go unnoticed. "When the world sees how bad the United States is and we start talking about civil liberties, I don't think we are a very good messenger," he said when asked why he seemed to be defending Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's jailing of 50,000 people after the failed coup that tried to oust the leader.

Trump also called for pulling out U.S. troops from South Korea, noting that if we hadn't stayed on the peninsula after the Korean conflict, "maybe you would have had a unified Korea." Apparently, it doesn't matter to Trump that that would most likely mean one under the rule of Kim Jong Un, about whom Trump has admiringly said, "You've got to give him credit. ... He goes in; he takes over; and he's the boss. It's incredible."

There is no doubt that Trump's true believers will end the week thinking their guy is a winner. But I can't imagine that most undecided voters will feel the same. The Trump convention gave us controversy, plagiarism, heckles, boos and cries of "lock her up" about the Democratic nominee. It was full of anger, even hatred, and remarkably devoid of policy.

Will any of this matter on Election Day? I think so, not that people will go into the voting booth remembering the missteps made in July. But the likelihood that we will see more of the same for the next 100 days virtually guarantees Republican defeat. This week was Donald Trump's chance to show those not yet in his camp that he can indeed lead the nation to a more prosperous, secure and principled future. He failed, utterly.

Islam Needs a Reformation

Islamic terrorism has become the single biggest threat to stability in the world. Attacks killing many hundreds have occurred over the past 18 months in Bangladesh, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Egypt, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, France, the United States and elsewhere. But fighting this threat will require more than drone attacks to take out leaders of groups such as the Islamic State -- or even full-scale assaults to recapture territory claimed by the terrorists, as we did recently in Iraq.

As the terrorist killings in San Bernardino, Orlando and Paris prove, Islamists' poison can reach into the very heart of the West to infect those born and raised in nations that value freedom, promoting attacks on their fellow countrymen and neighbors. What is to be done?

Military action is clearly part of the solution where Islamic terrorists control actual territory from which to launch further attacks, but it is insufficient to root out the threat. President Barack Obama has dangerously refused to acknowledge that a radical, fundamentalist interpretation of Islam drives the terrorists.

Indeed, fundamentalist Islam is gaining adherents throughout the world, and autocratic regimes in Iran and the Persian Gulf States already enforce it throughout their populations. If we are to be successful in the fight against Islamic terrorism, we must look to the Muslim world itself for a Reformation.

Unfortunately, there are few bright lights in that firmament. The two major sects of Islam, Sunni and Shiite, have both spawned terrorist movements; and whatever their differences, they share a common enemy in modernism and Western values. And in both, the denigration and subjugation of women plays a fundamental role. But there are glimmers of hope, one of which will be on display in Paris on July 9.

As I have for the past few years, I will be emceeing an event that brings together tens of thousands of opponents of the Iranian regime, in addition to representatives from around the world who oppose Islamic fundamentalism. Addressing the group will be a broad range of dignitaries from various nations, including a bipartisan group of Americans composed of, among others, former governors, Cabinet members, ambassadors and White House officials.

This year's event marks the anniversary of the U.S.-Iran nuclear arms deal, which has strengthened the Iranian regime by infusing much-needed cash into the hands of the ruling mullahs. Iran continues to be a major state sponsor of terrorism, as well as ruthlessly suppressing freedom for its own populace. The chief opposition to the regime is the National Council of Resistance of Iran, whose president-elect, Maryam Rajavi, is an outspoken critic of fundamentalism and the convener of the Paris conference.

"A political, religious and cultural antidote is required to uproot this cancerous tumor permanently," Rajavi said last year in front of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade. "In absence of an alternative interpretation of Islam ... extremist ringleaders will portray the war against fundamentalism as a fight against Islam itself. By doing so, they will then create the most important source of nourishment for this ominous phenomenon."

In Paris this weekend, Muslims -- as well as Christians, Jews and others -- will stand up for the belief that freedom of religious practice is fundamental to reform.

"We reject compulsory religion and any form of compulsion in religion," Rajavi has said. She has spoken out against mandatory veiling laws and against the mistreatment of women and denial of their rights in the name of Islam.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration not only does not support the efforts of Rajavi and her group but also has opposed them at every opportunity. But equal rights for women and freedom of conscience for religious practice are the best way to combat radical Islamic fundamentalism. We can continue to fight the Islamic State group, al-Qaida, Boko Haram and other fundamentalist groups on the battlefield and from the air. We can capture or kill their leaders and their foot soldiers. But until we battle the ideology that has spread around the world, we will not succeed. And the most effective way to do that is to work with those, like Rajavi, who have been doing it for decades. If she is not afraid to name the danger for what it is, why should we hesitate to say that Islamic fundamentalism is a threat to us all?

President Obama, Race, and the Police

On Wednesday last week, just after the President’s speech at the memorial service for the fallen police officers in Dallas, I posted this on National Review Online:

I think it’s a fair question whether a memorial service for the fallen police officers in Dallas was the appropriate venue to talk at all about the shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana, and about bias, bigotry, prejudice, racism, and discrimination in America — “and that includes our police departments.”

The scope of the president’s remarks aside, here is what seems to me to be the most problematic paragraph of his speech:

“And so when African Americans from all walks of life, from different communities across the country, voice a growing despair over what they perceive to be unequal treatment; when study after study shows that whites and people of color experience the criminal justice system differently, so that if you’re black you’re more likely to be pulled over or searched or arrested, more likely to get longer sentences, more likely to get the death penalty for the same crime; when mothers and fathers raise their kids right and have “the talk” about how to respond if stopped by a police officer — “yes, sir,” “no, sir” — but still fear that something terrible may happen when their child walks out the door, still fear that kids being stupid and not quite doing things right might end in tragedy — when all this takes place more than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, we cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protest as troublemakers or paranoid.  (Applause.)  We can’t simply dismiss it as a symptom of political correctness or reverse racism.  To have your experience denied like that, dismissed by those in authority, dismissed perhaps even by your white friends and coworkers and fellow church members again and again and again — it hurts.  Surely we can see that, all of us.”

Now, the president is saying here that the evidence is in, and it shows that our criminal justice system is biased.  Not only is that not true, but it ignores what is true: that by far the biggest reason African Americans experience the criminal justice system differently is that they are much more likely to commit crimes. I am not happy about that, and it can be changed, but it has to be recognized.

Finally, the president ignored another, equally large elephant in the room: He said not a word about the catastrophic out-of-wedlock birthrate among African Americans, especially in our inner cities. I’m not happy about this fact either, but it too has to be faced.  That’s what drives racial disparities in our country, including disparities in crime rates. It drives differences in life outcomes within racial groups as well as among them, by the way, and there is no doubt that the problem is getting worse among non-Hispanic whites and Latinos, too.

More than seven out of ten African Americans are born out of wedlock, more than six out of ten Native Americans, and more than five out of ten Latinos; versus fewer than three out of ten whites, and fewer than two out of ten Asian Americans. That is a huge range, and it is no coincidence that it lines up precisely with how well the different groups are doing in any aspect of American life you want to look at.   

The rise in out-of-wedlock birthrates is the single most important domestic problem our country faces. Will the president ensure that this becomes part of the national conversation we are having on race and crime?

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Alas, I had to follow up that post with another one two days later:

I noted Wednesday that, in his speech at the Dallas memorial service, “the president ignored [an] elephant in the room: He said not a word about the catastrophic out-of-wedlock birthrate among African Americans, especially in our inner cities.” 

I noted that I’m not happy about this fact, but it has to be faced. I said that this is what drives racial disparities in our country, including disparities in crime rates, so that a disproportionate number of young black males find themselves at odds with the police.

I pointed out that more than seven out of ten African Americans are born out of wedlock, more than six out of ten Native Americans, and more than five out of ten Latinos; versus fewer than three out of ten whites, and fewer than two out of ten Asian Americans. That is a huge range, and it is no coincidence that it lines up precisely with how well the different groups are doing in any aspect of American life you want to look at.  

I concluded that the rise in out-of-wedlock birthrates is the single most important domestic problem our country faces. And I asked, “Will the president ensure that this becomes part of the national conversation we are having on race and crime?”

The answer is, “No.”

President Obama had every opportunity to say something, anything about this issue at tonight’s town hall.  He talked a lot about the underlying problems in inner-city communities that lead to more crime there. So he talked about the need there for more jobs and better schools and mental health care. He talked, naturally, a lot about guns. And he went through this litany several times.  

He talked about how these communities needed to be healthier. He said a lot about the need for more government programs, and he even said that parents need to parent. When he was talking with a single mom with six children, he proudly noted that he was raised by a single mom.

So, as I said, President Obama had every opportunity to mention the fact that children who are raised by married parents are much less likely to get into trouble than those who aren’t.

But he didn’t.  Not a single word.

Draft Democratic Platform

The draft Democratic platform that has just been released is about what you would expect on civil-rights issues, especially in the criminal-justice area.  The draft language condemns our nation’s “institutional and systemic racism” and our “mass incarceration,” and it affirms that “black lives matter.”  Felons should be allowed to vote, and our marijuana laws have an “unacceptable disparate impact” on African Americans.  There’s also plenty on LGBT rights, where “there is still much work to be done.” 

Speaking of “Black Lives Matter” –  This USA Today op-ed explains how Black Lives Matter and anti-Israel Palestinian protestors are sharing notes — and this is supposed to make us more sympathetic to both of these groups.  Somehow, that was not my reaction.

The ‘Wise Latina’ Dissents – And speaking of criminal-justice issues:  I thought I should note  Justice Sotomayor’s controversial dissent in a recent drug search case. A sample passage, citing the usual suspects:

[I]t is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny. See M. Alexander, The New Jim Crow 95–136 (2010). For generations, black and brown parents have given their children “the talk”—instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger—all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them. See, e.g., W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903); J. Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963); T. Coates, Between the World and Me (2015).

More “White Privilege” – Campus social justice warriors are always complaining about “white privilege.” I wonder if they’ll say anything about this development:  Fox News reports, “Al Qaeda urges lone wolves to target whites, to avoid ‘hate crime’ label.” 

And just to be safe, I think they should focus on Episcopalian golfers.

The Problem with Diversity Training – The Washington Post reports:  “In the cover story of the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review, sociologists from Harvard University and Tel Aviv University explore the counterintuitive idea that some of the most common tools for improving diversity — one of which is mandatory training — are not just ineffective. They could be detrimental to improving the number of women and minorities in the managerial ranks.” 

The story elaborates on this and explains that it’s not just mandatory training but “other tactics often aimed at helping with diversity — such as skill tests to help prevent bias in the hiring process or grievance systems where employees can log complaints — [that can lead to] declines in the number of women and minorities in the companies’ workforces over time.” 

Seems that those mandatory diversity sessions make people grumpy, and managers “don’t like being told whom they want to hire, so they often distribute tests selectively, … while grievance systems can make managers feel threatened and retaliate.” 

Conversely, “In addition to voluntary training programs, [the] research found that college recruitment aimed at women and minorities, as well as the addition of mentorship programs, diversity task forces and diversity managers, all led to improved diversity among managers over time. Creating a diversity task force within a company, for example, led to a 30 percent increase in Asian men and a 23 percent increase in black women over five years.” 

If you don’t like reading the Washington Post, you can read the Fox News version of the story here.

So, am I happy that even Harvard and the mainstream media are willing to concede the abuses and shortcomings that politically correct bean-counting has caused?  Sure, but my happiness is tempered by two interrelated things.  First, there is no mention of the fact that there are legal prohibitions on race-and sex-based hiring; and, second, it’s accepted that companies should be striving to achieve “diversity” rather than just hiring and promoting the best qualified people.

Clinton–McAuliffe Coordination on Felon Voting? – Sure looks like it, according to this Washington Examiner article, which begins:

New Clinton campaign emails show that there was communication with top ally and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on his plan to let 206,000 felons vote in the fall election, a move GOP officials said was aimed at guaranteeing Hillary Clinton the purple state.

My friend Hans von Spakovsky notes that the emails reveal that the governor was working with progressive groups, who are his political allies, instead of with state election officials, who were surprised by his action. That is, he was acting not like a government official but more in the mode of a campaign consultant for the Democratic party.

Hans and I, by the way, wrote a column on Governor McAuliffe’s felon reenfrachisement action right after he took it.

Justice Clarence Thomas’s Silver Anniversary – Clarence Thomas is marking his twenty-fifth anniversary as a Supreme Court justice, and to celebrate the occasion the Federalist Society sponsored a podcast with some of his former law clerks and C. Boyden Gray, who was White House counsel at the time of Justice Thomas’s nomination.  You can listen to it here (I phone in with a question about how the justice chooses his law clerks, by the way).