Tuesday, April 30, 2013


              Like many, I receive abundant mailings from my alma mater, endlessly soliciting alumni contributions on the premise that whatever funds I have available for charity could be put to no better use.  Although these solicitations are both annoying and presumptuous, they are so ridiculous in the context of more compelling and attractive charitable needs that the fits of laughter they induce are almost worth the annoyance.  Almost.

                My alma mater, at least so far as my law degree is concerned (my B.A. is from Penn State), is Duke University. I rarely receive solicitations from Penn State, which is fine with me, but the Duke Fundraising Office is one of my most faithful correspondents.  Not only are their mailings frequent, but they are very elaborate, slick, and expensively produced.  Imposing artistic renditions of the iconic Duke Chapel are a regular feature, undoubtedly designed to tug at the heartstrings of more sentimental alumni by conjuring up images of their halcyon days gamboling on Duke's picturesque gothic campus. 

                 Duke seems to spare no expense in convincing alumni that it is in desperate and perpetual need of more and more millions -- although its elaborate expenditures on the machinery of fundraising itself are rather difficult to reconcile with its protestations of critical need.  Indeed, Duke's latest fundraising brochure lists an imposing staff of professional fundraising personnel whose payroll might necessitate another fundraising campaign all by itself.  There is a Senior Philanthropic Advisor, a Director of Trust and Estate Administration, a Director of Gift Planning, and even a Senior Gift Planning Counsel.  On top of all this, the solicitation documents give every indication that even the Dean of the Law School herself is primarily a fundraising officer.  The highest plaudits listed in a tribute to former Law School Dean Pamela Gann were that she had led a capital campaign for the law school that raised more than $17 million and that, in her later post as President of something called Claremont McKenna College, she had raised over $600 million.  What, one wonders, could something called Claremont McKenna do with $600 million?  But I digress.


                                         Duke's Lavishly Renovated Law School Building

                I have never associated Duke University with threadbare circumstances, crumbling infrastructure, or impoverished faculty, so the relentless fundraising naturally triggers a bit of skepticism.  And a quick check of internet sources confirmed my assumption that the Duke University endowment was incredibly large – about $5.75 billion, to be exact, as of 2011.  This is a breathtakingly astronomical number, especially taken in the context of the equally breathtaking number that comes next.

                Although I expected to find that tuition and fees at Duke Law School were remarkably high for 2013, I was not really prepared for what I found.  When tuition ($52,620), fees, and other student costs for the 2013-2014 academic year are totaled up – including, interestingly, $1,895 for medical insurance applicable in certain programs – the total comes to $75,103.  See http://law.duke.edu/admis/tuition/.  This to support a single year (out of the three required for a Juris Doctor degree) in the education of yet one more callow law student to inflict on society and the job market.

                With an endowment approaching $6 billion, and tuition receipts that, for a single student for a single year, exceed 100% of the average annual household income, one must grudgingly admire the audacity of an institution that, with a straight face, relentlessly solicits charitable contributions on the grounds of perpetual need.  And why pick on me for help?  True, I am an alumnus, but the moderately liberal, moderately priced Duke I attended over 40 years ago bears little resemblance to the bloated, overpriced, left-wing institution that occupies the quad surrounding the frowning statue of James B. Duke today.  With my conservative views, I would be about as home at Duke as a Tarheel who had lost his way from Chapel Hill garbed from head to toe in Carolina Blue.

                In any event, there are countless charities that tug on one's heartstrings more convincingly than a smug and well-heeled institution that specializes in unleashing hundreds of  neophyte liberal lawyers each year on a society already reeling under the social, political, legislative, and judicial atrocities inflicted upon it by the long line of legal pettifoggers that have preceded them to the bar.

                To name but a few examples -- of worthy charities, not unworthy pettifoggers -- there are inspiring childrens' hospitals, like St. Jude's, that devote their resources to curing innocent young children of deadly diseases or crippling injuries.

                There are also any number of national and international charities, like Child Fund International, that provide food, medicine, shelter, and healthcare for half-starved, disease-ridden, or simply impoverished children in grim corners of the world where a place like the Duke campus has never been imagined, let alone experienced.

                And there are admirable organizations supporting our military veterans, like Wounded Warriors, that at least make a partial payment of the immeasurable debt we owe to those who have sacrificed their health and limbs in furtherance of our national security.

                But perhaps this comparison is unfair.  Perhaps more context is needed – like considering the content and benefits of the courses that one's contributions would presumably subsidize at Duke Law School.  Well, let's take a look.

                Here is just a sampling of the fascinating menu of the current Duke Law School curriculum:  Advanced Issues in Wrongful Conviction (i.e., how to re-open and retry the cases of convicted murderers and felons in circumvention of res judicata); Animal Law (do cats and cows have constitutional rights?); AIDS Policy Clinic (why is AIDS policy more compelling than, say, cancer policy?); Community Enterprise Law; Forensic Psychiatry; and, with a tip of the hat to our budding capitalist-supporting lawyers, Structuring Venture Capital and Private Equity Transactions.  Apart from the latter, a more representative sample of the politically correct academic ideal would be difficult to imagine.  Surely the needs of childrens' hospitals or veterans assistance programs should not stand in the way of subsidizing these critically important fields of legal education?

                                            Beneficiary of Duke's GTMO Defense Clinic

                But we save the best for last.  To round out the picture, Duke donors should know that the Law School's curriculum includes that paragon of practical, hands-on legal education, the Guantanamo Defense Clinic (Course No. 448, 4 credits).  See http://law.duke.edu/curriculum/courseinfo/course?id=91.  One can do no better than quote from the Law School's own Course Information listing:

                                The Spring 2013 Guantanamo Defense Clinic will assist in the representation of
                Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, the named defendant in the military prosecution of the 9/11

                                Clinic students will work with clinic professors and defense counsel to construct
                case theories and to identify and analyze legal issues and will produce legal memoranda
                (comprised of both legal analysis and exposition of potential defense strategies) and
                draft defense pleadings.

                                Each student will perform a minimum of 100 hours of work apart from meetings
                at the scheduled class time.

                 In case memories have grown a bit dim, Khalid Shaikh Mohammad is the odious terrorist who was identified by the 9/11 Commission Report as "the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks," which slaughtered thousands of Americans and gave rise to the many impositions on our liberties which eventuated from the War on Terrorism.  He was captured in 2003 and now, 10 years later, he remains untried, unconvicted, and unpunished – thanks to the efforts of batteries of defense attorneys who have been energetically assisted by the Duke Guantanamo Clinic for eight years.

                So, as we can see, donors to Duke Law School can rest confident in the knowledge that their charitable dollars are not going to something so commonplace and pedestrian as the health and feeding of embattled small children.  No, they will instead subsidize a faculty and a curriculum that enables ambitious young law students to leave no stone unturned in the fanatical and pettifogging defense of a malicious Islamic terrorist mass murderer who is already tenaciously defended by a crack phalanx of experienced lawyers.

                Duke's law professors are adroit at teaching their students about the "balancing tests" that are such an integral part of modern legal analysis.  Those considering a generous contribution to Duke Law School might consider a balancing test of their own:  Would the dollars I contribute to an already prosperous institution that churns out surplus lawyers our financially embattled society neither needs nor wants, and subsidizes student support of extreme legal maneuvers to defend one of history's most malicious terrorists, be better devoted to a childrens' hospital, a wounded veterans' project, or the relief of the world's starving millions?

                Even a lawyer should be able to figure that one out.

                                                                         * * * *


              Following my posting the above, I came upon the following story posted by the energetic bloggers at The College Fix, see www.thecollegefix.com/post/13359, which sheds further light on why the cost of a Duke education is so ridiculously high and why donors should give some serious reconsideration to just what it is they are supporting with their contributions.  As College Fix reported (with a citation to Campus Reform for the full story) in part:
                        Duke Raises Student Fees to Pay for Sex Change Surgery
"College costs are on the rise–having increased at a rate that outpaces inflation for more than two decades, contributing to record levels of student debt. Nevertheless, Duke University saw fit to raise the cost of its program even more. This week Campus Reform reports that Duke has raised student fees in order to pay for sex change operations for any student who wants one.

"Administrators say they will cover the cost of the reassignment surgery up to $50,000 that will be covered with a cause a 0.3 percent increase to overall student fees.  LGBT advocates on campus immediately celebrated the university’s decision.

“'The addition of sexual reassignment surgery with a $50,000 cap makes Duke’s student health care plan one of the most, if not the most, transgender-inclusive plans in the country,'” Sunny Frothingham, the outreach chair for Blue Devils United told the Duke Chronicle last week…"
Read the full story at Campus Reform.



Monday, April 22, 2013


               Where is Sam Adams when we need him?
                The historic city where that feisty American patriot stood tall for liberty from British tyranny, and where the original Boston Patriots sounded the opening salvos of our War of Independence at Lexington and Concord, fell subdued, silent, and submissive last week under a government lockdown that looked remarkably like martial law. 


                                                       Sam Adams:  Unlikely to shelter in place

                Nearly the entire population of a million-plus-person metropolis lurked anxiously "in place" behind their locked doors and drawn curtains, while legions of brawny, Keflar-padded police troopers, armed to the teeth with semi-automatic weapons, stalked aggressively in complete control of the city and its suburbs.  Fleets of armed helicopters patrolled the airspace, while armored personnel carriers, bristling with more troops and military weaponry, rumbled menacingly through the silent and deserted streets. 
                Public and private transportation were at a standstill, and commerce and businesses were closed in rigid lockdown.  Classes were cancelled at Harvard, MIT, and the city's other bastions of left-wing learning (which shows that even the most dire crises have at least some beneficial side effects). In a city intensely addicted to the opiate of professional spectator sports, even the Red Sox and Bruin games had been cancelled, and the great, publicly-funded arenas lay silent and empty.

                Was some monstrous twenty-first century Luftwaffe flying menacingly overhead, about to carpet-bomb the city?  Had an unhinged Kim Jong-Un somehow inserted a crack brigade of North Korean commandoes to strike a crippling blow against a major American metropolis?
                Was some gigantic, mutant monster like Godzilla or King Kong rampaging towards Faneuil Hall and Boston Commons?

                Or had even large, organized gangs of urban thugs or right-wing militia launched a violent, coordinated uprising against law and order?

                Well, not exactly.  Nothing quite like that.  It was indeed something sinister and dangerous, but rather less imposing in scope and magnitude.  The threat that elicited this massive martial response was posed by a single, solitary 19-year-old man. 

                                                        Boston Police on Patrol in Watertown
                In fairness, of course, the fugitive in question was a murderous terrorist, armed and on the loose, and possibly in possession of home-made bombs and grenades.  Together with his elder brother – since killed in a shootout with the police from which the fugitive had somehow escaped -- he was wanted for the murder of three innocent spectators and the vicious maiming of scores of others by planting bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. 

                There can be no doubt, then, that the effort to capture or kill this armed fugitive warranted forceful and intensive measures, not only to bring the perpetrator to justice but also to prevent him from inflicting any further harm on the citizenry.  Not only legitimate law enforcement and national security concerns justified a forceful and relentless response, but the natural impulse for prompt retribution against a monstrous crime understandably intensified the responsive effort.  All of that is indisputable.
                But what can and should be questioned was the extreme and unprecedented scope of what in fact occurred – the imposition of sweeping, heavy-handed police state tactics, amounting to virtual martial law, upon an entire metropolitan area.  An estimated 9,000 law enforcement officers -- the equivalent of about three U.S. Army brigades, or eight battalions -- were mobilized and deployed in force.  All in pursuit of a solitary fugitive.  Wave after wave of militarized police and armored personnel carriers rolled and swarmed through the city and suburbs, conducting door-to-door home searches, and giving Boston every appearance of an occupied city.  What was euphemistically labeled as a "shelter in place" policy effectively reduced the citizenry to prisoners in their own homes.  Transportation and commerce were frozen.  Waiting in submissive confinement was the order of the day.  Except for those roughly hustled out of their homes by the implacable search parties.  And, in the end, the wounded fugitive was apparently unarmed when he was finally located by a civilian -- who was able to leave his house and take a closer look at the boat in his driveway only because the lockout had been lifted.

                Had this lockdown policy been confined to a reasonably circumscribed area where the fugitive was likely to be located, it would be far more understandable.  But it was not.  It apparently extended to nearly the entire Boston metropolitan area, including Waltham, Newton, Belmont, and Cambridge.
                It would take a marvel of almost supernatural mobility and ferocity to justify such an extensive regional lockdown in pursuit of a single person.  But there is no indication that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, however nefarious his terrorist crimes, was even a trained or experienced operative, let alone one so skilled, elusive, and formidable as to warrant the sweeping area paralysis that was adopted here.  Indeed, after the Thursday night shootout in which the elder brother was killed, the younger terrorist apparently escaped on foot.  That factor alone – even putting aside whether he was significantly wounded at that stage -- should have prompted the authorities to exercise sensible restraint in the area scope of their lockdown.  How far, after all, could an embattled fugitive roam on foot when armed police were everywhere, and surveillance helicopters circled overhead?

                Almost equally remarkable was the unquestioning acquiescence in this unprecedented and indiscriminate exercise of police power—indeed, the apparent approval and endorsement of it --  by the reporting media and the Boston populace.  The strong instinct and spirit of liberty that infused the likes of Sam Adams and Patrick Henry in revolutionary times – and caused them to bristle at British intrusions far less oppressive than Gov. Patrick's "shelter in place" directive -- appears to be largely extinguished in Boston and among the members of America's contemporary mainstream press.  The confinement of more than a million people to their homes to facilitate the search for a solitary teenage fugitive is apparently no big deal in Boston. 
                Yet in the face of an unprecedented exercise of police powers that had many of the earmarks of martial law, one would expect the press or a modest element of liberty-loving citizens to at least raise a word of protest or demand a constitutional justification.  On the contrary, however, it appears the near unanimous Bostonian and media response to the episode was endorsement and approval of the government's sweeping impositions.  

                All in all, this episode does not bode well for the future.  If federal, state, and local governments are so ready to exercise such draconian powers in the face of the threat posed by a solitary fugitive, and if Americans are so ready to surrender their liberties on such a precarious justification, what will stand in the way of more sustained police state tactics when much broader threats arise -- or are merely posited?  And our enemies must be smiling at the prospect of shutting down whole American cities at such a small expenditure of resources.
                Apologists for the tactics employed in Boston have not only argued that they were plainly justified by the presence of a dangerous fugitive on the loose, but that there was no actual mandatory "lockdown," and that the confinement of the citizenry to their homes was purely voluntary. 

                The argument that the oppressive and sweeping tactics employed were objectively justified proves far too much.  Even as we speak, murderous fugitives more threatening and capable than the neophyte 19-year old Tsarnaev are undoubtedly at large in various parts of the country.  One need only start by examining the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List – all of whom are dangerous felons at large, by definition -- before moving on to the broader universe of dangerous fugitive felons pursued by the numerous fugitive task forces coordinated and led by the U.S. Marshals Service.  Dangerous fugitives are scattered across the American landscape.  Should government impose sweeping lockdowns wherever they surface?  Only recently, a far more formidable and dangerous fugitive than Tsarnaev – highly-trained and experienced ex-cop Christopher Dorner, who had murdered three, wounded two, and credibly threatened further mayhem – was on the loose in the San Diego area.  Before Dorner met his demise, the authorities did impose a limited lockdown, but it was prudently confined to the small resort village of Big Bear, where the authorities had narrowed their search, and was not comparable to what occurred in Boston. 
                The fact is that if the presence of a single armed and dangerous fugitive is sufficient to justify imposition of broad metropolitan or regional lockdowns, then government police power will exceed anything we have heretofore tolerated, and our liberties would be seriously imperiled.  And the mere fact that the particular fugitive in question may be defined as a terrorist does not alter the essential concern.

                Finally, those who disparage the concerns raised by the Boston lockdown and the associated police tactics have sought to portray it as an essentially voluntary program that coerced no one.  But there is much evidence to the contrary.
                As shown in widespread photos, electronic message boards overhanging the highways blazoned the stark directive, "Shelter in Place in Effect in Boston."  Citizens reported receiving reverse 911 "robocalls" on early Friday morning, sternly instructing them to stay in their homes.  The early news reports that alerted the citizenry to the lockdown did not suggest a voluntary program:  "Boston lockdown:  Authorities order residents to shelter in place during massive manhunt," blared the NBC News report.

                Other evidence of coercive police state tactics has emerged, and who knows how many other incidents have gone unreported – since in this peculiar scenario, the media has largely acted as the government's cheerleader, rather than as a watchdog.  In one incident, it was reported that on the afternoon of the lockdown armed police charged and surrounded a solitary citizen who had merely emerged from his house on Dexter Street in Watertown.  "Why did you get out of your house?," the angry troopers reportedly demanded, and proceeded to slap handcuffs on the bewildered man.
                The blog "Poor Richard's News" has provided further graphic evidence of what appears to be objectionable police coercion applied to innocent citizens, including videos providing disturbing images of the harsh house-to-house search tactics used in Watertown (see YouTube video below).  As demonstrated there and elsewhere, it is difficult to consider a search request as voluntary when it is made by a cluster of militarized police brandishing their firearms on your doorstep.

                                                House-to-house searching in Watertown   

                Finally, of course, there is the fact that the governor finally announced at some time after 6PM that the lockdown was lifted and people were free to go outside, but to be "vigilant."  That the governor so generously decided to give the people their liberty passes to go outside is difficult to reconcile with a voluntary exercise in citizen self-confinement.  The voluntary aspect of the unprecedented Boston lockdown appears to have been strictly technical.

                Apart from the fact that the Marathon terrorist was rather swiftly apprehended (apparently due to a tip from a citizen who left his home after the lockdown was lifted), the best thing to be said for the Boston lockdown was that it lasted less than a full day and was finally lifted by the governor without any apparent pressure from the citizenry, the media, or the judiciary.  And, in fairness, it must be conceded that the unprecedented extent of the lockdown was imposed in response to a novel, post-9-11 terrorist scenario, following a genuinely gruesome atrocity in a setting long associated with civic celebration and good will.  Hopefully, the review of this disturbing episode will bring renewed attention to the need for balancing the exigencies of terrorist-related law enforcement with the personal liberties that were first asserted so fiercely by Sam Adams and other feisty patriots in the city that today seems so far removed in spirit from those revolutionary times.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


                I recently posted here regarding the continuing prevalence of racial preferences for "minorities" in America, and the tendency of white Americans either to deliberately ignore, minimize, or dispute the significance of the problem.  Incidents illustrating this phenomenon are so commonplace as to desensitize even the vigilant few, but a spate of stories concerning a purported "shortage" of black players in Major League Baseball (MLB) provides such a piquant example of America's distorted perspective and premises on racial matters as to warrant closer examination.

                The percentage of African-American (A-A) players in MLB is now about 8.5%, whereas it once was as high as 19% in 1995.  This 8.5% figure has induced vapors among MLB executives who obsess about such things as well as among commentators of similar hypersensitivity whenever any form of "underrepresentation" of blacks – as opposed to "underrepresentation" of any other race – is concerned.  Moreover, the recent release of a major movie about the illustrious Jackie Robinson has only intensified the pandering instincts of guilt-obsessed liberals in the media, academia, officialdom, and professional sports management.

                 It is important to stress that these wailings about the percentage of A-A ballplayers are not based upon any claim or evidence that MBL is discriminating against such players.  Any such contention would be absurd.  MLB, like the other pro sports leagues, practically trips over itself in its efforts to demonstrate its sensitivity to the concerns and preferences of the black community.  Indeed, an organization called the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport has "once again" awarded MLB a grade of A for racial hiring practices in its 2012 Racial Report Card.

                                                Santiago Casilla -- Not one of the 8.5%

                 It is also noteworthy, moreover, that the 8.5% figure for A-A players is actually quite misleading with regard to the actual racial composition of MLB rosters, and the source of the distortion provides further negation of any suggestion that discrimination is at work.  Over 27% of MLB rosters consists of Latino players, and anyone who watches baseball knows that a sizeable percentage of the Latino players are black or partially black (like, say, Barack Obama).  When the 2% of players that are Asian are included, at least 38% of MLB players are "minorities" or "persons of color." 

                In this regard, the resort to distortion and misrepresentation to fabricate this contrived crisis is remarkable.  One recent report concerning the issue asserted that the San Francisco Giants were "one of several clubs with zero black players."  This is pure nonsense.  In about two minutes on a sports website, I was able to identify at least three distinctly black Giant players, albeit with Hispanic surnames – third basemen Joaquin Arias and Pablo Sandoval and pitcher Santiago Casilla.  The writer did not identify the other clubs purportedly lacking black players, but there can be little doubt that they were no more lacking in actual black players than the Giants proved to be.

                 The fact is that MLB is a model of reasonable diversity, particularly considering that the pool of players is genuinely international.  The only figure that seems a bit on the low side is the 2% for Asians, although that might be partially explained by the reluctance of some Japanese players to leave the security of the excellent Japanese league for the alien ways of a distant America.  In any case, inasmuch as MLB has obviously opened its arms to hosts of foreign Black-Hispanic players, it would be absurd to contend that it would then turn around and discriminate against its own American Blacks.

                Rather than raising discrimination issues, the complaint seems to be that there must be some irreducible minimum of American black players in MLB, apparently something like the 19% peak in 1995; and that MLB, and perhaps other organizations or interests, have an obligation to take "affirmative action" to assure that that level of representation is maintained.  Put bluntly – and, of course, the complainers in question generally put things deceptively rather than bluntly – they are indirectly advocating efforts to maintain a minimum floor or quota of American black representation in MLB.  Such an undertaking would plainly violate numerous federal and state anti-discrimination statutes, and if the federal or state government were behind the effort, it would also violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution.  While the courts have vacillated on other aspects of affirmative action and racial preferences, they have been emphatic in condemning outright racial quotas as unlawful and unconstitutional.

                Yet none of this makes a dent on the odd minds of those who refuse to come to grips with the fact that the days of Jackie Robinson's travails are more than half a century behind us.  Blacks constitute some 13% of the U.S. population, so proportional representation purists reflexively jump to the conclusion that their 8.5% share of MLB rosters constitutes significant underrepresentation and demonstrates that something is wrong.  But even if proportional representation were a valid standard, the proper population denominator for purposes of comparison is not the U.S. alone, but the much larger pool of countries from which MLB draws players, including much of South and Central America and the Caribbean, not to mention Japan and Korea.  Viewed from that more accurate perspective, the 8.5% figure for A-A's is not at all disproportionately low, and undoubtedly exceeds their percentage representation in that expanded international player pool.

                Nonetheless, the advocates and commentators lamenting this state of affairs argue that the cards are somehow stacked against aspiring black baseball prospects, and that something must be done to rectify the supposed problem.  They argue for concerted institutional efforts to recruit and encourage  young blacks to pursue a baseball career, and to assist them in doing so, as though a modest decline from prior optimum levels of black representation in MLB was a matter of major national concern demanding yet more affirmative action.  For starters, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has just announced the formation of a 17-member committee to investigate and address the contrived shortfall.

                 A more ridiculous and unwarranted campaign would be difficult to imagine.  To anyone with the slightest knowledge of America's major sports the explanation for the reduced percentage of blacks in MLB is so elemental that even Dr. Watson would quickly deduce it.  While bemoaning a purported shortfall in black baseball professionals, the racial bean-counters studiously ignore the extremely dominant representation of blacks in America's two other major pro sports leagues.  Blacks constitute about 67% of NFL players and a remarkable 78% of NBA players.  It is obvious that basketball and football are far more appealing to the general pool of American black athletes, and that many of those who might previously have pursued a career in baseball now choose to concentrate on football or basketball instead.  If Jackie Robinson were a young man today, he might well be pursuing a career in the NFL rather than in MLB.  The reduced percentage of American blacks in MLB is simply a matter of self-selection, and reflects nothing more than the tendency of young black males to pursue sports they find more enjoyable, compatible, and more likely to lead to professional riches.

                 The contrived controversy concerning fewer American blacks in baseball tells us more about the distorted perspective of those who promote it than about any shortcomings in MLB's player selection processes -- which are ruthlessly focused on obtaining the best players and patently nondiscriminatory.  The same commentators who profess to be shocked about a relatively modest shortfall in the representation of black American baseball players -- even while the number of black and non-black Latino players proliferates -- are wholly oblivious to the far more extreme underrepresentation of whites in both the NFL and the NBA.  The fact that only 17% of NBA players, and only 31% of NFL players are white, in a nation that is still over 70% white, is remarkably disproportionate, even if it is unrelated to any discrimination. 

                 Even assuming no discrimination is involved – and the single-minded focus of pro sports on getting the best players strongly supports such an assumption – the almost complete absence of any interest or concern on this extreme disparity of representation is altogether strange.  Careers in the NFL and the NBA are highly lucrative, prestigious, and often provide an avenue to further rewarding careers in coaching or broadcasting.  In most desirable fields of endeavor, the extreme underrepresentation of the youth of a nation's majority race would at least elicit interest, examination, and reasonable measures to improve the level of participation.  And one might expect that signs of increased participation by the underrepresented race would be applauded, as a welcome sign of genuine diversity.

                 Not so, however, in the case of white participation in pro basketball and football careers.  On the contrary, when an unusually high number of talented white players recently earned spots as starters on the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves team, the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a critical article entitled "Timberwolves:  Pale in Comparison to the Rest of the NBA," indicating that the team was not black enough.  The unusual appearance of a majority of white players on this one NBA squad was bitterly criticized by "local black leaders," and one Minneapolis "civil rights advocate" incredibly condemned the situation as "a nullification of diversity." 

                 In a league where 78% of all players are black, and where on many, if not most teams, all five starters are black, the condemnation of some actual diversity appearing on one of the 30 NBA teams as somehow constituting a "nullification of diversity" perfectly illustrates the kind of perverse, upside-down reasoning that permeates the consideration of racial issues in America.

                 In George Orwell's "Animal Farm," the porcine totalitarians adroitly changed their rallying cry from "Four legs good, two legs bad" to "Four legs good, two legs better" when it suited their political purposes to change gears.  For decades, civil rights advocates have enthusiastically invoked the rallying cry of racial diversity as a justification for institutionalized preferences for favored groups, especially blacks, Hispanics, and in some cases females.  But now, in the spirit of "Animal Farm," diversity suddenly is not really diversity, or not really desirable, when the groups whose increased inclusion will produce it are not the correct or favored groups.  As Orwell's porcine politburo would have put it, where diversity is concerned, "All groups are equal, but some are more equal than others."

Friday, April 5, 2013


           The Senkaku Islands and Chinese irredentism. . .   Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the prospects for political stability under the resurgent  Liberal Democratic Party . . . the influence of the New Komeito and other small parties on the volatility of Diet majorities . . . the  viability of the Peace Clause of Article IX in an era of  Kim Jong Un, North Korean lunacy, and Chinese chauvinism . . . prospects for expanding the mission and resources of the Japanese Self Defense Force in the face of looming military threats across the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan . . . Kadena, Futenma, Yokosuka, Sasebo, Iwakuni, Yokota, and the long-term viability of the profusion of U.S. bases in Mainland Japan and Okinawa. . .  Yen devaluation and the aggressive stimulative monetary policy of the Bank of Japan.

Prime MinisterAbe
            These are merely some of the critical issues involving current U.S. relations with Japan, America's foremost ally in East Asia and the Pacific and still one of the essential lynchpins to international economic stability and regional security in East Asia.  These issues are all familiar to government and academic experts on Japan and East Asia, and even to dilettantes in that realm. 

             But one somehow doubts that a Triple A-List New York socialite and pampered Kennedy Family Princess has torn herself away from the fashionable distractions of SoHo and Martha's Vineyard even to notice, let alone comprehend, the esoteric concerns of a remote and inscrutable Japan.

                                                   The Ambassador Presumptive

             And yet, we now learn that Caroline Kennedy, one of the last recognizable relics of Camelot, is to be nominated as Ambassador to Japan.  How very curious and incongruous.

            Apart from her iconic name and her prominence as a financial and political supporter of Mr. Obama, there is not the slightest hint in Ms. Kennedy's experience or accomplishments, such as they are, to even remotely associate her with a critical diplomatic post in Japan.  As far as the record shows, she seems entirely innocent of any academic or professional interest in East Asia, let alone Japan.  True, she is a highly sophisticated lady, and once took an advanced art course at Sotheby's in London and worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which might at least have introduced her to the woodblock prints of Hokusai and Hiroshige.  But that is a far cry from grasping the complex and subtle history and culture of the Land of Yamato.

             If Ms. Kennedy knows Tokugawa Ieyasu from Toshiro Mifune, I would be very much surprised.

             It is true, of course, that ambassadorships are commonly awarded to relatively unqualified financial contributors and supporters of the president, but there are at least minimal limits even on this unseemly but accepted practice.  An ambassadorial appointment of someone who lacks all plausible credentials connected to the receiving country seems especially inappropriate in the case of so prominent a country as Japan -- and at a time when issues relating to that country are especially pressing and sensitive.

             Although many prior appointments of Ambassadors to Japan have been clearly political in character, those appointees have generally been quite well qualified either by prior experience in government posts of the highest responsibility, or in foreign relations matters in general, or Japanese affairs in particular.  Ms. Kennedy's undoubted glamor and celebrity, however appealing to the fawning media, falls far short of that mark.

             President Kennedy selected Edwin Reischauer, one of his cadre of Harvard faculty supporters, for the post, but Reischauer was a distinguished and accomplished scholar on Japanese and East Asian affairs.  Senator Mike Mansfield, whose status as a Democratic Senate Majority Leader gave him the best possible political connections for his appointment by Jimmy Carter, also had strong credentials as a student and professor of East Asian affairs, had served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and would have qualified for the position independent of his senatorial connections.  The first President Bush's appointee to the post was Michael Armacost, a government and academic expert on East Asia who, like Reischauer, was fluent in Japanese and highly experienced in national security and foreign affairs.  Other prominent political appointees to the Tokyo post include Vice President Walter Mondale, Senate Majority Leader and White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker, and House Minority Leader Thomas Foley.  Their extensive experience in the most senior government positions -- positions requiring both strong  diplomatic skills and general foreign affairs knowledge -- more than adequately offset their lack of particular expertise on Japan.

             Ms. Kennedy has earned a J.D. from Columbia Law School, has written a number of books, and presumably has an engaging personality -- credentials which qualify her to be an associate in a good New York law firm, or perhaps an Assistant U.S. Attorney, but hardly for appointment to a preeminent ambassadorship.  She has also been active in supporting and giving money to successful political candidates like Obama, and was once seriously considered for appointment to the U.S. Senate to complete the term of the departing Hilary Clinton.   Unfortunately, the confluence of her celebrity and political largesse with her consideration for a senate appointment tell us more about the sorry state of contemporary political standards than about her qualifications for assuming  diplomatic responsibility of the highest order.  She is painfully lacking in those offsetting  government credentials that have qualified other appointees to the Tokyo post notwithstanding their lack of particular experience in East Asian or Japanese affairs.

             While it is true that few prior appointees have been fluent in Japanese, and that Ms. Kennedy can be readily excused for her lack of that desirable credential, there are limits to the leniency that can be extended to an ambassador's ability to communicate with the host country.  So far from being conversant in Japanese, it appears that she has proven herself painfully inarticulate in English.  In a disastrous interview that has become something of a template for incoherent political communication, Ms. Kennedy used that winsome Valley Girl phrase, "you know?", a reported 200 times during the 30-minute conversation -- a rhetorical fiasco that was instrumental in undermining her abortive candidacy for the New York senatorial appointment.  One can only wince at the prospect of perplexed Japanese interpreters uttering "Gomen nasai, wakari-masen,"  -- "Sorry, don't quite follow" -- if Ms. Kennedy's diplomatic explanations of the U.S. position on, say, North Korea's latest bellicosity bear any resemblance to her attempted justification of her candidacy for the New York senate seat.

             Oddly enough, however, none of these apparent deficiencies are likely to elicit any objection from the Japanese themselves.  For one thing, they are simply too polite, and would consider it unforgivably churlish to notice an appointee's lack of qualifications.  Moreover, putting aside the diplomats who must actually deal with the U.S. Embassy, the Japanese are generally more interested in the stature, celebrity, and cache of the American Ambassador rather than his expertise or experience.  And at a time when improving the status of women in government is a stated goal of the LDP, the fact that Ms. Kennedy is a female may be viewed as more of an asset than a shortcoming.

            Which raises an interesting question:  If experience in government and foreign relations or expertise in Japanese affairs are irrelevant to the appointment, whereas celebrity and a record of prominent support for the President are sufficient qualification, why settle for a faded icon of Camelot?  When it comes to American celebrities in Japanese eyes, R&B superstar Mariah Carey is second to none.  Ms. Carey is far and away the most popular U.S. recording artist in Japan, with album sales there in the multi-millions, and she has repeatedly charmed thousands of Japanese in sold-out concerts in Tokyo and other major cities.  Further, Ms. Carey's support for the Obama campaign was probably at least equal to that of Ms. Kennedy's.  She even composed a fawning pro-Obama campaign ballad, called "Bring it Home," which she performed herself at a ritzy New York fundraiser.  In an administration obsessed with red carpet glitz, over-the-top extravagance, and triumphant superficiality, Ms. Carey seems far more suitable even than Ms. Kennedy for selection as its prime representative to Japan.

             But never mind.  Since Obama's policies on Japanese affairs are unlikely to be any more successful than his disastrous policies on the economy, legal affairs, or energy independence, naming a highly qualified official to advance those policies would be a waste of diplomatic resources.  On the bright side, Ms. Kennedy will likely do less harm baffling the Japanese Foreign Ministry with her Soho-Martha's Vineyard patois than she would financing yet more victorious liberal candidacies here at home.  Ya know?